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Up Helly Aa

The annual Shetland Festival was on last week.

Stu Who?, regular reader here was performing his stand up comedy routine there as part of the celebrations. His account of it and several great photos can be seen by clicking here

Groundhog Day

And if you think you’ve read it before…. you’re right!

2nd February is Candlemas. According to legend Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren’t allowed to worship in the temple. At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again.

The festival is called Candlemas beacuse this was the day that all the Church’s candles for the year were blessed. On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home. Like some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from Paganism. In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the mid point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox. Some people lit candles to scare away evil spirits on the dark winter nights. People believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

Which is quite reassuring considering the weather in these parts today!

Pennsylvania’s official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886 with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper’s editor, Clymer Freas: “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.”  The groundhog was given the name “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary” and his hometown thus called the “Weather Capital of the World.”  His debut performance: no shadow – early Spring.

The legendary first trip to Gobbler’s Knob (oooer Missus!) was made the following year.

gobblersknob.jpg

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck (Marmota monax), is a member of the squirrel family.  Groundhogs in the wild eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion, clover, and grasses.

According to handlers John Griffiths and Ben Hughes, Phil weighs 15 pounds and thrives on dog food and ice cream in his climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library.

Up on Gobbler’s Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 a.m. to make his prediction.

Since the 1993 release of the film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman (who wakes up and it’s Groundhog Day over and over again!) and Andie MacDowell as his puzzled producer, attendance at the real event has expanded.  In 1997, there were 35,000 visitors in Punxsutawney, five times the Jefferson County town’s 6,700 population.

The Groundhog Day festivities on February 2, 1992 were joined by Bill Murray studying for his role in the movie.  Then, Columbia Pictures set out to recreate the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day down to the smallest detail.  There were, however, many changes made.

Columbia Pictures decided to film the movie in a location more accessible to a major metropolitan center.  The highways in and around Punxsutawney were few, so Woodstock, Illinois was chosen as the site.  Unfortunately, Woodstock’s landscape doesn’t have Pennsylvania’s scenic rolling hills.  Nevertheless, adjustments were made for the production.  The actual Gobbler’s Knob is a wooded hill with a beautiful view; the Gobbler’s Knob in the movie is moved to the town square.  The Punxsutawney Gobbler’s Knob was recreated to scale in Woodstock’s town square based on detailed notes and videos the crew made on it’s visit to Punxsutawney.

The movie’s script was changed to include the elaborate ceremony of the Inner Circle on Groundhog Day.  The original groundhog cast for the movie was considered to be too small.

Some of the store names in Punxsutawney were used in the movie, such as The Smart Shop and Stewart’s Drug Store.  Punxsutawney’s police cars were also recreated for the movie.  The groundhog-head trash cans and Groundhog Festival flags that line the streets of Punxsutawney were displayed.  Folks traveling to Punxsutawney to see the “Punxsutawney” they saw in the movie wonder why it looks “so different, yet seems so similar.”

 

Just Like Eddi

I’ve just read that Lord David Steel found it necessary, in the independence debate in the House of Lords, to refer to Eddi Reader ‘Murdering Burns songs’.

Now let me say that I rather like some of Eddi’s Burns interpretations and don’t care too much for others. However it can’t be denied that she has, perhaps more than any other contemporary singer/musician, done her bit to bring the Bard’s work to a new audience. She is to be commended for that at least.

There are Burns snobs out there who think that his work should be preserved in formaldehyde. Some comments I have heard from fellow attendees at Burns Suppers illustrate my point. Last year I heard a great ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ at the Howff Club in Dumfries, delivered by one of the members who had obviously taken great care to learn the poem (story) and put in his own wee bit of humour (just brief gestures and looks). I thought it was terrific and it was generally well received. He didn’t need any prompts in the lengthy recitation, his clarity, timing and delivery were almost perfect. Afterwards I remarked to one of the other attendees how much I had enjoyed it. His answer? ‘Too long. Tam o’ Shanter should be nineteen minutes. His version was twenty minutes and fourteen seconds!’.

