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Prince Charles

Prince Charles reads the weather

I for one welcome our new meteorological overlords. It was refreshing to see how barriers can come down in our meritocratic society, when an amateur enthusiast was allowed to read the weather on BBC Scotland.

One thought struck me, though: if Prince Charles can do forecasts on the telly, can we not let Heather the Weather have a shot of being head of state?

Like HRH she has bags of experience appearing in public, has a cult following among a certain segment of the population and has never been elected.

Given how wildly popular Chuck’s broadcast has become, I think there’s a real appetite for such an arrangement. It would get around those gnarly succession issues as well.

Armed Forces Day parade <em>Picture: John Knox</em>

Armed Forces Day parade Picture: John Knox

By John Knox

The skirl of the pipes is at once magnificent and frightening. It captured my mood exactly as I joined the crowd in the Royal Mile on Saturday for this year’s Armed Forces Day. Prince Charles, David Cameron and Alex Salmond, each representing their different interests in the day, stood outside Holyrood Palace to take the salute as 2,500 troops marched past.

Edinburgh was the centrepiece of this year’s celebrations – taking place across the UK. At noon, the RAF Red Arrows streaked across the sky trailing clouds of glory in the form of red, white and blue tail-smoke. Down in the docks at Leith, HMS Portland, a Type 23 frigate, was open to the public. Various displays, piping competitions, flypasts and church services have been held over the weekend.

As a group of soldiers waited their turn to march forward, a proud mother next to me photographed her son in the ranks. “Smile,” she called out, which her son duly did, trying not to look too embarrassed. “That’s my boy,” she told her neighbour in the crowd, a visitor from Australia. “Tomorrow he’s due to get his sergeant’s stripes. He’s served in Bosnia and Afghanistan and just now he’s based in Ireland.” She then showed the visitor a picture of her son’s family. “Oh that’s so sweet,” said the Australian.

The war in Afghanistan has brought home to us the danger these men face and the sacrifice their families make to carry out Britain’s international commitments. Over 370 service personnel have been killed in the ten years we have had troops in Afghanistan. That awful phrase, “The men’s families have been informed,” tolls like a bell as each news story from the front comes in.

As the number of deaths escalated, three years ago the idea was born of an Armed Forces Day. It’s a day for the nation to thank the soldiers for their service and sacrifice. And it’s a day for the Army, Navy and Air Force to connect with the people who are asking them to serve and who are paying the bills. Whatever we think of the particular wars and missions these men are sent on, everyone wants to “back our boys and girls”.

The cobbles of the Royal Mile have been tramped on by military parades for centuries. They have echoed from the sound of war at home and abroad, wars of imperialism and wars of defence. Military action is a nasty and unpredictable activity, to be avoided if at all possible. But sometimes it is necessary and someone, very often our very best people, has to do the bloody business.

Otherwise we would have to give up our role of peacekeepers and fighters against tyranny, oppression, cruelty and injustice. People such as Saddam, Gaddafi and the Taliban would continue to abuse their people. And to allow that to happen would be to give away part of our humanity. Thus a military parade is both a magnificent thing and a dreadful thing.

This year’s parades are particularly sensitive, not just because of Afghanistan but because of the defence budget cuts. The cuts are happening for two reasons, both of them controversial. One is the UK’s overall budget deficit and the coalition government’s determination to reduce it. The other is the long-term downsizing of Britain’s place in the world.

The British armed forces, at 233,000 strong, are the second-largest in the European Union – after France. We have the fourth-largest military budget in the world – after the USA, China and France. For decades, we have been debating how long our relatively small country can continue to play such a large role in the world. And these issues are now coming to a drum head. The government wants to cut the defence budget of £34 billion by 8 per cent over the next four years. That will mean a reduction in personnel of 17,000.

