Thursday, 13 December 2018

The May Gollum Video

It's not easy being a non-conformist. It means I often adopt unpopular positions and play devil's advocate just for the heck of it. But for the purposes of writing practice, let's take a look at a recent video that's making waves on social media at the moment.

The May Gollum video, featuring Andy Serkis, the original actor who outstandingly portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and much more, has been doing the rounds since Dec 9 2018.

I just want to start off by saying, I agree with the main goal of this video, which I believe to be to encourage a People's Vote - in other words a second EU referendum. I think this is a good idea, because it's such a huge, important contentious issue and a lot of things have come to light since the last one, that many people will probably have changed their minds.

Secondly, I have absolute respect for Andy Serkis, the Lord of the Rings is hands down one of my favourite books and movie franchises. It is a wonderful life's work by many people, not least JRR Tolkien.

Thirdly, this video is very effective and emotionally jarring because of that. Quite shocking actually, due to the ties we have with the Lord of the Rings films and a huge nod must be given to Andy for an excellent and faithful performance for a political cause he must believe in enough to reprise the role.

Fourthly, I myself sometimes turn to ridiculing those I feel are in the wrong, regarding Barclays and Fracking, for example.

So why do I feel something here is a bit off? Something that prohibits me from jumping wholeheartedly behind this video and spreading it like wildfire? I've already stated I agree with its message, I appreciate it as a valid method for influencing the people, it's an interesting, non-violent creative attack using humour which I'm all for. So why does it stick in my craw?

I'll be honest, I voted Leave. The reason is simply that because I believed in the UK being able and better suited to make its own decisions, and I wanted my vote to matter more. That was the core of my thinking. I had/have nothing against immigration policies. I had/have nothing against Europe or Europeans. I just suspected that we were handing over the reins to a third party when we should be holding them ourselves. 

I held no great love for the Euro, as I missed the times when you could travel Europe and see lira, francs, drachma, punts, and lamented that those cultural characteristics will be lost forever. 

Also, the EU didn't seem to be working for Greece, who had lost the ability to fluctuate its own currency and was now dependent on loans. (This is disagreed with here but monetary policy inflexibility is cited as a reason on wikipedia.) As will be obvious I don't know much about economics, but this sounded like a problem. If it could happen to Greece, perhaps it could happen to us. Other European countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, are not in the EU, so living apart from the EU must be possible, so why shouldn't we?

That was my thinking back then. But as I will point out, things have come to light.

Incidentally, my humble videography company was commissioned to create a video privately regarding reasons for leaving the EU, which can be seen here:

To be honest I had not really thought about it either way by the time we made this video, but as a media business, I wasn't going to turn away money to do a job. I would have gladly accepted payment to do a 'Remain' video as well, but no-one asked me to. I took professional pride in this video. A man had something to say and wanted us to be his mouth piece, which I appreciated and respected. He made valid points and I was no doubt swayed by them.

The morning of the result I was actually surprised that we'd won.

But many things have come to light since the vote.

A. The Northern Ireland Border problem.

I confess, I never thought about this before voting and now think this may be a good reason to change my mind if there's a People's Vote.

B. The EU has implemented a lot of laws to help and protect the environment, which I'm beginning to suspect the UK may not actually stick to post Brexit.

C. I've sadly lost faith in the UK being able to make the best decisions for itself and the planet. 

But back to the May Gollum video. I've identified five points, five areas where I find myself personally irked by it.

Point 1. The video is well directed, shot and acted and it scares the hell out of me. But one thing that puts me off is that making fun of mental illness, ie multiple personality disorder, is basically what is going on here. Something with this weapon of choice does not sit right. Mental health is a huge issue with several friends, family and clients I know struggling in their own different ways. If we go around doing Gollum impressions of every person we don't like, who is different, who is struggling, what message is this giving out to people?

