I came across a fascinating snippet of history in the letters page of a U3A magazine, (University Of The Third Age) which, led me to delving a bit deeper.

1685 is a significant date in English Parliamentary history. It was the beginning of manoeuvres to obtain monarchical change. Three years later, in 1688, change was consolidated with the Roman Catholic Stuart King, James II of England and Ireland, (James VII Scotland) being deposed by what is known as The Glorious Revolution. James was the last Roman Catholic monarch in England, Scotland and Ireland.

King James II of England and Ireland. James VII Scotland

James’ Protestant son-in law William Of Orange from the Netherlands and his wife Mary were invited by Parliament to replace him. History as taught, says that James was troublesome. History also states James’ replacement was welcomed, [by Parliament and other powerful interests]; but it was mainly welcomed because it ensured a protestant succession.

William Of Orange

In an area called Beaconsfield, in the county of Buckinghamshire, which is, today,  within easy reach of London UK, there is the original Quaker Meeting House, built in 1688, the year James II was deposed. Quakers had met in the locality since 1659 and risked having their meetings disrupted.

The year before he was deposed, 1687, James II managed to issue a Declaration Of Indulgence. He had been battling  over this with Parliament for much of his relatively short reign. The Declaration gave The Quakers the right to worship freely. Roman Catholics, Jews and Moslems were given the same rights. The Declaration extended tolerance to all to practice their faiths, not just to James’ particular religious preferences, and says the writer of the snippet, “It was the act of a tolerant king”.

It would be justified to say that a prime reason for the English Parliament’s removal of James Stuart, was because of their fears about Roman Catholic Monarchs linking once more to the determinations of the Papacy and its representatives. Therefore, deposing James ensured that the English Parliament, from then on, was established as the ruling power in England.








It’s the time of year for a bit of exploring and it’s a great excuse to put oneself in the direction of pleasant temperatures and every likelihood of a breeze. Scotland has been benefitting from having a summer, so far, this year. So, what better than to  waft away from the sticky towns and cities and head to the countryside.

At a local agricultural show, I got chatting to Irene from Canberra, who like me, was admiring this super youngster.  “E’s not fully growed…it take ’em aboot five year to be growed”, we were told, by an equally admiring farmer.

A Prize Youngster

A brazen surprise was in store in the sheep pens.

Oops, we’ve got the same jumpers on!

These two Suffolk sheep got first prizes.

….and what about this one

A big fluff ball

Certainly not your usual style of sheep. She got a  second prize. I wonder which local hairdresser she went to, the back-combing is a little passée.  Fluff Ball has potential for a first prize, if her hairdresser develops her styling technique.



Never Heard Of Barak Obama

I promise, I really and truly was not searching for anything.  This nugget popped out of nowhere today.  I originally wrote it nine years ago.   I am not sure if I published it then, but, if I did, please excuse me for being tempted to post it again.  You’ll see why……..


I have actually found someone who has never heard of Barak Obama.

I found this hard to believe but after some further probing, I realised it was true. This young person, (of voting age) thought I was talking about…

“Some man who was going to do something to Scotland”.

This in the middle of a beauty therapy session, padded up for my most un-favourite therapy of toning up useful muscles while lying in a prone state.

I jerked up in surprise, nearly electrocuting myself in the process, “Do something to Scotland. What?” I queried.

Getting all those people out of their houses and off the land”, she answered.

Obama?” I thought of modern day Highland Clearances and was truly puzzled.


Her mum had talked to her about it and people were going to fight to stay in their houses.

Realisation dawned…………………

“You mean Donald Trump !“, I exclaimed. “He’s the one that’s just got planning permission to build a golf course and luxury hotel complex on the Aberdeenshire coast.”


© Chicago by M

The lass looked glumly at me and commented with feeling

I hate politics, all that rudeness, shouting at each other and fighting. I can’t stand it, I really hate politics”.

No doubt about that.





The weather forecast was almost, but, not quite as dire as some we have heard before a journey. Nevertheless, if we were going to make the journey we had to travel in daylight.  The forecaster warned. that with the temperatures being low, driving conditions could be icy and in addition, there was snow expected on high ground, which would move onto lower ground later on.  It was mid February, daylight hours had increased by four minutes a day since the Winter Solstice, so, that meant we now had a decent chunk of additional daylight time in our favour.