In Scotland, we have already had the amalgamation of the six army regiments. The RAF base at Kinloss is due to close down at the end of next month. It looks like either RAF Leuchars or RAF Lossiemouth will become a base for Britain’s returning Army of the Rhine. The two aircraft carriers to be assembled at Rosyth will not be equipped with jump-jets until at least 2020, following the decision to scrap the Harrier squadrons. A decision on replacing Trident nuclear submarines has been postponed. And so the cuts go on. Some may be welcome but all of them will be unsettling.

Armed Forces Day thus has a third purpose: to prevent morale in the ranks taking a nose-dive. The budget cuts and the losses and uncertainties in the sands of Afghanistan are a double burden which must be difficult to bear. It makes the parade of smart, cheerful soldiers down the Royal Mile all the more impressive and the skirling of their pipes all the more magnificent.

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A bad case of plooks <em>From An introduction to dermatology, 1905, by Norman Purvis Walker</em>

A bad case of plooks From An introduction to dermatology, 1905, by Norman Purvis Walker

By Betty Kirkpatrick

Fernietickle, which I wrote about last time, and plook both refer to a mark that may appear on the face – but, apart from location, there is not much similarity between them. Linguistically, fernietickle is a much more attractive word than plook and, while a light dusting of fernietickles (or freckles) can be a beauty enhancer, this is not true of plooks.

A plook, pronounced as it is spelt and with alternative spelling plouk, is Scots for a spot, pimple or boil.

Most of us have suffered from a plook – or, worse, plooks – at some time in our lives. They plague the young in particular, especially those in the terrible teens. Just when a teenager is getting all dressed up to impress a member of the opposite sex, out pops the reddest of red pus-filled plooks to disfigure the face and spoil their chances.

One plook is bad enough, but they have a nasty tendency to multiply and some develop into that teenage nightmare, acne.

Acne, incidentally, may be the absolute pits as far as teenagers are concerned, but this is not true not of its origins, which are actually rather lofty. Acne has its roots, so to speak, in the Greek word acme, from which we also get acme meaning the highest point.

The Greeks also used this word to mean a point or a spot on the face, but when Latin adopted the word acme, it was misspelt as acne. Latin handed on the error to English.

Plook does not have such an exciting history. Indeed, it is one of that legion of words in Scots and in English which are of uncertain origin. It seems likely to be related to Middle English plouke, a pimple or a pustule, which is an even less attractive word than plook. German plock, pluck, a plug or bung (no, not the bribe), is also a possible relative.

If you have a smattering of spots on your face, or, for that matter, elsewhere, this can be referred to as plookiness. You as the sufferer can be described a pluke-faced plooky or plouky – although you would almost definitely rather not be. In the past, you might also have been referred to as plucky, which looks much better, but that is no longer current.

The word plook can also be used figuratively. You could say that the plook of your anger came to a heid (head), although this is a bit literary, not to say over the top. More commonly, plook has become almost synonymous with carbuncle in its figurative sense.

This sense of carbuncle, as you may know, shot to fame when Prince Charles used it to refer to the extension that was then being made to the façade of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London. He said it was “like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.

Plook, not to be outdone, also got involved in the architectural world, although not at such an august level. Those behind the architecture magazine Prospect started a competition known as the Plook on the Plinth. The award is given to the place in Scotland which is deemed to be worst in terms for planning and architecture.

Didn’t plook do well! I bet Prince Charles wishes he had thought of it.

Betty Kirkpatrick is the former editor of several classic reference books, including Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. She is also the author of several smaller language reference books, including The Usual Suspects and Other Clichés published by Bloomsbury, and a series of Scots titles, including Scottish Words and Phrases, Scottish Quotations, and Great Scots, published by Crombie Jardine.

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<em>Picture: Amplified 2010</em>

Prionnsa Teàrlach. Picture: Amplified 2010

Is iongantach mar nach eil cuideigin a’ leughadh nam pàipearan. Tha am Prionnsa Teàrlach air tighinn a Ghallaibh agus e a’ toirt ionnsaidh air a’ bheachd nach eil gnothaich air cànan nan Gàidheil a bhith a’ tighinn faisg air an sgìre.

