Here’s A varity, as Chirsty Hamish would have said, in her case pointing to a loaded table. I can’t seem to concentrate on one topic at the moment so you’re just getting a few updates and connections to previous posts:
1 I tried out the Lebanese recipe Hindbeh bi zeit ( see Going down to the woods ) and it was my first attempt at cooking dandelion leaves, rather than just tearing them into a mixed salad. While two sliced onions were frying gently in a wee bit of olive oil, I boiled a handful of dandelion leaves for five minutes, which is said to get rid of their bitter taste, then dooked them in cold water. When the onions – or the ingans, as Uncle John used to say – were soft and nicely browned, I added the drained leaves plus some salt, chilli flakes and lemon juice. This mixture I stirred gently off the heat until combined, as it’s meant to be eaten when lukewarm rather than hot. Next time, I’d add more dandelion leaves as from the pictures I’ve seen, they’re the main ingredient and maybe add some garlic to the onions. I would recommend the dish wholeheartedly.
2 I seem to write a fair amount about the NC 500 and how it’s affected local communities ( see for example The Hurts in the Highlands ) so I was very interested to read a Press and Journal article by Mike Merritt on 14 June: “Community of Applecross to be asked if they want to ‘withdraw’ from NC 500“. The Applecross Community Council are considering a local poll on withdrawing from NC 500 marketing over concerns about “waste management, traffic volumes, littering and pollution” . The Bealach na ba is regularly blocked for hours at a time, particularly by camper vans whose owners insist on taking the road in a show of bravado despite warnings of its unsuitability for them; this causes problems for residents and responsible visitors alike.
Those in favour of withdrawal feel that Applecross can stand alone in attracting ‘green’ tourists who appreciate a more relaxing holiday. Some longstanding visitors have been put off returning due to the volume of traffic on the Bealach and the number of folk just passing through the village but leaving plenty of mess behind them. One B & B owner is quoted in the article: “Some of my regular guests who came to stay for more than a couple of days have since decided that Applecross is no longer for them, which is sad”. Not all the local business owners agree with the idea of withdrawing from the circuit of course, but if nothing else the poll may be a warning to the NC 500 folk to tone down their racetrack marketing of the route.
The Applecross community seem to be very active in protecting their area: they’ve been successful in applying to the Scottish Land Fund for money to improve local woodland and also to develop affordable housing so local people can stay in the area.
3 This reminds me of another bee in Splendid, Bella!’s bonnet which is the housing crisis in the Highlands (see the link above and also Should we all just bide at home? ). I was very annoyed to see a headline from The Times: “Where to buy property in the Outer Hebrides“. No wonder house prices are beyond the means of local young people with this kind of promotion of second homes and of buying-to-let; landowners and property developers are doing very well out of this trend. In some places, housing agents are going door to door offering cash to acquire properties – and it’s not just happening in scenic areas of Scotland. In parts of Wales, and in Devon and Cornwall there are villages with very few fulltime residents; “greed displaces need” as George Monbiot was writing in The Guardian on 23 June in “2nd homes are a gross injustice“. Here in Scotland, the new government urgently needs to get this problem sorted out before we too have wintertime ghost villages – if we haven’t got them already.
4 Statues are continuing to cause controversy, with Sir John A Mcdonald being the latest in the frame. (See also “If I go there will be trouble And if I stay it will be double” and Some names to remember ). On 19 June, his statue was taken down in Kingston, Ontario to be put into storage before then likely being erected in Catarqui Cemetery where he’s buried; this happened after a council vote of 12 – 1. Another statue of him was removed in Victoria, British Columbia in 2018 while the one in Montreal was pulled down in 2020, after having been splattered with red paint.
He was born in Glasgow in 1815, with a father from Rovie Craig in Sutherland where the community was cleared to make way for a farm, and with grandparents from nearby Rogart. His father moved first to Fourpenny, near Dornoch and then to Glasgow. The family emigrated to Canada when John A Mcdonald was about 5. (Spelling of family name often given as Macdonald.) He became Canada’s first prime minister and served two terms: 1867 to 1873 and from 1875 to 1891. What has made him now infamous is his introduction of a system of compulsory residential schools for indigenous children which ran from 1876 to 1996 – yes, 1996!
At least 150,000 children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to one of 130 schools which might have been hundreds of miles from their family home. This was done with the intention of “stripping Indigenous children of their culture, language and everything that made them Indigenous” or as “one official wrote in 1910”, the schools were “geared towards the final solution of our Indian problem”. These two quotes are from a harrowing article in The Observer by Justin Ling on 6 June this year – “The school took away my brother at five. A year later, he was in an unmarked grave“. In early June, the unmarked graves of 215 children were uncovered at the site of a former school in Kamloops, British Columbia, which had closed in 1978. On 24 June, 751 bodies were uncovered at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan and it is thought there are another 20 unmarked grave sites throughout Canada. Up to 6,000 children died in the unheated and insanitary schools from “suicide, neglect and disease”; survivors have spoken of physical and sexual abuse and many of the children never returned to their home communities.
