Saturday, 30 January 2010

Tony Blair - the big bambooz-a-ler

I'm not quite sure what anyone was expecting from TB's appearance at the Chilcott Inquiry yesterday. Surely they were not expecting an admission from him that there was any possibility that there was any course of action other than the one he'd taken over the Iraq War. Tony Blair has not wavered once in the years since the decision was taken. No matter what the developments, no matter the how many innocent victims lost their lives, their limbs, their loved ones, no matter what - he has never flinched, never conceded that there was any way but his way. So anyone expecting any change in attitude yesterday was always going to be sorely disappointed.

What we MIGHT have been entitled to expect was for Chilcott et al not to allow Blair to dazzle them and for their questioning to be more robust. But sadly it didn't happen. I thought it was well summed up by this article in the Times Online and the headline:

"Like a lizard on a rock, Tony Blair absorbed heat and began to glow."

Here's my assessment of Tony Blair's performance - note I borrowed the words, didn't make them up myself. However they could've been written for yesterday's appearance.

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate


Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bread and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you got no talents?
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll never catch wise!


Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler


Give 'em the old Double whammy
When you're in trouble, go into your dance
Though you are stiffer than a girder
They let ya get away with a murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
Razzle dazzle 'em
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

Friday, 29 January 2010

You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell

I had a very strange phone conversation tonight. As per usual when the phone rang it was to ask for a delivery of Chinese food. (This, incidentally, is because BT asked me when I was getting the line put in whether I would like the number the previous owners had had or a "new" number although there was no mention of the parenthesis during the conversation. Seeing as the previous owners had a religious bereavement counselling service, I opted for the "new" one. (I knew if anyone phoned looking for aforementioned counselling I'd feel duty bound!) I now know that "new" does not necessarily mean "new" and I have the number of the recently closed down Chinese takeaway.)

So it's not new, it's just not currently in use. Incorrect use of the English language really drives me mad and I am now getting even madder remembering how much I hate to hear people talk about things being "semi permanent". I mean, either it's permanent or it's NOT surely! Anyway, I digress, as they say.

So this guy phones tonight and I tell him "no sorry, they closed down and BT very kindly gave me their number all to myself". So he laughs and says "that's so funny"! Is it indeed? He repeats himself, laughs again and I start to think he's waiting for a witty response. I can't be bothered and I'm not feeling witty but being the helpful sort, I suggest he tries The Famous Wok on Duke Street.

"Really?" he laughs again. "Do you know the number?". Bit cheeky but I tell him that sadly I use it far too frequently and the number is imprinted on my brain which he also finds tres drole it seems.

"Hang on" he says "can I just go and get a pen and paper?". Sure, sure, I'll just hang around waiting, I mean I've nothing better to do of a Friday evening. (I didn't actually have anything better to do but that's besides the point.)

"OK are you ready? It's 556 2229 and I can recommend the mushroom chow mein" I tell him even though I've never tried it. I'm just trying to be nice and the result is that the guy's laughing even louder now and telling me "this is the funniest phone call"! "Isn't this the funniest phone call EVER?". For HIM maybe! I thought I was never gonna get him off the phone. Still, my usual late night callers (!) ask for chicken curry or whatever, I tell them I can't cook and they hang up! They don't even apologise, they just hang up! At least laughing boy was polite if a little too keen to be friends! One of these days I will get time to phone BT and get my number changed. It really is most annoying but thank you for allowing me to let off steam!

Independence Referendum in Glasgow tomorrow!

I sometimes ask myself why I work such long hours and why I can't seem to say no to enough things. And the reason is because sometimes it's just too interesting to say no. Tomorrow, for instance, I could really do with a day off but I've been asked to be one of the people overseeing the Glasgow polling place in the worldwide referendum of Sri Lankan Tamils on Independence or as they call it, self determination.