Tha fios againn mun deasbad. Gu dearbh, chuir mi fhìn ris an deasbad nuair a bha mi a’ sgrìobhadh dha iris eile ann an riochd eile. Tha fios againn mar a bhiodh iad ag ràdh: gum bàsaicheadh gach neach anns an sgìre ann an tubaistean-rathaid nam biodh aon sanas rathaid ann an àite sam bith ann an cainnt Chalum Cille: gur e an t-airgead a tha a’ Ghàidhlig a’ faighinn a tha a’ dèanamh an diofar agus, nan deidheadh a thoirt air falbh bho na Gàidheil aineolach is ann a bhiodh seirbheisean poblach na b’ fheàrr na Flaitheanas fhèin.

Is sheas am Prionnsa Teàrlach. Agus an àite a bhith a’ dìreach a’ bruidhinn mu dheidhinn cho snog is a bha cùisean agus an moladh seinn dhaoine, dhèilig e ri deasbad agus thuirt e na rudan a bha feumach dhan h-uile neach againn a chluinntinn. Bha e airson a bhith socair, modhail, thuirt e.

Mar a thuirt e: “Chaidh am beachd a chur air adhart nach eil ach ceangal glè bheag, ma tha idir, aig a’ chànan ris an sgìre. Ma dh’fhaodas mi, chuirinn ceist, gu socair, air a’ bheachd sin.

“Nach ann a chuireas fìor iomadachd chultarail ri gach pàirt den àrainneachd againn agus ar fèin-aithne? Chanainnsa gu bheil a’ Ghàidhlig, coltach ri cànan no cultar sam bith eile, a’ buntainn ris a h-uile duine agus coimhearsnachd ann an nàisean, co-dhiù a bheil iad an sàs ann gus nach eil. Mar sin dheth, ‘s ann a bhuinneas a’ Ghàidhlig do dh’Alba air fad.”

Agus lean e air adhart le a bhith ag iarraidh gum maireadh a’ Ghàidhlig agus gum fàsadh ar cànan.

Tha tòrr a bharrachd ùidh aig samhail a’ Phrionnsa ann an dè thachras dhan Ghàidhlig na shaoileadh gu leòr againn. Tha e fhèin, coltach ri gu leòr nach eil ga bruidhinn ann, den bheachd gun cailleadh an rìoghachd rudeigin prìseil mura biodh a’ Ghàidhlig ann tuilleadh. Tha iad a’ coimhead air dè a tha a’ tachairt.

A bharrachd air a chuid chomhairle dhan fheadhainn sin a tha an aghaidh na Gàidhlig seach is gun do chaith buidheann de bhodaich Lochlannach feusagach deireadh seachdain ann am pàirt bheag den sgìre aca bho chionn mìle bliadhna, tha e cuideachd ceart gu bheil a’ Ghàidhlig gu bhi buan air sgàth na bhios a’ tachairt anns na bailtean mòra, is chan ann a-mhàin air sgàth na thachras aig ‘cridhe’ nan coimhearsnachdan Gàidhealach.

Tha earrainn mhòr den fheadhainn a bhuannaich a’ fuireach anns na bailtean mòra. Agus tha iad gan ainmeachadh fhèin mar fheadhainn a tha a’ fuireach anns na bailtean sin. Tha sgoiltean air leth dhan Ghàidhlig ann an Glaschu is Inbhir Nis, is chan eil iad anns na h-Eileanan Siar. Gach deireadh seachdain, bidh thu nas cinntiche seirbheis Ghàidhlig fhaighinn ann an Dùn Èideann na bhios tu anns a’ chuid as mò de na h-Eileanan an Iar. Sin an saoghal a tha againn. Is dòcha nach bi e cho glic tuilleadh a bhith a’ bruidhinn mu dheidhinn samhail Gàidhlig Leòdhasaich, Uibhistich, no Sgìtheanaich tuilleadh ach a bhith a’ smaoineachadh barrachd air Gàidhlig Ghlaschu, Chille Brìde an Ear, no Obair Dheathain.

