It is impossible to avoid the truth that the SNP can be a little bit guilty of seeking out dividing lines between the UK and Scotland. Broadcasting, control of elections, football teams, tax powers are a few of the minor issues that have flared up in the past 18 months.
But has the biggest escalation of violence in the Middle East in decades indirectly flared up a more telling cross border difference here at home?
I have always viewed Scotland as more socialist, left wing territory and England as a more conservative, right of wing territory. Rightly or wrongly, that is my impression and it does not equate to one side being better than the other.
That impression has been bolstered by a quick scan of the reactions on opposite sides of the border.
Meanwhile, down South, Iain Dale has led the charge in supporting Israel's actions. English newspaper commentators seem to also be broadly in favour and I'm sure Gordon Brown would be more critical if he was free from the shackles of having to win over Middle England.
So as one part of the world is regrettably ravaged by War due to the political splits separating two factions, perhaps another political split closer to home is being bloodlessly exacerbated further as a result.
I see that Advanced Media Watch is getting excited over a 'poll of polls' which he is suggesting puts the SNP in a polling lead going into 2009.
I have never been convinced by polls of polls. Unlike most other things in life, a collection of polls has no synergistic quality. It is less than the sum of its parts. Much less.
Taking an average of polls in April, June and August in December does not equate to the top party being ahead in December, though it has helped give Nicola Sturgeon a rosy glow.
The last poll taken was in September 2008 and had the SNP ahead by 10% at Holyrood. That, of course, is nice but it doesn't tell us anything about where we are going into 2009, regardless of how poll-starved the Advanced Media Watch's of this world are.
It has been wearying to read through some of the bland statements being issued by world leaders and politicians regarding the attacks on Gaza and it has been saddening to read of full throttled support for Israel's misguided actions. So it is with consolatory joy that I see my own MP's view is not only unequivocal but also logical and compassionate.
Mark Lazarowicz speaks of the "indefensible" Israeli attacks and mentions the probablility that they are partly motivated by upcoming elections, sentiments that chime exactly with my own. There is an urgency to Mark's plea to David Milliband that the Foreign Minister do all he can to stop the killings, an urgency that is lacking from most of the key individuals with the power to implement a real and lasting peace process.
Amidst ugly scenes of innocents losing their lives, seemingly for so little consideration, it is comforting at least that the linkage from mere concerned constitutent (me) to MP (Mark Lazarowicz) to the person who can have significant sway with the Israelis (David Milliband) is blindingly transparent.
What can I say, you've got your work cut out in Edinburgh North and Leith Mr Cashley!
With typically tenuous linkage, the newspaper has taken the following line from the First Minister and outrageously twisted its meaning:
"As we enter a new year, a wonderful opportunity presents itself to turn a threatened tourism downturn into a visitor boom"
The Scotsman seems to think that the SNP are pinning their hopes of an economic revival on Robert Burns, a poet who has been dead for 200-odd years. Why else would they blaze the bizarre headline: "First Minister heralds Burns as the man to beat the credit crunch" across the top of the page?
To help save us from a 21st century economic disaster the likes of which only our great grandfathers have seen, Scotland's Government is doing much more than organising Homecoming 2009.
I admit that at times the First Minister needs to tone down the tartan rhetoric a little bit, but using his New Year Message to simultaneously plug the Homecoming celebrations while separately stating what the Government is doing to help in the credit crunch is a perfectly sensible way of providing a suitably optimistic yet sober tone in advance of 2009.
The Scotsman on the other hand saw the vague glint of a sensationalist and misleading headline and didn't look back.
If you have ever visited the Sydney Opera House you will appreciate the awe that hits you when you first see it. Shimmering white, enormous and so dramatic yet so familiar all at the same time. It is only when you get close to it that you realise it's a little bit dirty, cracked and generally rough around the edges.
The SNP since May 2007, similarly, has been a sight to behold. They may always have been a major player in Scottish Politics but their term in office has certainly been dramatic and left more than a little shimmer in the eyes of an impressed public.
The only tactic left to a wrong-footed opposition was to wait for the honeymoon to the end.
Well, they waited, they waited and then they waited some more. Tellingly, there have been many false dusks for the SNP's long honeymoon as the party's detractors grew impatient for Salmond et al to fail.
