Saturday, March 28, 2009

So Much to Love about new F1 Season

Ok, it's not the best way of spending hundreds of millions of pounds polluting the environment, but I have always loved Formula 1, always been a Ferrari girl and have had a crush on Martin Brundle forever.

Don't expect to hear much about downforce and grip when I write about F1, by the way - I only talk about such mundane mechanical things when I have to. However, fellow fans Stephen, Malc and Yousuf might wish to get technical when they write about it - and Duncan has even devoted an entire blog to our favourite sport.

Good to see that there is support from across the political blogosphere for the sport - and Yousuf and I are even unashamedly on the same side for a change, both having a bit of a thing for Ferrari. I've backed them since the days of Berger and Alesi - the coolness of Berger and the passion of Alesi were compelling to watch. I cried the day Schuey announced his retirement. I cried again when Massa was pipped at the post at the end of last season.

There's only been a qualifying session so far and already I'm enthralled. It was exciting despite Stephen blabbing the result all over Facebook, which led to me getting told off by my long suffering husband (this was my fault how, exactly?) first thing this morning. Still it all comes down to a scrap in the last 2 minutes.

Anyway, my quick list of things which have me all excited from today:

Brawn GP - not only is this a thoroughly gorgeous looking car, but, boy, can it go. It looks like a cool Summer cocktail and it was proudly wearing its new Virgin logo. Brawn and Branson have performed a miracle - Go Brawn!

Brundle - at his brilliant best. I can't remember what he was talking about but he compared it to being as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. Love him!

Bitching - Let's hope this needle between DC and Eddie Jordan continues. They had three mini scraps - one over the Maclaren when DC said he couldn't see anything wrong with the way the car was handling and Eddie jumped in with how Norbert Haug had called it all sorts of names, once when DC said something nice about former team Red Bull and once at the end when DC got to say I told you so to Eddie. This has potential!

BBC - no adverts. Bliss.

Looking forward to the race tomorrow. Sky + is all set and I won't be coming anywhere near cyberspace till I've watched it.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Russell Brand is a nice guy after all

Russell Brand today has shown his sensitive side in this very genuine, touching and heartfelt tribute to Jade Goody which he put on his blog this morning. I never knew that his mother had Cancer several times during his childhood - and survived them - and Russell's sympathy for Jade's boys is very clear. These gentle and empathetic qualities are not what you would normally expect from the often outrageous comedian and it's good to see this aspect of him.

It's been obvious that people in "showbiz" who actually met Jade, Stephen Fry being another example, were impressed with her. He posted the following on Twitter the day she died:

"Poor, dear Jade. She was a fellow guest on @wossy a year or so back & I warmed to her immensely. All impulsive spirit & smiles. What a life
8:44 AM Mar 22nd from Tweetie

Jade lived life under a magnifiyong glass. Magnifying glasses magnify (obviously) but they distort and they burn.
8:46 AM Mar 22nd from Tweetie

I suppse she was a kind of Princess D from the wrong side of the tracks....
8:47 AM Mar 22nd from Tweetie"

Unfortunately for his trouble he then spent some time responding to some bile from people who disagreed with him. I wonder why people just can't be sympathetic in these circumstances.

These comments from Brand and Fry are worth so much more than the acres of cliched yuck that is coming out of most of the tabloids and celebrity magazines at the moment.

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A couple of things that made me furious this week.

I may be blogging light at the mo, but there are a couple of things I could not let pass.

Firstly, the news yesterday that one in six therapists would attempt to curb homosexual feelings in their patients. Who are these people and why are they allowed to practice? To imply that being attracted to people of the same sex is some sort of defect that can or should be cured is unethical and immoral. End of story.

Secondly, I was horrified to learn via Labour blogger Yousuf of another example of media hypocrisy. It seems that there has been no room in the press to report the conviction of a man who threatened to blow up Glasgow Central Mosque, attended by many of my friends, and behead one Muslim a week, and who is due for sentencing today. I googled this and the most recent thing I could find was this article from February from the Scottish Islamic Foundation website.

