100 days – Day 90

100 days – Day 90

So sorry to learn of the death yesterday of one of my favourite actors, James Garner.

As a kid, I loved watching “Maverick” on TV – then “The Rockford Files”

Tonight,on DVD,  I’ll watch a couple of  the most enjoyable films that he’s in: “Support Your Local Sheriff”,





And “Support Your Local Gunfighter”




Meanwhile….. some of the best:




100 days – Day 88/89

100 days – Day 88/89


Couldn’t sleep, so started to watch the rest of the third series of “Ashes to Ashes” – eventually getting to bed after 3 am.


Somehow, I think that I’ll have to re-watch the very last episode again – I seem to have lost the drift about half way through!




100 days – Day 87

 100 days – Day 87

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church –

is a paraphrase of a statement made by Tertullian in 197 A.D. in “The Apology” – written to the Emperor:

He writes, “kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers (allows) that we thus suffer. …….Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”




The Christians of Iraq are considered to be one of the oldest surviving continuous Christian communities in the world.

The vast majority are Eastern Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians, Armenians, Arabs,and  Kurds .

In Iraq, Christians numbered about 1,500,000 in 2003, representing just over 5% of the population of the country. They numbered over 1.4 million in 1987 or 8% of the population. After the Iraq War, it was estimated that the number of Christians in Iraq had dropped to less than 450,000 by 2013 – with estimates as low as 200,000. Chaldean Catholics form the biggest group among the Christians of Iraq.

Iraqi Christians are fleeing Mosul after Islamist militants threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam or paid a “protection tax”.

A statement issued by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) called on Christians to comply by midday on Saturday or face death if they did not leave the northern city.

Isis has control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.

The ultimatum cited a historic contract known as “dhimma,” under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a “jizya”, and a spokesman elaborated, saying, “if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”


 Stand firm in the Faith!  Don’t be forced to convert!   Don’t pay “protection money”!




100 days – Day 86: “Life on Mars”

I’ve been re-watching “Life on Mars” – the highly successful BBC series from a few years ago.

Remember it? How a modern day Manchester DCI, Sam Tyler (John Sim) is hit by a car, knocked down, and awakens in 1973. He then goes on to be part of Gene Hunt’s team of politically incorrect thuggish detective squad.



All the while, he is desperately searching for some sort of doorway back to the present. “Am I mad? In a coma? Or back in time?” he asks over each episode’s opening.

I hadn’t realised that an American version had been made – it bombed, lasting only one season.

The scriptwriters had to resolve everything in the last episode, and this is what they came up with:

Sam wakes up in the year 2035 as an astronaut aboard a spaceship bound for Mars. It turns out his life as a cop in 1973 was a holodeck-type virtual-reality program—one Sam had picked out to entertain himself as he hibernated in a pod during the long space voyage. But wait, you interrupt with knitted brow, how does this explain the fact that the first episode of Life on Mars depicts Sam as a cop in 2008? Why would his virtual-reality program briefly plop him into one past era, and then confuse him by booting him further back in time for no clear reason? Ah, that too is part of the computer mirage. A glitch in the software caused the whole cop scenario to flicker between decades!

from “The Slate”

100 days – Day 85: Telephone Call Centres

100 days – Day 85:    Telephone nuisance calls.




Boy, have I had quite a few in the last few days – some the silent ones; others “International” (usually “Mike” or “Robert” with a sometimes impenetrable Indian accent) or, today, “Number Withheld -Private Caller”: this one about new windows and door frames and the caller was Scottish! I’m patriotic, but not daft!  After listening politely to the spiel and declining their kind offer, I was still informed that “one of my colleagues will phone you later to explain the technical details”  I said that this wouldn’t be necessary, as I wasn’t interested…… half an hour later – yep, you’ve guessed it; that time I was less polite. (I may have mentioned that I was happy enough with “Windows 7”)

Ah, the call “We’re phoning about your “Windows Computer” – usual answer, “I used an iPad most of the time” (True).  However, I had a ding dong “conversation” a few weeks ago, when industrial strength language was resorted to – and backwards and forwards we went, at one point my parentage being called into question; the call ending with my suggesting that the gentleman from the sub-Continent do something to himself that is physically impossible.