Sept 2007 - Wendy Alexander confidently declares the SNP honeymoon is over as the Government is alleged to be breaking its promises.
Dec 2007 - The Donald Trump planning saga was claimed by Alan Cochrane as a threat to the SNP's honeymoon.
April 2008 - The BBC suggests the honeymoon is over for a mix of reasons including supposed discontent within the party over how the push for independence is progressing.
May 2008 - Angus McLeod confidently predicts that May 27 2008 may be the day that the electorate stopped loving Alex Salmond and the Nationalists. (Aug 2008 - SNP have a 19% lead in polls. Cheers Angus, get your coat.)
June 2008 - Questions on class sizes, LIT and SFT combine to give Labour the impetus to again suggest the honeymoon is ending.
Nov 2008 - An impressive victory for Labour in Glenrothes was heralded as the end of the honeymoon for the SNP.
No doubt the trend will continue for months and maybe even years to come.
For me, I am not convinced the honeymoon is over at all.
Yes, SFT is still being ironed out, LIT may have to take a backseat until the recession is over and class sizes are proving stubbornly resistant but the Government is there doing what people voted for them to do and even if some promises go unbroken there is a clear sign that Team SNP are busting their chops to meet every realistic one in the face of a hostile opposition and within the parameters of minority Government.
Iain Gray is still int he starting blocks, being beaten to the headlines by Jim Murphy at every turn and Alex Salmond, with cheerful tongues or through gritted teeth, is hailed by the public as (far and away) the most popular choice of First Minister.
Furthmore, the most reliable indicator is opinion polls and the SNP have consistently soared in popularity since they replaced the Lab-Lib coalition. Indeed they are significantly more popular now than when they won victory in May 2007, 16% ahead of Labour in the most recent poll.
Surely the end of a honeymoon would equate to a decrease in popularity from May 3rd 2007?
Any connoisseur of that other beautiful but battleworn body, the Sydney Opera House, will know that the end of a performance hasn't arrived until the fat lady really finds her voice. For the SNP, one can be sure the end isn't nigh until their own rotund star performer loses his.
I would never want to become a 'Chris Paul' who seems to spend most of his waking day criticising Iain Dale but I was struck by an apparent hypocrisy by the Tory blogging legend.
In his latest post, Iain states his support for Israel's bombing of Gaza and reiterates the point that a nation has a right to defend its people.
However, back in the midst of the Georgia - Russia conflict, Iain was lamenting the terrible pictures from the area and convinced himself that the atrocities "laid to rest any suspicion that the Russians were the good guys". There was no mention that Russians had a right to defend their people then.
Indeed, between the two, I have more sympathy for Russia's aggression shown towards Georgia than I have for Israeli aggression shown towards Palestine.
I think there's a clear double standard at play here from Iain Dale and many others in the Conservative party. Once again I am confused by the right-leaning West's support of Israel when the Palestinian people have been imprisoned in ghettoes for far too long.
If Israel feel they need to take such drastic action as bombing universities and government buildings not to mention killing 300 people in 48 hours then they should seek to do so with the backing of the only body that can grant them appropriate legitimacy, the United Nations.
The ball was in Israel's court and not only have they dropped it with this unfortunate response but they've probably obliterated it for a decade at least.
The sooner the West unites to pressurise Israel to seek a real and lasting peace the closer we might come to a genuine Middle East peace settlement.
I'm not entirely sure if the Tories have gone too early with it but it's no great surprise that David Cameron and George Osbourne are dangling tax cuts in front of a cash-strapped public, particularly as a General Election could be mere months away.
The devil is in the detail of course, a technicality that Tories are often keen to overlook, but there seems to be a dangerous game being played of who can cut the most taxes despite borrowing going through the roof and repayment just around the generational corner.
Tories offering unspecific tax cuts, UK Labour cutting VAT, Lib Dems wanting Council Tax decreased and Scottish Labour still peddling a bizarre 'Stop the Cuts' campaign despite a fixed Scottish block grant and loose cash rarer and rarer these days.
We seem to be running out of responsible individuals who can see how much we need to have in the pot, how much needs to be spent and how much it would merely be nice to spend.
Further to my last post, the Government advisor I spoke with told me he would be in Scotland before I would. Not only is he keen to have a tour of the Scottish Parliament but he has business to attend to.
