Sean Connery was not only a consummate actor, but also our greatest Scottish export. 


Many years ago I watched a comedy film called Groundhog Day, where the lead character wakes up every morning, not just with a sense of deja vu, but is compelled to re-run his day like all the ones before. It is a Faustian nightmare he is unable to escape, and we as a country, are now stepping into our Groundhog Lockdown, where we’ve done this once before, and despite best assurances we would avoid it, the scientists have persuaded the PM to lock us up for at least another 4 weeks. It’s time to say, Goodbye, Economy! I was so relieved when my daughter was finally able to return to gymnastics after a seven month break, and now she’s had three sessions, they’re shutting up shop, again. Her twin had only just returned to the rigorous Russian ballet, and that too, seems over. Our schools were given a promise they would stay open, and the NEU is now demanding schools close for the month to protect their members. As if that wasn’t bad enough they are also champing for a ‘week-on, week-off’ structure from lockdown end until a vaccine is rolled out. Do the union jackals not realise the havoc this would wreak on our working society? If we took the same tack in hospitals – closed them for a month, or staff worked only alternative weeks, we would see dead bodies lining the streets. Essential occupations – as in wartime – have to continue, and our children have already been penalised excessively, which is unforgivable, and must not be repeated. Bojo needs to stand up to those pesky unions, like his predecessor Maggie, and simply grow a handbag. 

Ofqual, the exam regulator, has been warned that should we allow the same high proportion of pupils to be given top grades next year, it risks ’baking in’ grade inflation. A source at the watchdog said ‘the one thing we want to avoid if possible, is that everyone must have prizes’ approach, which we saw this summer. I know in days of old, in children’s races at school there was always a winner, usually hard-fought and oft contested by competitive parents. But over my 20 years as a parent I’ve noticed us go from one winner, to extra prizes for the ‘second winner,’ and the ‘third winner,’ and we then gravitated to EVERYONE getting a medal for running: subtext – winning becomes meaningless if there is no hierarchy, which is a totally false premise for our children to take into real life. Back to exams though…. Gavin Williamson insisted initially that end-of-year exams would go ahead, although only a few days later he was hinting it was possible that GCSEs and A-levels might still be cancelled. I have to ask yet again why it’s impossible to adequately space children out in an exam hall and allow them to complete their formal exams, rather than working on a generous {or mean} assessment made by teachers, halfway through the year? Some children will consistently underperform throughout the year, but rise to the challenge in exams, and some will do beautifully in their written assessments and then perhaps struggle under exam pressure. So, the reality is that both the mocks and public exams are vital, and for the Education Department to even consider embargoing formal exams two years running, would be a disaster. On a cheerier note now, aspiring lawyers will no longer be compelled to do a law degree or conversion course to become fully qualified, thanks to a change in legal reform which will allow students straight out of college to complete a law apprenticeship. The Solicitors Qualifying Exam has worked for several years to remove this prerequisite, which will facilitate ‘earning and learning’ straight away.

I’m hoping over in the medical wing, that us cancer patients won’t be let down for a second time. Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said ‘family doctors were now dealing with a 30% rise in specialist referrals after government messaging drove everyone away during the first wave of the pandemic.’ He added his colleagues were increasingly likely to encounter patients with cancer, and warned of the risk of virtual consultations, after face-to-face appointments fell to just over 10% at the start of the pandemic. ‘Protect the NHS,’ he says, was (retrospectively) a very unhelpful message. Hands, Face and Space may be the current mantra, {which reminds me of the music hall song Hands, Knees and Bumps-a-daisy (1936)}, but unrelenting social restrictions will have wide reaching consequences. In a pioneering piece of medical news this week, Jan Ritson (71), had an eight inch section of her shin bone removed, taken for radiotherapy at a different hospital and then re-inserted before she woke up from surgery. The procedure – carried out in Scotland – was the first of its kind, and surgeons said without this radical procedure they would have had to amputate her leg to treat the sarcoma. Mrs Ritson said it was like ‘something out of science fiction,’ watching it later on playback. Her surgery was led by Ashish Mahendra, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who had used the technique before.

