Whatever the songs and rhymes you learnt at school would have you believe, you’ll be much safer taking your chances with the ghouls and witches tonight than you are dipping your toes into the black waters of the Scottish blogosphere – at least, that is, if the disquieting goings-on that have been reported to the Roundup of late are anything to go by. Helen McGinn had to exorcise the “evil anonymous pifflers” who have been haunting her blog in a scary bid to sell her readers “bizarre liquids” and “adult chickens”. And if you’re a male celebrity blessed with a desirable body part (Sir Chris Hoy, I’m looking at you) please steer well clear of Jinedin – she’s busily plotting a Frankenstein-style operation to construct her Perfect Man.
Our next spine-chilling port of call is to the door – quite literally – of SGMarinova. She recounts the horrifying tale of how a man trying to sell her cheap gas and electricity came calling, and asked to come inside. Her every instinct screamed “murderer” and “serial killer”. Then the phone rang, and at the other end was a person making very little sense indeed. Her every instinct now screamed “subterfuge to assist the murderer”. Were her worst fears realised? You’ll just have to read the post in full to find out, but to give you a sneak preview – no, they weren’t, really.
Now, you might be complacent enough to imagine that, if there’s one safe haven from all this terror to be found out there, it would be in the inspiring realm of shared experiences and mutual support that it is the British Mummy Blogging community. If so, you’ll want to brace yourself before taking a look at this parting shot from Clinically Fed Up as she takes her leave of the scene. The phrase “permeated with a sense of fear” will give you a taste of what to expect.
And what bigger fright can there be than a swift, clinical kick to the solar plexus when you least expect it? If you want to avoid that fate, I recommend that you tread very gingerly in the company of Dawn, aka The Moiderer. I honestly thought I was reading a straightforward, uplifting account of how she had decided to make the day of the in-house manager at her local Starbucks, who had complained that they never received any positive feedback. She reproduces the full letter she sent to the Customer Care Team, in which she waxed lyrical about the delights of Starbucks in general – “I am No. 1 Starbucks fan”, “I also run a little club on Twitter”, “the new stores in Welcome Break Services…are brilliant!” – and of her local store in Dundee in particular. She then reproduces in full the letter she received in response, which purred that “it is lovely to learn of your enjoyable experiences at your local store in Dundee”, that “your feedback will certainly be appreciated” and that “I hope you will continue to enjoy our coffee for many years to come and we look forward to welcoming you back to Starbucks”. And last but not least, Dawn offers her own verdict on this oh-so-rare exchange of mutual appreciation in an otherwise cynical world…
“What I find interesting is that I know for a fact when you write to complain they send you vouchers in compensation. Interesting that when you write with positive feedback you get nothing! That is not good Customer Service in my opinion.”
Ouch. Didn’t see that one coming.
I, for my part, am determined not to be cynical today, so when Nick Johnston says that the armed forces have a glittering future ahead of them in an independent Scotland, I take him entirely at his word and detect no sarcasm whatsoever. On a related subject, Lolaferrola has just returned from a holiday near to the doomed RAF Kinloss, and the “sombre” mood she encountered has spurred her to issue a rallying-cry to her readers to “get out there and support local communities”. In a rather unforeseeable twist, it’s an Ice Cream Road Trip she has in mind.
The BBC’s Question Time made one of its occasional forays to Scotland on Thursday evening, and a number of bloggers were deeply troubled by what unfolded. The central focus for controversy was presenter David Dimbleby’s treatment of Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Joan McAlpine gives this account –
“During a discussion about the comprehensive spending review, she [Sturgeon] tried to explain this crucial aspect of her party’s solution to cuts in Scotland. Her point was ruled out of order by David Dimbleby who more or less told her to be quiet. “This is for a UK audience!” said Dimbleby imperiously…It became even more extraordinary a few moments later when, during a discussion about the use of torture, Dimbleby himself raised the unrelated issue of Megrahi’s release from prison, and asked the panellists – except Nicola – whether the Scottish government made the wrong decision. She did get to make her point, briefly, but not at the invitation of the chairman. It was eye-boggling to behold.”
