OldByreSkye

gallery, cafe & apartment

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All change please…

[belated] Happy New Year, and welcome to the new look blog/website.

We really needed to a proper website up for the first full year of business for the gallery/cafe.  Unfortunately the old WordPress ‘theme’ [PianoBlack] although very nice for the blog didn’t work for a website, as when you added extra pages the navigation was hidden away up the top right, almost invisible.  So we’re trying a completely different theme – Bold Life – as none of the other [free] black themes worked either.

As you can see, we now have a static home page, and specific pages for the blog, as well as linking to the online gallery and accommodation, and a proper contact form.  There is still quite a lot of tweaking to do, and it’s not entirely impossible that the whole theme may change again before the end of the month as we either get used to it, or not…

Currently listening to: The Time Has Come – Christy Moore [who I saw live in Baltimore, Co Cork, in 1986, as you do…]

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Now we’re flying…

Our flyers arrived at the end of last week, all 5000 of them and, uniquely for something coming from off the island, actually arrived earlier than estimated.  They’re A5 and, as you can see, double-sided although as the back has the logo on as well [bottom left, hidden on the photograph] they still make sense if you stack them the wrong way round as one of the first outlets we gave to them demonstrated by doing exactly that!  It would have been nice to have had some promotional material when we opened, but was always going to be a bit difficult to include photographs of the actual gallery if it isn’t finished…

Flyers

Both sides now – who we are, what we are, where we are and when we are [open]. How we are will vary from day to day…

So they are now on display in the Portree tourist office, which costs but is free for the rest of the financial year, probably because we are already signed up with Visit Scotland through the holiday let.  We will now be touring everyone we know who can display leaflets, and doubtless some we don’t know, to be ready for the season.

2014 promises to be a busy year up here.  It’s ‘The year of Homecoming’,  the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and of course, the independence referendum.  The Year of Homecoming is a wheeze originally devised in 2009, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, to boost tourism by encouraging people of Scottish ancestry to visit the old country.  And why not if boosts the economy, but please spare us coach parties of be-kilted tourists! [Although we’ll still take your money!]

Currently listening to: Flow and Change – Judy Dyble.

Soup, and other institutions

Well, there hasn’t been a post on the blog for a while.  I’ve been working on some format changes to make the entry page more of a web portal for the business, leading off to the blog and the gallery, but these aren’t quite ready.  There’s also been the daily posts on our Facebook page, and we also now have a Twitter feed, under Claire’s control, so there’s plenty to keep you up to date!

The other morning I was making cock a leekie soup over in the gallery kitchen.  For the uninitiated it’s a quintessentially Scottish soup made with chicken and leeks.  Traditionally it would have been an old fowl put in the pot and boiled, and then the meat removed and served as a separate dish to make it go further – not so much ‘canny Scots’ as subsistence farmers making the most of what little they had.  Many recipes include rice: I used pearl barley as it seemed more authentic, but it got me thinking as to why you would have rice in a Scottish soup.

waterfall

Quintessential Scotland: it only needs a tartan-clad piper and some shortbread and all the stereotype boxes will be ticked.  And I’ll be run out of town…

Rice is the most important grain grown as a human food source. [More maize is grown, but more of this is used as animal feed, so calorific value is lost.  Look up trophic levels to see why it’s really a bad idea to eat animals even if they taste nice…] It was probably cultivated somewhere around 10,000 years ago in southern China and was known in Europe in the classical world.  Large amounts of rice have been found in Roman camps in Germany dating from the first century AD, but the exact spread throughout Europe seems unclear, and it probably happened more than once, and from different directions.  The Moorish expansion seems to have brought rice-growing to the Iberian peninsula in the 10th century.  It’s production was encouraged in 15th century Italy, from which it is a short step to southern France.  Given the nature of the Auld Alliance [1295 – 1560] it’s not too fanciful to envisage direct trade in rice from France to Scotland, especially given that at least one source claims that cock a leekie soup itself originates in France from chicken and onion soup, crossings over around the 16th century…

So, our quintessentially Scottish soup may be distinctly European, a material memory of historic links and broad-based identities.  No prizes for guessing where this is going.  The major event of the week north of the border [the only  border with the definitive article] has been the publication of the White Paper on Scottish Independence – you may have noticed it elsewhere, wherever you live.  We have the curious situation of having on the one hand a devolved government formed by a party with a clear majority and mandate that clearly stands for, indeed it’s reason for existing is, an independent Scotland, and on the other a population that on present polling rejects that vision, yet would still probably return the same government regardless as its other policies seem to better fit the national belief and self-image.  This in a system that was designed to prevent a clear majority and force coalition governments.

