Yellow and Red Dust

In the Mediterranean there is a climatic condition whereby at certain times the clouds look like they are boiling red. As they come over the hills the air looks almost as if the oxygen in it had rusted.  This happens because the winds are blowing the desert sand over the Mediterranean from Africa. These clouds usually bring rain with them too and when the wind dies down the rain evaporates and the sky returns to normal leaving all the cars with a coating of red sand. When I saw it most clearly, with a mountainous backdrop, is the time in my life I most regretted not having a camera on me because as the clouds roll over the mountains it is a quite spectacular sight.

That said, the red dust isn’t pleasant and covers your clothes too. However, in South (and presumably North) Korea there is something called the yellow dust which is extremely nasty. I’ll get to explaining what the yellow dust is exactly in a roundabout (or should it be rounders?) sort of way.

Baseball is quite a popular sport in the USA but it is something I had never been able to like. I like to at least give things a try though and several times had tried to watch an entire match from start to finish on TV, always with the result of falling asleep.

Therefore, shortly after I arrived in Korea in March and noticed baseball was a rather popular sport there, I thought I would go along to a match and see if it was any better in the stadium . When April began it was getting warm enough that you could go out basically with just a t-shirt and jeans in the daytime so I was only wearing exactly that . I noticed also in April that people were wearing the face masks that you see so often in pictures from Japan but I didn’t bother to get one.

It must have been about 25 degrees that day, which is not hot but certainly not cold. I was just wearing a t-shirt but all the punters in the crowd were telling me to cover up. I thought they must be telling me this because they were being nice and were worried that I could get burned.  Not so.

You see, the yellow dust (or Hwang Sa as it is called in Korea) is something which  sweeps down from Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China into Korea. The sands from the deserts in those countries are blown down by seasonal winds in March, April and May, sometimes as far as Japan or further.

This is obviously something that has happened for thousands of years. It is worse now though because…

In the last decade or so, it has become a serious problem due to the increase of industrial pollutants contained in the dust and intensified desertification in China causing longer and more frequent occurrences, as well as in the last few decades when the Aral Sea of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan started drying up due to the diversion of the Amu River and Syr River following a Soviet agricultural program to irrigate Central Asian deserts, mainly for cotton plantations.


For the past few years, the dust storms often carry oxides (aluminium, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and silicon) and toxic waste thus increasing the risks of respiratory and skin reactions.

So I think now that the Koreans were trying to tell me to cover up for another reason entirely and

I experienced the double whammy of watching a crap sport and getting a little bit sick for a few days on account of that.

For a few days after I didn’t feel so good but the main thing that annoyed me was that no one at my work bothered to tell me about it until after the event. I explained about my weekend and I that I wasn’t feeling so good and they told me “Oh, that would’ve been the yellow dust”. Kamsa Hamnida for that!

So if you are going there, you have been warned.


As previously intimated I have been on a little spin around Scotland. Over a few posts I will put some nice photos and give some pointers for where you could go and what you could do if you decide to do the same thing.

This is the first one so I suppose we need the song first…

Ok, so to the point.

One nice thing you can do in Scotland is the Ness walk. People tend to think that Inverness is a little village but it is actually quite a large town. There are many brilliant walks you can do in it and around it and the Ness walk goes along the river and over little bridges in the middle of it.

Here are some photos of it…





Ok, this is hardly a major international crisis, but…

I have travelled a little and I always note the different names there are for the same places around the world…Paris/Par-ee is an obvious example but there are thousands more.

I have thought many times that it would be a courtesy from everyone to everyone else if we were all to call places by the name that the people who live there actually use, including the correct pronunciations.

This is not an appeal for a unified world language, far from it, I have written on this site many times how I think the loss of languages and cultures in the great clusterf*ck of modern life is a disaster.

Nevertheless, I think this small courtesy might not be a bad idea.

I was talking with a friend about this and we were talking about how ‘Peking’ was changed to ‘Beijing’ in order to make it closer to the Chinese pronunciation. My friend had recently spoken to a Chinese person who had informed him that the second pronunciation is no nearer to the correct Chinese pronunciation than the first.

But then again, China is huge place so there will be many different pronunciations within China. Therefore, the happy medium would probably be the one that the people of Beijing use.

As an aside…I am partly so aware of this because the capital city of Scotland is one of the most commonly mispronounced words in the world. Edinburgh should be pronounced Edin bur uh – with 2 ‘uh’ sounds like the letter ‘u’ in the word ‘but’ with the first ‘uh’ very quickly said and the second one extended a little. It should not be pronounced -Edin -BRO. Similarly, my own city of Glasgow is often pronounced Glass-cow, like a large bovine made of glass, but the pronunciation is actually Glaz-go. I believe the Russian capital is often pronounced by Americans as if it were a bovine made of moss.

This just came to mind today because last night I was talking with someone about how when it comes to modern writers everyone uses the modern pronunciation – the Italians do not say Giorgio Orwello.

However, when it comes to the ancient Greeks and Romans most languages do use their own pronunciations, which struck me as an oddity.

I don’t think if we started doing this it would bring about peace but it might in a tiny way stop certain idiots laughing at the sounds produced in other languages and make them learn to replicate them, thereby getting it into their thick skulls that there is more than one way to do things.


For years I kept a guilty secret. I had a habit I thought was a dirty one and I would stay up late at night to indulge when everyone else was asleep.