Given my links with Sri Lanka and the Tamil people in Glasgow I've worked very closely with, I wouldn't want to miss it and I'm really pleased they asked me. Bob Doris and Sandra White both SNP MSPs in Glasgow, will be helping too.

I'm keeping a close eye on who among the British politicians is supporting the right of the Tamil people to a referendum but not the right of Scotland - hypocrisy is rife and I'm sure there will be a fair few.

The results of the referendum are fairly predictable I think and in other countries where the vote has taken place in the last week, some polls are showing at 99 per cent in favour. It won't make a material difference I'm afraid but the symbolism will be pretty powerful.

Anyway so that's why I'm not off tomorrow. That and the fact that I was clearly wicked or weary in another life.

They're getting married in the morning ...

I am delighted to announce this morning that the Indygal blog has gotten exclusive rights to publish the photographs from the forthcoming wedding of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell. I just pipped Hiya Magazine at the post! Nah, only kidding but yes, the good news is that Peter and Nicola are getting married in July. The date was specially chosen to make sure I couldn't go on holiday when I want to. Actually it was chosen to make sure Nicola could say she got married in her 30s (her 40th birthday is sometime in July, that's all I'm saying)!

Anyway being serious for a moment, they are both very good friends of mine and when they got together, it just seemed "right" and it has ever since. They are PERFECTLY matched and balance each other out almost as if they were made for each other.

I know their families will be delighted and somebody else, who we all lost last year, would be more excited than all of us put together.

So congratulations to Peter and Nicola and I'll get the six figure sum in the post asap!

Might be moving to Rosamund Street

Despite winning the Politician's section of the Scotblog Awards, I am facing accusations from certain friends of producing a boring blog! Apparently there's just not enough trivia since I got elected. So, here is some for you. I was catching up with Corrie tonight and I noticed my old classmate Stuart Davids (formerly known as Patterson!) was the Director! How cool is that? I know the guy (incredibly funny guy btw) who directs Corrie! I know who I'll be going to for a job if I don't get re-elected - not that I'm planning not to nor conceding that there is any danger of that but ... good to have a back up!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

No peace for Sri Lanka

As predicted on Tuesday, the people of Sri Lanka get no peace! The results of the presidential election were indeed close. Rajapaksa, the incumbent got 57% whilst his opponent General Fonseka, former head of the Sri Lankan Army, got 40%. Given the utterly shocking character assassination of Fonseka I've read in Rajapaksa's election leaflets I'm stunned he got one vote never mind 3.39 million!

But the whole thing has ended in disaster with Fonseka talking about legal action amid accusations of vote rigging and intimidation. That escalated and before he could utter the word "summons" he was telling the world there was a political assassination attempt being planned for him. Now, the Sri Lankan government is talking about taking "action" against Fonseka because of things he said that "were not true"!

It's a bloody mess and whilst they're wrangling, the people of Sri Lanka must be wondering when it is that the price of rice will come down, that flood defences will be put in place so that thousands aren't displaced again this year, that the Tamil situation will be resolved and they can all live peacefully together and grow their economy.

Not any time soon is my guess and it saddens me because it seems that Sri Lanka is forever destined to be in turmoil.

Good news on its way

I heard some very good news today. Well, I had it CONFIRMED today. And tomorrow, I can tell you what it is. I think it is worth noting that despite the fact that it's good news and it's blogworthy news, I have kept it completely to myself. But as the song goes "tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll tell you tomorrow, it's only a day away"! And no, it's not about me so no speculating!


I won I won I won I won!! Not that these things matter to me you understand but whoo hoo! And I forgot to tell anyone they could vote for me till 2 hours before the deadline so there must have been a couple of votes already in. In the words of the Late Great Ivor Cutler "I'm happy, I'm happy and I'll punch the man who says I'm not" :-)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Is there a tiny chink of light at the end of Sri Lanka's tunnel?

