Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Baiting our poorest on Black Friday

A letter of mine appeared in the Scottish newspaper "the National" this week.  Read the unedited version HERE

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Drink...

a quick, unedited post...

Way back when - I used to smoke. Well, I took notions of it. I went through periods of not smoking and periods of heavy smoking. And then I quit. After a few months, smoking began to repulse me - the smell and actually watching people partake in this habit, knowing how they feel doing it makes me angry at the marketing behind the product and the dreadful damage it does. The smell now gives me the boak.
Two years ago next week I gave up drink. I just stopped. When I started to drink, i took to it like a fish to water. For some people, drink defined Neil Scott. I liked a laugh and a wild night... and manys a wild night i had. Latterly, although still enjoying the feeling alcohol gave me, I hated the next day. And the thought of the next day, either a dreadful hangover or just feeling delicate filled me with dread. It interfered with my enjoyment! And also, seeing what drink did health wise to older people made me decide just to stop. It actually hasn't been difficult - the most difficult thing was what people thought of me. As I said, for lots of people, for 30 years, drink defined Neil Scott.


Me drinking beer back in 2006...

Being in crowds of partyers is now easy - I don't mind being sober. I now realise the laughs I had were not all drink induced. I can have a laugh without it. And if I don't feel like a laugh - well, at least I am in control etc.
I used to have a mistrust of people who didn't drink - where they judging me? Why don't they drink? don't mistrust me - i am not judging you if you drink - I don't mind, though sometimes I do think "you don't really need to harm yourself with that." But hey, like smokers, it is up to you.
Drink is really difficult to escape - more-so than smoking - the marketing of alcohol is massively insidious and it is almost spoken as an essential part of our culture/ celebrations/ civic ceremony. Try counting the amount of times alcohol is celebrated as you listen to the radio, read a book, read a newspaper or watch the telly. Billboards are filled with it. Supermarkets advertise it inside and out. But like meat, I ignore it (though unlike meat, there are tastey non-alcoholic alternatives in restaurants and cafes! Good vegetarian meals are really difficult to find in most restaurants, whether they are good or bad!)
Now, the smell of alcohol brings back powerful memories of hangovers, and now and again, good times. I don't really like the smell of a pub anymore - I used to like it - it made me think of good times. Now it makes me think of the times I felt dreadful the next day.
Having said all that, I may in the future have a champagne or a beer or two. But not really in the foreseeable future. I'm happy without it!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Pound in your Scottish Pocket...

How dare they.

They sneer down the camera that Scottish people will lose something.  “If you vote Yes, you are forcing us to take away the money from your pocket.” That shiny coin you buy your milk with.  That stuff in your bank account you pay for your wee package holiday with.  Your Pound.  The pound in your pocket. The crinkly note with her Majesty’s head on it – we’ll take that from you if you vote yes.  You’ve forced us too.  All of us agree.  We won’t let you have it. So NOW what are you going to do?  What is plan B after we imply we are going to force you into poverty?



I won’t go into the fact that just because they say that they won’t “give us the pound,” (the very words when typed like that show how idiotic the notion is – but they know that) doesn’t mean we can’t have it and I won’t go into the fact that retaining the Bank of England (the Bank of the UK – our bank) controlled pound is really only one option, and it happens to be the option the SNP prefer – other parties differ.  What I will say is that the no campaign, the new Westminster Right consensus, led by the Tories and presented by Scottish New Labour, have played a genius move.  

They have played a long game.  



They planted a seed and allowed fear and doubt take hold with every nonsense word they used to bolster and fertilize the embryonic notion. Of course, the next negative they have long planted, and nurtured – the other one they can say Salmond has no plan B for – is, of course, ship building on the Clyde.  The UCS workers who stopped the Westminster Government of 1971 from further winding down of the yards, and in fact saved them, wrote their concerns aboutWestminster neglect a few weeks ago.  

And there are others Project Fear seeds that have been planted.  Someone should make a bingo card for the last six weeks of campaigning with the main ones on it.

You see, this has been their plan since the beginning.  Project Fear was not about Aliens or the other nonsense Salmond began his questioning with during the big debate the other night (his advisors should be sacked – some Yes advisors are believing their own nonsense that those behind the no campaign are somehow stupid).  All of those silly wee stories were thrown out to camouflage their real intent which is to concentrate on a small amount of amorphous, intangible stories they have worked hard at planting into the psyche of those who have been listening.  

This is what Tories do.  

They play the long game.  

They plant seeds and introduce notions of negativity, of selfish jealousy, or structural change, whose effects will build to their favour in the long term.  It worked for Reagan. It worked for Thatcher. Notions that will split people and pit class against class, race against race and all in the game of siphoning off millions to their millionaire buddies. Of your pounds. From your pocket.  Into theirs.

Project Fear was about the Westminster Parties pushing a few intangibles like the pound and shipbuilding just out of reach, like an abusive parent placing the toy rabbit on a high shelf, and then asking “what are you going to play with now?”

