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…’Michael Row The Boat Upside Down!’…

…it was all of at least 50 years or so ago, but it’s amazing how the mind can re-conjure with precision the whole event… at the time I worked and lived in Tobermory, on the beautiful Hebridean island of Mull… I had been here just long enuff to acquire sufficient fluency in the Scottish Gaelic language that still prevails there… my singing prowess fortunately married my ability in the language, and I became  a bit of a ‘circuit ceilidh’ singer… one weekend, a ceilidh invitation came to go across the water to Oban for a ceilidh in the town… accompanying me were Joanie and Fiona Mackenzie, possessors of angelic voices (even to this day) and both with astonishing ability to harmonise beautifully with any song in English or in Gaelic…and their father, the master of Scottish fiddle music, Pibroch Mackenzie... of course, it was on a weekend, so it wasn’t necessary to get leave from the Clydesdale Bank where I was a Trainee Financial Master of the Universe… the Saturday night performance went well, and the next day, Sunday, dawned into a vicious storm with a howling gale… the usual Sunday schedule for the large MacBraynes ferry, the  M.V.Columba, was cancelled… so what to do? I had to get back to Mull for work on Monday morning… we knew that the small motor launch that took the Sunday newspapers from Oban across to the island would prob’ly run, as it was skippered by the legendary Cailleach Spencer, an aging seadog of a lady for whom tempests held no fear…  we managed to persuade her to take us with her on the paper run… also in attendance was the Lady Maclean, the wife of Lord Maclean... she had been in Oban attending a gathering of the Red Cross for which she was the president in Scotland… she wanted to get back home to Mull and her husband in their castle at Duart that Sunday also… the resultant trip will stay in my mem’ry forever… Pibroch, Lady McLean the two girls and myself were seated in the rear of this 20-foot long vessel, in a small cabin, over which Cailleach Spencer threw a tarpaulin to keep out the excess sea spray… and it was needed!…

…the trip across normally takes around 45 minutes… the crossing that Sunday lasted three and a half hours… after the first few minutes ,. the motor launch edged out past the shelter of the Oban harbour and the weather hit us full on… the waves were crashing like thunder rolls on the roof of the cabin… up front, our undaunted skipper was alone, steering the boat toward her destination… imagine being on a giant roller coaster for three hours, and not seeing the world around you… our stomachs flayed around from our toes to our skulls… it was beyond scary, and a journey I would never knowingly undertake ever again… but we were in it, and had to deal with it… we started to sing, to try to keep our spirits up… and even changed the words of the song to ‘Michael Row The Boat Upside Down!’... after what seemed like an eternity, we docked at the pier in Craignure, and stumbled ashore, jelly-legged, and high with the adrenaline of gratitude… the next day, while working in the bank, a messenger arrived and delivered to me a personal handwritten letter from the Lord Maclean, thanking me and the girls for our courage and for having kept the Lady Maclean from devolving into total panic… little did he understand, we did it because we too were absolutely terrified… to this day, I don’t like being on anything other than calm waters when I’m afloat… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…the first singing performance I ever witnessed…

… at this distance in time, I now understand that I was listening to a gloriously-full First Tenor voice… completely unaccompanied by any musical instrument, the notes rose in perfect resonance in the amphitheatre… the melody a familiar song, born of the trials and tribulations of generations of good, honest, hard-working folk… the history of their struggles encapsulated in the vocalist’s rendering… a setting known to thousands of immigrants in the slum cities of Scotland and elsewhere in the UK — the backcourt tenements where we lived in Docklands, Govan in Glasgow, my birthplace…

