Light-hearted recollection of R2-D2

It was sad to hear of the death of Kenny Baker, actor for R2-D2. As others have pointed out, 2016 is proving to be a bad year for celebrity deaths.

Many years ago, I was in a conversation with a few mates at university talking about R2D2. One of them said that R2D2 was operated by an actor. I said that I read somewhere that it also had a remote control. To which my mate Dave responded with words to the effect: “maybe he’s inside the robot with the remote control. That way, if they have an remote control failure, they can switch to manual”.

Hope that isn’t considered insensitive. At the time, it made me laugh, anyway.

RIP Kenny.

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Banff Bay Swim

Today, Aberdeenshire swimmers braved the cold North Sea, swimming from Banff Bay to Macduff harbour. It is an annual event, and it has its own Facebook page. Registration was at 1 pm, and the swim started at 2 pm. These times may vary from year to year.


Swimmers assembling at Banff


Some volunteer HM Coastguard Rescue Officers from Banff


Swimmers congregating near the start line at the mouth of the harbour


And they’re off


RNLI on patrol, ready to assist those in need

The following pictures were taken at the neighbouring town Macduff, which is where the swim ends.




Phil, volunteer at the Banff Bay Swim, and all-round nice bloke. He encouraged me to enter the swim. Maybe Phil, maybe.


Winner, clocking in at 20 min. The record for the event is 19 min. It’s not so much the winning as taking part, of course.


Speactators at the finish line at Macduff harbour.


Swimmer at the finish line, keeping warm. This is my favourite picture. I like the composition. The focal point is the swimmer, who’s obviously cold, and is drawing himself in the keep himself warm. There is negative space surrounding him, and nobody is looking at him, suggesting isolation.


RNLI lifeboat station, Macduff, just a short walk from the finish line. Lifeboats at this station have to be launched from a crane.

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Magic Hat – IBST in, AIR out

The MHP (Magic Hat Portfolio) on Stockopedia ( is an experiment by me to see if a human can improve on a mechanical Greeblatt Magic Formula screen. I am trying to weed out “mistakes” that I feel the screening commits: unseasoned companies, scams, foreign companies (particularly Chinese), fishy accounting, and statistical quirks. Apart from that, I am agnostic as to the sector the company operates in, although I will try to avoid heavy concentration in any one sector. I will mostly apply “Strategic Ignorance”, by which I mean that I wont try to be clever in my stockpicking. My picking will be mostly mechanical. A summary of most of my Magic Hat articles can be found on the web page This will allow you to see, at a glance, what shares have been bought and sold in the past, as well as what shares have been rejected from consideration and why.

AIR leaves the MHP, at a loss of 7.1%. The portfolio was too top-heavy in the transport sector in any event, so this is an opportunity to balance it out a little.

IBST (Ibstock) is in the construction materials, and joins the MHP as it looks a sensible company.

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Volunteering opportunities, Grampians

Coastguard Generic 2 Rope Rescue

Not from actual event

I investigated two volunteering opportunities in the Grampians yesterday. One was as a first-aider at the Banffshire Partnership, and the other was at a recruitment drive at HM Coastguard Moray.

Banffshire Partnership

BPL (Banffshire Partnership Ltd) are headquartered in Boyndie. They have a few strands to their operations. Predominately they run a dial-a-bus services for isolated and vulnerable individuals. A relatively new, but expanding side of their operations is the provision of First Aid support at either corporate or charitable events.

I learned that big-name organisations are turning their back on Scotland, leaving plenty of opportunities for up-and-coming organisations like BPL.

BPL do charge for the support they provide. The money they make is ploughed back into their dial-a-bus service.

I was reassured by the level of professionalism of their First Aid services, despite their somewhat humble status. They have 44 volunteers, and include nurses and former Red Cross volunteers.

They explained that they are planning on increasing their operations, but in a measured way, mindful of the risks of expanding too quickly.

They will be covering the Speyside Kiltwalk, and I offered to join them as an observer. I hope to take some pictures, and report about the event on this blog.

HM Coastguard Moray

HMCM (HM Coastguard Moray) are actively seeking new volunteers. They are also in charge of the Banff station, which is actually in Banffshire, rather than Moray.

Their recruitment drive was an valuable learning experience for me.Their main activities are search and rescue. Rescue takes the forms:

  • rope rescues – performing rescues from cliffs by descending from ropes
  • mud rescues – for people trapped in mud.
  • water rescue – people in the water

HMCM do not perform mud rescues, as there is no need for it. Other Coastguard areas will, though. Water rescue seems to be new activity for HMCM, very fledgling, and they did not elaborate on it.

HMCM were trained in rope rescues, and we were given a demonstration that also served as their training session. A rope rescue is no small feat. There are many facets to it, and require a good-sized team to execute. It is actually quite complicated. What happens is that volunteers are trained in the simple aspects first. When they have been certified as having competency in this area, they can move onto the next thing. So volunteers develop stage by stage, rather than be overwhelmed by the need to know everything at once.

Are rope rescues valuable? The answer seems to be: yes and no. The Coastguard has a helicopter base at Inverness (or maybe Lossiemouth), and can sometimes be at a scene before the local volunteers. So a winch rescue from a helicopter might be done and dusted during the time it takes rope rescuers to perform a rescue from the ground.

Rope rescue training is still worthwhile, as helicopters cannot be guaranteed to be available.

It seems that animals, particularly dogs, are more in need of rope rescue than humans.

Most of HMCM’s actual call-outs (“shouts”) are search operations. This could be where, for example, someone suffering from Alzheimers goes missing. Sadly, many of the shouts actually amount to body recovery.