One call from a couple of years back was more than inappropriate.  The foreign caller asked to speak to “Mrs StraCHAN” (they rarely can pronounce our surname), and I replied that my wife had died just a month before.  Reply, “Oh, then, is that Mr StraCHAN?  Would you be interested in taking a survey?” I told him to – well, never mind!

Yesterday, “Am I speaking to Mr StraCHAN” (here we go again)  Truthful answer,”No” (’cause that’s not how one pronounces my name.) “Are you a family member?” was the come-back. Answer, “No but we’re VERY close , if you get my drift….”  Phone call ends abruptly.

Some friends have put their toddler children on the line; others have asked them to hold – then have gone off to make a cup of coffee; some have replied in dog-Gaelic; acquaintances have engaged them in polite conversation about the weather where they are or what they plan to have for their lunch/evening meal.

I’ve tried referring them to the fact that they’re in breach of “Section 4, subsection 5, of the Telephonic Communications Act, 1998”  – try “Googling that!  😉  

I did once elicit the reply that the call was coming from Mumbai and said to the guy calling from there, “I assume that you are Hindu? – followed up in my best Rev Iain Paisley imitation: “I PRAY THAT YOU FIND JESUUUUUUS!”

Even although I’m registered with The Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the volume of calls has increased recently.  So today I phoned BT and ordered two of their new DECT phones which incorporate the blocking of such nuisance calls. 


This, however, is the best way to deal with this nonsense:


postscript : this is TRUE: I was just finishing this blog entry when the phone rang.  Can you guess? “Number Withheld – Private Caller”!!!!!

100 days – Day 84: St Swithin’s Day

100 days – Day 84: St Swithin’s Day




Born in the 9C in the Kingdom of Wessex,  Swithin (spelling also recorded as ‘Swithun’) was the Bishop of Winchester (the City in which he had been educated).

He became chaplain to the King of Wessex, Egbert, and Egbert’s son, Ethelwulf (whom Swithin had tutored) made him Bishop of Winchester in 852 A.D..

Some 100 years after his death in 862, – on  15th July 971 – and for reasons not documented, Bishop Swithin’s remains were transferred from his humble grave just outside the west door of the Minister,  to a shrine within the  Cathedral itself.

On that same day there was a tremendous rainstorm that was to continue for a further  40 days and 40 nights.  Legend has it that Bishop Swithin was so angry about the move from his final resting place that he caused the storm.

Folklore has it that if there is rain rain on 15th July, then we’re in for a following wet forty days thereafter…..   this 40 day period ending on St. Bartholomew’s Day (24 August)

Saint Swithin’s feast day is the date of the removal of his remains, not that of his death.



st swithin weather

 copyright – Polly Hughes

100 days – Day 83: Bastille Day

100 days – Day 83: 14 July, Bastille Day



100 days – Day 82: World Cup Final

100 days – Day 82: Argentina v Germany (World Cup Final)




 Whose prayers will the Big Referee Upstairs heed ?

100 days – Day 81 (ii) – On This Day, 1979

100 days – Day 81 (ii): on this day, 35 years ago


12 July 1979:  we set off from Heathrow to Trinidad in a British Airways Jumbo.  I was to be the Church of Scotland minister at Greyfriars/St Ann’s in Port of Spain for the next four years.  I was 31 years of age.




A twelve hour plane journey to the West Indies can be pretty awful, and, on that day , it was the flight from hell, as we set off to my new ministry  (travelling via Antigua and Barbados)

Richard, our younger son was only 21 months old, so, being under the age of two years, didn’t qualify for a seat of his own.

Consequently, he had to sit alternatively of Helen’s and my respective laps.  And have you ever tried to change a nappy in a tiny aeroplane loo?- it’s not easy.

The drinks were complementary, so H and I had quite a few G & Ts – though most of them ended up being spilled down us, because of the aforesaid wriggling and squirming infant.

At Antigua, I got off the plane to stretch my legs and buy some duty free.  By the time I walked to the terminal, my grey clerical shirt had tuned 50 shades darker because of the scorching heat and subsequent physical reaction to it (in other words, I was sweating like the proverbial pig)

Got a couple of bottles of rum, then was told that I couldn’t go back to the plane until the embarkation call and would have to queue up with other punters who were boarding.

