Lost in the woods

Easton Bing towards Glasgow RoadIn London (and I presume in other populous cities) before you can become a licensed taxi driver you have to be tested comprehensively to demonstrate you extensively know your city – or at least its streets that most quickly (if not most cheaply!) take you from the proverbial A to proverbial B. It is known as acquiring The Knowledge.

I don’t live in a city but a town, and usually when I travel I do so in my car, passing through my surroundings in a bubble of air-conditioning, warmth and music. I am paying attention to the road, at least subconsciously, and very little heed to the people and places passing me by. Additionally I am likely driving the same tested and trusted routes to my usual destinations.

Of late though out of a desire to add some healthy routine to my sedentary lifestyle I have begun walking. I had tried returning to mid-distance running of my teenage years as an activity I enjoyed and did well at but those years did not want anything to do with  me – running now gave me a pounding headache instead – so I then decided by way of a more gentle return to exercise that I would walk, and a minimum thirty minutes per day.

Easton Bing WoodsOn my walks I often take music though I don’t always listen to it – nature’s soundtrack is often as preferred. But if I am listening to music I use it has a time measurement too, usually walking for about five songs in any direction before turning around and heading home.

And I discovered that walking, by slowing me down, caused me to be taken in by the world around me. I also discovered how little I knew of my town, of my closest neighbourhood, even the long and winding street that I live on.

Usually if I am walking not driving it is still with some purpose – to the Post Office or Grocery store to do the things you usually do in those places! Again I am not paying too much attention to the world beyond my peripheral vision. Whereas walking for the sake of walking and I start to take note and notice of what is going on, and not going on, in my town.

And last week about three songs from my home I came upon a stile-entrance to some woodland which ordinarily I would cast a cursory glance at and move on but here decided I would take up its invite. Once in I quickly forgot about my thirty-minute time-frame wanting to see which part of town the other side of this wood would take me too.

I was in a part of my town only those with The Knowledge or A Knowledge would have – those being not just school-age children but all-ages children – part-time pondering poets, wandering wondering writers, perambulating prevaricating philosophers, sauntering seeking singers, ambling angling artists, and other such vagrants, and was surprised therefore to come upon a sign-post.

This signpost.

Easton Bing signpostIt was not as if I were in deep woodland. These trees I was moving among were skirting a housing-estate, their houses could still be seen through the trees. Traffic on both Glasgow and Easton Road (where I had entered the woods from) could still be heard. I could not get lost even if I wanted to. Yet there it was, a sign-post.

Whose ideas was this?

It would have been erected by our local council, West Lothian – perhaps in a particular year they had run a surplus and having sign-posted the roads and pavements to death it was decided that untended nature would be next.

The only sign that was mysterious was Easton Bing. You might know Bing as that old guy who you hear on the radio about this time of year serenading White Christmas. Likely too you know Bing as Microsoft’s attempt to cash in on Google’s search-engine territory. But in Scots parlance it is a term for waste, more specifically mining waste.

But I was pretty sure it was just the route to take me deeper into the woods. So perhaps upon this mining waste trees were planted and this wood grew. When and if that is even possible I do not know. I could find out but for now I like to continue to speculate.

Perhaps had I ventured into it I would have encountered not just further sign-posts but a Woodland Wi-Fi area run by squirrels and have been accosted by boot-shining badgers and  busking deers.

Easton Bing

What lies beyond?!

Now I have written that I will have to go back and find out!

Winter from my Window…

Five weeks ago I posted a photograph of the autumnal view from my window calling it ‘Autumn from my Window‘ – I was proud of that title!

And you liked it, well WordPress Liked it – twelve of you to be precise. Thank you one and all. Though that is twelve more than my more regular writing posts and I took those 12 Likes as more a denigratory comment on my writing skills than a complimentary one on my photographing skills!

In passing I noted that if I were so minded I ought to take the same picture each day – I am quite sure then those twelve Likes would soon dissolve back to zero but at least you could admire my single-mindedness if give it a wide enough berth.

Well anyway I did not commit myself to that but I thought I would share with you the view from that same window today by way of a now and then, if then being a mere five weeks ago.

I would have preferred that nature had not sprinkled the scene with Christmas dust, and that you could see the trees as wintry stark stoic statement. And perhaps another day I may post that too.

I have tried to recreate the view angle to the best of my abilities and what has not changed is the presence of sunshine, hence my Elizabeth Fraser inspired title!

Autumn from my kitchen window


Not Yet Sunburst and snowblind

Not Yet Sunburst and snowblind

Autumn from my Window…

I have decided to blog a photograph. I have no illusions about professional and or art photography, I am but an happy amateur. And do not plan to regularly post photographs either – writing is still my main mistress of which I am ever loyal etc etc.