Their positioning began a year and a half ago. They had to plant the seeds far down the line so no-one could remember that it was them that had taken our pound and our ships away from us.  First sneering Osborne/Cameron/Clegg said they wouldn’t allow us to have them, and then Ed Balls/Miliband quietly agreed.  In the past few weeks, Balls has upped his Mr. Nasty game, because the Labour Party MUST be the harder, more Tory than Tory, spokespeople for the new Westminster Right consensus in Scotland, and said “I will resign if the Scots are allowed to keep the pound.” That is how much he cares about making sure the Scots can’t have HIS pound.

The pound in his expenses filled pocket.

Paid for by your pound.
 
The pound from your pocket. 

Will he also resign if the foreign Scots get the ship building contracts and the French don’t? 
Those damnable Scots, Take Take Take.

The Westminster Right consensus took the pound away, set it out of reach, and they can now launch a “keep the pound” campaign. It is Machiavellian plus.  The SNP, who say they will retain the pound, have been made to look as if they are taking “our” money from “our” pocket.  Our hard earned cash.  The cash from your pocket. Our shared currency.  

“You made me put that toy on that higher shelf.”
“But you can’t stop me playing. I’ll grow and I’ll be able to reach it.  It is mine, after all.”
“It’s on that shelf until September 18th. And actually, we’ll keep it there afterwards…”
“Ah but, after September the 18th, I’ll be as tall as you.”

What makes me quake in anger when I see Johann Lamont sneeringly present her big toy coin to the Scots, are the very tangible things she and her Westminster buddies are taking away from us (this is the woman who said she thinks universalism should be scrapped, ie. benefits that we as a society receive – eg. NHS – GP, Accident and emergency etc - , free Education, pensions, bus passes, pensioners TV licenses, toll free roads and in Scotland, water).  And if Lamont, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband get their way, all of those things will have to be paid out of your pocket.  With your hard earned pound.  Things can only get better for Richard Branson, friend of New Labour and Cameron’s Tories.  A man who is buying up the English NHS department by department.

And pocketing your cash.

Your pound.

That was once in your pocket.

They conspire to dismantle our welfare state, our fair state, our civilised state, by stealth, for profits. 

For your pound.  

To put in some millionaire’s pocket.  

Or offshore account.

The NHS has effectively been privatised (almost irrevocably so in England) and the middle classes are being pulled into line in attacking the “something for nothing” culture as any benefits they had received – universal benefits – are slowly being taken from them using a weird logic of, “why should the reasonably well off benefit from a rich society?” 

Why should the scroungers across the road get these things when I no longer get them?  

Why should the brown people in the scheme across town get fridges when I no longer get child benefit?

This selfish Thatcherisation of our society has been driven by successive Tory and New Labour Governments.  Alastair Darling was a key driver in the privatisation and social security wrecking project.  He controlled the purse strings.  And Cameron’s lackeys in Scotland, the New Labour Party, are only too willing to see this project through.  These people are driving us to foodbanks and back to the days of the “Poor Law” and towards charities housing the poor in workhouses.

Vagabonds, idle and suspected persons shall be set in the stocks for three days and three nights and have none other sustenance but bread and water and then shall be put out of Town. Every beggar suitable to work shall resort to the town where he last dwelled, is best known, or was born and there remain upon the pain aforesaid.”

Move the problem of unemployment around, blame the unemployed for the lack of work, and punish them.  A huge Tory and New Labour tactic that huge amounts of their energies go into, rather than the creation work.

Bale them out of the stream, charge them, beat them and make them feel guilty for being thrown over the bridge by the toll man who only allows the select few to cross, and then throw them in again.

Stealthily stealing your pound: Scottish New Labour Leader, Johann Lamont.

Both Scottish New Labour under Johann Lamont and the Tories have set out to create the same selfish discontent about our universal NHS.  They started with attacking “health tourists” who, despite any substantial evidence, apparently come here and drain our national health service of our pounds. Your pound.  The pound from your pocket. This has led to the announcement that sometime in the future, oversees visitors will be subject to prescription fees and charges for emergency care. And there has also been suggestion that those using the NHS “more than others,” should pay a fee to visit their GP.  The charging at the point of use culture is slowly moving towards you; health to those who can afford it; because the businesses taking over the broken up NHS have to make increasing profit year on year, and if they don’t because too many poor people are sick, then watch out bubbling stream, in you go.

The Labour Party would be wise to remember the words of their great supporter of the NHS Aneurin Bevan from 1952, when the Tories were suggesting such fees back then,  “The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.”



Some poor souls in that much diminished party do remember, but are powerless to stop big money drain their once great party of human blood and integrity, leaving a grabbing husk of a thing controlled by the self interested and politically ambitious.

