Up the Swannay

A chum of mine was recently billeted on Birsay on Orkney on a seal-counting mission (no, I don’t know why either!). He’s been known to sip a beer or two – but only in moderation of course, in case of double-counting seals. He isn’t actually doing the counting but flying the folk who are, so he can’t drink on the job. But he did recommend the local brewery, Swannay, which I think must be the second most northerly in the UK (the Valhalla Brewery on Shetland is furthermost). Given that Scapa Flow is on the doorstep, the company decided to name a pale ale its produces Scapa.

If you’ve ever been to Orkney you’ll know that you can still see the masts of some of the German ships, or perhaps block ships, that went down in Scapa Flow a little over 100 years ago, in June 1919 – at least you could when I was last there. At the end of the First World War, Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, fearing that the interned German ships would be shared between the victorious allied powers, ordered them to be scuttled simultaneously and on June 21, at 11.20am, 52 warships quickly sank below the waves.

That’s what gave Swannay the idea to name the bevvy after the most famous event to hit that stretch of water. They also came up with a great catchline to promote it, which you can see in the photograph (although I would have substituted faster for better). Sadly, the PC police got to them and they no longer use it, publicly at least.

Wild ideas

The internet lit up during the week with footage of fish being transported several hundred metres through a pneumatic plastic tube from one patch of water to another. The “salmon cannon” was invented by an aptly named company called Whooshh Innovations in the States, so that the fish wouldn’t need to negotiate natural hazards on their way to spawning.

But this viral meme wasn’t new. In 2014, John Oliver unveiled the device in a hilarious sketch on Last Week Tonight where various celebrities like Tom Hanks, David Letterman and Homer Simpson were bombarded with fish from the tube. But the idea has caught on and I am reliably informed that Whooshh is installing one on a stretch of the Tweed.

This is not just to move salmon from hatchery to river cheaply and efficiently but to keep restocking the river at peak demand, so that rich anglers who are paying a fortune to fish will actually catch something. And by way of diversion, or for the unskilled ones, they’ll be given lacrosse sticks to bag the salmon as they shoot out.

The idea of moving wildlife around isn’t new. In 1948, the Idaho Fish and Game company decided to move beavers from one location to another inferior one and after trapping them they transported them to an airport in crates, then dropped them by parachute into the new water.

One beaver – called Geronimo – took part in numerous trials where he was dropped from 150 feet. Of the actual parachute drop only one of 76 beavers died and that was blamed on the beast’s own incompetence, gnawing its way free and jumping prematurely. If we’re going to reintroduce the beaver here I hope there are wide enough tubes.

Plastic bottlers

As the folk singer and visionary Pete Seeger put it: “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”

It came to me as I was dutifully sorting my plastics for recycling, or probably more likely landfill – as well as the usual “why am I and other council taxpayers stumping up for this when it’s not us that created the problem?”.

It’s fine mouthing that the polluter should pay, but they don’t. The government has completely bottled it (plastic, of course) when they should be ensuring non-recyclable packaging is banned in favour of compostable packaging. Sod this having to pay 10p for a supermarket bag alongside tax.

And finally

It’s a very long time since I’ve been on a ouija board so I’m somewhat out of touch with the spirit world. Someone who is out of touch with the real world, or so it was claimed in his defence in court, is George Wyllie, a fraudster who claims to be a psychic and medium and who was getting paid for his ministrations while his alternative personality was busy illegally claiming disability benefits.

He, or the other he, travelled the world to be in touch with the dead, but also milked the system for £8,500. His lawyer tried to justify it by claiming he had a split personality so didn’t realise the other he was doing anything wrong.

Sheriff Alistair Watson gave that ridiculous defence short shrift in Kilmarnock Sheriff Court a few days ago, convicted Wyllie of fraud, and pointed out that it was genuine claimants who suffered because of people like him. I’d have banged him up, but instead he got a tag together with curfew and supervision orders.

There’s a worldwide industry preying on the bereaved and broken-hearted, and I’m sure it’s profitable. It’s online too, so you can chip in to watch one of these phoneys claim that they’re in touch with your dear departed and if you could just manage a few more quid there’s even more they’d tell you.

I don’t know if there’s a Trades Description Act which covers mediums and psychics and the spiritual world, but there ought to be.

My wife died not so long ago and I’d love to be able to say to her the things I didn’t, or apologise for what I did, but I can’t. So here’s the challenge, to Wyllie or anyone else on the bandwagon: convince me in a séance or session and I’ll recant. I don’t expect to hear from anyone here, or the beyond.