Hotelier of the week/year If you look up the website of KSL Capital Partners, the American owner of Cameron House Hotel, you will find no reference to the pre-Christmas fire in which two young men died. On the contrary, it is as if the establishment is still fully functioning. KSL continues to refer to Cameron House as 'an iconic resort located on the banks of Loch Lomond' without adding that the building is in so dangerous a condition that, according to recent reports, investigators still can't safely enter it. Nor is there any indication from KSL of whether it ever intends to reopen the hotel. Meanwhile, it has emerged – though only as a result of the fire – that a third of the staff at Cameron House, 150 of its 450 employees, were on zero hours contracts (ZHCs). As recently as 2014, ZHCs were commonplace in the hospitality sector; more than half of the people working in hotels, restaurants and pubs in the UK were employed on this precarious basis. Largely as a result of unfavourable media exposure, the use of ZHCs in the sector has sharply declined: from 53% four years ago to 26% now (Source: Office for National Statistics). But at five-star Cameron House, the old ways persisted. Its well-heeled clientele were doubtless unaware that one in three of the people serving them had no guarantee of hours or pay. Maybe they had read, and been reassured by, the company's statement of corporate social responsibility that it 'takes its role in the communities within which it operates very seriously' – a sentiment endorsed by the company's 11 partners (all of them men).
A new definition of Brexit 'A mistake, not a disaster' (David Cameron).
A new definition of David Cameron 'A disaster, not a mistake.'
Great puddin o' the week Sheriff Muir, whose Immortal Memory is renowned the length and breadth of Mauchline, surprised the editorial conference by piping up on behalf of little Michael Gove, formerly of the Aberdeen Press and Journal. He reported that the secretary of state for nosh has been in touch with his counterpart in the United
States to see if that country’s ridiculous ban on haggis can be lifted. Sheriff Muir, with his keen sense of history, reminded the meeting that haggis had been an endangered dish in the past. After the second world war, there had been a suggestion that it might even be rationed in the same way as mealy puddings. Dr Edith Summerskill of the Ministry of Food had come to the rescue with a magisterial statement to the House of Commons: 'Haggis contains the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep, chopped up with suet, onion and oatmeal, while mealy puddings contain oatmeal and fat, and so rate as flour
confectionery.' The witty Tory MP for Perth, Alan Gomme-Duncan, had congratulated the honourable lady 'for having given us the first real definition of haggis,' at which the House erupted. Sheriff Muir wished little Michael Gove well in his endeavours.
Miscellaneous irritations of the week
(1) Mary Culter said she felt like throwing up every time the media linked any story concerning the monarchy with some obsequious play on the word 'One’.
(2) Kitty Brewster wondered why book reviews contain so many pretentious words. Tina Brown, recently interviewed by Scotland’s first minister, had written in praise of Virginia Woolf's diaries for their power of 'defenestration' and their 'hugely regenerative' qualities.
(3) Kirk Oswald said he had been following the progress of a British tennis player at the Australian Open – until he picked up a paper which reported that the player was now 'accentuating the positives,' a well-known euphemism for 'just been thrashed.'
Stooshie of the week The first minister and the president of the United States have this much in common: an unhealthy addiction to social media. When Ms Sturgeon was unfairly accused of 'hauling down the Union flag,' she went ballistic on Twitter. It turned out that, if anyone had hauled down the tedious emblem, it was Eck and HM Queenie, who had agreed yonks ago that the Lion Rampant was more sensitive to Scottish needs. The passing commotion did claim one notable victim: the Daily Mail was forced into a rare apology for publishing fake news. 'You could say it was defenestrated,' joked Sheriff Muir. 'Yet I fear the newspaper in question has hugely regenerative qualities.'
Religious news of the week The Pope revealed to an astonished world the Biblical origins of fake news: Eve had been tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden only because of misinformation from a serpent.
Serpent of the week (lifetime achievement award) RBS, which is currently running an ad on commercial radio with the punchline: 'Not just the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank for Scotland.'
Insult of the week Willie Rennie, archetypal nice guy of Scottish politics, was defenestrated by the first minister as a 'pathetic attention seeker.'
Humane proposal of the week There should be two ministers for loneliness, not one.
More lonely people of the week Edinburgh City Council was roundly mocked for suggesting that the introduction of 20mph speed limits would help to 'boost local communities and combat loneliness.' Our resident ecologist, cyclist and vegan, Mary Culter, reminded the editorial conference of the findings of successive surveys that people living on streets with heavy traffic have fewer social connections, and that older people in particular are reluctant to leave their houses because of fears about road safety. 'So why the derision'? she enquired. 'Might it conceivably have been inspired by motorists?' As with so many of Ms Culter’s questions, these did not seem to invite a response.
Old news of the week When Kitty Brewster asked our Banffshire correspondent, Maggie Knockater, why the online version of the local paper was still publishing stuff that happened last October, Ms Knockater replied that nothing of consequence had happened in Banffshire since last October, apart from the switching on of the Christmas lights and their subsequent switching off. Ms Brewster appeared to be satisfied with this explanation.
Good news of the week There won't be a President Winfrey after all.
Tax collectors of the week Sheriff Muir related the disturbing story of HM Revenue and Customs’ latest wheeze to extract fines for late payment. He went to his village post office on Friday 26 January to make his half-yearly contribution to the Exchequer, only to be informed that it was no longer possible to pay tax bills at the Post Office. When Sheriff Muir protested that it was one of the methods recommended on the form, the nice woman at the post office pointed out that his demand was dated 7 December and that R&C had withdrawn the facility eight days later. Any suggestion that they might have alerted their customers to the imminent change was out of the question, especially as it left Sheriff Muir struggling to meet his dues by the 31 January deadline. 'Damned scoundrels,' he growled, reaching for a consoling glass of single malt and an overpriced first-class stamp.
Word of the week Editorial assistant Tilly Drone introduced her colleagues to the concept of 'down-decading.' She gave as an example Natalie Blenford, 37, who recently moved in with two 'ultra-hip millennials' and went back to living the life of a 25-year-old, thus 'down-decading.' Ms Blenford quickly discovered that her flatmates sounded like the script of an indie movie with their constant talk of 'lit' or '100%', their insistence on living for the moment and for themselves, their exciting habit of dating two people at once, their midnight hook-ups, their impromptu parties. Ms Blenford was finding it most intoxicating. Sheriff Muir said that, frankly, he couldn't wait to down-decade – preferably by several decades at once.
Double Take is edited by The Midgie with the assistance of staff writers Kitty Brewster (politics), Sheriff Muir (legal and constitutional affairs), Mary Culter (arts, media and gender issues), Kirk Oswald (sexual indiscretions, weather events and fishing news), Tilly Drone (editorial assistant and general dogsbody), Maggie Knockater (Banffshire correspondent) and Bob Smith (artist-in-residence or, rather, in absentia – he is sunning himself in Barbados, while some of us have to be content with Broxburn).