Archive for August, 2009

Worrisome Dreams



I am most sorely vexed. I waked this morning in a fearful state following visitation in the night of most terrible images. All around me the streets were aflame and I felt helpless, as I knew in the bowels of Christ that it were to come to pass.

I will meet with my good frynde and principled blogger, Samuel Pepys on the morrow, which will be Lord’s Day 2 September 1666. I will ask for his sage advice.

Now to bed.

Allotments in Caithness


(Crossposted at my other truly awful blog.)


Although I had potatoes and onions growing this summer, it has just occured to me that I had not prepared seedlings for a winter crop (unlike the owner of these magnificent specimens I visited yesterday);  so I am now getting in some quick growing seeds.

Thank goodness for Tesco in the winter.

There are very few allotment facilities in Caithness, and I am grateful for corners of gardens which I have cultivated.  Pennyland Farm at the base of Castlegreen Road in Thurso was formerly host to a handful of privately owned plots; and the main field at High Ormlie in Thurso was taken over by Thor Housing.  All I can think of is a handful owned by the Council by the graveyard in Thurso.

That said, plans do appear to be afoot to implement a new allotment policy across the Highland Council area.  My immediate suspicion, though, is that, as with so many decisions here, this would geared for the heaving metropolis of Inverness and surrounding areas, which have several active allotment associations; and not peripheries such as Caithness.

urban allotments

Although produce from allotments cannot be sold as part of commercial projects, plot-owners are free to sell surplus.  Plus, there is the inestimatable benefit of growing one’s own food.  Even if suitable land could not be found in or around Thurso and Wick (not plausible, in my view), dumpy bags of about one metre square could be planxed on disused land and used for mini-allotments; such as these displayed at the London Festival of Agriculture.

Allotmenteering in Thurso recently received a write-up in The Times, with John Thurso, the local MP who tends a vegetable plot behind the walls his family pile, Thurso Castle as it slips into genteel decay.  To conjure up an image of buccolic bliss, the article was entitled “Far from the Maddening (sic.) Crowd”.  Quite why anyone would relish in the image of their entire sheep-flock being driven over a cliff is beyond me.

Still, it could not be as bad as Thomas Hardy’s next book: The Man Who Died At the End.

A Picture of Mohammed



Please do not kill me!

(Taken from Jami’ al-Tawarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) by 13th Century Persian polymath, Rashin al-Din.)

The Conservatives Take the Name of The Wire in Vain


the wire

When I knew of no-one else but my flatmate who watched The Wire, I felt I was privvy to something special. I am not so sure now that Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling has compared parts of Britain to West Baltimore.

Forgetting the matter of it all being much more subtle than a simple fight between drugs dealers and the knockos, of course parts of Britain are like The Wire. Stringer Bell is from Hackney, and Jimmy McNulty is from Sheffield.

UPDATE – Hopi Sen has more, in particular why Grayling was speaking such chocolate salty balls that he had watched only the initial episode. I bet he thinks “three holes” is code for the stash house.

Libya to Thank SNP Placeman



As international media focuses on Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill’s status as a human being, Osama Saeed – Director of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation and SNP PPC for Glasgow Central – is maybe a wee bit relieved that the forced repayment of £128,000 of public funds by the SIF has slipped off the inner-pages.

One of the hopes of Fish-heid McMoonface was that Saeed and the SIF would bring the joys of Islamic finance and petro-dollars (but not the Western capitalism which made the latter possible) to a roaring Celtic Tiger emerging from the pall of English colonialism.  Alas, even before the release of a mass-murderer on the grounds that dedicated oncological and paliative care, as well as visits from his family was not compassionate enough, this tiger had been libbed by a latter-day Darian and other eminently foreseeable diasters.

But, the push for Islamic finance is to go ahead, and in a departure from previous conduct, the SIF appears to be staging a conference with the Etisal Foundation in November at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.

But lookie at one of the countries sending delegates to the November event!  Can you guess yet?  Yes, it is Libya.