Two years ago today, 26 January 2010, I left for Sri Lanka, for what was to be a 3 month adventure of a lifetime. It turned out to be one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had. I will never forget it, will be forever grateful for it and if you kick me out of parliament, I'll be back there in a flash!
Sri Lanka doesn't have a lot to be grateful for. A thirty year civil war that tore the country apart and prevented it developing at the rate it could have done. The Boxing Day tsunami that we all saw unfolding on our TV screens and the misery that followed. Numerous floods and bombs and corrupt politicians of all parties and, as a result of all that, far too many people living in dire poverty.
Today, 2 years after I first set foot on Sri Lankan soil, they are voting in the Presidential elections and I'm not sure either of the candidates gives cause for hope! I visited again last summer and I spoke to politicians and human rights activists about the incarceration of the Tamil people after the bloody end to the long war. The opposition MPs of course claimed that they would give the Tamils a far fairer deal. Ordinary people told me they were no less corrupt than the existing party of government. They said it was not possible to win an election if you showed any understanding of the needs of Tamil people.
And yet, here we have Mahinda Rajapaksa being challenged by the former head of his Sri Lankan Army, General Sarath Fonseka. And you would think, on the face of it, that there's not much point in that challenge seeing as they're both singing from the same songsheet. You can't help wondering what difference it will make.
Anyone who's been in Sri Lanka since the end of the war would have rated nobody's chances against Rajapaksa. The government-funded propaganda campaign is in your face and portrays Rajapaksa as anything from a conquering hero to a saint, the saviour of little children. It's hard to see how anyone could break through that. Indeed there wasn't much appetite amongst even journalists who were commenting that Sri Lanka would need no further elections, so great was this man! (Mind you, given the propensity of opposing journalists to "disappear", that was perhaps a good move!)
But it seems that the result, to be announced tomorrow, is, against all the odds, extremely close.
And whilst I really doubt what I'm about to say, and I mean REALLY doubt, you just never know: if Fonseka wins, he might just make a difference. Because he's running him close DESPITE the usual accusations of "cosying up to Tamils" and despite the public support from the Tamil National Alliance. Normally the kiss of death, that doesn't seem to be making a huge difference.
As I said I'm cynical the Tamil people have any real reason to believe in either of the presidential candidates. I will leave you with a quote from the man who COULD be the next President of Sri Lanka, Gen Fonseka.
In 2008 he said: "Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese" although minorities must also be treated "like our people".
A typically Nationalist (note the Upper Case "N") attitude but perhaps an acceptance that the Tamils deserve a better deal than they've had so far. I won't hold my breath but I WILL allow myself to hope that this little boy I'm pictured with, Aathif, who is Tamil and started nursery a fortnight ago, will have better life chances than his parents and grandparents all of whom were so kind to me two years ago.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A man's a man for a' that

To celebrate Burns Night, watch this. One of my all time favourite songs and reminds us of the radical that Rabbie Burns was.

The Fortunate Ones

Tonight I celebrated Burns Night at my sister's house in Port Glasgow. Her husband's family were there as was our friend *Fraser who came from Darfur seeking asylum after some truly horrific things happened to him. And he fell in love with Scotland. He got his leave to remain at Christmas and he's been a changed person since then. His love of all things Scottish includes Burns and so he was really happy when my sister invited him down.

Now my family is a very loud one - sometimes you can't hear yourself think when even two of Clan McLaughlin are around so a house full of us is quite something. I remarked on that to *Fraser as we drove back up to Glasgow and I asked if his ears had recovered.

And he replied by simply saying: "I was so lonely and so depressed for such a long time. So it is not too noisy for me, it is wonderful".

Once again I was reminded of how lucky I am.

* Fraser's not his real name but protecting his personal stuff in case any of you meet him any day.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Politics Show tomorrow

This blog is supposed to be about my job as an MSP and tomorrow I'm going to be doing something I've never done before. I'm going to be participating in a live studio debate with a Labour MP from the Scotland Office. It's for the BBC Politics Show and I don't think I'm showing my hand too much to say that I am a little nervous - I said I'd be honest on this blog and I might as well admit to my fear.

