Hope for a new year?

It’s over a year since I wrote a blog. Not a good  year, I have to admit, but we have all been through hell and high-water, not just with the physical effects of Covid, but the mental and social aspects of life and relationships due to isolation and fear. I have a faith, however, that we as individuals and as a society can and will see this through. I wrote my first piece of music in 10 years just a few weeks ago, and feel that this might be a time of change….so here’s hoping…..

A hidden corner of Perth

The National Trust of Scotland is responsible for many sites in Scotland. Some are Castles, some are country Houses, there are beaches, wild areas, mountains, old tenement buildings…..a wonderfully-eclectic group.

With being members for many years, wife and I have visited most of the easily-available ones, but some have escaped our visits for various reasons.

One such was Branklyn Garden in Perth, in the fair county of Perthshire. Unlike many other properties, this was developed as a small garden (less than two acres) by a lovely couple, Dorothy and John Renton, who, in 1922, had bought a bit of an overgrown apple orchard, upon which they built their Arts- and-Crafts-inspired house. A few years later they took on more of the orchard to allow them to develop the present garden.

Right at the start I have to say that it is well hidden away, and the car park is a walk away down a narrow steep tree-lined street. We made the mistake of buying a lot of items, forgetting I had to walk up to the car park and bring it down to briefly stop to put purchases, and wife, into the car!

Fortunately, parking for those with a disabled badge is available right beside the little Reception/Shop


I have reported elsewhere on my involvement in a research project involving those who have a history of dementia in their family, and who have inherited a gene which is associated with dementia.

I fell into both those categories when examined in the Glasgow Memory Clinic in 2018, and was put on to a world-wide 8 year research project where we were given either a placebo, a low-dosage, or an expected dosage of a drug being investigated by the manufacturer/sponsor of the project.

No-one, except the manufacturer, knew who was on which treatment regime, so we did not know what to expect, from the mental tests which were carried-out on my grey matter on a very regular basis. This was accompanied by continuing thorough investigations into my medical condition, for which I was very thankful. I was treated as a healthy volunteer, which was encouraging.

I had enquired about what would happen if there was a finding world wide that those who had been anonymously on the ‘expected-dosage’ regime, were showing measurable improvement in their mental capacity. Since my investigating doctors did not know what my ‘regime’ was, they could not use their local findings to predict what was or was not likely to occur in my specific case.

Then came the phone call to call-back one of the research doctors, whom I knew well. ‘Cease medication’ was what I was told. Having trained in physics, I always had an enquiring mind, and immediately asked for the reason. I will, of course, have a full medical checkup in the near future, and will at that time have further access to the reasoning. Sufficient to say that it appears that an adverse effect had been noticed world wide in those who had been on the full-dosage regime, so all further supplies of the drugs, tests, and assessments were ceasing.

I may or may not be informed of my particular scenario, and any results they may have noticed in my cerebral responses over the time I was involved.

Whatever happens, I am disapponted that the pharmaceutical company, like several others would seem to have gone up a blind alley in the theory of dementia, or that the medication needs to be re-worked. I am also sorry for those on the project who have shown a marked decline in ability, and have been the reason for the cessation of the project. Finally I am sorry from a personal point of view, in that I felt that I was helping in some small way, to repay the pharmaceutical chemists who have helped keep my family as fit and healthy as they have been.

Should any other useful comments emerge, J will of course, pass them on.

Would I rejoin a similar project? Most certainly! If we are not prepared to make an effort to improve the lot of those who may end up with this kind of distressing condition, what kind of humans are we?

The luck of life

It’s been some time since I have attempted to amuse/entertain/inform/persuade/cajole fellow-bloggers with a posting here. I left you in the middle of Alaska when we were on a marvellous cruise trip from and to Vancouver. It was great and we arrived back home to get on with our semi-retirement, and to sort out the hours of video and hundreds of photos to recount the happy times.

………..and suddenly the news brought us news and photos of a liner beached just off Tuscany (a favourite spot of ours) and the loss of life, injury and terror involved. Whatever happened or caused it to happen may eventually be explained but things for those people involved will never be the same again.

How many times have we gone down a road where there had been a recent fatality, got on a plane after one of the same types had just crashed, or feared to get on a Pendolino train knowing what happened recently on the Edinburgh/London express?

I know that statistically travel is safer than it has ever been, and vast numbers of people traverse the roads, sea and sky of this earth of ours in perfect safety, but let us remember in our hearts those who set out on a journey and never arrived.j

Natural and Man-Made Beauty on the Danube

Since we retired, cruising seems to have become part of our annual holiday ritual. Lady of the House persuaded me to participate in an Alaskan Cruise for our retirement present to each other, a few years ago in 1992

Now, even the worst student of world geography knows that Alaska, and Scotland, which is my domicile, are not exactly close neighbours and any journey between one and t’other will require a considerable amount of sitting in a metal tube, many miles in the atmosphere for a considerable time, being bored out of one’s mind.

