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Monday, 6 July 2015

Naming a hospital

You would think it would be an easy thing to do. Especially since you have 10 years to plan it. You build a new hospital in Govan at what used to be the Southern General Hospital, bringing several hospitals together in one state of the art site. Then you pick a name.

Unfortunately, the combined site puts hospital workers to mega inconvenience travel-wise and some of them end up talking about having to walk through the Clyde Tunnel because there's nowhere for them to park at the new site. Local people who don't drive but have a runway for a car donate the space to nursing staff on Gumtree.

Patients and visitors are confused because it looks like anybody on the southside outside G52 and G53 will end up either taking a taxi to the hospital or taking 3 buses or going into the city centre by train and then getting the subway back out to Govan with a taxi or bus journey to follow. For gawdssake, you can't even get there directly from Pollok. And how long are these journeys going to take? Did anyone try to suss that out on behalf of the NHS beforehand?

There's major upheaval to traffic in the area as roads are dug up and new roundabouts are put in to accommodate a clearway,' despite the fact we already have a clearway from the city centre to Govan. It's called the Squinty Bridge. The local bus station is put out of commission, apparently for 18 months from June 2015 on, despite the fact the NHS could have started the work earlier - and despite the inconvenience to local travellers.

Local residents are outraged to find they're going to have to pay for permits to park their cars. Local businesses will also have to pay to park works vans. This is a very fragile community. Did anybody do any research before this all got going?

And finally, in a carefully handled ceremony, the new site is called the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Did you know that was on the cards? I didn't - and I know the area well and follow the news pretty carefully. Was there consultation on the name?

Govan is an ancient settlement. You only have to look at the stones preserved in Govan Old Parish Church to see that. The village has thrown up some remarkable people. If we'd been asked for a name for the hospital, we could have suggested:

The Dr John Aitken Hospital: this doctor was a tremendously important figure, a Victorian doctor who championed the good health of Govan people, especially workers in local industry. He died young and was felt to be so important a water fountain was erected in his memory at Govan Cross.

Or we could have had the Mary Barbour Hospital. Mrs Barbour was a councillor, a socialist who led the rent strikes during World War 1 when slum landlords tried to take advantage of the absence of the men at the front to hike the rents up and then tried to evict the families who couldn't pay. Mrs Barbour and her women won that battle and she went on to champion the cause of working class people, till her death at the age of 83 - in the Southern General Hospital. 

This is never going to be the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. If we can't have it named after one of the champions of working people in the Govan area, we'll just keep right on calling it the Southern General. But there was an opportunity here for the NHS to do the right thing. And sadly, management yet again have f*cked it up. 

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Oil and all that

How much oil is there still in the North Sea? When will it run out? I don’t know. You probably don’t know. Possibly nobody knows. But UK newspapers were full of articles a couple of weeks back arguing that there is less oil than previously thought and it will not only bring in less cash than we believed but it will run out sooner.

Interestingly, the other thing that happened that week that got loads and loads of media attention was the arrival of 56 SNP members of parliament at Westminster. If you only read the Daily Mail, you’d be forgiven for seeing these 56 as a demented horde of Glasgow street urchins, racing round the sacred halls yelling and brandishing weapons rather than the fairly dull gang of QCs, doctors, councilors, middle managers and TV journalists they actually are. The media have really struggled to find anyone among the 56 worth getting worked up about. There’s been mention of Chris Law. He has a ponytail! And there’s Mhairi Black. She’s young!

So are the oil and the arrival of the new MPs events connected?

Well, they are in the media. And I smell a rat. A media rat. Feed the media rat any kind of claptrap and tosh and, if there’s a decent front page headline to be had, they’ll print it or give it air time on the radio and the telly. Somebody fed the media rat a whole load of nonsense about North Sea oil, most of it inaccurate and very little of it verifiable. And none of it dealing with the real issues around energy.

And those issues are – in my opinion:
Oil exploration is going on all the time. The oil companies are currently exploring the area north and west of Shetland. As the technology continues to improve, the oil companies will go into ever deeper water. The oil we already know is in the Atlantic will be at our disposal.

