Sunday, August 31, 2008


I'm not about to say one word in favour of Sarah Palin - she is a christian fundamentalist, pro life person who I do not want to see gain the vice presidency or presidency of the US, or hold any other public office, for that matter.

I am, however, as someone who hails from the Highlands, a bit put out by the "she can't run anything cos she comes from a place where there are more caribou than people" tendency. As any of the Liberal Democrats who represent the Highlands will tell you, it's wonderful to be there, but life in the rural wilds has its unique challenges.

How do you deliver appropriate healthcare to someone who lives in rural Sutherland, for example?

For a long time when I was growing up, Wick didn't have a swimming pool and we had to go to Aberdeen, and after, thankfully, Inverness, to do a decent shopping.

I think there are similarities between the Highlands of Scotland and Alaska.

There are huge numbers of reasons to not want to vote for Sarah Palin, but the fact that she is Governor of a rural area is not one of them.

The fact that she doesn't seem to give a damn about oil exploration up there is a good one, though, and so is her proud membership of the NRA.

Just don't ever say governance of rural areas is easy.

Team Tavish

Tavish Scott has made some sensible decisions in his reshuffling of his team.

I can't think of anyone better than Robert Brown at Justice - to me he symbolises fairness and I completely trust his instincts.

Ross Finnie stays at health where he has produced a fair number of killer blows over the past year.

The team of Alison McInnes and Jim Tolson at Local Government and Transport is a good one - both have loads of experience in their field.

Mike Rumbles becomes uber-establishment as Business Manager, an interesting post for someone who's been at times a maverick. Let's see if poacher turns gamekeeper:-). As I've said before, I have a lot of time for Mike and I look forward to seeing how he develops his new role.

Jeremy Purvis gets to shadow John Swinney, Minister for Everything so I hope he's prepared to abandon his social life completely and Liam McArthur gets the Environment portfolio.

I look forward to seeing the new team in action this week.

Kate Garraway and THAT photo

There's been a wee bit of a stooshie in the media this week over a mocked up photo of Kate Garraway apparently breastfeeding a calf.

People like Ulrika Jonson are outraged at what she's done, for a documentary she has made about women who nurse other women's babies.

We are the only species, as far as I know, that habitually chooses to feed another animal's milk to our young - most infant formula is cow's milk based, and we seem not to worry about this at all. However, when presented with a photograph that appears to show the reverse going on, we go all hysterical. When you look at it, our milk is no more use to a calf than a cow's is to us. Yes, both could survive on the other's milk, but there's a world of difference in structure of a human being and a calf. Human milk is most suited to humans and cow's milk is most suited to cows. A huge and powerful corporate world has been built around telling us otherwise, but it's wrong.

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. If the mother is unable to feed the baby at the breast, the recommendation is that the next best thing is that her milk should be given to the baby in an alternative way. The next recommendation after that is not formula, but the milk of another human mother. If that is not available, then the last resort is infant formula.

Kate Garraway has been quoted as saying that making the documentary has made her question her initial distaste at the concept of wet nursing and that if she were unable to breastfeed a future baby, she would buy human milk from a human milk bank.

My own view is that there are lots of complex interactions between mother and baby that we shouldn't really interfere with. With the appropriate support, virtually every mother should be able to breastfeed if she wants to. The difficulty is that most mums don't get the support that they need because those around them have neither the experience nor the knowledge to help with even elementary problems - and in fact sometimes they create problems when none exist. If I'd had a glass of wine for every time I'd been told about a mother in law saying that babies should be feeding every 4 hours and no more, then my liver would be completely pickled. In reality, most newborns will feed somewhere between 6 and 12 times a day.

It would have totally shot my confidence as a mother to pieces if, instead of trying to resolve my breastfeeding issues (and believe me, there were many but I'll spare you the gory details), those around me had whipped my baby away and latched her on to someone else's perfectly lactating breast.

I don't condemn those who practice cross-nursing, but it wouldn't be for me unless there was a very good reason. There is no doubt that there are good reasons - Kate talked to a woman who went to the Sudan to help in a refugee camp and who ended up nursing babies there. Her act of selflessness turned out to be a lifesaver.

They only ever make tv programmes featuring controversial aspects of breastfeeding - isn't it time someone showed how it is for most mothers - and maybe featured the significant number of breastfeeding supporters who do so much to help mothers enjoy their breastfeeding relationship with their babies? I was lucky - I had the support I needed and got through the hell and discovered what bliss a properly functioning breastfeeding relationship can be.

Maybe that could be Kate's next project......