And so it was, in xxxx

I remember it well……maybe!

A few days ago, my Good Lady, and I had a lazy day out. We didn’t do very much, sat about, drank a lot of coffee, Kath had a chance to catch up with reading the Glasgow Herald, and we ate gorgeous sandwiches, chatted with a number of lovely people, had a lot of mental stimulation, discussed things with knowledgeable professionals, and came away with smiles on our faces.

And where did this occur? In a modern building in the Todd Campus on the northern leafy outskirts of Glasgow. And why were we there? We were meeting yet again with medics and medical staff who work within the Glasgow Memory Clinic.

My memory during most of my life has always caused me some problems in studying, which means that I could rarely simply memorise lists of numbers or formulae, which precluded chemistry being of great interest. Luckily physics provided the opportunity to study and understand something which I loved and could imagine.

When we had our professional practice, I could remember well the medical details of each of our clients, but found it difficult remembering names ,and sometimes, faces. Luckily, however it did not influence how well we were able to work with them.

Anyway, on into retirement, and Kath felt that we should investigate the future as my mother had dementia of some form and began to behave irrationally in the last years of her life…. distressing to see……

Following failure to be accepted into a project in 2014, a new long-term project was notified to me, last year, and this needed to know whether I might have inherited an increased risk of developing Altzheimers over the general population…..and we ALL have a statistical risk of developing some form of dementia.

Much discussion took place, and psychological advice given to both of us about the affect of having a DNA test, and being informed of the result. However we both decided that we had to know! The tests were carried out and the genes revealed that I have one gene which has been shown to be associated with dementia.

So I am now part of an 8 year project where all those involved are treated with either a placebo, a low drug dose, or an ‘expected-level’ drug, which has been approved for such investigation. We will all be constantly monitored and results drawn from the investigations.

Do I know what medication I am taking…..no, and neither do my doctors, or nurses who are dealing with it all. But this is my contribution to the society which has protected me and my family for all these years.

So, I am enjoying being looked-after, and was told today, that I am operating at a high level of cognative function, doing very well in all physical medical, and psychological tests thrown at me. That is why we had smiles on our faces!!!

Recycling? Is it really efficient?

Some years ago, in the mid 1970s, one of the great themes in the worldwide ecology debate was the slogan… ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’……a slogan which is think was, and is, brilliant and succinct

The idea seemed extremely sensible as we appeared to be consuming the world’s goods at a horrendous rate

…….. perhaps we could ‘do without’ occasionally. In other words…so we would use a lot less of our dwindling material resources, as the world is not infinite.

…… If we could find some other uses for the items, we might double or even treble the lifetime for which the item could be used

…….and only lastly, when no further use could be contemplated, it could go in a recycle box. It was then out of our hands, and we would have played a part in the three stages.

This, however, requires us returning a couple of generations in our thinking……..we have to learn that just because something is heavily advertised, it is not absolutely essential that we go out and buy one……..we have to be more knowledgeable and inventive in our attitude to repairing, modifying and adapting items for re-use in some other guise……….and thirdly we have to be able to recycle (in an economic way) those items which cannot be reused in any other way.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century…………and how far are we on in the crusade to ‘Reduce, Re-use, and Re-cycle’ ? Frankly I don’t think we are much better! But let’s look at it all in a bit more detail……


  1. Watching people in supermarket check-outs shows me we are purchasing more than we used-to. Food is certainly a necessity, but we are eating more than we ever did, as obesity remains high on the list of medics’ concerns.
  2. Continuing persuasion, by marketing folk, to get the ‘very latest’ tech gadgets, furniture, clothes, mobile phones, and holidays etc from larger and larger stores, at lower and lower prices has been evident and shortened the life-time, and reduced the ‘valuation’ of almost everything we own.
  3. So we are consuming more, of everything, we are travelling more miles on our way to exotic locations for holidays. I know of no areas where we are consuming less. Economic growth seems to be all important to the good of the country, but not of the world.
  4. Regarding packaging….When I was young, I remember my mother opening her carry-ing bag , to allow the grocer to put in loads of potatoes, carrots etc, followed by beautifully-wrapped chunks of cheese, fish, and meat, and this worked well. The bag was reused many times, and some of the greaseproof paper may have wrapped my lunch-piece, and ended up helping to light the fire. The use of more-complicated wrapping materials has caused a problem As much cannot be recycled.
  5. As far as repairing and re-using items, we in the West are not particularly good as doing this, whilst less-developed civilisations are much better. We have lost many of the skills which our parents had, for self-sufficiency and rarely is something repaired. It us almost impossible to get a cooker, fridge or washing machine repaired, as the tradesmen often suggest that it is cheaper for you to buy a new one than repair it.
  6. And finally, recycling may recover some of the materials, but cannot regain the energy used in the manufacture of the original product. So we really have only one option……buy fewer things, repair, and then, and only then see if there is a proper re-cycling programme available, and not just a massive skip of mixed stuff…

