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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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I find myself listening more and more to a radio station here called My Radio 580AM. A lot  of  of the programming I can't understand because most of the content I hear is in languages originating from the Indian sub- continent; though I understand it broadcasts in several languages including Mandarin. The English language radio here in Canada, which I can clearly understand,  just makes my blood boil. It's either privately owned talk- radio with a heavy bias towards right wing propaganda, a sort of Voice of Corporate America, or the dismal publicly funded CBC. Barely a day goes by without some factual blunder.  When I was a newspaper reporter, the incompetence and stupidity of the majority of CBC "journalists" just meant one less competitor to worry about. When I worked for the government in Saskatchewan the same incompetence seemed like a menace to Democracy, in which a well informed electorate is crucial. Now a relentless stream of racially divisive drivel has been added to the CBC mix.  The final straw for me was a report that  while most ethnic Chinese in Canada believed they had been victims of racism at some point, more than 80% did not believe it was systemic or insitutionalised. The CBC's coverage of the poll results consisted of two Chinese Canadian supposed "community leaders" being given a platform to  berate the survey participants for their stupidity. The CBC's mission these days also seems to be the unquestioning validation of vocal minority groups who employee physical means to defy decisions taken by democratically elected bodies. Call me old fashioned but I remember when journalists questioned everything and everyone. Lucky for me that My Radio 580 offers an alternative to Canada's version of Fox News and publicly funded divisive racialised fascism. 

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One of the things about having a website is that you can  shame people who have abused their position to do you harm.  But it's maybe not a good idea. I went a step further in my first book, Scottish Military Disasters and had a go at a former boss at a weekly newspaper chain who suppressed my story about the 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' role in the repatriation of Cossacks who fought for the Germans during the Second World War and their families. I can't remember exactly what she said but it included the word "hysterical". That unfounded aspersion hurt - a lot. A national broadsheet newspaper offered to buy the article in  question unaltered  but it didn't seem right to sell them something written on my employer's  time. But i could put their feature  writer in touch with the people I'd spoken to. Anyway, that's how "hysterical" a piece of work it was.  But somehow the dig at the woman still seems mean spirited and more than a little petty. I should have been better than that. 

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I really hope Alberta's Public Heath Officer knows more about pandemic control than she does about speaking English. This week she spoke about "lived experience". Is there any other kind of experience? Woolly words reveal woolly thinking. I'm not overwhelmed by the implications of that thought. I don't know how much comfort to take from the widespread suspicion that the provincial goverment in Albeta doesn't always take the Public Health Officer's advice. But I do admire her decision to take a long arranged day off to be with her kids rather than appear at a press conference announcing a planned easing of Covid restrictions. The relaxations are part of the provincial goverment's plans to rapidly return us to normality, or as  or as the Public Health officer would regrettably dub it, Normalcy. 

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I was horrified to hear the Public Heath Officer for Alberta use the word "normalcy" during a Covid update. Can I really trust someone who uses a word invented by US President Warren Harding, until recently reckoned to be the most ignorant and stupid man ever to hold that office? She was a victim, as are a depressingly large number of Brits, of the fact that the future of the English Language is firmly in the hands of Americans. The same Americans who thought offering a beef burger weighing in at 1/3lb for the same price as their rival sold a 1/4lb burger for was scam. Y'all know that three is less than four. 

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In the olden days, when 33 1/3 rpm recorded discs ruled the music scene, first albums were big deal. Some musicians never produced better. I don't think the Bare Naked Ladies ever topped their break- out Gordon album. On the other hand other musicians went from strength to strength as their recording catalogue increased. I don't think I bothered with Runrig's first album, Play Gaelic. One thing First Albums had going for them was that they were made up of years of tried and true work. After that, the strain of producing an album's worth of material on an almost annual basis was only too obvious. Others only really found their groove after that first album. Like life, first albums were a lottery

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Sometimes I miss the macho of life in the Central Belt of Scotland. Back there, in my day at leadt, if someone spilled your beer in the pub, unless that was a deliberate provocation, they bought you a fresh pint. This did not happen so much in England and I've never seen it in Canada. But this blog isn't purely about nostalgia. Here in Alberta fully grown guys ride their bikes, illegally, on the pavement. That means if pedestrians don't want a punctured spleen as a result of being  hit from behind by a cyclist they  have to shoulder check before stepping around broken glass, dog mess or dead birds on the pavement. It is not always easy to remember to shoulder check. Many of the cyclists, even if they have a bell, won't ring it to warn pedestrians that they are approaching from behind. In Scotland, at least in my time there, no adult guy would ride on the pavement. That was what little kids  did and was decidedly unmacho. 