P1000006 A9-North-2-Wb

You Can See The Icy Road Ahead.

Being a Tuesday, we expected to encounter a fair amount of commercial traffic.  Most of the commercial vehicles and some streams of cars were all heading in the opposite direction.  In front here, there was a truck and a tanker.

The road, Scotland’s notorious A9, is currently governed by average speed cameras. Vehicles of 7.5 tons or more, are restricted to 50 miles per hour.  Overtaking opportunities were limited, unless you thrived on serious risk-taking.  There being no other road north, It meant that domestic and smaller vehicles were forced to slower speeds for a much of the time.  You see road signs that tell you ‘frustration kills’.

Here we are into the steady upward climb of  ‘higher ground’ as can be seen by the snow-capped hill on the left and the broken white slopes appearing on the right.  Just in case you are wondering, we are on one  of  the sections of dual carriageway on this road.   There are not many.


Still, onward and upwards…..

Climbing Higher

Climbing Higher still



Mucky Windscreen, then clarity…….

The snowy  marshmallow pillows were lovely


This is my way of climbing peaks, using four wheels,

Mucky Windscreen

The dual carriageway at this point is on two levels.  Here in the right corner, you can just see a bit of the upper level.

We caught a heavy bout of ‘lower ground weather’ as forecast, just after a quick, a very quick lunch stop:   me darting in to the cafe to buy two coffees to take away.  The rest of the journey, the last hundred miles or so, was punctuated by heavy wind-driven snow and sleet. But, it was still daylight when we reached journey’s end.  We’d done it!






Mooc over….the final  statistics were amazing. 21,000 people throughout the globe participated.  The total number of full time students at Dundee University, Scotland, this academic year  is 17,500.  For six weeks, ( the length of the course)  the mooc more than doubled the university’s student population.  What a triumph for Dundee University.  Mooc questions and comments were totalled up, the final numbers being enviously fantastic.  The ‘Educators’ who are members of the departmental academic staff, including the professors, were very active in encouraging us in our tasks and answering queries. The live interaction was terrific.  Every week, at the end of the unit, there were mooc video seminars when our forensic queries were answered in more detail.  The facial reconstruction feature was brilliant; we students  got to do it.


The departmental staff have extraordinary busy and demanding working lives and they gave up a huge chunk of it from May this year, to develop the course and then to interact with their short term course intake. Rumour has it that the course, the forensic sciences in Identifying The Dead, will run again in 2016.



What is a mooc? It is a free of charge massive open online course. Participants can, if they choose, buy a certificate of attendance, at nominal cost, but not till they have completed a certain percentage of a course. If you want to, and you live where it might be possible, you can book for, and pay to take an examination.  While these courses do not count towards a higher qualification, they are accepted for continuous personal development, if what you learn is relevant to your profession. One of our local pharmacists is currently doing a relevant mooc, which, just happens to be with Dundee University too.  He is very impressed with the quality of his course.

I am dabbling with another mooc, which in contrast to the first one, is nowhere near as dynamic. But then, can criminology be as lively as the forensic study of identifying the dead?  I have not yet seen much Educator activity, though with week two starting,  you never know what might happen. The numbers of participants are not anywhere near comparable as the Dundee University mooc.  They are substantially lower.  As I have a few distractions coming up, I may have to bow out of this course about half way and maybe pick  up where I leave off, another time.   One helpful feature is, the courses are always there to continue on with, in silence, or, you can wait till a course is interactively offered again.





I am doing a massive open online course, (mooc) with Dundee University in Scotland. It lasts for six weeks. When I first heard about it, ten thousand people had already signed up. Massive in name and massive in number.  I like to think I might have been number ten thousand and one.