As Tom Harris observes, Scotland must be the first point of call for all things Libyan.

Wa’ like us?  None, thank fuck.

Indian Palace Owner Admits to Employing Illegal Immigrants


From the Aberdeen Press and Journal:

A far north restaurateur yesterday admitted five charges involving employing illegal immigrants. 

Gulzar Miah did not make proper checks on the entitlement of four individuals to work, Wick Sheriff Court heard.  Three were taken away by police after they executed warrants on the Indian Palace, in Thurso, and the K2, in Wick, on May 29.  Further information led to the detention of the other man who had worked for two years at the Thurso restaurant.

The May raid took place while Miah, 36, was on bail, after he and three others were charged with setting fire to an Indian restaurant in Castletown, Caithness, in April.

Senior fiscal depute David Barclay said employers had a duty to check the documentation of potential employees to ensure they had a right to be in the UK and were entitled to work here: “I am advised by the immigration authorities that the background to most offences involving employers employing people who are here illegally is for their commercial gain. It was commented by one of the workers that the wages paid by the accused were low.”

Mr Barclay said Miah, who owns the K2 and co-owns the Indian Place, told police he was in charge of staff recruitment at both restaurants.

Miah, described as a prisoner in Inverness, pleaded guilty to the indictment of five charges under the Immigration Act 1971, four of which were committed while on bail.  Denying the claims of subsistence wages, solicitor David Hingston said the employees involved were paid £100 a week, in addition to their bed and board.

Sheriff Andrew Berry deferred sentence until September 4 for reports and further remanded Miah in custody.

I recall the sight of Strathclyde Police buzzing around Princes Street on that day, and finding out later it was connected to this. It seem axiomic amongst the political scene which I used to think myself part of that an amnesty should be provided for the hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants in the UK, such as is enunciated by the Strangers into Citizens campaign. An implication is that disagreement is borne out of [white] racism, and possibly pro-BNP; even thought I have heard anecdotal tales of West Indian Londoners bemoaning the squeeze on council resources exerted influxes of East European and other migrants.

The thought occurs that those calling most loudly are monied liberals insulated from any of the negative impact of increased demands on the social kitty, and enamoured with an idea of multiculturalism as opposed to cosmopolitanism. Especially that a collorary tends to be a belief in the continuation of a cradle-to-grave welfare system which is based on a stable user-base.

I have no personal gripe with the, presumably, now removed workers at the Indian Palace and K2 Restaurant. It jars, however, as someone who has applied for every available job in Thurso over the past year to know that labour was being imported from abroad. The plea by Gulzar Miah’s solicitor that the employees were receiving £100 per week, plus food and board, should be tempered by knowledge of the communal house in High Ormlie as well as one apparent former employee who responded to a previous missive of mine on the subject. One hundred pounds, after food and board, would be quite low if employees were working well in excess of a 40 hour week.

Miah is, of course, also excused of conspiring to set-fire to the Taj Mahal curry-house in Castletown, and owned by a rival British Bengali family. The whole plot seems to have been a comedy of errors from the begining, with three Wick residents also accused: they are reputed to have arrived by taxi, purchased the petrol for the fire from the adjacent garage and injured themselves in the fire.

My initial surprise at how completely the building was destroyed has been explained by talk of LPG cannisters being stored *within* the building. Speaking to the owner, Yasin Miah (no relation) as he was opening the new and rather excellent Taj Mahal in Halkirk, he told me that he had had less-than-minimum insurance.

Let us hope he has learnt a few lessons.

Both the Miahs had been keen to expand their businesses. Gulzar Miah currently still has the lease for the old newsagent on Traill Street, intended as a kebab shop although, judging by the lack of activity at the existing Indian Palace, I will be suprised if this comes to much. I have been told that Yasin Miah has expressed an interest in the now-closed bookies on Princes Street, but I imagine the offices above will object to another food establishment opening below.

