The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

The Street Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Game of thrown-ups!

salmond thumbsupWhat should Alex Salmond get for Christmas? I would say a large reality check with a good measure of humility on the side. In his mind, however, he already has the second-best present on his list ticked off. As well as polishing up a brass neck that can be seen from outer space, he’s buffing up the brass crown he was hoping to be wearing come this festive season. It won’t go to waste, though – as he’s already indicated he’s quite willing to plonk it on someone else’s head – probably Ed Miliband’s – come the new year. So, from would-be-king to kingmaker – we knew it all along, didn’t we?

Without sounding too Russell Brand about it all – it would seem that the vast majority of politicians are egomaniacs and can’t be trusted. With people like Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage particular examples, with their never-ending gall and talent (of a sort) to wring out every last ounce of self-promotion from a situation, however negative. It was particularly jaw-drop-inducing that big Eck should hold court on the day that crashing oil prices were heralding the scrapping of jobs in the Aberdeen area, once known as Trump-town. Not such a safe bet for funding a new nation then, eh?

That shouldn’t mean we should give up and not engage though. It was great that so many people got involved during the referendum debate, however a sad aspect was friends and families being torn apart and in many cases still not speaking to each other. The key is knowing that politics is a dirty old business and that people who were at each others’ throats one day will be doing deals the next, leaving us lot looking like a bunch of muppets if we continue to trade insults and wage war on each other.

But back to some other items on Alex Salmond’s Christmas list – perhaps the Game of Thrones box-set and a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince? Some chance! He could act as adviser on both of those. I’ve heard he’s actually (gasp!) going to be taking some time off (we’ll see… ) to rest a repetitive strain injury on his wrist. I’ll resist making any cheap comments but merely say it must have been all that rubbing!

Style and Substance

G OsborneSo was Ed Balls right or wrong to mention George Osborne‘s hair during their heated joust in the Commons yesterday? If you ask me it was a case of being jea-LOUS as old Ballsup’s own image looks in serious need of a makeover – with the shredded wheat hair and Mr Blobby girth – he puts me in mind of that early Channel 4 curio Murun Buchstansangur (not familiar? check out the link below). Compare that with Osborne’s Kray-twin crop which when first unveiled – along with the voice coaching – edged him from effete posh-boy to hard man playing hardball.

Should it matter what our politicians look like? Is it not all a bit shallow? A reflection of our current image and celebrity obsessed society? Not a bit of it! From ancient Rome to the Kennedy dynasty, image – particularly the physical – has always been hugely important. Get in wrong, and you’re toast – remember Michael Foot and his donkey-jacket? But thankfully if you’re totally ridiculous, no amount of airbrushing is going to help – thank you, Sarah Palin.

Nearer home, I see it didn’t take Nicola Sturgeon long, after getting the keys to Bute House, to ditch the boxy pastel suits and instead adopt classic Mary Queen of Scots black. That – along with better make-up and hair – makes her look more like a serious stateswoman and less of a wee nippy sweetie. The transformation has been swift and subtle. Well done!

A final thought – and bit of advice to Cameron and Miliband – if you want to boost your image before the election, consider the Arthur Daley/dodgy used-car salesman look. Well, it seems to have worked for Nigel Farage

Farewell to a tubthumping, Bronte anti-hero

G BrownWell that’s it then… Gordon Brown – the great political beast himself – is finally lumbering out to pasture. Ah! the memories – dodgy encounters with chippy old women, romantic dalliances with Romanian princesses, the 10p tax debacle, the Granita deal, the Mumsnet biscuit debate, the temper, the tantrums… From Son of the Manse to Iron Chancellor to Saviour of the Union it’s a story that perhaps looks more exciting on paper than it was in real life. Who can forget his hopeful attempt to sex up his image by likening himself to the brooding Heathcliff? If he had to be a Bronte anti-hero though surely he was more of a Mr Rochester
To run with the Bronte/Austen theme, I see him as a curmudgeonly – ‘dour’ as we Scots say – foster uncle. You know he’s highly intelligent and he was possibly a bit of a lad back in the day, but you really hate the way he makes you read The Rights of Man before letting you go out, and oh – that temper… But you remember that time you fell in with the wrong crowd, they were threatening you with all kinds of cyber-bullying and were just about to empty your bank account…  But Uncle Gordon saved the day – coming on like a tub-thumping mix of Keir Hardie, Martin Luther King and Atticus Finch with a touch of Liam Neeson – seeing the bullies off. You felt you could forgive him for everything – including stopping your 10p in the pound pocket money…
So thanks for the memories, Uncle Gordon. You weren’t perfect but you’re a lot better than evil Uncle Tony who continues to hang around the local tearoom scamming the regulars. And unlike him you look so much happier at grass roots rather than at the top of the greasy pole. You’re not leaving the village just yet so I’m sure we can count on you to give those bad lads a good kicking if they come sniffing around again. Cheers… and gaun yersel!