…the grey, granite buildings carried the echoes of the singer’s efforts upward toward the smoking chimneystacks…  and penetrated into the small, cramped living spaces on each of the three- or four-storey levels in our block… clad not in operatic nor theatrical clothing, but dressed in factory-floor dungarees, under a light raincoat, with a belt tied at the front rather than with a long-since-lost buckle… the sleeves and the shoes were ragged, well past their ‘use-by’ date… the busker, to my child’s eyes could have been a hundred years old, but was in fact only in his late twenties or early thirties… his delivery of ‘Danny Boy’, ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’, and other favourites was greeted before long with the opening of the tenement windows, and the sporadic tossing down of a penny or two, wrapped in a bit of newspaper to keep the money directed toward the man… strangely, I have the strongest memory of his picking up the offered donations only after he had finished each song, and not while he sang… and forever, I have the enduring sense that he was not begging, although heaven knows, he needed cash for his family to survive like many others in those times,… no, he was not begging… he was offering a service… his solo entertainment a welcome interlude in that humble, communal, post-war existence… he deserved every penny he collected… and I’m still grateful for the fond recollection of his voice… you see, that man was my father… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…seriously, would you buy a used bank from this man?

…the Passage of Time is a great distortionist… this mug shot above of Master Gallacher, in my prime as a Fully-Fledged Master of the Financial Universe was captured around 35 years ago… a generation away… a lifetime for some… and yet, it seems so recent… how skillful the mind tricks that can visit me… I was the Chief Trader and Treasurer for a financial institution in Hong Kong, called Wardley Limited… the merchant banking arm at the time of what was the mighty Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation… since then Wardley has morphed into ‘HSBC Investment Asia Holdings Limited’, while the parent has seen its glorious monicker contract into a rather paltry, ‘HSBC’… liquidity sloshed around the Asian markets then in billions rather than millions of dollars…

…it was an exciting and fun period… changes in appearance have been made not only to Wardley and HSBC but also to my own image… gone is the Zapata mustache… gone is the Beatles-style of top hair… chameleonised from the dark thatch to a somewhat lighter crop (but still there in full!)… the sharp, always white shirt, replaced with more modern-coloured attire, and who would ever wear so thin a necktie nowadays?… the pinkie-finger ring, a memento of my time at Harvard’s Advanced Management Program (not-so-subtle name-drop, there!) has found another place to hide… spectacles now adorn the bridge of my nose, a result not of creeping age, but of a naughty attack of shingles on my face and left eye earlier this year… oh, yes. and please note that instrument I’m holding… with its strange, black, twisty cord protruding from the bottom of it… a real landline telephone… a collector’s item prob’ly these days… the pinstripe suit has been replaced with a succession of less ‘in-yer-face-financier’ garb… but observe the earnest, honest stare from these eyes… seriously, would you buy a used bank from this man?… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…Glasgow’s Kelvin River water flow, Bahrain Pharmacy business and desalination… unlikely links?…

…I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful ‘coincidences’ that march across our lives… my separate personae of businessman and writer/author/blogger sometimes get together to produce ‘Wow!’ moments… yesterday delivered one such confluence… I met with a fine Bahraini gentleman, Dr. Abdulmajeed Ali Alawadhi, who is a Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of a prominent local group, Bahrain Pharmacy… my purpose was to interview him about some other business relationship in Bahrain… but our conversation soon turned to his early days in the 1970s, when he was studying for his Masters Degree in my own home city of Glasgow… many young men and women from the Middle East over the years have chosen Scotland as their preferred destination for higher learning… Abdulmajeed pursued his degree in Mechanical Engineering, and rejoiced under the tutelage and guidance of one of science’s unsung heroes – Professor R.S.Silver… Professor Silver was a leading pioneer in the evolving area of water desalination and his name appears all over Google in that field… however, the personal linkage with Abdulmajeed is remarkable… apparently, Professor Silver was a gifted teacher and would give his class individual projects that encouraged them to think and develop their own minds… he tasked Abdulmajeed to find out how much volume of water flowed daily in the River Kelvin, nearby the university… a daunting challenge… the young Bahraini was undeterred… he went immediately to the bridge alongside the Kelvin, equipped with string, stones and a floating plastic ball…

