Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it. But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.
Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.
The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3. Continue reading Arbroath January 1972→
The thing about aspiration is that it’s a tough genie to get back into its bottle.
This must be the conclusion of any mythical, dispassionate, possibly extra-terrestrial viewer when examining the current state of political affairs in the disUnited Kingdom. Less than two years ago a referendum was held which was explicitly intended to slay the Scottish nationalist monster for once and for all — sentiments reflecting those of the spectacularly unforesightful George Robertson when this whole journey began and his party found itself obliged to offer Scots a parliament of their own. Yet the genie is far from banished and if anything is more bumptious than ever.
The ‘wee pretendy parliament’ just growed and growed and now its roars — if still distant and ill-understood — have begun to frighten the gentle people of the far south, the colonial overlords of the disUnited Kingdom. Yes, frighten: for the first time since Churchill sent tanks and troops to quell the people of Glasgow, the English establishment has been rattled by events in Scotland.
For them the Scots’ discontentment is a profound mystery, one which they will probably never grasp. For the southern English, the Union is indeed a great thing. It achieved most that it was intended to. It established a militarily secure platform upon which the British Project — to make the world England — could be built and for centuries that project was a success; the Anglo-Saxon patriarchy was spread across the globe by it, taking, somewhat unfortunately, all the prejudice and insecurity of the English middle class with it.
Then again, for the southern English — and not a few Scots who have joined them — London and the south-east of England is the finest place in the world to live. It is a land of fabulous opportunity where all one has to do is work hard and one’s personal streets will be paved with gold. And they are not mean with their largesse: why anyone, from whatever uncultivated backwater of the disUnited Kingdom, may move to London and there spend their days serving the Great British Project, to the betterment — so their apologists attest — of all. Why, look at the money these people can send back to their poor relatives still living in frightful places like Inverurie or Campbeltown.
And this arrangement ideally suits the southern English who are approaching the end of their working days. London’s economic primacy over the disUnited Kingdom means that they can sell their ridiculously overpriced two-bedroom maisonettes and with the money thus liberated, buy a manor in Dunkeld or Aberfeldy. After all, the poor indigenes of these places have not the resources to compete. And if they should complain, then they must come to London, where they may, after a lifetime of slavery to the British Project, earn enough to buy homes for themselves in the places they were born and raised. That is the free market. Yes, the system is equitable and works for the benefit of all.
Look you, the English even build roads and railways so that the impoverished Scots can travel south to where they should be, and there serve the British Project. How could anyone complain or deny this generosity? Continue reading The Genie of Aspiration→
The last few weeks have been intensely busy for me, with four books to be finished by a deadline of the 30th May. This has restricted my time for other things, notably this blog.
Anyway, in that time, much has happened. The UK General Election has come and gone and left a surprising, polarising and challenging result. Labour, at the UK level, now looks in as parlous a state as it was in the 1980s, when it had become ‘unelectable’. This is despite a radical lurch to the political right. We must now ask whether this lurch actually won Tony Blair his historic majority or whether in fact voters in England were just so fed up with Tory corruption, greed and downright nastiness that they could stand it no longer. Continue reading Labour’s Zombie Blues→
The unending and apparently increasing hysteria of the London commentariat in response to the spectacular rise of the SNP in Scotland continues to dominate the UK media. It is clear that many of the pundits – many of whom, amazingly, are actually of Scottish origin – really don’t get it.
Again and again the argument devolves to ‘why do the Scots hate the English so much?’ clearly implying that the only reason Scots would not wish to be governed from 400 miles furth of their borders must be that they dislike the English. It is both a petty allegation, because it offends the basis of democracy, and plain old wrong.
When I was 17 I left home and went to London, like so many other young Scots. The story of my time there is not germane, but I was amazed by how obsessed with money the people were. It seemed to be all they ever thought about. In later life I came across the same attitude not only from Londoners but from others in the South East. ‘You have to go where the money is.’ Even more strange, to me, was that amongst the most profoundly affected by this notion were expatriate Scots (who managed to add an insufferable air of superiority into the mix; but that is also another story.)
The rise of the SNP since 2014 cannot be explained in terms that someone whose sole measure of value is monetary can readily understand. The good folks of London and the southeast, who apparently have swallowed whole the lie that the economy is ‘booming’ – we are curious as to what kind of ‘boom’ it is that can only be achieved by subsidising the richest companies in the country by £11 billion a year in order that they can underpay their workforce, but, hey. Anyway those good folks clearly cannot comprehend why the Scots would even think about getting off this (imaginary) gravy train.