Any attempt by anyone to cause harm on the basis of racial or religious hatred is appalling. Compare and contrast the acres of newsprint devoted to any Muslim suspected of taking part in or planning atrocities to the silence on this outrage. I'm grateful to Yousuf for making me aware of this story. Double standards are unfortunately alive and well.....

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The New Political TV Show Dream Team?

I'm feeling ill and can't go to bed cos the children don't go to school on Friday afternoons in these parts so I've been catching up on some blog reading over the last wee while. I haven't watched last night's Question Time yet, but a brief glance at the overnight Tweets from my insomniac friends indicated that Eric Pickles, MP for Brentwood and Ongar, made a bit of an arse of himself as he attempted to justify having a second home in London when his constituency is just a few miles north of London.

The more he spoke, the bigger the hole he dug for himself. A helpful Lib Dem blogger, Mark Reckons, has kindly posted a verbatim report which you can judge for yourself.

With Pickles' skill at judging the mood of his audience and Christina McKelvie's mastery of her brief demonstrated on a Newsnight Scotland interview last year, lampooned on YouTube by Natwatch, it dawned on me that it might be fun to get these two together on a tv show, Abbott and Portillo style.

The Scottish Futures Trust, for those of you south of the border, was another failed flagship policy of the SNP Government up here, to replace PPP, which nobody, not even their own people obviously, can understand. It's about as defensible as Pickles' second home...

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Jo Swinson champions Wellbeing

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire has long argued that we should look not just at how much money our economy produces but how well and how satisfied with their lives our citizens are. She has just been elected Chair of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics. Good luck to her in this new and important role - another area in which we desperately need to get our priorities right.

There's an interesting article in today's Guardian on the subject.

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Stabbings and Vegetarians - Labour's weird sense of what's important.

Following on from yesterday's post about how the Government is keeping track of people who order vegetarian meals on flights as this apparently indicates potential terrorist tendencies, the lovely Dr Pack has made this short film outlining all the dodgy things he does in his life which could arouse the Government's suspicions. I can think of one more - what ideal cover it would be for a potential terrorist to work for a liberal and democratic party so perhaps all Lib Dem staff should be tagged as potentially dangerous. Or maybe all Lib Dem members - and then we are getting into scary territory. It's frightening how quickly paranoia and suspicion could turn sinister.

It also caught my eye today that just shy of 50,000 people have been treated for stab wounds in hospitals in England and Wales alone since Labour came to power in 1997. That's a sum almost equivalent to the population of the town where I live, of actual people who have suffered actual injury. These figures were obtained by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Paul Holmes.

You barely go through a week without hearing of another family being affected by the tragedy of knife crime. You would think that the Government would have taken more decisive action, putting more Police on the beat in communities, that type of thing, to try to deal with this and reduce the fear that young people have.

Instead, they seem hell bent on wasting money and resources on making up ridiculous databases putting people under suspicion for farcical reasons. It's high time they shook themselves up and got themselves a better sense of persepective.

Priorities, people.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vegetarians as Terror Suspects - has the world gone completely mad?

My husband is one of the most peace loving, reasonable, moderate, kind and generally good people you could ever wish to meet.

Yet the Government might well have him under suspicion for terrorist activities.


For some reason they have decided that ordering vegetarian food on an aeroplane indicates malevolence of purpose.

Other suspcious indicators include travelling with a foreign born husband or wife - the Queen better watch out then, given that her husband was born in Greece - or making a last minute booking for a flight. Better watch out on the impulsive romantic gestures front, then.

You have to seriously wonder at the mindset of the people who make these things up.

Let's hope they don't send people round to search my food cupboards -they are full of lentils and chick peas. No doubt we'll be under a Control Order in no time....