…with the stone tied to the bottom of the string, he measured the depth at various places in the river, thereby charting the riverbed geography and parabola… next, the floating ball thrown into the water moved at a certain speed along the surface, allowing Abdulmajeed to calculate how much volume moved from A to B in a certain time span… he finished the exercise and his calculations around 5 .oo pm and, excited, ran all the way back to the university, hoping that Professor Silver would still be at his classroom desk… he was there, and the young scientist/engineer shared his results with the great man…

…the next morning, in front of the other students in the class, the findings were revealed and praise showered upon his student… even while Abdulmajeed was telling me the story yesterday, I was projected back into that classroom with him, and could feel the everlasting wonder, pride, and delight at having solved his first assignment so well… as the saying goes, a lot of a water has flowed under the bridge since then… but the tale lives on… see yeez later.. LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…yes, yield to that temptation to do sum’thing different!…

…possibly mega-boring tale coming up… pass on by if yeez wish… I won’t mind… but I want to write and share this one anyway… if just to remind myself… 32 years ago, in 1986, my employers of the time felt the need to send me away to get my business brain recalibrated… they chose the Harvard Graduate School of Business – Advanced Management Program in Boston for me…

…it’s like a two-year intensive graduate course condensed into only four months… I was the second youngest (a callow 38 years old) in the class of 160 high-powered executives from all over the planet… mostly from the C-suite… we were each allocated a small ‘can’ bedroom, so small and cramped, I felt I had unpacked my suitcase and packed the room… the case study method had us pumping 3 case studies per day, visited-on in three different ways… in our own ‘can’ groups of eight people as a team at night… the second iteration was the following morning after breakfast, with a different set of eight participants, then thirdly, into the class auditorium session with the professors and the full class… it was a guerrilla course in business and management learning…

…however, of all the great things I did learn, the best piece of wisdom I picked up came from one of the Human Resource professor’s modules… he told the assembled executives, ‘We at Harvard track you ladies and gentlemen after you leave this course, and we can tell you that traditionally, within only two years of returning to your companies and businesses, fully two-thirds of you (over 100) will have changed either your job or your spouse/living partner… we know that our psychology studies show that phenomenon is down to this — most of you have been triple-A performers most of your lives in your careers, hence your presence here at Harvard, chosen by your employers… once you start to re-experience academia and all the things you’ve missed in your lives, the thought comes in, “Is what I’ve achieved to date only/all that my life has been about until now?”, and you search for a change… something different… we have a recommended antidote for you all… when you go back to your other-world routine, try to find each year something totally unrelated to your work, and get as intense about that as you have been about your professional careers.’… his words resonated with me, and when I returned to Hong Kong where I lived at the  time, I decided to learn how to swim, having been scared of being in water all my life up until then…

…I rang the local British Naval base (this was well before the pre-1997 handover to China)… they had a female swimming instructress who came to my block of flats, where we had a swimming pool beside the building… amazingly, within twenty minutes, she had me overcome my fear of being in the water and had me swimming properly in just the first lesson… I took further four courses of six lessons each with her, and it was the best summer of my life… I have not been able to maintain a new pursuit every year, but I’ve done many… professional lessons to enhance my existing singing skills… Spanish guitar, electric guitar…

…languages — Cantonese, Tagalog, Arabic  to add to my French, Gaelic, and  (halting) English…

…and ten years ago, along came the desire to write a novel… the rest is history in that respect… I have learned to publish on Auntie Amazon Kindle… I have become a blogger… I’ve put some of my poetry into print from decades ago up until the modern era… there are still some things on my To-Do-List learning to play piano…

…black-and-white photography… (I’ve still never owned a camera, apart from the mobile phone stuff which takes me eons to understand how to take pictures of my knee and toes when I don’t know I’m doing it… and through all of this journey, I truly believe that doing these things has made my business life much more productive and enjoyable… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…Authors… there’s NUTHIN like a good killin’…