The children had to speak English or French. If they were heard using their own language, their mouths were washed out with soap. (“Survivors of Canada’s “cultural genocide” still healing“, by Micah Luxen on BBC news website, 4 June 2015). Canada made a formal apology in 2008 and a Truth and Reconciliation Committee then spent many years listening to survivors and other witnesses; their report in 2015 described the practice as “cultural genocide” and it made 94 recommendations. Many Canadians however are unhappy about progress made on putting these recommendations into practice and “the government of Justin Trudeau is fighting a class action lawsuit that is seeking reparations for the broader effort to destroy Indigenous language, culture and identity”. Mr Trudeau was quoted this week after the most recent graves were uncovered, saying they were a “shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination and injustice that indigenous peoples have faced.” Maybe he should stop fighting the lawsuit right now rather than lose it in a further blaze of bad publicity – not that I know all the details of course.
A biography of John A Mcdonald was deleted from the Scottish Government website in 2018 and a statement added: “We acknowledge controversy around Sir John A Macdonald’s legacy and the legitimate concerns expressed by indigenous communities”. On Rogart Heritage’s website there is a note: “The Prime Minister’s bloody past, with its dreadful consequences for the people of Canada’s First Nations, are now better understood and a cairn in his honour would not be built today” – https://rogartheritage.co.uk/places/cairn/ The cairn referred to, built on the site of his grandparents’ home at Dalmore, Rogart and with stones from what remained of their house, was dedicated in 1968 by Canada’s then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, some of whose ancestors had been cleared from the Strath of Kildonan. The Bonar & Ardgay pipe band played at the opening ceremony.
5 The Galloway Hoard ( see Bringing them all back home Part 2 ) has now gone on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh until 12 September. Yes, it’s going to ‘tour’ to Kirkcudbright Galleries in October but my point is why does it not stay permanently in Galloway, and if necessary ‘tour’ to Edinburgh? Why do these treasures have to be centralised in Edinburgh where there’s already plenty to see and do?
The Viking burial hoard was discovered in two distinct layers by a metal detectorist in Kirkcudbrightshire in 2014 and has been undergoing conservation, intriguing experts with its mix of Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Christian objects, together with the earliest remains of silk yet found in Scotland and a jar with Zoroastrian symbols. You can read more about the objects in a Herald Magazine article of 12 June called “Buried treasure” by Sarah Urwin Jones – though either the journalist herself or her editor twice manage to misspell the placename.
6 Influenced by Monty Don, I’m letting my grass at the back turn into a meadow of sorts ( see I would have given you flowers ). I’ve got daisies galore which I had anyway, mowing round them when they were at their finest, and there are lots more coming up between my sitooterie stones; there are buttercups which in previous years I’d tried to pull out and wild hyacinths which I always tolerated at the edge of the grass as their leaves fade away so quickly – though already having plenty, I pull out the flower stem to stop the seeds dropping. Two patches of eyebright have appeared which I recognise from Uncle Ken’s teaching and the speedwell which I transplanted from some waste ground last spring is flourishing. I’m hoping for some clover flowers as i see some of their leaves. Baby primroses which also seeded on the sitooterie have been moved to semi-shaded areas, though I’m allowing thyme to creep along between the stones.
I’ve cut a path along by the washing lines with my beloved push mower and I’m liking the tall grasses swaying in the wind but I can’t help thinking I’m storing up trouble for myself in the autumn. It’s all very well for Monty Don who has likely got a scythe and the ability to use it, plus an apprentice to help, but I’ll have to hack at the long grass with my edging shears and then take a run at what’s left with the mower. Maybe I should just enjoy the movement of the different grasses and stop fretting about what happens when the summer has gone.
7 And finally – nothing to do with the price of fish – and I never thought I’d be saying this as I’ve never much cared for him before, but good on you Cristiano Ronaldo for moving two Coca Cola bottles out of the sight of the cameras at a press conference and wiping either $2 billion or $4 billion or $5.2 billion off their share price, depending on where you read the story. In December 2020, an annual survey of discarded plastic bottles in 55 countries showed that Coca Cola were, for the third year running, the world’s worst polluters. They must also have made a monumental worldwide contribution to poor health and obesity, along with other sugary drinks manufacturers, though this is something the company rejects, blaming lack of exercise instead. Laura Reiley wrote about this in a revealing article in The Washington Post on 18 December 2019 – “Coca Cola internal documents reveal efforts to sell to teens despite obesity crisis“. Re-branding themselves as a “total beverage company”, now also selling water and juices, they’ve been sponsoring the Olympic Games since 1928 and are currently one of the sponsors of the European Football Championships, which is where they met with Ronaldo’s disapproval. A Coca Cola bottle, hurled from the capacity crowd in the Budapest stadium, bounced off the back of his neck after his second goal against France the other night, but whether it was his scoring skills or his health advice that provoked the fan’s ire I don’t know.
At Hampden meanwhile, fans are not allowed to take in bottles and all they’ve been getting to sustain them during the matches is a paper cup of cold water, much healthier but alas in Coca Cola branded cups. They’d not be much cope for hurling at Patrik Schick or Luka Modric, though we Scotland fans are inured to disappointment and can admire a good goal when we see one – depending on who we’re playing maybe.