Sunday, September 28, 2014

Restless Natives


The Scottish referendum result of last week has unequivocally exposed fractures within the British body politic that have not been witnessed since the commencement of the Ulster Troubles in October 1968. Similarly these in turn evolved a full half century after the Irish Free State's own secession from the United Kingdom. The crossroads our country thus stands at today is surely of similar consequence to events of this very month 65 years ago no less in September 1939  - 1.6 million British people having now proclaimed to the free world that the greed-obsessed, democratically-deficient, profiteering and deeply degenerate status quo of modern Britain and the Union itself is not fit for purpose any longer.

Having unfortunately been resident in a London-now-morphing-into-Dubai mixed with a Hammer Horror film set since 1987 I completely understand the core dynamics behind Scotland's irrevocable distancing from the social changes operating within the South East of England in particular. However I would have been literally heartbroken had the deep cultural blood ties and shared history between Ulster and Scotland been constitutionally severed off the back of the above for good. Ties that stretch back long before the Ulster Plantation and the Hamilton and Montgomery settlements in County Down to the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada, the Scotti or indeed to the clear geological (let alone Pictish) confluence of Eastern Ulster with Western Scotland.

Life has gone on as normal of course for millions of people in England since Friday 19th September  2014 with the Ponzi housing market, demographic megasurges, rotting social infrastructure, junk television, Facebook updates, aggressive urban culture, cheap supermarket lager and banking mischief but it is clear that a gigantic political timebomb has now been laid that has changed everything from this point on in time in the UK.

If there was a way to salvage societal unity from such political and ethno-religious divisions north of the border (not a mention of the latter on mainstream media of course) I yet feel it is still theoretically possible despite the eleventh hour afoot. However our current Westminster political class are surely the last people on Planet Earth or possibly even the universe itself that could manage it. The internal Scottish parameters they allowed to be set for the referendum alone being surely the gravest political misjudgment in living folk memory from Skye to the Scilly Isles and all points inbetween.

Either way....Welcome to History.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Aye Ready



I have had a sneaking suspicion for some time now that not that many working people in the likes of Copenhagen or Dusseldorf or Warsaw are waking up in the middle of the night and worrying with quite the degree of death-rattle horror about the future ahead as compared to the citizens of a recession-hit and literally directionless Britain.

Tonight our country finds itself emershed in a sense of rank social stasis that outstrips even that as portrayed in James Joyce's Dubliners in 1914 - minus the cheap black porter then available in British Dublin of course. We have a public awareness of unparalleled cultural change and political inertia afoot that transcends individual left-right boundaries. And we also have ludicrously transparent censorship by the mass media of the true scale of danger affecting the economy by way of real unemployment figures or the gargantuan cowboy mischief-making of the UK property market.

If British life wasn't so serious and sobering then all this Kafkaesque entertainment accompanying the Euro collapse would be terribly wry and amusing.

Back to another time and place I recently watched the third of Peter McDougall's Play For Today dramas set in Glasgow - 1979's Just A Boy's Game which followed Just Another Saturday and Elephant's Graveyard. The performances by both blues singer Frankie Miller as Jake McQuillen and Ken Hutchinson as Dancer were truly exceptional when viewing this for the first time in 30 years. At one point Dancer visits McQuillen while the latter was working on a crane at the Glasgow docks at Greenock. They talk about the imminent death of McQuillen's grandfather - "What is he dieing of?" "Everything". The fading grandfather's metal remains unvanquished right through to the play's conclusion however where he tries to even pick a fight with hard man Jake while on his own deathbed. The kind of steely people that empires were once forged upon no less.

That same spirit of Caledonian grit being seen the decade previously with Scotland's 3-2 victory over World Champions England at Wembley in 1967 when Dennis Law of Manchester United noted to Glasgow Rangers' Slim Jim Baxter that the English team were there for the taking and for the Scots to seize the opportunity. The legendary reply being, according to football lore, "Naw let's just take the pish oot o'them". He certainly procceded to do so alongside reminding England's Alan Ball of his uncanny resemblence to 4 foot 3 inch comedian Jimmy Clitheroe.

Two decades later The Proclaimers Letter From America gave us one of the most moving political songs of our times as comparing historic emigrations of old from Lewis and Skye to a now industrially bereft Scottish landscape stretching from Irvine to Bathgate.

In the thriving cosmopolitan, stylish and pulsating financial hub of modern London - the fifth country in the United Kingdom and Margaret Thatcher's disfunctional and very naughty bastard grandchild - there is no doubt very little thought at all anymore about other British regions and their historical connectivity to the capital through war and peace. This very metropolis currently luxuriating in the same waves and pathways of globalisation that guarantee there probably won't be much nuturing ahead in the UK for more Slim Jims, cutting edge television dramas about the working class or industrial endeavour of  extraordinary vintage and achievement.

Thankfully there is no price on heritage, culture, wit, character and pride for the time being. So whatever the constitutional future should hold over the next few hours, Scotland remains both a big country and a mighty nation. Great Britain will never see its like again.