We're debating the wrongs and wrongs of detaining asylum seeker children so I'm sure of the arguments. My fear of course is that nerves will take over and I'll forget my points or say the wrong thing. You have all sorts of thoughts going through your head. Not wanting to let down the people you're trying to get justice for particularly as we'll be discussing Florence and Precious Mhango. Not wanting to let the SNP down. All these things are going through my mind but it's just another natural development of my job. Just when I was starting to feel comfortable too ...

So, I'll blog tomorrow and let you know how it felt and you can of course watch it at 12 noon on BBC Scotland. If you're outside Scotland you can watch online later.

I'll leave you with a wee tale about my last "live TV" experience which may go some way to explaining my reticence now. It was many years ago at SNP conference and we were awaiting the results of internal elections. Four of us were lined up to give "live" reactions but the results were delayed so Brian Taylor had to fill time. He came to me and asked me a question that I just didn't understand. (Nobody did btw as I later discovered.)

Instead of asking him what he meant, I opened my mouth, uttered only the odd squeak here and there, kept it open and let my eyeballs go into some mad overdrive!! They were all over the place, side to side, top to bottom as my brain searched for an answer to give him. But none came. Apart from the squeak obviously. I would love to tell you it felt longer than it actually was but that is not the case. I know this for sure because the guy I lived with at the time (yes, you know who you are!) would sit there of an evening pressing PLAY on the video, followed by REWIND, followed by PLAY and REWIND and PLAY over and over again. It never got any better.

Tomorrow is my chance to improve on that performance. We shall see ....

Saturday, 23 January 2010

An update on Florence and Precious Mhango

It has been some time since I blogged about Florence and Precious Mhango, the ten year old girl and her mum (both asylum seekers) who were locked up in detention, about to be deported, taken off the flight, back into detention for a month before finally being released from detention on 17 December after a high profile campaign backed by hundreds of people from Cranhill, from Glasgow, from Scotland and from around and beyond the UK. A quick search of this blog will give you the background. And yesterday Mike Small of the Bella Caledonia blog very kindly published this from me.

I've been in regular contact with both of them, now home in Cranhill, since they returned to begin the next stage of the legal battle. However I decided not to blog until I was doing so with the aim of garnering support for them. And that's what I'm doing now.

They were released on 17 December due to the public pressure so WE KNOW IT CAN WORK. On 18 December however the judge in the High Court in London did not award them a judicial review. The Home Office lawyers asked that the judge find their case to be "wholly without merit" but he thankfully declined to do that. They also asked that he (for he was a "he") rule that any appeal the Mhangos may launch would "not be a barrier to removal". In other words if they appealed, the Home Office should still be allowed to deport them. That too was denied. But he didn't award them a judicial review. So the legal team lodged an appeal.

And now, at last, we have a date. The appeal will be heard on Wednesday 10th February at the High Court in London. There are 2 ways the Mhangos can be reprieved. They can win their appeal and then win their judicial review. You can help with this by donating to their legal fund (details at the top of this blog).

Or they can be spared the need for any of this and the Home Secretary Alan Johnson can use his discretion, drop the legal objections and grant them leave to remain. He would not be setting any precedents in doing so - after all, they have lived here for 7 years, since Precious was a toddler of 3. Many more families are rightly granted leave to remain after a far shorter time period.

You can write to Alan Johnson and ask him to do just that. From the start of this campaign, Florence has asked that all correspondence supporting them is respectful. I wrote to Alan Johnson myself urging him to release them from detention and although he did not reply to me, when it came to the 28th day and he was required to give ministerial consent for the continued detention of Precious Mhango, he declined to do so and they were released.

So despite not responding to me, he must have listened to the strength of feeling from all of those others who wrote.

Therefore it is worth writing again.

And now is the time to do it.

