Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Blytonic Flashback to “The Secret Mountain” #eclipse #solareclipse #enidblyton


In preparation for the solar eclipse this morning I dusted off my copy of Enid Blyton’s “The Secret Mountain” and skipped to the climax of the novel where Prince Paul is about to be sacrificed to a sun god. As fate would have it, an eclipse was scheduled for the very day of his human sacrifice:

“Eclipse of the sun, 11.43 a.m.,” he read. “Is this this year’s diary? Yes!”

How very fortuitous for him.

Blyton brings things to a fever pitch of anxiety before Captain Arnold gambles Paul’s life on the moon turning up on time:

He snatched a knife from his belt and threw it high into the air at the sun!


Just then the eclipse begins:

A tiny piece seems suddenly to be bitten out of the sun! A small black shadow appeared at one side. The moon was beginning to pass in front of it and was hiding a very small piece.

The story then takes on a tone that sits uncomfortably on the modern ear.

A moan of fear came from the watching Mountain Folk. They did not understand how simple a thing an eclipse was and they really thought that their precious sun was being killed!

There are other bits similarly patronising to the Mountain Folk (who, had this been reality, would perhaps have a cool calendar with millennia of eclipses marked in):

There was a wee description which was quite like what happened today:

And now the earth began to look queer and unearthly. The sunlight dwindled and died. A queer half-light came over the whole countryside.

Because we were not in the direct path of the shadow, that’s as complete as it got. For Prince Paul, they had the full thing, being plunged into a starry darkness:

“Don’t be afraid,” Mrs Arnold said to the scared children who had not expected this. “The sun is gone now, lost behind the moon – so, of course, it is like night time and the stars shine out. You must remember that the stars are always in the sky, all through the day – but we don’t see them because the daylight is so bright.”

So, Prince Paul managed to escape being sacrificed to the sun god. Phew.

It wasn’t so dramatic for us. We watched a bit of Brian Cox and then went to the window, remembering not to look at the eclipse, while trying to look at the eclipse. I accidentally looked at the eclipse because I was looking for where the eclipse was. Anyway, it was like a wee bright fingernail. Quite an atmospheric sky.

Someone fairly near me geographically took this photo that I poached off the Facebook:


While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane re-reading the climax of “The Secret Mountain”, I, as usual, failed to get all that excited about physics on a grand scale, getting my sun and my moon in alignment. I figure it’s just about perception. It depends where you are and what you see as much as it is about the sun and the moon and the earth and where they are. The intense black shadow bit would be cool to be under, I’ll concede.

But to be there, you pretty much have to be an eclipse chaser willing to go wherever eclipses are, or you have to be a character in an Enid Blyton novel with an eclipse turning up as the deus ex machina.

Gradually, the sun became itself again as the moon passed right across it and the black shadow fled. The glorious daylight flooded the mountains, and the golden sun poured its rays down once more.

Middle Age, Middle Earth, Middle of March #deerstalker #ratracer #mightydeerstalker

I spend my life being overtaken by a herd of metaphorical gazelles at training, so I was well prepared for the Deerstalker in at least one respect; I was probably more worried about getting to the start line suitably fit, with suitable kit and having had enough in the way of water and chips.

We ate at Bony’s Steakhouse and just about managed to navigate our way through the waiter’s patter and to our hotel in time to get kitted up and out to the event.

Beautiful crisp, clear night. Feeling good, feeling ready and off we went.
Touch of the “going on a bear hunt”, except it was a deer stalk.

