Monthly Archives: April 2012

THESE VOICES MUST BE HEARD!

To me, the opening scenes are very familiar, rolling hills, sheep in fields, peaceful rural locations and ‘sleepy’ towns.

The voice-over begins, “in the countryside everything’s lovely, tranquil – life is good – that’s always how it’s depicted – in fact behind closed doors it can be a completely different story, even in the nicest villages;” and so the initial idyllic mood of video begins to change, and adopts a much darker tone.

Of course I knew the subject matter of this DVD before pressing play, but I still found it quite chilling to hear the stories as they were narrated with familiar Scottish Borders dialects over local scenery that has been my home for over thirty years. The video may only last ten minutes, but so much has been packed into that short space of time.

‘Hear Our Voice’ relates the experiences of four women in the Scottish Borders who have survived domestic abuse. In their own words, they describe the stigma, the shame, the barriers to getting help, and their journeys to recovery.

I found the presentation to be particularly effective, highlighting the fact that we may all see the same scenery, but we certainly don’t all see it through the same eyes. With some harrowing abusive experiences in their lives, the peace and calm of the Scottish Borders can present a bleak and threatening prospect for some. This video aims to give professionals and the wider community clear messages about what can be done to help, support and protect those in our communities who are experiencing domestic abuse and I believe that it achieves this very effectively.

It seeks to answer a number of key questions;

  • Why did I stay?
  • Who’s to blame?
  • How did you leave?
  • Who helped?
  • What should change?

Sensitively filmed and produced by mediaco-op in collaboration with The Scottish Government, SB Safer Communities Partnership and Scottish Borders Council, the DVD includes a very comprehensive thirty four page PDF document that gives advice on how to prepare potential audiences, along with myth-busting facts, useful contacts and much more.

Whilst the package was principally produced with a slant on domestic abuse in the rural Scottish Borders, I can imagine that it may be equally useful in more urban areas – it is just as easy to feel isolated and alone in the centre of a large city.

The absolutely unacceptable scourge of domestic abuse must be tackled head on; the ‘ostrich’ approach of seeking to avoid acknowledging it does nobody any favours, least of all a victim who may be in desperate need of urgent support – and may be a very close neighbour.

I would certainly encourage anybody working to try to support domestic abuse victims and attempting to find ways to rid society of this blight, to explore the possibility of incorporating this excellent resource into their arsenals.

 

If you would like further information about this excellent DVD please contact the Scottish Borders Council Safer Communities Team:

 

Andrea.beavon@scotborders.gsx.gov.uk

or by phone (44)01835 824000


A WEEKEND OF SPORT

It’s been one of these weeks that managed to get me to think about sport. I’m not a particularly avid follower of any particular teams or sports, but certainly appreciate that it forms a major part in the lives of many. I’m definitely not one to eschew competitive sport, and believe that young children have a lot to gain from active participation – learning about team spirit, fair play, losing, and hopefully also winning occasionally. The week seems to have raised a number of contrasts.

  • During the week Ross County became the first ever football team to work their way up from the Highland League to secure a place in the SPL. I’m a great advocate of the underdog so really wlecomed this news.
  • News started to emerge that the SPL are seeking to change their rules regarding the sanctions that should apply to teams that go into administration – it smacks very much of a desperate attempt to enable Glasgow Rangers to avoid being relegated to the Third Division. Sport should really promote fair play and to me it is just wrong to treat Rangers any differently than previous teams that have gone into administration even if doing so does mean a drop in TV revenue for a few years – it is pretty clear to me that potential TV money has probably been a motivator for the dubious practices that have led to the current situation regarding football finances.
  • Despite some hints that the teams might withdraw from the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, the latest indications are that they will decide to go ahead having been assured that sufficient security measures will be put in place to protect them. My problem is that the staging of this race will lend a degree of legitimacy to the Bahrain regime, whose conduct with regard to humans rights remains a cause for concern.

Saturday found me being aware of three major events:

  • The first Scottish Cup semi-final of the weekend saw Hibs beat Aberdeen 2-1, my only real contact with this being pre-match chat on Radio Scotland and a few FaceBook postings following the result.
  • The Grand National; prior to this I had wondered if any bookies would be offering odds on the number of horses that would die as a result of their participation – NOT that I wished to place a bet; I just wondered if there was a recognition that there was a high probability of such deaths. I couldn’t find any quotes but sadly my suspicion that two horses would have to be put down turned out to be the outcome (although at the time of writing this a further two horses are still undergoing treatment as a result of their falls). Earlier in the week I had been listening to ‘Call Kaye’ on Radio Scotland when they had been discussing horse welfare in the Grand National, highlighting the fact that thoroughbred horses now are less robust and less able to cope with jumps than those that had raced in National Hunt previously.
  • The Melrose Sevens was played in sun and hail showers; to my mind, a great example of a ‘feel good’ competition where opposing fans can generally engage in healthy rivalry without any real fear that hateful violence will ensue. I was so pleased when local Borders team Jed Forest won through to face Saracens in the final. To borrow a tired football commentator’s cliché, it was a game of two halves – the first half was very exciting as Jed were first to score and retained the lead until the latter stages. Saracens went into half-time with a small lead, sadly the superior fitness of the professional team showed as Saracens dominated the second half, going on to win by a considerable margin of 50 to 21.