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who should be in the Shadow Cabinet?

I was inspired for this post by the Liberal Democrat Voice Members' Survey of the month which asked which MPs we thought should be in the Shadow Cabinet.

First, one of my favourite politicians is Alistair Carmichael. He is down-to- earth, funny, hard working, intellectually well up to mastering any brief and a supportive adviser to a number of people. He is also brave enough to speak his mind when he needs to, as seen earier this year when he had to resign for voting for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

He has served his time now, though, and I think he should be brought back into the Shadow Cabinet as quickly as possible.

As regular readers will know, I backed Nick Clegg for the leadership. One of the questions in the survey was "Do you regret the way you voted?". My answer is resoundingly no - I think Nick has done a very good job in his first few months. He is working to sort the Party out and has managed to get a reasonable public profile for himself.

He has made one colossal mistake in my view, though - and that was to get rid of Paul Holmes, one of the best housing spokespeople we have ever had. Paul knows his stuff, was credible in the housing sector and is sorely missed. The current housing crisis can only get worse and we need someone with Paul's experience and credibility to take on that portfolio.

John McCain - what were you thinking?

I'd never heard of Sarah Palin until yesterday. All I really know is that she's Governor of Alaska, has been for about a year and a half, is under investigation for trying to get her ex brother in law fired from his State trooper job and that she's a "hockey mom" whatever that is.

I'm not really sure what was in John McCain's mind when he picked her to be his running mate, or why on earth she accepted. I would have thought that the best strategic thing for her career development would have been for her to give a barn storming Convention speech, kind of like the one Obama gave in 2004, and then for her to be considered for higher office in 4 years' time.

It's a shame to see a talented young politician - and to have beaten a Republican incumbent in the primaries in 06 she must have something about her - being forced forward ahead of her time. Instead, in a year or so we will have forgotten who she is as I think McCain has now seriously jeopardised his chances of winning in November.

Joe Biden is an experienced, competent man that it's easy to see assumimg the presidency if you had to. He is a safe pair of hands who is unlikely to be called upon. The opposite is true with Sarah Palin - let's face it, McCain is 72 and has had health scares.

This is not a time for the Democrats to get complacent though - this is, after all, the country that elected Dan Quayle as Veep in 1988.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time for some campaignin'

Many thanks to Richard Coxon for pointing me in the direction of this clever take on the presidential election. Probably sacrilege to post it on Barack's big night, but it's kind of Glee Clubby.

Strictly Line Up Announced

It's all out now - we know this year's Strictly partnerships are out. You can see the full list here.

Nice to see Camilla Dallerup has got another good looking young man. She seems to have been compensated for having David Dickinson in the first series with the likes of Gethin, James Martin and now Holby's Tom Chambers. She has come so close in the last few years and it would be good to see her go all the way.

I knew Anton would get either Gillian Taylforth or Cherie Lunghi. Gillian has a great sense of humour and it may be that she at least has the personality, and hopefully the talent, to get them further than he has gone before.

I love Karen Hardy, but I'm not convinced that she and Gary will bring out the best in each other. They can both be very passionate about things in a way that can sometimes be slightly annoying. Just one of them in the partnership being that way would be fine - but both? Hmmmmm.

It's maybe a bit of a shame to give the new girl John Sergeant. We all know he's going to be grumpy as sin. We political people may have a huge affection for him but I suspect that the general public might not be disposed to spend 25p voting for him. Given the shallow nature of the voting public, mainly dominated by young girls, his having a face like a gnarled old leather boot will not help him. Not that I'm suggesting it would amongst a male electorate, either, you understand.

Lilia has, in Don Warrington, obviously drawn the big bloke with no sense of co-ordination who the public will love, for a while, like Peter Schmeichel and John Barnes. I don't think she'll get as far in this one as she has before. I guess it's her turn to take a back seat.

Darren and Jessie could be an interesting combination. She can be quite volatile if you believe what you read in the papers and he is calmness and serenity personified. Potentially a similar pairing to Letitia last year. Definite potential there.......

Christine Bleakley and Matthew Cutler just seem such a wholesome lovely couple, representing everything that is good about the World - it's hard not to fall in love with them already.

Andrew Castle and Ola Jordan will be brilliant, I'm sure - but will they have the chemistry in the latin dances? Andrew just seems a bit too domesticated for raw sexual energy:-) Let's hope they do the waltz first. However, Michael Underwood and Jenni Falconer have shown that the GMTV reality default position is not "rubbish" - anyone remember Fiona, Kate and Penny? And his sporting background makes him a contender.

