As this is the second last column of the year, nay, the decade, I shall wipe away a tear and think back to these days when I was a kid full of mince pies and expectations about the payback for being such a good wee boy all year long.
There is a road in Applecross in the north-west Highlands called Bealach na Bà, which twists, winds and climbs to more than 2,000ft above sea level, making it the greatest ascent of any road climb in the UK. With a gradient approaching 20% in some places, its narrow, sharp bends have seen it dubbed the UK’s toughest climb.
If you visit Orkney you can see the sites where ancient peoples built their homes. At the heart of these old buildings was the hearth, around which a family could gather. Here they could cook and warm themselves and the room in which they were sitting. In many places although the walls of these houses have been removed, the hearth still remains, a historic reminder that being warm is a basic need for everyone.
I have relatives who toasted white supremacists of the US south. The moment occurred decades ago, according to a family tale, a story only recounted once, and in disgust. That it was all a long time ago is the point – we forget our sins.
“Settlements”, or as some of my Jewish friends call them, “communities”, are groups of houses built by Israel on land it has occupied since the 1967 war. These settlements are more controversial than religion, checkpoints and even the blockade of The Gaza Strip.