When things are bad

Most people have some sort of coping mechanism when things are bad. Some take to drink, or drugs. Others have a favourite place to visit, or find a friend to share with. I have two methods: either I write or I walk.

As my writing is not at its best just now, I chose the latter. I am not sure if it is the physical exercise or the nearest to nature that helps, but a longish walk tends to ease some of the tension and bring a measure of sanity to my jumbled mind.

There must be a lesson there somewhere. Perhaps in this world of computers, keyboards and technological advancement, the simple things are being relegated or even forgotten?
I do not know.
I only wonder
Malcolm
http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

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One of those periods

Have you ever had one of those times when nothing goes right? Life just turns upside down and kicks you in the teeth?

I am having one now. Normally when one thing goes wrong, something else compensates by going right, but this last week has just been a nightmare. I won’t moan about details, but on every possible front life has been negative, obstructive and bad.

Is there a cure for this? Some magic wand to wave that might ease things off a little? I wonder. . . if somebody can create a ‘put right’ machine, he or she would make a great deal of money!

That is it – just a short blog
Malcolm

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Approaching Armagedon

One hundred years ago this week, the First World War exploded and the world was never the same again. It was Armagedon; a calamity from which we have never recovered. The death rate was truly appalling: around 10 million people killed in four years of hideous slaughter. Most of the dead were young European men, the hope and joy of the future.

There is no way of knowing what talent was destroyed, what skills lost, what inventions disappeared into the smoking, gas ridden maw of a thousand battles. The names still haunt our memories: Ypres; Mons; The Somme; Verdun; each one a graveyard of youth and innocence; each one a tribute to courage and blind stupidity.

This country, Scotland, lost an estimated 150,000 dead in those four years. One hundred and fifty thousand dead young men out of a total population of five million. In Vietnam America lost 59,000 in ten years out of a population of around 250 million. It is doubtful if any family was not affected in some way. Again in Scotland there are communities were the names inscribed on the war memorials outnumber the people who now live there. Without young men there was nobody to create the next generation.

War: why? Why do we constantly praise our own advances yet fall into the same insanely stupid mistake of declaring war? The First World War lasted from 1914 until 1918 and was supposed to be the war to end wars – but how many idiot conflicts has the world seen since then? Within 21 years of its end we had Hitler’s War, while Japan had set Asia ablaze with its imperial ambitions in China; the combination of both uglies became the Second World War with an estimated fifty million dead, twenty million from the Soviet Union alone.

Add to that Korea, Aden; Afghanistan; Iraq; Syria, Israel; Pakistan and India; the Falklands; Vietnam and all the scores and maybe hundreds of conflicts throughout the globe.

I have just written a novel about the First World War; my fiction publisher, Fledgling Press will be producing it in July. In researching it I reminded myself of the sheer nightmare of warfare in general and that horror in particular. My book is called Last Train to Waverley Station: the Edinburgh connection is from my grandfather who fought his way through every year and ended up as a Regimental Sergeant Major. I remember him coughing the German gas from his lungs when I was a child in the 1960s.

The thought now chills me as I think of my son in such a situation – or either of my daughters. Perhaps it is fine for young men and women to seek adventure and a military career but it is a frightening thought for poor old Dad!

As so many have said before me; perhaps this current generation will be able to persuade the politicians that people do not seek war and do not hate each other. We have much in common with the other humans on this planet; only the extremists and the fools want war; why pander to them?

So in this year of commemoration, let us all seek peace with everybody whatever their race, religion or political creed.

Somebody once said ‘give peace a chance’ and they were not wrong.

Aye yours

Malcolm

www.malcolmarchibald.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Manners

Hi everybody

Is it not strange how much we tend to become like our parents? When I was a small boy, many years ago, my dad used to take me for long walks. We were on the Island of Arran then, off the west coast of Scotland and cars were a rarity compared to the traffic of today. Every time a vehicle passed, my dad would raise his hand in acknowledgement, and the driver would return the complement and off we all would go. There were no words exchanged; it was a simple gesture of politeness that merely indicated a mutual respect.

On Saturday I was walking with my wife along country roads and I acknowledged passing cars in the same manner. It was a quiet road and a dry, still day with no reason for stress or rush, yet of the dozen or so vehicles that passed, only one driver bothered to return my simple salute. Most drivers either ignored us completely or gave us a look that would have cracked glass. More interesting: the driver who showed politeness was a young woman in a small car. The worst reaction came from older people – men and women – in larger and more expensive vehicles.

Was this a class thing? Did the drivers of larger vehicles believe that they were too important to wave to a mere pedestrian? I wonder what their reaction would have been if I had been standing beside a Rolls Royce or a Bentley?

The thought reminded me of an incident when I was working for the Royal Mail. I worked in a small delivery office in the Scottish Borders, and I doubled up; one day I was a delivery postman, the next I was manager. Such things were normal. On the Monday I was acting manager and had a  meeting in the head office in Edinburgh. I wore the fancy suit and was treated like a lord with doormen calling me sir and all the trappings of importance. The next day I was back, but as a postman, delivering a load of mail to be sorted. The same people who had been bowing and scraping on the previous day treated me as if I was something nasty to be scraped off their shoes.

