Some Scottish News & Views #79

This little effort is for the period ending Saturday 19th March 2011. In this issue I’ve been able to include a small named article which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Addendum to a Previous Issue
In issue #75 for the 12th February there was a small item on a study by Dr Robert McKenzie that stated “Glaswegians have the most attractive accent to Japanese ears” and I asked if anyone could verify the accuracy of the study.  I have recently received an informative email from  the author of the study,  Dr McKenzie of  Northumbria  University in England.  Dr McKenzie has provided me with  a copy of an academic journal publication as a PDF file giving a detailed overview of this study.  In addition he has provided a link to a recently published book providing an indepth analysis of the work.  Please get in touch with me should you wish the article or the link to the indepth analysis of the study and I will be only too happy to pass the information along - Robin.

Scotland Braced for More Snow
Scotland is bracing for more of the white stuff after weather forecasters predicted snowfalls across much of the country.   The Met Office on Tuesday night issued weather warnings for Lothian and Borders, Strathclyde, Central, Tayside and Fife, Grampian and the Highlands and Islands and said that up to ten centimetres of snow could fall over mountainous regions.  The worst affected areas so far have been around Inverness and Aviemore, where roads have been closed by drifting snow and rail services have been disrupted.  The warning comes as Philip Hammond, transport secretary, told the House of Commons that disruption caused by the snow cost the UK economy £280 million a day during the winter.

Bird of Prey Poisonings Hit Four-year High
The number of birds of prey being illegally poisoned in Scotland has risen to the highest level since 2006, new figures have revealed.  Four iconic golden eagles and one sea eagle were among the 28 raptors which were killed as a result of illegal poisonings last year, according to a report from the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland (PAW).

PAW's latest maps,  plotting hotspots for raptor persecution north of the Border, show that illegal killings in the Northern Constabulary area accounted for more than a third of all bird of prey poisonings, with two distinct clusters in the Strathspey area and north of the Dornoch Firth.  The latest figures for 2010 - one more than the previous year - bring the total number of illegal poisonings of birds of prey in Scotland to 132 in the past five years.  Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland's minister for the environment and climate change, announced the latest figures during a visit to the Doune Estate in Perthshire. She condemned the continuing death toll.  The latest report shows that during the year 13 buzzards, seven red kites, four golden eagles, one sea eagle, two peregrine falcons, and one sparrowhawk were deliberately killed with illegal chemicals.  Carbofuran, an illegal pesticide, accounted for 16 of the deaths.  Ten of the incidents were in the Northern Constabulary area, six in Tayside, three in Lothian and Borders, two in Dumfries and Galloway and one in Strathclyde.

Funding Found for Music School
Scotland’s up and coming traditional musicians will be celebrating as their school is given a reprieve from closure by Education Secretary Michael Russell who is putting £200,000 into Plockton Music School with £200,000 in a partnership with West Highland College.  The school had been set for closure after Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors in the Highland Council had voted to close the well known and well loved institution last month.

Commenting, Highlands MSP Rob Gibson said: “Michael Russell’s dedication to Scotland’s culture and tireless work to better the education of our children is very welcome and truly fantastic.  He has found an imaginative bail out and a new way to develop the centre of excellence in traditional music. I’ve been a long time player and supporter of these young players whose talent and love of Scottish culture shows the future of our traditional music is safe in young hands.   As a long time musician myself and a supporter of these young players, whose talent and love of Scottish culture shows the future of our traditional music is safe in young hands, it was a matter of disbelief when students, teachers and lovers of traditional music heard the Highland council’s plans to close the school.  They showed little duty of care for the students and their families with their announcement. The hypocrisy of praising protestors in the council chamber moments before voting to shut the school was a bitter blow and a stark contrast to the students demonstration in George Square in Glasgow, more a ceilidh-in than a sit in.  In council the hypocrisy of praise for the musical protesters followed by voting for closure was a bitter blow.”

Speaking about the move, Michael Russell said: “The reaction to the proposed closure of the school from pupils, former pupils, musicians, politicians and members of the public clearly demonstrated the widespread support for the unique facilities at Plockton.  This new partnership between the school and West Highland College will open up the school to older music students and allow them to take advantage of the quality teaching and outstanding legacy that Plockton has provided.  Investment from the Scottish Government will make this partnership a reality and assist the bodies concerned in funding the school in these times of financial constraint over the coming years.”