I was told that he is due to meet Fresh Catch (a fish wholesale company based in Peterhead) to look into the prospect of fish being sourced from Indonesia, cooled in fridges and then transported across hemispheres by sea to the North East coast.
I was rather surprised by this admission, it's certainly not anything I have heard of occurring back home before and a quick search on Google suggests that any such deal isn't in place at the moment. Indeed Fresh Catch exports to China and Korea and other Asian countries. A deal the other way would seemingly be a change of tack.
Although we in the UK regularly buy in cheap imports from abroad I would personally not be in favour of this arrangement for two specific reasons:
Environmental Impact -
I think we need to start seriously thinking about the origin of the food we consume, rather than paying it mere lip service.
If we eat locally grown produce and keep the food miles low then environmental impact will be significantly lowered.
Basically, if Scotland is running out of fish, then we need to eat less fish. Not buy it in from the other side of the world, irrespective of how cheap it may be. (And trust me, it's bloody cheap out here!)
Economic Impact -
We know that Scottish fishermen are being severely stretched at the moment. Overfished waters, rising fuel costs and families tightening their purse strings do not make good reading.
There is only a certain level of supply of fish from Scottish waters and only a certain level of demand from the public.
An increase in the supply would risk fishing towns and villages suffering from a knock-on decrease in demand for their specific fish. This could result in more fishing jobs and livelihoods going to the wall. A win for Indonesia and an own goal for Scotland.
Indonesian fish could arguably be allowed to 'top up' Scottish supply to meet Scottish demand but if the market were to be saturated with fish stocks, Scotland as a whole would lose out.
So, although I don't know how advanced the talks are between Scottish fish wholesalers and Indonesian counterparts, I do think the whole issue of Scottish food imports is worth considering sooner rather than later.
It can be amazing the people you meet on your travels.
Upon boarding a mini-bus on the island of Pulau Weh several days ago (and due to our knees and shoulders being wedged together) I got talking to a smartly dressed and smiling local who was sitting beside me.
After the initial opening exchanges of names and where we were from his first real question took me aback:
"Ah, Scotland! I believe your country is having a national conversation right now?"
I was stunned, stumped even. How could a random passenger in the northern tip of Indonesia know about the SNP's plans to widen the debate on Scottish independence? Perhaps the bun fight inside our borders is glossed over by those far enough away to see the bigger picture. It is, after all, very easy to forget just how high the stakes are in Scotland for the country's future and how historic today's debates may ultimately prove to be.
Well, the reason for my new friend's interest all came out over the course of the 1 hour bus journey. This man to the left of me (well, more or less sitting on my lap) was an adviser to the Governer of Aceh and had a particular interest in Scottish Politics.
Some of the backstory is this: The northern part of the Indonesian island called Sumatra is itself called Aceh Province and has always been an area of political upheaval. The area has generally pushed hard for independence, even seizing it unilaterally in the 1950s before they were slapped down by the Indonesian powers in Jakarta and brought into the fold.
Given that the 'revolutionary' approach to independence for the area has been tried and results only in bloodshed, Aceh has decided to take a step back to see the approach taken by other countries around the world. It seems the 'devolutionary' path, as adopted by the SNP, is the mould that some powers in this area like the best.
The next step for Aceh will be their national elections in 2009 where apparently local parties will be allowed to stand alongside the Indonesian parties. The result, I am told, will be that the national parties will be wiped out and only local parties will respresent the Aceh province.
So as the SNP looks to Belgium and Catalonia and Kosovo for inspiration regarding their independence dreams, perhaps their attention should be turned to the little known province of Aceh as it seems big political changes could be coming here soon.
In light of Richard Thomson's recent post and with drink driving prevalent at this time of year, I thought I'd share a drunken tale of a friend of a friend of a friend. (No, really, this didn't happen to me. It happened in Sweden actually.)
A guy at a party was really drunk, really really drunk and certainly in no shape to drive. Sensing a problem with this guy going behind the wheel his mates called a taxi for him, bundled him into it, gave the driver an address and also gave the driver all the cash in the drunk guy's wallet telling him to put the change back in the drunk guy's pocket once they got where they were going. Apparently the total cash was about 100 GBP, (the krona equivalent anyway).
The drunk guy sobers up a little in the taxi, checks his wallet and realises he has nothing to pay the driver with. So at a set of traffic lights on the way back, the tipsy passenger makes a bid for freedom, staggering out of the taxi and ambling in whatever direction he happens to be facing.
