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Bright spots

A damp start to the day as I prepare for my two Committee meetings which require my logging in at 0830. Decided to treat myself, and viewers, to a full shave last night.

Apparently, even the soft image transmitted from my narrowband connection in rural Banffshire was beginning to show the fuzz on my chin. To support being in two places at once, I will be in my Edinburgh accommodation where a crystal-sharp image may be transmitted over a bandwidth nearly forty times the speed. Even faster than my link in Parliament.

One of the immense frustrations for me, and important for many, is that plans to move ahead with universal high-speed broadband are stuck in court. It hasn't been possible to place the contract for this in North Scotland due to a complaint from a losing bidder.

The move for many to home-working has exacerbated frustrations as an increased load on networks has slowed already leisurely response times even further. When the eagerly awaited upgrades are delivered, they will be greeted with an even louder cheer than expected as our reliance on good connections becomes even more critical.

Announcements in recent days of even faster connections in cities feed a palpable "left behind" feeling elsewhere. I also almost rejoice, actually no I don't, but it's tempting, to read of the difficulties being experienced with the roll-out of the 5G mobile telephone network.

Living in a "not-spot" for mobile phone signals - no 4G, 3G, or even 2G - it doesn't touch our lives at home one way or another. But as an EE customer, we are protected from that. Their phones connect to our WiFi and thus operate as normal. But that's another load on our very limited domestic capacity.

When I participate in a Parliamentary Committee from home, I have to remind my spouse that all other online activity has to cease so that I have exclusive use of what little bandwidth there is. That means she can't go online. The satellite box (we can't get a terrestrial TV signal either) has to be disconnected from the house data hub. All the windows in my browser except the one supporting my online session are shut.

The traditional husbanding of scarce resources in a rural area has been transplanted into the modern age of electronic communication.

Parliament has done well in putting in place the technologies to allow MSPs to (largely) work at home. The one significant gap that remains is remote voting for Chamber meetings. In Committees where a maximum of eleven may be voting, a roll-call can be quickly and reliably done. But when it's 128 MSPs who may be voting we need technology if we cannot be physically present.

So my being in Edinburgh today, the seven hours in my car, Parliament paying for that travel, the (managed) risk to my health, the risk of my passing my bugs to others, all flow from that short-coming.

And strangely, because they are hardly pacesetters in the adoption of modern methods, actually even using approaches such as those which Henry Ford introduced to his factories a hundred years ago, the House of Commons had remote voting. They seem to have abandoned it for doctrinaire rather than technological reasons. The House of Lords has, I believe, gone totally virtual.

I suppose people who think Birmingham is in the Midlands and Manchester is in the North, are hardly equipped to know or care about anywhere beyond that.

To complete my day's grumpy start, it was a "rise at 0445" day with a 2000 end in prospect,

So where are the bright spots today and this week?

I hear from pals of BBQs, and of how to organise them with social distancing. Apparently, there has been a run on those single-use small tin-foil charcoal fires. Each person attending can bring their own and keep 2 metres away from their friends. Sounds good but doesn't that put at risk the one remaining area of male-dominated expertise in the modern world?

If everyone brings their BBQ with them, does that dilute the key role men play in turning burgers into charcoal and ensuring sausages are so under-cooked as to represent major health risks, even pre-pandemic?

No. The distributed BBQ has at last eliminated one of the final areas of life where sexual discrimination still clung on. Or so a number of my female pals advise me. I look forward to joining them as soon as the rules covering us 8th-decaders loosen up. How does one chew a burnt sausage with a face-mask on?

So that's bright-spot number one.

I will return home on Thursday evening, after having asked an oral question of Ministers during the afternoon, to the prospect of three online meetings on Friday morning. And then a relatively clear weekend. Clear of meetings but with lots of Parliamentary reading to do.

Bright-spot two.

A turn around the garden last weekend suggested that a good fruit season beckons. Huge amounts of blackcurrants are set and thus no longer vulnerable to late frosts or high winds. The "three varieties" apple tree, ain't grafting wonderful?, is showing the promise of a good crop. And for the first year after many disappointments, gooseberry bushes hang with wee fruit.

New rhubarb will almost certainly be sufficient this weekend for transfer to the pan, and sweet enough to be cooked without added sugar, to then appear on my breakfast porridge.

The chives are not doing so well but other herbs much better. A walk from the kitchen to their bed and back with freshly cut ones is less than a minute.

Number three.

But perhaps most important in quite a few things to look forward to, a return to proper exercise. The benefits of my new fitness level are so marked that there is no way I will voluntarily give them up.

While there remain some parts of my upper torso where I can grab a (small) handful of fat, the area around hips and belly now presents all but zero such an opportunity.

It's a recurring theme, but I will recur about it anyway. The final block required to raise my happiness quota to the desired level lies in my re-organising my diary.

There are still two personal projects not getting enough committed time.

My plan to analyse one part of my spouse's ancestry, the "Mains" of Nairn, has made no progress for months. And it's a big enough topic to be worthy of a few PhD theses.

The other is simply organising my daily diary, and related supplementary writings, into a more useful form. With today's scrivening, they are approaching 110,000 words so far.

Recess, which starts at the end of the month - I don't know quite what it means as we shall continue weekly Parliamentary meetings - presents the opportunity to pursue a few personal interests which the flood of meetings has inhibited.

Organise the calendar for July and August, including lots of focus on local issues, so as to also allow a few personal activities in a summer which probably has no vacation away, and my that's the most important final bright-spot.

Even in difficult times, much to be grateful for.

Bright-spots burn through the gloom.

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