Sunday:

  • On waking I decided to give the Chinese Grand Prix a shot; it was interesting and featured a very fluid battle for for third place in the closing stages. It ended with the first race win for Mercedes since the year I was born, and I was fairly surprised to note only one non-finisher, and that due to a wheel change error during a pit stop rather than a racing incident. I will not be making a point to catch all live races covered by the BBC; whilst being an interesting diversion I realised that much of my enjoyment of previous seasons was reliant on fairly detailed knowledge of the intricacies of teams and technical information gained by closely following every race.
  • The second Scottish Cup semi-final saw Glasgow Celtic pitted against Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian; not being much of a football fan I still found myself drawn to this match as a win by Hearts would result in an all Edinburgh final. I ended up watching most of the match which did nothing to change my view that it is a fairly uninspiring sport. But I do recognise that many disagree with this opinion and I can appreciate the important part the game plays in Scottish society. The final result pleased me as it did see the Glasgow team being beaten; as a result the final on 19th May will be the first time that the two Edinburgh sides will have met in a Scottish Cup final since 1896. Amusingly, post match coverage on Radio Scotland suggested that the match appears to have been dubbed the ‘salt and sauce’ final, in recognition of the preferred option for fish and chips in the Edinburgh area rather than salt and vinegar.
  • New course records were set during the third Brighton Marathon. Included amongst the runners was Tracey McCarthy, running to raise money and awareness for The L Project. This also served to remind me that next Sunday brings the London Marathon.

HARNESS BUT NOT CONTAIN

Last night I watched the first part of Sir Trevor MacDonald’s documentary about his trip up the Mississippi to its source. Much of the episode dealt with the majesty and power of the river and also the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Last week, tornadoes devastated parts of Texas and this morning I found a breaking news item about an 8.9 strength earthquake off the coast of Sumatra that triggered a widespread tsunami alert. All of these things serve to remind me of the wonder of our planet’s weather.

In the UK we frequently complain about our adverse weather but what happens elsewhere in the world really helps to put things into perspective. Nevertheless I was reminded of the potential power of our local weather the other day when looking at a some of the trees that had been blown down on a neighbouring estate. Marchmont House was built in the mid 18th century and that confirms my estimate of the age of one of the massive beech trees that had been brought down as I have a feeling that the trees situated in the park to the front of the house would have been planted around the time of construction. The uprooted beech tree stump that remained after trimming with a chain saw showed clear growth rings and I counted around two hundred and fifty or more. Another gigantic pine tree had also been brought down more recently but the ripped and shattered trunk meant that it was impossible to attempt to count rings. Perhaps in time this too will be trimmed and cleared to allow me to count. I also found it interesting to note that the most recent thirty rings showed much quicker growth than the previous hundred or so which showed very much slower growth seeing as they were so much closer together.

I wonder what tale the growth rings of the trees planted by me last year will tell should they survive as long? We can plant trees but thereafter it is pretty much out of our hands, mother nature takes over; cold and drought will cause very slow growth, whilst heat and ample rain will speed growth. Too cold, too dry or too wet and they might die. In the case of the ancient trees at Marchmont it would seem to be exceptional winds that caused them to topple and pull the roots out of the ground.

Engineers continue to develop ways in which we might harness the elements in order to generate power, a task that grows more urgent as fossil fuel supplies continue to be consumed. Wind farms can be built, but if the wind doesn’t blow, they don’t generate; and too much wind brings its own problems with recent examples of turbines being destroyed by storm force winds. Hydro-electric power is reliable only as long as sufficient rain continues to fall, solar power isn’t particularly reliable if there is heavy cloud cover. I trust that engineers will continue to work to resolve problems and increase efficiency; wave and tidal power generation is always an option for sites around the coast.

Back to New Orleans, much of which lies below river level, something made possible by the construction of many levees – civil engineering that served its purpose well until Katrina showed just how feeble mankind’s efforts to contain the power of nature really are.

As I finish writing this it seems that the exact nature of this morning’s earthquake makes it unlikely that a tsunami will follow and the alert has been lifted – but that outcome was never in the control of mere humans. In the meantime, I’m sure that there will continue to be times when I moan about the terrible weather that we have to contend with here in the UK!