Kenny Macaskill: Failed Human Being


I do not know enough about the events surrounding the death at Wick Harbour of 24 year old Kevin McLeod on 8 February 1997 to discuss them with certainty.  I do know, however, that the family did not accept the initial conclusion that it was death by misadventure, and have extracted an apology from Northern Constabulary for their handling of the investigation; and continue to suspect he was killed following a fight with a named prisoner on weekend leave from Porterfield Prison at Inverness.

The Caithness Courier this week reported that Kenny Macaskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary had declined a personal meeting with the McLeod family because he did not consider it appropriate that he discuss “operational Police matters”.  Whilst I am deeply sorry for the McLeod family, I concur with this decision.  All Scottish Executive Ministers are there to conduct the business of the State, with their first duty being to the principles of whichever department they are attached to and not invidual cases.

Which is a point Macaskill should have considered when he paid a personal visit to the only man convicted of involvement in the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi who was petitioning for (19 year) early released on “compassionate grounds” due to his having prostate cancer. 

Al-Megrahi has now, of course, been released.  In justifying this, Macaskill said:


In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people. The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.

Mr Al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.

But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.


You vain, self-satisfied intellectual pygmy.  Al-Megrahi received compassion when he was not executed.  He received compassion when he was not thrown into a rat-infested, disease-riven cell as happens to prisoners on much weaker cases in Libya.  He received compassion when he received medical care following his diagnosis of cancer.  He received compassion when his family were permitted to visit him.

He merited no more.  Refusing his release, but continuing to treat him with “compassion” in custody, would have disappointed one or two families at most.  Releasing him has insulted hundreds of families.  Basic moral philosophy dictates that he should have remained. (more…)

International Terrorism in the 16th Century


I was gladened to read the missive for Saturday 18 August 1666 by my goode frynde and principled blogger, Samuel Pepys, as that day was my birthday and I was elsewhere.

Sammy had purchased some right bargains at his mercers on Lombard Street; the one with the bonny lassie.  He then fell into conversation with John Creed, his rival for the favours of [Sammy’s] cousin, Edward Montague 1st Earl of Sandwich about the unfolding over-reach in Tangiers.


The Mole at Tangiers, engraved for the first edition of the Rev. John Smith's 1825 edition of the diary.

I fully appreciate the need for our Navy to establish a secure garrison at the esconson of the Pillars of Hercules.   For trade and to circumvent the unfryndely forces in Europe, but foremost to combat the international terrorism of the Barbary Corsairs.  A source of shame should still be the shameful treatment of the valiant Admiral Blake by the Tunisians, and I gather there are many thousands of civilized captives in Algiers.  Even Dutchmen.

Our late Queen Elizabeth had many pleasing attributes, I hear, but establishing cordial relations with the Ottoman Empire and Barbary states simply to frustrate the Romish forces in Europe was a grave mistake.

It is not four decades since the dreadful Sack of Baltimore when many dozens were abducted by foul slavers.  This was not just Romish Irish, but goode English planters.  Someone should write a poem about it.

And I have recently read the shocking accounts of the abduction, in the Year of Our Lord 1627, and escape of an Icelander woman named Tyrkja Gudda.  I understand that the Danish garrison did little to protect the Icelanders. 

What concerns me is the amount of money being spent on fortifying a troublesome harbour at Tangiers.  I have heard talk of £340,000 being required to establish a mole beneath it, which Sam has written about before.

Nearby, the Rock of Gibraltar will make a much more pleasing location for a garrison.

Where is Fred Now?



Looking for notes with his signature?  The Telegraph reported in April that he had hired an assistant to sift through all the notes to be dispensed at ATMs from the RBS HQ in Gogarburn to ensure they all had his signature.

As Clay Davis would say, sh-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-t.

UPDATE – an annotation from Someone Who Knows Alec provides more anecdote.  More on the professional style of this glorified bank manager was reported by The Times.

“He never railed and shouted at people,” said a former chief executive of one of the bank’s subsidiaries. “He was facetious and withering – a classical psychological bully.”

Councillor Kenneth Gunn



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