Darling and his party comrades have fallen into line behind the division of the vulnerable members of our society into the deserving poor and undeserving poor in order to smash a system that caught all when they needed caught, that benefitted all including the rich, giving us child care, healthcare, social care, and university education. A safe, universal, unbroken society, slowly dismantled for the benefit of the millionaires who, in their press, created the terms “scroungers” and “milking the system…” As Martin McKee said in his superb work, “The assault on universalism: how to destroy the WelfareState,” “By constant repetition they create new forms of word association, constructing a cultural underclass. “Welfare” is invariably associated with “scroungers.” “Bogus” invariably describes “asylum seekers.”

The deficit “must be reduced,” the bankers crisis is being used by the new right consensus of New Labour and Tory alike to pit the now struggling middle classes against these new underclasses.  They socialised the millionaires debts (gave the poor wee rich men welfare. From your pounds.  The pound from your pocket. Into their profit and loss account or offshore account), and are smashing all of the benefits of living in a wealthy, healthy state that can afford to help those who have fallen.  

We are paying for the mess they made (with our pound.  From our pocket), and the poor and the scrounger and the asylum seeker and the undeserving must pay more (with their pennies.  The pennies from their pocket.  The food from their we’ans mouths…).  Remember, Thatcher’s advisors first planted these seeds by terming the very poor who needed our help most as an “underclass.” 

Thatcher... planting the seeds fertilized by Blair, Brown and Darling and now brought to fruition by Cameron.


The attacks from the Better Together audience members during the debate the other night on our free prescription charges and our no university fee’s, was telling.  And more telling, was that Darling just sagely nodded, but said nothing.  The Scots are undeserving.  The English are paying, while the Scots aren’t. Conserve and inflate the Scot’s on English welfare myth.

How dare they.  How dare they suggest the Yes campaign will take the pound from your pocket when they are already pushing to do that. Because Health and Education are some of the very tangible things threatened by the Westminster Right consensus.  Two of the things your children will be forced to pay for.  Because Tories, red or blue, play the long game.  They make investments.  They are investing in impoverishing you further.

Scottish New Labour MP, Margaret Curran who want's to stop Scotland from having the Barnett Formula payments from Westminster - your pounds - no longer in your pockets

And Scottish Labour is a big part of that consensus.  Part of the narrative during the Salmond/Darling debate was that the Scots are being selfish in protecting these things, when they have been taken from the English (by the Tories, with the help of New Labour and the Liberal Democrats).  The English are paying for prescriptions and for university modules.  How selfish the Scots for not wanting to be part of the Tory driven, Labour supported austerity programme!  A programme other countries, most notably our oil producing neighbour Norway, (and the much maligned Iceland) have not followed.



The Westminster parties and the financial interests around them are breaking up our NHS, into smaller parts, to be sold off, bit by bit.  And in England that process is accelerating as legislation down there has made it legally binding that the state gives up its biggest, best asset.  They are re-diverting our taxes to big businesses who will eventually charge us twice for medical care (once from the tax benefits they receive and also at the point of use) and it will all be blamed on the “sub-species” in desperate need. 

Taking your pound twice.  The pound from your pocket.

Those who think a no vote in September will mean our NHS will tick along as it is as we control Health, are burying their heads.  The Barnet formula, worked out using spending in England as a factor, will reduce as the English NHS is broken up and less and less of it is funded publically.  Our NHS will receive less funding as the English begin to pay huge prices for services they once shared socially through taxation and national insurance.  The Scots, after a no vote, will be financially brought back into line. 



The Westminster Right consensus (Darling’s New (Scottish!?) Labour, the Tories and the "Scottish"/ Liberal Democrats) are bullying the poor in order to take away our welfare system.  They are smashing our NHS into smaller bits in order to charge.   Next, they will smash our education system into bits in order for millionaires to make money from other millionaires while the rest of us put up with a leaking, overcrowded, book and pencil poor education system.  The seeds have been sewn by Gove.  And the Labour Party is slowly positioning themselves to agree.

And they will tell us it is for our own good, while they claim expenses for their food and duck houses. Why should each of us pay for the scrounger’s children?  Why should we pay for the refugee escaping war, famine, oppression? Why should my taxes pay for some poor old person to have soup and a comfortable chair as life leaks from her frail body minute by expensive minute?  Caring for these leeches, these sub-species is taking the pound from my pocket. 

MY POUND.

So when they tell you our pound is in danger, our ship industry is in danger, those rats are spending your money on big TV’s, remember, it is them who are taking the money.  It is them who are taking your pound. The pound in your pocket. 

It is them that are placing the toys on the top shelf. 


And it is only a Yes that will make us taller.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tales of the Gareloch...

Murder, Hodder and Heisenberg... and UHT milk.

If you haven't already, go listen to a wee "black comedy" I wrote, and Acting strange brought to life as a radio play. 

It started life as a "soap" and as I wrote, it developed into something a wee bit different.  The characters are all based on my experiences and on some people I have met and know, though the actors took some of them in a completely different direction!

If you like "Still Game," some of the scenes are a wee bit on to that, with a slight tinge of bloody murder, and bad language.

What would happen at Faslane if after a Yes, the nukes stay?

A story of camping, tennents lager, gimps and uht milk.