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The anniversary of abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1832 has just been marked.  There were some present-day Canadian residents of Caribbean descent demanding compensation for what they say are the residual affects of their ancestors' enslavement. I even heard nonsensical claims that Canada was built on slavery. Yes, there was slavery, there were even Gaelic- speaking slaves. But, "Built on Slavery" , I don't think so. But it got me thinking of my ancestors and slavery. A whole branch of the family tree is made up of coal miners. In Scotland, colliers were kept in slavery for something like 200 years because so few people would do the job voluntarily. The last vestiges of their bondage were only removed around 1800 . That's only a generation and a half before the emancipation of the Caribbean slaves. Where do I get the compensation claim form from?

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One of the things I miss about being a daily newspaper reporter is knowing within about 12 hours whether I'd failed or succeeded. By failure or success I mean whether I'd beaten the opposition or whether they had beaten me. After I left daily newspapers it could take months to gauge the success or failure of my efforts. Often, there was no clear cut indication at all. And responsibility for that success or failure was also a fuzzier matter. Writing books is even worse in many ways. It can take more than a year from submitting a text to the book going on the shelves. And a lot of people, an awful lot of people, are involved in how well  a book does. Yes, I miss the clear cut and almost instant validation, or otherwise, of my efforts.

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My book royalty statements for the last six months of 2020 have just arrived. Oddly, last week I did a search for pirated free downloads of my books. It's pretty easy to spot them, because with very rare exceptions free downloads of my books are pirated. The only legitimate free downloads are part of very occasional and clearly identified promotions by reputable, well known, commercial  ebook retailers. Every other free download is theft from me. Those who are tempted by the offer of an iffy free download should think twice. The same people who take the bread from my mouth are almost certainly not above using the bait of a free book  download to put malicious software on folk's computers. Personally, I wouldn't risk it.

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A long long time ago in a land far away there was a council office. Late one evening police surrounded the office building.  They took away two senior council officials,  who both claimed to be working late. But one of them was actually making obscene phone calls to a call box in The Big City. One of the council guys was a more than a little creepy and odd. The other was very much the life and soul of the party. You can guess which was the obscene caller. He had been caught as a teenager doing much the same thing. But as he came from a nice middle class family, the matter was not pursued and he didn't get the help it turns out he needed. It was never revealed what the guy said but it was so worrying and such a concern that the Big City police went to all the trouble of tracing all incoming calls to the phone box. By the way, you got that it wasn't the creepy guy who was arrested? 

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It worries me when the politicians seriously consider allowing criminal conviction in some cases on a reduced standard of evidence. In Scotland, there has to be some corroboration, two fingers of guilt pointing at the accused. That can be a combination of eyewitness, forensic evidence or even a confession. That's why there used to be fewer wrongful convictions in Scotland than in England and Wales where forced,or even fake, confessions or one lying, or perhaps foolish, eyewitness could send someone to the gallows. Of course, some crimes are notorious for lack of sources of corroboration. But accusation alone should never result in conviction. That's harsh, I know, but if someone tells you Life is fair, they are lying. Everyday people get away with terrible things because of a lack of corrobated evidence or even witnesses who refuse to testify.

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One of the notable aspects of the mid 2000s was the spate of books from British soldiers who fought in the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. For a brief period the great  reading public was interested in what working class blokes had to say. I'm thinking of course about the accounts from rank and file members of members of the British Army. Though that said, some officer memoirs were very worth reading. And many of the ghost written "squaddie-speak" accounts can also safely be consigned to the rubbish bin. But there was a core of books that truly spoke to how ordinary working class chaps saw things. From  all the books published annually in the United Kingdom, very few come from a working class point of view. One of the best glimpses of how normal people lived in the 1950s and early 1960s appeared in a book of interviews with National Servicemen which included what they did in the hours before they left civilian life. Most of those half-decent breakfast for two  years accounts made for grim reading.

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Cannabis use has been legal now for a couple of years in Canada. The world did not collapse and life for most hardly changed at all. The one good thing about the legalisation was that people could no longer drone on about the need for pot to be legalised. They were so boring that they actually made the case against legalisation due to the evidence their verbal diarrhorea  provided that cannabis use did in fact cause mental impairment.

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