Please send letters to:

Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street

Or you can email

We'll be assisting the advocate with his legal arguments but we need to find ways to get the public on side and involved again. If you want to get involved in the campaigning side of it, if you have any ideas, if you want to join the FACEBOOK group if you have contact lists you can use to send a link to this story, please get in touch. Remember we have 18 days to either get the Home Office to drop this or for them to win their appeal. It's an uphill struggle for this wee girl and her mum but the incredible public support has helped them more than you can imagine. Please help and please don't put it off until later. Act now. Thank you!

Finally, my job as an MSP is two fold - it's to represent my constituents and it's to look at the wider public policy issues and feed into that. On Sunday at 12, the Politics Show on BBC Scotland will feature Florence and Precious and I will then be debating the wider issue of child detention with Scotland Office Minister Ann McKechin. Please watch - because whilst we must save the Mhangos there are hundreds of children in detention all the time and it's utterly immoral and something we should be ashamed of.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Getting priorities right

Yesterday in Parliament I asked a question of Kenny MacAskill, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. I was asking about the link between alcohol abuse and knife crime.

You can read the Qs and the As here.

But I found it really sad that as I was asking it, Labour MSPs were shaking their heads, one was sniggering and another heckling. Why? It's a bloody serious issue and both alcohol abuse and knife crime are absolute scourges on the whole of Scotland.

So all I could take from their childish responses was that either they don't care about these problems or that they only care if they, the Labour Party, are getting a few headlines in return. I suspect the latter is more likely. Glasgow Labour MSPs recently organised a knife crimes summit in Glasgow, invited various interested parties along, got loads of publicity for it but ... excluded other political parties.

Why on earth would something as important as knife crime be a party political issue? I would have loved to have heard what people had to say at this summit - yes I did say "heard" because the point of these events should be to listen to the experiences of people who've been affected by knife crime for whatever reason. The point of it should NEVER be to score party political points but when you exclude other political parties and then publicise it as a Labour Party summit, what else is it? Sad, very sad.

Is Scotland Worth Coming Home to?

Last night I went to a debate, a Question Time styled debate organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the question "Is Scotland Worth Coming Home To?".

'Twas most interesting hearing the views of the audience and the panel and it mainly centred on the question of Scottish identity - what is it, what does it mean to be Scottish. There was also a good discussion about racism.

There were 2 really interesting bits in what was a great event. One was watching the community worker next to me practically climbing the wall in frustration when the question of Independence came up. 4 of the 5 panel were either relaxed about it or in favour of it - in fact one of them said that 25 years ago he would have been vehemently opposed to it but he'd now "matured". I liked that :-)

That's not what frustrated him. Comedienne Janey Godley who just happened to be the landlady of my old local when I lived in the Calton in the 80s, was the only one who had her doubts and compared the idea of Scotland becoming Independent with "handing the chip pan over to my wee brother". I was quite surprised (and impressed) with the aforementioned community worker's anger given that he's mainly voted Labour in his life. His explanation? "This pathetic idea that England is oor big sister that we need to look after us and we couldnae manage by ourselves does my heid in"! Quite!

The other interesting bit for me was when a woman who is a community activist with one of the BME groups said that the Gathering of the Clans organised as part of Homecoming Scotland made her feel angry, rejected and excluded. She said the sight of all these white men in kilts "offended" her. I instinctively felt offended by her comments but I felt (seeing as my nickname is Pollyanna) it was important to examine why she felt like that and why I felt offended.

However, on closer examination yesterday and today, I'm still quite offended by it.

We have to be really careful that in our attempts to (rightly) strive for a genuinely multicultural Scotland, we don't accept every culture but that which celebrates Scotland's history. The best way to create a truly multicultural society is to accept and celebrate all of the constituent cultures. All of them. And just because one is dominant (and that of the "host" country is obviously going to be dominant) doesn't make it any less valid. I really was quite stunned by her implications but thankfully although people politely nodded, I didn't get the feeling anyone actually agreed with her.