Alex Massie at the Spectator’s Coffee House issues the disclaimers that he didn’t see the programme and doesn’t agree with all of Joan McAlpine’s views on the subject, but nevertheless observes that “Dimbleby’s attitude – assuming it has been reported correctly – reflects a London-based parochialism that does neither him nor the Corporation any credit.” One valuable thing to emerge from the incident, however, is that it has sparked off a lively debate about how Scotland’s authentic ‘voice’ can ever be meaningfully accommodated within a London-dominated UK media environment. McAlpine isn’t convinced it can be, due to the simple structural fact that the vast bulk of UK residents live in England, and thus have little interest in hearing about distinctively Scottish issues. Gerry Hassan reaches a similar conclusion, for slightly different reasons –
“I don’t think it is possible for the UK media, political class and elite opinion to develop a nuanced, subtle, informed understanding of the UK; it just isn’t going to happen; they believe that their bunker-like Westminster mentality is a rich, pluralist, cosmopolitan view of the world, unsullied by the unreconstructed lumpenproletariat who live out in the sticks.
Change can only come from without. That requires taking action, and in Scotland’s case it means creating our own media spaces to develop our national conversations and debate.”
Meanwhile, Mhairi McGregor hits a nerve in the nationalist blogosphere by suggesting that a movement which is broadly left-of-centre, internationalist in outlook and pro-immigration should not be “giving a platform to” or “promoting” pro-independence bloggers who oppose multiculturalism. The examples given are Dark Lochnagar and Subrosa, both of whom show up to defend their views vigorously in a lengthy and explosive comments section.
Elsewhere in the political world, as Labour and the coalition government continue to battle it out for the mantle of Britain’s ‘progressive’ force, Pamela at Spirited Voice considers whether the term even has real meaning any longer. Neil Craig recounts an online exchange he had with Norman Tebbit about the declining importance of party conferences. Tocasaid reveals that, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, countries from Alex Salmond’s famous/infamous ‘arc of prosperity’ still outperform the UK. And on the day that the clocks went back, there could hardly be a better moment to ponder the age-old question of whether the UK should switch to Central European Time. John Ruddy counters the oft-heard suggestions that an “extra hour of daylight” would save lives and boost tourism.
Political Innovation are continuing to promote their forthcoming event in Edinburgh – I know from my own mailbox that Mick Fealty has been inviting every Scottish political blogger he can track down, so expect to see the world and his dog there on November 13th! Duncan Stephen is particularly keen on the prospect of a free lunch (although my mum always taught me there’s no such thing).
At Thoughtland, Pat Kane reflects on the homecoming – in tragically very different circumstances – of “two brilliant young women of the Scottish diaspora”, Shirley Manson and Linda Norgrove. The article also appears in the Caledonian Mercury. Elsewhere, Pat can be seen in a video at The Play Ethic discussing “future scenarios for Scottish education and technology”.
Gordon Johnston takes on the myth that women are more likely than men to suffer from depression, and explores whether men’s greater reluctance to seek help can be blamed on the increasing “feminisation” of doctors’ surgeries. Of course another huge health challenge facing Scotland is the high percentage of adults who smoke, although Angela Harbutt’s concern is about the cost to the taxpayer of the public funding given to anti-smoking body ASH Scotland, and what she sees as its ill-conceived proposals to incentivise retailers for not selling tobacco.
Quite a few ‘campaigning’ posts have been nominated this week. Green MSP Patrick Harvie wants to save Glasgow’s atmospheric Otago Lane, while Fraser Denholm is concerned about the prospect of redundancies at Grays School of Art. Crafty Green Poet is drumming up support for the fundraising drive to save Edinburgh’s Forest Café, a “volunteer run, not-for-profit arts and events space and veggie café”.
As ever, there have also been some terrific photo and video related nominations. Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking tempts your tastebuds with a bird’s eye view of spaghetti with slow roasted tomato and basil. Euan Robertson captures some stunning Glasgow ‘traffic trails’, Lisa lifts the veil on the stylish homes of American fashion designers, while Scotland for the Senses has a number of wonderful shots of Arbroath Abbey in the sunshine.
Maggie Whyte reposts a slightly blurred photo from a fellow Tumblr user – and you’ll be relieved to hear that, contrary to how it might appear from a cursory glance, the woman in question is not looking pleased as punch because she’s just bought Boris Johnson’s 2011 Calendar. Over at her other blog, Maggie provides gratuitous pictorial evidence of a chocolate feast that unexpectedly dropped through her letterbox one day. Do these sorts of thing actually happen in real life? And if so, where did I go wrong?
