Tag Archives: Scotland

Divorce sends me back to the UK and waiting for my Peppy Miller

By Calvin Palmer

Regular readers of this blog, the three of you know who you are, will have noticed the change in the header photograph. The cityscape of Jacksonville is gone and has been replaced with a photograph of the Cromarty Firth in Scotland.

I am back in the UK for a while and facing an uncertain future after my wife – aged 56 going on 23 – decided to divorce me after 13 years of marriage. Her timing was impeccable. The announcement came on the eve of our wedding anniversary.

The news was not unexpected but it still came as something of a shock. Given that my income last year amounted to $90.40 from amazon.com advertising on another blog site, I had little option but to head back to the UK and take stock of the situation.

I am staying in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland, courtesy of a friend from my university days who kindly offered me accommodation while I find my feet and rebuild my self-confidence before heading back to the United States to start my life there all over again . I will forever be in his debt.

After living in the Riverside area of Jacksonville, and on a busy road, the first thing I noticed was the peace and quiet. I have yet to hear a vehicle pass by the house at night; mind you, the house in Scotland is situated 150 yards from the road, which is a dead-end.

So the sound of trains blowing their horns at every level crossing has disappeared from my life – I kind of miss that – but I am certainly glad to be free of those inconsiderate bastards who used to drive through Riverside with their drums and bass tracks pounding from the subwoofers in their cars and shattering the stillness of the early hours.

I don’t know whether it is just me but the older I get I find my tolerance of noise is lower than when I was younger, so being surrounded by the Scottish countryside is perfect for me.

But there are drawbacks. My location is a little remote; the nearest village is a 15-minute drive away. I have had little chance to socialize. I am not sure the people in these parts will respond to conversation from strangers in the same way that Americans do. We shall see.

I made my debut back on British roads yesterday and did all right, given that most of the route was along single-track roads. They appear extremely narrow after driving on roads in America.

I have also rediscovered the noble art of pegging washing out on a washing line. In both Texas and Florida, despite the hot climes, washing was always dried in the tumble drier. I know, it was scandalous behaviour, right up there with driving a car powered by 3.5 litre V6 engine.

The highlight of the week was watching The Artist; my hosts had recorded the film on their Skybox. I knew the film had been well received by the critics and won a raft of awards but, hitherto, I had not been drawn towards it – a great failing on my part.

It turned out to be one of the best films I have seen in a long time. The lack of dialogue hardly seemed to matter, mainly because of the superb acting of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, the masterful direction of Michel Hazanivicius and the wonderful score by Ludovic Bource.

The film got a bit too close for comfort in the final scenes after George Valentin was told to get out of the house by his wife. I readily identified with the character’s slide into reduced circumstances and could feel his growing sense of desperation. Unlike George, I have not sought refuge in a bottle; perhaps that will come later, although I sincerely hope not.

George was eventually saved from the abyss by the charming Peppy Miller, who helped him to bury his pride and resurrect his career.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

When the film ended, I was left to ponder, where is my Peppy Miller? I hope she turns up soon.

So if any of you delightful women out there can come to the rescue of a writer/sub-editor/proof-reader/photographer and generally nice guy, just get in touch.

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US oil executive’s wife suspected of murdering their three children

By Calvin Palmer

The wife of an American oil executive faces prosecution over the deaths of their three children in Scotland.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court today issued a petition warrant for the children’s mother 46-year-old Theresa Riggi, who is suspected of murdering her three children.

Eight-year-old twins Augustino and Gianluca Riggi and their five-year-old sister Cecilia were discovered on Wednesday at a townhouse in Slateford Road, Edinburgh, after reports of an explosion.

The children are thought to have been stabbed to death. The results of the autopsies conducted today have not been disclosed.

Their mother is stable in hospital after apparently falling from a second-floor balcony at the house and police are waiting to interview her. She is said to have suffered serious injuries, including several self-inflicted stab wounds.

Pasquali Riggi, 46, an executive with Royal Dutch Shell PLC in Scotland, issued a statement today saying his family is struggling to come to terms with the deaths of the children.

He asked for privacy to grieve for his children.

Riggi, who is originally from Colorado, is not a suspect in the investigation and has been helping police to try to piece together the last movements of his children and estranged wife.

The Riggi children had been at the centre of divorce proceedings between their parents and were being sought by court officers at the time of their deaths after their mother failed to attend a court hearing.