Woman Fails in Bid to Save Home From Games
A grandmother has failed in a last-ditch attempt to stop a council from demolishing her house to make way for the Commonwealth Games.  Margaret Jaconelli will be evicted from her home tomorrow, after an application to have her case heard at the Court of Session was yesterday refused.  The 52-year-old's Dalmarnock home, which is in a site earmarked for the athletes' village for the  2014 games, will be demolished by contractors soon after she leaves.

Mrs Jaconelli - who has lived in the house with her family for 34 years - is being forced out by Glasgow City Council who have bought the property as part of a compulsory purchase order.  A hearing to determine whether or not a Court of Session appeal should be granted was heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday.  But Sheriff Principal James Taylor ruled that it was "not competent" to progress the case any further.  Mrs Jaconelli is the last remaining resident in a block of flats at Ardenlea Street, which will now be demolished.  The council has offered Mrs Jaconelli £30,000 for her property but she says that it is not enough to buy her family another home.  She has also been offered alternative accommodation, but insists that it has been unsuitable.  She earlier told a civil hearing at the court that she did not object to the Commonwealth Games or the building of an athletes' village, but to the way the council had gone about its development.

Open Championship's £100m Boost to Scottish Economy (Take a bow all you golfers - Robin)
The Open Championship brought a £100 million benefit to the Scottish economy when it was held at St Andrews last year, new research has revealed.  The event, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010, exceeded the initial £80m forecast by academics at the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University in July last year.

The £100m headline figure includes a Scotland-wide economic impact of £47.4m and a destination marketing benefit of £52.6m, calculated from the global television coverage presenting Scotland as the "home of golf".  The independent research study, commissioned jointly by the golfing body the Royal & Ancient (R&A) and EventScotland, found that most of the economic impact was focused on St Andrews and the Fife council area, with £40.1m income entering the local economy directly attributable to the Open Championship.

R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson said: "The Open Championship averages six appearances in Scotland in a ten-year cycle and we are delighted that the only major championship staged outside the US delivers such a powerful legacy to the country recognised, the world over, as the home of golf".  The returns represents a near 30 per cent increase over the last economic impact study on the event, carried out in 2005 when the Open was last previously held at St Andrews.  The event is golf's oldest Major competition - first played in 1860 - and has the widest international scope of all such championships, with qualifying events held on every continent.

As a result of the 2010 financial return, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed yesterday in relation to the staging of the Open Championship in Scotland.  The R&A, Fife, Angus, East Lothian and South Ayrshire councils, along with EventScotland and VisitScotland put their names to the MOE, which will establish consistent arrangements for future Open Championships in Scotland.

Police Hunt for Naked Driver
Police are trying to trace a motorist who has been driving while naked. He has been seen twice in Dumfries in the space of a week. In the first incident, in Craigs Road, Dumfries, the man was spotted driving naked in his car. Now police have issued a second appeal after a naked man was seen getting out of his car and going to the boot before returning to the driver's seat, near the Maidenbower Path at Dumfries.  Police say the man was driving a silver or grey Peugeot hatchback.  He is described as about 5ft 11in and of medium build.

Anyone Else Notice They Have Forgotten Those Maths Lessons?
By Iain Maciver

Education in this country is very different compared to how people of my age knew it. Going to school now is more like using a computer programme. The kids have glitzy screens and fancy audio equipment to help them learn.  The fanciest technology we had in school was a noisy, smelly photostat machine which churned out fuzzy-looking sheets of diagrams and equations for homework. This clunky contraption had to be filled with a strong-smelling solution before it would produce these brown-on-white images. We brats quickly latched on that if you made a few copies of your geometry homework, held them up to your nostrils and inhaled deeply before they had a chance to dry, the rest of the afternoon would go swimmingly.  You would then just slump in the corner, with a grin from ear to ear, and feel at one with the world. You just felt mellow. You would laugh at absolutely anything the maths teacher said.  When Roddy John Smith would threaten me with the belt if I didn’t do my algebra homework, I would just secretly sniff my trigonometry sheets and I would be off again, dissolving into a fit of hyper-giggles. It was great, man.