But having posted it to both Twitter and Facebook without awe and to Pinterest without ‘aww’ I thought I would see if I could match that sequence of indifference here.

Though I have said I plan no further such digital camera snapping shots I did consider that I could take a picture of the same spot each day at the same time each day too which may even then come to be considered in some quarters as something very nearly art, or at least an artistic enterprise. But the  organisation and discipline involved in such a project dissuaded me – in other words I could not be arsed.

The picture naturally needed a name – a throwaway name for a throwaway picture was perhaps called for but a shortlist arose in me.

  • Autumn from my window
  • Autumn from my kitchen window
  • Autumn from my kitchen window at half-past-two on a Wednesday afternoon
  • So that the view from Sam Flowers’ first-floor kitchen window could be seen by the world and thus that world not be so bereaved of its otherwise absence
  • Everything changes, everything remains the same
  • The futility of railing against the futility of being
  • Trees

    Autumn from my kitchen window - Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland


West Lothian Question – and the answer is…

The West Lothian Question had been better named the West Lothian Conundrum? So long as its question remain unanswered, even unaddressed. The West Lothian question still waiting for a Westminster answer.

Tam Dalyell

Tam Dalyell

The House of Lords can process a bill through parliament at snails pace – for but one example the current Lords Reform Bill. All bills get three readings and between the second and third readings there is Committee Stage and a Report Stage. And then this same process gets repeated again in the other house! Then there is a Consideration of Amendments before Royal Ascent. And you might think the amount of time on legislation is less about ensuring it is thorough and well-thought out and more about seeing it never makes the light of day.

The aforementioned Lords Reform Bill received its second reading in the Lords on December 3 last year. And what date was set for the Committee Stage? October 21 this year – really! Even Franz Kafka would raise an incredulous eye-brow to that!

And it is hardly like Turkeys voting for Christmas – the changes to appointments of Lords envisioned in it are nothing to the more wholesale changes proposed earlier this year by our Much Unloved Deputy Prime Minister.

Franz Kafka

Kafkaesque trial…

And this stifled progress is as nothing compared with that made by the West Lothian Question.

For those of you who do not know what this question is let alone its answer, it is the situation where in effect Members of Parliament from constituencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can vote on legislation effecting the constituencies of England but which same legislation has no effect in their own constituencies due to the devolved local powers of these three nations.

The West Lothian Question (and I think the question merits a capitalized Q!) is not a widely known question – much more constitutionally obscure than it ought to be and I am only aware of it myself, as aside from being a bit of a political nerd, am also a West Lothian constituent.

Nevertheless it is not just because of the powers devolved under the last Labour led British Parliaments to the Scottish Holyrood Parliament and Welsh & Northern Irish Assemblies that this question has arisen. It actually first became an issue following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 – remember it?! – which had the effect of devolving some British powers to local Scottish government.

It is so called because it was raised by a West Lothian Labour Member – and the Ulster Unionist Member responding to his speech by saying ‘We have finally grasped what the Honourable Member for West Lothian is getting at. Let us call it the West Lothian Question’. And this Ulster Unionist Member was? Enoch Powell!

The issue was raised back in 1977, back when God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols was kept off the number one spot in the year of the present Queen’s Jubilee, by the then West Lothian Member Tam Dalyell – there is not even a West Lothian political constituency any more! – having deceased in 1983 to be replaced by Livingston and Linlithgow respectively. And Tam Dalyell himself in this period became Father of the House before retiring from Parliament in 2005. Well 28 years was just too short a time to expect an answer.

Ken Clarke

Ken Clarke

Finally though a commission has been agreed to examine the West Lothian Question. And it was agreed in September of this year – again like a previous post I cannot resist to say ‘I am not making this up’!

Some of this protracted delay might be because some of the solutions would be very significant indeed such as the establishment of an English Parliament and perhaps an over-reaching British Federal Structure.

Or conversely abolishing all the devolved bodies altogether – and the latter is definitely not going to happen!

Last I heard Kenneth Clarke had set up a Democracy Taskforce (!) charged by the Prime Minister in well not exactly solving the West Lothian Question but producing a report on it. The report was completed and proposed a compromise technical solution where Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish MP’s would be involved in the first and second readings of laws pertaining to England but not the third and final reading.

I am not sure whether I think this is a reasonable solution or just another semi-pragmatic fudge.

Perhaps the West Lothian Question will be Question Resolved by the end of this current parliament? Perhaps!