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A Trip Down Memory Lane for my 500th post

It's taken 2.5 years, but I've managed to chock up half a millennium's worth of posts.

In the style of many US TV series, I thought I'd make this a bit of a flashback episode and remind you of some of my personal favourite postings. So, as they say on Strictly, in no particular order:

The One with Amy and Friends - I want to keep the flag flying for Amy and Friends so if you've missed my previous postings, please, if you can help them, do so.

The One with Granny - It seems appropriate on Mother's Day to remember my lovely Granny - a real, traditional highland granny who I miss so much. She was the subject of one of the very first postings way back in September 2006.

The One that was nominated for a Campaign for Gender Balance award - I found out about the nomination for this posting during the Clegg/Huhne leadership campaign about six months after the event.

The One what made the Golden Dozen

The One where I turned 40 - lovely memories of a happy day.

The Ones where Obama Won - having gone to bed enough times in my life thinking the Free World was safe and waking up to a scary Bush-related future, I refused to believe it until it was official. Stupidly, I decided to live blog the affair despite having to work the next day. Not as stupid as the Bad By-Election Boys in the Glenrothes HQ who stayed up all night and slept on the floor - and drank beer as well, but stupid enough.

The One where we went marching - an account of the Edinburgh protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza in January this year.

The One with Anna's Snow Poem

The One where we won Dunfermline - AGAIN - the blog wasn't born for Willie Rennie's spectacular by-election victory in February 2006 but this is an account of what it's like being in the whirlwind that is an election campaign. This was written mid campaign - but Jim Tolson was duly elected after a long, long night of frustration with the hideous e-counting system on 3rd May.

The One where Bob put up with me for 20 years. I am a lucky girl.

The One with Kate Garraway where she makes a tv documentary about women who breastfeed other's babies.

I love blogging and will continue to inflict my random opinions about life, the universe and Politics. Thanks to all my fellow travellers in the blogsophere who despite being of all political persuasions are generally a friendly bunch. Here's to the next 500!

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Of Motherhood and Mother's Day

So the furtive looks between my daughter and her father and conspiratorial stage whispering of the last few days are at an end. At just before 10 this morning, Anna jumped on the bed bearing gifts and a huge pile of cards, many of which she had made herself. She has put so much effort into them - the drawing of the snow leopard family, complete with the little cub stretching out to catch a snowflake, the rainbows, the little chicks, the hearts and kisses, all things she knew would make me smile. Good to see, too, that all these years of having a pencil drawing of Will Young on my fridge have paid off (even though I'm in the huff with him at the mo for saying horrid things about Louis Walsh) as she gave me his new CD. Another gift was the current issue of Doctor Who magazine. You can't say that she doesn't know me well.

My most treasured present is a little pot with a dragonfly on the top and I love you Mummy in her handwriting round the outside. That I will keep forever - and maybe I will put her baby teeth, which the Tooth Fairy has miraculously always returned to me, in it.

But it's not about presents, is it? To me Mother's Day isn't some commercialised piece of nonsense, it's about celebrating how lucky I am to have such a close relationship with my lovely daughter. It was about the twinkle in her eye and the smiles and cuddles and the thought she'd put into everything. I appreciate her every day, but motherhood is worth it's own special day of tribute.

There are those for whom Mother's Day will always be a trial - I'm thinking today about the 3 children in Anna's school whose Mummy died just before Christmas. Also poor Jade Goody - her death in the early hours of today may have even more poignancy because it took place on Mother's Day, but her little boys won't care about that. They will just be devastated that she has gone. Here's hoping that the press act responsibly in the coming days and weeks and leave them alone to grieve.

Mothers who have lost a child through illness or accident will also feel today incredibly acutely. I can't imagine anything worse than anything bad happening to Anna and those women who have lived through that reality deserve all the love and support that we can give them. I can't imagine it's something you would ever get over. I know of two mothers who will be facing that ordeal for the first time today.