So maybe it IS time to rethink our attitude to usage of what is, after all, a finite resource. The future generations will condemn us, and rightly so, for this inordinate consumption, and the way in which we dispose of our waste into the oceans, and landfill……oh, dear, what a mess we are in…..

Back across the Pond…..Day 12


Unhappy in Heathrow, and home….

I have posted before on the problems of having a wife who has a serious addiction problem. Well, it’s not serious but she has had this need for many years. So when she spotted the availability in Boston Logan Airport, she had to have it, whatever the cost. I refer, of course, to cinnamon-flavoured maple syrup, and it was purchased in the area after security and was put in a labelled bag, so joy was in the air as we boarded for our overnight flight to Heathrow. We slept reasonably well but were still mentally in the middle of the night when we put our watches five hours forward on arrival.

Arriving at any airport in the best frame of mind is not a bundle of fun, but after a numbers of hours in a totally-alien environment, and suddenly being herded like cattle is not a great welcome. To cut a long story short, the aforementioned purchase was scanned through the x-ray, removed from the bag in which it was packed by the shop, and Lady was told that since it had not been packed ‘properly’ that it could not be allowed into the country, and it would be confiscated and destroyed!

Quite unbelievable! It could only have been bought in the shop, and we had the receipt, US security was happy, but for some reason, a cantankerous (lady) officer had decided to have a go at a couple of tired old people. In retrospect we should have asked for a receipt, but you do not think clearly at 6am….after a few hours of sleep. Then they went through our hand- luggage with a fine tooth comb, with the result that most of my stuff ended on the floor and my passport was temporarily mislaid.

So we got to our next departure pier for our journey to Glasgow. The four legs of our total holiday had been  booked through British Airways, so that we could enjoy the good service and leg-room. However this leg was handled by some company called Jet-Time in a rather tatty plane with a not very-exciting snack, and cockpit staff speaking in a thick foreign accent which I could not understand. So I was not a happy bunny. I made my feelings clear in the after-flight e-mail request we received from a marketing company, on behalf of BA)but no response from the airline has been received to date.

The Hudson News shop at Logan Airport accepted our story and graciously have sent us US currency to the value of the syrup…so we will now have to go back to there to get some more syrup! As to the payment for the non-booked first night in Canada, we are still awaiting resolution with the Travel Agent which we have used over many years. All a bit of a disappointing end to what had otherwise been a great adventure.

Would we go back to that part of Canada again….definitely…lovely scenery, lovely people. Would we go through Heathrow……definitely NO……especially now that a third runway is to be built!








Over the Pond and far away…Day 11


Boston, and coming home….

And so we had come to the last day of our holiday before returning home, but we were not sitting-back. We wanted to savour every last moment. So down to breakfast early for cereal, juice, coffee and you’ve guessed it….waffles and strawberries and cream.  I can’t say I would want the latter at the table EVERY morning, but it WAS nice for a short time!

I knew that the hotel was quite close to the Charles River, but I didn’t realise how close. The interesting thing when you ask anyone local, how far some destination is, the reply is always measured in ‘blocks’, and not in metres or yards or parts of a mile…which is probably more sensible when you think of it!

Copley to Charles River.jpg

Only a few blocks north took us through tree-lined streets to the beautiful Embankment to let us see a load of lovely buildings on the other side of the river…..

….and wild life and friendly malamute dogs….

Our last chance to record images was when we went to have lunch in one of the leafy and delightful streets nearby… we managed to bypass the Sugar Heaven and moved-on to……Sonsie

For those who might find this of interest, we ate in the Sonsie Bistro in Newbury Street. (for your useless interest, Sonsie is a Scottish word which means ‘lovely’ in Scotland). The shared pizza and salad, with a rather strange but perfectly-pleasant beer sufficed, and so we went back to the hotel for luggage, and had an uneventful trip to Logan Airport.

The British Airways 747-400 monstrously-large plane was to be our carriage taking us to London. A perfectly-pleasant meal, a blanket, dimmed lights, and Fawlty Towers saw us lulled into sleep, and when we were gently wakened, on the approach to Heathrow, we had to move our watches on by 5 hours…..but I can’t say that my brain had completely moved forward  five hours.

