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Thursday, 17 April 2014

I Could Be Happy...

“I would like to climb high in a tree
I could be happy, I could be happy…”


We spoke about escape.  We spoke about the uncertainty of being thrown into the big world.  We spoke about the space between.

L-R Colin, Me, Roy, Alex 2014


Then and now.

We spoke about kickings and kicking out.  We spoke about punk Sam with his Mohican on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral in 1983. We spoke about our families and our houses.  And we spoke about Clare Grogan and fish suppers in the Rosamar and Scappaticci’s.

L-R Colin, Alex, Me 1983

I met up with 3 of my school mates today. It was the first time in 32 years all four of us had been together. It was brilliant. Positive.  Good.

It really helped me put some of that part of my life into some sort of context. I had, I think, blocked a lot of school out- I had left it far behind, and for reasons that through the years don't matter so much now, and for some reasons that mattered at the time that have ironed themselves out.

Formative years that, more than I would have acknowledged until recently, had a huge effect on everything I did; the choices I made; after I was 16.

Like lots of teenagers, I had jumped out of the restrictions and socialisation of school wholeheartedly. It was, I had thought at the time, a place that had taken the enjoyment out of any learning and life I might have wanted to live. 

“Or go to Skye on my holiday
I could be happy, I could be happy…”


We talked about qualifications, and what we didn’t get and what the streaming system did to; for; about us. And how different it is for our children.  And each of us are thankful.


I remember saying to my friend Roy back then, "I want to try EVERYTHING." Meaning all of the things "they" told us not to do, or at least where frowned on by our culture, media and the generation who had reared us. I didn't do "everything," but lots of those things I did do, I realised were quite destructive and negative, not for the non-reasons they told us, but for the sore heads, regrets and pain they caused. Regrets, I've had a few. A few.

“Maybe swim a mile down the Nile
I could be happy, I could be happy…”

The memories that meeting with the lads stirred were amazing. Everything from who we had fancied (girls in the class and teachers!).

We talked about a comic we sent a picture of our teacher to – it published a page with pictures of teachers school boys fancied.  Our pic wasn't published.  I had forgotten.  I was the photographer and photo-processor (she consented – oh how times change! What teacher would consent to this nowadays?  And what pupil would think this was “right?”).  The late ‘70’s / early eighties… really the dark ages.


We had meetings with the head teacher- one particular meeting I had forgotten about. On this occasion it was not for a telling off.  It was a meeting in which Roy and I had drummed up the courage to go to him and tell him about the bastards who were making our lives miserable with fights and threats and setting their pet hangers on us. It led to something being done and the bastards leaving us alone for a while. Its something I'll have to spend a bit of time trying to piece together, and I hope meeting the guys again will remind me more about. I do remember the struggle - should we, shouldn't we. We did, and now, looking back, I am proud we did.  A small piece of truth.  A fightback. A small revolution.  I had blocked out much of this part of my early teens because of the really exhausting pain the bullying had caused. There were days I left school so dejected, wrecked, sore I vowed never to go back. 

But of course had to. 

And I vowed revenge. But I never did. 

But what I realized today was that actually lots of that time was positive, including the really sound, solid friends I had. And I really can now put to bed the beatings and mental torture some of those others put me through. And I guess my march out of school into a completely different world; into a different me, without looking back, shows I didn't dwell on them. I just wanted to discover and run.

“All of these things I do
All of these things I do
To get away from you…”



We remembered the music, the classmates, the school plays, the now long demolished school, the teachers and the head teacher, who, really strangely, as we spoke, walked past our table. I wish I had have spoken to him. He is and was a good man who did a great job in difficult times with a difficult, hard school.

We remembered discos and school plays and trips and books and characters and summer days lounging on the grass "studying."

And after we four parted today, other memories came slamming through. I suppose I realize my bitterness at those 6 hours a day, was really only bitterness at part of the story- part of the day- the rest being actually positive. But I know it is the difficult parts that shaped me- as I scrambled and grabbed at alternatives. 