Then there are those whose relationships with their own mothers are unhappy - something I know a bit about. I was very lucky in that I bonded with my daughter from the start. From the very second I found out I was pregnant, my instinct was to protect and love her. The first manifestation of that was giving up smoking immediately. When she was born, every single cell in my body had overwhelming love, elation and urge to protect her welded into its DNA. This came automatically. I can't claim any credit at all for it, but I think it laid the foundation for the relationship we have today.

That was not the case in my relationship with my own mother, where I was never aware of the slightest bond between us - in fact I sensed a thinly veiled antipathy from a very early age. I suspect that undiagnosed, unrecognised and untreated Post Natal Depression may have been a factor which had a permanent effect on our relationship. It wasn't her fault, it was just the way it happened. We now have no contact at all, at her instigation. I certainly feel that my life is less stressful for that - it's very exhausting and debilitating being a very obvious disappointment. It's still sad, though, I know that I am far from being the only person in this situation and these occasions can be difficult, with all sorts of feelings of loss and guilt in the mix.

So, as Will blares out of the stereo, and I look forward to an evening cuddled up on the settee watching the Donal on Ice final, I am grateful that history is not repeating itself and hope that Anna and I manage to stay as close as we are now.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cringing with Pride

I was feeling much better today, and managed to last until lunchtime before collapsing in a heap and needing to go to bed. I was in a very deep sleep that was disturbed by Anna jumping on me and puncturing my unconsciousness with the words "If you don't wake up soon I'll get a wet sponge" when she came in from school.

She then excitedly told me how she had won an award at school for being a "Successful Learner" (it's Scottish Curriculum for Excellence jargon, don't worry about it) for her story writing this week.

It turns out that she was asked to write about "An Embarrassing Moment". Anna is a very private person, unlike me who'll blether about anything. She hates writing about her feelings, especially to people she doesn't really know. So, what did my pragmatic little girl do when confronted with this topic? She decided to tell the world about one of the most embarrassing moments of MY life. I bet that's caused some chuckling in the classroom.

I would tell you what it was, if it didn't involve someone else...........honest!

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Help Amy and Friends find others with Cockayne Syndrome

A couple of months ago, I randomly found an article about X Factor Judge Louis Walsh getting involved with a children's charity and blogged this thinking that a bit of publicity in the blogosphere for the cause wouldn't be a bad thing.

The Charity concerned, Amy and Friends, was set up by Jayne, mother of 17 year old Amy, who suffers from Cockayne Syndrome. It's a very rare condition which causes premature aging and shortens life expectancy. To give an idea of how rare it is, they are only aware of 18 children and young people in England who currently have this condition. I spoke to Jayne yesterday and she was telling me of some of the progress that has been made in getting the NHS in England to refer newly diagnosed sufferers and their family to the charity.

Jayne has done a huge amount of work in the last 3 years since Amy was diagnosed to find other sufferers and also to bring together the medics who are working to find ways to treat CS across the world. At the moment, there is no treatment available for sufferers in the UK. Jayne has had to take Amy to Boston on several occasions. This is not only extremely expensive but also incredibly stressful for everyone concerned.

Jayne isn't aware of anyone in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland with the condition which is where you, dear reader, come in. Let's see if this interwebby thing can help to raise awareness of the condition and help people access both the most up to date treatment and the help and support of Jayne, Amy and their amazing bunch of friends. Please take time to read Amy's story and pass the charity's details on to anyone you know that they could help.

Jayne is amazing - her tenacity, vision and commitment have enabled her not only to care for Amy but to support others in the last few years, even organising an annual retreat where good fun for the children is combined with detailed information from the international specialists for their parents.

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Is this how you want your taxes to be spent?