Remember to leave a comment!

theme music by the brilliant Glasgow band, "Tut Vu Vu."

The episodes, five in all, are HERE 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Salmond...

Will he put you off voting Yes in #indyref Will the wallpaper put you off buying the house? Will the inflight meal stop you going to Spain? Will the brussel sprouts put you off Christmas?

When we are independent, we can change the wallpaper.

Salmond is NOT independence.

Do the Tories put you off Westminster? We haven't been able to change them in 50 years.
Thatcherite Tories, Thatcherite UKIP, Thatcherite Lib Dems, Thatcherite New Labour ARE Westminster.

Make your choice.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Walt and Wilf slayed?

Walt and Wilf have been chased from Scottish schools, replaced by "learning intentions," which are dry statements children are taught to recite by unimaginative teachers whose enthusiasm is killing creativity.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Aye?

Can we dae it?
Aye we can!
Can we dae it?
Aye.
Can we dae it?
Who said we cudnae?
Can we dae it?
We'll see.
Can we dae it?
Nae doubt.
Can we dae it?
Ach aye.
Can we dae it?
Ach sure.
Can we dae it?
Why cud we not?
Can we dae it?
Can we not?
Can we dae it?
Are we any different fae them?
Ye cannae dae it.
Who says?
Ye cannae dae it.
Can we not?
Ye cannae do it.
We'll see.
Ye cannae do it.
Ye think so?
You can't do it.
Why not?
You can't do it.
Try us.
You can't do it.
Give us a go.
You can't do it.
Aye we will.
You can't do it.
That's not for you to decide.
You did it?
An' it's not bad, eh?
You did it?
D'ye want tae stay?
You did it.
We did.

Monday, 9 June 2014

RIP bwilliant genius

Rik Mayall was a bit of a teenage comedy hero of mine. A comedy genius.

After a childhood of situation comedies that were dodgy to say the least, and sixties hangover, sexist nonsense from various comedians and double acts, The Dangerous Brothers were, well, dangerous, anarchic and coincided well with my own rebellion.

 My comedy rebellion years were populated by Not the Nine O'Clock News, followed by The ComedyStrip Presents and The Young Ones.
Kicking out at the establishment. The punk and post punk of comedy. Satire and just mayhem; adults behaving badly; breaking the rules of what we were fed via the tube, along with The Tube, Morrissey, The Cure, Souxsie and Jools groovy fuckers, Rik and Ade slew the sexist, racist, scapegoating comedy and Sun culture that surrounded us. Thatcher and Major's downfall was partly due to them, every bit as much as the rubber Spitting Image puppets.
Where are the Riks, Ades and Fluck and Law's today? Where is the satire that will save us from the increasingly B'Stard-ised Westminster main parties? B'Stard- the satire Farage modelled himself on.

 I wasn't a fan of Bottom etc, but Rik's other, studenty, nerdy but totally dangerous, bordering on insane characters were 'bwilliant,' as one of his best known characters was prone to say. His characters in Blackadder were typically over the top, but genius, and Alan B'stard was surely based on quite a few of the shady Thatcherite, Tory characters who used Scotland's oil in the pretence of promoting their dreadful, community and industry wrecking policies as somehow "successful."
 Genius, lefty, alternative, political and yet he managed to wind up all of those who would have lefty pretensions. I'm sorry to see him go. RIP, Wwrick...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Yes platforming ex-SNP MP Bill Walker?

Bill Walker, the disgraced ex SNP MSP took to the stage in the Kirkintilloch Miners. He shuffled his papers and nodded in the right places as feminist SSP Councillor, Emma Daitop spoke about her determination to ensure women have much more of a voice in a newly independent Scotland. After Ms Daitop came the radical republican speaker, Rob McFjord, who spoke about a Scotland that was fair and honest, and agreed with Councillor Daitop's call for more female representation in our civic society.
Lastly came Walker; a man whose name had become synonymous with misogyny, abuse and for causing deep problems within his political party, the SNP. He spoke briefly about his hounding by the Murdoch press and how a cabal led by nasty women had been out to oust him from his party. And then came what everyone in the hall had come to hear; a speech mimicking  those  shipyard workers and steel workers and miners would have heard all of those pre-Thatcherite years ago from staunch socialists who had cut their teeth in the poverty of the Clydeside backstreets and educated by their unions. A speech of such passion, and volume, ears bled and babies combusted. A speech the Reverend Ian Paisley could have easily delivered from his pulpit if he had have been a socialist as well as a misogynist.
The crowd rose from their seats and applauded wildly as Walker mopped his brow and his pal wiped the spittle coated camera lense, already uploading the triumphant return of Scotland's greatest orator after serving one year of his three year sentence.
There was no space for questions at the end, and the one lone voice who shouted,"Should feminist SSP politicians and Radical Republican's really platform this woman abuser?" was answered by a smiling Emma, "Anything for a Yes, comrade... And he is a great speaker!"
...OK. This isn't entirely true. The SSP do not have a Councillor Emma Daitop (I made it up). The SSP would not platform the woman abuser Walker. Rob McFjord does not exist. And Walker only got a sentence of a year. Tommy Sheridan got three years.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Light...


