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Showing posts from November, 2018

In Flanders fields the poppies blow - By Duncan Harley

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The Zulu wars were to take an awful toll on Aberdeen’s Gordon Highlanders and in years to come, the young men of the regiment were to be sacrificed on the poppy strewn plains of Europe not just the once but twice more.
Miss Christie, as her pupils referred to her, seldom shared her feelings with her Dunnottar Primary class. 
But her charges still recall her tears each year when, on the anniversary of the death of a brother who perished amongst the dense blue clay of Flanders fields, the entire class would be asked to recite John McCrae’s poignant poem ‘In Flanders Fields.’

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break…

Bottom Prices – by Duncan Harley

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You couldn’t make it up really. Andy Drinkwater, a spokesman for the Water Research Centre, is reported in today’s Times Scotland as saying that “a lot of the products that are marked as flushable are not really flushable.” Seemingly sewers across the land are being bunged up with a mixture of fat balls and bum wipes.

Breakfast news on the BBC picked it up earlier today, the story not the blockage, and steam radio followed hot on the heels. Now, on reading today’s printed media, I discover that this tale of toilet woe has bled its way onto the news pages.

The issue, of course, pales into insignificance when set head to head with the plague of plastic which lines our shorelines. That international disgrace needs sorting and sorting fast before the good old fish-supper becomes the good old plastic fish and chips. I kid you not. The residue of those foamy micro-plasticised hour-long showers has come back to haunt us big-time.

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports …

The Muchalls Peace Sign – by Duncan Harley

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As the wreaths pile up alongside the War Memorials on this Remembrance Sunday and the bagpipes play Battle’s O’er at some 2,000 locations worldwide it seems appropriate to remember that Scotland has its own Little Cenotaph sitting, almost forgotten alongside the main railway-line between Newtonhill and Stonehaven. Muchalls is described in the 1884 edition of the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland as: “a village in Fetteresso parish, Kincardineshire, with a station on the North-Eastern section of the Caledonian railway, 5 miles NNE of Stonehaven, under which it has a telegraph and post office”.

The tiny settlement nowadays lacks a station but still sits alongside the railway-line which transported the men from the towns and the villages of Aberdeenshire to the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Charles Dickens is said to have described the village as a remarkably beautiful place and there are dark tales of a long-lost smuggler’s cave, haunted by a Green Lady, linking Muchals Castle to the n…

An Aberdonian Black Madonna - By Duncan Harley

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I see from today's edition of the P and J that various business-folk and various council-folk are promoting the idea of a ‘Barcelona Style’ cable car to link the city centre with Nigg. On the face of it, the idea looks viable given an expansion – and, by that I mean a huge expansion – in tourism numbers. Given that, the proposal looks like a winner.


Mind you, Barcelona has Gaudi plus some very fine Catalonian outdoor dining and a Gothic quarter and an unfinished cathedral and Roman architecture and a well-established tourist industry.

By contrast, Aberdeen has all the stuff to do with history but as a tourist destination of choice it has signally failed to do much more than promote a few pleasantly restored gentrified castles plus a good few distillery visitor centres. The lure of the Highlands and the romance of the West Coast have traditionally left the North-east with just a smattering of visitors and the largely untapped resources of the North-east remain just that, largely un…

Fifty Long Shadows – By Duncan Harley

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Writing the back-page fluff for a new book is both a pain and a pleasure. The publishers generally put out a pre-publication questionnaire some months before even a single word is placed on the final page.
Well, not that final really since drafts more drafts and final drafts are likely to supersede the early content. So, ideas change and the final fluff might not resemble the initial hopeful words.

Then of course there is the difficult issue of the title. Should it be ironic, reflective of some pun or simply be a play on some clever words such as ‘Here be dragons’ or ‘You should read this since it will make you cleverer than you were before’?

I don’t really know. But what I do know is that the joy of holding the print in your grubby hand makes up for the hassle of getting into print and the lack of monetary rewards.

Not many folks know this, but most books fail to make more than the cost of printing and sell just a few thousand copies or even less.
At last week’s Aberdeen launch of…

Omnibuses and Vampires- By Duncan Harley

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It’s been a great week. We got back from Spain – well actually Gran Canaria – on Monday. As always, Booking-dot-com pestered for a review and I duly obliged.

“Arucas is slightly off the beaten track and at first sight might not be the first place of choice for tourists seeking sun in Gran Canaria. However, the area has much to offer and the Hotel Emblematico is perhaps the best place to stay in town. A traditional family house, the Emblematico has no airs or graces and offers simple easy-going accommodation within easy reach of both the coast and the mountains.
There are traditional restaurants just around corner and if you are minded, there is a chapel just down the road. We used the local Global bus services to get about. Firgas, Las Palmas and Teror can be reached for less than a fiver and a trip south to the more-busy resorts on the southern coast costs less than £14 return. All in all, a bargain.
Breakfast is described as ‘continental’, but it is more than that. A choice of local…