Is tha am Prionnsa Teàrlach seo gar fàgail le comhairle is facail misneachail, an àite sgrios is trioblaid fhàgail as a dhèidh.

English summary

Instead of shying away from debate, Prince Charles decided to take Gaelic’s critics head on.

<em>Picture: Dan Random</em>

Picture: Dan Random


Sheena and the Queen
The Scottish attitude to the Queen is an odd one. Many Scots, in the 20th and 21st centuries, might have taken against an English monarch who dared to lord (or lady) it over them. But everyone finds the Queen hard to dislike. She rules as a Taoist would rule: quiet, unjudgmental, adapting to change like water negotiates rocks. But, of course, that’s the trouble with the whole principle of hereditary monarchy: the next one along could be a right git (though Prince Charles, who loves Scotland, is hardly likely to be that, even if he mangles too much of our wildlife).

The Queen praised Scotia for “the grit, determination and humour, the forthrightness and above all the strong sense of identity of the Scottish people – qualities,” she added cannily, bearing in mind the Union and all, “which contribute so much to the life of the United Kingdom.” Aye, right. That’ll be the oil and net contribution to the Treasury, presumably.

Presenting a new mace, she added: “Here’s a mace.You can steam off the Poundstretcher sticker on the bottom. Right, I hereby declare this supermarket, er Parliament, open.”

About time too. The late actor and theatre director Tom Fleming gave a powerful reading of The Beginning of a New Song, by Iain Crighton Smith: “Let our three-voiced country/sing in a new world/joining the other rivers without dogma/but with friendliness to all around her.”

Then came the highlight of the event, Sheena Wellington’s singing of A Man’s a Man for a’ That, with words soaked in egalitarian sentiment. When first mooted for the opening, someone rejoicing in the ruritarian title of Hereditary Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland fulminated that the song was a disgrace and that we should have the English-British national anthem, presumably (or presumably not) without its line about “rebellious Scots to crush”. Wha’s like us, eh? Weird, weird people.
Sheena had already criticised “the class of Scot who would eat deep-fried horse manure if you told him it was the latest craze in Islington”. It’s the real class divide in Scotland: the weird poodles and the doggedly bold.

Come the day and come the hour, Sheena smiled calmly and looked directly – boldly – at the Queen before she closed her eyes and sang: “Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord/Wha struts and stares an a’ that?/Tho hundreds worship at his word/He’s but a cuif for a ‘that/His ribband, star and a’ that/The man o independent mind/He looks and laughs at a’ that.”

One might have expected Donald Dewar, right-wing Labourite, safe pair of hands, the man who despaired at the sovereignty-of-the-people gestures during the swearing in, to tone down the leftie stuff but, to everyone’s surprise, he added to it. In an excellent speech – the best he ever gave – he said: “At the very heart of that song is a very Scottish conviction: that honesty and simple dignity are priceless virtues, not imparted by rank or birth or privilege, but part of the soul.”

In a magnificent passage, he conjured up aural echoes of Scotland’s past: “The shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards; the speak of the Mearns with its soul in the land; the discourse of the Enlightenment, when Edinburgh and Glasgow were a light held to the intellectual life of Europe; the wild cry of the great pipes; and back to the distant noises of the battles of Bruce and Wallace.”

It was moving stuff, and made one think of how, given time and the right event, someone of Donald’s erudition could really say something meaningful and aesthetically impressive, whereas most of his hurried life in and out of committee rooms saw him read dull, formulaic verbiage, doubtless written for him by some party hack.

Given the occasion and the company, the whole event was magnificently, honestly and uninsultingly left-field. We just stated who we were and what we believed, beyond party and present-day concerns. When it was over, I’d to make my way to a BBC Radio Scotland caravan parked just off the Mound to throw in my tuppence-worth with a few other guests.