Through the (literal) shitey work the Co-op Insurance company are making of our bathroom and kitchen; the shitey nastiness of some campaigners that are supposed to be on our side, I had two wonderful pieces of news today.

The first came from a dog walker I know as I walked around Kilmardinny Loch this morning with Cody, our TV dog (something he is called by one if the other walkers!). She presented her new dog, a really cool looking all black terrier. She got him from a dogs home, where he has been languishing over the past two years. She told me that he has had a really tough time- he had been attacked multiple times and has part of a lip missing and part of an ear and he had been "evidence" in a court case, hence his long impounding. She said she brought him out around our beautiful Loch for the first time yesterday and he couldn't believe the wonderful space, sniffing and running around everywhere as he explored. He looks brilliant, a real wee alert livewire. A smaller version of our own muttley.

The second piece of good news came when I got to the northern part of the loch. The woman who calls Cody "TV dog," was with her elderly mum, seemingly feeding the ducks. I said, 'Hi," and she greeted Cody, as dog owners do, and then pointed out the swan's five new signets! This kind of overwhelmed me. Which is weird, but everyday I have been checking out the female swan, to see if she was off her nest. Their last family left in early 2013, shortly after which they had more eggs that didn't hatch. It had made me feel sad seeing them paddle about the loch having watched them bringing up their last family from eggs and last years disappointment.

Kilmardinny dog walkers- dogs on leads and full alert in foxes in the coming weeks!

A great start to the weekend after a shitey fortnight.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Happy Days?

"Sunday, Monday Happy Days.." the opening bars of a theme tune that reminds me of golden summer fields, exploring the Banbridge countryside, discovering the world and pure, non-judgemental, equal, friendship.
Rope swings, wading in streams, bike races, exploration and sweets, icecream, sarsaparilla and uncomplicated interactions with peers - the Rosebud surely we all  seek throughout our competing, mortgage induced, "other" scapegoating, adulthood.

Grown up Fonzie and Fonzie?

"Saturday, what a day..."

Henry Winkler is doing the chat shows at the moment and he seems to be a really cool, kind, affable pensioner. Someone with whom a pleasant, laughter filled sunny afternoon could be whiled away, over a coffee or two. Which is nice to see, because so many of our school day TV heroes have been recently exposed as dreadfully flawed human beings who used their positions of power as pedestals from which to abuse, rape, degrade, bully and spoil.

Back in the seventies after school, I had a large circle friends, acquaintances, heroes and villains who kept me active, interested and happy. Some of these had almost alien lives. Made alien by wants, not needs and scapegoating. Others, like Jack Russell Timmy and Labrador Tiber, were not even human.
Some of us sought coolness; something that set us as above the grit in shoe, grazed knee real world... but it eluded us as we fought and doubted and fell and danced and crawled and climbed our way to puberty and eventually into childish adulthood.

Cool... with my Fonzie doll...
Happy Days is a title that sums up most of my après school childhood and the series was a TV programme  I watched avidly in the mid seventies. It was one of those coming of age programmes for me, like Grange Hill and Citizen Smith that I enjoyed and then outgrew, but nevertheless I was sad when it came to an end.
I remember the buzz in Primary School about a new TV series. Even at that age I was cynical about a title that sounded like propaganda.

 "Happy Days." 

Was it going to be another golden US sit-com that told us how amazing and sparkling America was? Most other imports from the US did, though I remember watching Starsky and Hutch (with the real king of cool, Huggy), thinking the place looked much worse than my green, clean childhood playground. Though my personal favourite view of what I thought real America must look like was the gritty and freedom seeking rebellion of Rubber Duck, Kris Kristofferson, in "Convoy," a movie we went to the Iveagh to see at least twice. We also lapped up "the good old boys" in The General Lee. The Dukes of Hazard, a red necked world with no racism, because everyone in the series fitted into the sexist, white world those in power in the US and the UK still imagined themselves as inhabiting.


Another childhood favourite, the much loved at the time, but since, rightly, maligned world of "Love Thy Neighbour," a series with a power paradigm so well hidden viewers probably thought the sensible black guy won in each episode.

 A paradigm that saw fairness overcome bigotry, it was not.

What was also well hidden by its structure  was the fact that the racist and ignorant were socialists while the enlightened and educated were Tories. Yet it was Tories in power who held on to sexist, racist, homophobic laws, and indeed created new ones in 1979, and it was Tories with a different name who segregated my To Kill a Mockingbird like South Down world.

I'll have an 'alf.. and a workers vote for UKIP please...

As a child, innocent to the world of racism and, even though surrounded by it, innocent to the world of sectarianist bigotry and living in a place were black faces were only on TV,  I laughed at and awaited the part in every episode in which the old union guy tricked people into buying him a drink with the words,"Ahl have an 'alf..."