From here the ‘yes’ camp’s best recruiting sergeant seems to be every utterance of the Westminster Government on the issue which are based on negativity and apparent bullying, ‘you couldn’t do this, you can’t do that, we’ll take our ball away and go home’, ignoring both that  this reinforces the stereotypes that play to nationalism, and there is every chance that those issuing such proclamations wouldn’t be in power at the time if Scotland became independent.  There are still more that enough ‘don’t knows’ for arguments and referendums to be won and lost and the national conversation up here in the next year will be interesting to follow, especially if wavy Davy continues to pull U turns every day to desperately try to please a party with more wings than a Chernobyl chicken.

So, this St Andrew’s* day who knows, in five years time those in the ‘home counties’ wanting a weekend in Europe may be going for a jaunt across Hadrian’s wall to seek [Scottish] enlightenment…

Currently listening to: Vagrant stanzas – Martin Simpson.

*He’s Patron Saint of rather a lot of places, including Russia…

Follow your leader…

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for some time now [other social networking tools are available…].  It’s useful for keeping up with old colleagues without the intrusive, domineering style of FaceBook.  Recently, however, they have started sending regular emails suggesting that I might like to ‘follow’ some LinkedIn Influencers, or ‘thought leaders’ as it subsequently calls them.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I get quite tetchy when someone seems to be telling me what to think.

Sheep...

Sheep…

Especially as the cast of these leaders is somewhat depressing and all to predictable.  Obviously, we have LinkedIn’s own CEO, whose name I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up.  Among the others we have the new age guru and shameless charlatan Deepak Chopra.  Another recent email informed me of the The Things He Always Carries.  Items listed are a biosensor manufactured by a company he works for as an adviser, a gizmo that ‘automatically puts the user into a meditative, relaxed, dream, sleep, creative or altered state of consciousness’ (whatever) that, yes you’ve guessed it, he helped to develop, and an iPad, which becomes a shameless plug for his app and website.  Basically, the things he says he carries are things he can sell you.  Just as well, as he doesn’t always seem to carry money….

Clicking the link for further shameless self-publicists Thought Leaders gives a screen including our own David Cameron, who may be Prime Minister, but who hasn’t obviously had an original thought in all the time he has been in the public eye, beyond that he should lead the Conservative Party.  And so it goes on.

It appears that to be a ‘Thought Leader’  your ideas don’t need to be proven, your thoughts don’t need to be original or even well-formed.  You just need to be a brazen self-publicist and to have made it into the new self-appointed power-elite, whereupon riches of all sorts will flow to you because you obviously deserve it: much the same as the power-elites of every other generation.  Such people can’t tell you how to succeed as they don’t really know how they did it – luck, connections, whatever: you can’t replicate it to a formula.

It’s a nice gig if you can get it, but it doesn’t mean that I want to listen to you, or that I should hold you in high regard.  At the moment the web is awash with massively valued companies that don’t actually produce anything of real value and whose only real commodity is access to their members, and often what their members might reasonably regard as their own property, such as images they have produced, or copy they have written.  If anything is less likely to make me want to engage as part of a community, it’s their suggesting that I should pay attention to modern-day snake-oil salesmen.

Postscript

Since I started this post [and agonised over whether to post it] another leader from another time has passed on.  I will not comment directly on the late Baroness’s politics, suffice it to say that we did not often see eye to eye, and that as time has moved on I have moved progressively further from such a line of sight.

Much has been made in some circles of the public  ‘celebrations’ at her death, although detailed reading seems to result in reports of  numbers similar to those found at a Scottish Second Division match – as long as somebody remembered to take a dog along.  I don’t celebrate anyone’s death – perhaps if I had been raised under a totalitarian regime I would feel differently, but I didn’t, and neither did anyone else born and raised in this country for many generations.  And in any case, there is too much to celebrate in simply being alive.

In some ways though, this response had become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Margret Thatcher had become a symbol of many things to many people, and symbols can be very powerful things.  Over the years I have probably met more people who said they would celebrate this passing than were anywhere near the streets on Monday night.  A generation has grown up hearing these things: some of them, although having no direct experience living through the eighties, believed that this was an appropriate response.   If you repeat something often enough people may start believing it, especially if their opinions are still being formed: and the self-righteous indignation of the self-appointed keepers of the flame playing to their own demographic simply makes matters worse.

Those on all sides of the political fence, including those who sit on it, should take a long, hard look at themselves and think of the ramifications of their sloganeering and the law of unintended consequences.  There is a society out there that deserves, and increasingly expects, better.  What you say three times isn’t necessarily true – and history is full of boojums…

Currently listening to: Deserters – Oysterband [All That Way for This…]

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