So Helen Doesn’t Love Her Yaris?

I picked up the Guardian Weekend Magazine yesterday and I read an article by Helen Pidd. She writes, “You can’t love a Yaris. It would be like loving socks or carrier bags.” I must admit I was really surprised to see someone hitting out at the Yaris as my wife got one last year and it has been surprisingly good. I should have spotted the clues in her quote. Who could love socks? Perhaps ask me when I’m barefoot on a cold morning. I love socks then. They might not be earth shattering but they do what they were designed for.

Apparently she started driving in an old second hand Yaris. It seems to have done what she wanted it to do but she didn’t feel excited by it. Now she has a Yaris hybrid. She really doesn’t like that. She complains that it is a town car, not really a motorway car and doesn’t have digital radio. Seems to me that a hybrid is a car designed for driving in town. It handles all the stopping and starting and driving in slow queues. Perhaps if digital radio coverage was better more people would want it in their cars.

Her article tells me more about Helen than the Yaris. My wife’s Yaris has lots of bells and whistles, six gears for economy and automated systems for wipers and lights with cruise control, speed limiter, ABS and traction control. All these leave the driver to concentrate on the real road hazards, people who like to be excited by their car and drive lime they were the only person on the road.

Helen, it seems like you bought the wrong car. It was your decision, don’t blame the car.

Carfin Grotto

I’m just back from Carfin Grotto. I’m over there regularly and I wondered if people knew just how beautiful it is. That’s why I’ve published this post.

Canon Taylor

The History of the Grotto

Canon Taylor was the parish Priest of St Francis Xavier parish in Carfin, near Motherwell, Scotland. He led a visit of some parishioners to Lourdes early in 1920 and was inspired to build a replica of that shrine in Lanarkshire to give access to the many who could not go to Lourdes. With the help of many workers, out of work in the depression, he built a magnificent grotto which has become the National Shrine of Scotland.

Saint Bernadette at the grotto.

Saint Bernadette at the grotto.

The little grotto with statues of Saint Bernadette and Our Lady was the original part of tthe shrine which opened in late 1922. It has expanded greatly since then. There is the Saint Theresa Chapel which overlooks the site and has been a focus for pilgrimage masses and rallies for decades.

St. Theresa Chapel

Another glass chapel was added in more recent times. The Glasgow Garden Festival was held on the banks of the Clyde in 1988 as a spur to regeneration of the old industrial areas of Glasgow. The site had a small glass chapel where visitors could go for a few moments of quiet reflection. After the Festival the site was being dismantled. The glass chapel had influenced many visitors and there was a demand for the chapel to be retained somewhere. In the end it was moved to Carfin and it now stands in the grounds of the grotto.

The chapel

The chapel

There is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in this chapel every weekday.

The Blessed Sacrament in the glass chapel

The Blessed Sacrament in the glass chapel

The one o’clock mass is always well attended by people from Lanarkshire and beyond. The chapel has become a favourite with many who feel a special quality in the tiny chapel.

Memorial to Irish immigrants.

Memorial to Irish immigrants.


One area of the grotto has a memorial to the victims of the Irish Famines of the 1840s and the immigrants who came to Scotland to find work.

The memorial was opened by the then Taoiseach  Bertie Ahern on behalf of the government and people of Ireland.

The Irish immigrants and their descendants have formed a large part of the Catholic population of Scotland.

Other immigrants from Europe who came to Scotland to work in the iron and steel industry as well as the Lanarkshire coal mines have made their mark on the catholic population. They have also made their mark in the grotto.










The shrine is a popular stopping place for visitors and has a new visitor centre and cafe where you can rest and enjoy a lunch or just a cup of tea.



Pope John Paul II


The memorial to John Paul II marks the great love Scotland’s Catholics had for him.

John Paul Plaque

John Paul Plaque











A hidden gem in the grotto is the Chapel of the Angels. This is a tiny, underground chapel, unknown to many of the visitors. When you go there (and you must) you should find this little chapel and spend a few minutes there. A prayer would go down well too.

Underground Chapel

The Angel Chapel

Who is in The Driving Seat Now?

a driverless car

No steering wheel?

It is reported that driverless cars will be allowed on UK roads next year. Many people are expressing concerns about safety. Mind you, the old story goes that the most dangerous component in a car is the nut behind the wheel, so perhaps removing that will prove to be no bad thing.

Years ago I read about traffic polls taken of cars crossing the Oakland bridge in San Fransisco. Chrating the number of occupants by year it showed that as time went on the number of occupants was steadily reducing as more people bought their own cars and became drivers rather than passengers. The statistics showed that if the trend continued, before the end of thetwentieth century one in four cars would be crossing the bridge with nobody in it. That was a fair joke back then but now it seems to be coming true. How are we taking the news?