But I could hardly move in the crush outside. Crowds lined the streets and, while I could see the caravan, I couldn’t get across the road for a parade of children, soldiers, politicians and pipers. I wasn’t much bothered. It was a joyous day. The sun shone. Concorde flew overhead. Everyone, visitor and native alike, looked delighted. The earlier apathy appeared to have disappeared. It wasn’t the political prospect of anything much happening for Scotland under devolution. I’ve already put you right on that one. It was just that it was a lovely day and, for once, on an occasion outwith sport, saltires proudly flew. We were Scotland, come what may. And we’ll take any excuse for a pairty.

I was supposed to be at the radio caravan for 12.30. I made it for 12.55. Lesley Riddoch and her guests had been bemoaning the fact that the day had not been declared a public holiday and, being unaware of this consensus, I blundered in, saying it didn’t matter any more. Result: dirty looks from all present, who obviously felt passionately about the issue. I backed a holiday, but just felt it was yesterday’s debate. After that, as I recall, most of the discussion was taken up with my ponytail.

Later, I went home to let my hair down in a private celebration of the official opening of a parliament that was to take me away from news reporting – which I loved – and into a closed, school-like world whose rules I could never follow and where every utterance was examined by a newly formed political press corps, many of whom affected to detest the place that was to keep them in work for years to come.

The Royal Mile. <em>Picture: Harshil Shah</em>

The Royal Mile. Picture: Harshil Shah

Carry on up the Mile
On 1 July 1999, Her Majesty, a Queen, was privileged to join me in what turned out to be a rather splendid occasion: the official opening of the Scottish Parliament. It was made splendid by the lashings of left-wing sentiment that topped off the dignified proceedings: a meeting of old and new; of tradition and future; of establishment and rebels.

Her Majesty arrived in an open carriage, accompanied by Prince Philip who, as chance would have it, also enjoys the title of Duke of Edinburgh, and by Prince Charles, using his doon-the-water title of Duke of Rothesay for the day.

Past the rubble of a building site at the bottom of the Mile, where the new Parliament would later be built with seamless efficiency, the carriage made its way up to the top of the Mile. The streets were lined by strangely muted crowds. I say “strangely” but the commonplace idea that the nation was enthused by devolution and genuinely believed itself on the threshold of a new dawn is tish-tosh and, arguably, pish. I don’t know why people rewrite history like this. It requires an almost unfathomable capacity for cant.

Anyway, you can’t stop a Queen going where she will and, accordingly, the burd fae Buckie Palace rode up the Royal Mile on cobbles strewn with sand. This was to stop the horses sliding. You wouldn’t want the Queen to come off and land on her postilion.

Up in the forecourt of the Parliament, meanwhile, the Inverness Gaelic Choir cantillated sweetly as, inside, invited dignitaries waited in anticipation. William Hague, the Conservative leader, was there, looking lonely. Later, he was booed in the street, which was unfortunate. I’d trailed him on a few stops of a British election campaign once and, without every speaking to him (one never likes to get too close, in case they become friends and you feel guilty at slating them), I formed the impression he was an OK bloke. For a baldie.

Leading clergy were also present: Cardinal Winning, Bishop Holloway, Canon Kenyon Wright, the Rev I M Jolly (Rikki Fulton). Sean Connery sat resplendent in full Highland regalia, including a big fat fluffy ruff and, indeed, it was a case of kilts akimbo in the chamber, with John Farqhar Munro (Lib Dem) sporting a particularly Brigadoonesque outfit, complete with excess tartanry flung over his shoulder in an avant-garde display of 14th century bohemianism.

A brassy band in black open-necked shirts struck up a dramatic Fanfare for the Scottish Parliament, composed by James MacMillan, before, in a remarkable feat of choreography (ie no-one fell on their arse), the MSPs appeared in lines and processed with ant-like discipline to take their seats. When Donald Dewar walked in, he received loud applause, which took him aback. He almost looked round to see who it was for. After another magnificent fanfare, some people looking like playing cards from Alice In Wonderland waddled in. These were the Pursuivant, the Herald, and the Lord Lyon King of Arms. No, I’ve no idea either.

