Archive for November, 2013


November 30, 2013 2 comments

Driving through Glasgow last night, on the way home from excellent library events in East Kilbride, then Greenock, I caught sight of a helicopter, and said to Eileen, ‘Hey look, it’s the polis’.

Little more than an hour later, that aircraft . . . there could not have been another . . . had fallen out of the sky and crashed into a crowded pub. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, and with the survivors.

Categories: General


November 28, 2013 1 comment

To all my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving.

(Every day is Thanksgiving for me, for being still alive and not being a turkey.)

Categories: Politics


November 28, 2013 2 comments

I read today that the President of the Government of Spain has chosen to chip in to the referendum debate by offering his opinion that an independent Scotland would have to negotiate EU membership from the outside. The right-wing Sr Mariano Rajoy is notorious and deeply unpopular within his own country. He is beset by crisis and personal scandal that would have driven him out of office were it not for the fact that nobody wants his job, and in those circumstances he is seizing each and every opportunity to deflect attention from his own troubles. We have had the Gibraltar harassment for  months, and now it seems he wants a piece of Scotland’s action. Of course his interest is driven in part by the Catalan situation, with Spain’s richest province demanding its own independence referendum, having been driven  beyond the point of tolerance by Rajoy’s refusal to grant it the same degree of fiscal economy enjoyed by other parts of the country. That being the case he may have shot himself in both feet.

El Presidente has a reputation for being intransigent and authoritarian; he also has a reputation for being wrong. As the pigmies on the Scottish opposition benches were told when they attempted to cash in on Rajoy’s intervention, the Scottish Government has firm advice from authoritative sources that the Scottish state’s future relationship with the EU will be negotiated from within in the event of a Yes vote. But what of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? What would their position within the EU, since the present EU member state will no longer exist as such? That might be a tricky one, since Westminster has damn few friends within Europe at this moment.

Categories: General, Politics

Book In Advance – Bloody Scotland On Tour

November 26, 2013 6 comments

Damn fine account, Andy


Bloody Scotland On Tour: Waterstones West End, Edinburgh, 25 November 2013

A 6pm start for this evening’s event and a walk the length of Edinburgh’s second most famous street, Princes Street (it seems appropriate when blogging about a literary event to once again query why “Princes Street” doesn’t have an apostrophe in it) to see an event about ‘Tartan Noir’ should be very appropriate at this time of year, with how early the darkness engulfs Scotland’s capital in November.  The eeriness of structures like the magnificent Scott’s Monument and the castle looming over the city centre should put us in exactly the right mood for a discussion about crime.  Sadly, this is not the case, as Edinburgh is using enough electricity to power a small country with the, what seems to be earlier every year, Christmas lights.  People who know me will be aware that I am very prone to…

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Categories: Uncategorized

A gentleman to the last

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment
Categories: General

At last

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Finally, it’s out. Scotland’s Future was published this morning, and now the debate can begin. My copy is downloaded already, but I see from Twitter that the Fearties have produced their initial considered reaction. I’ve studied their ten reasons why we’re ‘Better Together’. I don’t see a single one that can’t be countered, and I’m still laughing at them trotting out the old Tory ‘Keep the £’ nonsense. Of course we will; it’s ours today so why not?

Categories: Politics

Thanks . . .

November 26, 2013 3 comments

. . . to the staff of Waterstone’s Edinburgh West End branch for staging last night’s ‘Bloody Scotland on Tour’ event. Many thanks also to the audience who gave of their time to listen to my fellow panelists and me. And finally cheers also to Lin Anderson, Aly Monroe, and Sara Sheridan for their wisdom and insight. Here’s to the next time, ladies.

Categories: General


November 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve never met a bookseller who was in the job for the money. It’s a vocation for every one of them, which makes the following all the more disturbing. I’ve been a big Amazon shopper for years, but I plan to be more discriminating from now on.

Categories: General

Poking a bear with a stick

November 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Reading the Ashes coverage this morning, I find myself wondering again which is worse, a bad loser or a bad winner. But  one thing I know for sure; if I was an Australian batsman I wouldn’t be winding up Jimmy Anderson.

Let’s see how the next four tests play out.

