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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Atop the Lephinkill Chambered CairnA few hundred yards across and about 300 feet up from where I grew up there’s a chambered cairn. Despite having run around in the woods surrounding it rather a lot, and knowing that there was archaeology up there to be found, somehow I never came across it.

I was back home visiting my Mum and sister recently, and happened to come across a map that showed there’s now a marked route to the cairn that didn’t exist when I was wee. Checking there was enough time before dark, my sister and I set out to go up and have a look.

There wasn’t a path, as such, but the way was clearly marked by yellow circles attached to trees along the way. The natural woods just above the village are birch, before giving way to forestry land. Much of the hill is covered in mature conifers, but the cairn is in a clear-felled belt starting just above the birch woods; so much easier to spot from a distance than when I was wee!

I say the birch woods are natural, but given how close they are to the village it’s likely they were managed and coppiced at one time; certainly there are overgrown drystane dykes that suggest the land was once more intensively used. If they were maintained though, it’s long enough ago that it’s not obvious now. Interestingly, birch is generally used for its wood in the UK; there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of the birch syrup that’s made elsewhere birch is common. Having tried Alaskan birch syrup, I can recommend giving it a try; it’s similar to maple syrup, but with a more complex flavour. See the Wikipedia page for other people trying to describe it.

I was peching my way up the hill a bit but was pleasantly surprised my sister (the outdoor instructor) thought I was making good headway. I’m pretty inactive generally, but used to make good speed uphill – a combination of long legs and a knack of not really breaking my stride for inclines when others slow down.

The cairn itself was kind of interesting – not on a world-class prehistoric monument sort-of-a scale, but just because it was plainly something, but difficult for a lay-person to interpret.

Approaching the Chambered Cairn

There’s an obvious mound, as you can see in the approach photo. Once you get closer, there’s obviously structure to it too; but it’s less obvious what the structure is. There are a number of stone-lined pits and what might be walls, but those descriptions make them sound very clear and understandable. This is what the pits looked like:

A stone-lined pitAnother stone-lined pit

In other places, gaps between the stones led into small voids:

Void, with spider guardianInto the Void

It was both interesting to look at, and frustrating because I didn’t really know how to interpret what I was seeing. Are the pits chambers, or cists? Did they have roofs? Were they originally buried? Were they always open (probably not)? Are the bits that are still covered chambers? Is the bit with what might be remnants of a wall a forecourt (probably)? Was the largish white quartz boulder of any particular significance? Well, I dunno.

There are some archaeological notes online, which I didn’t have at the time, and which don’t tally particularly closely with my memory of the site, although the general layout in the description matches. Perhaps if I’d had them with me I would have been able to tie things up better.

On the way back down, we went through the part of the birch woods we spent most time playing in over thirty years ago, and found the last remnants of our aerial runway – a very thin and fragile-looking piece of rope still wrapped around a tree branch, very much the worse for its decades of exposure. On the way back into the Clachan we harvested some brambles.

BramblesBrambles

In some ways, the cairn remains a bit of a mystery, but it’s good to at least have seen it after all these years.

ggreig: (Default)

Being somewhat averse to blowing up balloons, never mind anything else, I was somewhat surprised to wake up this morning as an extremist:

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems vision of Home Rule represented the views of the Scottish people and argued that those who were for independence, or keeping the current constitutional settlement, were extremists.

“All the evidence suggests that is the mainstream of opinion and the extremists are those who either think that we need to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow, or those who say there should be no further change at all,” Mr Clegg said.

“Well, I don’t agree with either of those two extremes.”

From The Scotsman (article link).

Leaving aside the other hyperbole in his statement (I don’t know anyone who wants to “yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow”, rather than negotiating a new relationship with the rest of the UK in the wake of a successful referendum), can it possibly be the act of a reasonable person, an honest, responsible or even just pragmatic politician, to label people who believe in peaceful self-determination for their country as extremists?

I wanted to be sure he actually used the word extremist, because I would just about have let him off if he’d just said that independence and the status quo were at two extremes of a spectrum of possible constitutional outcomes. That would have been a poor choice of words, but accurate. But no, he actually called supporters of independence and the status quo extremists. I hold no brief for supporters of the status quo, but this isn’t fair to them either.

Definitions of extremism tend to agree that extremists are people with beliefs or behaviour far outside the societal norm. Recent polling suggests that 39% of voters in Scotland support independence, as against 38% who oppose it, with a large number of “don’t know”s. It also suggests that 65% would support independence if they believed they’d be £500 p.a. better off. Not the most noble reason for voting for independence, perhaps, but it appears that opposition to independence is weak and driven by financial fear (a £500 loss reduced the percentage preferring independence to 21%). Finally, somewhere in the region of 80% (can’t find the figures) would support full financial autonomy, with only Foreign Affairs and Defence handled by Westminster.

Even the lowest of those figures could conceivably produce a majority for independence in a referendum, so I’d love to know where Nick Clegg gets the idea that supporters of independence are  extremists “far outside the societal norm”.

Nick Clegg, you’ll probably never read this, but just in case you do, I’ve frequently voted for your party since the 1980s, but you have lost me and you aren’t likely to get me back with personal insults. Your party was tanked in Scotland in May last year, and guess where a lot of your votes went? If you ever want them back… well, don’t hold your breath, oath-breaker, but if you do, you need to get over the fact that the SNP are a legitimate and peaceful political party, with the support of a larger proportion of the electorate than the other parties put together (51% in a recent poll), with many supporters and members including at least one Cabinet minister who are English, with widespread support among Scotland’s ethnic minorities, and with a policy of encouraging immigration. And they got there without the support of any UK or Scottish media, and with politicians like you saying stupid things like this. If that’s your extremism, it seems to me that the world could do with a few more extremists.

ggreig: (Default)
Strange Maps is an interesting blog to follow. I found today's entry particularly interesting; it's a visualisation of the geographic distribution of the usage of different languages on Twitter. It tells us something not just about where people are using their native languages on the Internet, but also where Twitter itself's in use.
ggreig: (Crazy or smart?)

Yesterday I left Stagecoach £42 poorer after paying for my four-weekly pass. That is, it’s Stagecoach that were poorer, not I, which is the right way around. The cost of my pass has dropped from £133 to £91, which I am finding pretty difficult to complain about.

The price of my commute has gone up quite a bit over the last few years, but this hefty reduction – almost a third – is so welcome that I’m prepared to overlook the likelihood that they can afford to do this because they’ve been ripping me off for the last few years!

All I’m losing is “free” trips to Glasgow; as well as my commute to Dundee, the pass will still take me to all sorts of other places I seldom go, like Edinburgh, Stirling, Falkirk and anywhere in Fife, Kinross and Clackmannanshire.

Better say this now, because the opportunity is unlikely to arise again: I ♥ Stagecoach.

ggreig: (Jailbird)

There’s an interesting story on the BBC web site about someone mapping the Scottish watershed – a line from north to south (or, of course, if you prefer, vice versa), on either side of which water will flow either into the Atlantic or the North Sea. One would think this would be well known geographical information in a developed country, but apparently it’s never been done before.

The BBC story contains a low-res map of the watershed.

Taking the watershed as a handy dividing line, I can say I’m probably more of an east coast person than west coast, although I’ve spent a fair bit of my life on either side. But I was born and lived in the east until the age of seven, and again for most of the time since I was eighteen. My sister, on the other hand, would be a west coast person.

Of course these facts are utterly irrelevant to everyday life for most people, but it’s cool to think that something so important to the physical geography of Scotland has only just been “discovered”.

There’s also a gallery of images from walking the watershed, and a short interview.

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