My jaw nearly hit the floor. It was as if this guy had been sitting in judgement with a fucking stopwatch! I wondered, as we sat it the hostelry where Rabbie stayed when he first moved to Dumfries and a few miles from where he wrote Tam o’ Shanter, what he would have thought of this piece of criticism of delivery of his work.

Now don’t get me wrong, some criticisms can be valid. I saw one guy last year delivering the poem the Twa Dugs with the aid of two dog puppets. Despite the fact that he knew the poem well, I didn’t think the puppets or the voices that the man affected added anything to his performance or to the poem.

Anyhoo, back to Lord Steel and Eddi Reader.

Here is Lord Steel commenting on his own brief foray into the world of popular music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq9J4QubmJ8

And here is Eddi Reader in the political fray:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nECoP00CW2o

Which may bring one to the view that one is sometimes better to stick to what one knows.

Here is Ms Reader’s spirited comeback to Lord Steel, delivered via social media (cut and pasted).

‘My name is Eddi Reader I’m a singer musician. Like my great grandfather did, I sung and enjoyed Robert Burns songs. He also felt bad enough about the elite lording it over and treating unfairly, the ordinary citizen, to want to help.
Tonight, I have learned that during the HOUSE OF LORDS debate on Scottish independence, the ‘Honourable’ ‘Lord’ David Steele (a real grown up experienced politician) chose to personally attack my take on Robert Burns songs.
“We have to endure Eddi Reader murdering Robert Burns songs”
Now .. I don’t mind him having a personal opinion on my work, badger him, he’s not my audience, so what? But, to choose to… attack my work in music, because I have the AUDACITY as a citizen, to question the status quo, I feel is unnerving…
I just had to scrabble around to find the money to pay an enormous personal Tax bill this month… Some of that goes into that guys pocket. He is MY servant, a servant of the people…
If anything has solidified my HELL YEAH!! Vote that dis-honourable birkie called a lord, who struts and preens and all that, COOF has made sure I will.
I couldn’t care if scots were scratching themselves after Indy.. That self regulating ignorant elite system that insults the electorate can bugger off.’

The verse to which she refers, in A Man’s a Man For a’ That, is as follows:

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

I couldn’t remember if Steel had an ‘e’ at the end because much of the online debate on this had it spelled that way. Google auto complete came to the rescue…

steel

Sutch a useful resource……

A Page Turner?

My friends are, I would say, a fairly representative mix of Yes, No and Don’t Knows in the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum. I’m in the don’t know camp with head and heart playing tug o’ war with the issue. The thing is that no matter what your view or voting intentions, you probably know in which respective directions the brain and the blood pump are pulling.

Yesterday’s White Paper brought the impending Referendum into sharp focus in the kind of way that you realise that it’s only four weeks till Christmas. And there was Eck in the role of Santa Claus yesterday promising all sorts of bounty to everyone……but only if you’re good and vote the right way.

The White Paper (although at this stage I have to admit that I haven’t read it) seems to be a hybrid between a blueprint for independence and subsequent SNP manifesto for 2016 in an independent Scotland.

And what is in this Whizzer and Chips of a document?

Well I’m not going to spoil it all for you, because dear reader if you are in Scotland you will not be able to escape people debating its content at great length over the net ten and a half months.

However the bars/hurdles have been set high.

The disappearance of Trident from Scotland in the first term? I’d have thought that logistically impossible apart from anything.

We’ll be part of a Sterling zone says the White Paper. Oh no you won’t say all the UK political parties. The EU are biding their time on this but expect them to throw a cat amongst the doos on that soon. They will point out that regardless of any negotiations and politics, the legal position is that Scotland will be a new member and must commit to the Deutsch mark Euro. This would leave Scotland with a different currency from its largest trading partner (by some way) i.e. the UK.

Like the UK political establishment, they are implacably opposed to Scottish independence and will do all they can to prevent it. One feels too that countries facing their own separatist issues such as Spain and Belgium would continue to throw any spanner they could into the works to ensure that an independent Scotland would not be seen to be a success.