Point 2. Next. Forevermore Gollum, that fantastic, tragic, wonderful, terrible creature in the Lord of the Rings, who basically (spoiler alert) saved Middle Earth due to having a penchant for finger food, the subject of creative art featured in book and film form, will remind me of Theresa May, Brexit, Conservatives, and politics. And it cannot be undone. The connection wasn't there before, but now it is. I'll watch my Lord Of The Rings Special Edition DVD Box Set over New Year, look at Gollum and think, 'Oh yeah, Theresa May and Brexit, how messed up was all that?' Something treasured and cherished, that Andy himself provided, has now sadly been withdrawn. I had been given something which was perfect - wonderful - a golden apple that I expected to shine and glitter and value for the rest of eternity, and then it was kind of ruined, hijacked for political purposes. Someone sold out. For perhaps an admirable cause, but nevertheless. What are the thoughts of Peter Jackson on this? Tolkien's estate?

Point 3. I'm not a conservative by any means, but Theresa May, for all the perceived faults and injustices that she may seem to have caused, after being handed a sackful of manure by David Cameron ("Here you are, I'm off.") is actually carrying out what the British public asked her to do. And we have to give her credit for carrying through what has turned out to be a hugely unpopular decision. Making her a villain or comparing her to someone with mental health issues for showing resolution, gumption and mettle in the face of enormous adversity, is too much. 

Point 4. We had a vote. A decision was made. That's the nature of Democracy. We can't blame her for doing what we asked her to do, even though we might have changed our mind. In retrospect maybe it should have been stipulated that a 60-40 majority was needed to make such a devastating change to the country and Europe, but ultimately, we already had a People's Vote, and she's sticking to it. Why are we mocking courage? Why are we laughing at resolve? Why are we comparing a person, any person, to Gollum?

Point 5. It's a personal attack on a public forum on someone out on a limb. Have we no empathy left? Have we no common decency? What on earth is happening to this country? Why don't we just poke her with a sharp stick? I may ridicule Barclays Bank managers in general but I would never dream of calling out one specific manager of one specific branch on a public forum and say for example, "Hey, Mr XYZ, you eat raw fish, have a speech impediment, may be suffering early stages of bronchitis, just want to be happy, have single handedly saved the modern world, suffer from mental health problems and are a bit of a shady character!" Would I? No. Because that would be weird.

My father once said there are three things you don't do speeches about: sex, religion and politics (unless you're a standup comedian I guess). But if you look closely at this you'll find it's not really about politics, it's about the difference between a character assassination attempt versus simply disagreeing with someone while being nice to them. A skill that as a nation we seem to be sadly losing. 

Monday, 5 November 2018


It has been three weeks and three days since I first discovered I had 'Swimmer's Ear'. This is not to be confused with 'Schwimmer's Ear' and does not mean that your ear becomes like those of Ross from Friends and lead you to go around holding up restaurants.

Schwimmer's Ear is clearly visible in the left hand picture

Usually a bit of water in the ear after swimming dribbles out on its own, but not this time. After advice from friends (not 'Friends') about how to deal with it - everything from dripping warm olive oil, apple cider vinegar, or Otex into my ear twice a day - and nothing working, I went to the doctors on day eleven, who confirmed that although my left ear was not infected it was full of wax, both hard and soft, and that whatever I was putting in my ear was working and I should continue doing it. He advised me to book an appointment with a nurse on 5th Nov in case it didn't clear on its own, and then I'd get it syringed.

Being deaf in one ear, after the amusing novelty wore off, sucked big time. It felt that half my head was continuously under water. That half my awareness was gone. My universe had shrunk by 50%. I felt like an old man. I regretted every time I'd ever made a joke about deafness, or that I'd thought less of my father for his hearing problems. I wished I'd been more patient with him. More forgiving of his distance, which was not his fault.

Once in Japan I heard a story about a poor guy who, while sleeping, had the hugely unfortunate experience of having a cockroach climb in his ear. He woke up and stuck his finger in, injuring the insect, which then got stuck in there, still alive, scratching at his ear drum.

I made a joke about that at the time - not to the unfortunate himself, but still - which I also deeply regret.

The past few days have become psychologically trying. I tried my best not to let the continuing problem get me down and began hesitantly accustoming myself to the idea that I may be deaf in my left ear for the rest of my days. It wouldn't be that bad. People have it much worse off. Pain was beginning to creep in when I yawned or burped. Tinitus had arrived. I thought if it wasn't infected then it must be now. Today couldn't come fast enough.