The taxi driver shouts back at him, holding up some of the money from the wallet. The drunk guy however mistakes this for the taxi driver asking for payment and gives the Swedish equivalent of the two finger salute and a "sod off", before running (stumbling) further into the distance.
So, rather than being taken straight home for 20 pounds and into his much needed bed, this drunken bum spent 100 pounds being dropped off in the middle of nowhere and goodness knows what happened to him after that.
Conclusion: I've just realised that this is the opposite of a cautionary tale against drunk driving. Forgive me. You may say that if our drunken hero had got behind the wheel he'd still have his 100 pounds and would have got home sooner, but let's just assume he would have wrapped his car around a tree if he'd insisted on driving.
Be safe folks, don't drink and drive. And even if you only drink, don't carry too much cash with you, just in case.
(PS This message was time-delivered as my girlfriend and I are currently spending the Christmas period on the island of Pulau Weh, a secluded island lying a fraction north of the equator. Right now we are either snorkelling, drinking some cocktails or eating some delicious Indonesian food on a sun-drenched balcony. You may think, in keeping with the Swedish drunk above, that my telling you this is another version of the two-fingered salute and a "sod off" and, well, I guess in a way you might just be correct. Our turn to get our bottoms frozen in the Scottish winter will come in 2009 but for now.... Merry Christmas!!!)
Aim high is what a Government should always go for, not (for example) doing less better.
So nice to see that the SNP seem to have worked out a deal with any future Tory Government where a 330mph Maglev train will be brought to Scotland and not just stop at Leeds (as under initial Tory plans).
Aiming fast is tantamount to aiming high so it'll be chocks away to London in 2.5 hours not before too long. Shame it will take years to get up and running but the National Express deal has always impressed me with its free wi-fi and cheap deals so we'll be ok for now in the short term.
Scotland will celebrate its switch to the euro on New Year's Eve as the last step in its full integration in the European Union.
After joining the EU, the country of 5.4 million went through bold economic reforms carried out by the former pro-market Government which attracted foreign investment and fuelled the economic boom.
Looks quite nice doesn't it? Rather exciting even? Good old Scotland making international waves. Reading such words about our wee patch of the world would get the adrenalin pumping and the heart racing a little bit, no?
I have, of course, taken an artistic license here. But all I have changed from the original Jakarta Post article is the name "Slovakia" to "Scotland".
Yes, the country of 5.4million people, (a remarkably similar population size to that of Scotland's), is on the brink of joining the Euro currency, having only just joined the EU four years ago.
Furthermore, the highly favourable article has the following quote for Slovakia:
"The country has so far resisted the global crisis"
Shame the same can't be said for good old Blighty as our pound plummets and unemployment hits the roof. So much for smaller countries being more vulnerable in these troubling times.
No, with each passing day here, trading the Pound for less and less local currency, being incorrectly called English more and more and increasingly feeling less and less a part of the European Community, I have to admit I find myself longing for the day when the text above is for Scotland and not Slovakia, or any of the other young, ambitious EU nations.
Furthermore, naysayers may well say that the above aspiration is a gamble. Well, some US pessimists labelled electing Barack Obama a gamble and back then the now-President Elect urged Americans to roll those dice. Basically, we don't need to spend our 60 or 70 years shaking like shitting dogs at the thought of doing something a little bit scary. Slovakia and America took their gamble and it is quite clearly paying off big time for both countries.
So let's hope that a New Year's Eve in the not-so-distant future will see Scotland celebrating not just Hogmanay but also joining Slovakia at Europe's top table as an equal member.
And may many Indonesians read about it in their Jakarta Posts.
The liberation of Iraq has been that rarest of things – a proper British foreign policy success.
Keeping in mind that George W Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' back in May 2003, thousands of innocents have died in the conflict, the whole operation was based on dodgy evidence of non-existent WMD and the 'allied forces' are nothing short of a ragtag of countries slavishly following Bush's lead (ours included), I am afraid that I have to disagree.
No, the only people that can really count the Iraq War as a success are the American weapons manufacturers who are still racking up huge profits while the world goes into financial meltdown.
Good to see that George Foulkes' abysmal questioning record has been picked up by The Times.
