WE are moving towards the DIY society. I say “society” in its loosest sense as it is indeed societal breakdown that is leading us to DIY.

Do not be alarmed. Eeyores like the present writer have been talking about the breakdown of society since humans first started co-operating to kill each other. And when I refer to DIY, as arguably I have, I don’t mean wee jobs aboot the hoose that are better left to tradesmen, our new aristocracy. No, it has become much wider than that.

I refer you to DIY stories published irresponsibly in the public prints over the past few weeks: DIY dentistry, DIY potholes, DIY cosmetic surgery, DIY hairdressing.

Teeth were touched upon here last week when we commented exclusively on a chap who, in great pain and unable to find a dentist (our new overlords), pulled out 18 of his own pegs. Indeed, tales like this have abounded over the past year.

What is an advanced society that can’t cure toothache? Correct: it is mental. It’s ridiculous. It’s caused by greed, of course: dentists going private. This is the fault of Nye Bevan, useless creator of the NHS, who left loopholes for these molar masseuses to line their pockets.

All dentists should be state employees, provided with proper aprons, reasonable pensions and optional membership of a social and sporting club.

Next, potholes: our advanced society can no longer fill these. So, folk are taking matters into their own hands and filling them themselves. Outraged authorities in Cornwall are trying to trace one “pothole hero”, as he was dubbed by the press, but citizens are refusing to give him up. It’s like the French Resistance all over again.

Next, folk’s coupons: yon Herald newspaper reported that decent ratepayers who want better faces than the one dealt them by Jehovah the Merciless are injecting fillers and other anti-ageing treatments at home. One imagines there’s potential for this to go horribly wrong: one cheek bigger than the other, a humungous hooter and so forth. More seriously, you might block an artery.

Once again, the answer is for a state Department of Cosmetic Surgery to be set up, with civil servants retrained to get in aboot the nation’s coupons with scalpels and saws.

You say: “You’re sounding like a right old-fashioned socialist here, Rab.” That’s the ticket: everyone on equally poor wages, willingly and enthusiastically providing a service to the masses. But in one respect I have gone private: for more than a decade now I have cut my own hair. That’s me: tough, independent, self-reliant. And the process is simple: you just run a thing over your heid. The resultant laughter from gawping bystanders is a small price to pay for the satisfaction gained from Doing It Yourself.


The quiet life

I SPEND much time in quiet places; woods and lonely shores. And nearly always, when there, I find the same worries in my heid that I had before setting out. On realising this, I try to get the concerns out of my cranium, to clear it, and have more peaceful thoughts.

It’s like that mindfulness meditation technique where you’re supposed to watch these thoughts go by. I’m not convinced that works, or not for long. The watching is too active.

But what can happen is that a place can work on you. So you just let the worries ramble on and see if the place calms you down. Often it does.

READ MORE: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/23512619.robert-mcneil-alexa-head-start/

Though less likely, this can even work in a town, or perhaps starting a new life in a city, where you experience transient happiness (before Jehovah the M gets to hear about it), particularly in a leafy suburb.

That said, I remember once, returning from a wild place, to my then partner’s flat in the city, a right scuzzy area but with a fine bakery, and feeling so warm and comfortable with it all.

Another time, I was leaving to return to a place where I was unhappy (work) and, on the top deck of a bus going along Edinburgh’s Princes Street, suddenly and unexpectedly found myself suffused with love for all the city folk there. That was weird, since nowadays I hate everybody. Joke.

I guess it was just an appreciation of normal peeps going about their business, happily (as it seemed).

Takeaway: see if the place works on you, rather than you working too hard to enjoy the place. Just a mindless thought.


Whale lotta love

YAY for Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd peeps taking a former Scottish Fisheries Protection vessel to Iceland to protect whales from the cruel Nordics.

I remember, nearly 30 years ago as a local hack, reporting on his first ship arriving in our small northern port one misty, mysterious evening.

The crew were uniformed and wearing berets, good looking and glamorous, so obviously not Scottish.

Around that time, I interviewed Icelanders and Norwegians, who said whaling was no different to us killing cows. I told them their talk was urinary, and remain of that opinion to this day.


Bin there, done that

Society is complicated, and no more so than in our bins. While England moves towards a seven-bin system, one council – North Somerset – is trialling a four-compartment bin. The compartments are for papers, glass, plastic bottles and general waste. The bin will be a big three-wheeler, requiring a provisional driving licence.


Gie’s pizza

Italians are being told they didn’t invent pizza, following Scots being telt they didn’t invent haggis, pies, Worcestershire sauce etc. Professor Alberto Grandi, of Parma University, says Americans invented pizza as we know it – ken, with toppings an a’ that. Certainly, there’s no record of Neapolitans adding pineapple to the controversial dish.


Weeded in

Horticultural wars continued: Gardeners’ World presenter Rachel de Thame claims killing weeds is “old-fashioned”. Chelsea Flower Show is also “putting nature first”, with weeds rebranded “resilient plants”. Lawns should be left uncut. If it cuts down the motorised racket in suburbs and villages, this column is all for it.


Blind alley

Roads make you fear no-one is in control of society. Tailgaters, slowcoaches, cyclists, confusing signage conspire to make driving displeasurable. One recent development brought new danger to which authorities turn a blind eye: the blinding headlight. The RAC says old drivers are no longer going out after dark. Time to make our roads a duller place.


Fine wine

Pairing food and wine is often mere whimsy, says Prof Charles Spence of Oxford Uni, who contends it’s fine to serve some reds with fish. This column was once served red wine with halibut at a do on a Norwegian ship. Glorious! Or was it red wine with the berry dessert? Don’t remember. Wine is fine with anything when it’s free.