Leonardo Da Vinci a life in drawing exhibition March 2020 Edinburgh

I have not updated this blog in long, long time.  Various reasons for this.  The prime ones being a lack of spare time, teenage offspring and a lack of things to say of good interest outside of work and private.  Well last weekend I finally made it to Edinburgh (third attempt as the last two times were snowed off..Scotland in winter eh!) to see in its final days the fantastic Da Vinci exhibition at the Queens Gallery.  As described in its own words:

“Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition brings together 80 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection, forming the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

Drawing served as Leonardo’s laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation. The drawings by Leonardo in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death in 1519. Acquired during the reign of Charles II, they provide an unparalleled insight into the workings of Leonardo’s mind and reflect the full range of his interests, including painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.”

It was well worth the trip and to see the works of this great man in person once again including several sketches I had only seen in books up to this point.  I am something of a fan of Leonardo you might say.  Here are some pictures I took on my phone.

Sketches of artillery and multiple shot cannons. A couple of examples were built but all failed to work properly without modern technology and manufacturing.

In Utero. One of his most famous and rarer still for being in colour, the womb and child. Amazing up close and of course he was well ahead of his time.

Cats and a Dragon..can you spot the Dragon? Took me ages to find it. Da Vinci really liked cats as it turns out.

The end of the world. Towards the end of his life the artist became obsessed with the apocalypse. By hell fire, by flood and by disease. Powerful rendering…

Excuse the poor quality of these selected images the glass in front, the bright lights and the elbows of many around made it tough but each of these can be seen online larger with a wee search.

My only purchase at the exhibit was an eraser, a rubber, which was not only the cheapest thing there but also half price since the event was ending.  I picked up four.  One for me plus one for my three sons. When I was a student I picked up the three volumes, from the late 1950’s, of Da Vinci’s drawings with notes.  Very comprehensive.  In fact we used it to create our own vision of the ‘turtle car‘ his ‘tank’ in 15mm scale along with the man himself.

I recently finished listening to Walter Isaacson’s life of Leonardo.  A really good book and well worth reading or picking up on Audible as I did since I can type and listen at the same time.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to comment if you want to ask me something.  Perhaps another post in less time, next time.


Edinburgh September 2016 – National Museum of Scotland


In a fairly rare break from my normal life of work and family I took a few days off to treat my good lady to a birthday treat trip to Edinburgh at the weekend just past.  We had a really nice time and the weather held up for us too.  I want to share a few things we did (not all of them as I do not want to bore you or make you faint!) while there.  The main thrust of this posting is the National Museum of Scotland which we spent a very enjoyable full morning inside (it would have been longer if there had been seats in the tea room for a lunch date too!  But alas too busy) and here are some photos I took of objects and such that most interested me.


Above is the view to the right of the main group floor of the museum and it was a delightful surprise to see the natural light entering from the glass ceiling of the nineteen century iron structure and around its floors.  To the left you can see the main light taken from a late Victorian light house.  Below is a photo I just had to take of a small part of a mid twentieth century ‘Atom Smasher’ used by several different universities in the 1950’s..sadly not in use.


The museum is divided into several sectors which are represented upon each of the floors as you ascend.  With each telling a rolling story they are excellently done and while the nature element does not especially interest me the Great White Shark hanging from the ceiling upon invisible wires was actually rather scary and you can see it below.  I was more interested in the civilisation (read as Mankind but sadly that is not a word allowed anymore) and the science hall.


A superb presumably solid gold Japanese planetsphere which dates from the seventeenth century which shows the night sky not as pictures but as a series of straight lines.  The photo does not do this object justice at all and the level of detail is amazing and its finish is undimmed by time.


The next two photographs appealed to the Flintloque writer in me.  The uniform of Thomas Cochrane worn upon the ship Liberator which is well worth looking into and an oil painting by Arthur William Devis.  The fall of Seringapatam and the death of the Tipu Sultan (not actually killed by Richard Sharpe!) in 1797 which was an event one of my favourite British officers was part of; Major General David Baird.



