Monthly Archives: February 2014

Independence for London!

Like the Bad Fairy trumped by the hero of the tale, I left my last blog (little more than a week ago, I’m deliriously proud to say) with the promise you haven’t heard the last of me! – and indeed here I am again with some more weighty and insightful – well, insights: on the matter of our glorious Referendum, that is.

While atavisms, as I was explaining last time round, are important to me – in the same sort of way that flu, or VAT, are important – I’m not sure that the referendum is. This has something to do with my age, and I think I should state here and now that if lots of people under the age of forty want to tell me which way I should vote, I shall gladly do a tally of the various goadings I’ve had when September comes and vote as the majority dictates. I wouldn’t like the next generation to be thinking that whichever mess they’re left with can be ascribed to the bad decisions made by people who cast a vote whose consequences they would never have to live with.

At the moment I’m disinclined to vote yes. Why? Well it’s quite nice to have all the nob-ends doing their destructive thing in London, which is nice and far away in comparison with Edinburgh, which I visited last Tuesday and got back in time for tea; so that’s a bit too close for comfort. There’s nothing worse than nob-ends who speak the same language as you (and who you’d therefore expect to know better). Plus, when I ask myself the question: who, historically, has mainly screwed over the Scots? the answer is unequivocally: the Scots.

On the other hand, the Scottish psyche does need a hefty boot up the rear, and perhaps being (supposedly) in charge of our own affairs would encourage us as a nation to quit moaning and get on with it. So that would be a yes-vote.

On the other hand again (I’m thinking I might have as many hands as Durga the warrior – though maybe even ten isn’t enough), I do worry that taking Scotland out of the political map of Britain would do severe damage to the cause of socialist decency in England – it would be tantamount to a kick in the teeth for many, particularly in the north and west; and, ever inclined to be right-ward leaning, England could well lurch towards some form of National Socialism, which in the long run would probably be bad for Scotland, let alone England and Wales. And here I would mutter, never forget the atavisms: nations which once used to go to war could probably grub up their roots and do it again. So I suppose that would be a no-vote.

I also half-suspect that a Yes vote would be precisely what the Tories are after, and anything the post-Thatcher breed of Tories want is probably what I wouldn’t under any circumstances like to see.

All that said, I think we’re looking at the entire question upside-down. It isn’t really independence for Scotland we should be debating, but independence for London. London has aspirations as an international super-state, and I say let it have what it wants. Vote independence for London and London can continue to be sublimely parochial while the rest of Britain could get down to the job of forming a real nation, presumably along federal lines. That’s what I’d vote for, if I was a Londoner, and even if I wasn’t (which I’m not).

I believe I never pointed out that finally, finally, after many months, I got some half-reasonable recording of my “vowel-stories” put up on the audio page. Having devoted so much, frequently despairing, energy to this project I completely overlooked the possibility of producing these stories as written works, so I’ve got my dear Marilyn on the job there trying to drum up interest among the publishing community. I’m not quite sure I quite like the sound of “the adventures of Big Ape and his friends in the jungle” though, which seems to be the kind of direction she’s suggesting. I do have about another ten of these stories apart from the ones I’ve posted and – unable to stop myself – am starting to see that it would indeed be possible to put together a sort of coherent collection (coherent is a relative term). I’m sure if there were more than one publishing house in Scotland such awful dilemmas wouldn’t occur: in fact everything would be hunkydorie ever after, there’d be publishers falling over themselves to bring out National masterpieces, the Prince across the water would return, and we’d all nourish ourselves on shortbread.

Anyway, I’m now getting Ellie to tell me back the vowel-stories, which she does with great gusto – and it’s quite enlightening for me to be able to see which sections she reproduces word-for-word, presumably meaning that these were particularly felicitously constructed bits, from her point of view.

I’m sorry, the above should read “two publishing houses”. There is of course Ben and Stickman Press as well, and can I just remind everyone that The Story of Mouse is out there on the shelves, which was why I was in Edinburgh last week looking out small independent bookshops, and actually finding some! Keen on giving Mouse a whirl, what’s more.

