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I used to love Ian Rankin's Rebus books. Not so much for the plots but for the junk food the detectives used to cram down their throats between the action. Irn Bru and Pakora flavoured crisps, etc. Rankin's descriptions of Edinburgh were also spot on and reminded me of my days at Napier. The books were a real trip down memory lane. But Rankin's such a good writer that book by book, year by year, the Edinburgh in the books changed. And when I when I visited Edinburgh I found his descriptions of the city were still spot on. Edinburgh had changed. And so had the cops. They were no longer stuffing themselves with Scottish junk food, almost impossible to get here in Canada, but were eating all this healthy stuff. When I visit Scotland people can't believe that I prefer the chip shop to a nice restaurant. I can eat good food any time I like here in Canada- Pakora flavoured crisps, scampi fries and Vimto are a different story; a treat. Once, on an overnight stop while flying back to Canada from the Persian Gulf, my employer put me up in a swanky hotel near Heathrow Airport. A rather nice steak dinner would have been allowed on expenses. But instead I walked down to the nearest petrol station and bought pasties, scampi fries, Rowntree's fruit  pastilles, and who knows what other British junk food.

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We have a provincial election going on here in Alberta, Canada. Think Holyrood but with a lot more powers. Yesterday I got a phone call. I was busy, but I picked the phone up, just in case it was something important. It was a guy supposedly carrying out a survey on behalf of one of the candidates. I didn't have time, even if I'd wanted to help. But this arrogant arrogant idiot seemed to know better than me what I had time for and was even talking over me as I tried to excuse myself. I became decidedly less cordial and vowed to myself there was one party that would never get my vote. But what if the balloon wasn't who he claimed to be and had set out to deliberately tick people off so that people would decide never to vote the party he said he calling on behalf of. Paranoid? One of the parties here takes its orders from American Big Oil and we all know know what a mass of dirty tricks go on south of the border.

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Ewan MacColl is alive and a film star! Actually, contrary to what the BBC World Service says, the Salford folk song writer and singer, real name James Miller, has been dead for almost 30 years. The film actor that Dan Damon was referring to on World Update was Ewan McGregor. At first I passed the error off as yet another example of Damon’s surprising inability to read a script or listen to what the people he is interviewing say to him. But then I remembered Dan “Barr-Ass” Damon’s contempt and ignorance for anyone and anything outside the Home Counties. That reminded me of one of the dirty mind games the Imperialists used to work on their subject peoples. Basically, you don’t matter enough for me to bother getting your name right. I suppose McGregor was lucky not to be dismissed on air as “Some Jock actor”. Or maybe even “Some Sweaty Sock actor”. The time has long past when Matt Damon [see what I tried to do there?] should be sent back to LBC.

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I’ve been impressed by what appears to have been an outpouring of public grief in New Zealand for the 50 victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings and shows of support for their families and communities. Here in Canada there was a 2017 mosque shooting in Quebec City which took the lives of eight innocent worshippers. I cannot recall anything like the same level of support for the local Islamic community in Alberta as has been seen in New Zealand. In fact the only recent demonstration of similar widescale public sympathy and support I can recall here in Canada came after sixteen ice hockey players were killed in Saskatchewan last year when an articulated lorry hit the bus they were travelling on.  And certainly, any attempt to ban semi-automatic weapons in Alberta, as is being done in New Zealand,would be guaranteed to fail. Perhaps the problem is that here in Alberta we live too close to the toxic cauldron of hate that is the United States. When President Trump talks about making America great again, he is thinking of a time when black people, and other minorities, were kept firmly in what was regarded as their place.  In the meantime Well Done New Zealand. I'm not usually big on lavish displays of public grief. But public support as in the New Zealand case, a big "Yes". 

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When I was an office boy at the Glasgow Herald I was sent to the Mitchell Library to find out what the paper said about historic events during its 200 year history. One of the things that struck me was how before the First World War the paper took a paternalistic attitude to the poor and disadvantaged. After 1917 the poor and working class were the enemy. At the time I put this down as a reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. But recently I've become aware that this attitude probably had its roots in events in the years leading up to The War. I hadn't realised what a basket case Britain was then. The upper-class sufferagette movement was mounting a terrorist campaign to get votes for women that only by a series of miracles did not result in loss of victims' lives. The British officer corps, a major employer of Irish protestants, was threatening mutiny if sent in to enforce Irish Home Rule. The years leading up to the war also saw British troops on British streets, particularly in 1913 in London, Sheffield and Liverpool, to help quell labour and working class unrest. There's a photo of the Gordon Highlanders marching into Sheffield in khaki jackets, kilts, and their ceremonial feather bonnets. In much the same way as the so-called Battle of George Square in 1919 Glasgow was never properly taught in school history, neither were the times the British Army were deployed on British streets in the years leading up to the outbreak of World War One in 1914. I wonder why. 

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