The kilt-clad Duke of Hamilton solemnly carried the Crown on a cushion and then, on her own two feet, came the Queen, walking and everything. Once she sat doon, Dame Gentiana said he hoped the Parliament wouldn’t be “neighbours from Hell” at Holyrood, adding that he was proud to welcome Her Majesty as Queen of Scots, which was “constitutionally correct”. In the press gallery, I remember thinking: “All right, ya fanny, get on with it.”

Yes, for once, I’d got into the press gallery. Only I found myself in the front row, which I hate, being a back row man, and was stuck next to a friendly hack who’d obviously had a couple of schnifters. He kept talking loudly and laughing during the early part of the proceedings and, whenever I looked up, I saw the security guards staring daggers at me, who was mortified. Later, this was to prove a regular occurrence. Hacks would often sit down and talk to me – the funny writer guy – in the gallery, during what they perceived as irrelevant proceedings, which were often where I picked up my best material. The more tedious the debate, the more bored the MSPs became, the more likely they were to say something unguarded or unwise. So, while I was desperately trying to listen, somebody would be giving me GBH of the earhole, and the security guard would inevitably come up and give ME a row for talking. Tell your children it’s an unfair world.

But enough of me. Let’s get back to that Queen. [Continued in next week's final instalment].

by John Knox

<em>Picture: David Lally</em>

Picture: David Lally

The finishing touches are being put to a new pontoon around the royal yacht in Leith harbour. No, not HMS Britannia but a real racing yacht with sails, the Bloodhound, once owned by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was bought from the restorers at the beginning of the year and has been on display beside the Britannia for the past few weeks but from next week visitors will be able to take a much closer look, from the new pontoon.

It’s a magnificent 63ft long ocean racer, a real classic yacht from the 1930s. She was built by Camper and Nicholson’s of Gosport for a rich American, Ike Bell, who became so much of an Englishman that he was Master of the Wiltshire Hounds – hence the boat’s name, Bloodhound.

She won many a race, from Cowes to Bermuda, and was the America’s Cup competitor of her day. Prince Philip bought her in 1962 and won quite few races – with the help of a crew of 12. He also took her on the Royal Family’s annual cruise, with Britannia, to the Western Isles. There, Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned to sail in her, a hobby which has remained with the Princess ever since.

The boat was part of the Royal fleet for seven years. Then it went through a succession of owners, slowly rotting away beneath them. Finally a boat-restorer in Poole, Tony McGrail and his wife Cindy, bought the tired old Bloodhound and spent nearly a million pounds bringing her back to her former glory.

It’s now a fully working yacht again. In fact, from next summer you will be able to charter it and teach your own princes and princesses to sail. The Duke used to lend the Bloodhound to youth groups when he wasn’t using it and many thousands of youngsters have learned to sail in it.

I thought, as I looked at this lovely yacht, that it’s become a floating illustration of how the monarchy has changed. What used to be the preserve of dukes has now become available to dustmen. Well, a few of them could charter the boat for a week, at say £1200 (the price has not yet been fixed, and you may have to pay an extra £600 for a professional skipper).

The fact that Bloodhound has ended up in a public museum says it all. There are now no longer any royal yachts, Britannia was the last of 53, stretching back to Charles II’s time in 1660. The Queen no longer has a crew of 240 to accompany her on overseas visits, no travelling band, no on-board laundry or ship’s hospital or her own Rolls Royce. I believe she was seen recently on an ordinary train, admittedly in the first class compartment. Prince Charles will soon be cycling to all his engagements on his bicycle.

It’s all downhill once you lose your yacht. But the Royal Family’s loss is Edinburgh’s gain. Hoist that sail, comrade.