In later life, I discovered several large gins with a little tonic had pretty much the same effect. New technology, we are told, is now being used to make classes more interesting. Interesting? Who ever said education was meant to be interesting? I remember it as something to be endured, to be got through, to survive.

Our teachers were fierce. Most were unbending individuals who should by now be enjoying a happy retirement, content they have moulded the likes of myself into a fine citizen. Oh, well.
Instead, many have cosy little niches as well-paid councillors to while away their twilight years. Still looking fierce, still unbending and still telling us how we should live our lives. Some things never change.

The other day, I saw a headline that made me think the changes in the education system really had gone too far. It said: “More grass is encouraged by college.”  In my day, those “meabans” who opted for vocational courses at Lews Castle College were always in trouble for being on the grass – and I don’t mean the green stuff on the lawn.  Education chiefs came down on them heavily and even sent offenders off to the mainland to teach them a lesson. Terrible punishment. Soon the rascals met up with drug dealers from down-at-heel places like Dingwall and Inverness and got into the habit properly.  Some have survived. And they’re back. They tell me they might even be standing for council next time round to put right the decades of wrongs inflicted on us by teachers, councillors and education officials.  Er, maybe now’s the time for all the former teachers to move on.

And that shocking headline? I discovered it was actually all about the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) urging crofters to grow their own. That’s the green stuff, not the stuff normally found in the possession of college students during police raids.  Thainstone grass guru Richard Huxtable is coming over to Lewis on Wednesday to lecture island crofters on how to use clover as a nitrogen fixing agent, grassland improvement techniques and the importance of nutrient and soil analysis.  I know, because I was so alarmed when I saw the headline I phoned the college.  I needed to know if the lecture, at the Marybank Mission beside Lava’s Garage, was just a get-together for hairy college students with CND symbols on their satchels.  The SAC head of grass told me: “No, nothing like that. This will be all about grassland management. Richard is very knowledgeable and puts his points across well. “It is going to be very exciting. We’re all on a high here.”

Meanwhile, it’s also very exciting that Comic Relief is on Friday. Time for everyone to do crazy things and hopefully not be arrested.  That also means Red Nose Day. It’s a big thing here in the islands. Everywhere you look, people turn out in Stornoway in wigs and plastic boobs to shake cans for this really good cause. OK, not everywhere, but, technically, the Free Church (Continuing) is in Sandwick.

Stornoway jokester Kenny Ferguson, a well-brought-up fellow who was never in trouble in school, has come up with a great idea to raise cash. He is looking for sponsors and donations because he is posting a joke on his website every half-hour. That’s right, every half-hour for a whole week.  Kenny, who works as a specs fixer at R. Doig Ltd, optometrists to the gentry, started his marathon session on Saturday.  He will be posting jokes, puns and shaggy-dog stories right through till Red Nose Day.  He’s doing well so far. Go to his site at www.rndjokeathon.co.uk. Give him what you can – cash or jokes. Kenny will be grateful for either.  Some may be a bit risque, so, if there are any maiden aunts reading this, I would just say that other websites are available.

Here’s an example of what is on already:
A drunk phones the police to report that thieves have been in his car. “They’ve stolen the dashboard, the steering wheel, the brake pedal, even the accelerator.  Oh, hang on,” he says. “I’m in the back seat.”

And what about the man who walked into a bar. He went “Aaaagh.” It was an iron bar.

A final one from Kenny’s collection? Oh, all right then, but you have to promise to go on to Kenny’s site and make a donation.  
How about the one about the man who rushes home and shouts to his wife: “‘Pack your things. I’ve just won the lottery.”  His wife is thrilled at his wonderful news and the chance of a break.  She shouts back: “Shall I pack for warm weather or cold?”
He says: “I don’t care, just as long as you’re out of the house by noon.”

Watchdog to Slash Cost of Mobile Calls
The cost of calling mobile phones from other networks and landlines is to fall by 80% over the next four years starting from next month when they will be halved.  Ofcom, the communications regulator, ruled yesterday that termination charges – the amount mobile phone companies bill their rivals for handling calls from their networks – are much too high.