I went to great lengths a while back to lament on the incessant questions posed to the SNP Government by George in what is clearly an attempt by the Lord to 'get' Salmond rather than act in the public's interest.
It's all very well being an attack dog but every now and again you have to land a few bites. Given how much money George Foulkes is costing the public purse, be it the thousands through parliamentary questions or the 45,000 expense claims for staying in his own house, one can only conclude that he is more of a pampered pooch.
Mercifully, George Foulkes will not be standing in the 2011 election so the SNP Government will enjoy a pleasant break from his pointless questions as a lucky consequence.
Good to see that Peter Mandelson is up to his old tricks again, stirring news of an imminent election. Mind you, I would have thought that if Mandy was creating noise in one particular area, one's attention should be focussed elsewhere to see what is being covered up.
But, if the talk these days is election dates then who am I to to do anything other than fall in line.
I have cast my mind back as far as my 28 years would allow and came up with some rather interesting trends regarding election terms. The UK, with it's bizarre system of allowing ruling parties to call election dates, tends to change Government if an election is called after a 5 year term and stays with the same Government if an election is called after a 4 year term.
1974 - 1979 : A 5 year gap as Labour lose power after one term.
1979 - 1983 : A 4 year gap that saw Margaret Thatcher romp into a second term in office
1983 - 1987 : A 4 year gap that saw Margaret Thatcher romp into a thrid term in office
1987 - 1992 : A 5 year gap that saw the Tories cling onto power by the skin of their teeth. Noone can say with any true belief that John Major was convinced of winning this one, Labour had been ahead in the polls.
1992 - 1997 : A 5 year gap that saw the Tories lose horrendously to Labour
1997 - 2001 : A 4 year gap as the buoyant Tony Blair marches into a second term
2001 - 2005 : A 4 year gap as a still buoyant Tony Blair marches into a third term
2005 - 2??? : Gordon Brown....
So, two clear choices for our PM, 2009 or 2010.
Waiting till 2010 will look like the classic trick of squeezing out one last year before probable defeat, as was the case in 1996-97, 1978-79 and so nearly in 1991-92.
Going early, in 2009, may perhaps look like trying to capitalise on the credit crunch debacle and his supposed good handling of the crisis but it may also have the appearance of a Prime Minister confident of victory, much like Blair and Thatcher before him. People should warm to that.
The ball is in Brown's court. That alone may ultimately be enough to ensure Gordon dithers until 2010 however.
For me, Gordon needs to call the election in Spring 2009 to have any chance of victory. He can learn from history and avoid being it with one decisive move. With Mandelson egging him on behind the scenes, I wouldn't bet against it.
Given Alastair Darling's brave move of increasing income tax to 45% for those earning over 150,000GBP there seems to be a wider debate starting regarding how taxation should be implemented for 'top earners'.
For me, I am perfectly happy with the 45% tax band, not that I earn anything close to 150k. And nor do I have any desire to earn that much for 150k is, quite simply, too much.
Going against the British tradition of mentioning one's pay, I was earning close to 40k before I took off on my travels and I felt like Scrooge McDuck for every day of it, bathed in bank notes and unable to shift the stuff quickly enough before another truckload arrived in my overflowing account the next Friday. It helps when you're a tight-fisted Scotsman of course and the idea of luxury is going out for some French Toast, Maple Syrup and Bacon for breakfast as opposed to some Rice Krispies or a Mars Bar.
So, with this top rate of tax nudging upwards, what are the chances we could go down the old Swedish route? Tax income up to a salary level that is considered too much (obscene) and then move tax rates up to 70, 80, 90% for anything earned beyond?
I understand it is controversial to suggest a Government can state categorically what is too much for a person to be earning. The libertarians will be pulling their hair out. That's fine by me though, it's a free world after all. My own thoughts are, if you do reach the heady heights of pulling in hundreds of thousands of pounds, you've either been born into it, workd your way into it or a mixture of the two. Either way, you should celebrate your success and learn when to shift your priorities from making money to something more civic-minded (creating jobs, funding charities).
After all, there are only so many scoops of ice cream successful little boys and girls should be allowed on their plates.