I'll confess that never having my ear syringed before left me in some trepidation. I wasn't even sure of the process. I assumed, wrongly, that a nurse would insert a large, empty syringe in my ear and pull out the plunger, slowly sucking out the offending wax, bits of broken ear drum and any other segments of important tissue - like brains for instance - in the area. Fortunately this was not the case.

What really happens is this. The nurse has a look in your ear and confirms that yes, your ear has lots of wax in it. Then she gets you to sit near the sink and hold a kind of cup under your lobe next to your jaw. Next she switches on some kind of electric pump mechanism (which is not foot operated) with a hose attached, warns you that this shouldn't hurt but if it does let her know, and begins the hugely satisfying act of gurgling warm water into your ear allowing the waxy mixture to drip out of its own accord.

It wasn't sore at first, but it slowly began to get painful after the second time. It was like rolling, undulating hills of gentle pain. The good sort of pain. The pain that meant you were getting some hard, dry, foreign gunk pressing precariously against your ear drums warmed up, dissolved and removed. But I didn't care. I just wanted it out of there.

Finally she showed me a big dod of brown waxy clay the same size, colour and consistency of a test tube stopper, and I just thought, 'How earth has that been building up over the past decade without my knowledge?'

The second thought was, 'Holy Moses I can hear again.'

Relief and gratitude flooded through me. I didn't hug the nurse, but I should have. I promised there and then that I would never make outdated and unoriginal 'Carry On' references about nurses ever again. Not to the nurse, but inwardly, to myself. 

I walked out amazed at the newly discovered and hyper sensitive hearing I was now receiving through my left side. Every rustle, every scraping hair, every echo off a wall. Immense appreciation of the nurse herself, to the NHS, to the inventor of that wonderful little 'Earcuzzi' gizmo, of all musicians and singer songwriters, of all guitarists and makers of guitars, of all my friends, to the writers of 'Friends', of everyone and everything that makes sound.

On exiting the health centre I got a bit of a fright. 'What the hell is that,' I thought.

It was birdsong and traffic.

When I got home, after a nice dinner where we all had a bit of a family high, I said, "Why is our new fridge suddenly so noisy today?" 

My wife and son looked at me. "What are you talking about? It's always been that bad."

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Writing of Ode to Eleanor

As a Hallowe'en writing exercise for West Lothian Writers, we were asked to write a piece of no more than 1000 words to read out on Tuesday 30th October 2018, and my brain kind of erupted with the poem Ode To Eleanor, about a young Scottish man who was in a gothic, restless piece of mind over an ex-girlfriend who'd broken his heart.

On the Sunday I sat down in front of the blank page and thought I'd try to write a funny poem in the style of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Recently I'd had good feedback when I read out chapter one of my Aa Apple's Great Escape children's book, so I hoped it might be quite entertaining to do another one.

A friend by the name of Mark Aspinwall had long ago for a birthday or Christmas present given me an audio recording of someone reading The Raven, which I really liked listening to, so thanks must go to him, and in my younger days I often tried and enjoyed reading Robert Burns to myself, even though it was quite difficult to understand, but once you finally penetrated it you were often rewarded with gems of great cutting wit. Thirdly, I thoroughly loved reading the likes of the centipede's long rambling poetic monologues in "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl, to my son, especially places where Dahl bent the arbitrary rules he had set himself, and made words that seemed to have no business rhyming, rhyme.

The first page came out in a happy flood of lyrical nonsense. It was only when I came to the lines :

at least they did in my mind's______,
which had recorded every scary scene

when I realised I had to do the whole poem in Scots, or at least a Scottish accent, as the only word I could come up with to mean 'eye' that rhymed with 'scene' was the old scots word 'een'. Up until that point the narrator was going to be a rather pompous English or American person.

When I came to the lines:

as I heard a voice shriek from the black
“It's just yer maw, dye want a snack?”

I found myself in a spot of bother. It meant a conversation with his mother had to take place. But what about? I had no idea. And anyway, he already had a snack - a fact I hoped the readers wouldn't notice what with all the other crazy goings on. Eventually it became a bit of a telling off about some ex girlfriend the narrator was still hung up about. But I still had no clue where this was going or if I'd be able to continue or end this piece of writing in a satisfying way that made any kind of sense, ridiculous or otherwise. Efforts to find words that rhymed with 'Raven' that I could use were completely in vain, and having a mother that was 'unshaven' didn't seem to fit. 