These are difficult financial times, for sure. If you were James Purnell, and your hands were on the purse strings of the Department of Work and Pensions, which of the following would you think is the most deserving use of public resources?

a) Sorting out the diabolical mess that is the CSA

b) Making sure that JobCentrePlus and the Benefit Delivery Centres can cope with the new applications for benefit that are flooding in now that here are 2 million unemployed - and in my experience they can't, nor do the staff seem to have much understanding of recent rule changes

c) Providing more help for people to access and apply for jobs, and training

d) Restoring the link between pensions and earnings

e) This

Ok, so in Government spending terms, this is the equivalent of the likes of us going to the toilet in Waverley Station, but my Granny always used to say that if you looked after the pennies, the pounds would take care of themselves. I'm sure that this waste of money is only one of many examples of scarce resources that could be better spent.

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The Wicked Witch of West Fife

Jennie's done it again and found me something else to play with during my enforced rest.

Create your own FACEinHOLE

The musical Wicked is my favourite thing of the moment and I'm listening to Idina Menzel belting out Defying Gravity as I type this.

And no doubt the image will give my friends something to laugh about - one in particular has been referring to me openly as the Wicked Witch of West Fife for years. Note to self, get some better quality friends:-)

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Monday, March 16, 2009

An interesting lesson in human biology

You just have to hand it to Jennie for enlivening the internet - and don't just think it's the twitterverse, she's got Facebook and the Blogosphere working on this too - with a perfect quest for a boring Monday afternoon. I'm not feeling particularly well today and it cheered me up.

Anyway, Scotland being what it is in terms of scientific and medical research and advancement, I thought I'd widen the net to see if anyone has some, er, hard info that they would like to share.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Comic Relief 2009 - the Funniest Bits and David Tennant's Backside

Seeing as many of my friends are away in Perth this weekend, I thought I'd do a wee guide to Comic Relief for them to watch on their return so all they have to do is collapse their weary, hungover bodies in front of their laptops and read on.

I wasn't surprised when I went to YouTube today and discovered that the bits of Comic Relief that had been posted were the funny ones and not the films which showed the projects that our money goes to support. I was particularly moved by the films shown last night about Malaria, about which I've already commented, several showing the reality of life for the UK's 175,000 child carers, and Davina McCall's traumatic visit to a maternity hospital in Malawi.

The one which broke my heart the most was the Comic Relief funded helpline for children with alcoholic parents, where children ring up to be read stories because their parents are too out of it to look after them. One child was shown hiding under her bed on Christmas Day when her parents came in - she begged the counsellor to stay with her.

If you haven't already donated to Comic Relief, and if any of what is below makes you laugh even a tiny bit, please make a donation now.

My comic highlights of the night are the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant "The Office the Opera", including a wee surprise at the end that made me laugh so much I choked on my Earl Grey as I was watching it for the first time at breakfast today. Hats off to the person involved for being willing to take the mickey out of himself quite so well.

Then the legendary French and Saunders' last film parody of Mamma Mia.

I had never seen any Outnumbered before, but I will be making a point of watching the next series. It's truly brilliant as this clip shows.

As usual the best parts of the night, as with anything, are Doctor Who related. First, The Sarah Jane Adventures, featuring Ronnie Corbett!

But the best thing of all, was this collection of David Tennant's presenting clips, including an entirely gratuitous but extremely pleasant shot of his backside. Enjoy.

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What they didn't tell you on last night's Comic Relief

A huge part of last night's highly successful Comic Relief programme was devoted to the devastating effects of Malaria which needlessly affects so many children in Africa. Film after film of seriously ill and dying children was shown and the point made that their illness could be avoided by putting a Mosquito net which costs £5 over their beds.

Much was made about the Government giving extra tax breaks to help Comic Relief provide more of these vital, lifesaving nets.

What they didn't tell you, of course, is that the UK Government routinely deports children to the very places in Africa where Malaria is rife. Do they hand them this relatively cheap lifesaver as they throw them off the plane? No, of course not. I find that quite sickening and the more I hear about the detention of mothers and children in Yarl's Wood and the dreadful treatment meted out to them, the angrier I get. And the fact is that our Government is happy to send children back to play russian roulette with mosquitos without giving the wherewithal to protect themselves.