HMCM do not necessarily operate purely on the coast. They can sometimes operate inland. Depending on how an emergency was raised, HMCM can act under control of the police. The police have limited resources to carry out searches, so the coastguard is a good choice.

The fire services now seems to be an increasing resource for conducting searches. So the roles of HMCM is very much in a state of flux.

So that’s what I learned.


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Old Schoolhouse, Boyndie, Grampians

A trip out to the Boyndie Trust.


Entrance to the former school


An interesting=looking tree stump


Near the school, starting out along “Turbine Way”


A tubine

I am not keen on wind turbines personally. At Boyndie, it is possible to position oneself close to the turbines. They have a reputation for “noise pollution”, but I did not find them particularly loud. They are no worse than the ambient noise of wildlife.

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Whitehills Gala, inc. RNLI Macduff

Sat 23 Jul was the Whitehills 50th Anniversary Gala. Whitehills is a small fishing village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland that lies three miles west of Banff on the Moray Firth.

2016-07-23 16_19_20-Whitehills - Google Maps.png


Like Hollywood, but not.


View of the sea from Whitehills.

Banff Castle Pipe Band

The pipe band led a parade into the Gala itself. Surprisingly, at least two of the members hailed from England.


The members were all very friendly. They meet Tuesday and Thursday at Banff Castle. There’s free coffee. Apparently they need a drummer. I might take them up on the offer and visit them at least once. I don’t think that this is the complete band, as I saw others down the road that looked as though they were part of the band.

YouTube video (not at this particular event).

RNLI Macduff

Saving the best for last, the RNLI from Macduff had a contingent of volunteers at the gala.


Left to right: John, Ritchie, Jon, Jack

I would like to publicly praise all the volunteers at RNLI Macduff for their compassion, bravery and dedication. The merit of their deeds will lead to their happiness for a long time.

I contacted Mike Rawlins, Press Officer for the station, and he was kind enough to answer some questions from me. Here is his response:

At Macduff lifeboat we have 14 boat crew, 6 launch crew, 4 launch authorities, 1 Lifeboat Operations Manager and a Community Safety Officer. We also have an on call lifeboat doctor. All our volunteers are active and current.

For people to volunteer as lifeboat crew they would need to be able to attend the station within around 5 minutes of their pager going off.

The minimum boat crew for any rescue is four. The total number of people involved in a rescue can vary, four boat crew and two launch crew would be the minimum but in the case of a coastline search then all available crew could be utilised to assist and support the Coastguard performing the search.

We are currently above any minimum required volunteer levels for a lifeboat station but if people where interested in becoming a RNLI volunteer they can find out more about volunteering with the RNLI on the website here.

Updated 02-Aug-2016: expanded RNLI section.

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Life saving story 1: the school

There is no first cause, only links in a chain of causation. So, in this article, I must start somewhere, and omit mentioning other events prior to that.

In an earlier post, I related how I went to Skegness, and chatted to and took a picture of the lifeguards from RNLI. It was a very positive experience for me, and the guards were all smiles when I left. It got me thinking more seriously about how I can have a positive impact on people.

I am, by nature, a very analytical, unemotional, and cynical person. It’s the Western Disease. I also consider myself a spiritual person, so there is often a conflict between doing good and taking a “somebody else’s problem” attitude.

Last week, I became aware that the BBC was running a series on the RNLI. Needless to say, I felt compelled to watch it.

On Saturday, I attended the Cullen beach gala, which had some volunteers from the MacDuff RNLI. I have started a draft blog article on my experiences there, but I won’t publish it yet until I have spoken to local RNLI Press Officer and incorporated the answers to some questions that I would like answered.

It got me to thinking about the incidents in which I saved lives, in my own humble way. I have two stories to tell, “the school”, and “the escalator”. I will save “the escalator” for another post. Here’s the story of “the school” …

I lived for a spell in Australia, before I was a teenager. A friend and I, Steven, decided to walk around town. It was a weekend, so the schools were closed. We decided to walk along some school grounds. I don’t remember the name of the school, but neither of us attended it.

Steven was a bit of a delinquent, despite coming from a proper, and more prosperous, family. He was also a boy scout. He was something of a bad influence on me, owing to his own less-than-perfect behaviour. I would not necessarily say he had a criminal mentality, or was necessarily a “bad” person. Maybe he was just a young kid who did not know any better, as young kids often don’t.

There was a secluded part of the school. As we walked past it, there was a woman sitting down with her back against the wall. We worked out that she was attempting suicide, having taken a large quantity of drugs. How we worked that out at the time I do not know. I think she actually told us. She also told us not to tell anyone else, so she was clearly intent on carrying through on the suicide.

At this point, my memory is hazy. I can’t remember if it was me, or Steven, who decided to raise help. I think that it was me who insisted upon it, although I am not sure.

So we went back to Steven’s house, if I recall correctly. Bear in mind that this was a long time ago, and my recollection of events may be inaccurate. An ambulance was called.

I seem to recall that we returned to the scene of the incident, where the woman was hauled away. I don’t remember how I got there. I guess Steven’s parents drove us there. I also vaguely recollect some policeman, and a reporter.

The reporter talked to Steven. I interjected with a few comments, but the reporter gave me the brush-off, as she remained focussed on Steven.

I think the story made the local paper. Sometime later, Steven showed my an article from his scouting magazine in which “Steven and a young friend” raised the alarm.

What seemed to stick in my mind was that my recollection was that I was the one whose actions led to a woman’s life being saved, and yet was treated as a non-entity.

It’s not that I begrudged this, so much as being mystified that the adult world seemed to be lionising him, whilst I might as well have not existed.

Pfft, adults.

The incident did not have an emotional impact on me, as I don’t think I fully appreciated the gravity of the situation at the time. Not like the escalator story. But that’s for another day.


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