Over the hay bales
crunch jump crunch jump
through the muddy field
squelch suck squelch suck
through the water
splish splash splish splash
up the steep hill
gasp wheeze gasp wheeze
along the forest track
ziggy zaggy ziggy zaggy
off the forest track up and down
pumping arms pumping legs
blinded by man in reflective jacket
squint moan dazzle, squint moan dazzle
up the heathery incline
push elbow skip push elbow skip
down the sharp descent
skitey crab-crawl, skitey crab-crawl
over the bridge
trip trap trip trap
along the river
‘don’t fall into the Tweed, don’t fall into the Tweed’
across further
Ahhh, nice and flat ahh, nice and flat
through the village
high-five, high-five,
stop at the water stop
chew slurp chew slurp
through the river
roar slip grab chitter roar slip grab chitter
run to the grassy crossroads
scamper bound scamper bound
up the heathery ascent
bouncing rocks bouncing rocks
passed by the man with the union jack underpants (and nothing else but a head-torch and trail shoes)
disbelief disbelief
slight rockfall
“that’s reassuring”, “that’s reassuring”
up the scree
mount doom, Frodo-tastic, mount doom, Frodo-tastic
up more scree
smugly bearcrawling, smugly bearcrawling
watch your footing
stumble trip, stumble trip
backwards descent
terror fear glad-of-the-gloves terror fear glad-of-the-gloves
down the rope
are you kidding? are you kidding?
along the river path
‘don’t fall into the Tweed, don’t fall into the Tweed’
stop at the water stop
chew slurp chew slurp
say hi to the village people
high-five, high five
through the river
splishy sploshy, splishy, sploshy
through the tunnel
waist deep wet pants, waist deep wet pants
back through the muddy field
squelchy stagger, squelchy stagger
under the unnecessary cargo net
crawl moan grumble crawl moan grumble
over the really unnecessary final obstacle
pull shimmy drop grumble pull shimmy drop grumble
and across the line…
Three hours of sustained and varied effort and I was last as usual. Not out of the whole couple of thousand entrants – just anyone I knew. We then headed off shivering to the very lovely hotel for a rock and roll after party.

The prosecco chilling in the sink was left chilling in the sink, as we lay face down on the floor greeting with fatigue, only just managing to sip some tea and nibble some cake before heading to bed.

Great fun, all in. And I wouldn’t not do it again.

Headlamps: “no torch, no race!”

I love it when a metaphor comes together.

I am in a state of nervous excitement. I am (planning on) doing “The Mighty Deerstalker” this weekend: “hills, mud, swamp, darkness, rivers, obstacles and a wee bit longer than billed…”

I have read the seven pages of instructions about how to get to the start line; the nine or so miles that come thereafter do not come with such a guide.

“Don’t forget your head torch: No torch, No race!”

So I ordered a head torch and it arrived yesterday. So I am wandering about the house with a head torch on. It’s very nice.  however, it wasn’t long before I stumbled into tight loop of biblical metaphor which was very satisfying:

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The psalmist here sees the Word of God as a guide for his life, lighting up perhaps the right way to go, or to illuminate dangers in his path, to highlight the terrain, the gradient and to help him figure out how to best proceed, metaphorically.

I then visualized “Thy word” as a head torch – and then I remembered – that has been done for thousands of years!

Back in the day when I studied a bit of Judaism, there were “phylacteries”, also known as “tefillin” which were little leather boxes. The boxes contained scripture, I think – “The Shema” – “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God, is One God” and verses following from Deuteronomy chapter 6. These boxes were strapped onto the forehead exactly where one wears a head torch. This is done in response to the verse from the same passage: “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”.

In this way the worshipper had a physical reminder of the prayer and the scripture as they prayed. But the physical similarity to a head torch is remarkable – sticking out from the middle of the forehead above the eyes.

In practice, when you are using a head torch, running at night, the path is illuminated – as long as you look where you are going. If you stop looking in the right direction, you don’t know what you are about to run into or trip over.

By running with others, though, this hazard is lessened. With everyone running in the same direction, you can be guided by the light coming from everyone else’s head torches. Your path is lit up by the people coming like a herd of gazelles from the rear. In turn, by keeping my eyes on the path in front, it helps those around me keep safe.

To draw the metaphor back to the word of God I can perhaps take from it that to spend time with other people who are figuring out how to live, using Scripture as a guide, is of benefit to all who travel together.

Interestingly, there is a downside to head torches. You can’t look anyone in the face. If you look them in the face, you dazzle them and they can’t see anything. To shine your light directly into someone’s face is just irritating.

If I draw this metaphor back to the Word of God, I am thinking that this is the equivalent of hypocrisy. You are implying that people should look at the beaming light emanating from you – but you are not even going in the right direction – you are not illuminating the path helpfully – you are an obstacle, stopping them from seeing the right way forward.

The other text that comes to mind in preparation for the Deerstalker is the first two lines of a song we used to do at Sunday School:

“When the road is rough and steep,
Fix your eyes upon Jesus”

This is based on this bit from Hebrews 12:

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..”

The “race marked out for us” on Saturday night will doubtless be rough and steep. Bearcrawling up scree in the main, apparently. A good chance to learn perseverance.