It was only when I found myself writing the lines:

"Wasn't she the third
to leave you lying in the dust?
It's not all about nice bum and bust.”

that I saw the glinting light of a possible escape route. At least perhaps I could have a bust of some sort above the chamber door.

The happiest I felt when writing was around the lines:

I gasped on chocolate milky breath
and damn near almost choked to death
as I heard a voice shriek from the black

as I think that was the cresting climax of the suspense part of the poem, after which I began to think, "What on earth have I gotten myself into?" and then it all folded into a silly mess as I tried to dig out of the grave I'd cheerfully and unwittingly dug for myself.

From start to finish the poem took about three days.

After finally finishing this my mind was still wanting to think in rhyming couplets. Like when you play too much scrabble your brain automatically jumbles up the letters of words you see, even unbidden. 

It was only when doing the video that the gesturing to the cropped image of Eleanor's bum and bust above the chamber door after each stanza came about, which I probably stole from Noel Fielding's hilarious Goth in the IT Crowd. It's ironic that after reading the poem for the video so many times I'm now more able to recite large chunks from memory, especially aloud to myself while driving along the M8 on my way somewhere.

Apologies to all concerned.

Ode to Eleanor

Twas a bleak and dreich October
When I sat munchin' on ma Tobler
-one. I stared alone twixt curtains
torn an' faded like Tim Burtons'
Corpse Bride and others o' that ilk.
I took a sip of me warmed milk
as doon in the groonds below
in patchy shadows neath the glow
of intermittent neon street lamps
hiding throngs o' zombies, vamps
didst frolic, gamble, twixt rose and bud,
Texas holdems, 5 card stud
at least they did in ma mind's een,
which had recorded every scary scene
fae horror movies maest eclectic
(lucky I'm no epileptic)
as on and off the lights didst flicker
reminds me how we once didst bicker
Me and my most recent ex but one –

Suddenly I heard a tapping,
a quiet, gentle, faded rapping,
Turned did I and looked – no more-
towards my hard oak chamber door
“Who's there?!” ah croaked, goosebumps rising.
Twas just the wind, I tried surmising.
Swiss chocolate from my fingers fell
'pon the floor (some milk as well)
As lo, didst handle start to turn!
And in ma throat my heart did burn!
Through veins as chilled as ice
Ran curdled blood - no once but twice!
As tapping at the door compounded
rapping at the pane! Dumbfounded,
Shocked and stunned, I turned in vain
to see nought beyond the window pane
save skeletal tree-like bones a-tapping
'pon the glass like fingers rapping.
Beckoning to bid me join them
and secretly my life purloin, then
into darkness fae top floor I'd leap
And wake up dead fae tortured sleep.
“Just the Birch!” I knew
“Caused by one strong gust or two.
“But what of oakwood door?”
As I spun I saw no more
Than shadowy landing through the crack
and with distinct shrivelling of sack
I gasped on chocolate milky breath
and damn near almost choked to death
as I heard a voice shriek from the black
“It's just yer maw, dye want a snack?”
A voice that sounded nothing like
fair voice of Eleanor.

“No thanks, Mamaw, I'm mid ode:
An Edgar Allan episode.”
Fae the shadows, a tut, a sigh.
“Not again, wee lad, I can't see why
you can't just let this Eleanor bird
fly the coop. Wasn't she the third
to leave you lying in the dust?
It's not all about nice bum and bust.”
“It wasn't just her bum and bust,
if to refer to those you must,
her eyes, her nose, her smile, her hair
were also well beyond compare
Whether in the Louvre or Tate
such a perfect prime portrait
I haven't seen before or since
Next to her a pound of mince,
those other girls ...
we had some whirls
upon the carousel of love
but mother now, dear god above
Quit my door, opine no more,
Get thee hence, I must implore,
you leave me to my selfish wallow
in my Eleanor-shaped hollow.
Bother me no more along this lonely path
lest you taste my bitter, thorny wrath!”
and with a creak, a squeak, no more,
she then withdrew and closed the door.
And slowly upwards roamed my stare
from handle up the oakwood door and there
my gaze could not help but linger
as I pointed shaky finger
at the blown up photograph cropped shear
between the door and ceiling near
the final precious keepsake of my dearest Eleanor.
Just space enough for bum and bust 
above my oakwood chamber door.
Bum and bust and nothing more.