I wish we didn't have to wait until 20th September for the series to start.

Those Iain Dale Lists

Thank you to everyone who voted for me - I truly did not expect to end up on any of Iain Dale's lists, but was at 30 in the Scottish Top 40 and 44 in the Lib Dem top 50.

My tribute blog rather proved its point by beating me in both lists.

Well done to Stephen who came in 11th in the Scottish blogs and 15 in the Lib Dems.

There were a few I thought deserved to be there more than me, most notably Duncan Borrowman, my first point of call when I want to read something intelligent about the US elections and Steve Webb's Webb Log.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liberal Democrats select Harry Wills for Glenrothes

Businessman Harry Wills has been selected to fight the vacant Glenrothes seat for the Liberal Democrats. I spent Sunday up there delivering his Residents' Survey in Leven.

If this guy has even half the drive and energy of the last Liberal Democrat to win a by-election in Fife he would make an extremely good constituency MP. Good luck to him and to his campaign team.

So, the SNP and the Lib Dems have selected. Labour have yet to pick their lamb to the slaughter. In the absence of any big name volunteers, the Dunfermline Press suggests that Dunfermline Central Councillor Willie Sullivan might be in the frame. He was beaten in the selection contest for Dunfermline and West Fife last year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caron and Bob - 20 years on

Well, some said it wouldn't last. On paper it was a big risk to run off and live with a divorced man almost twice my age but if I had my time again, I can honestly say that I'd do exactly the same thing.

I'm not going to tell you that the last 20 years has been all plain sailing - what life or relationship is? We've had our moments, but I know that I could not have had a better husband.

I, on the other hand, am a completely rubbish wife - at least judged on traditional values. I don't bake cookies that often, and my house is very rarely tidy. It only occasionally gets above complete squalor, and that's only when we are expecting visitors.

Anyone involved with an active Liberal Democrat knows exactly how much time and energy the Party takes. Bob has seen me disappear for weeks to go and fight elections, and then come back exhausted.

Bob has always, without fail, been there when I've needed him, even when I've been a complete witch, he's encouraged me to do things I thought I could never do, he has given me the happiness and security I never had growing up and he is the best father imaginable. We still have lots of fun and I think I'm very lucky to have such a lovely man.

Congratulations, Tavish

Congratulations to Tavish Scott as he wins the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Leadership contest.

These are challenging times for the Party in many ways and it is important that we make more of an impact on the Scottish scene. The Labour Party are in meltdown and the SNP can't be trusted with our civil liberties. The Tories haven't quite made up their minds what they are for. Government is spending vast amounts of money interfering in people's lives where it's not necessary and not enough where it is. The country faces some really serious problems ahead - energy supply, credit crunch, housing to name but a few.

We need to be relevant, to connect with people and for our elected representatives at all levels and activists to work together to deliver a distinctive and positive Liberal message.

We had a race with 3 excellent candidates, all of whom had some very good ideas. The contest was fought with good humour - although, to be honest, there was a point when I wanted them to have a good scrap, just for fun - and generated a useful and positive discussion about the future direction of the Party. I am sure that Tavish will have listened to the concerns of members and activists and will take these on board as he leads us to even greater success.

A Big Day

Today is a very big day - first, the announcement of the new Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and, more importantly (more of this later) my 20th wedding anniversary.

Most of my friends would argue that my husband deserves a medal for putting up with me for so long and I tend to agree.

So, Happy Anniversary, Bob:-)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Countdown to Strictly

It's not long now - just 2 weeks on Saturday - until Saturday nights get totally taken up with Strictly Come Dancing.

The BBC have posted this teaser on their website:

I am really looking forward to it starting up again. Yesterday's News of the World gave this year's line up as:

Girls: Christine Bleakley, Heather Small, Jessie Wallace, Gillian Taylforth, Cherie Lunghi, Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowdon.

Boys: Tom Chambers, Don Warrington, John Sergeant, Phil Daniels, Austin Healey, Gary Rhodes and Andrew Castle.

Louise over at Strictly Come Blogging adds Jodie Kidd and Mark Foster from the Sun's prediction.

Unfortunately neither list has Alex Wotherspoon from the Apprentice. Teddy Sherringham, who last week was suppposed to have signed the contract, also appears to have sunk without trace.

There's no indication of which celebs the dancers are paired up with. I hope Anton gets someone he can win with - although some of his Latin routines have been truly terrible.

I quite fancy Andrew Castle's chances - with his tennis background he'll be fit and co-ordinated. Rachel Stevens also has to have a chance.