As for my head torch. I hope my batteries last the distance. I hope it illuminates the paths so that I don’t get taken by surprise, lost or injured. At the same time, I hope I can draw on the experience to illuminate my understanding of the use of “light” as a metaphor by the Psalmist and others in the Bible, such as John who wrote this as an introduction to his gospel account:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Too much fitness messing with Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

This Psalm couldn’t be more famous and familiar and associated with much more – in the way of peace, hope, safety and all kinds of calm and positive things.

I was reading it this week and found that all the fitness training I have been doing for the past two and a half years has given the words in Psalm 23 a kind of parallel reading in my mind.

Maybe it is because I spend so much time out of doors these days; when I visualize the imagery in this psalm, it is now all based on real places rather than idealized backdrops in my imagination that used to accompany the words.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures”.

At training, we actually do lie down in green pastures. But it’s never all we do. If we lie down it is usually because we are about to do an abs blast of some sort, or we are doing sprawls or get-ups or we have actually collapsed or we are doing the plank. But still, we do lie down on the grass.

“he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”

Again, we do run beside waters – sometimes quiet but sometimes fast flowing – often we climb stairs at a waterfall and hear it roar. Occasionally we go through water, across a burn or through a shallow river – and it is certainly refreshing!

“He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.”

There are paths and trails and all kinds of terrain. You need to take care with your footing because of roots and ruts and divots and holes – and you need to keep up on the “right paths” so that you don’t miss a turning or a warning.

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil”

Walking through a valley to me used to involve an image of me walking on a straight, flat path while two slopes went up on either side. When we train in the valley we run up and down and round and down and up again – walking through the darkest valley in my mind now involves a lot of hills. It also make me think of an event I am hoping to do in a couple of weeks which is a notional 10k up a hill in the dark. Headtorches at the ready!

“for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”

The speaker in the Psalm, although he has peaceful places to be and traumatic places to be, he is never alone.

I think when we are out training that I get the most out of it when I listen well and follow the instructions and ignore the inner voice that looks for shortcuts and ways to skip challenges. I love the variety of natural landscapes that there are – even within tiny geographical areas, and I love throwing myself through it to see if I can.

At the end of a brutal session, or after a major event, there is always time to rest, reflect and EAT. So too with this Psalm:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

You get the sense that the Psalmist is at peace and is fulfilled. He is being served and feels a fullness his “cup overflows” because the Lord is his shepherd.

Just as he has followed the instructions to lie down in the green pastures and stick to the paths – following the shepherd – now he has two things following him in turn. “… goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”.

By following the shepherd, he is followed by goodness and love.

The psalmist experiences joy in the outdoors – albeit metaphorically and peacefully! The parallel with training doesn’t quite work for this Psalm as the high octane endorphin kick doesn’t happen for the Psalmist, but I am happy to have a new way to look at this ancient familiar passage.

“And oranges, cactuses, crystals and mud?” #wasps

The title of this post is a quote from “A Passage to India” where a questioner is asking a missionary who can be included in the Kingdom of God. These last four suggestions are flippant additions to the argument which has worked it way through all types of humans, animals and insects, including wasps.

Wasps are symbolic in the rest of the novel, therefore of inclusion.

Having put you off with my literary introduction… to my tale.

It was 6.30am and I got up, as I do, to make my porridge. Porridge eaten, I went back up stairs, and could hear a very loud buzzing sound, exactly as if a neighbour was cutting their grass.

I thought to myself, what on earth can that be? It is still dark outside. It is January. The ground is frozen and covered with snow. Why would anyone be hedge trimming at this hour?

Then I saw it.

A huge wasp.



It was flying between the open attic hatch and a pair of very bright bulbs. While , hoping against hope that I wouldn’t induce a migraine by having looked at the lightbulb directly, I retreated to my bedroom to plan my attack.

In my guise as a stealth ninja, wielding a plastic folder, I stepped back out into the blinding light of the hallway.


No wasp.

Of course. It was January. There would be no wasps. Was I hallucinating?

After a moment of self doubt and a self rebuke, assuming that hallucinating was a result of watching too much [H]ouse, where hallucinating is the norm, I was, in some sense relieved when the wasp emerged from behind a painting and resumed its shuttle between light bulbs.

My ninja moves were less successful than I hoped. Quite a lot of thudding, yelping and flapping of the folder.