AndyG has a video on his blog billed as “an epic battle between Grappa The Crazy Killer Demon Dog From Hell, and a stuffed Octopus”, although I must admit to my untutored eye it looks more like forty seconds’ worth of footage of a long-suffering dog being subjected to verbal bullying by the stuffed octopus, followed by an admirably restrained revenge attack by the dog.
Turning now to matters of law, this was of course the week of the earth-shaking Cadder ruling at the UK Supreme Court, although oddly enough there were no nominations relating specifically to that subject (unless I dropped them behind the fridge). But a post from Lallands Peat Worrier reflecting on the differences between the English and Scottish jury systems does receive the nod. In particular, he highlights the lack of a requirement for a qualified majority north of the border, meaning that it’s perfectly possible to be convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on an 8-7 split – it sounds like a coin toss would do the business just as well. And in the week that Cardinal O’Brien came out in support of an inquiry into the safety of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction for the Lockerbie bombing, Robert Black releases a statement from leading criminal case solicitor Len Murray, setting out the reasons why he found the original trial verdict at Camp Zeist incomprehensible.
Let’s move on to some superb reviews of TV, film and theatre. One of my dark secrets is that I’m a closet Doctor Who fan (Troughton and Davison are my favourites, since you don’t ask) so I’m horrified to discover I overlooked Matt Smith’s guest appearance on The Sarah-Jane Adventures – although I may not have missed much if Thumbcast’s review is anything to go by. Elsewhere, Statler casts his eye over Ian Low’s play One Gun, while ReelScotland carries a review of the film Burke and Hare in the entertaining form of a conversation between three people who have just been to see it.
A few poetry-flavoured posts : Mairi Sharratt enthuses about TraVerses poetry night in Edinburgh, Andrew McCallum Crawford presents his own poem ‘Dodgems’, and Christine McIntosh pays a highly personal and moving tribute to the late Edwin Morgan.
Misssy M’s sister had a cat go AWOL recently, sparking off memories of the time Gillian’s own cat Molly went missing for a month. You’ll be relieved to hear that both stories have happy endings, with the important caveat that Gillian doesn’t actually tell us if her ‘Meeester M’ suffered any long-term ill effects from nibbling on cat biscuits while out on the hunt for Molly.
Laura McIntyre had an enjoyable overnight escape to the ‘Bonnie Banks’ a couple of weeks ago, and shares three photos with us, along with a touristy YouTube video, plus a plug for the guest house where she stayed – before swearing blind she wasn’t bribed to do the write-up. On the whole, I’m inclined to believe her, in which case I’d like to invite her along to a highly selective guided tour of my own neck of the woods one of these days – it’s a losing battle, but some free propaganda probably wouldn’t hurt.
If you’ve had any setbacks in your life recently, I find it always helps to think of someone less fortunate than yourself. In fact, let’s get down to specifics – I invite you to think of Kevin, husband of Slugs on the Refrigerator blogger Kat. He’s been waiting patiently (actually, not all that patiently by the sounds of it) for his wife to knit him a hat, only to discover when it was finally finished that it was far too big and made him feel like Darth Vader. To add insult to injury, the wool was really, really expensive. Kat is duly contrite. (And before anyone mutters anything about gender stereotyping, I just work with the material I’m given, OK?)
Now, a few miscellaneous nominations to round things off : Steven Aitchison offers some advice on how to “stand out from the crowd when there is so much noise in the world”, Happy Science explores whether science can teach us anything about cooking, and Belinda at Freedom-2-Choose takes up Gillian’s recent call-to-arms, with a post promoting Scottish Roundup. Oh, and if you live on Islay or Jura and fancy a spot of chess, bridge or even belly dancing over the coming weeks, you’ll find a comprehensive diary of activities at the website of The Ileach, an independent newspaper for the two islands.
Well, that finally bring this week’s roundup to a close – it’s been a bumper edition, because Gillian’s exhortations for more nominations did the trick, and quite a few gems had to be carried over as they couldn’t be crammed in last time. So my challenge to you all is to keep those nominations flying in, and ensure my successor has an equally mammoth task next Sunday! Until then, have a great week.