The other interesting bit for me was hearing many of the audience get stuck into politicians in general because it's, apparently, absolutely acceptable in our open minded society to hate ALL politicans and tar them all with the same brush. But, about half way into the event I made a contribution and obviously I said I was an SNP MSP. When the event finished at least half a dozen people came up and said how pleased they were that I'd come along. Go figure as they say!

All in all it was a really good event and next one that comes up I'm going to publicise on here because it's definitely worth going along to. The panel was great, the audience contributions were thoughtful and they fed and watered us very well - not that that matters you understand!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Minimum pricing for alcohol - it's obvious isn't it?

I go from feeling enthused by the debate about minimum pricing for alcohol to feeling completely fed up with it. The former happens when more and more and more people get behind the proposals as has been happening lately - I especially like reading about them that get into trouble from the boss. The latter only happens when I have to listen to the likes of the guy on Newsnight Scotland tonight who just rubbished the Sheffield University study that showed minimum pricing WILL have an effect on problem drinkers.

He completely slated the idea but I'd say that perhaps these academics did their homework and studied other countries who have introduced minimum pricing. And perhaps they are basing their findings on ACTUAL findings of studies of problem drinkers in other countries. It will come as no surprise to hear that the guy who said this was all nonsense works for some alcohol association.

To me it's obvious. If we introduce minimum pricing then alcohol will become LESS accessible to drinkers starting out. If it's LESS accessible, they'll drink LESS of it and are LESS likely to develop into problem drinkers. There are many indepth arguments and there is the aforementioned study and, of course, the evidence from abroad. But sometimes it pays to point out the obvious as I just have. Sometimes it really IS very simple.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Awaz FM - have a listen

I'm a big fan of Awaz FM, the Asian Radio Station in Glasgow that you may have heard of when it recently suffered a terrible tragedy.

I'm not sure what it is I like so much. Perhaps because the music reminds me of being in Sri Lanka, it's not dissimilar. And I've always loved hearing Urdu and Punjabi speakers with Glasgow accents peppering what they're saying with English words like "Sauchiehall Street" or "Kentucky Fried Chicken", it just sounds funny when they pop up like that.

And it amuses me to note that radio presenters almost always have to adopt that mid Atlantic twang even when they're speaking in Urdu.

Anyway I couldn't remember what frequency it was on and hadn't listened for a while until the weekend when my nephew Daniel tuned in and pre-programmed it on the car radio for me. I was happily driving along the next day and tuned in but I was most miffed to discover I'd found myself a programme where they talked about nothing but football! I can tune into Real Radio for that thanks very much.

I tried again the next day however and it was great. A song that reminded me of Sri Lankan bus music was playing away and the presenter said at the end of it "right that was 'whatever it was' - good song that but what's with the "doorio doorio" in the lyrics? What does "doorio" mean? Does it mean anything or is it just random jibberish because they couldn't come up with proper lyrics. If you know, phone in and let me know"!

After the next song somebody was on the line with the answer to the "doorio" question. And what did they do? Started talking in Urdu, that's what! Couldn't believe it and I STILL don't know what "doorio" means. So if anyone knows let ME know please. And if you haven't listened to Awaz FM, why not give it a go? I don't know the frequency, it's just no 6 on my radio, but you can visit the website and listen online here!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Famous last words - help!

How did this happen? Work / life balance I said! Still at my desk, just leaving now with a pile of committee papers to read by morning. Last night, I sat at my kitchen table and worked right through from 6.30pm to 11.30pm having got home early and rejoiced in the fact that I had a night at home. Hmmm. I'm sure I'm only doing the really important stuff. What do people with children do? Maybe that's it, I pretend I have children (maybe "pretend" is not quite the right word) and stop working when they need me to cook their dinner and do their homework and clean up after them. But rather than clean up after them etc (seeing as they don't actually exist) I read a book or meet a friend. Who knows what the solution is but there's one thing I'm quite sure of - I am achieving no more than the MSPs with families who juggle all of that at the same time. It's true what they say about work expanding to fit the time. Right, can't be chatting here, I've got to go and read Rupert a bedtime story!!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Salmond: guilty of causing this big freeze!