The positives did too.  


But the kickings; the rigid peer, societal and school culture led socialisation. They were the things that were part of what pushed me out of the unnoticed, sensible, stable aspects of Banbridge and towards escape. The things that cause teenagers to rebel -perceived persecution and imperceptible environmental and social change around the million miles an hour personal, hormonal ball of change - and how I rebelled!

And now, in lots of ways I look from the outside in, but not down, on this wonderful, damaged, recovering, stable beautiful place- a place that if I had stayed I would have continued to kick out at to my detriment. And now I am beginning to look from the outside in on me. Fighting ghosts that were damaged before they damaged me. And now I only see a place, for all its faults, I love. Another place where I feel at home- my first home. A place I am lucky to have. A place I escaped, but now escape to and from. Another choice. A positive one.

My persecution (teenager imagined and real) in many ways was less than those of many, many other people, like the school friend who liked to smile and run and get chased in Primary, whose difficulties with school nowadays would be addressed, but in those days led to being streamed with others with difficulties ranging from social to mental and who suffered badly at the hands of damaged people to the point the stress made him completely shatter both physically and mentally. A victim of harder times.

I was no angel at school. I did get punishments for stupid things I did. None really bad, I don't think. Though I look back on some of what I did; my interactions with some of my school peers with regret. Consequences of my actions on others probably didn't come in to my thinking until my mid twenties. Selfish, stupid. That probably describes a huge part of me back then- and hopefully a much smaller side of me nowadays.

The three guys I met up with, Roy, Colin and Alex had changed little. We are all older and hopefully wiser, and have had the ups and downs life throws at people, and we are steeped in our own beliefs and prejudices, but pre-meeting apprehension and thoughts really gave way to really relaxed and comfortable conversation as I realized they were still essentially, fundamentally the same guys. And I suppose I am still that wee show-off, relatively unstable person- but one who is much more comfortable with who I am - and where I have come from.

“Get away, run away, far away, how do I?
Get away, run away, far away, how do I
Escape from you?”

I don’t need to now.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Vote @YesScotland in #indyref to stop them starving our children

A few years ago, I was in Tunisia. We took a trip to the Sahara desert.

The guide, who turned out to be one of many people disgruntled at the ruling elite, amongst other quite revolutionary stuff asked on the coach, "What other oil producing nation has such poverty?" When I gave him the answer, "Scotland," he looked at me in disbelief.

Reading the front pages of The Evening Times and Daily Mirror today and knowing the Thatcherite/Blairite waste of the oil money on the already rich and on wars and weapons to keep them at the big boys table with the likes of George Bush 1 & 2 (and both Blair and Thatcher's enrichment after their disasterous premierships), isn't it truly time to vote Yes to bringing accountability for the management of our resources closer to those who need help?

The society I want is one in which the riches of Scotland help those in need- not boost the bank balances of those who compete only to be on some sort of "rich list," (why else do they need more?)

Tunisia had a peaceful revolution that is changing the way its oil profits are used. On September 18th, Scotland can do that too. That is the date of the peaceful Yes revolution.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Pearly Dew Drops

What was she singing? I had no idea, but the sound was mesmerisingly beautiful. The instrumentation, her angellic, soaring, voice, singing in tongues, a mist of sound, cool, comforting, wrapped for the winter - or at least for a cold morning.

The music is more emotion than pop-record, Elizabeth Frazer's voice an intricate part of that expression of emotion than a vehicle of meaningful lyrics. This isn't a story, this is a musical description of a beautiful, chilled, misty winter/autumn/spring/summer morning.
This was a song my friends just didn't get. Like my love of Joy Division, The Velvet Underground, Cabaret Volitaire and later The Jesus and Mary Chain- my music choices didn't fit in with what my gang listened too.

But she got it.