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How Scottish Liberal Democrats would Tackle the Recession

Well I got to see this live as it went out last night on the television, not being stuck in some really interesting fringe meeting drinking wine - it's the Party's Conference Broadcast. I'd give it probably a B+ because it didn't tackle what is in my view the biggest problem we are facing at the moment - the desperate need for new social housing, but it does show the folly of the Chancellor's ineffective VAT cut and shows how the money could have been much better spent.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

A tribute to the Conference Committee and a look at what I'm missing

Just a wee tinge of sadness when I saw this photo from Perth. The Exhibition looks great.

I want to put on record how brilliant I think my colleagues on the Scottish Lib Dem Conference Committee are. They are volunteers who give an awful lot of time to ensure the smooth running of Conference. They are working their arses off and they are having to do my share in my absence. They and the stewards all deserve thanks.

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Scotland's Forests Safe

I'm glad to see that common sense has prevailed and that the SNP Government has ditched its plans to sell off up to a quarter of Scotland's forests. Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott, Euro candidate George Lyon and south of Scotland MSP Jim Hume had all spoken out about the dangers of the plans.

It's quite ironic that the day this is announced is the day that Tavish spends some time in a forest doing a tree climb for Comic Relief.

Anyway, this is not a time to gloat, but to be happy that the Government were prepared to listen to the strong arguments put up by opposition parties and rural campaigners.

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Friday Fun with Tory Logo Maker

After chuckling at Tom's, Tory Bear's, Malc's and Kez's efforts, I couldn't resist getting in on the act. I wouldn't quite say that the Blackburn Labour Party, who started it all, had redeemed themselves from inflicting Jack Straw on us, but their standing has definitely improved.

I expect my fellow Lib Dem bloggers will have a go later, if they still can, but there are some advantages, not many, mind to not being at Conference.

And another thing, Mr Harris, whose controversial blog celebrates its 1st Birthday and 1000th post today (congratulations), nobody outside of an Enid Blyton novel or an exclusive boarding school for wizards actually uses the phrase "wizard wheezes" in everyday conversation.

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Tavish's Tree Climb for Comic Relief

Another thing this poxy Glandular Fever is making me miss is this year's Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference which takes place this weekend in Perth. We usually go as a family and it's one of the highlights of our year. I have mixed feelings about missing it - it's the best programme I can remember and it looks like it's going to be really busy, so I'm gutted not to be there. Realistically, though, I know I wouldn't last half an hour so there's no point in whinging.

So, I am just going to stay home and watch Comic Relief while my colleages attend fascinating fringe meetings and consume vast quantities of free booze. And before Malc gets on his high horse, I'm sure they have alcohol at SNP Conferences too.

I did wonder aloud on Twitter this morning what I could do to raise money for Comic Relief while stuck here and the only thing I seem to be any good at just now is sleeping. I had a couple of suggestions - one was seeing how long I can stay awake. That's not a good idea given that if I push myself too hard, I wipe myself out. The other suggestion was that I see how much chocolate I can eat - sounds delicious but my appetite is not what it was, which is probably a good thing.

I have tried to do my bit,though, first my sponsoring the Mountain Climbing Fools (see opposite, and didn't they do well? Fearne Cotton is my new heroine), then by donating the price of a round in Perth to BBC Technology Editor Rory Cellan Jones who is doing a fundraiser by Twitter.

I thought I'd done, but then today I discovered that Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Tavish Scott has not forgotten Red Nose Day and is attempting to raise money for the cause by doing Scotland's tallest tree climb in Perthshire. Please follow me and sponsor him here.