…we Scots are supposedly derived from martial tribes… we can even put our accent to battle when required… especially the Docklands Govan, Glasgow version… but underneath, we are truly a gentle race…  once, as a young lad of eight years, I inadvertently killed a small vole on a farm near where the family was on holiday… and I cried over that for most of that day… the Braveheart image portrayed as the norm for we Celts is true when we are riled, but in our restive state, peace reigns supreme… comes now my emergence as a writer of crime fiction… and all sorts of savagery pokes its head out… …at the last count in my Jack Calder series, I reckon upward of a couple of dozen characters have met their various demises, ghastly and otherwise… as an aside, I am constantly amazed at the ingenuity employed by fellow scribes who continually devise innovative and unique methods to kill off their players… in defence, I will plead that most of the ‘disposals’ in my books are of the bad guys, the criminals, ‘them what deserves it’, Mabel…

 

…but every now and then, the reality creeps in that sum’times the good guys  also have to slide off this mortal coil… I am not about to provide a ‘spoiler‘ here to give you a name, but one of my main characters along the way met their abrupt end… the choice was driven by a quirk of narrative…

…I think other Authors will understand… I had a surplus of main characters whose names started with the same initial… a novice error of pensWURK, of course… the decision therefore to remedy that, lent force to that character’s ultimate ‘take-out‘… strangely, I felt no twinges of remorse ‘a la vole’... a writer’s business is a writer’s business… things have to happen… and it made an impact on the story and subsequent novels in the series… so, when needs must, Authors… there’s NUTHIN like a good killin’… go for it! see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…1950s back court tenements in Docklands Govan in Glasgow were awesome places…

……it was a different landscape back in the 1950s in the big cities of the UK… Docklands Govan in Glasgow, where Master Gallacher spent his infancy, had more than its share of rented tenement housing… up to three-storeys-high, grey, austere, stone buildings, sum’times red, depending on the material available when the corporation developed them in the latter part of the 1800s…

…by the time I poked my nose into the WURLD, much of the fabric of the municipal edifices in Govan had fallen into slum condition… that didn’t stop us children from enjoying playing in the them… no hint of the modern kids’ panoply of mobile gizmos to entertain ourselves… there was no money for such luxuries, even if they had been available… these handheld indulgences were for an age some sixty years in the future… gangs of thirty or forty street-boys and girls mixed easily to flail long skipping ropes, usually ‘cawed’ by the biggest lads, one or more at either end, while a snake-line of us jumped in and out to skipping rhymes… this was on the main street, where vehicles of any kind were a rarity, other than the coalmen’s carthorses… but the real magic treasure-land existed in the back courts… the areas inside the huge, oblong, joined-up length of the houses…

…there were the brick ‘middens’ (the communal garbage areas)… additionally, usually down the middle of the back court, brick walls… and iron poles here and there served as the stanchions for the drying of the family laundry, with ropes spread in a way that made it dangerous to run through there on a dark evening, with the threat of having your neck caught on a clothesline… happened to me once, and it almost tore my throat out… endless to say, I never ran there again in the dark… on top of the stone-dyke walls, sum’ times there were slanted slates, the ‘sharpies’, which we intrepid junior explorers would traverse with ease in our rubber-soled plimsoll sandshoes…

…jumping from the top of one brick ‘midden’ to a nearby wall and back again had varying degrees of difficulty (and the danger of injury), but hey, we played adventure roles there, doubling as Captain Kidd or sum’such other hero from the Saturday matinee movies… we played ‘kick-the-can‘… we played ‘peever’ with used Cherry Blossom polish tins filled with wee stones, and chalk marks on the roadway… we played singing games with one or two rubber balls bounced up against the tenement walls… and when the rain came, which was often, the dirt in the back courts transformed into glorious mud, fabulous oozing ‘glabber’, that great sculpting material for wee boys and girls to create castles and stuff… at the same time changing clean clothes into laundry nightmares for our mothers…

…sum’people often misguidedly refer to those times as the ‘bad old days’… they were NUTHIN of the sort… to me they were, and always will be remembered as, among the best days of my life… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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