At least the blu tac still is sticking -
still is sticking, still is sticking -
Eleanor's dear bum and bust above my oakwood chamber door.

© Chris Young 2018

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Back to the 90s

Well, it's been an interesting week. I've still had my ear blocked – that's about ten days now. I went to the doctor yesterday and he peered inside and said my ear was full of wax and that I should continue putting in olive oil and Otex on a daily basis because it seems to be working and might solve the problem. But if not, it will make it easier for the nurse to suck it out when I get it syringed on the 5thNovember. Matron!

In the social news – we are shitting plastic. People all over the world have had their poo studied and micro plastic has been found in most of them. So micro plastics are already in the human food chain. Via what? Must be sea fish. That must be the main one. Surely it can't be in fruit and veg or in meat from vegetarian animals, because they just eat grass and seed, right? Is there micro plastic in rain water? Can it be carried up into clouds? Is it sucked up through the roots of plant systems? Surely not. It's the sea fish – it must be. Lazy buggers drifting along with their mouths open taking any old crap that drifts inside. Some animals may dispose of the plastic better than others, in which case we should eat them.

So where do we find fish that have no plastic in them? Fish farms? River salmon? Grow our own? Some day I would like to try to go down the aquaponics route. I have a fish tank, I have a place to grow tomato plants. All I need are the tilapia, some pipes, a solar powered water pump, and to make the greenhouse into a water system. But I think I need more tanks.

Warning : May contain fish

We got a new fridge freezer today, which I'm looking forward to going home to. Not sure what else I can really get excited about it for. I expect I'll just open and close it a few times, enjoying the lack of having to bend down to get milk for the foreseeable future. Then after the first day I imagine it will become hum drum. Mundane. Just another boring old fridge freezer that takes up the whole kitchen and that we can't really afford. Appreciate your fridge freezers ladies and gentlemen! Don't take them for granted! Go out on a date once a week to keep the spark alive.

I wish we could go back to the 90s. That was the best decade for me. Before Bush, before 9/11, before Facebook. I was in my pre, during and post uni days. I drank, I studied, I read, I philosophised, I traveled, I met a variety of interesting people, I wrote, I did judo, played music, and could hear though both ears.

Maybe I should start a petition : Back to the 90s! When people weren't addicted to cell phones, trolling each other on social media, or shitting plastic.

Sign the petition here.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Cider Diaries

Day 1 – Sep 26th 2018

Apples! Huh! What are they good for? Cider!

We had an absolute tonne of apples this year compared to last year, when I actually had to supplement the apples from our tree with those bought from the supermarket. But last autumn I was careful to return the nutrient-rich mulch to the soil under the tree instead of the compost heap. I pruned the ends of the lower branches, and took care to water and weed the earth during the hot summer that brought lots of sunshine which must have paid off. I'd also heard that if there's a clump of apples at the end of a branch you take off and discard the smaller one. I wonder if that also helped.

My wife's made apple sauce and we've given a few of the best apples to her friends. I've eaten a couple too and they've been really sweet and only a little bitter - not as bitter as granny smiths. Sort of between granny smiths and the organic ones you can get in the supermarket. If it hadn't been for my sister's partner who tried one when he came to visit I don't think I'd ever have tried them myself!

The first night we washed, crushed and pressed a bunch of apples in the rain. The bucket broke after much bashing so we need to get a stronger bucket, that's for sure. I put the juice in the demijohn using a funnel, added a sprinkle of cider yeast on the top, stuck the tape thermometer on it and placed it in the kitchen on top of the fridge where it's usually quite warm, around 20-22 degrees. It then bubbled away quite satisfactorily for a few days.