So, surely a group of Government geniuses can sit down together and work out how much annual income a family or person would need to earn in order to have:
- a big 5-bedroom family house, stables, wine cellar, secure entry and fountain - a fat pension for later in life - 2 nice cars - a small yacht - places in decent private schools for Timothy and Tabitha etc - a kitchen always stocked with enough food to feed a small country
It may sound obscene to a rampant socialist like you and I but for some the above is probably relatively meagre. Can't we, as a country, say that anything desired beyond the above is too much and should be put almost beyond reach with a rigorous tax system? Greed, as the world is currently remembering, is not good.
And, for the sake of argument, let's say a combined income of 500,000GBP is all that is needed for the enjoyable lifestyle above. Why not tax at 90% anything earned beyond that point? Sweden have been doing it for years and have 100% literacy, awesome complexions and pride of place in the feel-good, health and sporting tables at every turn.
High earners taxed to the hilt don't actually seem to mind all that much and, if they do, they shouldn't.
And although I'm not saying for a second that the lazy unemployed lumpers should get bumper cheques like manna from heaven, there are areas where a financial windfall would be felt all across the country. Schools spring to mind straight away. Teachers, nurses, firemen all getting a wage that is needed to ensure a civic equilibrium. Doesn't sound too bad to me?
With Labour closing the polling gap on the Tories to 1%, maybe they won't need something as radical as this to get them safely through for a 4th term. But with Gordon Brown occasionally forgetting who it is he is fighting for in his role as PM and as leader of the Labour party, maybe this tax rabbit that is still sitting in the hat could be pulled to good effect somewhere down the line.
Or hey, maybe if the Scottish Government are ever granted full fiscal freedom, it can provide a more Socialist, Swedish model north of the border where such a philosophy would be more easily adopted. Scottish Labour have talked about social justice for years, I'm sure they'd get onboard.
But 45% is a good start. With the increased borrowing and VAT tax cut we'll need to start upping the tax rates sooner rather than later. Here's hoping Darling goes for it hammer and tongs.
** Yes, I fully expect to get a lot of stray hits from disappointed internet users with that title!
I used to have mold on my hall carpet and soon enough it was the bain of my life. Everytime I soaked it in boiling water and scrubbed it with fairy liquid, the mold would just come back a few weeks later, wider and deeper in that same area. As much as I tried to decrease or at least contain the problem, it just grew and grew.
I am beginning to wonder if Scottish quangos are a bit like mold. We have had relentless promises that there will be a bloody great bonfire of the things and although they have been occasionally sizzled and stirred, they do not seem to be going up in smoke any time soon. Rather, they appear to come back bigger and bigger.
Well, although I believe a bigger bonfire is required, overall costs and salary costs are not one and the same thing. Just because salary costs have increased by a cat's whisker from the same quarter last year (they've decreased on Q3 2008 incidentally) that doesn't mean that the overall expense of public sector quangos hasn't come down.
The SNP have successfully decreased the overall number of quangos from 199 to 165 after all. Could there be non-salary efficiency savings in that decrease of almost 20%? One would think so.
So could the real story here be that the SNP have successfully decreased the number of quangos, successfully decreased the overall expense to the Scottish public and still somehow managed to safeguard jobs?
Now there's a pat-on-the-SNP-back story I'd love to see David Maddox write one day. I doubt he'll break the mold any time soon though, a bit like me and my hallway...
It's been a record-breaking 2 weeks since last I blogged. Had I been going 'cold turkey' then I guess I would be out of the woods by now but I have no intention of kicking the blogging habit.
Truth be told, I've been waiting for the big post, my Road to Damascus moment of how this crazy world hangs together, searching for truth and wisdom while plundering a path through South East Asia. Day-to-day blogging was to be sacrificed for an essay written in my mind, written while gazing out of bus, plane and train windows. I waited for inspiration from China to Vietnam, I studied lifestyles from Cambodia to Thailand, I considered the world from Malaysia to Indonesia. Mental sparks, blogging angles, global answers? Nothing materialised.
I think I may finally know why, sitting here with a Bintang in Bukittinggi.
We're really all not so different after all. Or, rather, what separates the rich West and the poorer East is really not all about money at all.
The first subtle difference is family and community spirit. Out here they have it in abundance, back home we've been living in a bare market for decades. Shamefully, back in Edinburgh, I don't know my neighbours and out here I've been faced with families living in each others pockets, village after village, city after city and country after country, my head hanging that little bit lower at every turn. Needless to say there will be a break-the-ice dinner party down at The Shore in April where I will seek to make amends.
