Ready for some waffle?  Twice in one week …  Oh, the gift of spreading good cheer!  2024.  Weirdly, I have no problem typing that.  Seems to have sunk, effortlessly, into my psyche.  Should I take that as an omen for good?  One can but hope.

Now, what does one call a coat with a hood and no sleeves?  Unfinished!  What does one call a person who buys a coat with a hood and no sleeves?  Wanting!  Finally, what does one call a person who chooses to wear said coat with a hood and no sleeves to go for a walk on a North Sea beach in the middle of January?  Freezing!  What was I thinking?  Wim Hof would have been proud of me …  Definitely snow on the way.  I know, I know, it’s all over the weather predictions for next week but, for the past few days, there has been that eerie stillness which heralds the white stuff.  Meanwhile, the tide always seem to be in, leaving just a strip of sand on which to walk, and the waves, angry.  The contents of the sea are spewed, in a line, on the shore: seaweed, yes, but loads of shells, too, some of them enormous!  I don’t remember seeing the sand littered in this way.  Suppose it must be something to do with the currents.  Anyway, suffice to say, narrow strip of sand negates the avoidance of one’s fellow beings who, of course, are more than willing to offer a smile and polite greeting in passing – not!  Instead, one is rendered invisible as they avert their gaze and walk on by.  You know, that takes more effort than it does to smile and say ‘Hello’.  To think we put animals in cages …

Talking of which, I woke, this morning to two items on the news which made me leap out of bed to add to my notes.  The first, a quote worthy of an uneducated half-wit; the second, disclosing that an Asiatic Black Bear, rescued from the war-torn village of Yampil in Ukraine, has been brought to Scotland to be re-homed in West Lothian at Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder.  Rescued from the aftermath of war, perhaps, but, ultimately, to live out the rest of its life – alone – incarcerated in a two-bit zoo in West Lothian, nothing more than a money-making exhibit … is that rescuing? 

Asiatic Black Bears – also known as Moon Bears owing to the distinctive, crescent-shaped pale yellow, cream or white fur on the chest which resembles a rising moon – are native to eighteen countries across Asia, from South-Eastern Iran through Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the Himalayas to Myanmar and up into China, the southern portions of the Russian Far East and North Korea, the southern islands of Japan, Taiwan and Hainan.  Phew! Prolific, or what?  Didn’t happen to see West Lothian on that list, though!  Instead, their natural habitat is one of steep mountains, forests and thick vegetation and, apparently omnivores, they live on a diet of insects, fruit, nuts, bees, honey, small mammals and birds as well as carrion.  Listed as endangered in their natural environment, they are vulnerable and numbers are estimated to have decreased to 50,000 worldwide.  Most cruelly, Moon Bears are the preferred species of the Bear Bile trade prolific in China and Vietnam …

Bear Bile Farming is legal in China where the demand is driven by the belief that the bile has medicinal qualities.  Commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, it can also be found in ordinary household products and cosmetics such as shampoo and toothpaste.  Sold in the form of powder, tonic or pills, the bile is thought to be a ‘cure’ for anything from hangovers to cancer.  However, said bile is extracted from the gallbladders of living bears and the methods barbaric.  There are almost one hundred large-scale farms in China, the most extensive housing over two thousand animals, permanently, in cages the size of coffins.  Starved and dehydrated, the bears can neither stand up or turn around.  Who owns these farms, perpetuating and benefitting from this torturous, unforgivable trade?  Why, major pharmaceutical companies, of course!  Yet again, ashamed to be human …  Let me give you the link to Animals Asiavoilà – from where I gleaned this information.  Rescuing bears since 1994, CEO Jill Robinson founded the charity in 1998, establishing and operating bear rescue sanctuaries both in China and Vietnam.  A friend of my friend, Virginia McKenna, both have broken the mould, devoting their lives to help wild animals suffering at the hands of human beings …  Judi Dench is an active supporter of Animals Asia, by the way.  Spot the common link.  Thank God for these incredible women, proof that there are diamonds in the dirt!

I was oblivious to the existence of Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder.  Wish I had remained so.  Edinburgh Zoo is already one animal prison too many but I can only imagine what this lesser money-making institution must be like.  Opened in 2005 – should be ashamed in this enlightened era – apparently, it incarcerates over 160 species from around the world including lions, leopards and cheetahs.  Help!

We are here to make sure that learners across central Scotland and beyond can access quality, engaging, fun and accessible learning programmes.’

Five Sisters Zoo, Education.

Since when did ‘learners’ become an accepted term in the English language?!  Unsurprisingly, Scottish, perhaps, and very much in keeping with its context above.  Oh, to have ‘learnt’ the art of writing an intelligible piece …  Anyway, poor Yampil.  Death would, surely, have been a blessing.

Scotland.  For too long, now, clouded by the SNP’s incessant – and increasingly delusional – demands for independence (as they continue to demonstrate their glaring inability to run a country), it seems that Caledonia may have dropped from the national radar, finally devoid of respect.  England and Wales share a combined legal system, forming a single jurisdiction but – our problem – Scotland is a law unto itself.  How scary is that?  Look at the evidence.  I repeat, where is Sturgeon, her fake husband – former Chief Executive of the SNP – and Colin Beattie, former Party Treasurer?  All, three, arrested in the summer but released without charge, it was only a matter of time, surely?  The missing £600,000 of donated funds which, subsequently, morphed into a possible millions?  Nothing.  Why the silence?  Smacks of corruption or the slowest police investigation known to man!  Meanwhile, Sturgeon’s mouthpiece – the embarrassment that is Humza ‘Useless” – seems to have taken it upon himself to ad lib, on a regular basis, serving only to highlight the space between – his ears!

There are threats and there are threats.  Take the recent attacks by Houthi rebels on international trade vessels in the Red Sea.  A deliberate attempt to compromise freedom of navigation, the US and UK struck back in a warning bid to prevent a volatile situation escalating on a global scale.  Cue the reported response of Humza ‘Useless‘ when asked for comment yesterday:

‘He wished they cared as much about children dying in the Middle East as they did about cargo ships.’   

Not a clue.  Completely oblivious!  Back to ‘learners’.  Would it be asking too much of our Scottish First Minister if one suggested he learned himself the job?  Perhaps, then, he may understand the need to be fully informed and abreast of world events, not merely focused on the personal.  Hang on, though, that’s exactly what his predecessor (now, puppeteer) spent her years in office doing as she, so desperately, tried – and failed – to avenge a life-long grievance.  Ruth Davidson, Scotland has never needed you more!

We don’t have any power other than our intellect and our hearts.’

Humza Yousaf

… and there’s the rub, Humza!!

This is Trish, signing off.