One person who definitely, and unfortunately, won't be back is Nicole Cutler The first indication she had that she wasn't being asked back was when she didn't receive a contract. She vented her spleen in yesterday's News of the World, complaining about the poor pay the dancers receive, the poor facilities they have at TV Centre, having to change in the corridors, how Brucie forgets the dancers' names, how Tess doesn't mix with the dancers off camera and how there are some feuds between the dancers.

Their pay of £17,000 for the series is pretty lousy when you compare it with the sums the judges receive. Sure, they can then charge a fortune for their private lessons for the half of the year when they aren't on Strictly, but this isn't nearly as big a premium as the celebs and judges get. The show couldn't happen without the dancers, so there is an argument for them to be paid more. Of course, there's a stronger counter argument for everyone else to be paid less. Brucie gets not much less than half a million, which is ridiculous.

As to the faciities, I am sure the dancers are all used to changing in front of each other in competitions so wouldn't really bat an eyelid at having to change in a corridor.

We all know that Brucie fluffs his lines and is a bit forgetful but he is 80 and I love him regardless.

As for the feuds, there's no more information that we knew already - tension between Vincent, Matt and Flavia - who would have thought that?

The saddest thing is that Nicole probably got paid a pittance for the article but will effectively have burnt her boats with the Strictly producers. Not much chance of being asked back next year, now..........

Anyway, I can't wait until we're back amongst the feathers and sequins and tears and bitching that makes Strictly so compelling.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Iain Dale's Meme - What were you doing when.....?

I've never really understood what a meme was. I looked it up on Wikipedia once and lost the will to live.

Basically in blogging terms it's one of these quiz things that one person asks and then tags loads of other people to do it. Iain Dale, the Tory one, not my tribute blog started one off asking what people were doing at the time of certain great world events. No doubt I am committing some huge blogging sin by answering it before I was tagged to do so, but I never was one for convention. I just liked the look of it and thought I'd have a go.

So, here are my answers to his questions:

What were you doing when......

Princess Diana died, 31st August 1997.

I was lying in bed as it was my habit at that time never to get out of bed on a Sunday morning until Alastair Cooke's Letter from America was finished. The alarm was set to go off 10 minutes before it was due to begin. When the alarm came on, I was vaguely aware as I stirred into consciousness of someone saying something about the Royal Family being in mourning. I assumed that the Queen Mother had gone, like you would, and basically turned over to get back to sleep. When I heard the words "those two boys", I was out of bed like a shot and down the stairs. I put the tv on and couldn't quite take in why people were laying flowers at Kensington Palace so I checked on the Teletext.

I will admit to being one of the many millions who found her death hard to deal with. As a not entirely happy teenager, she had been a bit of an idol for me. As I became an adult and understood some of the pressures she had been under and some of the complexity of her character, I had a huge amount of sympathy for her. She didn't need to bother with land mines and stuff like that - she could have pocketed the divorce settlement and gone shopping for the rest of their lives. Yes, good, ordinary people die every day without the same fuss being made of them - at the time a friend of mine lost a colleague in a terrible road accident, which was an equally awful thing to happen. Diana's death hit me a bit simply because she had been my teenage idol - in much the same way as so many Celtic fans were devastated at the death of Tommy Burns earlier this year.

I guess the other thing to say is that Diana's death represents the one and only time I have ever been touched by anything Tony Blair said.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation 22 November 1990

I was doing a college oourse at the time and as soon as I found out that she had gone, I actually skived off the rest of the day to go and watch the news coverage. Being a softie, I did feel a bit sorry for her. I thought the Tories were pretty much rotten to the core anyway and a change of leader wasn't going to do them any favours.

Not everything Margaret Thatcher did was bad, but I see every week people having to deal with the consequences of the selling off of Council houses - now we have an appalling shortage of social housing at a time when many people are mortgaged up to the eyeballs and repossessions are going to hit.

We are still suffering the hangover of the years of underinvestment in crucial public services and, as an aside, I think we as a Party need to deal with that before we start talking about reducing the overall burden of taxation.

Attack on the Twin Towers 11 September 2001

Anna was just over 2 at the time and we'd been to our Toddler Group. I came home and turned on the tv to watch Teletubbies, as I think it was her programme of choice at that time, to see what was going on. I phoned my husband at work and told him what was going on. His former boss, who was deeply unpleasant at the best of times, growled at him that he should just get on with his work. Uncharacteristically he had the good grace to apologise the next day once he had seen for himself the scale of the attacks.