Eventually, the wasp made the wrong decision and landed on the carpet and I mashed it mercilessly to a buzzy pulp with my folder, scooped it up and flushed it down the toilet.


And then, I was catapulted back to “A Passage to India” where I am found wanting, in comparison to the very inclusive Mrs Moore:

“Going to hang her cloak, she found the tip of the peg was occupied by a small wasp. … There he clung, asleep, while jackals in the plain bayed their desires and mingled with the percussion of drums. “Pretty dear,” said Mrs Moore to the wasp. He did not wake, but her voice floated out, to swell the night’s uneasiness”

The morning I was having was certainly marked with uneasiness. Was I about to have a whole nest’s worth of company making a wasp line out of the attic in revenge?

I sought advice from facebook and did a little internet research and was soon given reason to relax.

The collective wisdom of the internet seems to be that the wasp would have been a lone queen. Hiding in the attic for the winter, she had become confused when our uncharacteristically high heating coincided with a wee thaw, thus pushing the temperature into an ape of an early spring. This combined with the bright lights near the attic catch meant that the queen went forth to multiply, only to be met with the folder ninja.

So she will never build her nest.

For which I feel a bit bad and also very happy.

As for oranges, cactuses, crystals and mud?

Very welcome.

A View from a Tree #zacchaeus #equality #grace

I’m in danger of losing my own thread. But I think it is an important thread, so I am going to try and pin it down, weave it into a retrievable idea.

I began the year looking for a theoretical solution to world peace. (and why not?!) I began musing over the question, “One day, will there be no ‘them’?”, looking at the effect of technological advances on inter-group understanding.

Perhaps if the “others” in our lives could be part of the “us”, peace is a theoretical possibility.

It seemed a bit abstract (and perhaps a bit ‘heavy’ for the first of January!).

But then recent events in France lead to many, many people banding together to become an “us” against a “them” – not even an “us” plural – people were banding together saying as a unity, “Je suis Charlie”, symbolizing common ground between them – equality and liberty, despite the diversity.

Then in church on Sunday – whether or not this was the plan by the preacher or not, I don’t know – part of the sermon on Zacchaeus addressed this idea also. Well, kind of.

Some quotes in the following section are from the story in the bible:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd

In the story, the crowd think they are the “us”. They are in the majority. They are waiting for a passing celebrity and they are all lining up to get a good view.

Zacchaeus isn’t invited down the front to get a view – perhaps he is unpopular, perhaps he is seen as a “them” as he was working for the Romans – we soon see that the crowd see him – label him – as a “sinner”.

So, the crowd are the “us” and Zacchaeus is the “them”. He is on the periphery, excluded and left to his own devices. His own device, at this point being a handy sycamore tree that he climbs.

… So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’

Oh the disapproval! What Jesus did was not what the crowd expected. It was not what the crowd wanted. Instead of having tea with one of “us” he insisted on having hospitality with one of “them”. The crowd respond with muttering – Zacchaeus is not included, he is excluded.

He is excluded perhaps because of his behaviour. He is excluded perhaps because he works for the occupying force in the country. He is morally corrupt and has been cheating people out of their money – no wonder he was socially spurned and elbowed to the back of the crowd and up the tree ! – why should he be allowed to be in the crowd, to be part of “us”? It was surely self defence to exclude him!

Jesus then steps in and – doesn’t offer Zacchaeus social help – the opposite – he looks for hospitality and Zacchaeus “came down at once and welcomed him gladly”. Whether there was much conversation over the visit is not clear, but Zacchaeus makes changes to his lifestyle as a result of the meeting with Jesus.

A well known story – but the point that chimes in with my whole “them” and “us” consideration is this next bit:

Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

“This man too” – Jesus declares inclusion for Zacchaeus – he is saying, as if to the crowd – ‘you think he is a sinner – different to you – but “he too” is part of this – a son of Abraham – part of the chosen people – part of the “us” – although he might not look like it, live like it – he is included.” Maybe they did not understand the nature of the “us” they thought they were a part of. Maybe they didn’t realise they were as lost as the next man.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus had perhaps lost his cultural identity, perhaps lost his faith and the practices of his faith and had thereby become marginalized and a spurned minority of one. He was “the lost” – but clearly, in the story, was found again and stated to be part of the “us” of the narrative.

The crowd however have a clear delineation in their head – something like mine from January 1st:

“Lines in the sand have been drawn separating the us from the them – when people overstep in regards to their oppression and abuse of others, war-mongering, intolerance etc.

