Posts Tagged ‘scotland’

Tropical paradise

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 | Travel

Given that I am from The North and Elina is from Finland, we are not hot weather people. Twenty degrees is fine. Twenty-five is roasting. This is the reason that when are looking for holiday destinations, we usually head north.

But it doesn’t work. Everywhere we got turns into a tropical paradise.

This is a photo I took on the Summer Isles…


They’re a small series of islands in Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands. On the west coast. The place where it rains every day. This was in September. It was exhausting climbing to the top of the hill because it was so warm.

Then here is us in Finland. The country where it regularly goes to minus twenty degrees celsius in the winter…


This is just after we had been swimming in the sea. The baltic sea. The one that spends half the year frozen. The day after we went swimming in a few lakes and that was even warmer. We went lake-swimming on our last trip too.

Finally, here is us in Iceland…


Iceland. The country of ice. The clue is in the name! On the right, we’re at the pool in our hotel. It was too warm to sit in for long, so we sat on the decking, that even in the shade was warm enough to sit outside. On the left, the blue lagoon, from which I came home from sunburnt.


Every time we pick a colder and colder country to visit, and every time it ends up being super warm. How does this keep happening?

Why EU fishing quotas are good for Britain

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 | Religion & Politics


Today, Nigel Farage made a big deal about being on the Thames protesting EU fishing quotas. It is a serious issue. So lets pretend for a moment that Nigel Farage genuinely cares about the UK fishing industry, rather than just using this is an opportunity to press his own agenda. We have to pretend because we have the hard evidence to show he does not care, as exemplified by this meme.


That’s right, Nigel Farage was on the EU fisheries committee, but did not bother to turn up much, or vote, or really do anything. But suppose he genuinely did care. Are EU fishing quotas bad for Britain? The answer is no. Here is why.

We need to maintain fish stocks

Fish stocks have become dangerously low. We have quotas in place to stop fish going extinct. This would be bad because if fish disappear then it causes a huge problem for the environment. For example whales need fish to be there to eat. Whereas on the flip side, if fish were not eating their prey, they would cause over-population.

If you are not swayed by the environmental concern, consider that once there are no fish left, we won’t have any fish to eat. For me, that would be rubbish because I really like fish.

Fishing is big business

Are you imagining that the people complaining are small time fishermen who had a little boat to feed their family? To be honest, I was. And some of them are. But the majority of them are not. They’re big business. Here is Dr Chris Hassall from the University of Leeds…

Three large companies own 61% of all fishing quotas. This isn’t about Michael Gove’s father alone on a tiny boat in a stormy sea. This is an industry monopolised by millionaires who are fighting regulation, just like all other industries. Viewed in that light it is completely unsurprising that “Big Fish” has joined Farage, alongside his banker allies.

Fishing quotas help small fisherman compete against Big Fish. Unrestricted, big companies would fish the oceans clean, take all the dividend profits out of their companies and move on with their lives. Meanwhile small fishermen would suddenly find an empty sea, no way to make a living, and no huge profits to fall back on. Creating a sustainable industry is the only way to protect small fishing businesses.

Quotas protect Scottish fisherman

As well as allowing small fishermen to complete with the big corporate fishing, preventing over-fishing also protects those who genuinely do fish to feed their families. In the second episode of River Cottage: Gone Fishing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall travels to the Island of Rona in the Hebredes to meet the island’s caretaker. He feeds his family on the annual mackerel catch. However, each year that gets smaller and smaller. By the time the documentary was made, he had run into a two week draught.

Fishing quota are good for British business

As well as protecting our small fishermen from big business and ensuring we have a sustainable fishing industry going forward, fishing quotas have one further advantage to British business: they open up the opportunity for innovative fish farming to meet consumer demand.

In the same River Cottage: Gone Fishing episode Fearnley travels to the island of North Uist to visit just such a fish farm. The strong currents around the island mean they don’t have to treat for any diseases such as lice and produces excellent-quality fish. It’s a wonderful example of a small British business leading the world in innovation, sustainability and quality.


EU fishing quotas are good for Britain because:

  • They ensure there will still be fish to eat tomorrow
  • They ensure a sustainable industry for the future
  • They protect small fishermen from big fishing companies
  • They open up new opportunities for British entrepreneurs
  • They protect small communities that fish-to-eat from overfishing
  • They protect the environment

The Utopia Experiment

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Books

Dylan Evans is an academic who works on robots with emotions. Or he was until he sold his house, moved himself and a group of volunteers to Scotland and tried to live out an experiment in whether he could survive the apocalypse. Turns out, he couldn’t.

This book really interested me. Unfortunately, there was not that much about the actual experiment in there. It doesn’t even begin until a third of the way into the book and most of the book is about the mental breakdown he had because of it and his subsequent time in hospital.

This in itself is interesting, though. The realisation of what he has done. In the novel, he talks about re-reading The Blank Slate and remembering that people are not the noble savage he hoped they would be when freed from society. That strong leadership is needed. He had even reviewed the book for a newspaper and yet still ignored it when starting his experiment. It is a sobering reminder into the mind’s power to compartmentalise.

He also realised that society is actually really good. You can lead The Good Life if you want to, but there is simply no reason you need to grow your own vegetables and make your toothpaste – the stuff you can get at the supermarket is fine. Better often.

Does this mean that any vision of utopia is dead? Yes. Deal with it.