Later came the "grown up" Happy Days in which John Travolta sang a lot about the country and western singer, Olivia Newton John who jumped the shark and became her man's compliant Cindy doll fantasy. We were old enough to appreciate the cool, more "street" Fonz like character played by Travolta and love it more when Bob Geldof, pre-saviour days, but showing a pubescent need to preach, ripped the idealised, misogynised couple apart on Top of the Pops.

Back in those days there was no series catch up. I was a late adopter, and Mickey, a real life Grange Hill-like Tucker; the Fonz of Newry Street, filled me in on Ralph Malph, Richie, Al's and of course, Arthur, The Fonz, Fonzerelli. And we laughed recalling the nanu nanu alien that became Mork.

TV shaped us. It became part of our childhood exploration. I remember, aged probably around 10, a rite de passage for Mickey, Mark, Paul, David "Doice", and I was to stand on Wellworth's steps (did other towns have a supermarket called Wellworth's? Ours stood facing, staring down, the smaller Woolworths) and amongst the Saturday shopping crowd shout, "Power to the people!" as loud as we could, Wolfie like, with clenched, skyward thrusting fist. Something I would still be comfortable with! Freedom for Milngavie and Bearsden doesn't quite have the same potency as the strange anti-working class joke of revolution beginning with "Freedom for Tooting!"

The same Saturday afternoons were spent eating chips and drinking strawberry milkshakes or  cola icecream floats in Fusco's or Scappaticci's- our choice being great icecream served by Mr or Mrs Fusco or listening to the jukebox in Scappiticci's. "Airport," "Beach Baby," or anything by Mud, Showaddywaddy, Darts or ELO took our money. And later we would sing the songs as loud as we could in Mark and Doice's garage or Mickey's loft (our gang hut.)

And we all adopted the Arthur Fonzerelli style with a seventies twist. A PVC black bomber jacket, (the snobs sniffed at those of us whose families could not afford leather), white tee-shirt and blue Wrangler jeans and mirror sunglasses we had all saved up for.

I remember in my head, climbing on to my Chopper bike, thinking I was The Fonz, Travolta and Huggy Bear all rolled into one. Coolness and the self delusion of 10 year old credibility earned by nothing more than the clothes, the shades and the clothes peg spokes rattle, but, like Citizen WH Smith, my bubble of pretentions of Che-ness/Wolfe Tone rebellion were burst by the reality of my peers and the community that nurtured and tortured me.
Huggy Bear, the real king of cool...

I remember Mickey, definately more Fonzie like than any of us, cycling alongside me down a country B road, lifting his mirrors as he freewheeled past two girls, coolly smiling in the way the cool guys in our telly would and ending up head first in a thorn hedge. I can't remember what the girls thought, but I remember thinking that Citizen Smith's comeuppance for frightening someone or causing a milk float to crash with his call to revolution, was much more realistic than Arthur snapping his fingers and causing women to faint at his feet.
Trying... just too hard...

And life has proven that to to be true.

The childhood illusion that adulthood would bring credibility and cool clothing was a lie acted out in a bomber jacket in Al's by the nice guy Winkler. Not the biggest, most insidious deception carried out by the media, but one we children had to have demolished by the grabbing hands of capitalist reality nevertheless.
These snippets of the culture that shaped me proved to be useful for just two things. They were entertaining and they broadcast a truth that was almost the very opposite of what actually was. They were cartoons dressed up in the pretence of reflecting reality. An idealised truth. A honeyed, summers canter through a sepia tinged glance at what America never was. The apartheid state that posts its annihilation of its indigenous people and enslavery of a continent down a white painted, picket fenced, bobby socked memory hole.
Fonzie jumped the shark and donned preppy clothing in the final episodes. We all grow up and run out of escape ideas. British socialism did not get its almost mortally wounding kicking by erudite, educated black neighbourly tory sages, but by greedy, idealist rich white morons.  Wolfie left his futile revolution and went to look for his true love and his anchor to reality, Shirl,whom he had strung along too long while he dreamed and lived in his imaginary world of cool.

Beauty, love, life is in the reality around us. Pretention is self deceiving. A lie. Though lies may not be malicious, they do eventually damage those living them and those living nearby. Everything they tell you that you need is a lie. Everything others value in you is truth- and that truth isn't a pair if mirrored sun glasses or an iphone or Lexus. And if it is, then they are the lie.

TV, a world controlled by finance and what is profitable, lies, yet influences, promises and deludes the weak and vulnerable as they plan their escape via their mirrored shades, interior make-overs, Grand Designs, etiquette and leather clad cars, pointing their poor baiting Jeremy Kyle finger that says-"I'm cooler and much more successful than you," and making them feel all liberal as they text a fiver to feed five million black African hapless starvation prone women.

