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So, the BBC has declared Glasgow the capital of Scotland. I take it that it backs what it broadcasts. According to People Fixing The World presenter Marnie Chesterton Glasgow is the Scottish Capital. If it is not, I suppose Chesterton will be fired in a bid to restore the programme's credibility. I mean, if she got something so basic wrong, what else does she get wrong? In real life, I wonder how many other BBC presenters covering the COP 26 in Glasgow will show the same ignorance of life north of Watford. My guess is that Chesterton will not be only one. UK national broadcaster? 

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I was recently reading a novel set in a British military prison during the Korean War. What struck me about this tale of life and death in The Glasshouse were the parallels with high school in Scotland. No, not the constant drill and endless mindless bullshit, but being forced into the company of nutcases. Maybe Craigshill High School had more murderers and psychos among the pupils than most schools. Maybe some of the staff only kept their jobs in teaching because no- one else was prepared to brave the literally murderous pupils.  I remember years later in a bothy south of Ullapool meeting the brother in law of one of my teachers and voicing the opinion that he and another teacher from the same department were certifiable psychopaths. The brother in law immediately agreed. It was only as an adult that I realised how dysfunctional several of my teachers were. She is only a schoolie and maybe you shouldn't be taking a shower together in the boys' changing room sir.  I guess  the end of National Service meant there was less job opportunity in the Army for psycho inadequates as Glasshouse staff. Shame Scottish Education offered a cosy billet to so many who would have been  otherwise unemployable. 

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that friendship is founded on a communality of thought or of experience; best of all a combination of the two. I recently went camping and hiking in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with a guy I've known since we were at high school together in Scotland. Years ago I slept on the floor of his flat in Edinburgh for several months while looking for job. But I was a little concerned. I think we'd only spoken once on the phone in the past two years and he doesn't give much away in his emails. We're both older than we once were but not much wiser. Was the essential spark of communality of thought and/or experience still there. Fortunately, yes. We were like a well oiled machine. As before, he seemed to be able to read my mind. Years ago I was good friends with one of my flat mates in Newcastle upon Tyne. When he got his girlfriend preggers and they set up home together on the other side of Chillingham Road I thought the friendship would continue. But without the communality of experience we'd shared at old digs, it turned out we had nothing.

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As a child I was once held hostage. Actually, so were my mum and little brother.  I wouldn't say it was birthday nightmare, but it wasn't much fun either. We were living in a village about 10 miles from Hamilton and as a birthday treat we went to a Chinese restaurant in the town. Dollars to doughnuts I had sweet and sour pork followed by lychees in syrup. I wasn't very adventurous when it came to Chinese restaurants. Anyway, when it came time to pay it turned out the restaurant refused the usually widely accepted credit card my dad proffered. He had no cash nor a cheque book. So, my dad made a 20 mile round trip home to get money and the rest of the clan were held hostage at an empty table in the restaurant pending his return. Not, I suspect,  strictly legal. And why not not just one or two hostages? Boring. I have a feeling we never went there again. Overall, the restaurant's loss. 

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I seem to recall that before the collapse of the Soviet Union we in the West were urged to admire a bunch of guys, it was nearly always a man, known as Dissidents. These supposed courageous guardians of human decency were built into heroes by the supposed Free World. Most vanished from the Western consciousness almost immediately after the end of Soviets. Not only were they no longer useful tools in the propaganda Cold War but they turned out to be cranks who hated everyone and everything. Nothing on the post-Soviet globe satisfied them any more than what came before.  In particular they  were not big fans of their boosters west of the old Iron Curtain and their world. It turns out we'd been urged to deify a bunch of cantankerous curmudgeons.