I think my emotions were both of horror at what was going on, but even greater fear about what George W Bush would do in retaliation.

England's World Cup Semi Final against Germany, 4 July 1990

I can't remember why, but I watched it in a pub in Newbury with my husband and some friends. I think it was the first time in my life that I had got emotionally involved in wanting England to win.

Assassination of President Kennedy 22 November 1963

I wasn't born - I shall have to ask my husband what he was doing.

There are a few other events that shook me to the core, so I thought I'd add them to Iain's list

Dunblane Shooting - 13 March 1996

This was the horrendous shooting of 16 primary 1 children and their teacher by teacher. I was working, in Worksop in Notts, when my boss (I had a nice compassionate boss at that time, as now) came through and told us all what had happened. I think his wife had told him. We were all so shocked and stunned.

The reality of it really dawned on me years later when I had to leave Anna at school - I would have no control over what happened to her. At least if I was with her and anything bad happened, I would have a shot at trying to protect her, but I had to hand her over to other people who would be responsible for her. There is nothing anyone can do in the face of a random gunman, though.

I have never been able to understand the NRA lobby in the States - to me guns = dead people and we do have a right to be very careful about who we allow to use them.

Lockerbie Plane Crash - 21 December 1988

This was the day we moved into our house in Ayrshire. We were surrounded by boxes and heard huge numbers of sirens. We lived a good hour, if not more from Lockerbie, but our local emergency services must have been sent down there. It was a very shocking and awful loss of life. We had moved onto an Estate not dissimilar to the one where the plane crashed. A few more moments and the plane would have been over us.

Elvis Presley's death - 16th August 1977

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of family holidays we had when I was growing up - I think this was number 2 of 3. We went to spent 4 nights with my Great Aunt Vera and Great Uncle Sandy at their then home in Blanefield in what must now be East Dunbartonshire. Bob and I went back there to try to find her house a few years back but couldn't. If the truth be told, I didn't much care for Elvis or his music - I have more time for it now but I didn't think it was that great. News of his death broke on the last day of our holiday. I can remember my parents being quite shocked about it all. It wasn't until I got to school the next week that I found that one of my friends was devastated at the loss of her idol.

I'm not going to tag anyone else - in true Liberal fashion, feel free to take this one up if you want to.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gloves off in Glenrothes

Seems like Labour and the SNP are already slugging it out in Glenrothes. The SNP's selection of Peter Grant has seen Labour have a go about Council budget cuts. Funnily enough, they don't mention years of Labour neglect at every level of Government which affected Glenrothes and other parts of Fife - but I suspect the voters will have longer memories.

The SNP are irrelevant at Westminster - what is the point of sending one of their second team down there to do nothing but moan about the union?

The Nats have shown this week that they can't be trusted to stand up for personal freedoms in their decision to pander to the Catholic church on HPV vaccination.

While Labour and the Nats take chunks out of each other, Glenrothes really needs someone to fight for the area. The Kingdom of Fife already has 5 very effective Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians in Elspeth Attwooll, Ming Campbell, Iain Smith, Jim Tolson and Willie Rennie - let's make it 6 in Glenrothes.

Baldy's gone

Anyone who has been following Baldy's Blog will have expected the sad news that we finally learned on Wednesday - that Adrian Sudbury, campaigner for more education about bone marrow donation - had passed away. Like many other people, I only started following his blog when his campaign got national prominence earlier this year. By that time, it was clear that he did not have much longer to live, but in only a few months he persauded the Government to change things for the better.

If the changes he campaigned for are implemented and more lives are saved, that's a huge legacy in itself. I also think that his blog will provide a huge source of support and education for other Leukaemia suffers and those close to them. It contains practical information about the disease, a series of video diaries of his treatment and some crashingly, heartbreakingly, honest, genuine and often funny accounts of his last 21 months. He wrote very movingly about the pain, isolation and frustration of his condition in a way that other sufferers will be able to relate to.

The Blog is to be made into a book and sold to raise funds for the Anthony Nolan Trust. thus getting to a wider audience.

As a mother myself I can imagine only too well how heartbroken his parents must feel and I'm sure that they will be in everybody's thoughts.

Obama Biden 08

So, the secret is out. We now know that Barack Obama has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate. What has made me howl with laughter is the reaction from the McCain camp - that this shows that Obama is not ready to be president cos he's picked someone with so much experience.

Have they forgotten Dick Cheney? George W Bush wasn't fit to run a bath let alone a superpower in 2000 - nothing has changed there - so he picked ultimate Washington insider Dick Cheney to help him along.