TV rarely says, look at yourself, because it is you, your snobbery and your susceptibility to propaganda and self delusion that has, socially, caused your own misery and wrapped you in chains. It is your difficulty to look at others and say, "that is me," that keeps you seeking the next gadget, hairstyle, tattoo, tan or label that will make you complete. And in fact who you scapegoat or text life saving pennies to is who you fear. Or who you could end up being. It never tells you that who you look down at from your pedestal of super-human godliness is who is supporting your Lexus/Armani/iphone padded and perfumed deadly pretention. TV never says that.

And Mickey, Mark, Doice, Paul and I parted ways because of the bigotry and snobbery and delusion that separated us into catholic and protestant and success and failures of the religiously segregated grammar schooling that still mentally abuses Northern Ireland.



Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Freedom Bike

I was at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow today. This was the highlight. My childhood bike. Mine was purple, but for some reason I think it was a deeper shade.

Everything about this bike is iconic. The crossbar gears, now deemed a health and safety hazard; the big rear wheel and small front one; the deep, plunging handlebars; the long seat and back luggage rack and seat bar- handy for "backies," and the chrome mudguards.

This was a kids cool bike, designed to look cool, not win races or for climbing mountains or pulling and twisting and balancing in some stunt. Though I did all of those. This was the envy of every kid in the estate (well, this and my mates "Grifter.")

The racing bike I got next signalled a new phase in my life; exploring the town, and beyond the boundaries of my childhood. But the Chopper reminds me of heady summer evenings playing bike chasing around Edenvale and Ashgrove; days of freedom and unrestricted laughter, drama and friendship.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The ghost of progression past

Apparently Ed Milimilimilimetreband and new New Labour want the Scots to think that politics stop when a respected leader dies. Pity their politics and respect stopped and stuck with Thatcher and not John Smith.

Tory/UKIP coalition 2015

I said two years ago that we are being set up for a coordinated right wing take over. What a coup!

Plan: Pretend the Libs are the party of protest and use them to deliver a supported first wave tory lite phase. And then as they lose the trust of the lefties and disafected voters who propelled them into the alliance, fund and propel the proto-fascists into the working class areas that are disaffected by Labour's stupid veer towards middle England's hollow views on the economy and immigration.

Scapegoat, and the poor and struggling who cannot lift their heads see only others with their heads down getting a wee bit more. And they hear someone with divisive, evilly hidden reasoning with a plan. And they leave their traditional Labour voting pattern because Labour left them and vote for the party who will help deliver Tory Fully Loaded Phase 2 in 2015.

I said all that two years ago.

Alex Salmond is "selecting Team Scotland"

For the post Yes negotiations, apparently (see the article HERE).

Lets hope he ensures the SSP, Women for Independence, RIC and Greens, who have worked their arses off for Yes are not overlooked in the rush to welcome Lamont, Davidson, Carmichael, Curran and Sarwar in to "Team Scotland."

Do the Nories deserve a place on the team more influential than Colin Fox, Patrick Harvie, Cat Boyd, Jonathon Shafi, Carolyn Leckie, Liam Mclaughlan, Sandra Webster or Frances Curran to take a small sample?

A strong #YesSSP and Green party is the only way to make sure the Nories are not rewarded for OUR work.

If Team Scotland is being convened, Yes Scotland and the groups supporting and working for that should decide who negotiates for us. Not Salmond. We are going to deliver a Yes- it is our vision that is capturing the imagination of the nation. Not Johann's, Willie's or Ruths.

Team Scotland? Let's start talking, Alex.

Gazza Barlow, British Institution...

Take That ... And this... And all that... And a handful of these... And 60 million of those... And i'll turn up and fire the starting pistol for the charity race and take all the credit for raising the cash.

It's a shame children are going through whole days without food, but hey! I'm Gary Barlow who turns up at charity bashes, gives to the wonderful tories (all tax deductable) and writes soppy sloppy gushy music.

And I'll have some of your royal praise an' aw.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

School report hell

BLOOOODY SCHOOL REPOOOOORTS!

Who fkn reads them with any REAL interest? Why do parents give a fk about little Karen's consonants or Chris's consolodation? What about their fkn happiness? That's what SHOULD be reported and worked on.

Report: Little Connor fkn hates being rooted to a chair for the guts of 5 1/2 hours a day and would rather swim in a river, roll in cow pats and eat worms in truth or dare. Now go change the system or accept that your child is being conditioned for wage slavery, handling the resultant life long depression and dying in a sodden hospital bed with a four stone fat encased liver.

I love teaching.

I do.

Monday, 21 April 2014

I Could be Happy... Redux

A review of Altered Images - I Could Be Happy 

Any song that rhymes "free" with "holiday" has to be great.

Altered Images are a group, like many of the alternative groups from the eighties who managed to straddle credibility and success, and are almost always left out from most anthologies of that amazingly musically and pop cultural creative time.

Grogan et al's contribution to the sound that became the dreadfully labelled but gorgeous "brit-pop" popularisation of non-political alt pop ( industry flag wrapped) is undersold.

This song of escape from drudge/abuse a relationship gone wrong/ parents/the UK; who knows what? Is so hopeful and so rebellious, yet so beautifully poppy, how could it fail to be the anthem of the underdog?