Muppets and Mammon

Black FridayI must admit I felt pretty good about myself yesterday as I schlepped back from Asda, not with a flat-screen telly under each arm, but instead with bags full of cabbage, broccoli, carrots, okra, lemons and other cancer and diabetes busting items. Yes, they were still trying to peddle the whole greed-is-good-on-Black-Friday thing so my little corner of the store away from the electrical goods was deserted. I did have a sneaky peek at what once-in-a-lifetime deals they were offering up and saw they had knocked forty quid off a flat-screen which meant you only had to shell out a mere three hundred. Wow! Sale of the Century indeed! People, on average, were snapping up two at a time. I guess that means they would have £80 to spend instead on multipacks of fizzy drinks, cheap burgers and oven chips to be consumed as they watch ‘I’m a Celebrity… ‘ in vomit-inducing HD, maybe avoiding the local food bank for a day or two – well, they try and palm you off with ‘healthy’ food these days, don’t they?

A bit harsh? A bit Andrew Mitchell / Emily Thornberry / David Mellor? The thing is though – I can slag off the feckless working-class because while I am the latter I refuse to be the former.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, on actual Black Friday just there, groups of African-Americans made a brave stand to dissuade other African-Americans from worshiping at the altar of Mammon on the holiest of consumer days, in some way hopefully highlighting the inequality of the US judicial system if you have non-white face. Maybe not surprisingly they didn’t have much luck. Most of the people they targeted failed – or refused – to see the connection between consumerism and basic human rights. And while it’s a particularly potent subject for black Americans – with the whole pimped up bling cultcha of ‘replacing the chains of slavery with 24 carat ones’ representing some kind of freedom – it’s a similar thing for working-class Brits. However instead of Beverly Hills Bling it’s more Aldi Aspiration with us over here exercising our inalienable right to purchase cheap(er) electronic goods that give us potential to access a world of knowledge but you just know will be used to watch cat videos and Jeremy Kyle.

But whatever colour you are or whichever side of the pond you find yourself – if you weren’t born ‘to the purple’ or with a silver spoon in your gob – things will be tough and not fair, rest assured. However if you think splurging on overpriced tat and getting into debt will improve your life in the long term – think again. Who was ever inspired or spiritually fulfilled by a trip to the shops? So don’t be a consumer muppet – read a book, write a book, speak to friends, make some new friends, cook yourself a decent meal, go for a run – there are a million things that are cheap or free and will make you feel so much better about yourself. For inspiration follow this link to find out about the brilliant Karen Washington and her Garden of Happiness in the Bronx.

Karen speaks movingly about being considered ‘trash’ before she started her garden because she was judged by her urban environment – a dumping ground for rubbish. She’s a marvelous example of having the courage to transcend her surroundings – no tat or flat screen tellies involved!


The Divine Miss D


I’m gutted that I can’t get along to see the inimitable Daphna Baram at The Stand in Edinburgh tomorrow night (17 Nov). But if you’re in the area and want a reminder of those heady, laughter-filled days of last August’s Fringe (see below). Get yourself along…  I believe it’s only a measly two quid (with other acts as well!) Whatcha waiting for?

Caught the marvellous Miss D (aka Daphna Baram) ‘s show at Cowgatehead 3 (20.30) the other night. Ballsy, bold, bolshy – it’s a brilliant show with tales of serving in the Israeli army to having a heart attack at age 39. There’s the reliable Jewish schtick of constantly disappointing her mother – for example not marrying the doctor that treated her or just not marrying at all. Daphna moves with ease between the political and personal in a riotously funny show. Be quick though – she finishes up on the 16th. Go see!