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I heard part of a radio documentary from the Irish state broadcaster RTE recently. It was about fellahs from the Irish Republic serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment. Contrary to what the Australian Broadcasting Corporation declared when it rebroadcast the programme, the regiment is not exclusively recruited in the Irish Republic, far from it. But since 1922 when the Free State was created, everyone from the island has been able to serve in the British armed forces. Lads from Northern Ireland have been equally welcome to serve in the Irish Defence Force. I remember meeting a crowd of them back home on leave in Northern Ireland. They held the IRA in complete contempt. But then the IRA was the main threat to their lives in the early 1980s. Every security van in The Republic needed a army escort and a carload of detectives as escort to foil the IRA's fundraising hold- ups. 

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I finally got to see the controversial Canadian documentary series The Valour and the Horror. The three episodes feature the capture of two battalions of barely trained Canadians at Hong Kong in 1941; Canadians in Bomber Command and finally the mauling of the Black Watch of Canada during an attempt to break out from the Normandy Beachhead in 1944. During the Bomber Command episode two Canadian former bomber crew were brought face to face with two women who survived the horrific firestorm bombing of Hamburg. What were the Canadians supposed to say? It was a cheap trick. The same would have been true if two German airmen had been brought face to face with two survivors of the 1940 destruction of central Coventry. The production crew also tried to bring two Canadians captured at Hong Kong to a gathering of Japanese veterans of the battle. One of the Canadian veterans, a survivor of a hospital massacre, refused to attend. The second one went along and at first it was a case of old soldiers having a lot in common no matter which side they were on. Then the Canadian explained why his buddy had refused to come along. The atmosphere soured immediately. It seemed at least one of the Japanese veterans had been in the area of the hospital at the time of the massacre and may even have taken part. The Japanese veterans seemed to regard the reminder of their dark side as impolite.

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  1. A  hell of the lot of people don't know their history. That makes it easy for those with an agenda, often not obvious, to whip up hysteria and actually silence those who question their twisted version. People have recently lost their livelihoods for querying the exaggerations being pedalled. Even worse, still living witnesses to history who would once provide more nuanced accounts  of events are now afraid to speak out due to fear of the wrath of misguided mob. In 1908 the authorities in Vancouver on Canada's Pacific Coast turned away a Japanese ship containing almost 360 would-be immigrants from India who had sailed from Hong Kong. Immigration rules were that immigrants had to sail from their country of citizenship and had set the amount of cash needed on entry for non-Europeans at a higher level. The intention was obviously to discourage non-European immigration to Canada. The ship had been chartered by a US financed and based terrorist organisation called Ghadar to challenge the immigration rules. Those who were not terrorist sympathisers when they boarded the Komagatu Maru on Hong Kong almost certainly were by the time they arrived off Vancouver. The ship's arrival was like a plane charted by ISIS touching down at Vancouver airport today. And yet demands for a modern government apology were taken seriously. No- one seemed to remember that two Vancouver members of the Indian community who assisted immigration authorities were later murdered, as was one of the leading immigration officials involved. Nor were the 24 passengers admitted to Canada mentioned much during the Centenary. Never mind the truth, feel the emotion. 
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The recent evacuation of people from Kabul international airport was presented as a matter of life and death. And yet among those spirited out of Afghanistan were two paralympians who wanted to compete in  Tokyo. Since when was taking part in the Tokyo Games a matter of life and death? Did this pair take places in the evacuation that should have gone to people with much more to lose under the new Taliban regime in Kabul? And who else got a seat that could have gone to someone with a legitimate fear of the Taliban? And let's not go into the morality of airlifting 150 cats and dogs instead of people. Many Afghans would have been delighted to fly out in the cargo hold.  Too much was the western media's coverage of Afghanistan has involved interviewing the English-speaking chattering classes in Kabul. Kabul is no more of a microcosm of Afghanistan than London is of the United Kingdom. What I want to know is what is happening to ordinary Afghans.