The big three mobile operators – O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere, which includes Orange and T-Mobile – currently charge 4.18p per minute to connect calls from other phone companies.  However, this will be reduced to 2.66p next month and will fall to 0.69p by April 2014, in line with European Commission recommendations.  Ofcom said it expects landline operators to pass on the cost savings to customers and for mobile operators to offer more choice to customers.  Network rates are going to be virtually halved almost immediately, making it in theory much cheaper to call a mobile

The move comes after 161,000 people signed a petition supporting the Terminate The Rate campaign, which called for charges to be reduced to less than 1p. A spokesman welcomed yesterday’s decision but said the UK Government should have reduced the charges faster.  He said: “Ofcom has acknowledged that lower mobile termination rates are better for consumers and committed to reducing them to less than a penny, which raises the question: why can’t those benefits be realised sooner?  “In the long term, this is a win for consumers. Cutting mobile termination rates supports competition and better deals for all who call mobiles.”  Mobile phone operator 3 UK can currently charge up to 4.48p per minute, slightly more than the other big operators, but its cap will also fall in line with its bigger rivals from the start of next month.  The changes are expected to benefit smaller mobile phone operators, which will be able to offer more competitive prices.

Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere all expressed disappointment with the ruling which, they claimed, would hit pay-as-you-go customers.  A spokesman for O2 said: “We are deeply disappointed with Ofcom’s decision, especially considering the tough economic climate. Pre-pay mobile customers are likely to be hardest hit as they are charged to make up the shortfall.”  However, Ernest Doku, technology expert for uSwitch, said the decision was a “clear victory against the bully boys”.  He added: “Consumers have been unwittingly lining the pockets of the mobile phone ‘cartel’ with billions of pounds. Network rates are going to be virtually halved almost immediately, making it in theory much cheaper to call a mobile.”

Cable-laying Crewman Dies in Sound of Islay
A man working as part of the team laying an electricity cable off the Isle of Islay has died after being caught in the anchor of the ship he was aboard. The man, who was in his 40s but is not believed to be from the Islay area, was working aboard the Forth Guardsman, owned by Fife-based Briggs Marine, off Brosdale Island in the Sound of Islay when he was hit by the anchor cable and thrown into the water at around 7.30pm on Sunday.  The crew of the vessel managed to get him into a rigid inflatable boat and the Islay lifeboat was called out to assist. The man was then taken by helicopter to Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, where he later died from his injuries. An investigation is now being carried out into the circumstances of the incident.

Pairc Crofters Bid for Lewis Land Still in Limbo
The body which represents Scotland’s community-owned estates has told the Scottish Government not to play politics with the bid by crofters in the Pairc area of Lewis to take control of their own land.  In the face of continuing delays by Ministers in announcing a decision, David Cameron, chairman of Community Land Scotland, has written to First Minister, Alex Salmond, describing the failure to announce approval of the Pairc bid as ‘incomprehensible’.  Mr Cameron wrote:  ‘We trust that the promised announcement of a decision is not being delayed for political reasons - whether to maximise the impact of a positive decision or to avoid the opprobrium of a negative one’.  The people of Pairc, he says, have already been made to wait too long.

MSPs Back Campaign for Dedicated Gaelic School Set Up in Edinburgh 19 March 2011
A cross-party group of MSPs has added its weight to a campaign for a dedicated Gaelic school for Edinburgh.  A consultation organised by the city council ends on Monday on whether a new Gaelic medium educaton (GME) school is opened in Bonnington or existing facilities at Tolcross are developed.

The Scottish Parliament's cross-party group on Gaelic has agreed to write to the council supporting the case for a new dedicated school. It says it is important GME has the opportunity to grow and expand in Edinburgh. Group convener John Farquhar Munro said parents and pupils in the capital should benefit from the same provision offered in Glasgow and Inverness, where there are dedicated Gaelic schools.  "The extent of parental demand for GME is quite clear, especially where stand-alone Gaelic schools are provided, rather than Gaelic medium units within larger schools," he said.

"We understand the council is largely supportive of this initiative and as a group were keen to encourage them to take this next step and to move GME to the next level in Edinburgh." The city's branch of the Gaelic parents' organisation Comunn nam Pàrant says if a new school is not opened, the number of pupils able to take GME will have to be capped.  The number of children learning through Gaelic at Tollcross Primary has risen from 90 to 258 in the past six years.  Supporters of a dedicated school say they are the most successful educational model for developing minority languages, increasing fluency and developing bilingualism.

