Summer gnashes its teeth

For the last couple of days summer has gnashed its teeth in Scotland, girning and moaning in windy torrents and lashings of rain. The atmosphere has been decidedly frosty too with a cold wind making low temperatures feel even lower.

Somehow this summer weather spat is in tune with much of the political mood in a country which, on top of a referendum on leaving the European Union…

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Primed and programmed

This has been a very strange general election, coming as it does just five weeks after our local council elections. A snap election called by our Prime Minister who managed to overturn the 2011 Fixed-term Parliament Act to call it. The provisions of the Act determined that, instead of Prime Ministers calling elections at times best suited to…

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Carnival in Madeira

For a week before the parade there had been smaller local events with street entertainment in the centre of Funchal and people wandering around in costumes of various kinds, as well as community events. The sound and beat of the samba was everywhere, either live from groups of musicians, or recorded and played through speakers lodged in trees.

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Noir – author and experts

Recently, husband and I were pleased to receive an invitation to a book launch, not in the tented village of the Edinburgh book festival, but not far from it in Waterstones, the well-known book shop, at the west end of Princes Street. Lin Anderson, Tartan Noir crime novelist and co-founder of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival, was launching another book – None but the Dead – about her forensic pathologist Rhona MacLeod, the action of this taking place on the small Orkney island of Sanday.

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On the eleventh day of April

What is so special about the eleventh day of April? A hint. It’s not the eleventh of April this year I’m referring to.

It’s the eleventh day of April 1868. Ring any bells? Probably not — unless you live in Japan. For on the eleventh of April 1868 the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate was brought to a close with the restoration of the Emperor Meiji.

Now, before you hit the delete button and move on to another email, consider this.

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February 14th

February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. But who was St Valentine and why do we celebrate it as a lovers’ day with red hearts, roses and sloppy cards?

St Valentine was a Catholic saint, or according to some sources one of two or three, all martyred, one of whom is said to have sent a letter to his loved one (his jailor’s daughter) from his Roman prison and signed it from your Valentine.

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Exhilarating

The boat was a Turkish gulet, twenty-three metres in length, called Bonita da Madeira, made from rich coloured woods and stainless steel, with masts that soared towards the sky. At the stern, we lounged on blue plastic covered mattresses formed into a relaxing seat. The relaxing aspect was further enhanced by a glass of Madeira wine – such a welcoming gesture as well as a great promotional tool for both boat trip and wine.