Day 2 – Sep 30th2018

I washed, crushed and pressed another pint of apples and just added it in to the same demijohn. I also drank a few mouthfulls of the apple juice and it tasted absolutely great and I felt fine the next day. It was like that scene in The Langoliers by Stephen King when they return to the 'Just Before Present' and all the food is really fresh and delicious. Next time it might be worth making some apple juice as well as cider and sticking it in the fridge for a few days. Then my son can enjoy the fruits of his labours as long as I test it first.

One problem is the bruising when the apples fall from the tree. I can't afford netting but next year I could put down bubble wrap or something to cushion their fall and prevent them from getting mouldy.

An interesting thing I read was that the yeast, which is a kind of fungus, converts the sugar in the cider to alcohol producing Co2 as a bi-product, and it's this process which prevents the cider going off. The alcoholisation continues until either all the sugar is used up, or there is so much alcohol that the yeast itself is killed off.

Day 3 - Saturday 6thOctober

Well, the cider in the 1 gallon demi-john seems to have calmed down a bit now, so much that I was a little concerned that I hadn't put in enough yeast. I thought that maybe it was now just really off, dead apple juice, until I took out the stopper had a wiff and immediately detected the strong smell of alcohol. It's alive - and deadly!

I don't know what day this is in terms of a timeline. Probably it's been about a week since we did the first batch and added the yeast, then a few days later added another pint or so of squeezed apple juice, and there's still another pint's worth on the tree. I wonder if I should add that in with a little more yeast and see what happens. But now it looks quite clear with a layer of crap at the bottom and hardly any gas being emitted. It's a bit sickly looking. I'd like to try sparkling cider but I don't want to risk blowing up the demi-john. It might break into two halves and become ... a semi-demi-john?

A few days later ...

No idea when it was, but I realised I'd missed a step. I was supposed to fill the demi-john to the neck with juice and after the first bout of bubbling I was meant to wipe the crusty crap off the inside of the neck, but as I hadn't filled it up enough I wasn't able to wipe the crap off the inside of the glass as it was too low. So it started sinking into the cider and floating about. I decided to syphon off the cider into two water jugs before washing out the demi-john and returning it back in with the gas release stopper and put it in a cooler area upstairs. Again, the smell of alcohol was unmistakeable.  All I need to do now is just leave it for a year or so to mature and give it a try.

Might try last year's small bottle of cider tonight and let you know how it tastes. If you don't hear from me for a while I've died. I'd like to thank you all for reading! In the case of my death I would recommend you do not follow the above steps...

Wednesday, 26 September 2018


I was asked to provide a blurb for the upcoming West Lothian Writers' Anthology to accompany my two short stories, 'One Last Tale' and 'Multiversal', so I wrote this:

Chris Young - billionnaire, superhero, philanthropist - he wants to be all of these things and more. But alas he finds it easier to dream about it instead of actually doing it, so he's a writer, and not even a very good one. Join him on his haphazard journey through his own head as he encounters idiot villains*, talking animal detectivesª, quirky multi-dimensional office staffº, time travelling thugs bent on plagiarism, and stories that may or may not mean something.

The best time to put a tea cosy on your head is on a cold blustery autumn morning
just after making a pot of tea

* Thick as Thieves
a The Old Mice Killer
o Multiversal
∞ One Last Tale
† Everything

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Published at last

A little heartwarming news is due, I believe.

A few readers that peruse this page will remember a few weeks back I submitted an amusing tale describing inept burglars' antics while breaking and entering a gambling establishment, named "Thick As Thieves", with the desire that it might be published. I am very happy and a little surprised as I write this that it has indeed been selected, and failing any later misunderstanding might in fact be paid a princely sum with the privilege!

Said tale may well appear via paper medium in the fine place called Canada next spring in a Knucklehead capacity.

It's funny that whenever I try writing a piece with great gravity I never seem successful, yet when I merely describe a funny and slightly rude/ titillating concept, that's when things seem incrementally desired by the public.

I must regret the inexcusable writing style in this article but can explain by way that a letter key isn't utilising itself right this instant and must be circumvented using strange language. Perhaps dear reader can deduce the relevant letter key, perhaps they can't. Either way, I really must finish up this article ASAP lest said key's use suddenly appears necessary.