The reality of biological sciences was brought to life for me in the next room in the form of the actual (I checked!) Dolly, the world’s first cloned animal in 1996.  For more on Dolly follow the link here as it is a fascinating and important area of research.  After this was Wylam Dilly locomotive which while not being anywhere near as famous as the ‘Rocket’ is one of the oldest surviving machines there is from the early age of steam and rail along with Puffing Billy.



The resourcefulness of human nature and in war caught my eye with a suit of armour plus weapons from Kiribati entirely made of coconut fibre.  While utterly useless against any firearm and most bows as well it does stand up to crushing and impacts from wooden weapons rather well.


One of the real highlights of the whole museum was the change to read up upon and actually see (yes, I touched it, naughty me) a part of the acceleration cavity assembly from CERN which as you will know is the place of the Large Electron Positron Collider.  Twenty seven kilometres of underground tunnels to smash electrons and positrons together.  I find this actually more impressive than four thousand year old tombs and such as it is the future and an incredible feat of engineering and physics.  Peter Higgs nobel prize was ensured when the ring proved the existence of the ‘god particle’.


After all this I took the time to get a snap of the view down to the entrance foyer from where we had started our experience in the museum.  An excellent idea for a half day visit and for children lots to do as well.


Edinburgh was mobbed with tourists…I mean really busy…so I gave up trying to get into any other events or places and instead just went for a sunny stroll in the park getting a good shot of the castle upon the rock from an angle not normally used by TV reporters or postcards and such.


Lastly a shout out to a great traditional Scottish pub that does excellent food and service too along with some superb ales.  It is small but try to get a table and a late lunch at the World’s End pub at the foot of the Royal Mile. Friendly and with a great atmosphere I took a few photos to show you firstly what I had to drink (Saltire is not easy to get in Ayrshire) and then the outside wall of the pub with its origin tale.



Thanks for taking the time to read this and if you get the chance I do recommend heading to the historical capital city of Scotland for a weekend.  I had the choice between this trip and possibly Madrid.  I did not get the heat but I got a bloody good time!


Remembrance 2014 – 100th Anniversary of WW1

“At the going down of the light and in the morning we shall remember them….”

It is one hundred years since the beginning of World War One and today that is most salient with me as it is Remembrance Sunday.  Silence to remember those who fell in all the conflicts from that day to this in wars all over the world.  I have done my part with fund raising and donating for the correct Poppies that came my way in the street from hands both young and old.  Remember them, we owe them that much.

This day holds significance for me as I make my living from ‘war’.  Not real war.  But the kind of pretend conflict where when the sun sets everyone stands up and returns home.  This life of mine is only possible in part due to the sacrifices made by soldiers of days now long gone and more recent. They ensured our freedom.  You can disagree with the motives of war of the goals of war but for the men who leave and never return there should only ever be respect.  So let this life of pretend war of mine bring excitement and joy to thousands across the world but for today let it be tempered with the horrid reality of battle.


NO and perhaps its change or its trouble…

I don’t get involved in politics, I don’t get involved in religion,  I don’t get involved in social movements if I can help it.  Sometimes it cannot be helped.  I have to still see and listen to it and act.  The Scottish Referendum was one of these occasions and on 18.09.14 Scotland voted and decided to stay part of the United Kingdom; what had once been Great Britain the nation that built and ruled the modern world.  The vote was NO to the choice of independence by a margin of 55% to 45% and I think it was the result most people kind of knew was going to happen.  While I had prepared myself for either event I had noted down my own result and I was pretty close to what occurred.  I avoided putting this up publicly as I wished to stay neutral since I have friends on both sides.

So what now?  Well firstly politics will sink from this blog until and unless something big happens and it will be back to fun and games and family which is what I like (I still have eighty odd prog rock albums to source and listen to for the top 100 count I blogged about last month).  Secondly aside from some thugs causing problems in Glasgow city centre this weekend which frankly, take it from me, had little to do with the vote and more to do with being scum that take any chance to cause problems most people have accepted the result.  Some are trying to create a ’45 rebellion through social media which is amusing since from what I have seen they on the whole seem unaware of their own history and the coincidence of the actual ’45 Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Thirdly and most vitally I would like to follow up on the passionate speech former Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave yesterday as it links to my own feelings on what will come next.  Let me tell you what I think is going to happen for Scotland and the UK over the next couple of years.