But I’m a member of the Green Party and we say we’re at a point when we should stop exploring for new oil and start moving over to alternative energy sources. There’s evidence now that fracking is costly and not just in money terms: there’s a risk of polluting the water table, even of causing earthquakes. And like the oil, shale gas will eventually run out.

But that’s not what we’re being told in this story. The media go banging on about North Sea oil bringing in less money, not for financial reasons but for political reasons. According to the media, the SNP depend on oil money to create the picture of a wealthy independent Scotland. The SNP says it has never said this. But since 34 out of 35 newspapers are anti-independence and – I would venture to say – both BBC and ITV follows the unionist line, it’s unlikely you’re going to get much publicity for any alternative view.

So here’s my prediction for the next few months: this story is just one example of media anti-independence bias. The next time the SNP or the Scottish Government announces good news, expect a very negative story to hit the media. And all we can do up here is keep plugging away on the outlets available to us: keep reading Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland, the remaining Yes sites on Facebook – and, of course, The National and The Sunday Herald. And if you’re a member of the SNP and the Greens, keep reading the party websites.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Power to the people!

What's the difference between this:

and this?

Well, the first one has been around for a long time. It marches across beautiful landscapes right across Scotland. In fact, there's even one on a roundabout smack dab in the middle of a Kilmarnock housing scheme. I've never worked out if the pylon or the people were there first but it looks odd just sitting there. We've had to live with these monstrosities for so long, nobody sees pylons any more. If we notice them at all, we probably think: power lines. And we need power lines, right? 

The wind turbine is a different matter. Wind turbines are new. Opinion is divided with some people getting very worked up about how awful they look. Not to mention how they sound. Myself, I don't mind them. I've been to Whitelees and I think it's okay: it's got a bike track, offers educational opportunities to local schools, gives tours on a wee bus, has a tearoom - and the turbines look pretty cool. The wind turbine is pretty good advert for alternative energy, which we will have to embrace whether we want to or not. Donald Trump says wind turbines are why our taxes are so high. I don't get that one, but Donald probably has shares in the fracking industry anyway so who cares what he thinks? 

Whenever something new hits Scotland, I sigh because I know what comes next: the Scottish Parliament ten years ago was a shocking monstrosity, an appalling waste of money, etc. Now we love it. A terrific landmark. Beautiful building. Iconic. Tourists love it. The Edinburgh trams? Same thing. Give it a few years and they will be loved too. The new Firth of Forth crossing, the Falkirk Wheel..the Kelpies seem to be about the only thing everybody loves.

I suspect Scotland never used to be like this, afraid of innovation, terrified of change. We used to be proud of big adventurous builds, public statues, daring developments. Not now. 

And moany. Dear gawd, are we moany!When did the Scots turn into a nation of whingers? Nothing pleases us. We host the Commonwealth Games. Bring it in on budget and make it a real success. What do we say? Well done all these volunteers - brilliant! The enthusiasm of the crowds who cheered the athletes on? Do we celebrate that? Not us! A year later, we're moaning there aren't so many people in the east end of Glasgow using the 'legacy' sports facilities. 

I may not live to see Scotland get independence, but I'd sure as hell love us to get off our knees and get back a wee bit of the ambitious thinking that made us famous throughout the world.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The 10-minute job

I'm mid-flitting now. The upstairs bedrooms are packed up. Today was meant to be an easy day, just packing up the bathroom. It was going to be a '10-minute job'. Three hours later, I've just sat down.

Step one: empty the plastic caddy which is going to charity (because I have a nice new bathroom with loadsa storage):

I set up a packing box and got 4 plastic bags and started separating the stuff in the caddy into 4 lots: stuff in use, spare supplies, medicines, stuff to go in the bin. It didn't take long to discover something clear had spilled in the bottom drawer of the caddy. Not really smelly but very, very sticky. It took a while to clean the stuff in the drawer. There were some nice toiletries from Clinique and Occitan that I didn't want to just chuck out. I don't think I've worked out where the goo came from. There's a chance I'll find out yet...

Took the drawer downstairs and washed it out in the kitchen sink. It was so gooey, I ended up using a lot of washing up liquid. Went back upstairs, finished packing the box, labelled it and decided to take the caddy downstairs. A wheel came off halfway down. It took me a while to sort that.