I will be be following Tavish's progress and the gossip from Conference via Twitter and the web. There is precious little tv coverage this year, unfortunately. However, I have been promised all sorts of gossip and news from my friends.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bad Monkey Gig in Edinburgh

One the things this poxy Glandular Fever made me miss was a performance by my friend Rich's band, Bad Monkey, in Edinburgh last Saturday night. Happily, some nice person has put a clip onto You Tube. Rich is the one in the white shirt doing the singing.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

My Friend Cllr Debra Storr

I want to put on record my incredible sadness at the resignation of Cllr Debra Storr from the Liberal Democrats.

I first met Debra at the Scottish Young Social Democrats AGM in November 1985, so we go back basically all my adult life. She is an instinctive Liberal Democrat and has a very long and distinguished record of serving the party at local, Scottish and UK level. She is and will continue to be a dedicated local councillor who works hard for the people living in her ward.

The Party should not be losing people of Debra's and Martin Ford's calibre. My hope for the future is that at some stage they may feel able to rejoin the Party, and be welcomed back.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Misogynist of the Week - Tom Harris MP

I never thought I'd have to give out another Misogynist of the Week award so quickly - 2 in 4 days is quite something - but Tom Harris is a very deserving winner.

Tom wrote a blog post yesterday, entitled "The Return of Morality" which was basically a rant against teenage mothers on benefits.

Oh my, where do we start with this?

“Teenage girls should not be having underage sex.”

He doesn't seem to be acknowledge the fact that teenage girls generally don’t have sex alone, or certainly not the sort that results in pregnancy. How come it’s the girls’ fault and not the boys'?

I did a post on this subject a couple of weeks ago and rather than focus on taking away benefits from these families, I looked at parenting classes, issues such as the way premature sexualisation of young women is tolerated and encouraged by our media and society and sex education.

And don’t assume teenagers all know the mechanics. You can say there’s loads of sex education, but that assumes that all the kids have been in school and not bunking off at the time, and if they’re there that they understand what’s being said to them.

Also remember the teenage assumption that it will never happen to them….

I saw a youth worker on Question Time the other week say that some of the kids she’d come across were using things like cling film and crisp packets for contraception. You would think that couldn’t happen in this day and age, but it clearly does.

If young people hope and young women in particular had confidence and self esteem, I expect that would help reduce the level of teenage pregnancy somewhat.

As far as dependency on benefits is concerned, the Labour Government of which Tom was a member has ensured that the Poverty Trap is as alive and well today as it was under the Tories. In fact, more children living in poverty come from families with working parents. How can that make any sense?

I think we all want to help those who are able to work back into the workplace. I would humbly suggest that Mr Harris' government had 11 years of the most benign economic circumstances on which to start on that process before the recession started. They could have built a benefits system that was responsive to individual circumstances and given their own staff who dealt with clients more discretion rather than build a one size fits all monolith that helps nobody.

I, however, don't hold with the idea that lone parents always should be forced back to work for many reasons but we'll leave that for the moment.

What I want to know is whether Tom Harris wants to return to the days where fingers were pointed at young, unmarried mothers? The days when they ware sent off to bleak homes to have their babies and immediately have them taken away from them, suffering unimaginable trauma. Does he really want to see young teenagers with newborns sleeping in bus shelters? Have we not moved on from these cruel and inhumane days?

As I said before, someone very close to me had her first child as a teenager. The baby was born prematurely. Of course when we saw her in hospital in her little incubator for the first time we fell in love with her. We were also incredibly proud of her mother who handled the whole thing fantastically and spent weeks in the hospital expressing milk round the clock and being a wonderfully sensitive and responsive mother.

That mother has herself established a career, had other children and the baby is now almost the same age as her mother was when she fell pregnant and she has a very sensible attitude to life.

If my daughter got pregnant as a teenager, and you had better believe that I would do everything I possibly could to stop that happening, I would love her and support her. What would Tom Harris want me to do? Throw her and her child out on the streets?