Thanks are due : WLW's Stephen Shirres, the writer that sent me the relevant link way back when; WLW itself - the writing club that gave great feedback as always; the readers that like my stuff; and lastly my wife, the talented Japanese artist, Miyuki, that did the drawing illustrating the amusing scene underneath.

Thick As Thieves illustrated by my wife Miyuki

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

More Cycle Paths in Scotland

On 28th June 2018, Scotland recorded its hottest ever temperature of 33.2 degrees celsius in Motherwell, Lanarkshire. 

One of the good things about the climate changing is that if we can expect warmer sunnier mediterranean weather in Scotland this means better days for cycling.

But according to this article, Scotland only has 1036 km of traffic-free cycle track, compared with 32,187 km in Holland. So Scotland only had 3.2% the amount of cycle paths Holland has.

Cycling, which has been hailed as one of the most efficient forms of transport, seems to be the way forward for this country and the world, if we want to continue living on this planet. These velomobile things look pretty cool too, but who's going to fork out for one of these?

By Bluevelo, CC BY-SA 3.0,
So, it might seem to make sense that to encourage more people to cycle to destinations under 10 miles away for example, we would need a better traffic-free cycle network, the benefits of which would be many, and not just for cyclists:

  • Less traffic on the roads
  • Less cyclists on the roads for cars to overtake
  • Healthier citizens -> less strain on NHS. According to this article a link has been found between cycling to work and cancer and heart disease. "During the course of the study, regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%."
  • Less risk of car accidents for cyclists -> less strain on NHS. According to this 2017 article, which has a lot of information about cycling death and injury in the UK, about 100 cyclists die each year in the UK and more than 3000 are seriously injured. There are even a few shocking stories of motorists purposefully injuring cyclists.
  • Less hazardous exhaust fumes for cyclists to inhale
  • Better cycling tourism -> Better for the economy.
  • Better local air quality -> Better for childrens' health -> reduction in asthma.
  • Less national CO2 production. According to this report, in 2016 transport became the largest contributor to national CO2 at 26%.
Two American solar cars in Canada

How much could we save?

Let's take a look at the effects of 45% less cancer and heart disease on the NHS.

According to this article, "Last year the costs of cancer diagnosis and treatment across the UK NHS, private and voluntary sector were estimated by the report at £9.4 billion. This is equivalent to an average of £30,000 per person with cancer. "

45% of £9.4 billion is £4.23 billion.  

How much will it cost? 

This blog has some useful information about costs. Sustrans and TFL estimate it to cost anywhere between £100k and £900k per km of proper cycle track. Let's say an average of £500k per km of cycle track.

Scotland has 55,000 km of roads, but not all of these would, could or should be cycle-pathed. According to this report 1% is motorway, leaving 54,450 km. Let's calculate the costs to cycle path the roads up to Holland standards.

This would result in costs on average of £500,000 x 32,000km = £16 billion.

But we could estimate that we save £4.23 billions worth of health care in cancer prevention.

This alone could pay for 4,230,000,000/500,000 = 8,460 km of cycle track.

Imagine what another 8,460km of cycle track in the central belt could achieve in terms of health, cleaner air, less congested traffic, and reduction in CO2 production.

According to this article, "The average distance commuters ride in a single trip within Scotland is 9.4 km." which would take about 6 miles. This would take about 36 minutes by bike.

Source :
So that's it. In this blog post I've hopefully outlined why more cycle paths in Scotland would be beneficial to our health, our country's finances and our planet's climate change crisis.

What's the next step? Email our MPs, contact our local councils, sign this petition :

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

We're back! (On Google)

I'm very pleased to announce our return to the Google search engine.

On the 20th June I realised that this blog had vanished off the face of Google, while still being visible on Bing. There was a message on the Google search page saying that some results may be filtered due to the new GDPR Privacy laws, and I wondered if perhaps that was what had happened to this blog. Maybe another Chris Young (we are many) had mistakenly thought I was calling them a knucklehead. 

So I fired off a message to the team at Google using the privacy form explaining my predicament, and today received a very nice reply confirming my fears and resolving the situation forthwith. 

No apology, but you can't have everything.