Wiped down the caddy and decided to make a space in the kitchen/diner to store all the stuff that's going to charity. I suddenly realised I was missing a bookcase and a rug. They're still in storage. Checked my diary: they don't come out of storage till the flitting but the charity is booked to uplift the stuff before the flitting. Spent a jolly half hour on the phone trying to rearrange the uplift. I've realised that I have far too many ornaments. Asked on the phone if the charity is in the market for ornaments for its shop. No. They'll take everyday dishes, mugs and glasses for starter homes though. My sister and I can separate them out tomorrow when we pack up the kitchen/diner.

Spent another half hour phoning a couple of charity shops asking if they want some quite nice ornaments, mostly picked up from the Barras and antique shops. They might even be able to sell them on Ebay. One charity wants to come and see them, so I can't pack them yet. I think I might have complicated things here.

Never mind - onward and upward! 11 days till the flitting. Then all I have to do is clean this place up so I get my deposit back and then unpack my stuff in the new flat.

Wine time! Happy Friday, everybody!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Good Gawd in Govan (again)!

I may have mentioned this before. I'm originally from Govan and I volunteer there now. Alex and I deliver books from Elder Park Library to disabled and often housebound people, all of them pensioners. We love it. They appreciate getting a very personal, hands-on service facilitated very ably by Karyl in the Library but Alex and I always say we get more out of talking to these people than they get out of our service.

It's not lost on Alex and me that we are pensioners too, humphing bags of books up and down stairs. We have our own challenges in health terms. For example, my joints are knackered but I'm lucky to be working with Alex who does a lot of the heavy lifting while I do the driving.

It's the people I most love in Govan. It's the way they are treated I most dislike. At the moment, Govan is not in great shape. There have been many upheavals in the last 50 years: loss of industry; loss of community with people being decanted to out-lying housing schemes like Pollok and Castlemilk; a major house building programme that seems to be endless but not joined up; the influx of a very small number of asylum seekers and migrant workers from eastern Europe whose presence discombobulates a lot of the older people (and there are a lot of older people in Govan). And now, just to finish us all off, the new Southern General Hospital has opened. Sorry, I know it has a new name but it's always going to be the Southern - or Suffrin - to us.

Let's talk traffic. The whole of Ibrox has already been re-organised to accommodate football traffic around the Glasgow Rangers Stadium. No right turns between Edmiston Drive and the motorway access at Helen Street to accommodate access to and from the M8 motorway on match days, despite the fact that 13 days out of 14 there is no stadium traffic. Now we are getting a clearway from the city centre over the Squinty Bridge to the new hospital along Govan Road. Roads are being re-aligned, new roundabouts put in, etc. I'm told people in Linthouse have a new game: find the bus stop. They can now walk from Linthouse to Golspie Street before finding one.

The hospital is also getting a 'transport hub,' which involves closing Govan bus station for over 18 months and re-siting it for that period to a point that is just about inaccessible to pedestrians. There are carparks at Govan Cross, but we notice recently they are all full. Could that be the staff of the Southern parking and taking a 10 minute bus trip along the road to their work at the new hospital? Quite likely, because the morons who designed the hospital failed to provide proper parking for staff.

There's also been an outbreak of yellow lines all over Govan. All doublers. And in my opinion quite unnecessary. For instance, Alex and I deliver talking books to a lady who is just about blind right at Govan Cross. Her block of retirement flats has no visitor parking and there's no parking for deliveries anywhere near this or other buildings, one of which is the PI, the Pearce Institute, home to many social agencies including Govan Law Centre. But round the back is a wee lane backing onto a bit of derelict land beside the Clyde. We've parked here for years. It probably takes us 20 minutes once a month to make this delivery. We've noticed in the past a lot of people use this area for similar short-term stays. You can imagine our outrage when we turned into the lane last week and found this:


Like the rest of the vehicles here, Alex and I ignored the double yellows and did our delivery anyway and we will continue to do so. We're not obstructing the clearway along Govan Road. I reckon I could put up a good case if I get caught parking illegally, the most important of which are: we were here before the fancy-shmancy new hospital and the service we provide is just as important. 