And so we were welcomed to Happy Heathrow (not)……


Over the Pond and far away….Day 10


Bootiful, booming, Boston……..

Sport is not my most knowledgeable of favourite subject, and American sport even less, but I think most folk at some time have heard of the RED SOX baseball team, hence the header photo…..but more of this later…

We slept well and whilst we had considered going out to find somewhere for breakfast, the smell of coffee, croissants, cookies and waffles was slightly stronger, so we conceded and headed for the restaurant. For me, a simple omelette would suffice, whilst Lady felt a croissant would satisfy her dietary requirements.

On both counts we were caught-out. My omelette came not just as a couple of fluffed-up eggs but with a large amount of fried potato chunks and salad….FOR BREAKFAST!!!  And Lady admits she was almost defeated by her ‘croissant’ which was cooked like French Toast, and served with fried potato and a relish of some kind! I suppose it takes all sorts!

However we were heading out to fulfil the reason for our visit to Boston…..a trip into the country-side to see some spectacular Autumn foliage. I had booked one with Grayline Coaches, with a handy pick-up point; outside the Fairmont Hotel in Copley Square. We were there in plenty of time, in the rain, at a layby where coaches, buses, and trolley buses were all coming and going. But no sign of a Grayline! I didn’t know phone codes to call them so we were helpless! Meanwhile we had the chance to look round at the marvellous buildings in the Square..

—–even on a miserable day it was certainly splendid.

Pick-up time had passed and enquiries to all the coach drivers had drawn a blank. I went over to speak with staff outside the Fairmont Hotel to be told that it had gone some time ago….from the ‘other’ frontage, around the corner! Oh, Dear!! So back to the Lenox, where the front of house staff contacted the company on our behalf. They did agree to give us back half of the total cost.

So what to do? Decided a Trolley City Tour would let us see a lot in a short time. Off to the Marriott (we travel in exalted circles, you know) to get the tickets, and back to Copley Square, to get our Trolley, and you certainly could not miss it! So off we set……

This was where the RED SOX photo comes into play, because it was evident that our driver was a keen RED SOX supporter, and he rattled-off the current team and stars from the past. So for my friends who are interested in these things, this photo might be of interest.


No, I was more interested after we crossed the Charles River to the hallowed courts of Harvard University and MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With my physics background, MIT was hallowed ground, and any mention of it, in the CV of a writer of a research paper or article meant it had to be taken seriously. Unfortunately I only got one photo as he sped through.


Back over the river again, passing a large group of pink-clad ladies walking for charity…a world-wide phenomenon. Then it was time to hop-off at Boston Common, at the State House, a wonderfully-impressive building.


This was a real breathing-space in a busy city, and looked to be well-used, but again it was clean and neat, with no litter, chewing gum, cigarette ends or over-flowing bins. Squirrels were around in numbers and the trees were starting to show us some of the colours we came to see…

I was also intrigued by the delicacies available at the café in the centre of the park, if you like that kind of thing….

I think I was always ‘against’ skyscrapers and how they might dominate the people-scape, and I still that that is so where they were added to a city design which was based on narrow streets and two-or-three storey buildings. But when I saw the wide avenues of Boston and the apartments and office blocks, they seemed ‘just right’….

So that was a pleasant time, but a hop-back-on to the trolley took us to a place well-mentioned in the literature on Boston…Quincy’s Market. It is, as you imagine, a gathering of small boutique places which women love to frequent to find that ‘special present’ or accessory. It is a wonderful place for a rainy day as you can pop-in or out of shops below ground, or on ground level, as well as being entertained by street shows, or join in the chess.

So much choice in eating places….so where to go for lunch? Where else but the Japanese Restaurant Wagamama? Chilli chicken ramen was a super, rather spicy stew full of noodles, and obviously chicken, and was quite enough to satiate the inner man or lady along with the beer!

Lady then insisted that we look-for, and acquire samples of the usual fridge-magnets, and coasters etc, without which no holiday is complete! Well-worth  a re-visit to see what valuable trinkets we missed  first time. And so back to the trolley and  eventually returned to Copley Square. By this time, feet were tired and body required a snooze. So I must have succumbed, but I don’t remember as I was obviously asleep!

Having dined so well at Wagamama, it did not seem necessary to eat much more, so we simply went out locally to have a typical Canadian meal for our last evening…and Pret a Manger took Lady’s fancy so there we went and dined adequately. Walking back to the hotel let me get a few shots of night-time Boston and the steam coming from the sewers, and often seen in films.

We also met a couple of Red Sox supporters on the streets, and had a chat. They had lost their match but there was no annoyance in their voice, they were perfectly sanguine about the score and saluted their opponents. Good for them, and an example to supporters throughout  the UK….and so to bed, as Samuel Pepys would have said…..