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Just after the Saskatchewan Party here in Canada, a supposed merger of the corruption discredited Provincial Tories and their Liberal counterparts but really just a Tory vehicle, kicked the New Democrats out of power, a vacancy came up for someone to work as a media relations officer for the party. One of the party officials wrote the job description when the vacancy was posted. He knew what the job involved because he had worked next to someone who had done it. One of the duties outlined was to find members of the public to put their names on newspaper Letters to the Editor actually written by party headquarters. Another was to recruit supposed ordinary Joes and Josephines to phone radio call-in shows and spout party propaganda over the airwaves. This was an interesting one because the host of the province's biggest call- in show was quick to "out" any callers with even tenuous links to the New Democrats but somehow never apparently spotted the Tory plants. Anyway, needless to say the aforementioned job posting was disavowed by the Tories. Hilarious

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There is a question mark over how many killers I went to high school with. The town was plagued by a gang of almost homicidally violent teens. The thing about teen killers is that a murder sentence in juvie jail comes nowhere near life. I think they served about seven years or so for their first murder. The story goes that one nasty killed again. He realised that he'd get more than seven years for a second murder. So, he persuaded an associate to go to the police and confess to the killing. The alternative to confessing, so the story goes, was that the real murderer would kill the associate's mother and sister. I questioned whether someone  could be convicted by a Scottish court on only confession - collaboration, a second finger of evidence pointing at the accused, is required under Scottish Law. But I suppose the real killer would have little problem providing his associate with the murder weapon or something along those lines to show to the police. Now, whether the story is true I don't know. But it's interesting that it gained such widespread credibility around the town. 

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When I was teenager I spent a summer working in the West Highlands. There was an attitude that we lived West of the Regulations. That we could almost do as we pleased. To a large extent  this  was due to the very few roads in the area, which made it hard for those job was to enforce the regulations to sneak up on a person. The progress of police vehicles, for example, was reported by telephone call from pub to pub at almost every junction and crossroads in an area covering hundreds of square miles. Things were more relaxed when it was known that the road being taken no longer meant the cop car to would be in the vicinity of certain bars. Maybe if surprise was essential,  the police travelled in unmarked Volkswagen Campervans or landed on the coast from commando speed boats and rode motocross bikes over the drove roads. 

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Listening to the radio I seem to be hearing more and more Americans interviewed on the BBC as subject experts from British universities. This is a concern. I find most  books written by US academics muddle headed and poorly researched. The only exceptions are those by former members of the US military who have become academics. Anyway, I think the poor quality of US academia dates back to the Vietnam War when it was expanded too rapidly to accommodate demand for college and university teachers from draft dodging middle class boys. If you're taught by a donkey, you'll become a donkey too. The plethora of US faculty members at British universities  suggests perhaps that  demand has  outstripped the available teaching talent in the UK and maybe we should look again at letting so many former technical colleges pass themselves off as institutes of higher learning. Is there a University of Pumpherston  yet?

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Here's chance to see some camera footage of my hands and feet, my dad's feet and, I think, my wee brother's smiling face. And what, you may ask, have you done to deserve this treat from the Clan Cowan? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I've just got back from hiking in the Rockies with an old mate from high school. Dave is not only a great mate he is also a very talented musician. A while back he recorded a funny little novelty song about going to the pub. And during a visit to The Clan, I filmed some footage for a little video at locations in Glasgow and outside Edinburgh. Our recent camping trip made me want to revisit Dave's video and that reminded me me of how much fun it was.  Judge for yourself -Dave’s Pub Song

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So, the 2020 Olympics have begun in Tokyo. Big Deal. When I was kid I got the Olympics. I cared. But now? Nope. So much cheating, so much money. I don't think the people of Japan or Toyko want The Games, thanks to Covid. But they have no choice. The Olympics are too big a money making machine not go ahead. The choice of venue often involves massive corruption. I bet the Japanese now regret any graft they put the way of the International Olympic Committee. The participants care nothing for me and I care nothing for them. None of them represent me - though I am forced to contribute to their Olympic dream through taxpayer support for sport.  The competitors are in it for themselves. Many are socially maladjusted. Most have been involved in sport since they were kids and the adults involved prefer children's minds in adult bodies. Performance enhancing drugs are endemic and expensive equipment, such as fancy sprung running shoes, can often decide the winner. Often the real competition is between the dopers or equipment makers. Who Cares? I certainly don't. But you feel free. 