Of course, the hospital could buy the derelict land leading down to the Clyde and turn it into a car park. But, as one resident put it to us today: that would be too easy. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Mone, Mone, Mone

Considering she has nothing to do with me and I have no connection with her, I seem to know an awful lot about Michelle the Mone.

I know she has a very posh town house in the Park area of Glasgow, which she is now selling for gazillions of pounds. She also built a laughable mansion in Thorntonhall which extended right to the boundaries of the plot with little space for a garden, so you could see the monstrosity whatever angle you approached from. She had a pretty disastrous marriage break-up, which could be followed all over the press. I won't dwell on that because it must have really upset her kids.

What I'm getting at is that Michelle seems to get loads of publicity for everything she does, the latest being to piss some of us off here in Scotland by claiming that she's leaving because of SNP's trolls. It's not true, of course, just another set of lies for the Daily Mail and the Telegraph to bash the Scots with. You can see the facts for yourself here:

(It's a bit like the seatgate scandal in the house of commons during which nasty SNP MPs bullied a poor wee, old man. That never happened either according to all the people involved, including Dennis Skinner, the aforementioned poor wee old man, if you believe the Daily Mail).

But people in the rest of the UK don't hear anything but the version of these stories told by the right wing press, so why shouldn't they believe the worst of the Scots?

What we don't hear from the press is that Michelle is not that hot as an entrepreneur. She's been close to losing her Ultimo 'empire' a few times and, on one famous occasion, was rescued financially by Sir Tom Hunter, multi-millionaire entrepreneur and not a man known for flinging his cash about. He's probably (if he's wise) still got a grip on her company.

I wish her good luck in London or wherever she settles. I hope never to hear from her again. Till, in the fulness of time, she decides to come 'home', as her kind often do.

As for her name, the loudest and most disruptive child I ever taught was called Blair. Says it all, really.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


I'm too conflicted to deal with Carmichaelgate, so in the time-honoured fashion, I'm just going to dodge the issue altogether in favour of something else. 

I read a couple of weeks ago that women working in Hollywood have been protesting about the number of films and TV shows that appear to glorify the rape, torture and murder of women. I watch a few American shows in the style the French call 'policiers': Gotham, CSI, Criminal Minds, NCIS. I've started watching them with new eyes since I read this. And I have to report there are a few nasty things going around but not that many.

The least awful is NCIS, which is really a comedy vehicle for Michael Weatherly, Mark Harmon and the producer's son-in-law Sean Murray (who proves there's an acting job for everybody but only if they're well-connected). But no violence against women: this has a navy setting so most of the victims are men.

CSI is now just daft, so daft I've starting switching off: the CSIs seem to be doing the work of the cops in this series and even I know that's just never going to happen. Ted Danson can't be so short of cash he needs to lend his name to this, surely? There are a lot of serial killers but the focus is on the investigation stage. There are snaps of bodies on tables in the morgue but always with their bits delicately covered by a towel. 

Criminal Minds does the before/after bit, showing people being stalked by crazies and then the investigation stage. With its resident speed-reading genius and the mouthy computer brainiac, it has pretensions to being clever but it's not. It's also not scary, although there's far too much emphasis on 'home invasion' and 'family annihilation' so the body count can be pretty high. Maybe this appeals to the target audience? 

The daddy of them all is Gotham. A woman popping her own eye out. Another strung up by ropes from the ceiling and having her mouth stuffed with a ball gag. Shootings, stabbings, drownings, kidnappings - all routine and quite often featuring women. The Gotham cops are utterly corrupt and as likely to be murderers as the gangsters. As far as I can see, there are no good guys. Now that I think about it, I don't know why I'm watching this at all. Pretty nasty.

In movies, women have come up with what's called the 'Bechdel Test.' If you want to know if a movie is misogynistic, apply this test: 

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

On that basis, all of the series above fail the test. I suspect most TV does...

Coming back to Carmichaelgate, I am thrilled to read at least one report that mentions a possible conspiracy theory because Lorne Campbell of the BBC and Alistair Carmichael went to the same school, Islay High School. We all know about the Lewis Mafia, but maybe it's time for the good folk of Leodhas  to move over and make way for the Islay Mafia...