Cavalier Attitude of Faroese
The inflammatory nature of the Faroese decision to arbitrarily raise its mackerel quotas by grossly-inflated amounts, in the wake of delicate negotiations to lower them, makes one wonder if there is some method behind their apparent madness.  Their tactics might be an attempt to set targets so ridiculously high that, on being beaten down by the force of opposition, they will still have secured quotas much higher than they expected or deserved. Even their Icelandic partners, who also angered the Scottish fleet by raising their quotas in tandem with the Faroese last year, felt this latest piece of bravado, or provocation, was beyond the pale and distanced themselves from it.  This impacts directly on the livelihoods of Scottish fishermen and fishing communities. The Scottish fleet has played fair by EU fishing policy, even although they feel it has done more harm than good on many occasions, and observed dutifully shrinking quotas and days at sea laid down by Brussels.

As was remarked by fishing leaders, if everyone adopted the cavalier attitude of Faroe there would be precious few fish left in the sea and current procedures to manage stocks of vulnerable species would be in tatters. Intense diplomatic pressure is now required to broker a truce. The Faroese have blown hot and cold over possible EU membership for fear their only real export – fish – would be controlled more closely. It is easy to see why.

£40m Islay Tidal Power Project Approved

The world’s largest tidal power project will be built in the Sound of Islay in the Inner Hebrides following approval by the Scottish Government.  The £40million development by ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) will harness the formidable power of the currents that rush up and down the narrow sound to generate 10 megawatts (MW). This is enough electricity for more than 5,000 homes, double the number of homes on Islay.   The news was welcomed in the Outer Hebrides where the development could open new opportunities for the Arnish fabrications yard on Lewis.

The 10 turbines, each 100ft high, will sit on the seabed their highest points 197ft below the surface near Port Askaig. The port is one of Islay’s two ferry terminals but the depth of water means the turbines will not interfere with ferry movements.   The channel of water that separates Jura and Islay was chosen by SPR following a UK-wide search to find the best site for a demonstration project.  The Sound of Islay benefits from strong tidal flows, shelter from storms and waves and has available grid capacity.

Work Begins on Point and Sandwick Wind Farm
Work began this week on the Point and Sandwick wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag on the A838 west of Stornoway.  Local firm, Islepower, have been awarded the contract for geo-technical works to prepare the location for three Enercon turbines which measure 125 metres high from base to blade tip.  The wind farm will be by far the largest community-owned wind farm in Britain when it is completed in December 2012. The 9MW wind farm will produce enough power for 6,000 homes and will earn £1 million per year in profit which will be reinvested in community projects across the Western Isles.

Kathleen MacDonald from Community Energy Scotland said, “It is great to see the Beinn Ghrideag project reach the pre-construction stage. Other community projects also progressing geo-technical works at present include Horshader, Tolsta, Galson, Storas Uibhist and Barra. This is hopefully the start of further works on site in the next year or two and we are delighted to be working alongside all the community energy groups.  I am pleased that ScottishPower Renewables will work with the Islay Energy Trust to maximise social and economic opportunities. For instance, using local marine contractors during installation or creating new local jobs in the onshore construction phase. Scottish businesses are set to benefit from £4million worth of contracts in making the turbines to be used in the development, including manufacture of a test prototype at BiFab at Arnish.”

The Islay project could soon be dwarfed by the much larger scheme planned for the Pentland Firth, where there are proposals for 1,600MW of production in the coming years, compared to Islay’s 10MW.

You Liars: MP Accuses Edinburgh Leaders Over Gathering
The leader and deputy leader of Edinburgh city council have been accused of "lying" over their role in the Gathering fiasco, as a Scottish MP called for a debate on council probity.
Labour's Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty used his position of parliamentary privilege to accuse councillor Jenny Dawe and councillor Steve Cardownie of lying to Holyrood's public audit committee.  The intervention has added even greater pressure on the two, particularly council leader Ms Dawe, to resign over their handling of the bail-out of the Gathering event last year.  The two last week narrowly survived a no-confidence vote at the council, after they refused to accept responsibility for the collapse of a rescue deal for the Gathering.  MSPs on Holyrood's public audit committee had earlier branded oral evidence provided by the pair as "not credible".  Speaking during business questions in the Commons, Mr Docherty said: "The leader and deputy leader of Edinburgh city council have been caught lying to the Scottish Parliament's audit committee on the issue of the Gathering."  Parliamentary privilege protects politicians from prosecution over comments they make in the House of Lords and House of Commons during proceedings.

