Friday, 26 July 2013

A break from politics...

And an excerpt from the scintillating (no really, it is) latest short eTravelogue - 'On Arran'.

Praise from one happy reader (who is definitely not - repeat not - known to me nor was on the trip and using his Mum's Amazon account to leave a BBC-esque biased review.)

Paul Brown is the master of the modern tangent, allowing him to fill a highly entertaining, informative and funny book using the events of a trip on which very little actually happened. It's the ideal companion for a short trip to the lovely Isle of Arran, but if you don't feel like committing yourself to the journey you can always look through the places mentioned via Google Earth.

A very intelligent and well-written follow-up to The Great Glen Way, it shouldn't be too long until people are paying Brown to go places in order for him to write on them.

Here goes...

Coming off the ferry and on to the A841, the road which circumnavigates the isle, we turned left for Lamlash and the small settlement of Cordon just beyond, which would be our base for the duration. The road climbs inland over Clauchland point then descends into Lamlash and Margnaheglish villages with the arresting sight that is Holy Isle out in Lamlash Bay.

Digressing slightly, Holy Isle is home to the Centre for World Peace and Health - a Buddhist retreat which offers courses and accommodation for the hard core spiritualist, or for those who just want some peace and quiet. If you decide to stay, you do need to abide by the Five Golden Rules which are as follows:

To respect life and refrain from killing. (Fair enough.)

To respect other people's property and refrain from stealing. (Again, quite reasonable.)

To speak the truth and refrain from lying. (Ok, although there may be ramifications for the next rule.)

To encourage health and refrain from intoxicants, including alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. (See above.)

To respect others and refrain from sexual activity that causes harm. (An interesting twist on the 7th Scout Law: A Scout has self-respect and respect for others. Perhaps the Scout Association should adopt the final Golden Rule as its new 7th Law?)

The Scout Association generally won't accept that young people have sex, drink or use intoxicating substance. Official guidance for leaders if asked by a young person for advice or information is - give them a list of other people to ask.

I think even I could cope with these rules, anyone who has stayed in a Youth Hostel will know the true meaning of 'rules'; the Centre for World Peace and Health sounds like a blast compared to one of those gulags. Let me share an example with you now, while staying in a Youth Hostel in Glencoe, signs in the bedrooms read "Bed linen must be used on bunks, any sleeping bags found in rooms will be removed." Now I know why the sign was there, they didn't want sweaty Germans soiling the mattresses plus; it costs money to launder the bed packs we were given on arrival, (it actually felt a bit like going to prison and being handed our prison clothes; but never mind.) The point is, they didn't want to have to wash linen packs which hadn't been used and they felt people wouldn't be adequately insulated from the rubber mattress by the thick, zipped cocoon of a sleeping bag, only the finest, by which I mean thinnest most thread-bare sheet would do the job. I often find myself apologising for being a miserable old git but you'll get no apology on this occasion; it was a stupid rule enforced by a stupid person. The same stupid person also insisted that if we weren't back in our beds before midnight (and it wasn't even a school night,) she'd lock the doors and we'd be forced to sleep outside. We did make it back before midnight; we sat up drinking in to the wee small hours with a German school teacher we met earlier. Every now and again one of us would laugh a bit too gaily and our gaoler would thrust her head round the door and glare at us angrily, ironically, it was the German who suggested forming an escape committee.

Anyway, no whisky is allowed on Holy Isle, mores the pity, I'd have thought if you were trying to encourage spirituality; some form of spirit would be necessary.

So, on through Lamlash village past Arran high school, turning off the main road onto the Cuddy Dook Road and into Cordon where our home was to be for the weekend. I should say, the location was perfect, just a dozen houses with a small static caravan park (20 odd units) over a small river at the back of the garden, it was lovely. The cottage itself was homely and welcoming even although the power had been off and it was quite cold. Over the days I became quite envious; it would be really nice to have a bolt hole like this to escape to. To be able to sit at the table in the kitchen and peck away on the laptop (my lust for a rustic existence isn't quite complete,) warmed by the wood burning stove and charmed by the birds flitting around the feeder just outside the window. Less charming was the dead rat we found and 17 year old Finlay enjoyed poking with a stick in the back garden. Michael told us recently of a dead otter he and his Dad found in the same spot on a previous visit, which put me in mind of Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man. I sincerely hoped I was not to be sacrificed, I mean I'm not pure; why not take one of the young people instead? Finlay poked your rat, if any one deserves sacrificing, it's probably him.

I imagine most people will have floated off, navigated away or just got bored by now. But if you got this far; well done and thanks. Even if you don't buy it (links up in the top right hand corner there) please share on Facebook and Twitter etc, all money goes to the Scout group for which I volunteer.

Touching slightly on current politics, I think its fairly safe to say, Scouting is a pretty traditional organisation, members swear allegiance to 'God and to the Queen'. For what its worth, I don't bother with that side of it. I neither believe in god nor have any special regard for the Queen, I don't even have a uniform because I think its a bit naff. It is a good organisation though and does valuable work for and with young folk in local communities all over the world.

Its also an institutionally unionist organisation but I tend not to give a toss what the people at the top of the pile think. On balance, except for the occasional hard line royalist/traditionalist which you'd expect, most people - especially younger members - are optimistic about the idea of self-determination.

For those that aren't - I'm always happy to put them right.



  1. You trips sound far more fun than mine.


    I admire the work you do with young people. I think it is incredibly worthwhile.

    And I'm betting you make it all really great fun for the guys.

    Bravo Pa.

  2. Thanks Tris.

    Its great fun, the young folk are good fun to be around. Also, all those things you yearned to do as a kid but couldn't, which you now don't do because you're an adult; we leaders get to do for free.

    Its actually quite selfish.


  3. He he... lovely, Paul.

    I know the kind of thing you mean... it's like when you take your kids to the rope swing and spend more time playing on it than they do... but you're ok if you make a mess of it, because you're not 14 anymore.

    And you can legitimately show enthusiasm for steam trains and old cars and jumping over rock pools...and all the things you really love but should have got over...


    Your enthusiasm shines through in your writing. I bet you're a fantastic leader.

  4. Oh, not sure about that.

    Not a great role model, more of an anti-role model, an example of how not to be I think.

    Even although I'm a boring old fart, by scouting standards, I'm still not staid enough.

    For example, some time ago, older members (15-16 year old's) were talking about hermaphrodites, (I have no idea why, I was only privy to the end section of the chat.)

    It was overheard by some younger members (11-12 year old's.) The older crowd when asked what a 'hermaphrodite' was told them to go home and ask their parents, I had to step in and tell them it was a just a type of dinosaur, like a pterodactyl as it happened.

    I like to think my legacy is a generation of young people from the local area continue to believe a hermaphrodite is a type of flying dinosaur. (They might also think a 'eunuch' is a female Unicorn.)

    I told you it was selfish.


  5. Hmmmm... yeh, I can see what you mean now :)

  6. A few years ago I stayed at a youth hostel somewhere in the Great Glen. The hospitalero was a young German lad. He'd been annoyed by the signs telling you what you must/must not do, so he'd taken them all down. Some visiting supervisor had told him to put them all back up again, so he did - all of them upside-down.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?