Nipping over to the USA for a minute, we must hold our breath for another day or so, to see how the ‘hottest presidential contest’ in a generation pans out. Both sides are claiming victory, but one individual is ultimately going home with his OAP bus pass to sit and commiserate by the fire. More on this next week. 

Elsewhere in the UK political canvas, I note the Scots intrinsic dislike of Boris Johnson is reportedly fuelling their demand for another referendum. I believe Nicola Sturgeon is using the ‘R’ question to mask her own failures, by dragging Scotland into a referendum based – essentially – on an ‘outside’ issue, i.e. about Boris Johnson who they can mutually lambast, rather than pausing for self reflection or public scrutiny of her questionable performance as First Minister.  A survey conducted last month by JL Partners found 56% of Scottish voters support separation, and stated the most persuasive argument for independence was that ‘Boris Johnson is not the leader I want to have for my country.’ Boo-hoo! I’m sure there are many in Westminster who think they might have made a better PM, but heck, we live in a democracy and that’s the way the cookie crumbled. Additional factors for the independence vote included Brexit and the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic. The most persuasive argument FOR staying in the UK amongst the swing voters was ‘that an independent Scotland is a step into the unknown.’ You betcha!! Nicola would rather run with the devil she doesn’t know, as long as she maintains her p(a)lace at Holyrood. A UK Government spokesman said ‘we’ve always been clear. Scotland had a once-in-a-generation independence referendum in 2014, and they voted to remain in the UK.’ In my book Ms Sturgeon is the bad congregant who, if she doesn’t get the answer she wants from her rabbi, will just keep asking another and another, till she gets the answer she is looking for. Thus, I believe they are heading into further unemployment, and an economic abyss which, combined with their miserable weather, will make for a real winter of discontent. 

Down in London, a Romanian couple managed to switch a £67,000 Royal Offshore Oak gold watch for a fake, in a daring robbery at Harrods in September. The switch was discovered quickly and they were timeously intercepted at Dover. Who would need such an impressive and valuable timepiece, one has to ask, unless you are a king, queen, or at least On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? 

Which brings me to nicely round off this week; it would be disrespectful not to mention the passing of an absolute legend – Sir Sean Connery, who has died aged 90. For a man who left school at 14, the son of a lorry driver and a cleaner, to be then knighted by the Queen (2000), shows how far he had travelled through a galaxy of stardom, ultimately shooting to meteoric fame after being cast as the sophisticated James Bond. His rather inauspicious film debut was actually in Lilacs in the Spring (1954), after which he was cast as an unknown – and unlikely – James Bond in Dr No (1962). His Bond starting salary of £15,000 reflected his non-star persona, but he weaved his raw charisma and magic, showing as he developed his magnificent acting style over 5 movies as the ultimate spy hero. These films included From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), with him finally starring in You Only Live Twice (1967), at which point he felt he had been stereotyped enough and moved on. He accepted an invitation to resume his Bond persona in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) for ‘old times sake,’ and for a dazzling $1.25 million fee. Successive and intermediate Bonds proved much less popular, until Roger Moore took over the role in the 1970s, although in an error of judgement, Connery drifted back into spy mode one final time in Never Say Never Again (1983), after which he then said, ‘never again!’ Following his Bond journey, he appeared with an all-star cast in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), A Bridge Too Far (1977), and co-starred with Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). My favourite film though was with Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990), a top-drawer thriller where Connery played a renegade Soviet submarine commander. As I have always enjoyed all things Russian, I am considering including Murmansk [the Soviet peninsula on the edge of Barents Sea] on my travel itinerary, if it’s not too remote to reach in winter. Stay tuned for updates on the Siberian winter wonderland I’m hoping to visit. Brrrrrilliant!

Mr Connery, you’ve shaken and stirred our imaginations for 60 years, and were a Premium Bond. You will be remembered forever.


Jacqueline x