Mr Docherty said that it was coverage in a national newspaper after Ms Dawe and Mr Cardownie publicly fell out over the issue, which led him to use the legal protection of parliamentary privilege to raise the issue.  "Clearly, their story is beginning to unravel and they have both been heavily criticised in parliamentary language by the Holyrood committee," he said.  "After reading the coverage in the newspaper I decided that a stand had to be taken and because MSPs unfairly do not have the same legal protection as we do in Westminster, I thought that I should do it on their behalf.

Eight Murders in 18 Months Spark Anger
A Scottish town where a teenager was killed has seen eight murders in the last 18 months, an MSP has said.  Reamonn Gormley was attacked as he walked home from watching a televised football match in a bar in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, on 1 February.  The 19-year-old died in hospital. Two men have been charged with his murder.  Hamilton South MSP Tom McCabe said: "Within a square mile of that tragic murder there has been eight murders in the last 18 months.  My local paper can report on four murders within a six-week period and page after page reports violent crime."

Scots Coastguards Rally Against Cuts ( The fight still continues - Robin)
Hundreds of people staged a protest march against the proposed closure of the Stornoway coastguard station on the Isle of Lewis.  Several hundred people walked through the streets of Stornoway as part of a campaign to save the island's coastguard centre.  The UK Government is consulting on proposals to reduce the number of maritime rescue co-ordination centres from 18 to eight in an effort to reduce costs and modernise the service.  The plans would see five full-time coastguard stations cut to just one, in Aberdeen.  The Forth and Clyde Coastguard stations are to be axed and the stations at Shetland and Stornoway will fight to be chosen as a second Scottish station to provide an emergency service during daylight hours only.

Islanders were joined on the march by coastguard staff, council leaders and local MSP Alastair Allan as they walked from the town hall to the rescue centre.  Murdo Macaulay from the Safety First campaign said the march, together with 14,500 signatures on a petition, should send a "strong message" that the island's station was "wanted and needed".  He said: "We are not against change and we welcome upgrades in technology that make the saving of life and preservation of the environment easier, safer and faster.  But we don't believe that the plan proposed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Government will deliver a better and more robust coastguard service."

Alasdair Allan, the Western Isles MSP, said: "This event is another indication of support for the Stornoway Coastguard station, and a clear indication of the total opposition in the Western Isles to this ill-thought-out programme of cuts."

Scotland’s £1m Gift to Pakistan Flood Victims
THE Scottish Government is to make almost £1 million available to Scottish-based organisations helping Pakistan flood victims.  They’re giving emergency funding of £500,000 for humanitarian aid and more than £400,000 of development funding.  It’s estimated there are more than four million people in Pakistan affected by the floods with more than 1600 dead.  The announcement came as more rain fell on the devastated country. The most pressing needs are reported to be for clean drinking water, food, shelter and healthcare.

The £500,000 emergency funding will be made available to support immediate aid efforts by Scottish-based organisations.  External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop said, “It’s our moral duty to do whatever is in our power to ease the suffering of the people whose lives have been devastated.  “In providing assistance Scotland is saying it cares.”  A further £415,450 has been allocated to projects in Pakistan this year under the South Asia strand of the Government’s international development programme.

Andy is One of the Most Positive People I Know.
He usually has the happy ability to find sunshine on the rainiest day. But he used to have a real problem with “glass half empty” people — folk who chose to look on the dark side of a situation really used to frustrate and depress him.

But recently I saw him talking with just such a person. Nothing he said made the other man any happier but when he walked away Andy wasn’t annoyed as he once would have been. I asked him why and he said he’d finally realised the answer. “The answer to what?” I asked.

“The answer to why we need negative people,” he laughed. “Because they make positive people try so much harder. So, in a way, the world’s a better place because of them!”

Didn’t I tell you he could find the bright side in any situation?