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Years and years ago I was in Jasper National Park in Canada. I was looking at the thousands of acres of timber spreading up the mountainsides to the tree line. It suddenly occurred to me as I lay there that I was seeing was what much of Scotland used to look like. Once the Highlands and much of the lowlands was forest. The Caledonian Forest. All those grand Highland stark mountain views are due to a man-made desert. Those majestic slopes were clad in trees in much the same way as the mountains around Jasper still are. The culprit in the Highlands is humanity via the agency of sheep and deer. The original blanket of trees was burned or cut down for reasons ranging from flushing out outlaws, to making charcoal for early metal smelting, through to boring out tree trunks to make London sewer pipes. But the regenerative new growth never came because the saplings were chewed down by sheep put on the land for profit or deer put there for rich men's sport. Of course, regimented blocks of trees are planted and harvested in Scotland every year but it's not quite the same. And the bio-diversity on the slopes is pretty minimal. Sadly, the damage is too far gone for simply removing the sheep and deer to make much difference - too much soil erosion now for a start. 

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When I was 17 or 18 years old I bought a record. No big deal that a teenager would buy a record, you may think. Big wows. The thing was that at the time I didn't have a record-player. But I knew, just knew, that one day I would have a record player. And that's why at the end of the Paul Downes and Phil Beer concert at, I think, The Third Eye Centre, on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow I splashed out on their record. They were that good. Two English guys. Session musicians I think. They sang an eclectic mix which included the Beatles and Benny Hill as well as more Folk orientated stuff. I don't think they ever became famous but I hope Music gave them a good living. I guess they numbered among the unsung heroes, and heroines, of the music industry. Good enough that someone without a record-player would buy their album knowing he wanted the chance to hear them again at some time in the future.

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I doubt if I’m the first person to point out that the Guinness Book of Records has lost its way. Some of the records it records are just stupid. Who cares about the greatest number of people holding hands while they recite in unison Mary Had a Little Lamb? When the book was started, as a brewer’s promotion, it was to settle pub arguments. How many people get all riled up in the pub over the greatest number of people holding hands while the recite a childhood poem? Quite possibly zero. Now, tallest man, greatest number of children, longest finger nails, most prolific convicted mass killer, most London buses jumped on a motorcycle, etc, do still crop up over pub tables. I think the Guinness people started noting stupid futile pointless activities to generate publicity for themselves. And life must be getting tougher for them at a time when most folk sitting in a pub can find almost any information the want on their smart phone. 

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More years ago than I care to admit I spent most the time between finishing school homework and going to bed played football. There wasn't much else to do and the number of other kids who wanted to play determined the size of sides. Basically, everyone who showed up got a game and which team someone played for was determined by in what order they showed up. I was more of an enthusiastic player than a skilled one. So, when it came to organised games or tournaments I was seldom picked to play. But no matter; if I could, I would enter my own team. I remember a team I put together reached the semi-finals of a town-wide tournament staged in a local park. We wore strips borrowed from my primary school. Later at High School I wasn't picked for an end of term competition but once again got a team together. When one of the players from other Sixth Year team fell off a cliff, one my my team defected to it. Now here's the point. Although the teams I recruited were usually the second-rate players, we often did better than the teams composed of better footballers. We were well aware of our limitations and tended to pass more, etc. We were never a Team of Greats but we instinctively became a Great Team. There's a moral in there somewhere. 

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You know, for someone who was once the idol of human rights activists, Aung San Suu Kyi is turning out to be quite the cheerleader for the Burmese military. Two Burmese journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe OO, have just been jailed for trying to do their jobs and the odious Aung has labelled them "traitors" who well deserve seven years in the pokey. Never mind that the two journalists were caught in a sting after they accepted documents relating to the murder of Muslim minority Rohingya from someone posing as a journalistic source. Aung has pretty much been a cheerleader for what the United Nations now regards as a genocide in Myanmar, the name the military strongmen have given Burma. She applauds the military's crackdown on "terrorists". It would appear that Aung's interest in human rights never went much beyond her right to rule Burma. The military shoved her snout away from the trough because she was girlie. But Aung would have been given access if she'd been the son of Second World War Japanese collaborator General Aung San instead of a daughter. Long before the Burmese military started the wholesale murder and eviction of over 700,000 Rohingya the Burmese leader had made it clear they could expect no help from her. Speaking of help. Has anyone ever asked who called the cops on deluded American Aung San fan John Yettaw after he swam a lake in 2009 to visit his heroine when she was under house arrest? Canada stupidly gave this monster honourary citizenship. I hope the Canadian government has to guts to revoke it and demand Aung San is hauled before an international court for her part in Myanmar's ethnic cleansing. 

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