Salutations

Annie wrote a blog-et this morning, read it out to me and I said it was great and she should post it on Facebook. So she deleted it. I clearly should have said it was crap….

Anyway, as I agreed with it all and would have even said some of it myself if I’d still been into writing blogs much, I’m going to say what I would have said…. She said she didn’t like hers because it sounded preachy, but I’m generally accused of being preachy before I even open my mouth so I’ve nothing to lose.

She and I were both Polling Agents on Election Day. Polling Agents don’t do much but stand and look pretty. We both independently had the same sensation that watching people engaging in the act of democracy was – for all its faults – a moving one. So what I’d like to say about politicians is this:
Politicians are made for getting corrupted. They start off with principles, with ideals of service and of doing good, and they get corrupted, burned out, dried up. Why is this? I think one important cause is because of something that gets called “voter apathy”. I don’t call it that, I call it an infantilised population, I call it people putting everything onto their politicians and the governments they form: “daddy will fix it” is the basic attitude, and when he doesn’t, it’s “daddy’s shite”. Yet politicians are real people who sacrifice a lot – their privacy, often their family life, their health and even their mental well-being to put themselves at the disposal of the people they represent. Their pay looks like a mint – but to me everyone else’s pay looks like a mint so I really can’t be certain that it is that much; and I have had some insights into how many of our own politicians spend their money, and it certainly arouses neither my wrath nor my contempt – and come an election like the one we had last week and for many of them – oof! it’s all gone, just like that.

So to those who came to vote, I salute you, the sixteen and seventeen year olds coming for the first time with rather serious faces, and the grey ones creeping along on sticks, both those who greeted me as I stood beaming at the door with my yellow-and-black badge on and those who studiously avoided my eye (yes, I could have done a poll!). I don’t understand why these latter don’t see fit to follow the desires of the younger generation for whom the government of the future is going to be so much more important than for them – maybe they think they know better than the youngsters and believe they’re doing it “for their own good”. I don’t understand them but I salute them nevertheless. And to the many who didn’t come, the many whom I’ve met on doorsteps while canvassing who sneer and say, “nae interested”; or proudly announce “I’ve never voted”, or “politicians are all the same – they’re all corrupt”, or those like the occupier of a particularly well-appointed house who demanded, “what has the government ever done for me?” I would say this: you make me angry, and perhaps a spell in Belgium, where voting is obligatory, would do you some good and rouse a small sense of civic duty. I’ve been dissatisfied with our style of democracy for most of my adult life, and I certainly don’t think I like the kind of PR which is currently in force in Scotland – it has an air of deceit about it. I am an active member of the SNP, but support many policies of the Greens and look forward to their getting even stronger, and I have deep-reaching anarchist instincts – but I’ll support the form of democracy we have because I don’t at the moment see anyone coming up with anything better, and I do see that the whole structure of what we call civilisation is probably about to collapse round our ears, and the politicians who represent us really do need to be told what we think can be done to make the crash, when it comes, as endurable as possible. If the people don’t interact with their representatives in an adult and rational way, how are the politicians expected to act in an adult and rational way themselves?

Government can only be as good as the people who install it.

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Wake up, NHS!

Attended a fascinating talk last night by Dr Stefan Geider at the Aberdeen chapter of the Scientific & Medical Network on mistletoe therapy for cancer.

Scary: co-relation of fever-preventing strategies (vaccination, antibiotics, paracetamol etc) with increase in incidence of cancer.

Amusing (yet depressing): the attempts of associates of Geider’s, including Muhammad Shakeel, an oncologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, to publish the well-documented case-history of a man with laryngeal cancer.

Totally alarming: how the structure and culture of the NHS militates against diversity of approach to medical issues. On  the one hand the Scottish Government struggles to support this excellent institution, on the other hand this same institution does its best to stifle scientific debate as everyone looks over their shoulder and is terrified of stepping out of line!

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A Game of Baws

Don’t re-blog much cos my computer’s even slower than my brain. This one’s very much worth reading though….

Bonnie Fairbrass

In the recent game of Baws, known to some as the election, the results are as follows:
Scotland One – England Nil
I hate to tell you England, but you’ve been done.
I am in a bit of an awkward position, as an English woman, living in Scotland, who voted SNP.
According to the press I’ve just fucked over everyone I know in England. To some I guess that makes me a traitor. That, I believe is a matter of perspective. I’d like to think that most of my friends down south would not be so judgemental, and perhaps better read than the majority, or at least be able to count and stuff. I am not a one off either, I happen to know a fair few other English people living here who voted SNP too. Oops. We bad.
I stand by my decision to vote SNP, as I do…

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Here be Lions

Friday morning, 8th May

Well well, and wasn’t that exciting? We ought to get some sleep, but it’s such a lovely day.

