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.

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