 An event I went to at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August this year informed me about moocs and in particular, this one.  The course is called ‘Identifying The Dead: Forensic Science and Human Identification’.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, (if you drink tea).  I  was a week late starting and have now caught up.   We are now beginning week three and I intend to stay with the time line; you won’t hear much from me while I am keeping up with it. This course has fired up the brain cells, (much needed) with new and interesting learning; a great combination!  The science of real forensic investigations is not like what we see on television programmes such as CSI, Lewis, or, Waking The Dead. It is educating me, and ten thousand others, about what the forensic science specialists actually do and how they collect and collate the provision of evidence.

At least decade ago, a director  of a forensic laboratory in Scotland, said, that if he were seeking trainee forensic scientists he would look for candidates who had studied a science subject, such as physics, or chemistry, in depth, because they would have the desired academic rigor.  The candidates can, he said, be trained in forensic investigation to accreditation standards once in situ. There were then, and are now,  many students taking forensic sciences courses, which the professor described as ‘scientifically superficial’ and which,  are unlikely to take the students into the realms of the specialised scientific forensic work that the experts are expected to perform.  From what I have learned so far with the mooc, I can understand why that may be so. 


Sunday 27th May 2012, was not a day to be hidden away indoors. We travelled to the West side of Scotland’s coast. Temperatures a bit higher than where we live, had been forecast. No siree, we were not going to miss this wonderful day. It was hovering around 39 degrees inside the car, a signal that the air conditioning was needed. That does not happen very often. I plastered my exposed body bits with factor 20 cream before we left home and reapplied the cream a few times more during the day.

I am loathe to expose this place of beauty, in case hordes of people descend upon it. However, being that am a community minded person, I will share it.

The small car park with its sign to the beach had one or two spaces left. On the short path to the beach, we passed fields with Ewes and their lambs.


At a heat of 26C who needs a really big woolly coat. The lamb, with a lightweight covering was doing fine. I marvel how close to sand and sea we, and all these other creatures, live. The grass was lush and good for the livestock to munch.

At the bridging point of meadow and shoreline, a dog was going potty, trying to retrieve stones that were thrown for it to retrieve from the relatively shallow water. I don’t think the dog’s people had realised how frustrated the dog would become, trying and failing to get a stone. Every time he put his head down, he got huge mouthfuls of water. The dog was not going to be easily commanded to ‘come back’ without succeeding the challenge set.


I watched for a bit. The water was very clear, coloured by peat. There was a fascinating underwater scape and I noticed an upright plant. You might see it. All the pictures can be clicked on to enlarge.


Just across the bridge and round the grassy dune was this:


It was not just the brightness of the sunlight that glowed. The beach had its own spitting golden lights, aided by nature, (and the mica schist in the stone).


“Not all that glisters is gold”, comes to mind. I once found a small brown stone in a pool near the Balmoral Estate, it was ‘coated’ in mica schist, when it dried off, the stone was not so attractive. I experimented with applying a little clear nail varnish. I brushed another two coats of clear varnish on to the little stone. It has glittered away ever since, and for me, makes an evocative paperweight.

A couple of tourists stood at edge of the entry to the beach, clicked away with their cameras, then wandered away.


Other people arrived, obviously having the same idea as us and they stayed.


A beach party was developing.

From a cluster of rocks that descended into the sea, another sandy cove could be seen in the distance.


This place is so beautiful, and I felt very privileged to savour its treasures.

The boat was being expertly manoeuvered over and through the surf, and the young lad in it, who was kitted out in a life jacket, was obviously revelling in the ride. The boat was taking a wide circle to return and start all over again.


There are many rocky outcrops along the coast, with their definitive upthrust signature. It is vital that seamanship is respectful of them. In this case, the knowledge would be from experience and local knowledge.


…And finally;


Playtime for all ages and people grabbing wholeheartedly the chance to relax. There was no doubt here, there were a number of happy feet!


SCOTLAND IS PEACEFUL and will remain so. Despite the buckets of rain that have been falling, the Edinburgh Festival is drawing confident and relaxed visitors from England, who say they are glad to be where they are; and there are other visitors from around the globe, who also say, sincerely, they are happy to be in Scotland.

Two males living in Scotland attempted to incite unrest, announcing on Facebook it was now UK wide. To reassure you, THE DISTURBANCES ARE NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN UK WIDE. The Scottish authorities stepped in fast. The two individuals are awaiting the process of the criminal justice system while in custody. Meantime, Scotland has sent specially trained groups of police officers to England to be deployed where they are considered to be most needed.