If anyone else was there I would have to wait to get my next fix and I would become morose and unpleasant because discretion demanded I wait until my next opportunity for the gratification of my secret pleasure in silence.

Then, I discovered that one of my closest friends and flatmate had the same habit too and that he had also been keeping it secret.

We talked through our respective feelings on the issue and decided to indulge together, and it gave us many emotional moments in the privacy of a dark room, with the curtains closed and in our shame, we bonded.

Because I now had someone to share it with, after a while I felt more confident about indulging in this habit and I began to ask other friends, and notably my brother if they did it too.

It turned out they almost all did, and the ones that didn’t, after it had been explained to them, began to do it also.

This habit made many people bleary-eyed and unresponsive at their jobs as it could only be satisfied late at night, in dark rooms.

A kind of Scottish Omerta – a law of silence – had been in operation all along as we had all been keeping our guilty secret.

However it is now time to come out from behind the wall of silence. I can’t keep our little gang secret anymore.

I am talking about watching ‘Weir’s Way’.

‘Weir’s Way’ was a television programme which began in 1976 and featured nothing more than an amiable old man walking around the mountains and villages of Scotland. In the days of 15 second culture and supposedly glitzy and expensive and definitely crass TV programmes this incredibly slow-paced and beautiful programme seems like something of a guilty pleasure.

It resulted in unresponsive workers because over the last few years they have only ever put on an episode in the middle of the night.

The decency of the man and the historical places he went and stories he told were fantastic, as were the things he talked about protecting when he met with people who were working on the land he was talking about. He received several awards, including a lifetime achievement award for his environmental work.

As well as his love for the countryside in Scotland Tom Weir also climbed in Nepal [which is another I have in common with him – though I didn’t climb, I just did the walking part] Syria, Kurdistan and Greenland – above the Arctic Circle.

Asked about Scottish independence…

“Scotland could easily do it. It has everything. There is no reason why we can’t look after ourselves. I believe we should, but I have never been actively involved in politics”.

I honestly believe that if we consider all the nonsense that is pumped onto TV screens around the world then this programme was and still is a breath of fresh air and an example of what TV should be like. And more than that, 30 years after it was made I hope it still inspires people to get off their fat TV watching arses and sharpen their TV addled brains and get onto the mountains of Scotland where they can get some real fresh air and have a few beers and whiskies when they come down.

It certainly inspired me.

Here is some of Tom Weir in action….

Finally, if anyone has some old episodes somewhere, stick them on you tube as there isn’t much of it there.


Did you ever hear the one about the Scotsman, the 15 Englishmen, the two Irishmen and the 2,500 Italians?

When I was in Italy I went to an Italy V England rugby match. It was the ‘B’ teams of both countries so it was a relatively low-key affair.

It was still reasonably well-attended though, and my friends and I managed to spice it up a little!

You see, obviously the vast majority of the crowd were Italian with a few English people dotted around the place. I became aware of this quite quickly because I wore my Scotland shirt and heard one of the English people disgustedly say “for f*cks@ke” as I walked past him. That set the tone for the rest of the day for me.

I was walking past him because I was going to the bar. I was going to the bar because I didn’t want to hear ‘God save the Queen’. I didn’t want to hear ‘god save the queen’ because if I had then I would probably have shouted something that would have got me thrown out.

Anyway, after a journey to the bar and the calming use of Rage Against The Machine on my mp3 player in order to drown out the inflammatory lyrics coming from the pitch, I went back out into the stadium.

I was with two Irish friends. Now, if you have two Irish people and a Scot at a game involving England then you can assume that they won’t be supporting England. However, they will also probably be conversing in English. This tends to confuse the local support.

Rugby crowds are different from football crowds. They are generally of a different social class to a football crowd. They are also much more reserved and much more willing to applaud what the opposition team does than a football crowd would be. Therefore, giving one of the teams verbal abuse is not really the done thing.

England dominated and won the game so the fun part for me was the completely baffled looks on the faces of most of the Italian crowd who clearly knew we were speaking English but didn’t seem to understand why we were being hostile to the English team.


Some more of those Nepal photos. If you click on them they go full screen…

I really like this one with the women working in the paddy fields…

You find these guys in Kathmandu. This is in Durbar Square in the city centre. They want money from you for the photo and will apparently put a curse on you if you don’t give them any money…

I loved this. This is at the foot of the mountain that the first two pictures in the previous post were taken from. You go along the Himalayas, over a mountain, past a few army checkpoints then across a lake and you come to this – and they called it ‘TYPICAL RESTAURANT’..

Another thing you may not know – James Brown is not dead – he has a trekking equipment shop in Pokhara…

More tomorrow.


One good thing about being home is that you get the chance to look at all your old things.

I have a lot of photos on my computer but I got to see some that I hadn’t seen for a while that I think I should probably share. I will do the Nepal ones today.

I have written before that Pokhara in Nepal does a good impression of paradise. Also, I wrote that we walked up the mountain in the dark so we could see sunrise over the Annapurna range of the Himalayas – well, I discovered I have two rather good photos of that…

A rather amazing view I hope you agree.

But there are others…

This is apparently the largest prayer wheel in the world. The photo underneath is a dog getting high from the vibes…

These other pictures can speak for themselves…no, wait, this is taking too much time – you can see them tomorrow.