Holyrood screen


© MBM                               Not quite the Holyrood Hills, but Edinburgh Castle

It wouldn’t be remotely surprising were it to win big at the Oscars. Surely someone’s already started on the screenplay as this sorry saga unfurls? To what do we refer? The mighty demonstration of hubris by movers- & ex-shakers at Holyrood, the Scottish Assembly’s historic hub, of course.

We know none of the facts which helps directing focus on responses as, how we do something is how we do everything.

You know when a pal asks for your help – they tell you they’ve messed up and need you to back them up on something? And because the two of you go way back, you agree for the sake of friendship though it means putting yourself in the firing line should things turn sour.

Isn’t it infinitely disappointing when – and it’s happened to all of us – your pal begins to delude themself of their innocence and defends their actions by attacking yours?

In Hollywood, it’s usually the case that the bad guy gets his come uppance and the good guy is recognized as having taken the route of discretion the better part of valour. Alas, as the curtains part on Holyrood’s dismal theatrics, we hope integrity, honour and truth ventillate the souring scene before us as there’ll be narry a rude screen as protection from the flow of dessicated trust and kindness.


Penny for’um


Image courtesy of West Midlands Express & Star

It is exactly Fifty years since the British Isles embraced decimalization of the currency: Pounds, shillings and pennies morphed into coinage of lesser value, smaller notes and for those too young to grasp the logic of 240 old pence comprising a Pound, a shattering relief the new system was at least comprehensible.

Everything in 1971 seemed woefully old fashioned. A penny for your thoughts might have seemed hyper inflated while inconceivably dated customs appeared impenetrably set into the decade’s foundations as the general weight of sombre deference crushed innovation, spontaneity and joie’d vie.

Then, on Fifteenth February (the Ides of February!) all changed in the nation’s pockets and purses. We checked Hansard: it was a Monday and all that’s recorded is The House met at half past Two o’clock. One might have thought Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anthony Barber would have had something to observe or remark, but who are we to judge?

In the intervening years, the shilling* the tooth fairy once left has doubtless been superceded by a Fiver and the hape’ny which went the way of the Dodos isn’t missed. [For those of a nervous disposition, look away now. They withdrew the half-penny in …. 1984.] [* For those of an ancient disposition, it might actually have been a Sixpence: which transformed into 2½p, somehow.]

The 1970s bridged the United Kingdom into a different age. It suddenly seems a very long ago. Just have a squint at this sizzling promo!


Never too old to care


Illustration: Naomi Hands-Smith       Captain Tom walking into the rainbow

The death of Captain Sir Tom Moore from complications of Covid-19 was announced on Candlemass, the very middle of winter.

This redoubtable soul, responsible for £40 million* donated to NHS Charities Together, talked of others but not about himself. He worked for others, cared for others and thereby, united the country in cheerful thanks for his quintessence. * total inc. Gift Aid

The Chief Nursing officer for England, Ruth May observed his view was “you’re never too old to care”. A centenarian’s perspective is long enough to discern what really matters in life. Sir Tom seems to have distilled from all his years that giving of oneself in caring for others is the best use of vitality, vigour and compassion.

Caring builds muscles for caring: in virtue of which, his cheerful disposition radiated something beyond. Thinking about others to the extent he did inspired the nation to do the same. Beyond the vast sums he raised therefore, the example this genial, dignified soul set illuminates how each of us might shine.

Knight Bachelor                                                                  1939  – 1945 Star                                                                Burma Star                                                                          Defence Medal                                                                    War Medal 1939 – 1945.    God speed, Captain Tom.



Presidential arrival follows Trademan’s exit*


Changing of the Guardians: Presidential-Elect team arriving at the Capitol

It seems a mad mingling of ‘aeons-ago’-&-‘like-yesterday’ that North America was kidnapped. The four years we’ve been holding our breath, lest the disturbance of air add to the ricochet of policy direction, has shown there are enough people whose sentience maps over the contours of sombre reality to restore sanity.

The weight of exhaling is over.

This is how we saw things before the last Administration took office in 2016 and six weeks later remarked that analysis seemed woefully justified.