The lyrics are so Glaswegian in accent and character, this can be nothing less than a song of hope and independence... "get away, run away, far way, how can I escape from you?"

A pre- referendum wish. A plea for help. A want for a better future.

I used the song as a motif for my own experiences of being bullied and my putting a huge amount of clearish, pinky bluish water between me and the abuse I suffered here

Sunday, 20 April 2014

I was sooo tempted, but...

I was off religion for lent. Stopped it completely.

I stopped accepting that a poor carpenter, who had roamed around a desert with his mates doing good, was nailed to a big piece of wood with the foreknowledge (ENCOURAGEMENT!) of his da' who encouraged him to... In order to stop HIS psychotic urges of drowning and burning people he judged to have broken his rules.

I stopped thinking about the differences between the different hatted people I meet in the street; around coffee tables or in my work. I decided to think of them all as people, not belief systems about beings with super-powers. Weird I know. Especially as some of them are different hues. I stopped judging them for deciding, or accepting the handed down "knowledge" which aspect of these superpowers are most important.

All of this was great over the past 40 days, but I had nothing only car size and post code to help me decide who was worthy of my respect, or who to patronize.

So it is with great relief I can now get back to my belief in Sol. The oldest and truest God of all. And I'll pray for all of you, with your funny hats and Sunday best, that you may see her truth sometime soon, but in the meantime I'll look down my nose at your niavety and blindness.

I'm off to sharpen my knife. These Goats don't sacrifice themselves, you know!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Irish Brontë

Bronte this and Bronte that. Everywhere you go around the Banbridge area in County Down you see the name Bronte. Bronte homeland drive; Bronte visitor centre; Bronte Tavern... There has been a lot of investment in the Bronte legacy.
Bronte's everywhere...
For anyone who knows anything about the Brontes, yes, you read it right. County Down. Northern Ireland. Not Yorkshire.
Tourists do not fly in from all over the world to study this trail. They fly in to Yorkshire, because that's where the sisters were from. Thats the area that inspired Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Thats where the writing desks and house is... So why Banbridge?  Banbridge has a "famous" connection to the Bronte's in much the same way Blackpool is Dicken's father's country; The Isle of Man has "The Father of Hemmingway Trial," and Govan is crowded with Japanese tourists scrambling to find out all they can about Amasa Coleman Lee, father of the famous Harper.
Yes. Tourists flock in their thousands to these places- and Banbridge- to find out all they can about the lives of the da's of famous writers (in our sexist tourist industry, no-one bothers about the ma's). In Blackpool, they marvel at the candyfloss stand Dicken's da' used to run in peak season. There is a plaque on the pavement where he once was seen playing toss the ha'penny- some say it was his love of toss the ha'penny that might have inspired the Blackpool Pleasure Beach people to create some of their puggy machines.
Hemmingway's da' is famous on the Isle of Man for being someone no-one knew existed until Hemmingway wrote in his famous "Sundown on the Laxey Bulls," "taking the tram with my father along the sea front, I knew I had to kill bulls. I had to wrestle the biggest of fish. As he said, "I've made enough the day for surf and turf."
The wonderful FE Mc William's Centre houses some of the artists work; amazing exhibitions AND great food!

Banbridge celebrates a dodgy minister and teacher who had to leave the country because of dodgy goings on with young women. Lots of money has been and is still invested in this connection. There is little invested in the celebration of real local connections, like the extraordinary Joseph Scriven, Frances Crozier (where are their visitor centres) or FE McWilliam (well, in the past few years McWilliam has, at last, almost reluctantly and very profitably, been celebrated- but really not in the way towns and cities celebrate their famous artists all over the world).
The schoolhouse Joseph Scriven taught in is scheduled for demolition... Banbridge myopia? 
These are three "sons" of Banbridge that would actually BRING people to the district. Crozier's place in the pantheon of explorers has always been undersold. Scriven has inspired societies all over Canada- and his local story is every bit as fascinating as his life in Canada.
Michael Smith's fantastic telling of the story of the remarkable Captain Francis Crozier. A Riveting read.
And what of the daughters, wives and mothers of Banbridge like Helen Waddell?  Or the non-Empire historical figures like the defender against injustice, John Mitchel?  Or an alternative, Irish history, one that links County Down to the writings of The Tain, one of the most famous ancient literary pieces in the world?  People would spend money to find out about these famous connections, rather than a man so anti-irish he changed his own name (from the more "Irish" Brunty to the pretentious Brontë.)
Famous writer and historian, Helen Waddell who is buried at Magherally.
As for Govan I made that up. Amasa Coleman Lee is from the deep south and inspired Atticus in Harper's book. He was an interesting local politician. Look him up. He is worth finding out about ON THE HARPER LEE TRAIL. Actually, I also made up the Govan and Isle of Man connections to Hemmingway and Dickens. But they were infinately much more interesting and "honourable" than a dodgy minister who, allegedly,  used his position to seduce young women. But you get my point, eh?

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.