The Utopia Experiment

Between the Bridge and the River

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Books

Between the Bridge and the River is a novel by Craig Ferguson. Ferguson is an American, but was born in Scotland, and hosts “The Late Late Show” which as you might guess, comes on after “The Late Show”.

The plot is complicated. It follows lots of different characters winding in and out of each other lives. Religious themes are explored extensively throughout the story, generally in quite a satirical light.

Ferguson does that thing that Douglas Adams someones did in taking a meaningless extra from the back of a scene and going into extraordinary detail about their life. If anything, he takes it to a new extreme.

His writing blends a number of different styles. The sex scenes for example are very blunt and matter-of-fact to the point where they could be at home in an Irvine Welsh novel. Whereas at other times we move in and out of the surreal that James Joyce would be proud.

It is a book that I think you really have to commit to to avoid getting half way through and thinking “what is this nonsense?” It all comes together at the end though and forms some kind of coherent story.

Between the Bridge and the River


Saturday, October 11th, 2014 | Books

After careful consideration, I have decided that heroin is not for me.

I had pretty much decided this already, but Irvine Welsh’s graphic depiction of life on skag in Edinburgh confirmed this view. Maybe it is amazing. Maybe you can kick the habit. But having carefully considered it, I have decided that it probably is not worth the risk of ending up lying on a floor, covered in my own sick, injecting junk into your cock because it is the only vein I can find on my body.

The content is horrible. I have read quite a few of the famous war novels, and none of them match up to this. Perhaps it is because life in the trenches is more of an abstract concept whereas having a drug habit, while not being something I have ever done, is far closer to reality.

Plus, it makes for a really good novel.

It was hard going at first as it is written in Scottish English. However it gets easier as you go along.


Star gazing

Monday, September 29th, 2014 | Photos

I decided there was no point taking my 50mm prime lens to Scotland. Then I got there and realised that that was exactly what I needed for photographing the night sky! As it happens, Ullapool puts out a lot of light anyway, so the photos were not amazing. I have seen far better skies in the middle of nowhere. However, it was certainly better than Leeds.




Summer Queen Cruises

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Photos, Travel

While in Ullapool, we took a Summer Queen Cruise to the Summer Isles. I totally recommend it. We saw loads of dolphins. Loads!

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Some awesome scenery too.


And we got some beautiful sunshine in the Summer Isles. We hiked up to the top of the hill and then I ran up to the very top of the island. This is us at the top of the first hill:


Then this is everyone from the very top of the island:


And their view looking up at me:


Scottish independence

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

We were in Scotland for the independence vote. I am not going to claim that we were entirely responsible for the swing back to “no”. But as we all know, correlation does imply causation…

To do this any kind of justice I would have to spend a lot of time planning my thoughts and writing them out. However, having just got back from a week’s holiday and straight into conference season, I don’t have time for that. So here are some briefer thoughts.

On the whole, I was behind the no vote. From a rational perspective, I am not sure that was the right path. Scotland enjoys a large amount of public spending, free prescriptions, free university, etc. If the no campaign is to be believed, it is £1,200 per person. That is a huge subsidy from the English tax payer. Though how reliable those figures are will no doubt be much disputed.

However, from an emotional point of view, it was a shock to see that almost half the people in Scotland dislike me so much, just for being English. It felt like a divorce. I didn’t want our family to be torn apart. Of course the yes campaign would say it is not like that. But it felt like that.

I am also not sure there is much of a difference between the results. We are devolving further powers anyway, so the countries will go their separate ways somewhat, despite being the same country on paper. Of course, there are benefits to this. But also disadvantages. It makes law and business far more complex for example. To give an example that has actually touched my life, charity laws different between England and Scotland for example (and it’s annoying).

There is the possibility that politicians will just go back on the word though. It does not look like they will from the posturing that has happened since the vote. However, it wouldn’t be altogether surprisingly – every politician campaign is full of promises the elected party does not deliver on.

It was interesting that Royal Bank of Scotland said they would move their headquarters to London. However, it probably wouldn’t be that embarrassing for Scotland – Westminster already owns most of it anyway.

One of the biggest advantages of having Scotland remain part of the union is that we have also escaped a decade for Tory governments that would have probably resulted from losing the Scottish labour vote.

Anyway, ramble over.

Ullapool 2014

Friday, September 26th, 2014 | Friends, Life, Photos, Travel

A couple of years ago, Norman charged George and I with planning a suitable celebration of his 30th birthday. So, in February this year, we began planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Seven months and a thousand miles of driving later, and our mission was accomplished.

It is a mission to get to. It took 11 hours to get up there and 10 hours to get back. It was worth the drive though (I say now the back pain has faded). We got incredibly lucky in that we had no rain all week and enjoyed sunshine for most of it. The cruise staff were very keen for me to stress to everyone that I had to use sun cream in the Highlands!

Amazing weather, amazing company and an amazing setting – what more could you possibly want from a holiday?

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The view across the loch. The town on the right is Ullapool.


Norman swimming in the loch. I only made it to the river that ran down beside our house into the loch and that was absolutely freezing.

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Corrieshalloch Gorge. The photos do not do it justice. It is 200 feet deep.


Our beach-side home for the week.

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Best of all, spending a week with seven amazing friends.

Good luck in Glasgow

Monday, January 21st, 2013 | Foundation

After three and a half years of serving on the board of trustees for the Foundation, Gijsbert has stepped down.

He recently accepted a position as a Reader at the University of Glasgow, and as a consequence will be leaving Leeds next month. We would like to thank him for all the work he has done over the years and wish him the best of luck in his new position.