So, I had my very first Caribbean beer (Banks of Barbados) served by the surliest barman that I’ve ever encountered – maybe it was the clerical collar or more likely he was miffed at working out the change in local currency from the US bill that I’d handed over.



Eventually back on the plane, and onward, via Barbados, to Piarco Airport, Trinidad.

The welcoming party must have wondered what they’s let themselves in for:  a dishevelled, sweaty minister with a grubby shirt reeking of (spilled) gin and whose breath must have smelled like a brewery.

For some reason, Helen and the little boys were driven off in one car; I in another

Helen told me later that young Richard picked up Elder Ronnie Fraser’s (a kirk Elder, originally from Forfar)  torch and threw it out of his car window.  Ron just shrugged

On the way from the Airport to Maraval (suburb of P.O.S) where the Manse was, I noticed lines of young women standing by the side of the road into the City.  Helen thought that they were hookers trying to attract the drivers of passing cars for custom.

What had we come to?  What had I done to my little family?

(it transpired later that they were simply waiting for “maxi-taxis” (mini buses) to take them into Town!)

We got to the Manse eventually, tired, jet-lagged, grubby, hot and bothered, disorientated, and already homesick – only to be visited by two separate groups from the congregation who popped round to welcome us.

Helen was on the point of quitting altogether, and flying home the next day, but managed to sleep fitfully for a few hours

The next morning, she opened the (imported) American mega-fridge and discovered that it was crammed full of goodies – lovingly donated by the church members.

And – WOW! – real, proper big mangoes for breakfast in the patio….. this wasn’t so bad, after all.

And more kindly folks popping round to see if we were settling in.  So lovely, so caring, so involved….. hey, maybe we’ll stay…. and stay we did, living and working amongst the most wonderful people imaginable.

The return flight to the UK four years later (I could only stay that short amount of time, because of work permit conditions) was dreadful and upsetting……. but, unlike the outgoing journey 35 years ago today, this time we were leaving behind many true saints of the church…… and were missing them dreadfully.


p.s  beer was mentioned above – when we got to the Manse,  waiting there in the kitchen was a case of……. Carib Beer!  Huzzah



100 days – Day 81: 12 July

100 days – Day 81: 12 July   Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, 1690


The Battle of the Boyne was fought in July, 1690 on the banks of the Boyne River near the town of Dorgheda on the east coast of Ireland.  One one side was King James II (seen to champion the Catholic faith); on the other – Prince William of Orange (who became King William III) – for the Protestant cause.

 This ancient battle lives on in the minds of sectarian Protestants and still plays a role in the cultural and political life of many people in Northern Ireland (and  West and Central Scotland)




Some myths…….

  • Modern analysis of documents from the time suggests that Catholics and Protestants fought on both sides.


  • The large banners carried by Orange lodges routinely feature images of “King Billy” on a white horse, prancing across the waters of the River Boyne, sword outstretched in martial ardour.

            In reality, William of Orange rode a chestnut horse. He could not have wielded his sword since his right arm was in a sling after suffering a slight shoulder wound from a Jacobite cannon shot              while reconnoitring the battlefield the previous evening. So far from galloping across the river, William’s horse became hopelessly bogged down in mud in the shallows of the south bank, from            which he had to be extricated by an Inniskilling trooper named MacKinlay.


  • Although the Battle of the Boyne is now commemorated on July 12, it was held on July 1, 1690.

            The shift in the date is due to the changeover from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

           In Ireland, the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 and September 14 followed September 2. Many dates in the calendar were mapped into the new calendar without a correction.

          However, the Orange orders were suspicious of the Gregorian calendar and its papist connections and continued to march on the corrected date of July 12.


An Irish Catholic walks into a pub on the Shankill, sits downs and starts to make conversation with a man at the next table.

“Want to hear the world’s worst Orangeman Joke?” he says.

“Aye, but before you tell it, let me tell you something. See those two bikers over there by the door, those tough-looking boys? They’re Orangemen. And the two fellas with the tattoos playing snooker? They’re Orangemen too! The barman?? An Orangeman!! And one more thing, sonny, I’m an Orangeman as well!!! Now….. do you still want to tell that joke?

” “God no!”, replies the Catholic guy, “I don’t want to have to explain it six times!”









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