I will be the first to admit that I am still learning to love Obama. I will obviously support his campaign for the very good reason that he is not McCain or any other Republican. He has managed to inspire hundreds of thousands of young voters to join his cause. They love his idealism and the fact that he stands for change. He has a lot going for him.

I have started reading his book "The Audacity of Hope" and so far I'm not convinced that he has the vision or the character to deliver the really radical change that would do America and the World so much good. It all seems a bit like he doesn't want to do anything that upsets anybody.

Biden may well turn out to be a good foil for him. I expect he will be the Campaign Rottweiler who will deliver the barbs while Obama does all the feelgood stuff. There are concerns about Biden's occasional lapses of Foot In Mouth disease, but that doesn't seem to be a barrier to electoral success - if Dan Quayle can get elected, after all...............

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teenagers, Jabs and the Catholic Church

I share Kezia Dugdale's outrage that the lily-livered SNP Government have bought off the Catholic Church's opposition to girls being vaccinated against the Human Papiloma Virus which causes cervical cancer. The deal is that pupils at their school can be vaccinated so long as no information is given to them about protecting themselves from other STIs and pregnancy.

Why on earth did Shona Robison not stand up to the Catholic Church and take the administration of the programme outside schools? Why not make sure that that jabs were offered at GP surgeries and bypass the Church's opposition completely?

I am appalled that anyone would deny a girl a potentially life saving treatment just because they were going to be given some information that they disagreed with.

Let's be clear. It's not as if anyone is trying to make teenage sexual activity compulsory. It's all about giving information in a neutral way which could potentially save their lives or their fertility.

I send my daughter to a Catholic school. I certainly don't want her being sexually active in six years time, as a third of 15-year-olds are. She will be very strongly advised by me that this stuff is always best within the constraints of a strong relationship. I will keep her father well away from this conversation as nothing other than a lifetime vow of celibacy from her will satisfy him. He was working out how he could get rid of her first boyfriend within hours of her being born.....

I want her to be confident about the decisions she makes in her adult life and you can bet your life that she will be getting as much guidance from me as I can lay my hands on about how to protect herself both physically and emotionally. There's always the chance that she'll choose not to take it but I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't warned her.

There's evidence that teenage pregnancy rates are highest where there has been little or no sex education. The Goverment should be acting in the interests of all teenagers and not pandering to the whims of any religious organisation. Shona Robison and Nicola Sturgeon have let down the next generation and as women should hang their heads in shame.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tapas in Inverness

I've never done a restaurant review on here before but I thought you needed to know about La Tortilla Asesina on Castle Street in Inverness.

Set on two levels, opposite the castle, this tapas restaurant is well worth a visit if you like good rioja, a pleasant ambience and excellent food - and don't mind if the service is done at a relaxed pace.

The bill came to around £110 for five of us with coffee and two excellent bottles of wine. We had a wide range of tapas, from a well flavoured pimiento and almond salad, through to classic meatballs, white anchovies, spicy potatoes, honied parsnips and aubergines and various forms of seafood with dips.

The decor is typically Spanish but the laminated menus with pictures of the food reminded me too much of being on holiday. They did lower the tone a bit.

Having said that, we really enjoyed our meal. The atmosphere was great and the food was delicious and would happily go back there.

A Weekend up North

I've been having a lovely weekend up north with my sister and her family. She has 4 children - or it might be 5 as I've barely seen Anna since we got here. She and her cousin Ru, who's only 10 weeks older, play so well together. They are equally obsessed with Doctor Who so occasionally we here the "Exterminate" of their remote control daleks. They appear when they want to be fed but so far there hasn't been a cross word between them.

Laura, who's almost 16, is beautiful, funny and bright. She's just had great results in her standard grades. She is so much braver than I ever was. She goes off to rock festivals and camps in fields. I wouldn't even do that now. I like my home comforts too much. She has just wanted to know what I was writing about her and she said that the only word she would add would be that she was amazing. I can't argue with that.

Emma, at 11, is incredibly sweet and always willing to help. She is very good at reading people and I suspect she is a future senior manager in the making.

The youngest, Aimee, is just a cute bundle of laughter and fun. She has spent much of today dressed as a bee, flitting around the place.

My sister had a huge party last night. She doesn't believe in making life easy on herself - I would have been down to Marks and Spencer buying pizza - she made them from scratch, and they were absolutely lovely. The food was gorgeous and the drink was plentiful. Not for me, though. I had had a couple of glasses of lovely rioja at lunchtime and didn't want to overdo it. By late evening I was completely sober and decided that there was very little point in starting as I'd only feel rough today. So, I didn't. I have to say that drink does help in the participation of Singstar, or at least in helping your ears appreciate everyone's contributions.