Alex Salmond, you have been found guilty of snowing all over Scotland, turning our streets into a giant ice rink and causing the elderly of our country to be trapped in their own homes. Your sentence is to have to listen to the likes of Ian Gray repeating the same irrelevant questions over and over and over ad infinitum, thus taking up valuable time that could otherwise be spent on the serious business of running the country.

My summary of today's First Minister's Questions! Astonishing that the SNP is almost being blamed for the bad weather. I admit I reckon we'll get more sunshine after Independence but I think they're taking it a bit far!

If you want to watch it and hang on for Margo McDonald talking sense toward the end of it, click this link here and select First Minister's Questions in the first drop down menu.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Lessons from a funeral

I went to a funeral today. A funeral of a member of the SNP. It was a woman I didn't know particularly well but I'd met her on a number of occasions and liked her. I've known her partner Sam for quite a bit longer. As I say I didn't know her very well but it was one of those funerals where I left really wishing I'd known her better.

Sam spoke about her so movingly. His voice didn't falter once and that made it all the more stark and all the more moving. He spoke very simply and honestly about the woman who was his "whole world for 24 years". He said all the things you'd want to be said about you - talked about how beautiful, glamorous, classy, warm, intelligent and witty she was. And he made us laugh when he recalled an argument they had which ended with him saying "but I devote my entire life to you" and her replying "well it isn't enough" :-) He talked about her passions and her attitude to life and I really was left feeling I'd missed out on something by not getting to know her better.

I've only experienced that at one other funeral and that was the lovely John McFarlane who was a member of Govan SNP and died well into his 80s. I knew John quite well, I'd been to visit him once or twice and there was no doubt about it he was great company. But I realised at his funeral there was so much more to him and his life than I'd realised. He was a truly fascinating character and I regretted not knowing him better.

My point is that I think it's a symptom of today's mad world we all live in, that we are so busy getting by, we don't stop and get to know people properly. Another member of the SNP is a man who is 82 and I've "known" him for a good number of years. Last year I bumped into him in the pouring rain and offered him a lift. He told me a story about his youth in the merchant navy when he and his shipmates were kidnapped. It was the most amazing adventure / horror story, my heart was in my mouth at points of the story and it beat any movie I'd seen.

Everyone has something truly amazing about them, I'm sure of it. Everyone has a tale to tell but how often do we want to hear it? I resolved, as I left the funeral today, to stop being so busy and take more time to really get to know other people. Sam paid a wonderful tribute to the love of his life today and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who left knowing they'd missed out on somebody very special.

So keep your eyes and ears open as you plough your way through life's minefield because there are fascinating people all around us if we care to notice.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The trains today

I am often (more often than I deserve) called a jinx by my friends and family who think if something can go wrong with me, it will. Today, however, whilst so many folk were having problems with the trains to Edinburgh and back, I just 'sailed' through it! Bob Doris told me he got on the 6pm and got home at 9.45pm. Stewart who works for me left parliament at 6 and arrived home at 10.15.

I, on the other hand, after a lovely, scenic journey and punctual arrival in Edinburgh, got on the 8pm home and arrived in Queen Street Station at 8.51pm. Simple. I've decided positive thinking is the key to my future and therefore, I am no jinx, no, I am someone who has lived a charmed life. There, that should do it.

Who'd be a parent these days?

I nearly fainted when I heard that my 17 year old niece had walked to her babysitting job along the deserted, barely lit country cycle path in Greenock after dark last week. So last night when I saw her I asked her if she felt she was safe doing that. "Yes" she said "because I had my ipod on so I could play my music"! Eh? Apparently it made her feel safer. Didn't seem to matter that it actually made her LESS safe. The important thing was FEELING safe! I felt myself covering my ears, shutting my eyes and saying "not listening, not listening, not listening"!