With the high human cost of the criminality and disruption, (the disruption now appears to be quelled) clear up is underway in which we have seen the wartime spirit of community. Individuals have been remarkable, some have lost their lives or been injured. A Turkish food outlet owner in N.E. London spoke of how his community defended their people and livelihoods, describing the cultural motivations that led to their self-defence. Similar drives prevailed in areas like Southall in West London and in Birmingham, sadly, where three brave ‘defenders’ died. Almost instant visual media has widely accessed the best and worst of our society for us all to see.

My hope is, that the beautiful spirit of community that so many people of all ethnic groups are demonstrating, will be constructively harnessed for good, and be supported in every constructive way possible. Politicians, unfortunately, have a history and a habit of getting in the way!


There were some gardens open a few miles away, for the annual visiting Scotland’s gardens. It would be hard to describe all that we saw. There were four gardens that were milling with interested people; each of them were very different. I marvelled at the generosity of house owners giving over their pride and joys to the tramping feet and ogling eyes of absolute strangers. We were all very well behaved, even the children.

One show of flowers and bushes was planted out on the most exposed and arid plateau of land, just over an old quarry. the common question here was, “How do you get it all to grow?” Another husband and wife team had organically developed their elements of gardens over twelve years. I came away with the name of an unusual plant which I must note down for next year. A third was a complete surprise, one kiddie cried “It’s a magic garden”. All developed and terraced on a slope down to a little river that used to run some miles to long gone mill. There were so many nooks and garden corners to discover.

Out at sea, a rescue helicopter was searching, hovering and searching. It was rising and descending, moving onto clifftops and the scrub of the headland; more hovering and searching. The search and rescue helicopter is usually not good news, not unless the crew are successful with a live result.

At tea with home baking, in the village hall, all part of the end of trail refreshment, I got talking to a disabled elderly lady and her husband who are visiting to help their daughter look after the grandchildren while son-in-law is being treated for a serious medical condition. During the conversation, I was told that the son-in-law was a local church minister. I soon realised that this was the man who kindly helped me and drove me home, in December 2010, when my car came off the road due to black ice.

Here was the generosity of families supporting their loved ones. The couple had taken time out to view the open gardens, to benefit, even in the rain, from the different beauties in nature and also benefit, insofar as they could, from the welcome and friendliness of strangers, and also the calming distraction of those lovely and interesting gardens.


Not so long ago we visited Stirling Castle, Scotland UK., to see a special and short time-
limited exhibition of The Stirling Heads. There were thirty-seven newly carved oak roundels. The final one, it is said, was an extra head, and allowed craftsman’s license, in that the carver was allowed to use the face of his daughter. The details on the dress, the epaulettes and the head-dress demonstrate that she has been accorded high status.

P1020300 Carver's Daughter

The designs are all based on the details available from historical artefacts, some too fragile to replace on the ceiling in the Royal Apartments.

These heads include Margaret Tudor, sister to Henry VIII of England, the man himself, and one head believed to be a copy of James V of Scotland. Various other courtly characters, include dancing puttos and a jester or two.

P1020287 Henry V111P1020286 Mgt Tudor perhapsP1020282 Jester

If we wanted to see the heads in their raw wooden state, this visit was to be the only opportunity to do so. The heads are now in the process of being painted in the style the heads were known to have been originally finished. The next time we see the replacement heads, will be with our necks craned back, (not the best viewing position).

Included in future tours of the Castle will be an exhibition of the remaining original heads, there were in all,I believe, forty seven. Some were found in private ownership. The carver performed a labour of love for his self-taught craft and in the process learned old, but not necessarily traditional methods of carving. There were the errors of the past not to be repeated; the crude ability seen in some of the old work; then there was what seems to have been a remarkable discovery. The carver noticed a series of repeating symbols. The greater the time spent on his work, the more convinced he became that these symbols could be a form of music. Consulting with a musicologist, it has become a distinct possibility that the theory is good. The musical symbols and tones linked to them based on the instruments known to be in use in the period, have produced what might have been popular tunes of the day.