Rachel has got herself ensconced in a Studio – half an hour’s drive away, and maybe she’s right and that’s the only way to do it, and I gaze greenly after her as she disappears off in her black diesel-cloud, then turn bleakly to view my own little cubby-hole (which, no, somehow I’ve never used this winter): the roof-beams are definitely bowing under the turf-roof, and there must be a seam in the membrane which, naturally, is letting in water – not a lot, but enough to subtly rot the boards in time; so, it’ll need a centre-post to support it, and that’s all going to take time, and besides I’m getting quite used to dodging around snatching the odd hour’s quietness amongst Maddy’s assaults from Alkaline Trio and Ellie’s reiterations of BBC’s Merlin series  and audio versions of Narnia. As I’ve just added some more radiators to our heating system, the number of slightly warmer places to malinger in has grown (I still haven’t given up on the toilet as a Quiet Place, of course, even though it’s wholly radiator-free and indeed, particularly when a brisk westerly is blowing, arouses in me some interesting speculations about the origin of the surname Winterbottom). Annie is distinctly displeased at the amount of heat which her back-of-couch radiator now has to share with other, less deserving, parts of the property. I keep thinking there must be some kind of moral here for the Referendum issue – though I’m not sure which of us would come out unmasked as the villainous Tory.

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Some Atavisms

Listening to Lord Lawson, on this morning’s Today programme on Radio 4, holding forth on the absurd issue of climate change – and listening to my own reactions to the man – that wincing from the gut at the sound of that portly-Tory-poured-into-comfortable-armchair kind of voice, that run-along-Nigella-darling-Daddy’s-busy-with-important-things kind of voice, indeed the voice that for so many ages was used by fathers to keep down silly little girls and is now well employed in silencing the squawking cohorts of climate-change believers – listening to this, as I say, I got thinking about atavisms and the extent to which they govern the political life of nations.

Atavisms? Is there such a word? My old dominie TS Eliot wrote what I think is a pretty good description of an atavism:

….the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

An atavism is my name for a deep-seated knot of anxiety or trauma or neurosis – a Ragged Rock indeed, how can one put it better? – in the collective psyche; it’s based on something-ish and it doesn’t want to go away, indeed it may have managed to weave itself into the communal or even individual DNA. You got, and still get, lots of atavisms in the farming community, for example based around particular animals – wolves, rats, badgers: the badger-TB link in this sense was a total boon to the farmers, who could now justifiably cry: See? What have we always said? Kill them all! Save us from this scourge!

Today – wild-ish and grey, but by no means abnormally so here in the north – today not only saw Lord Lawson torily pronouncing on the radio on what needed to be done about all the water in England, but also George Osborne laying it down like it is in Edinburgh, and how if the Scots think they’re going to get our Queen on their coins they can take etc etc

Interestingly, just after Lord Lawson – yes, we do listen to a lot of Radio Four, it’s because of English cultural domination – there came along the warm Horlicksy voice of Melvyn Bragg, who was talking with his pals about the chivalric code of the 11th century, to which I suppose true-blue Toryism can be traced. My interest in this subject actually goes back to its prehistory in the Dark Ages, all because of a pretty neat theory I came across some while ago, which traced chivalry – the cabal, or guild, or lodge of mounted knights (dragoons would be their somewhat updated label) – back to the mounted Asiatic mercenaries employed by the Roman Empire on their more remote and hard-to-police borders. Three Roman “kingdoms” remained, straddling what’s now the English-Scottish border, after the Romans left and Britain started filling up with Angles and Saxons. I think the inference of the theory was that the Anglo-Saxon populations not only halted their northward drive but remained pretty much scared shitless of these northern neighbours, who frequently mounted punitive raids, and represented a fearsome combination of Roman military discipline, Asiatic barbarity and Celtic barmpot-ness – not to mention their unfair use of bag-like dragon-banners which would boom spookily when the wind filled them at full gallop. So not only did these guys, who eventually moved off down to obscurity in Wales, leave behind the consoling legend of Arthur Pen-dragon and his brotherhood of knights, they also left behind an atavism which has governed a lot of Anglo-Saxon thinking ever since.

So, basically, when the winds get wild and the waters rise, English suspicions of their northern neighbours become exposed again, as raw and unsettling as in ancient times, despite our nice Mr Salmond’s comforting reassurances that there is nothing to fear and we can really all get along in a modern and grown-up way.

I’m not finished on this subject, let me give fair warning, but for now my short attention span, in the guise of our rampant need for split firewood, has got the better of me…

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