Last month, Theresa Riggi and the children were reported missing from the family home in Aberdeen.

They were later traced to the property in Slateford Road, Edinburgh, but Mrs Riggi failed to attend the court of session in the city on Tuesday for a scheduled hearing in a divorce case brought by her husband.

A judge instructed court officers to locate the children, involve social workers and apply for a protection order if deemed necessary. The Riggis had been due back in court for a further hearing.

[Based on reports by The Press & Journal and Associated Press.]

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Hairdresser “seduced” by high-speed motorbike gets jail for doing 166mph

By Calvin Palmer

A hairdresser caught doing 166mph on a Scottish road has been jailed for nine months and banned from driving for five years.

Neil Purves, 27, of Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, was traveling on the A702 near West Linton, Peeblesshire, on May 13, when a police patrol was alerted by a ”high-pitched engine noise”.

When police caught up with him, their equipment recorded that he had reached 166.15mph on his Suzuki bike, Peebles Sheriff Court was told.

It is believed to be the highest speed recorded on a public road in Scotland.

Purves pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at a previous hearing.

Defense lawyer, Graham Walker, argued for a non-custodial sentence and said Purves was a man of good character who had been ”seduced” by the power of his high-speed bike.

It was clear no other vehicles were using the road at the time and nor were any cars parked nearby, Walker said.

“I think it’s fair to say the level of risk that the public were subjected to was very low but there was considerable danger, I think, to the accused himself,” he told the court.

Walker said his client posed a low risk of re-offending and had sold the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 motorbike.

“It’s fair to say that superbikes or motorbikes of this kind may have a seductive speed appeal and I think it’s also fair to say that Mr Purves was seduced by that element of speed on a long, quiet, straight stretch of road,” he said.

Sheriff John Horsburgh told Purves: ”The speed at which you were driving this motorcycle makes a custodial sentence the only appropriate one.”

Purves’ sentence was reduced to nine months from a starting point of 12 months on account of his guilty plea.

Last year more than 20 motorists were caught traveling at more than 100mph on this stretch of the A702, prompting calls for permanent speed cameras in the area.

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and BBC News.]

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Crew and passengers rescued after helicopter ditches in North Sea

By Calvin Palmer

All 18 people aboard a helicopter that ditched into the North Sea this evening have been resuced from two life rafts, according to coastguards.

The Super Puma helicopter came down near an oil platform in the ETAP field, 125 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Three of the people aboard were rescued by a Bond company helicopter, the other 15 by a platform lifeboat.

Coast guard spokesman Fred Caygill said the passengers and crew managed to make it out of the helicopter on to two inflatable life rafts.

“We’re very pleased that all 18 have been rescued,” Caygill said, adding that there were no serious injuries.

A Sea King helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and a Nimrod jet from RAF Kinloss were scrambled.

James Lyne of RAF Kinloss said all those on board would have been wearing immersion suits that would have protected them from the cold of the sea for some time.

NHS Grampian said A&E staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary were now on full alert and they were expecting 18 patients.

[Based on reports by BBC News and newsday.com.]

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Avalanche kills three climbers in Scottish Highlands

By Calvin Palmer

Three climbers were killed today after being caught up in an avalanche on a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.

Two rescue helicopters were scrambled and members of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team headed for the scene on the 3,353-feet Buchaille Etive Mor, Glencoe, just after 12.15 p.m. when the avalanche hit a group of seven climbers.

Two climbers were airlifted to Bedford Hospital in Fort William.  A third climber was later found and also taken to hospital. All three were subsequently declared dead.

An RAF rescue helicopter, was diverted from an exercise in the area and a second helicopter was scrambled from the Royal Navy station at HMS Gannet near Prestwick.

On Friday, wet and loose snow was reported in many of the gullies in Glencoe. Snowfalls in the past few days have increased the risk of an avalanche and in places the snow reached up to four feet deep.

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service was reporting a “considerable” avalanche risk of 3+ in the area over the weekend. Earlier in the week, the risk had reached level 4 with fresh snow fall.

Buchaille Etive Mor is a popular climbing area, known for its distinctive pyramid shape and attracts both rock climbers in the summer and mountaineers in the winter who climb up the snow and ice clogged gullies and cracks that cover the mountain’s rocky face.

The mountain marks the entrance to Glencoe and features on many postcards of the area.

[Based on a report by The Daily Telegraph.]