Interesting, this perception of importance. I was no less a person when I did a blue collar job than a white collar, yet the treatment and attitude of people could not have been different. Why is that?

I do not have an answer; I only have the question.

But next time somebody waves at me from a passing car, I will be sure to reply, and if I will ensure to treat everybody with courtesy, politeness and consideration, whatever their job, class, creed, colour or perceived status. After all, that is only good manners.

Malcolm

www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas

Hi Everybody

As we are all busy at this time of the year, I will not take up too much time. I would just like to wish everybody a merry and safe Christmas and, when it comes, a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

2013 was very busy but also successful; I wish you all equal success in 2014. Most of all I wish you all peace in your hearts and peace in your soul.

At this time of year, Peace should be uppermost in all our hearts; it is the season for remembering the birth of Our Lord and the beginning of the Christian era. It is good to remember that most of our charities were founded around the Christian message of peace and goodwill, and many of our best institutions were founded on Christian principles of love, understanding and compassion. However ugly the outside world may get, that Love exists,and I firmly believe that there is far more good than bad in the world. There are more good people than bad people and we have the best of all examples to look back on, when we so choose.

God bless us all.

Love

Malcolm

http://www.malcolmarchibald.com

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Whisky Wars, riots and murder

In the part of north Scotland where I live, there are many distilleries. They seem to sprout from the ground like miniature factories, each with that strange little triangular pointy-thing that seems to be essential to the production of perfect whisky. They are all legal, with evocative names such as ‘Ben Romach’ or ‘Glen Moray’ or ‘Glen Livet’ and every so often great tankers roar in and out with cargoes of the amber nectar. It is a busy area.

Yet a couple of hundred years ago this area was a battleground as hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal distillers huddled in caves and peat bogs, cottages and castles, moors and mountain glens, each making a few score gallons of whisky and cheating the excise. Whisky didtilling has been known in Scotland since  Eve and MacAdam walked bare bummed in Eden, and as the River Even flows through Fife, then it all started here. After all, whisky means the Water of Life, that portion of the Scottish nectar which escapes the distilling process is the Angel’s Share and the angels speak Gaelic, arguably the oldest language in Europe. . . this is God’s country in more ways than one.

The government, however, did not agree and slapped huge taxes on this necessity for life in a cool, harsh and unforgiving climate. The people disgreed and the process of distilling went underground. From cottar to laird, the men and women of rural Scotland distilled so that one glen alone, Glen Livet, sent two thousand gallons of whisky a week to the cities on the back of garrons, the sturdy sure footed Highland pony. Other glens were nearly as busy.

The government retaliated with military patrols and there was blood in the glens as armed whisky smugglers clashed with government officials and the army. There were gun fights that would make the Wild West seem tame, casual murders and bitter dislike as the implacable force of authority clashed with the immovable rock of tradition and sheer bloody-minded Highland stubbornness. Legends were born: Malcolm Gillespie was an exciseman – a customs officer – who was wounded more than 40 times in his decades long war with the whisky smugglers. Eventually he was hanged, for forgery of all things.

Old castles were garrisoned and legal distilleries founded, although the smugglers burned some to the ground and the owners of others had to be armed as they walked abroad through the wild hills of the Highlands. Eventually the smugglers were ground away by force and persuasion and time. Now Scottish whisky is export by the thousands of gallons, the fields of the north grow barley and the exchequer is enrichened by whisky revenue.

 

I have put a sniff of the story in my book: Whisky Wars, Riots and Murder.

And what of the smugglers?

Are they all gone?

Now come on! This is Scotland. Of course they are not! It is not long since I was sampling a home distilled bottle of the water of life and – it could have lifted paint. The distiller drank it like water but it was something you would drip feed to your mother in law or a politician. It was vile stuff.

I much prefer Aberlour or Glen Moray!

Slainthe – good health

Malcolm

www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

 

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Ancestors in the Arctic

Hi All

Well, tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow I launch my final book to be published this year. It is called Ancestors in the Arctic and it is a photographic history of the Dundee whaling industry.

The images are all from Dundee’s McManus Gallery and Museum; beautiful, evocative, scary, atmospheric images of a bygone age when men braved the bitter ice and storms of the Arctic in pursuit of whales. Immoral by today’s standards, but in their own day these men were heroes. Many died, of shipwreck, frostbite, scurvy and exposure, but others brought home the blubber that was boiled into oil for street lamps and industrial use.

While they worked, their women waited for them. . . worrying and hoping and suffering. I wrote about them in my earlier book, Whalehunters, and about the ships in The Dundee Whaling Fleet.  This one may be my last book about Dundee whaling: we will see.

What does it mean to me? Apart from the exhaustion of an extremely busy year it means I have delved into the minds and lives of some of the hardiest mariners afloat, as well the lives of their wives. Fascinating people with a reputation for truculence. They were spirited, intelligent and brave.

But I am very glad that whale hunting has ended in the north. Seeing the images brings home the hardship but also the extent of the slaughter.

Malcolm

www.malcolmarchibald.com

 

 

 

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