I proposed to my wife on the CalMac ferry on the way back to Oban from a romantic week on Mull. Both of us were too excited to wait another minute to seal the deal with a ring.
As soon as we got off the boat we set about scouring Oban for a jeweller’s shop. After an hour exploring every side street, my eagle-eyed missus spotted a jeweller’s sign. In we went. Naturally it had to be a diamond ring. There was only one in the shop that she liked. It cost £400. I checked my bank balance. There was £400 in there. It was lovely to put a sparkle in her eye as well as on her finger. Relatives in Hungary were phoned. A few tears were shed. All the way home in the car she kept flashing it at me and I kept pretending to be dazzled.
The funny thing is that getting engaged with a diamond ring is a tradition invented by an advertising agency in the 1930s. In the late 19th century, the De Beers cartel discovered massive diamond mines. The world markets were flooded with diamonds. They were cheap and easy to buy. This didn’t really suit De Beers and so they set about the “creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem”.
De Beers then set about cracking the market in the United States. They hired advertising agency NW Ayer who immediately began persuading young American men and women that diamonds, and only diamonds, were synonymous with true love and that the depth of that love could only be measured by the size and quality of the diamond chosen. They equated the indestructibility of the ideal relationship with the supposed “indestructibility” of a diamond and coined the eternal slogan A Diamond Is Forever. This is one of the finest but most meretricious slogans ever written. Contrary to what we’ve all come to believe, a diamond is not “forever”. Diamonds can be shattered, chipped, discoloured and even incinerated to ash. But it’s too late now for the truth to spoil a great romantic myth. So if you’re about to propose to your girlfriend, young man, I would think twice about fobbing her off with cubic zirconium.
Kids are credit to community
Two months ago, our local playpark at Henderson Street and Yardheads was a tip.
There were shrubs ripped out by the roots, fizzy juice cans and beer bottles littering the play areas and piles of dog poo on the grass. We started to come down every day in our Leithers Don’t Litter T-shirts and clean up the mess.
The youngsters who hang out there – and probably contributed to the state of the place – were understandably curious. “What are youse doing picking up the rubbish, it’ll just be back to the same the morn.” “Are youse getting paid for it?” We explained that we lived here, we liked to walk through the park and it looked better when it was tidy.
They listened to us. We didn’t get any abuse. When they saw me spraying bright pink paint on piles of dog poo, they all wanted a shot. “I sprayed a poo-pie, I sprayed a poo-pie!” one girl shouted excitedly.
One of her pals got up off his seat, spread his arms wide like a politician and addressed all his mates saying “This is what we should be doing, clearing up our own community!” I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
This afternoon, thanks to Wendy McAdy at the Hibs Community Foundation, we had a visit from two young Hibs stars, Tony Reguero the Spanish reserve goalkeeper and Henri Anier, our Estonian striker on loan from Dundee United. They were a credit to their club. They picked up litter with us, posed for photos in the cold for an hour, chatted to the teenagers who’d come down to see them and answered the reporter’s questions about litter in perfect English with a lot of thoughtfulness and understanding. In one final generous gesture, Hibs offered free match tickets to the Hibs v Dumbarton game on Saturday, the afternoon after our Big Autumn Litter-Pick.
The afternoon ended with every teenager in that park taking a Leithers Don’t Litter badge and pinning it on their tops. I’m really proud of those kids for playing their part and keeping their own park clean.
Pesticide policy is such a buzz-kill
They say that if the bees go, we’re next. So important are they for pollinating our crops and keeping our biodiversity thriving that we literally couldn’t survive without them.
It’s astonishing, then, that our Tory government has chosen this moment in time to relax the legislation inhibiting the use of neo-nicotinoids in pesticides. They know these chemicals kill bees but they have long ago abandoned any pretensions to green behaviour in their desire to pander to the demands of big business.
I got this bee in my bonnet when I tasted a spoonful of Golden Age raw heather honey bought from ethical beekeeper Luisa Gonzalez at the Leith Market in Dock Place. OK, you might feel a tiny bit stung by Luisa’s bees because a single jar is going to cost you the best part of seven quid. Nonetheless, you’ll be glad you splashed out because this is no ordinary sticky goo. This is the nectar of the gods.
Luisa pointed out to us that the bee is a wild animal. This Queen Bee of Honey has now decided to close down her conventional bee farm because she hates the practice of keeping the bees fed on sugared water through the winter months. Her dream is beg, borrow or steal acres of wasteland from town councils where she can grow wild flowers, attract wild bee colonies and harvest their honey in the most natural way possible without resorting to the use of pesticides and antibiotics. How about it, Edinburgh City Council? You boast about your green credentials all over your buses. Why not give Luisa an acre of wasteland for her ecological experiment? She’d think you were the bee’s knees.
Clever ways to make them drop like flies
I respect most living creatures but I can’t be doing with house flies.
The big fat blue ones are blessed with enough native wit to fly out of the balcony door if I hold it open. But the smaller, dumber ones find a lampshade in the centre of the ceiling – it doesn’t matter if the bulb’s on or off – and just fly around it in curious parabolas. Occasionally they rest on the rim of the shade.
That’s my cue to reach into the bedside table drawer and bring out my fly-gun. It’s a spring-loaded weapon that fires a disc. Flat on my back, both hands on the gun, I draw a bead on the enemy and squeeze the trigger. Inevitably I miss but just the other day I scored a direct hit. I was overjoyed.
For days when there are several flies loose aboot the hoose, I tend to select my Weapon Of Mass Destruction. This is a tennis racket with mesh that can be electrified at the squeeze of a button. There’s a satisfying pop and flash as the little corpse falls to the floor.