Sustaining an injury leaves a mark: the bruising left by the #Resident’s tiny little hands may take a while properly to heal.

Soothingly, yesterday’s inauguration of President Biden seems, prima facie, a decisive start of that healing process. Emotionally intelligent words were used: integrity, compassion, truth, empathy and listening.

Along with Vice President Harris there appears fresh ventilation of hope and with it, vaccination against the dismal exhibition of moral and political vaccuity to which the American people have been subjected.

The shattering relief a new chapter has begun needs to energize us for the battle and on-going trauma of the global pestilence which is so far from over. We need unity of purpose, a globally united state of kindfulness.

* remember when?


Last post for Whitehorn


© Image  Katharine Whitehorn, writer, journalist, guru, mother & wife

In 2015, for an Iconoclasts mini-series of Theard Side of the Coin, the very gracious Katharine Whitehorn CBE was the subject of one programme. It was announced on Saturday she has died, aged Ninety two.

Interviewed in her basement kitchen, she demonstrated through the pace of her words a consideration which rested across the wide horizon of her long, thrilling, audacious life.

A trail blazer who enjoyed the opportunities Fleet Street afforded to a bright young thing in the 50’s, she took in her stride the sky-high obstacles which convention seemed content to allow. I’m sure they were extremely vexing at the time but when asked, she brushed them aside as merely a reality to be conquered.

Madly in love with her husband long after his death and maternal to her core, Miss Whitehorn was sharp and stylish as a scimitar whose wisdom came from a no-nonsense compartment of kindness while her compassion seemed to slop over the rim.

She did much to promote opportunities for female journalists by getting on with the job, weaving herself into its fabric rather than becoming a knot-to-be-messed-with sort of writer. Deeply feminine, she used her platform to benefit others, not as a shouty plinth.

Hear for yourself what majesty soaked through her voice by a life lived to the outer edge of its generosity of spirit and vitality: a redoubtable, genial, thoughtful writer

God speed, Katharine Whitehorn  17.iii.28 – 8.i.21


All I wannadooo is Dream


Wassily Kandinsky’s Fixed Points, 1942                                                                         The artist who consistently poured the contents of his mind onto canvas

Neuro-science has come a long way in the last twenty years with some neurologists even gaining RockStar status. It continues to be a wildly complex landscape, whose contours remain obliquely unfathomable even to its most intrepid explorers: but leaps across the crevaces wherein lurks ignorance are made daily, narrowing gaps in knowledge [that’s enough metaphor mixage, Ed].

Why, when currently there are so many other things to think about, reflect on the motor of our machine? Ach, call it diversion and for the purposes of this article we will assume that the brain is the motor and separate from the mind, which is a thinking thing.

Pondering a thing until plausibly disproved affords a larger canvas on which to paint one’s life. And dreaming adds colour, depth & sometimes resolution of ambition. So when a brain injury destroys the ability to dream, an important seasoning of life’s flavour evapourates.

In earlier times when neurology was giggery-pokery and dazed-looking patients staggered around in bewildered insularity, received wisdom held that everyone dreams.

Speaking as one who sustained a brain injury destroying, inter alia, the faculty of Dream, I can assert with empirical certainty not everyone is so lucky. It’s as though spark plugs are covered in grime thus unable to bridge the ineffable chasm for ignition of dream in the mind.

Amid the avalanche of lessons taught us by 2020, the importance of having one fixed point has been lit high on the list of priorities. We ponder, therefore we exist.

Dabbing Tiers, bid Farewell to this howling, benighted year; mebbie giving Thanks for 2021, encouraging all humanity in pondering and genial living of their dreams.


Amazin’ foresight


© Madeleine Baird Materials

It’s the thing everyone [well, creatives at least] wants to have: the idea which goes viral, launches crescendo fireworks, assures the bathing in asses milk for life. How to share that?

Entrepreneurs have sizzling ideas: all work their socks off; all surround themselves with clever people possessing the skills they lack; all are convinced theirs is the solution to the intractible problem de nos jours. But those who take their idea into the market place and persuade others to buy [into] it must also have amazin’ luck.