When my friend's introduced me to her, at first the Canadian leftfield otherworldliness put me off. I was not worthy. But her, "let's have some fun," attitude and on hearing my pre- student union drinking tape saying, "I thought no-one else had the same taste in music," I was hooked.

After cool in black, drunken dancing in the Mandela Hall and hung over laughs, our first real date was the scene of an out of town, non-political murder- a bar I had seen on TV. That night, massive storms hit the UK - the ones Michael Fish had dismissed. And I found out the only thing ethereal her and I had in common was the beauty of The Cocteau Twins wonderful Pearly Dew Drops Drops.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Robotic Tannoy Richness

A short Amazon review I wrote for "These Days," 'B' side of "Love Will Tear Us Apart."

Joy Division blew me away in my mid teens. I bought everything they created that was available to me in trouble plagued Northern Ireland. Their contrariness and outsider image- the starkness of some sounds mixed with stark images of the band and sleeve designs, - contrasted with the richness of melody and emotion of other tracks, reflected the working class "loaded gun won't set you free" hopelessness but resilience of my community and society.

These Days is a hugely under-rated and under-radio played piece of post-industrial rock. Ian Curtis' voice pierces like some sort of almost Dalek like future shock robotic tannoy. The record could, as it almost sets out to do, have developed into a piece of electronica, but instead has some of Joy Division's most memorable riffs and a really sublime mix of keyboard, guitar, drum and bass (Joy Division and New Order were drum, bass and melody with some of the best production in British post punk/"brit-pop"/Northern England industrial dance history).

If you want to know what Joy Division were, download These Days, Atmosphere, New Dawn Fades and Love Will Tear Us Apart and then enjoy filling the gaps later.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Red Road Flats disgrace

It is an absolute disgraceful decision of New Labour controlled Glasgow City Council to blow up working class affordable social housing as a firework display. History, culture, welfare, smashed, bulldozed and buried in the name of entertainment.

Cultural vandal, Bridget McConnell and Scottish New Labour are a disgrace.  This shows Scottish New Labour's attitude to the working class and to the asylum seekers who will be housed in the last building left.  We need more housing- not less. And how inappropriate a message is "one of Europe's poorest cities blows up social homes for a cheer?"

A spectacle the well heeled Mrs Lord McConnell (nearly 200k per annum) and her now rich husband will gleefully watch and then fly guests to stay in their holiday (second of three homes?) home an Arran.

In the name of entertainment, I would be surprised if the same decision was made about Buck Palace come the Republics of the British Isles.

The council should demolish them in a dignified way- not this message to the world and to Scotland that "your lives and stories were so unimportant that we are going to make them into a sideshow." And "this is what we do to social housing while we charge poor people for having more than one bedroom." And "these homes are only fit for the media and politically scapegoated poor immigrant."

This is a disgraceful way to treat working class culture and new scots. And in my opinion it shows a real contempt from the middle class, well off Labourites who control Scottish New Labour, for working class lives. Its not the first time McConnell has exhibited this level of cultural contempt for Glaswegian working class people.

But then, it is the aristocracy and upper middle classes who are the "social vandals/engineers" who cheerfully herd working class people from clearance to clearance.Where was the consultation with those who lived, played, loved, discussed, argued, drank, ate, ran clubs, did politics, watched telly, hung out... there? There certainly can't be a balanced one now.

This stupid, insulting plan needs to be quietly forgotten and the people who have their memories -good, bad and banal, - of the Red Road Flats, should be allowed to mark the passing of their past as quietly or noisily as they wish without New Labour using it as a cost cutting fireworks display for dodgy world "leaders." I tend to agree with my friends who have lived there. I have bad memories about some places I have lived, but would hate New Labour to trivialise my experiences by creating a show of wiping out my past.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

No Campaign jump the shark...

The scare stories are just becoming more and more ludicrous from the no campaign's #projectfear. Now they are suggesting a Yes might throw Northern Ireland back into the darkest 70's and 80's troubles.

A yes will get rid of these careerist numpties who will say anything for a Knighthood.