Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lost Lives


The historian ATQ Stewart pontificated in his work The Narrow Ground upon the fact that, for all its manifold similarities with other global events, the Ulster problem was just the Ulster problem.

In similar ways if one were to dissect the various factors that have contributed to the current stew of New British life it's so apparent that even one of the six or seven major historical components since 1939 would be enough to disassociate us as a nation from more stable and content liberal democracies on the continent.

Interesting article in today's newspaper in turn with the writer talking wistfully of the sense of irrevocable loss he feels looking at family pictures from the fifties and sixties - grandfather paddling in the sea with his braces on and trousers rolled up, family games of cricket on the beach etc. Ties in with so many feelings I get now when returning to Belfast - the afterglow of terrorism aside its the sheer scale of depopulation that hits me more and more.

Last week I saw the gargantuan scale of the Thompson dry dock where the Titanic was completed. That even outshone the bit of grotty tarmac masquerading as a three pounds a day car park that used to be the world famous Sirrocco works just across from the shipyard.

When I looked at another story today about a woman who had both urinated upon and then committed a sex act at a war memorial - and the view of her boyfriend giving Nazi salutes and shouting IRA slogans at protesting ex-servicemen - it really shines a light on the heart of the matter here in New Britain in my opinion. That essentially when the industrial base of our nation disappeared in the late Seventies and early Eighties we may very well have lost so much more than societal connectivity to our broad cultural heritage.

Indeed we may very well have lost EVERYTHING.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mo Mowlam - Our Lady Of Orangeville


On Channel 4 at the weekend I watched a drama about the life of the late Mo Mowlam - New Labour's first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. A genuinely sad story about her fight against cancer though actress Julie Walters' accompanying press commentary that the Good Friday Agreement could not have happened without her prescence raises two particular question marks with regard to this political figure.

Firstly, I recall in her autobiography how one black and white picture included Mowlam, her family and grinning media mates "on the Queen's bed at Hillsborough Castle". Other text in the book also mentioned the kids racing around the state rooms in go-karts. Whatever one's opinion on royalty the fact remains that the Ulster Protestants who died during the 20th Century on military duty did so in no small measure out of loyalty to the throne as a tangible symbol. And indeed as part of a "nationhood" the equal of any other part of the United Kingdom - and in certain examples actually more so. From the Somme to Messines to Passchendaele to Saint-Quentin. From the beaches and skies of Normandy to the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. From the frontlines of the Imjin River battle in Korea to being shot in the back while off-duty in Fermanagh and Armagh.

Secondly, I tend to question how retrospective politcal honour should fall in such substantial measure upon a figure now centrally reknowned for telling a Northern Irish political and religious leader to "fuck off". Even with due consideration of the relative merits and demerits of Ian Paisley's political career, this truly must be considered a jawdropping historic benchmark with regard to the depths to which our political culture has plummeted into utter degradation.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Mathematics of British Destiny


Forging ahead in this new January dawn of hope I read today that British national debt has doubled during the "noughties". From a straightie-one-eightie £350 billion pounds between the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694 and 1999....to a cool funky £700 billion pounds today. It is also estimated by the Treasury that this will should double again by 2014.

Going back to the really good old days in counterpoise I breached the taboo of revisiting the past and watched the Morecambe and Wise 1973 Christmas show last week - what an utterly peurile experience aside from a solitary New Seeker's nipple.