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Professor plays around with St Andrews golf course under the sea by 2050

By Calvin Palmer

The news that the Old Course at St. Andrews could sink into the sea is enough to make any golfer slice his drive or miss an easy three-inch put.  The “Home of Golf” lost to the ravages of the sea sounds like a pitch too far.
 
But that is exactly the scenario proposed by Professor Jan Bebbington who is described in various news reports as an “environmental expert.”
 
Is this the same Prof. Bebbington who qualified as a chartered accountant in New Zealand, where she held her first academic post, before moving to the UK and eventually becoming Professor of Accounting at the University of Aberdeen and then Professor of Accounting and Sustainable Development at the University of St. Andrews?  Indeed it is.
 
My two degrees are in geography.  In future, I must remember to pass myself off as an expert in accounting.  Nah!  That’s boring.  Particle physics is the sexy subject at the moment but knowing when I get a piece of grit in my eye is hardly likely to see my expertise being utilized on the Large Hadron Collider project.  And if it is, there is absolutely no chance of the Higgs Boson particle ever being discovered.
 
So accounting expert Prof. Bebbington, who is the director of the St. Andrews Sustainability Institute, was asked to prepare a report visualizing the effect of climate change on Scotland’s future society, according to The Daily Telegraph.  Report – that sounds serious.
 
However, in the BBC News version of the story, Prof Bebbington was asked to write an imaginary speech based on the assumption that Scotland had achieved an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
 
Imaginary speech – we are in the area of fiction here.
 
Her speech/report could have been deadly dull and gained no media coverage whatsoever.  But she came up with the thesis that the famous St. Andrews golf course, the Old Course, will have crumbled into the sea by 2050.
 
Given that golf ranks among one of the most popular pastimes in the world, the story flashed on the news wires and was taken up by newspapers and news organizations across the globe, thus guaranteeing that it would become a talking point at 19th holes from North America to Australia and all club houses in between.
 
Prof. Bebbington said the Old Course, which is right on the sea, could be destroyed by strong storm surges caused by climate change unless protection is put in place.
 
“There is a lot of coastal erosion going on already because of stronger storms,” she said.  “I want to use something iconic to demonstrate what we stand to lose.”
 
Coastal erosion has been affecting parts of the North Sea Coast for centuries, just as places that were once on the coast centuries ago now find themselves several miles inland.  An environmental expert would know this of course.
 
It may also surprise the good professor to know that there are beaches in Scotland that are 50 feet above sea-level as a result of isostatic readjustment. 

For those without the benefit of a geographical education – sorry Prof. Bebbington but I have to include you in that category — isostatic readjusment means the land that was under ice during the Ice Age is rising back to its former level now that the weight of the ice has disappeared.
 
But back to her imaginary speech, which states: “We are living in a time of profound change, given the broader carbon performance of the globe.
 
“Like many of your own countries, we have had to adapt to more severe winter storms, to more flooding, coastal erosion and also rising sea levels.
 
“We limited the effects of some of these impacts by banning building in high-risk areas some 20 years before the actual impacts were felt, progressively investing in strengthening our infrastructure and making a managed retreat from vulnerable coastal locations.
 
“This was still a painful experience, especially as we lost many historical sites on coasts.  For example, many of you will remember the sorrow at the last British Open played in St. Andrews.”
 
Why would there be sorrow at the last British Open played in St. Andrews?  If it was still being played, surely everybody would be happy at that fact.  Wouldn’t the sorrow only arise when the event could no longer be staged at St. Andrews?
 
Her speech also estimates the world’s population at 9.5 billion in 2050 and it will be eating “a largely vegetarian diet, with meat being eaten sparingly but with great relish.”
 
So who is working on the recipe for this great relish?  Accountants?  Environmental experts?  Scientists at CERN?  Gourmet chefs, perhaps?  Although I doubt they could bring much to the table given what constitutes an expert these days.
 
She also predicts a move towards buying hardwood furniture made in Scotland from timber grown in Scotland.
 
See what I mean.  That prediction would hardly have flashed around the globe, now would it?
 
One final question: Hands up all those reporters who took the press release on Prof. Bebbington’s imaginary speech, wrote a different intro and then copied it verbatim?  What!  All of you?
 
Go and form an orderly line outside the editor’s office and keep your fingers crossed that you still have a job at the end of the reprimand that is coming your way.

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