Well Scotland said NO as I predicted.  The SNP were voted into power in Scotland to govern not as a signal for a thirst for separation but as a protest to the Labour Party who had been in power really forever in Scotland and had produced such failures and third raters for leaders such as Jack (now LORD!) McConnell.  The same thing happened a year plus later in England as Labour was put out and a Conservative and Liberal coalition took power.  Since then the financial crash and recession that followed it has shown the total lack of spine of the political classes in London, in the ‘Westminster Bubble‘.  Despite putting the UK nearly to the wall not a single banker or politician (don’t forget the expenses scandal too) was jailed or even seriously penalised.  The people of the UK have lost their remaining faith in the political class, of career politicians who have never worked in the real world and frankly stand for nothing as they are all ‘consensus’ and ‘middle of the road’.  The end result was a scare for Westminster as this all added fire to the YES campaign but also to the rise of UKIP as a party in England on the issue of Europe and the loss of power there which again no politician will even admit never mind speak about or do anything about.  So where from here.  Well promises were made to Scotland for further devolved powers being granted to Hollyrood in the event of a NO vote.  The BBC and the political classes have it seems already put the issue of Scotland Independence behind them saying ‘that’s it for a generation’.  Trust me its not.  Here we go.

If Westminster forgets or reneges on enough of these promises from September 2014 then I think the election next year in Scotland will see the SNP remain in power (they may well do since I also think the Labour Party is finished in UK politics as it stands) on a new mandate and will push again for another referendum.  If that is the case then the next time the YES vote will win as the momentum combined with swinging the NO voters who believed in union who will have seen the lack of action after the last time will move to YES.  It would only take a 5% swing.  Meanwhile in England the voice for a devolved English parliament will continue as will the one for a Welsh and Irish one too.  David Cameron will not be prime minister after 2015 regardless as to which party wins (the men in grey suits will ‘retire him’ from leadership).  The Labour Party will shrink and other parties take its place.  Then there is the promised vote on membership of the Euro Zone….

Pessimistic yes but based on this week I think Gordon Brown was pretty much right.  This is not over, not by a long shot.  The Scottish debate is a small part of something happening the UK over and actually all across the Western World too.

I am not interested in Politics beyond the local but as I said I thought I might put something out about it since its happening here and now.


This Week Destiny….YES or NO

Democracy.  Mob Rule.  Politics and all the dirt that comes from it.  It comes to Scotland this week in the biggest electoral decision that I and my Celtic brothers and sisters will ever have to make.  Its been getting increasingly rapid and even bad tempered in the streets of Ayrshire and elsewhere as the time grows close.  Both camps are hard at it putting their cases and belittling the case of the other side.

YES is focusing in on the failures of history and of distant rule from London while NO is focusing on the fails of the future and the terror of near rule from Edinburgh.  Frankly its all been a storm of smoke and sometimes outright lies.  I don’t really know what to believe but nothing YES has said has gladdened me and nothing NO has said has made me think that remaining is also a good idea.  More than a year of reading everything and pondering it all and I am no closer to knowing which way to go would be better.  Actually I could have written an entire new Flintloque book in the time I have spent on this and had way more result from it.  My notion of reporting here something solid to go on have vanished.

I must make note of the level of anger in me at some of the online comments left on Facebook, Gplus and Youtube aiming not only hatred but sheer idiocy towards the Scottish people.  I will not recount them but it is very saddening to read.  Actually its more upsetting the level of poor grammer, education and outlook presented that gets to me.  Is Great Britain or the UK one nation…no not really.  There is a real divide in climate, in attitudes, in populations, in wealth, in ideology and more before you even get to gender, race, religion and creed.  Perhaps we cannot all get along any more.  Or perhaps being as one will make us get along better.

I shall vote.  It is my right and my duty this week of all weeks.  For which case..alone or together…that remains to be seen.

I will end with the video clip below.  Perhaps Willy makes more sense than Cameron or Salmond.  He certainly makes clear points; something the others don’t.


(p.s. if you found this post confusing as to YES or NO from me..you were meant to!)

