Saturday, 31 October 2015

Common sense

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16.10)

Most parents are familiar with the idea of doling out responsibility in small does. See how a child handles something small before promoting him or her to something bigger. And so on and so forth until the child is an independent adult able to cope alone.

It is elementary practical logic to minimise risk. How many parents would appreciate being told by their daughter that although she's never been on a date before she must be allowed to stay out late, or by a newly-qualified son who's not even driven the family car to the local shops and back that he wants to drive it to Paris?

It may be thought insulting to compare the Scottish Government to a child, though some of their petulance when criticised is childish enough. In governmental terms however its lack of experience must be conceded.

Yet any attempt to challenge the SNP's administrative record of the last eight years is met only by an excuse that it has inadequate powers; too many decisions are still being taken in London.

What would you do with the new powers you're getting under the Referendum settlement?
Oh we're not getting enough powers.
Yes but what will you do with the fiscal powers you are getting?
We were promised more powers.
Really? Can you point out when and where exactly?
Look, we're only going to tell you what we'll do when we're in a position to do it.

Never mind about the mess we've made of police reorganisation; pay no attention to the dire straits of the health service; overlook the failures of the education system; forget about the crippling levels of student debt. Yes, we know that these are all devolved matters, we know we've been running them for years, but once we're responsible for everything, everything will be all right, you'll see.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please show me some competence in managing small things. That might encourage me to believe you.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Mink on Sliabh Mannan?

Mink have a few characteristics in common with foxes. Both are pretty to look at and thus benefit from urban sentimentalism; both have taken advantage of opportunities offered by misguided human activists to expand their populations all over the UK; both are pests; both have a reputation for killing more than they need to eat; neither is kept in check by another natural predator.

The red fox is a UK native which has benefited from man having first wiped out the wolf and then banned his fellow men from forms of fox-control that they seemed to be enjoying too much.

The mink is an American import deliberately released from captivity first by activists and allegedly later by fur-farmers when their industry was outlawed.

Arguably the latter may turn out to have been the more disastrous of these two human interventions.

Mink have devastated the UK water vole population, which has declined from around 8 million in the 1960's to a figure possibly below 100,000 today.

Being semi-aquatic, mink are able to colonise Scottish islands which are breeding grounds for vulnerable seabirds including the puffin. On the mainland they are a threat to waterfowl and other ground-nesting birds, fish and domestic pets.

The Scottish Mink Initiative, launched in 2011, aims to remove breeding mink from the north of the country.

Why am I interested? Because this week I'm pretty sure I saw one of the little perishers beside a branch of the Culloch. Almost black, with just a sprinkling of lighter guard hairs, it was below me on the bank, trotting along until it entered a hole beside a pond.

By its movement, I thought at first it was a little cat; then I realised its legs were only half cat length and its head was so streamlined with its body that I could not tell where one began and the other ended. It was much too big for any of the smaller mustelidae such as stoats or weasels, more the size of a polecat or pine marten. The combination of the colour and the waterside habitat persuaded me it was probably one of the foreign invaders.

As the bean goose flies, this sighting is a goodly distance away from the breeding grounds of our local protected species, but since I gather mink will even take on gannets and swans there is no room for complacency here. So I've reported it to SMI and I await a response.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Prospect of Lyon

Sometimes a holiday picture is just perfect. Take a picturesque setting, ideally including a river, some trees, a hill and some attractive buildings, throw in a good camera and a lot of luck, and on rare occasions it comes out like this.

This is the River Rhone as it flows through Lyon in central France. Although it shows big, bustling city, it almost contrives to convey a placid ambience such as you might expect to find in a Constable painting of rural England.

Never mind that this particular photographer takes hundreds of shots in the attempt to get one that comes out like this. No artistic genius is being claimed.

It's just lovely when it all works out right.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Chilling Ghost Stories

As foreshadowed in my 22 July post, Flame Tree Publishing's anthology of Chilling Ghost Stories is now available in the shops and on line.

I haven't yet received my own copy, but I'm told it is a deluxe hardback edition.  Since this will be the first time a story of mine has been included in any kind of hardback, I am looking forward to holding it in my hands.

Just in case the attraction of a story by me is not quite enough for you, (yes, I know, hard to believe, but never mind,) there are a lot more current and classic writers whose ghost stories are included.

You have plenty of time to buy a Christmas copy for all of your friends for whom you had not already decided to buy a copy of  Prophets of Baal.

Or if you really like them, you could buy them a copy of each!

And by the way, here is a good quiz question for you.  What does Prophets of Baal have in common with a Trabant motor car in the old East German economy?  Answer: in both cases a second hand one costs more than a new one.

Search me.  I have no idea.  In East Germany the explanation was the huge waiting list for new cars. Fortunately brand new copies of Prophets are still on sale.  Go on.  You know you always meant to get one!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Too late in the season

As I was saying, it's too late in the season for butterflies and I haven't seen a red admiral all year.

You see how much I know?

This was my first chance to photograph a red admiral with my new camera and the subject obligingly sat still and assumed the classic position of a butterfly who really wants to be obliging.

The nights are becoming really quite cold but during the day up on Sliabh Mannan we're having a better summer than we did in the summer.