I started off by saying that some people were expressing concern. Of course, most people don’t seem to be concerned. Why should that be? Perhaps we hav become accustomed to things proceeding without human control. Who sits and stares through the window on the washing machine to make sure that the clothes are being cleaned properly? We have become relaxed about lack of control. Our political systems seem to have gone the same way. The recent economic crash which the world is still trying to recover from showed that those who were supposed to be regulating the financial systems were doing nothing of the kind.

Policies in the UK just seem to go in a random, haphazard fashion. Take our outlook on homosexuality. In the recent past such things were deemed illegal and people could be prosecuted for behaviour that was deemed indecent. All that changed and the world became a more tolerant place. Now it is becoming illegal hold an opposite view. If you don’t believe that homosexual behaviour is acceptable you can lose your job. One intolerance has been replaced by another. Who is steering this place?

We seem to have a government in the UK where things just drift along from one crisis to the next; a bit like a learner driver who hasn’t got the hang of steering and manages to bash every car parked along the street as he passes. People might see a computer driven car as a much safer option than anything driven by our politicians.

No steering wheel? Well, what’s the point?

Glasgow Taking 2014 to Heart

Well, the Commonwealth Games are underway and Glasgow is pulsating with games fever. The city has pulled out all the stops to make this a great experience for the athletes and all the visitors who have come to join in. Roads have been closed off, facilities taken over and peole are working all hours in the heat.

Yes – the heat! Who would have imagined that Glasgow would stay dry, never mind sunny during the annual Fair Holiday? The weather has surpassed anything we can remember for this time of year. The whole city is getting in on the act – even the old buildings.


Partick Image 1

Even the non-sporty types (like me) are enjoying the fun. It’s great to walk around the city with voices  in various languages coming from all sides. At last we have no need to apologise to visitors for bad weather spoiling their visit. Glasgow is truly continental. This has been a wonderful experience for us and even although we know the weather can’t possibly last, we feel that Glasgow has lived up to all it promised – and more.


A gable end but not the end.

Thank you to all the workers who have prepared the city for the games and thanks to all the visitors – you are most welcome.

Airwars – A Frustrating TV Series

This programme broadcast on Discovery History on Friday 11th July told the story of the battle of the Atlantic. It used some remarkable film and photographs of ships and aircraft. This is one of the series of history programmes from Dr. John Sweetman, Editor Matt Hale, series Producer Audrey Healey, a Cromwell Productions film.


My problem with the series is the poor match between the commentary and the footage. In this film the commentary told of liberator bombers and showed flying boats; talked about Swordfish and showed Albacores. The text about escort carriers was accompanied by film of the USS Hornet and the Doolittle raid.



This is a Swordfish – Open cockpit

This is common in the series. We are told about Hurricanes and the film shows Spitfires. I’ve just spotted a Vietnam era carrier landing while the commentary is talking about escort carriers. Why do this? The only people who watch these films are old geeks like me who can easily spot the difference between a catapult Hurricane and an old American biplane



This is an Albacore – closed cockpit

Why do I watch these films if they frustrate me so much? Well, the research is good and the film clips are great. They should be a great resource for anybody who wants to find out more about history. The problem is in the editing. The clips should be properly indexed so that the film editor can match the right clip to the commentary.


As one of the old geeks I think these resources should be properly preserved and indexed so that some of these little known aircraft will not be forgotten and not shown incorrectly labelled.


A great opportunity missed by careless media indexing.

The 100 Year Old Man Must be Watched

“The Hunderd Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared” is a film of the book by Jonas Jonasson. It concerns a man who decides to skip the birthday party being organised in hs old folk’s home and go off on an adventure.

The may seem implausible and the outcome unlikely but I laughed. You will laugh too and cheer on the old fellow. Director Felix Herngren and the cast Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander and  David Wiberg have made a memorable film. It might help you to change your outlook on life and open up new possibilities.

I don’t want to go into detail to spoil the film for you but suffice it to say that tomorrow morning might just see a man climbing out of the window of this house. I may not be around for a while.

If you don’t believe me have a look at the trailer here


Another Great Read from Gordon Ferris

“Gallowglass” is the fourth Douglas Brodie novel from Gordon Ferris. I confess I couldn’t wait to read it. I have enjoyed all the Gordon Ferris books so far and this one did not let him down.

It’s not every book that starts at the funeral of the hero. This one does and it left me with a feeling of regret. I’ve grown to like Brodie and the though of no more adventures left a gap. However the action in this story made up for that.

I love Ferris’ use of the post war Scottish landscape as the background to the stories. Those of us who came into the world in a post war Glasgow can relate to his locations. I don’t think these stories would work in any other place.