So why am I not pleased? Ah well, it’s good old Scotland syndrome again isn’t it. –

             Now all is done that men can do
             and all is done in vain.

At least any Labour supporters Britain-wide who have an elementary grasp of mathematics shouldn’t be able to accuse us of screwing them over. England did that all by herself.

What happened? Apparenly swathes of English voters threw themselves behind tha Conservatives in order (nobly) to SAVE THE UNION.
What I’m still asking is: what Union?

I really do think Scots should adopt this simple little meditation, every morning when they wake up. First, give thanks for life, health, relative freedom etc., and then remind themselves: There never was a Union. Just like that. There never was a Union. There was only ever Southern expansionism.

How do I know this? Well obviously: because the thought of a healthy, well-disposed and friendly neighbour on their northern border apparently fills the English with such terror that they’ll vote for a bunch of people they thoroughly dislike and a bunch of policies they hate rather than allow this to be. Clearly the only Scotland acceptable to them is a subject and subservient Scotland. It’s an atavism. Wake up, people of England! You can breathe freer when you’re not subject to night terrors. You can move more freely when you’re not burdened with thoughts of retaining Power at all costs.

I hope our bunch of guys who are going to Westminster keep their nerve; and remember they’re wandering into a lion’s den where supreme efforts will be made by Certain People to undermine and discredit them. Beware blandishments, honey-traps, excitable gossip…. – oh, and tell Alex to go easy on the roaring lions, there’s enough alarm as it is.

No poem this time. Too tired and emotional.

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Not Yet Maytime

 
It was not blossom but snow that fell
just as the hawthorns were full of fresh lettuce
tender as the leaves on her plate, when we found her
relaxed and chatting in the salad bar
(“well why not”, she laughed, “a girl needs a bit
of me-time, doesn’t she”).

It was not blossom but snow that fell.
It was the loveliest thing, those forlorn flowers
the magenta, the yellow, wreathed in and out
by those unlikely other petals linked so thick
in one another, brooms and young larches were
bent to the ground.

“Unlikely? Incomprehensible!” we exclaimed.
But she, drawling “plenty of time yet!”
smiled in the well-heated bar. “You are the one”
we challenged, “we have that right, the keeper
of the four treasures, do you even have them?”
“There’s a key,” she said

As outside the snow kept falling,
formless now, “somewhere in my stuff – look
it’s here in my bag – or maybe not”
distractedly lighting a cigarette as she went on
hunting without success. “Oh really, it doesn’t
matter,” we assured her;

We went outside and left her to it
(it looked as though she’d never notice).
What now? What now? without those treasures
there could be no hope of a new beginning,
springtime would stop.

But the snow kept falling and somebody laughed;
“it was too mild a winter anyway”, he said;
“snow is a gift we need to be blessed with
at least once a year; without it
how can the water melt and run?
Come out, we’ll find

Those treasures, sure as eggs
hidden in a blackbird nest under a cap of snow.”
And so it was – not that there could be
a respite, not with his voice now fissuring the air
“you can’t rest on any success along the way
neither great nor small”.

It was not blossom but snow that fell.
And that is the story of the last spring
we ever spent together, just that core
of us, where our characters were formed;
there would be sometimes more and sometimes less
but never the round sum;

And the four treasures, those glittering entities
we were never quite convinced of
they lay in their hiding-place for years to come
perhaps hatching or just as likely stagnant
but that’s not the point: we learned that year
to take the blossom

As snow, the snow as blossom.

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Spilt Milk

– What do you mean, you stupid old woman
by Christ I’m going to send you
to the place, just see if I don’t
where stupid old women are sent.
What else but spilt milk
is there to cry over? My whole life
look! oceans of spilt milk!
And you tell me there’s no use?

I watch you shuffling off through the doorway
the bent back, the frame, the relentless hatred;
oh yes, I’ve done it now – nothing good
she remembers, but she’ll remember this.
I’ll give you there’s no use, I’ll give you
what do you ever do for me, I’ll give you
this used to be a happy house, till you came!

No I won’t. I’ll be crying in the corner.
I’ll be saying, what happened to the nice old dame
who always cooked the comfort meat
all with the right balance of roots
who loaded us down with plant cuttings
who waited for us on the garden bench
and chided us for our lateness, in the dappled
sunshine under her flowering trees.

– That white bench out among the nettles, she says
should we bring it in where people can sit on it?
That one, I grunt (what’s wrong
with nettles?). It’s a green bench, I tell her.
Looks white to me, she says. The sunlight welling
through the studded hawthorn stems
turns her hair to black gloss, a fringe
of gold somewhere about – her complete
knowledge of dyeing, that’s what that is.