Hey, have you bought my book yet? The Old Mice Killer. It's really good.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Confessions of a Knucklehead

Well, it's been about a month since my last confession, so I thought I'd drop in again and exercise the old writing muscles. "Use it or lose it!" they say, but at the moment I'm actually trying to lose the repetitive strain injury of my right wrist. I still remember the time when I first got this RSI - ironically editing a short film called "Last Hand" (now deleted and lost forever) using nothing but the track pad on my mac when I was living in Japan around 2006. That's 12 years. So yesterday I got a wrist support tube and some Deep Heat to see if that'll help.

Knucklehead Noir

I've just submitted a longish short story of mine (that I wrote in Japan around 2009) called 'Thick as Thieves' to an anthology published by Coffin Hop, on a friend's advice, as the brief is :

Tales of dimwitted criminals and unlucky twits on the wrong side of the law. Nimrods, numbskulls and rejects. Bumbling sidekicks and idiots-gone-wrong. 

I wrote the story just for my own amusement, and enjoyed having it workshopped at West Lothian Writers a few months ago where I got and implemented some good advice, so we'll see if it bears fruit.
Funny how I found myself slightly reticent on submitting a short story again after all these years, even though due to luck the brief happens to be quite appropriate to the story, but this alone of course does not necessarily guarantee success. They say before submitting stories you should be familiar with the publication to know what kind of content and style they're used to, but I have no choice as the story is already written and the deadline is the end of the month, so here I go.
But it again seemed to reinforce the sensation that I'm not afraid of failure - I'm more afraid of success. I'm sure fear of success is not an uncommon stumbling block. Failure is easy. Anyone can do it with very little effort on their part. It's something I have lots of experience with and I'm quite comfortable staying in the shadows being an undiscovered underachiever with limitless untapped potential, than someone who can actually succeed at something and then set themselves up for a public fall.
Did you know goldfish were actually artificially bred from black fish, and are always psychologically uncomfortable standing out so much all the time? The things you learn teaching English as a foreign language.
Time to Face up to Facebook

On 25th May FB gave me (and most other people) an ultimatum: Read and accept their new terms and conditions, or be deleted forever. And you know, the second choice is actually quite tempting. 
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are lots of good things about Facebook, for example for people who are separated, isolated or incarcerated. I am interested in the lives of my friends and family, but there's something about the social media site that leaves me with an itch I just can't scratch. You see, I prefer the old fashioned human - human interaction, where you get to see the person's face, hear their voice, enjoy their smile, things like that. It's a much more intimate one-to-one connection, rather than the cheap one-to-many proclamation of the Facebook wall, which is better suited for a town crier ringing a bell shouting, "Hear ye, hear ye, three o'clock and all's well!", or announcements such as "Hey, we're getting married," or "Sadly someone has passed away," or "Happily such and such was born weighing 3 pounds and whatever," which was traditionally the job of newspapers. But it's too easy, and for someone like me who regrets almost every second thing I ever say or do, that's not necessarily a good thing. 
So at the moment I'm in Facebook limbo. I have neither been deleted nor agreed to the new terms and conditions. 

I am become the Unsociable.
One thing I have noticed though, is that my relationships with people I meet face to face now seem to be better - less overshadowed by stupid things I may have typed, misunderstood jokes, or posts I may or may not have reacted to. 
Dropping Eaves

I was sitting in a cafe the other day and happened to overhear a couple of job interviews taking place. I was trying not to listen but short of stuffing cotton wool in my ears and dipping my head in a basin of jelly there wasn't much else I could do. 

As each interview went on, I found myself reacting (inwardly) to things they were saying, such as, "Ooh dear, that doesn't sound good. I wouldn't employ them if I were you," or "Why are you telling them proudly that you will supply their uniform, branding their souls with your logo forever as if that's such a great gift?" 

But in the end both got hired for the positions - people I wouldn't have employed for an employer I wouldn't have wanted to work for - and everybody was satisfied. 
And they will probably go on to earn a decent wage, build up a pension, get annual holidays, enjoy job security, get off benefits and pay taxes. So well done all.

None of my business really.

The other day I put up a shelf (using a spirit level) in my shed (which is squint), and looking at it now I finally understand about the rules of conformity and non-conformity. Even if you are RIGHT, you still look WRONG.