Entering Endgame YES and NO Positions


I had planned a long blog post here outlining the YES and NO campaign’s leaflets now that we are entering the end game period.  Leaflets that layout why you should vote yes or no.  I was then going to follow it with a run down of the last TV debate two nights ago and end with my own take on the referendum at this stage with only weeks to go.  BUT.  Life gets in the way.  I don’t have the time.  Various projects at work have me running at 95% of full and added to this a bulk of email to answer means this is all the time I can spare.  So it will have to do.  Typed and posted so my apologies for grammar errors and such.  These are my own thoughts.

The debate was much like the last one with Salmond the showman dominating while saying little.  Darling held his own for most of it but its always hard to argue for NO on any topic rather than YES.  There was actually little said except on the issue of currency.  This was actually explained finally and it runs like this.  If the vote is no then everything remains as it is with a hint of more devolved powers.  If the vote is yes then the preferred option is a currency union with the rest of the UK with the Bank of England being Scotland’s paymaster.  Will this work, well its frankly insane to me to think that any Prime Minister will just kick Scotland out and by denying Scotland its share of the sterling assets will remove its share of the UK’s dept.  So that being assumed I think a currency union would happen but it would not work.  After all its done nothing for nations that use the Dollar and its been a bane for Greece being controlled by Germany in the Euro Zone.  Therefore after it breaks down (Salmond tries to explain why London will not give Scotland more money etc) the options are joining the Euro or a separate Sterling Pound (like before the Union).  The Euro has been ruled out (but trust ye not any politician for I think Salmond would run for Brussels given a chance) and my own thinking here is that is a good idea as its a sick man as it were and its not going to last as it is.  A new currency for Scotland would be really hard as Edinburgh has no history of credit, no gold reserves and so on.  We would be starting at the bottom.  So the debate was just like the rest of this process…loose and ongoing.

The leaflets I have pictured above are the last national printed communication for each side and its telling I have had to try and make people read them.  As you would expect NO focuses on what we know and the fear of the unknown.  YES focuses on what we could do without the solid facts for it.  As publications go the YES one is better as it gives you more information and it has the ability to dump on the NO campaigns failures over the last 300 years too. What is noticeable in the leaflets is that YES focuses on children and the young and NO pretty much focuses on the older and pensioners.  So again fear vs optimist and youth.

I understand that people will disagree with me on this and I EXPECT IT as there is nothing solid here only opinions.

My take on this at this point is that its still all to play for.  While YES seems to be winning and is way more vocal its vital to remember that its s tiny minority who are online and in the media or on Facebook or Gplus etc. The majority are silent and I think that silence is more NO than YES.   I have not decided what I will vote as yet and I will admit this is tearing me up.

Another post on this nearer the time of course.  I am of course concerned as I am one of those rare creatures now…a man who makes his living publishing, manufacturing and exporting to the world.  A money maker, a wealth creator.  It will affect me in every facet of life.


Collectormania 2014 Glasgow


I had a great day on Saturday from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed late on after watching the taped new episode of Dr Who.  Among the highlights I can share with the public the brightest was my trip to Collectormania 2014 in Glasgow.  Its not often I get enough time together to do something like this but the trip had been planned for two weeks and I was raring to go.  Why you ask..well for the chance to meet two childhood heroes of mine and the chance to get some new t-shirts too.

collectormania2014_hall_500pix collectormania2014_500pix

I got the shirts and as you can see above it was a smaller sized event, nothing like Salute at Excel in London, but that was good for me.  It meant that there was virtually no que to wait in for an autograph and it meant that you could actually spent a bit of time talking to the person too.  Sylvester McCoy is a really nice person and it was great to be able to speak to him.  I did not mention the seventh Doctor once rather it was more a meeting of two men from the former region of Strathcylde.  However for my good lady the star of the show was Dirk Benedict who took a real shine to her!  After that he was quite happy to talk about the A-Team and his time as Starbuck too.


We got our autographs which my eldest son who came with us found quite funny.  For you see I put no stock in religion or celebrity or anything else that is beyond my normal grasp as a Man.  I take each on its own merits but actually conversing with these two put a grin on my face that he found amusing!  I might well go back next year.  I missed Sophie Aldred as she was only there today and not Saturday.  Shame but there is always next time.

So I will finish on a last picture of my good lady with The Face Man as he was and still is known.  Hands off mate…she’s mine!



