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I was jarred recently when I heard the BBC World Service refer to "the France side of the Channel Tunnel". I can remember when it was the French side of the tunnel. I can't help wondering if the lack of old fashioned national descriptors is down to ignorance. How many so-called journalists nowadays know that things pertaining to Norway are Norwegian? Or the Netherlands, Dutch? Of course, what used to be described as Our Scottish Correspondent seldom was. It remains usually an Englishman parachuted in. While many BBC correspondents now to seem to be natives of the country they are reporting on, Scots are still not trusted to tell the truth about their own homeland. Talk about The Last Colony. But Scotland Correspondent just sounds ignorant. How about Scottish Affairs Correspondent?

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Here's something scary: your airplane carry-on vanishes from the overhead storage and you don't find out until the plane lands. It happened to me on an Air Canada flight from Edmonton to Toronto. When I was finally allowed to board, being in the cheap seats, the overhead bins in my section were all full of oversized carry-on. Clue - If You Need Wheels On Your Bag; It's Not Carry On. Actually, it was paying attention to the staged boarding that was my mistake. Several other cheap seaters were already well ensconced in my section. I saw their tickets with seat numbers in the departure area and know they were allowed through the gate before they should have been. Anyway, I found a space in an overhead bin further down the plane. So, I didn't see someone subsequently take my bag, because the bin was behind me. I was horrified to find the bag wasn't there when I went to fetch it at the end of the flight; in its place was little white backpack. My bag finally turned out to be in a bin several rows up and on the other side of plane. I reckon I know who made the switch. I think the vacant spot in the bin was due to someone taking the white backpack down briefly to get something out of it. They could have said at the time that there was no space in the bin. Or they could have told me where my carry-on was when they saw my panicked look on arrival at Toronto. They just had to say they'd seen someone move it and tell me where it now was. I mean, there were 300 suspects if the bag was stolen. Strangely, Air Canada didn't seem keen on searching each passenger as they left the plane.

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I think writers have to be very careful when they describe something as "the last", or even "the first". I was just reading a book, by Tory Kwasi Kwarteng, which stated the last British cavalry charge took place at Omdurman in 1898. I can think of several subsequent British cavalry charges after that, including several during the First World War. I'm not even sure that qualifying the claim by saying "full regimental" cavalry charge will cover it. Whole cavalry divisions were sweeping around Palestine towards the end of the First World War. Perhaps the only safe thing to say is the 1898 charge by the 21st Lancers was the last, and I think only, one in which Tory Winston Churchill took part. Kwarteng is far from the only person to assert the last cavalry charge claim. His expensive education, which included Eton, may have been wasted. On the other hand is being an Old Etonian not almost an essential qualification for Cabinet office? Am I alone in wondering if one secondary school really does have such a monopoly on producing exceptionally talented people?

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When I was reporter I noticed a lot of parents of children who died tried to set up charities or organisations linked to whatever had killed their child. It was a case of They Didn't Die in Vain: Some Good Must Come of This. The thing is that setting up a charity to support, say, research into childhood diseases is complicated and hard. It takes very special talents. Things were made even more difficult for these grieving parents by the number of shysters and chancers who infest the charity business. The first, and sometimes only, person they help is themselves. It was shame to see parents' grief being so exploited.

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One of the things that struck me when I moved to Canada was the number of teenagers killed in car crashes. It seemed that a lot of people went to school with someone who died in a car crash. Back in the late 1970s and 80s few British teenagers had cars. But in Canada secondhand vehicles and petrol were cheap. In Scotland, or at least in Livingston, most folk knew someone from Craigshill High School who had been murdered or had murdered someone. A different world.

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