The abuser, the terrorist, the person whose political views we find abhorrent, the ignorant thug, the hardened criminal, the infuriating philosopher – these are the “them” that “we” still have.”

In this way, I was being part of the crowd – part of the “us” mentality – looking at people who I could not see myself as identifying with.

Much as I do not want to identify with these groups, the truth of the matter is that, I am arguably as in need of inclusion as them:

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

If there is a line I can draw that gets all of humanity on the same side, we find a common denominator: lostness – and a need of grace – the fact that for any one of us to be coaxed out of our trees and down into society – relationships with other, or a relationship with God – is a result of grace.

The fact that I may see myself as “acceptable”, as “nice” or as “inoffensive” does not mean that I am in fact acceptable, nice or inoffensive.

I may well be “them”.

If I am one of “them”, I can perhaps identify with my fellow man in our common need for grace.

“The Kite Runner” Review: Book Versus Film #kiterunner

I read “The Kite Runner” in the summer. I had avoided it for years – having heard about the main incident and therefore not wanting to read it. But I had very much enjoyed “A Thousand Splendid Suns” also by Khaled Hosseini and thought I would give it a go.

Great book – but brutal, shocking and violent.

I have recently seen the movie. While it was good to see the settings as they should be, the richness of the novel was lost and the inner torment of the narrator, Amir, was gone.


So, the surprising omissions:

Hassan did not have a cleft lip and palate as he did in the novel. In the novel, he has this operated on which allows for the irony that Amir did not see him smile again until he saw him in a photograph twenty six years later. Because of this omission, Baba could not pay for the operation – and the birthday present in the movie was just the kite he bought him. This lessened the idea of the love that Baba had for Hassan that so perturbed Amir.

The beating of Amir at the climax of the novel was very tame in comparison with the novel. In the novel numerous bones are broken and he is hospitalized for a good deal of time afterwards. The severity of the beating allows him to experience a sense of healing as he feels that at last he is getting what he deserves for what he didn’t do for Hassan in his youth. In the movie he is able to run away and climb over a wall and just go home afterwards – whereas in the novel, Assef had told his friends to let Amir go if he survived and he hauled his badly beaten self out with difficulty.

The most surprising omission was Sohrab’s attempted suicide that comes as a twist in the novel. Everything is set for a happy ending and then carelessness of Amir sets off Sohrab’s attempt, which threatens to have Amir with not only Hassan’s blood on his hands, but also Sohrab’s. This extra crisis, just as the reader was anticipating a “happy” ending, is a real shock – and is therefore very effective.

So, in the movie, when Amir escapes from Assef largely unscathed and then they pretty much get on a plane to America, it lacks the emotional intensity of the novel, with Amir being beaten to within an inch of his life, with the chance that laws will prevent Sohrab leaving Pakistan at all, then with Sohrab being hospitalized and becoming mute.

However, the depictions, visually, of Afghanistan were enlightening and the contrast of the Afghanistan of an innocent childhood and the war-torn country he goes back to was striking, with the roads crumbling and the trees gone. The kite flying scenes were well done in both Afghanistan and America.

I very much appreciated the fact that the characters spoke in the languages they would have been speaking in.

It must be difficult to adapt such a novel for the screen. The result was that time seemed to fly past in the movie, skipping huge chunks of guilt and angst. I suppose that is unavoidable.

The part I don’t understand was why the violence was sanitized quite so much. Maybe it was planned that way in order to get a lower certificate to reach a wider audience, but – shocking as the violence was – it was nothing like the violence in the novel which was never gratuitous, but was graphic nevertheless.

In some ways I recommend “The Kite Runner” as a novel – but it contains really appalling incidents and violence. Despite this, Hosseini has created a novel that is very well crafted and cyclical with the events being metaphorical and justified within the story of the novel. I learned a lot about the relatively recent history of Afghanistan.

So, great book, but not for the squeamish.

As for the movie, a bit tame.

The Same Hymn Sheet, a poem #equality #diversity

The Same Hymn Sheet

We need to sing from the same hymn sheet,
You know,
The sheet that says whatever you like?

That one.

I’ll sing from mine,
And you sing from yours.

Obviously my song is better
And that’s why I’m singing it:
Fah la la la!!!

And you think your song is better
And that’s why you’re singing it.