Earlier review (from Austerity Pleasures): Another woman who could most probably wipe the floor with some of the autocue-numpties from Mock the Week is the force of nature that is Daphna Baram. The tiny Kasbar space on a Sunday lunch-time did well to contain Miss D’s huge personality and her rich and ripe collection of (mainly) one-liners which veered from the political (serving in the Israeli army) to the sexual (‘how many of you guys lost your erection when you heard my accent?’). Stunning – like a politically aware, pre-Hollywood Bette Midler.

Lighten Up!

SalmondeffigyI hope the Sussex Police didn’t have any serious crimes to investigate yesterday when they found themselves to be the latest cast members in the never-ending soap opera known as ‘We Wuz Robbed!’

Seemingly the papier-mache versions of Alex Salmond were thought – by some – to be disrespectful and insulting. Personally speaking – I thought it was fitting that the English had a turn of putting up with the giant Bawheid for a change when we’ve had to suffer the real thing for the last few years.

Some commented that ‘how would people feel if it had been an effigy of David Cameron?’ Well, I guess the vast majority would have been quite happy and even the minority – who count themselves as fans (are there such people…?) – would understand it’s joke, it’s a laugh. And what’s probably worse than not having a sense of humour is not having a grasp of basic facts or news stories that happen beyond the end of your road – David Cameron (along with a mini Nick Clegg) was the Lewes Guy of choice back in 2010… FYI.

Here’s a funny thing though – if those strange people who’ve got nothing better to do than make crank calls to the emergency services had managed to get along to sample some of the many shows on the Edinburgh Fringe back in August – they would have heard joke after joke being made about Alex Salmond – from both sides of the debate. One of the funniest routines was centered on the notion that Big ‘Eck should ‘take one for the team’ and die before the referendum thus ensuring a victory for the Yes campaign. And yes, this was from a Yes supporter!

So please, please – lighten up (I don’t mean that literally – don’t call the Fire Service – I’m sure they have enough to do with their time…) and get out more. There’s nothing worse than being a parochial small-mind – apart from not having a sense of humour… but I guess that goes with the territory.

A wake-up call for us all

So that’s it, eh? All over. Half of Scotland relieved and half with broken dreams. Well, slightly more than half and slightly less than half respectively. It’s strange though – even though I believe the vote went the right way for Scotland and the UK – I don’t feel particularly like celebrating. Why?

Firstly, it was scary. It was edge-of-seat stuff at some stages – if maybe not as near the edge as the media was making out, such was their need to avoid the accusation of appearing one-sided or partisan. Or perhaps they were trying to make it seem more neck-and-neck in order to ratchet up the tension. Either way – they’re still being accused of bias. Sometimes you just can’t win, eh?

Secondly, it’s incredibly sad. Seeing tearful yes supporters today doesn’t make me feel good. One of the reasons I was ‘no thanks’ is because I have a deep distrust of nationalism – whatever country, colour, shape or form – it’s divisive, nasty and the oldest trick in the book to exploit people who feel themselves dispossessed. And when the ‘who’s the more patriotic?’ thing started – that was a low point. Plus the whole celebrity-endorsement-industry when applied to something this important is ridiculously redundant and is something that has to die a natural death.

Reasons to be proud though – the turnout was a record-busting 84.5% and people who had never voted before did so. And – even with a minority of muppets misbehaving – the whole thing was carried out fairly and largely corruption-free.

The next few weeks are going to be crunch-time. All parties have to work together and Westminster has to deliver. The biggest message however is that Scottish Labour has to get real and engage with their core voters again. They can’t – and mustn’t – be allowed to bumble along and only visit the housing estates and areas of deprivation when they’re looking for votes. When it comes to promises they can’t forget because the people won’t.

Just Another Dream?