Salmon tonight Darling? A useless debate on Scottish Independence

I watched it last night.  I listened again in bed this morning before getting up for work.  I listened again to it this afternoon while typing emails. It was billed as being that important.  Three times last nights debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond has played through my mind so important is the vote now only six weeks away.  Scottish Independence is coming up to be voted upon and am I closer to a choice.  Am I closer to a decision based on rational arguments, evidence and calm debate through answering questions from a studio audience?  Simply put no I am not.

In a ninety minute exchange the two representatives of the YES and the NO campaigns put forward their cases or rather they repeated the same waffle without concrete facts that I have been hearing for months.  Over all I thought that Alastair Darling came out on top but that was mainly due to Salmond’s personal attacks upon him and childish rhetoric rather than any other reason.  Honestly it is starting to make me sad.  I have been avoiding posting on this subject waiting for something vital that I could point to and run with to voting day…but it has not come.

An in depth look at the debate can be seen HERE on the BBC website for news.  Its worth reading but the debate is not worth watching in full.  I am likely to believe anyone who can actually prove, prove mind not tell, me what will happen.  The truth…I think no one actually knows what will happen.

My own opinion at this moment?  Well despite the excellent result of the 2014 Commonwealth Games for Glasgow and the fun it inflicted on those trying to work about these parts there is no swell of feeling for separation and I think that on the day the result will be a majority return of NO.  That is unless something radically changes soon.  I have yet to make up my own mind as it is on 6th August 2014.


Find me on Facebook…finally

I reached the needed one thousand asks and finally signed up for Facebook this week.  I actually have been trying to avoid it due to the extra work involved.  Those who know me know that I just have to answer every comment and email and message sent to me and sometimes it takes me literally hours each day.  I do wonder sometimes if the old adage ‘if someone takes the time to write to you then you write back’ is meant to apply to the information age but in any event its what I do.

You can find me by searching Facebook for me as:  Gavin B Syme.

As result of this taking up of Facebook I am making efforts to join up with communities on that platform and making friends too.  By extension the weekly news, blog posts and product releases that I make from work are also going to feature on Facebook too.  It will not take long for me to get as noticed as I am on Google Plus.


Aside from this the current heat wave that is going on in Scotland is making life sticky for me and its been a ruddy long day too.  That being said that fact that we are so busy is a great thing and as I look towards the first birthday of my baby (that is The Ion Age not one of my actual children!) I am so proud of how well it is going.  It seems that honesty, quality, service and pricing never go out of fashion.  My good lady cheered me up by send me a picture this afternoon of the Poet and the Warrior having fun in the park in Girvan with the free kite display.  These huge kites are easily 50 to 150 feet long and it really makes the sky line pretty in the 25c to 30c heat.


Graduation Glasgow University 2014


I was invited to Glasgow University on the Wednesday of this week to be a part of my sister in law’s graduation from the university.  I was honoured to be selected as tickets are rare and it meant I would once more be able to walk the halls of my old haunt and enter the illustrious Bute Hall for the ceremony.  By an odd coincidence it was twelve years to the day after my own graduation from the university in exactly the same ceremony but this time I was able to see it from the outside without the gown and the mortar board.


The programme of events. We were lucky with a mild and dry day and it was really fantastic to see all the smiling faces full of accomplishment.  I will admit it was a lot of deja vu  on my part but I will avoid going into details.  I had not been back to the university since 2002 but I keep in touch with letters and email.  Its a place that holds and radiates its five hundred years of scholarship and its formed the minds of thousands who have shaped the modern world.   I have done a lot since I graduation not least the public work I am known for but I have gotten married, bought two homes, had three children, travelled, wrote, thought and fought the good fight.


A view of the side of Bute Hall to give an idea of the scale of the stone work.  My sister in law Kirsten Loy was the star of the day and trust me it only seems like yesterday when she applied to go to university.  While some might argue the benefit of further education I can tell you from my perspective that you go in one person and come out another better one more suited to the rapidity of the world now and better to deal with it.   So congratulations and I am so proud of you.  I wait to see where you go now!


I will end with the above photo of Kirsten on the left and my good lady on the right.  I am so lucky to be part of a world of such beautiful and talented women.