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I hear a lot of children's authors talking about creating characters who are like them. As in "When I was a kid I never saw anyone who looked like me on telly or in books" . Personally, I didn't see a lot of Scots, but that may have prevented me being herded into a ghetto of the imagination. I guess there was Scotty on Star Trek and John Grant on Jackanory with his Little Nose stories. I'm not convinced that it's essential to see yourself in a fictional character, after all is a lot of fiction not supposed to be about imagination and escape? The US cartoon makers decided that it was a good idea to introduce characters that little kids could easily identify with. One result was that we got was Scrappy Doo. I rest my case. 

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You know, there might be some money in putting together a selection of theme songs and tunes from the 1970s when the BBC used to show the same imported children's Tv programmes every summer holidays. Year after year after year the morning television was a cycle of The Flashing Blade, Gulliver's Travels, White Horses,  Belle and Sebastian, Heidi and The Banana Splits. The Boy from Lapland might have been in there too, the title song was certainly unusual and catchy enough. I think Germany's  scary The Singing Ringing Tree was also on the summer roster, but encounterwith that one was one too many. I was never a big fan of Belle and Sebastian, Heidi or White Horses, but takes all kinds to make a world.

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The good at maths may want to look at something I'll call, the interweb being so sensitive when it comes to bad language, The Evil Factor. I once lived in town overrun by evil twisted thugs. I never did work out a motive for their violence. The thing was that two thugs didn't cause twice the chaos that a solo one did. The violence and evil multiplied three or four times. And three didn't cause three times the problems. Five seemed to send levels of violence and thuggery spinning to uncontrollable levels. I would reckon at the height of the reign of evil, the hard core of the gang was eight thugs and around two dozen wannabe hangers- on. Lawyers who were only interested winning cases made sure the bad guys, knew, if they didn't know already, where to find prosecution witnesses. Anyway, my question is, mathematically, how much more anti-social evil do six thugs commit than a solo one?  

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Well, here's another worrying development. Apparently artistic types are not allowed to do anything that might borrow from other people of a different skin tone or language group. I just heard of a successful TV programme that has gone down the toilet because the woman behind it wasn't from the ethnic minority she claimed to be from. Or she wasn 't from it enough. And of an artist who was accused of cultural appropriation by his daughter because the style he used was that of an ethnic minority. But that turned out OK because it was discovered the guy was adopted and actually belonged to the minority in question. The thing is, music, etc, constantly evolve as influences from various sources are taken aboard. If the cultural appropriation zealots had their way, and they've been getting it a lot too often these days, music would still consist of banging two rocks together at the campfire. Can I still eat Chinese food? Maybe I can eat it but I can't cook it. 

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Argh. Yet again I'm going to have a go at what passes for journalism this days. I just heard on the radio about the discovery of a "mass grave" containing the bodies of more 200 children on the grounds of an old Indian Residential School in British Columbia. But there is no mass grave. What the ground penetrating radar found were more than 200 unmarked graves. Anyone who thought about it would realise that ground radar would not be able to give an accurate figure for how many bodies were in a mass grave. But "mass grave" is way more emotive, makes you think of Rwanda or Bosnia. Something over 200 unmarked graves in grounds of an old school is bad enough; though it's possible that old wooden cross grave markers may have rotted away over the years.  The group that paid for the radar search repudiated the mass grave label weeks ago  but that hasn't stopped many so called journalists using the description in the past few days. The Residential School System involved putting Indian children into boarding schools in an ill-judged  bid to help assimilate them into mainstream society.  Cruelty, abuse and neglect were all too often features of life in the schools. I wonder if we'll ever find out what killed the kids at the BC school. Epidemic childhood diseases used to claim many lives - especially if the youngsters were from remote communities. 

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