Another subtle difference which oddly took a while to notice is this. The people here don't give a stuff about us tourists. That may sound bad and I usually steer away from generalisations but it's the truth. I have countless first-hand examples. Any initial camaraderie is swiftly followed by a painful or frustrating catch. We really are walking cash machines to the vast majority here, the well-worn tourist path is chock full of locals creating more imaginative ways of making withdrawals. To be fair, there have been moments of staggering niceness, like the lady who hopped on the back of a friend's scooter to trawl around the town in order to return the passports we'd left in her shop. But such moments have been few and far between.
I do appreciate that many locals may be too poor to be friendly but, given the region's dependence on tourism, that same majority can't afford to drive Westerners away with an inhospitable attitude.
And that's about it, the grand total of my opinions of the world based on nearly 2 months of backpacking. Well, flashpacking if I'm being honest.
But one last thought. I was told by a good friend that I would be humbled by my travels out here, yet so far it's not happened. There has been no-one along the way that I haven't been able to look straight in the eye. No-one who has made me uneasy at the relative riches and luxuries that we in the West enjoy. If anything I am envious of the close family connections, the open door policy at home or work, the honest toil, the sociable businesses sitting cheek by jowl on any given street. Tellingly, I've seen one able-bodied person beg for money. Giving in is not in the DNA out here and there isn't even a big issue in sight.
Most tourists swagger into town in these streets, but there is more that we Europeans can learn than teach, despite our self-assurance.
There's a peace out here, a contentment that is unmistakable and sits awkwardly against the lager-swilling party animals looking for yet another wild night on their travels. Smiles that shine deeper than the American 'Have a nice days', wise words from taxi drivers that ring truer than any British cabbie's and food that can wallop taste buds that any Frenchman or Italian could never locate.
So I'm done with waiting for my Eureka blogging moment, it'll be back to typical Scottish and UK Politics chat from here on in. And for the next two weeks before we settle on Melbourne, I'll just enjoy the company of these people who are so similar and yet so different to me.
" Jeff should change his name to Uncle Ben, such is his knack for producing perfect results every time" J Arthur MacNumpty
"not as partisan as you might think, well-written and informative." Tom Harris - Labour MP
"Glasgow East - political earthquake! was the 1.58am verdict on SNP Tactical voting." Channel 4
"I particularly enjoyed this blog during election time due to Jeff’s number crunching ability but it seems his blog has turned into quite an impressive political and social commentary." Scottish Tory Boy
"SNP sympathiser with very little sympathy when the Nats properly cock up. Rational debater free from the shackles of internal Holyrood blogging. Very readable with just the right personal touch." Kezia Dugdale
"The sheer volume of posts and the quality make Jeff's SNP Tactical Voting blog essential daily reading. Some thoughtful posts on wider society, Scotland and local politics make it an interesting mix." Malc in the Burgh
"Probably the most prolific blogger and certainly the site that I read most. I first started reading this before the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections and thought it was an excellent and balanced read - nothing's changed since then. Here's hoping the fact that Jeff has now actually joined the SNP doesn't change that!" Ideas of Civilisation
"I would say this has become one of the best Scottish political blogs going — despite the fact that Jeff is an SNP supporter! He’s always there with some thoughtful opinions on the political stories of the day. " Doctor Vee
"I never fail to be impressed by Jeff's ability to think critically before the 'experts'!" Yousuf Hamid
"Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting deserves some sort of prize for contriving to compare Hillary Clinton to, er, Kris Boyd..." Mr Eugenides
"this is one of the first blogs I tend to turn to in the day, mainly because typing snp into the explorer window is easy, but also as there is usually something there to be read." Stephen Glenn
"I have given up debating directly with this person on any matter even if his blog remains in my blogroll and I continue to read some of what he writes on occasion as 'entertainment' " Bill Cameron
It's become a ritual. Get up, fire up the Mac, check out the BBC homepage, check out SNP Tactical Voting, if Kezia has posted have a quick read there, then its onto the hardcore porn. Rare Export
I love his blog, and have to have my daily fix. I enjoy his style of writing, his well thought out arguments and his non bias most of the time. I would say that Jeffs blog is the least biased of the lot of you, and probably the most well written. Rare Export (again)