Along the Pentland Road, 25 May 2017

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday 17 November

After a sunny start, we are now (12.40pm) having rainshowers and the wind is picking up. The temperatures are on a downward slide, and we'll bottom out at 4C / 39F by Tuesday, with a probability of some snow. This being the Hebrides, we'll quickly bounce back to 9C later in the week, thanks to our warm blanket otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.

I was amazed and annoyed by a report that the UN has criticised the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Holland. Yesterday, Sinterklaas (St Nicholas or Santa Claus) arrived in Holland for his annual visit, and his entourage consists of dozens of Black Petes. These are people with their faces painted black, making them look like negroes. They caper around, scattering sweets and little presents to young children, if they have been good; if they have been bad, they're going back to Spain with Black Pete and Sinterklaas. St Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (Izmir in modern-day Turkey), but when the Muslims took over the city, his bones were spirited across the Mediterranean to Spain. For a while, Spain was occupied by the Moors from North Africa, who are very dark-skinned. I hope you can now see why Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are the way they are. It has nothing to do with racial discrimination, although, if you wish, you can of course read that into it. Black Pete is referred to in Holland as Sinterklaas's footman, so it is very easy to play the slavery and race cards. In the Netherlands, people are very annoyed at this inference, particularly as it seems to come from people who don't know the first thing about the festival.

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