The most convincing case for me to vote Yes is the notion of dispensing with a parliament. The converse of that thinking led me to vote No in the devolution referendum (although admittedly I regret that now). There was one parliament when I was growing up and that always seemed a sufficiency of the bloody things. Now we have Edinburgh, Westminster and Strasbourg and as well as these being listed in terms of proximity, I’d also say that this is also their relevance as seen by many Scots (even if an objective view might challenge that with 80% of our law emanating from Strasbourg ). All politics is local politics they say.

Another reason to vote Yes is the fact that the SNP, from the sidelines at least, seem to be the most cohesive political unit of the major parties by some way and not only in a purely Scottish context. You could throw in all the UK parties into the mix there too. In Alex Salmond I think it’s hard to argue against the fact that he’s the most effective leader of those parties.

Never mind the hapless windae hinger Johan Lamont or Ruth (Miss Jean Brodie) Davidson, Eck knocks Cameron, Clegg and Miliband into a cocked hat

However…….

Yesterday I was struck by the almost euphoric response on the broadcast media from those Yes supporting commentators. On Radio Scotland, Irish academic Owen Dudley Edwards compared the White Paper to the Declaration of Arbroath and the American Declaration of Independence.

My blog friend Kate Higgins is always an enthusiastic advocate of independence. Much as I enjoy Kate’s optimistic and positive take on issues, I thought that yesterday on Radio Scotland she sounded like a combination of Pollyanna and Dr Pangloss as she gushed about the brochure as if the Referendum was now a formality.

The last time I can remember such optimism in a Scottish sense was in the run up to the World Cup in 1978……..

But then there’s Doctor No, aka Alistair Darling, the chancellor who presided over complete collapse of the banking system in 2008 and now lectures us on financial probity. He has previous form on not being able to predict how many days will be in the following year. Al was in high dudgeon yesterday attempting to rubbish the whole idea of independence. To be fair this is his remit but if yesterday confirmed anything it was that ‘Better Together’ have the wrong guy in charge.

I wrote here about Darling’s blink rate but I see the video in that article has been deleted.

I know that the usual indication of a politician lying is that their lips move, but from the article above:

Here is a link to an aricle by Linda Prestonseven signs you are being lied to

“BLINKING. A person who is lying will blink a lot,as blinking seems to correlate to the amount of mental stress we are under. In a normal conversation where a person is attuned to you, he will blink at roughly the same rate as you, often at moments when you pause in your speech. Be wary of someone who is blinking frantically as they speak with you.”

Here’s Alistair…

Why Aye!

I’m in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

I met this chap near the station yesterday.

100_1619

This is Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, author of the 1832 Great Reform Act.

100_1628

The statue is by Edward Hodges Bailey who was also responsible for a statue in Trafalgar Square London.

The plinth carries this wording:

grey grey1

A rather fine Rolex adorns the corner of Grey Street:

100_1637

And this is the music shop where Mark Knopfler bought his first guitar:

100_1622

 

 

It’s a sign

Continuing my adventures in Grantham, I passed this street sign this morning.

100_1534

Which suggests that the locals have a rather less diligent attitude to the defacing of signs than they do in Scotland.

Something you don’t often see

A Scottish League football ground filled nearly to capacity:

P1040638

A mere 24 hours after seeing Dumbarton lose out against Raith Rovers my daughter and I took in the Partick Thistle v Morton game last night in the same division.
Same division but a different league.
The Sons and Rovers had attracted fewer that 600 souls to their match on Tuesday, whereas there was just short of 9,000 at Firhill last night with the kick off being delayed for twenty minutes to allow the crowd access to the stadium. We initially paid our way into the stand pictured above but there clearly weren’t enough seats for everyone to be accommodated so the stewards directed us on to the track and to the stand behind the goals.

P1040643

The Plastic Whistle players celebrate what turned out to be the winning goal last night.

It wasn’t a great game. The decisive moment came in the 41st minute via a cross from Thistle’s Chris Erskine which First Division Player of the Month Kris Doolan just failed to connect with. However James Craigen picked it up at the far post and converted the opportunity with ease.

It looks like Thistle are headed for the SPL. I wonder if Firhill will house as big a crowd as last night at any game next season?