And we all sing,
And we all sing,
And we all sing what we like,
From the same hymn sheet.

My song is the right song
We should all be singing,
If we understood
That my song is
The right song.

It’s not the right song
Because it’s mine.

Your song is not the wrong song
Because it’s yours.

You and me
Have nothing to do with it.

Have a hymn sheet,
Sing your song.

And we sing,
And we listen.

And we turn
Things cacophonous

Tupperware, Tuna and the Death of the Packed Lunch #freeschoolmeals

Today was the first day of free school meals for all children in P1-3 in Scottish State Schools.

Much as this looks like a positive step towards equality, it feels more like daft misdirection of cash.

Pupils who needed a free school meal were getting a free school meal anyway. Back in the day there arguably used to be a stigma associated with being a “dinner ticket” child, but since cashless catering there has been no opportunity for such a stigma. No one has needed to / been able to know who was paying and who was being paid for.

The result is that people like me who were happy, delighted even, to pay £10 a week or so to avoid having to make rank little anaemic looking sandwiches last thing at night or first thing in the morning, are simply thinking… “Bonus.”

Why is the State paying for lunches I was paying for anyway?

In the same way – why does the state pay for everyone’s prescriptions, when before the charges were dropped, most people weren’t having to pay anyway? There were so many categories of people who got free prescriptions anyway, the people who paid were in a position to pay were happy to pay.

Why is the State paying for prescriptions I was happy paying for anyway?

And again – the free bus passes for the elderly? Okay, so you perhaps conjure up an image of a wee frail person, glad of the means to get to the shop. But what about those (and who can blame them?) that get their pals together and go for a trip up north for a nice wee lunch and some shopping, courtesy of the State?

Why is the State paying for wealthy pensioners to go for free for a jolly day out?

By trying to level the playing field and working towards equality, the money seems to be going into the wrong hands. The families who were perhaps in need of the extra help of a free meal a day for their child are no better off. The people happy to pay are quids-in. Doubtless, though, this move will go towards helping many working families make ends meet. Which is a good thing.

But all seems like a bit of an expensive gimmick/vote-winning ploy.

Meanwhile, the local councils are desperately trying to balance the books, while above their heads, catering cash is being spent – whether or not there was a demand for it. And there wasn’t. It’s just that Scotland aspires to be… Finland, I think.

Anyway – all this talk of free school meals got me nostalgic for my packed lunches of the late 1970s: the Tupperware box, the Tupperware tumbler for the diluting orange juice that never quite sealed and let the juice leak out – the juice that always tasted of … Tupperware. I remember the flawed concept of pretty much every sandwich: the tuna that would make the box all fishy, the jam that would bleed into the bread by lunchtime, the peanut butter that couldn’t even be washed down with the Tupperware flavoured juice. I was the generation that was brought up to be fearful of sweeties, so we got crisps every day: sometimes Salt’n’Shake, or Fish’N’Chips and latterly, on a good day, Frazzles or Chipsticks. To round off there was perhaps a Taxi biscuit or a Blue Riband or, on a good day, a mini-Marathon or a 54321…

So, not that Daughter three was every really one for packed lunches, her chances to blog about her packed lunch memories in about 35 years’ time are now receding. She will perhaps only be able to look back fondly, remembering the first day of the Free School Meals with the Vegetarian Lentil Soup served with Seasoned Chicken with Tortilla Wrap and Tossed Salad and a fruit platter.

There is such as thing as a free lunch.

But need there be, for all?

“A Man’s A Man for A’ That”… and A’ That

Today we went to Alloway to fill in a gap in the children’s cultural knowledge. We have been before but so long ago that they had forgotten. It’s the birthplace of Robert Burns and the setting for one of his most famous poems, “Tam O’Shanter”. The tale of Tam O’Shanter is a blog post for another day.


But it so happened that in the gift shop that I stumbled upon a quote from another of his famous poems that is on my current theme of equality and diversity: “A Man’s A Man for A’ That”.

The poem is famous for many reasons, not least that it was sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. It was also recited by my son at a Scottish Poetry Night a couple of years ago. The boy is a legend.

The poem is about various rich and poor folk. The people with airs and graces are mocked and the honest working/serving man is raised up. At the end of the poem he concludes:

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

The poet urges all men to pray for what he hopes is the inevitable, that common sense will win out in the end and that there will be a brotherhood of man.

Here’s a version of the poem I like:

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