Sunday, 28 August 2011

Edinburgh's Disgrace

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I love Edinburgh. They'll probably say I tend to go on at some length about how beautiful Scotland's capital city is and how it is such an exciting, vibrant city to work and live in, particularly at this time of the year when the Edinburgh International Arts Festival and Fringe is in full swing. However, the reputation of this fine city is consistently tarnished by a group of individuals whose actions - or lack of action - turn Edinburgh into something of a laughing stock. Step forward the City of Edinburgh Council.

What started out as long ago as 1999 as a forward-thinking proposal to reintroduce trams into the capital has turned into a fiasco. In fact, such a farce may well have scooped an award at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.

The original plan was to build a tram line from the city's airport through the west end, to the Haymarket then along Princes Street and Leith Walk to Ocean Terminal and Newhaven pier. Following years of transport studies in Edinburgh, two bills were submitted to the Scottish Parliament to reintroduce a tram network to Edinburgh and both bills were passed in March 2006. We were told public transport in Edinburgh would be revolutionised and while there would be considerable upheaval as much of the city centre would be dug up to accommodate the installation of tramlines etc, it would be worth the inconvenience as by 2011 the trams would be up and running. Inevitably, as with the Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood, the estimated cost of the trams project  - initial costs for the scheme were £498 million, with £375 million funding from the Scottish Government and £45 million by Edinburgh council - was millions of pounds out with costs spiralling with each passing year.

In April 2009, Phase 1b of the tram construction project was cancelled due to financial problems. The Scottish Government said the project would continue but no more public money would be given. Later, it was announced that trams would no longer be going down Leith Walk and would instead terminate at St. Andrew Square in the city centre - much to the chagrin of shop and business owners in Leith who had endured months of roadworks and traffic diversions thus affecting business, ultimately for nothing.

Last week the City of Edinburgh Council, having given serious consideration to cancelling the project altogether, announced that the trams would now only run from the airport to the city's Haymarket - stopping short of Princes Street and St. Andrew Square. The cost is now being estimated at £715m. This despite the fact tramlines have been installed in Princes Street for two years now.

The Council's latest decision beggars belief. How many visitors to Edinburgh will take a tram from the airport and get off at the Haymarket - a good ten minute walk from Princes Street? Very few I would wager, particularly as there is already a very good bus service on that route which carries on to Princes Street and Waverley Bridge taking just 25 minutes from the airport. It is another ridiculous decision by the people who run Scotland's top city.

On Edinburgh's Calton Hill sits the partially completed National Monument, the building of which was started in 1826 and was meant to to be a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Napoleonic Wars. It was never completed, partly due to a lack of funds and was labelled 'Edinburgh's Disgrace' - a moniker that has stuck ever since.

Nearly two hundred years later there is another use for this term. Not so much for the ill-fated tram system the good citizens of Auld Reekie have been promised for more than a decade. It's more the case that Edinburgh's Disgrace of the 21st Century can be found in the council chambers....

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Carrying Life's Burden

I was emailed the message below about managing stress by my good friend and fellow Jambo Adullamite. I find the words particularly useful as this year things seem to be going from bad to worse for my family.

My elder daughter Laura was rushed into hospital at the weekend with severe stomach pains. She is presently in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh awaiting surgery to remove her gallbladder although apparently she has a gallstone particularly close to her liver and this is giving cause for concern. She goes for a scan tomorrow with a view for the operation to go ahead, hopefully, on Tuesday. Laura being Laura, her main concern is for her children and whether she will still be able to take Jack and Hannah to Euro Disney a month from now. Having spent so much money to go on the trip she doesn't want to let anyone down. In my view she will never let anyone down.

My mother, meantime, is waiting to go into hospital for tests. No date as yet but it will be quite soon and I know she is quite anxious about it. She has fainted a couple of times when out and hopefully these tests will ascertain the problem.

It's only a few weeks since the other Mrs Smith, the mother of my children, was in hospital with what was initially believed to be a heart attack. She isn't enjoying the best of health either and in addition to this she also has a medical condition that requires regular attention.

My younger daughter, Michaela, started her new job three months ago and she is working all the hours of the day to try and put systems in place to improve the service her team provides. Early starts, late finishes and working at weekends. Not an ideal situation for anyone, far less a 21 year old girl who really should be enjoying life. Her stress levels - and therefore mine - have increased greatly and like any father I worry about her welfare.

Which leaves me. Not wanting to feel left out, I am attending hospital this Tuesday for an all day 'session' where tubes, cameras and various bits and bobs will be entered into various orifices in an attempt to discover what's causing my throat problems. Coughing up blood, so they tell me, isn't a good sign. However, I'm the least of my worries and I'm sure all will be well.

But if I don't post on here for a wee while you'll perhaps understand. And be thankful!

Have a read of this...

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience. With a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'... She fooled them all ... "How heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile.

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time,sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night ... pick them up tomorrow.

Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment. Relax, pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

David Cameron's Return Makes a Difference

The prime minister says police admit they got their riot tactics wrong, as he announces a raft of measures to help homeowners and businesses....

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Happy Birthday Hannah

My darling grand-daughter is 4 years old today. She brings so much love and joy into my life.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Maggie’s Centres are for anyone affected by cancer. They are places where people are welcome whenever they need us – from just being diagnosed, or undergoing treatment, to post-treatment, recurrence, end of life or in bereavement.

Maggie's is about empowering people to live with, through and beyond cancer by bringing together professional help, communities of support and building design to create exceptional centres for cancer care.

Maggies also welcome family and friends, as they are often deeply affected by cancer too. Maggies know that those who love and look after someone with cancer can feel just as frightened, vulnerable and uncertain. Below is a link to an organisation that makes a huge difference to so many people's lives.

On 11 September 2011, my good friend Kirsten will be cycling 51 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh to raise money for Maggies. If you would like to help her raise money for this very worthy cause and would care to donate, please go to the link below. If you would also be kind enough to send the link to this page to friends and relatives, both Kirsten and I would be extremely grateful. Thank you.

Monday, 1 August 2011