For the uninitiated, Singstar is a karaoke type game for the Playstation. It is highly addictive and was responsible for me being out at a party until 8.15am last year.

Maybe we should have introduced a Singstar round at the leadership hustings to make things even more exciting:-)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dunfermline Leadership hustings

Wednesday night saw an informal Scottish Leadership hustngs in Dunfermline. It was extremely well attended from members all across Mid Scotland and Fife.

What struck me most about Ross was how much he is thriving on this campaign - you can just tell that he is really enjoying meeting and talking to members all over the country.

It was a very lively meeting with lots of questions, ably chaired by Dunfermline South councillor Tony Martin.

Members were concerned that we are not doing as well as we should be, when there is a real need for a liberal point of view to be articulated at the moment. Ross's message is, basically, that we are here, we don't need to be re-invented because our approach to government comes from our deeply held principles of fairness and freedom - but we do need to find a way of communicating our practical and relevant solutions.

He made the point that we just aren't getting the superb work done by Westminster colleagues like Vince Cable aren't getting enough coverage - there needs to be more joined up thinking so that people know about our achievements at all levels.

I am looking forward to the Inverness event on Saturday. We are off for a few days' with my sister and her family there. I'm hoping to catch up with an old primary school teacher as well as popping into Danny Alexander's office to see my friends there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baldy, Brown and Balls

I don't usually have a lot of good things to say about Gordon Brown, but today I am giong to praise him to the hilt for the support he has given to Adrian Sudbury's campaign to raise awareness of the bone marrow register. Adrian is a 26 year old journalist who is currently in the final stages of two different types of Leukaemia. He has been campaigning to raise awareness of the Bone Marrow Register and all he asked was that secondary school children should be given one short promotional lesson about joining the register. Obviously a wider pool of donors means that more lives can be saved. It's not rocket science.

Anyway, Gordon Brown phoned Adrian today to tell him that he had personally written to a list of celebs chosen by Adrian and the Anthony Nolan Trust to ask them to think about promoting bone marrow donation.

That call clearly meant so much to Adrian as you can see from his latest blog posting. He has kept a blog throughout his illess, entitled Baldy's Blog, which is extremely well written combining humour and increasing poignancy as the illness takes hold.

Please can everybody reading this take a few minutes of their time to read Adrian's blog and think about whether they could join the Bone Marrow Register.

And now for the Balls bit. Adrian said that after speaking to Brown, he was able to speak to Ed Balls. Funnily enough, Tavish Scott said at tonight's hustings in Dunfermline that he had seen the said Mr Balls at the station as he travelled through on the train. Unfortunately he got South and North Queensferry mixed up, but never mind.

Today will have been a hard day for Gordon Brown, having lost a good friend, John MacDougall, to the wicked and cruel disease of Mesothelioma. I respect him for, in his grief, being able to reach out to someone else and really make one of his last days.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Highland Bound

I'm off to Inverness in a while to attend the memorial service for Lord Russell-Johnston. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Invernesss so he was one of the first politicians I was aware of. So many people grow up with a negative view of politicians these days, which is very sad. I was lucky enough to have Russell as my local MP, with his commitment to human rights and civil liberties during my childhood and then Bob Maclennan in Caithness and Sutherland during my teens. Those very positive role models encouraged me to get involved and I ended up joining the party on my 16th birthday.

The first time I met Russell as a party member was in Wick during the 1984 Euro election. He came up along with Charles Kennedy and Alan Beith to address a public meeting. I remember being very impressed with his commitment to Europe and willingness to stand up for what he believed in, even if it wasn't so popular. He'd done that for Home Rule during the dark days when that idea was out of fashion.

I'll post a report of the service when I come back.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Scottish Lib Dem Leadership hustings, Edinburgh

Yesterday saw the first of four official Scottish Lib Dem leaderhip hustings in Edinburgh. It was a miserable morning - wet, grey and cold, but even so the room was almost full. It was a good opportunity to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen for ages.

I'm not going to go through their speeches in detail - Stephen Glenn has done that very well himself with a different posting for each candidate. I want to give a bit of an overview with my own views on each performance.

Tavish delivered a competent speech outlining his ambition for the party, his view on the Scottish political landscape and what his policy priorities will be in terms of developing solutions to people's concerns. He talked about how he would be a leader who would talk bluntly and have sharp elbows in terms of the opposition. I have no doubt that he would be able to do that very well.

