I drive over The Duke’s Pass between Aberfoyle and Callender quite a lot at the moment, and when I remember I tend to have a decent camera with me, after all I have come to learn that this is likely to provide me with the opportunity to take advantage of the beauty I find.
I was driving back to Brig’o’Turk a couple of days ago when I was treated to this view of Ben Aan peeking through the low cloud, across Loch Achray, and so I pulled over and took a photo.
I realise that Disney / Lucasfilm is a gigantic corporate entity that has already sucked millions of dollars out of the global population for the Star Wars franchise alone, and that they do not need my help or anyone else’s help in perpetuating the presence of this cultural behemoth in the zeitgeist, but…
It really is a nice, fun thing in a World that is locked down and in fear of a virus that has re-written our understanding of epidemiology and our assessment of our own mortality. COVID-19 has changed the World, in a few short months and not in any way wanting to brush aside the seriousness of the situation, or the unmitigated tragedy of the deaths of which a good number may well have been prevented, Star Wars Day has been a pleasant distraction, and so I embrace it.
I posted on Facebook that I chose the young Captain Ackbar from the Clone Wars era (who would later go on to be the Flag Admiral of the Rebel Fleet at The Battle of Endor) to be my character totem for the day. The rich diversity of characters and the epic sweep of time that go together to make up the Skywalker Saga within the wider Star Wars Universe is a joy to contemplate, from the scum and villainy of the Bounty Hunters and Interstellar Pirates to the Clone Armies of the Republic and the Droid Armies of the Separatists to the Empire, the Rebellion, the First Order to the Resistance and the Dark Shadowy Sith, the canvas is vast.
Who would you be if you could insert yourself into the Universe for a day? What would you want to experience?
Would you visit the Night Sisters of Dathomire and witness the secret rites with which they held sway over their World? Would you quest for the Zilla Beast on Malister Prime? My choice for this year is in no small part chosen because of my fascination with underwater worlds, and Captain Ackbar is a resident of the watery Mon Calamari. During the Clone Wars (I forget exactly which season of the show) he fought side by side with the newly crowned King of the Mon Cala against the Separatists under the waves of his planet’s oceans.
These little imaginings go a long way to freeing me, and indeed us all, from the tyranny of reality, even if only for a moment or a few minutes of a daydream, but that is the joy of imagination.
So, Happy Star Wars Day – The Fourth will be with you, always…
So today and tomorrow my chum* Chiara is visiting. It’s the first time that she’s been able to visit since we moved up to Scotland, and I have been showing her around a bit and ‘cos we are both photography addicts this has led to some photos… (*chum, read “best friend”, “bestie” etc.)
The British Government, in the person of our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken steps to radically reduce the time and space available for the UK Parliament to act in line with its function to attempt to make it impossible for the UK to crash out of the European Union without some kind of deal, a so-called “Hard Brexit”.
There are those that would argue that the number of procedural days lost through this extended prorogation of Parliament is only four or five, and that is hardly something to get in a tizzie about, but the bald truth is that the House was increasingly likely to vote down the conference season recess in favour of emergency business with regard to Brexit, and Johnson’s request to the Queen has essentially removed Parliament’s agency to put the country before partisan podium bashing.
In other words, Johnson has used Parliamentary procedure in a way that it has never been used in living memory, in order to subvert the sovereignty of Parliament, a concept that was fundamental to the tissue of lies from the Leave campaign only three short years ago.
I like many other people am incensed by his willingness to depart from convention and fair play to further his grubby little agenda of setting the country on fire in order to egregiously increase the wealth of his cronies and paymasters. These are the true “grey men”. They will use their already vast wealth to successfully bet against the UK in the coming months. They will bet against our currency and our industry, profiting to an unimaginable extent from the misery of the working poor and the undefended as our country’s economy goes into free fall as we plummet from the cliff edge of the Hard Brexit that no one seems to believe can now be avoided.
Truly the 28th of August 2019 will go down in history as an analogue to the burning of the Reichstag, as the moment when democracy was wrenched from the heart of the people and replaced with the stark, cold reality that those who believe themselves to be our betters will tell us how our country will be run.
Here are some photographs from the spontaneous demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster and Downing Street on the evening after the announcement came through.
The thing is that on the way to Buchlyvie a couple of days ago I came around a corner to be confronted by a slow-moving quad bike and a flock of sheep. This led me to put my foot gently on the brakes and plan to drop down a gear or two, but there was a surprise coming. My brakes did not work.
Literally, my right foot was buried into the floor and my Ranger was not slowing down at all, not even noticeably decelerating from my foot having come off the gas. Now when I learned to drive my instructor covered this eventuality, explaining to me that the gearbox and engine can be used very effectively for braking in case of emergency, and indeed getting me to practice doing it. I am very grateful that I had such a meticulous instructor.
I dropped the car into second and started to hope that I would slow down enough that I would not damage the vehicle or myself when I put it into the hedge to avoid committing mass murder on the sheep, and then fate smiled. To my left (if you are reading this elsewhere than the UK or a handful of other countries please try to remember that we, here drive on the left) there was a small lay-by, rather like the road equivalent of an oxbow lake, and so I threw the vehicle into it and completely missed the flock and their guiding shepherd without having to come to a full stop or use the hedge.
Clearly this was a shock; I had not expected my brakes to simply stop working, but I was a long way from anyone who could be of assistance and almost late to see my doctor, so I dredged up my knowledge of how to drive on the gearbox and engine and thanked my lucky stars that the handbrake was still working perfectly. The trip back from the doctor’s surgery was slow and careful, for one thing I did not want to have to do any emergency stops on the handbrake, but I managed to get back to Aberfoyle and put the Ranger, as directed, on the ramp at Trossachs Motor Services.
It took the guys there about 2 minutes to put some new brake fluid into the system and find the leak. I was explaining to Donald Jr. that I was on leave and did not need the vehicle when he very politely let me know that there was no way he was going to let me drive away in the damn thing any way (not that I wanted to), and we all had a good laugh about that, considering the single track road we live up.
So, the moral of this story?
If you put your vehicle in a ditch don’t just assume it’s ok, get it checked over. Oh yeah, and if you drive “stick” and you don’t know how to brake with your gearbox, get someone to show you – you never know when it might save you anything from a hefty bill to your life. So, get your brakes checked, learn to engine brake and use sunscreen…