The book is fast paced and is literally a page turner – thought I read it on Kindle which is not quite the same as flipping paper over. The characters are believable and some, loveable. You will never regret starting this book and might share my sense of loss when it is finished.

Royal Coach – What’s the Fuss About?

The Monarch travelled to the State Opening of Parliament in a new royal coach.

You can see details in this BBC video.

There have been some complaints on Twitter which leave me puzzled. I admit that I think that a republican system would be better – more 21st century and all that , but that aside there is much to be said about the choice of vehicle.

The first thing you notice is that it has no engine. No petrol or diesel fumes to pollute.

It is, of course, horse drawn. I like horses, who doesn’t? Horses brighten up the place and since you have stables anyway , you might as well make use of them. There is a question of economy too. Petrol prices will continue to rise and, remember, oil is a finite fossil fuel. When the oil runs out the Monarch will still be able to get out to Tesco for the shopping while the rest of us will be on foot.

Some people are complaining about the cost, but there I must take issue. This is not a coach made entirely of specially grown new oak. It has been assembled, apparently, from odd bits and pieces from other old stuff they had lying around. It has bits of Henry VIII ‘s Mary Rose, Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree and Westminster Abbey incorporated. Now there’s forward thinking for you.

It’s not just a coach, it’s part warship, orchard and cathedral. Too snowy to get to church? Just have the service in the coach. Security issue? Just open up with a short broadside from the carronades. Of course while it’s sitting around it can be growing apples. It sounds like a bargain to me.

Now this could set a trend. Soon these Russian oligarchs will be foregoing their gin palaces in favour of their very own coach; all trying to outdo the royals. Think of the jobs that will be created there. All those horse shoes to be fitted, brasses to be polished, the economy will boom again.

Now if I traded in the Mazda for a coach, no road tax, no petrol – let the horse munch its way through the back garden, no MOT to worry about? Sounds like a plan!


The Blockade Runner and the Independence Vote



I was recently watching this BBC Scotland program hosted by David Hayman. The episode I had recorded was ‘The Robert E Lee’. This episode centres on the Clyde built paddle steamer Giraffe which was sold to the Confederacy and renamed the Robert E Lee and became one of the fastest blockade runners of the war.



The Clydebuilt Blockade Runner

I found this particularly interesting because I had just completed a course on the American Civil War at Strathclyde University, delivered by Robert Lynch. In the course I had learned about the importance of cotton to the Confederate states. Cotton provided the link with Scotland and soon some of my fellow students unearthed links between Glasgow and the Confederacy. These included evidence of Jefferson Davis having visited Glasgow to stay with some industrialists and collaborators after his release from prison. This is expanded on in the programme which also shows evidence of a Confederate spy network working from Bridge of Allan.

This program highlighted the role of Glasgow’s Shipbuilders and the blockade runners. It filled in lots of interesting details of the activities of the blockade runners and the Scots who made fortunes from the war.

It gives us a fresh look at the role Scotland played in supporting the slave owning Confederacy and is particularly interesting at this time. Scotland is about to go to the polls to vote on independence. The Yes camp has made much of the UK’s imperial past and their desire to dissociate Scotland from it. Is this moral stance justified?

Taking this closer look at Scotland’s history of support for a slave system and the fortunes made in extending the slaughter of the Civil War should encourage us to examine the myth of our historical innocence.

I believe it is important for the future of Scotland to expose the truth about ourselves and our past. We are not a people who lived under the yoke of imperialism but we were instrumental in promoting it and made fortunes out of our fellow man.

When we walk into the polling booth this autumn let’s make our decision based on facts and not myth.

Housing Crisis?


Wow! That’s what I call a housing crisis

There has been much said about the current housing crisis in the UK. We are not building enough houses for the people who need a place to live. I know it is difficult to find a decent house and even more difficult to find one at an affordable price. I was amazed to read about the flat in London that sold for £140,000,000 last week. Ah, London, how absurd I thought.

Today as I was returning to the car park in Glasgow I spotted a property for rent. As you can see from the picture it is a little down. It is, in fact, underground. It is a disused gentleman’s urinal and toilet. I had noticed that this public convenience was closed some time ago. I wondered why. Is there a glut of public conveniences in Glasgow? Have they been crowding the betting shops out of the main thoroughfares? Now the place is up to let (although it is down in the ground).

Who is going to rent an old toilet? It is convenient (pardon the pun) for all amenities, shops, stations, churches and pubs.Do we really expect someone to go down and live there? I’ve heard of people living in the gutter but this is lower even than that. No doubt the estate agents will point out the amenities like running water, plumbing and no long stairway to climb up at the end of a long, tiring day. You could literally fall into it.

Perhaps it could be converted into a Bijoux betting shop or theme pub? Where more appropriate for P###ing away your hard earned cash?