I’ve made mistakes in my life,
my dear, that you will never learn from.
I’ve seen whole horizons on fire
I was obliged to turn from;
I thought I would have a life:
children, wife, old people took it over.
They tell me this was my choice
people who look to live without
remorse, regret, who consider
(expressed in a clipped, clear voice)
empowerment’s the name of the game.

Soon the mayblossom will cover
these sharp ungainly sticks. Blossom
makes no demands, has no regret
does not dissent; it’s an apotheosis
of spilt milk frozen on some
ancient ineluctable frame.

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Magic Numbers

I suppose so-called Statistics have to be the kind of bread-and-butter material politicians trot out whenever they want to say something, simply because here’s nothing else to say that doesn’t get a bit other-worldly. You hear the policy being debated, and it all sounds quite sensible, and then – oh-oh, here come the statistics…. Statistics, numbers – this is a blatant use of Magic: these things are the blast of incomprehensible light that issues from the wizard’s wand. I don’t know much about politics, for all our door-to-door electioneering activities, but I know magic when I see it.

So, while I’m all for getting rid of Trident (and all nuclear weapons – though that’ll be a first for Humanity, actually going back on our tracks and undoing some “technological advance”), and while I’m aghast at some of the facile views I’ve heard expressed about The Deterrent this last week (how exactly is Trident going to foil a terrorist attack?), I also think it a bit facile to relate the cost of Trident to the cost, say, of some new schools and hospitals – why? because it ignores the magic properties of Money, which is after all just another set of numbers. The fact is, if the will is there to build the schools and hospitals, the money will (magically) be there; and conversely, not spending the £100 billion on Trident doesn’t mean that that particular chunk of money won’t evaporate overnight like the gold of the fairies. While doubtless you get people who live “in the world of money”, like fish living in water, that’s very different from saying that anyone actually understands the thing; no-one really understands the financial crash of 2008, despite everyone being such experts on it after it happened: the fact is it was money, once again, revealing its magic properties. We don’t like to admit to being ruled by Magic. (Oh, and fish are probably not very bright, politically speaking.)
None of which has anything to do with the following poem, except that the quest for a number comes into it a bit. And some of these issues also come a bit into the one after that, which came out of our little trip to London early this year.

 
Angry Bastard

They were burning his fingertips off
trying to get some number
(they were very keen on numbers)
and as they reached the sixth
the fourth on his left hand
he let out a roar, ear-shattering
but she, in the next room, heard only
her father and his ungoverned
temper, pissed herself there and
then, she just wanted it to stop.

Ataboy, let it out
they said, you’ll feel much better
there you go, it’s just like vomit (oh
by the way, what was that number?)
and he had clamped it down
so long to spare her – come on mate
you don’t want to do that it makes it
ever so much worse, do you know what
she did through there? oh dear, the shame!
you could have spared her all of it.

I wonder if anyone can compass
another’s pain. When those few
clustered round the rough timber
the dear-God-made-man was nailed to
what do you think they thought?
Just die, please just die
let us go home, we’ll make
a heroic epic out of it
we’ll edit out screams groans fluids, the
numbing hours – what else could they.

When the raping began, then it was
tell them the number, just tell them
what do you mean you don’t know it?
tell them any number for Christ’s sake
it’s only a fucking number
a number the same as any
just fucking tell them and tell that
angry bastard I’ve had it
up to here with his shit
and I won’t take any more.

Probably when it’s all
degenerated into drivel
when the floor swabbed with dettol’s
restored it to an ordinary kitchen
probably someone’ll advise on
probably there are people trained in
well. Light in the window. Personally
I’d recommend angels, angels
are the business. Angels encompass
all of creation, all pain, all joy.

 
Runaway Moon

Is everyone enjoying themselves? the juggler roars
as evening descends in Leicester Square
What? What are you? I didn’t hear you!
That’s better! You’re enjoying yourselves, aren’t you?
Everybody has to enjoy themselves, that’s why we’re here!
A mouse scuttles across the park gate, in the twilight.
Her ears must be calloused. I wonder if the London mice
enjoy themselves more than our neighbours
here in the country of Seven Cats.

I’d never understood this about the economy, though
I do now. Everyone has to smile, then things
will go all right. There are pretty girls with white teeth
on most of the hoardings demonstrating
how this is done. Pretty girls make everything right.
To speak of staring into the abyss is nothing
but folly, it’s the way a nation
sinks into perdition. If we don’t screw them over first
then they’ll screw us, see? That makes sense.

Here, in the country of Seven Cats, I watched
one of the rustic sisterhood scuttle out
from under the pile where she’d taken shelter
rear up on hind legs, offering to box.
That face, its lambent eyes, it must have looked
like the runaway moon, silently closing,
huge beyond reason in the end-of-time dusk.
Get out of it, you tiny clown, your heroics
are altogether unimpressive.

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