 

 


EASTER SUNDAY IN GREENLAW

I had an idea that what I would ‘give up for Lent’ would be ‘not exercising’, sadly this didn’t quite work out and I continued not exercising! One of the reasons that I stopped serious exercise was when I began to suffer coughing attacks early on in my runs, due to sinus problems, and thought that I would wait until something could be done to reduce the effects of this. Finally, on Easter Sunday I managed to do more than just cycle down to the local shop. I set off thinking that I might complete around two miles up the hill and through the woodland at the top. Once off the main road and onto the forest track I felt good and decided to take a longer route, I continued along the ‘Green Ride’ towards Marchmont House, then returned via the old railway line. I do prefer it when I’m off road, it somehow feels more ‘organic’ when having to negotiate bumps, sticks, mud, stones and puddles. It wasn’t long before a deer bounded across the track in front of me. Later there were squirrels and a variety of birds, but I have seen more wildlife during previous trips.

On returning home my legs were feeling suitably jelly-like – previous knowledge re-assures me that once I start semi-serious exercise after a break, it usually helps to spur me on to continue. So perhaps I will be reporting on more exercise again soon.


SHORTS, SNOW AND A GIANT QUESTION MARK

When I first started this particular blog I wasn’t quite sure how it would develop, it now appears to be turning out to be a record of observations on my daily life. It is now just over a week since my last post; so what have I been up to?

Last week we were basking in record March temperatures of around 23oC and I was enjoying working in the garden in sunscreen, shorts and sleeveless tops. I salvaged another trailer load of timber odds and ends from my friend’s old house and Colleen came over a couple of times to help complete the stage prop that we were making as a surprise for Where’s George’s CD/single launch night. The Sunday before the gig she had asked me if I could make a giant ‘question mark’ with tiny holes in it. It didn’t take me long to turn a previously salvaged panel from her old wardrobe into a six foot tall item before drilling one hundred holes and painting it white. By the time Colleen had waved her ‘magic wand’ over it, we had a wonderfully decorative stage prop decorated with fairy lights, sunflowers, coloured mesh, butterflies, coloured flower patterns and glitter. As we had sat on the grass in the sunshine completing this I remarked on how odd it was to be enjoying such sunny weather whilst the trees were still bare.

On the Friday afternoon we got to the venue ahead of the band and were able to set up the question mark along with some coloured spots and the drum plinth that I had made. The girls appeared to be thrilled. In the evening the gig got under way fairly promptly with a solo acoustic set by Paul Sinclair from local band The Warehouse Announcement. The Where’s George? set was excellent (a more detailed review can be found on my Tumblr page http://dstrachan.tumblr.com/post/20221707084/wheres-george-single-cd-launch-night-once ); the one thing that slightly took the edge off was one group of youngsters in the audience who hadn’t quite worked out how to behave when under the influence of their drink. Whilst not appearing to be deliberately out to cause a serious disturbance they certainly exhibited territory claiming behaviour, pushing their chairs out from the table, making loud noises and flicking beer mats about. As I attempted to film and photograph I did find myself being distracted, regularly glancing across to check that they weren’t seriously interfering with anybody else’s enjoyment of the performance. As many in the hall were ex-students, I suppose that I still felt quite protective of them!

Winnie had set up a jewellery display in the house and invited people to drop in over the weekend; apart from a quick trip to shops on Saturday morning we didn’t stray far on Saturday and Sunday, but only a few people actually did call by.

Monday saw us travelling to Stirling for visits with relatives. After a lovely lunch and a few cups of coffee we were heading back to the Borders, trying to get back home before the threatened deteriorating weather. Getting up on Tuesday morning it was cold and damp but still no sign of the forecast snow. Breakfast news was, however, bringing stories of substantial snow falls further north. Before long snow was falling, a short while later the snow was blowing almost horizontally while the wind whistle noise sounded like the soundtrack from an emergency drama set in the Arctic. With a few inches of snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around 0oC it was hard to believe that we had been experiencing temperatures around 22oC higher less than a week previously.

I have been engaged as a judge again for the next running of Cuillin FM’s ‘Highland Uproar’ music competition, the closing date for that has just passed. Since then I have now listened to around forty entries twice and hope to be able to post my final decisions by the weekend after a third listen. I have also been able to make use of Skype to record an interview with somebody in the USA. Oh and we’ve booked flights and seen initial details of the accommodation that we will be staying in when we go to Lake Garda in July. I’ve also broadcast the first of a series of four recordings that I made with a local Chiropractor, completed the garage clearance for my friend, written a review of the new Tiger lilly album that I had been eagerly anticipating; and am working with a neighbour to try to make arrangements for a fund-raising band evening later in the summer. As I remarked this morning when I met an old friend who asked if I had stopped working, “I’ve just stopped getting paid for working, I seem to be as busy as I ever was when teaching!”

It’s Good Friday today but, one week on, I wouldn’t dream of sitting out on the grass to enjoy putting the finishing touches to any stage props today!