Tapping into the ZeitGeist is a spooky matter of … [clue being in the title] timing. Foresight: a wondrous gift but get there too far ahead of others and prescience evaporates in a wilt of incomprehension. Wait too long and it’s sunk before even being launched.

This has been ‘a rather complicated year’. All of us have been viscerally, physically, financially, intellectually reshaped by medieval blight: the reality of its avalanche, a woeful avalanche.      Though mean-spirited, 2020 vision might be accurately repurposed as 2020’s anakusis in light no executive ear listened to what was crucially foretold: not found credible.

Does the Nature of Balance laugh at foolish haughtiness of thinking ourselves the controlling arbiter of our surroundings? If we’re lucky, this apocalyptic 2020 will have brought reality into sharper focus; made our planet’s scream audibly discernable; caused a drive to lessen Nature’s suffocating suffering.

It seems we’ve already set the world alight: Australia’s ablaze once more, alas; pestilence months away from beaten-into-submission; unemployment and all mad complications that follow ambushing millions.

May Christmas be bliss and 2021 a bright new Beginning.

Wouldn’t it be amazin’ to leave this year behind wiser, kinder and more empathically disposed than we entered it, cascading out warmth and wellness? Be lucky.


Quelle surprise


Melancholy by Albert Gyorgy                   Absence of good faith makes all void

There can be few who believed in … or that … talks negotiating trading terms between Europe and the islands of Britain would amount to and arrive at an honourable settlement.

Had we listened to the words used last year, we all would have known this is where we’d be after an eleven month window-dressage such as represented by these to-ings and fro-ings which merely highlight the joke these islands are become.

It appears British negotiators have clung to a raft of brinkmanship supposing Europe still gives a flyer once these isles comprised an empire. It seems they actually assumed the 27 would cave because historically, that’s what always happened.

The logical positivist & rational empiricist, Bertrand Russell held that inductive reasoning – which assumes what happened in the past will happen in the future – holds advantages akin to those theft has over toil.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a rope whose strands include truth, integrity, resilience, reliability, compassion, empathy, sensitivity, foresight and generosity of spirit. In virtue of the absence of any such quality pertaining to the transacted business of this process, we declare Brexit an EQ-free zone. There’s nothing at the heart of it.


The way and one-ness of things


Henry Moore’s Alter at St Stephen’s Walbrook where Chad Varah founded The Samaritans in 1953 in the crypt of … Wren’s prettiest church?

That peacefully delightful moment of realization, when understanding collides with reality and rather than bounce away on impact, they embrace within the other’s outstretched arms and begin to waltz.

The other day, a small and much valued volume broke asunder: it was exhausted from all the opening it’s had and sighed in expiry of oneness.

You won’t be at all surprised that the wee 1978 print of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching separated itself at the 64th chapter of Book One which says

64  When the uncarved block shatters it becomes                 vessels. The sage makes use of these and                         becomes the lord over the officials.                            65  Hence the greatest cutting     Does not sever.

I like that, the greatest cutting does not sever.

It suggests the inseparable nature of Being: that no matter what life throws at us, if we so choose, we can endure and vanquish it.

The longer this indiscriminate blight throttles global well-being, the deeper the need to draw on inner resources of tolerance and kindness to soothe emotions’ panic.

[A version of Lao Tzu’s biography claims his (personal) first name as Ear or Long Ear. Our focus on Listening impells us to find this profoundly comforting. Tra la la.]

Image  Interior of St Stephen’s, site of an earlier church consecrated in 1432


For the Fallen


© History Today                                                  Exhaustion at Passchendaele

A lesson learnt amid the white-knuckle ride of life is that deathness is existentially different from lifeness.

What nonsense is this? The woman’s not been taking her medication, I hear you cry.

Well, for one thing I don’t do pharmaceuticals and for another, if you share the privilege of having been removed temporarily from life, then you’ll know it all makes perfect sense.

On this woeful anniversary when annually we honour those brave souls who, defending our freedom, have been felled by political failure, I am reminded that the very best death is to die for others.

Religions have high-jacked this idea, alas. It makes it no less true. Those who mourn, if they are willing to reflect, might take comfort from knowing the final sacrifice made is passport to another country. Lest we forget, noble deeds matter and in that reckoning, count.