Categories: Sport


November 23, 2013 Leave a comment

In just under an hour (11:30am) I’ll be signing copies of As Serious as Death in Simon Kesley’s excellent bookshop in Haddington. Later, at 2pm, I’ll be doing the same in Waterstone at Cameron Toll, Edinburgh. Look in if you’re nearby.

Categories: General

Ashes to ashes

November 22, 2013 Leave a comment

While chuckling over my melon and banana this morning as I read the report of England’s predictably woeful batting collapse in Australia, a piece of profundity came to me. ‘Now wait for the press reaction,’ I muttered to myself.

There is nothing so furious as the English media when its collective nose is rubbed in the truth, that its expectation of superiority over the rest of the world  is generally misplaced.

Categories: Sport

Stamp it out

November 21, 2013 2 comments

I’ve just read that in the calendar month of October,  people buying homes paid the Exchequer a total of £852,000,000 in Stamp Duty. Annualised, that works out at over £10 billion a year; total revenue for the current fiscal year won’t hit that but a figure of £8.5 billion is expected. I don’t know about you but that’s a staggering sum to me, money seized by the Treasury from  British families for the privilege of putting a roof over their heads.

What is Stamp Duty? Actually the full title is Stamp Duty Land Tax, but the Government tend to leave out the last two words, probably for fear of stirring up public protest. It has  a slab structure, with rates applied rigidly to price bands. For example if you buy a house for £250,000, you will have to give nice Mr Osborne £2500, 1% of the price. But if you pay £250,001, the greedy bastard will grab a few pence over £7500, that being 3%. Property transactions below £125,000 are exempt, but house buyers in that bracket are still required to report the transaction to HMRC within four weeks. Failure to comply may lead to a fine and will prevent the sale being recorded in the land register.

From 2015, there will be changes to the regime in Scotland. The threshold will rise to £180,000, above the current average Scottish house price, and the slab principle will be abolished. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the principle will remain, that people must pay the government for their legitimate aspirations. To me that’s plain wrong, so why the hell do we put up with it?


Categories: Politics

Fund-raising mutton-chops

November 21, 2013 4 comments

I’m joining in the spirit of Mo-vember. I haven’t worn whiskers for over 15 years, but this year I decided to give it  a go. The project is now sufficiently advanced for me to go on the hunt for sponsors. This is my Just Giving page, in aid of Marie Curie, a worthy cause.

No pressure . . . well, not much.

Categories: General


November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

This is from the Church of Scotland website.

Read it carefully and you will note that drainage is by ‘sceptic tank’. I find myself wondering:- Are sceptic tanks for disposing of non-believers?

Categories: General

Short term thinking

November 20, 2013 2 comments

QJ’s definition of a pessimist: A person who won’t buy green bananas.

Categories: General

Cap d’Any

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

If you happen to be in the L’Escala area on December 31, you could do worse than this.

Categories: General, Pics

Bad timing

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I read yesterday that the Australian rugby management has suspended five players for the game against Scotland for the unpatriotic sin of drinking ‘inappropriate levels of alcohol’ after a team dinner. And here was I thinking that was the National Pastime.

This offence occurred, apparently in the middle of last week, and that begs a question. Why are the guys involved being disciplined only now? Why were they allowed to play against Ireland last Saturday, a few days after they went out on the piss? People have paid already to watch next weekend’s Murrayfield encounter, and now they know they’re going to be short-changed. 

Categories: Sport


November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Thanks to my Vancouver buddy Lionel for sending me this entertaining link.

Categories: General


November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I have a stack of DVD and BluRay movies on my shelves waiting to be watched. Some have been  there for years. Last night we finally got round, seven years late, to Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed‘. We watched it in silence; when it was over, Eileen said one word. ‘Wow!’ That’s all the review it needs.

Categories: General

Living the role

November 17, 2013 9 comments

Poirot’s farewell last week was predictably sad. I don’t remember Hercule dying on the page in the book,but TV handled it well. The ‘Being Poirot’ documentary that followed was interesting and enlightening. The off-set shots showed very clearly that when David Suchet was dressed and made up as Poirot, he was Poirot, right down to the accent and the walk.

Categories: General