I see him in many ways as the candidate who stands most for continuity in terms of both policy and the way in which the Party is managed. One of my biggest concerns, shared by many others, about the Party in recent years has been its dominance from Holyrood. Communications between the Holyrood and Westminster parliamentarians have improved greatly recently and there have been meetings between councillors and MSPs - but not nearly enough. I share Ross's view is that no one part of the party dominating the others is fundamentally illiberal.

I feel that there needs to be genuine dialogue between the grassroots, councillors and parliamentarians. By dialogue, that means listening as well as talking. Centralised control has no place as the default management style in a party which values decentralisation. If you communicate well, you can spend less time doing it and have more time out on the streets campaiging, enthusing and bringing more people in to the Party.

I have a lot of time for Mike Rumbles. He was on the committee I chaired last year and he was always a constructive presence at meetings offering sensible advice. He was talking about how the Party had to go off in a completely different direction. I think we have to develop our narrative, but based on our own core values of fairness, freedom, decentralisation and empowerment. We have to show how that is relevant to people's lives and current concerns. He was right in that our strategy has to change from being in Government. Opposition demands a whole new extra skill set and completely different tactics. While I like Mike, I don't see him as leader

I had very high expectations of Ross's speech and he managed to exceed them. Yes, I'm backing him and it's no surprise I thought he was best, but I do feel he got the biggest laughs and warmest applause. He was relaxed, funny, incisive, sharp and to the point. From talking to people I felt that he won over most of the non aligned people in the room.

I think Ross can best give the party what it needs. He has the best skills to manage the change the Party needs. He is a team player, but can be decisive. This is the guy who insisted, in the face of opposition, on increasing the targets for renewable energy. It's a pity that the SNP Government is now undermining that work.

On the basis of yesterday's performance, it's clear that we have three very talented leadership contenders, but Ross, for me, is best placed to take us forward. He combines likeability and humour with credibility and experience.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bishop Gene in Glasgow

I was gutted that, due to a complicated set of family circumstances, I had to miss Bishop Gene Robinson preaching at St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow yesterday.

He is a man of great grace and humanity. He embodies the sort of tolerance followers of all faiths and none should embrace.

His celebration of the Eucharistic prayer brought a tear to my eye. And it was in that modern language rubbish too:-)

Finnie Campaign Gathers Momentum

Ross Finnie's leadership campaign has in the past few days secured public endorsements from former leader David Steel, deputy leader of Fife Council Elizabeth Riches and immediate past convener Judy Hayman. Also supporting him are MSPs Hugh O'Donnell, Jim Tolson and former education minister Robert Brown, winner of the Queens Park by-election in Glasgow Margot Clark, Cllrs Robert Aldridge and Paul Edie from Edinburgh, former Chief Executive Andy Myles and former MSP for Gordon Nora Radcliffe. And me, of course:-)

I have been very encouraged by the amount of support for Ross there has been from the grassroots members. They like him very much, they respect his passionate liberalism and they see him as a credible alternative to our opponents.

I am not so thrilled that the Party has chosen my 20th wedding anniversary to announce the result of this election. My lovely, long suffering husband deserves my full attention on that day...........

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mamma Mia

I went to see Mamma Mia as a birthday treat from my friend Siobhan. If you are in need of something to make you smile this Summer, go and see this film. You come out feeling like you've been bathed in Greek sunshine. Whether it's the beauty of the island location, the outrageous moments of high camp, the nostalgia that Abba songs awaken, or you just want to gaze at Colin Firth, you'll love it.

I have to be honest and say that my expectations for the soundtrack, and particularly Pierce Brosnan's contribution to it, were not that high. It was actually surprisingly good - and Brosnan wasn't so bad. Anyway, since we're being shallow, his looks more than compensated for his vocals.

For me, the highlight was Meryl Streep. She is such a versatile actress. You could not have two more different films than Sophie's Choice and Mamma Mia but she pulled off both and lots in between. She looks beautiful, her performance is energetic and believeable and she looked like she was really enjoying herself. Julie Walters was also great as her friend. It's good to see a major film with older women as the main stars for a change.

Profound this film certainly isn't, although I did cry at one point, just as I had at the stage show. There's one song which I'd never heard before I saw the stage show, called Slippng Through My Fingers. It was written by one of the Abba boys when his daughter was 7 years old and is all about how childhood is so special, goes so quickly and you should savour every moment. Certainly rings true for me.

Go and see this film for a totally feelgood experience - you know you want to, really.........


Related Posts with Thumbnails