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Sometimes my brain plays strange tricks. I inherited an old Canonet camera, circa 1963, complete with built-in light meter. For some reason it came into my head that I would need to get some black and white 35mm film for it. I mean, old camera equals  black and white. Of course that was nonsense. The lens and shutter don't care if it's colour or black and white film in the camera. And it's the film that capturing the light that's the key. In any case, there was colour film around in 1963. Maybe not great colour but colour nonetheless. There's even colour footage of the Second World War, a conflict most of us are used to viewing in black and white.

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I once won a prize that I could only claim if no-one else wanted it. Believe it or not I was once declared Employee of the Year. Actually, from what I can gather it was more of a lucky draw from a list of employees who had on at least one occasion gone above and beyond what was reckoned to be normal requirements  of their job. I won a watch, which soon stopped working. But even better, I could make one- time use of the corporate box at the local arena along with three friends. Or maybe I could go twice  with one friend . The arena played host to a lot of interesting events and concerts. However, it turned out that I and my friends could only get into the box if company management didn’t want to use it. Or if the promotions department didn’t need space in the box as a prize in one of their numerous competitions. So, not surprisingly, it turned out that as other people always wanted to see the same things as  I did, I never did get to claim my prize.

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Canada’s state broadcaster told me recently that the French had to invent the guillotine. Why would they need to that when the Scots already had an almost identical device, known as The Maiden?  What I suspect we have here is an information silo. Feed the information into the search engine and it tells  you what it thinks you want to know. A bit like all these people whose social media feeds deluge them with bizarre conspiracy theories. The Maiden, a frame with a 75 pounds of lead weighted blade, was first used in Scotland in 1565 and remained in service until 1716. Similar devices had been used in Europe since at least 1539. Halifax in Yorkshire claims to have inspired The Maiden, though it is not clear when it when its version was first used. So, if Mr Guillotine did indeed invent the device which carries his name, it was a case of reinventing the wheel.

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Folk live in such silos these days that they assume all their troubles are caused by their skin tone or some other marker. They don’t realise that most of their troubles come from a group of people who have been exploiting nearly everyone for generations and love to play divide and conquer. A classic illustration is the resurgence of the Klu Klux Clan in the American South of the 1920s. Money interests realised that they could smash working class solidarity if they could whip up racial division. Pitting white against black worked wonders when it came to keeping down the wage bill and forcing people to accept lousy working conditions. The great grandchildren of those same bosses still manage to do much the same thing.

* The 2021 Book of the Year has just been announced - Book of the Year 2021

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I always felt the winter solstice festive period was a season of two parts. Christmas was for family. New Year was mates and community. Most folk, at least in theory know how Christmas is supposed to go. But I'm beginning to wonder if the Art of Hogmanay is being lost. It's hard to say from here in Canada. If the Canadians ever got New Year, it was long before my time. I once went to the square outside Edmonton City Hall for Hogmanay. Folk just stood in their own little groups and didn't mingle. I think the square was almost empty by 12:15am. It was a poor imitation of something folk had seen on television beamed from New York. A similar event in Scotland, at least when I was young, would have have involved the whole crowd trying to interact with everyone else in it. Though there was the occasional empty bottle launched into the air. And everyone seemed to throw their home open to everyone else, even if they didn't particularly like them. Everyone was pals for one night, or at least pretended to be. But I gather things are a lot quieter in Scotland these days, and have been since  long before Covid came along. Maybe folk these days have nicer furniture that they don't want damaged or stuff around the house that they don't want people they barely know, if they know them at all, pocketing. Or maybe I'm just getting old. 

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