Tom's posting will no doubt win him some friends in the right wing tabloid press and amongst religious fundamentalists of all persuasions. It's all very well to have an outpouring of disapproval, but is returning to the days when unspeakable, inhuman horrors and injustices were handed out to young women who found themselves pregnant, the best that he can come up with?

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

SNP Tactical Voting's Guide to Gordon Brown for the Americans

Every so often a fellow blogger comes up with something so good that it deserves circulating to a wider audience.

Step forward Jeffrey Breslin and take your bow for this brilliant guide to Gordon Brown to the Americans.

"Gordon doesn't usually have a straight tie, don't take it personally if it doesn't look like he dressed for the occasion.

When Gordon is baring his teeth at you, that will probably be a smile.

When Gordon's shoulders shake seemingly for no reason, that will be a laugh. And the sentences before it, believe it or not, will have been a joke. Try your best to laugh along if you can.

When Gordon says he has saved the world, indulge him a little as he thinks he is Superman at the moment.

When Gordon puts his hands together and bounces them forwards, he is suggesting a policy. Brace yourself for the next 10 minutes. Or take a power nap.

One last thing, Gordon probably won't be brave enough to tell you to your faces this was your fault. It was your fault."

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My First Album - Eat your heart out, Girls Aloud:-)

This meme is doing the rounds on Facebook. Jennie says that it made its way round Livejournal four years ago so enjoy a moment of 2005 nostalgia!


1 - Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
or click
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to and select "random quotations"
or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it to Facebook with this text in the "caption" or "comment" and TAG the friends you want to join in...

Now, I should confess that while getting the raw materials together was easy, but I'm way too stupid to put them all together. I was heartbroken because I fell in love with the name of my band. I mean, Purple Bean, how cool is that? However, the ever chivalrous Charles Dundas rode his white charger to my rescue and did all the hard bit for me.

Now, all I have to do is get a recording contract and global domination beckons:-)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Misogynist of the Week

No, not Mr Eugenides, to whom I owe the hat tip, but Newton Emerson, an Irish journalist and satirist who has this rather biased view on the cause of our current economic difficulty.

Obviously I take a different view.

That's the trouble with bad things happening - everyone is out to find a scapegoat, be it foreign workers (forgetting that the UK has far more of its citizens working across the EU than EU citizens working here) and now women. I bet it won't be long until someone seriously suggests repealing the equality legislation that has been so hard won over the years.

The premise of the article is clearly that men have more of a right to participate in employment than women and that women's careers are expendable, and a luxury that should only be allowed when the economic circumstances allow. Someone needs to find this man and drag him into the 20th, let alone the 21st century!

It would, of course, be mean to mention that the key players in the political and banking world who got us into this mess are almost exlusively men..........

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How to solve a problem with Maria and Mark Pack

I was quite amused to see a tweet on Twitter from our own Mark Pack intimating that he was a voice of reason in Nigeria and linking to this posting

What Mark didn't mention is that the article begins with a quote from Fraulein Maria in the Sound of Music!

Two of my favourite people in one random blog posting from the other side of the World. Brillant!

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Delight and Curiosity - Philip Pullman's view of Liberty

If you read nothing else about the Convention on Modern Liberty, have a look at this illuminating article by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman.

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Government Fails Injured Soldiers

They send young men and women far away from home into combat zones where they witness awful things we can't even imagine. They suffer the trauma of losing close friends and colleagues, often violently and before their eyes. Every day they live with the knowledge that they might come to a similar end. This is part and parcel of being in the Armed Forces but we have to recognise the effect that this constant trauma can have on people.

You would think, wouldn't you, that we would look after these people when they return? That their injuries to both their physical and mental health would be properly treated.

No chance. Victoria Cross winning Iraq veteran Johnson Beharry has told how the Governemnt fails to ensure that veterans receive adequate health care.

It is despicable that we put people in harm's way and fail to look after them properly when they return.

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