BrigadoonIn my half-awake state this morning I heard Justin Webb report on increased food prices, decreased supply and general hardship due to newly erected border controls. By Christ! I can’t have slept that long, can I? But I was quickly assured it was Africa – and its ebola restricting measures – he was talking about and not Scotland. As I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in (I have until 22.00 to vote after all) so many surreal images and events started to creep into my head. Did I really witness the following – Alan Cumming expounding political theory; Vivienne Westwood wearing an unfashionably large ‘yes’ badge; David Cameron looking like a dead man walking; Brian Cox (actor) spending so long over here you have to wonder if he’ll ever get back into the US; revitalised careers from Ricky Ross to Franz Ferdinand, George Galloway to Tommy Sheridan? All these things and more have appeared in my referendum-waking-dream-bubble. 

Knowing the only way to banish these images was to get up out of bed and get on with it – I did just that. But what about tomorrow, eh? Whatever is decided, all of us who live here are going to have to get on with it day after day after day…

I live near a polling station and the guy across the road has bedecked his home with an orgiastic flurry of ‘yes’s while his neighbour has a simple ‘no, thanks’. Does Mr Yes think he can influence voters Derren-Brown-like or will his enthusiasm look like hectoring? We Scots don’t like being told what to do, remember!

Who knows what influences people? The Ad-men used to think they had it all sewn up but these days they are finding themselves increasingly emasculated with soshul meedja taking their place. But is that way of coercing any better than what the Mad Men in sharp suits used to do? In so many ways it’s worse with no form of regulation and the huge potential for bullying on a grand scale.

Grassroots campaigns can be great – they’re passionate, they’re exhilarating, they’re furrapeepol! If maybe not for all the people, right? So in the cold light of day when the prating slebs have headed home to Hollywood and people and communities over here have to carry on living and working together – maybe the great party won’t seem worth the almighty hangover.

Another news report I heard in my half-sleep this morning was about the increasing radicalisation of the disillusioned and dispossessed via social media. It may have been radical Islam they were talking about but I can’t be sure…

Never Mind the Ballots – a parable

Madame BovaryA while ago, in an attempt to give a friend a few words of big-sisterly-like pre-wedding advice, I came up with the following – ‘a few years down the line you might look around and think you can do better but it’ll just end up being the same, so better to stick with it’. I hope it wasn’t as clumsy as that and as cheesy cliches go, that’s pretty much up there but I thought I’d dig it out again at this historic time for our country. Okay, okay the divorce analogy has been done to death of late, achieving a cliché status of its own but like all clichés – they exist because they’re true and apt.

What am I suggesting? Stay in a loveless marriage when you can break free and do what you want? Well… it doesn’t work like that – you still have to hook up with someone/be governed by someone (that’s the deal in parables/real life). And even if it’s totally wonderful at first living in a shack, reading poetry to each other and dancing barefoot in the woods – you will get sick of the new Mr Dreamboat when all his annoying little habits begin to seamlessly join together, he starts to question how much you spend on getting your hair done and you never have the money to go out anywhere. Finally you will look at him one day and realise he has a creepily familiar look. OMG – you married your cousin!!  You’ll hark back to the days when you were in demand – wooed and courted by politicians, footballers, pop stars and Hollywood actors. You’d get in touch to ask them to help you but they’re busy trying for a cameo in the latest Tarentino and besides they’ve got a new pet charity project on the go now. (You were sooo 2014… )

Ah, but you’ll have proved something to yourself, surely? Maybe so, but it’s cost you a bit and you’ll still have some bozo telling you what you can and can’t do. Never mind, you can say you did it all for your grand-kids and see how grateful those little bastards are.

Okay – end of parable – allow me to be sick – sick of assumptions – assumptions about being working class, ‘arty’, patriotic, having a social conscience, having more in common with a care worker in Liverpool than the laird of the manor down the road, or vice versa… if you’re that, you must be this…

What am I trying to say? Think for yourself and about yourself. Don’t become a mindless muppet for someone who shouts louder than the other guy and drags  you along on some bandwagon. Be proud of who you are and don’t be bullied into fitting some stereotype. It’s your life – you can make your own decision – but you have to free your mind first.

Scottish Referendum

Brilliant! Says more in a few lines about being Scottish than in all the nationalistic nonsense churned out by Hugh McDiarmid and the like.

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