Monday, 7 April 2014

WWMD: What Would Margo Do?

 Margo the icon 
(Given the Warhol treatment by me)

Last Friday it was very sad news for anyone who grew up seeing this lady all over the news their whole lives. Regardless of your politics, was there anyone who didn't like Margo MacDonald? I don't think so. The sadness for her family comes first, but it's tinged with that extra layer of tragedy of her going in this year. It was especially cruel for a woman who had dedicated her whole adult life towards Scottish Independence to miss September the 18th. We hope we'll see her dream come true.

Like many folk, I had a wee bubble reading the lovely obituaries from friends and political foes alike that were all over the Scots media. It was nice to see a brief amnesty between indyref sides, with everyone coming together in admiration for Margo, sharing stories on radio and television. And, there was definitely something in my eye seeing old footage of her on the TV news. Man, she was one hell of a woman! Think about it; it was the 70s, she looked like one of the glamorous busty ladies in a Carry On film, politics was chock full of blokes like Gene Hunt from Life on Mars. But she did it! She showed them. She became THE icon of the SNP and Scottish politics in that era. A nine year old me thought she was like some kind of film star.

 Gene Hunt or a Seventies MP?

Up until Friday I was happy to pootle my way online, retweeting indy articles, challenging  the odd piece of Westminster doctrine in a breezy 140 characters, writing the odd pro indy blog, organising Aye Inspired (the indy art show, folks!), showing Alan Bissett on Youtube to anyone that stood still long enough, posing for a selfie with Patrick Harvie in the pub like a fangirl and flinging a bit o' cash at Wings Over Scotland and Women for Indy on the odd payday. But I was hiding from the obvious. What would Margo do? She'd  get out there and start knocking on doors, that's what she'd do- that's what she did do! So I bit the bullet and did what a heap of folk did for the first time on Saturday- I canvassed for the Yes campaign. I was absolutely terrified.

And then Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon messaged me on twitter after I said how nervous I was and she told me I'd be fine and that I would have fun. Well I guess that's what people mean by wanting to be closer to their government, eh? Had any tweets from William Hague wishing you a Happy birthday this year? George Osborne sharing some stock market tips? No? What about Michael Gove giving you some advice on your exam revision, then? No? Hmmm. I was set up for the day after that.

I arrived in the area of Powis in Aberdeen and knew nobody. But I was given a very warm welcome. I mentioned I'd never done this before so they chummed me up with the SNP leader for Aberdeen City Council, Callum McCaig. We canvassed one block together and had a right good chat with an undecided lady and her West Highland Terrier (who was leaning towards yes, I believe, but I had to break it to him that he didn't have the vote- too young. Gutted.). Then we decided I was ready to knock on my first door. I took the ground floor, Callum ran up to the top one. Folks, I kid ye not, a naked man came to the door. Inner monologue; " What would Margo do? What would Margo do?!" I found out how he was voting, that's what I did. I can't remember what he said. Somewhere there's a form with shaky handwriting on it that has a record of it.

The first door, folks! The first door! I told my team when I got outside. Other than a woman that came to the door  in a negligee once, the seasoned canvassers couldn't top that. I'd clearly hit upon an anomaly. Or was just cursed. Or blessed depending on how you feel about that sort of thing.

The next hour was pretty good. All residents were perfectly polite to me, and not one person said they were voting no. Bonus! Could the polls be wrong? Not for me to say. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was all rather straightforward; fun even. Nicola was right. Folk gladly took a leaflet, even the ones who looked a wee bit harassed with kids and dogs round their ankles like I would have been on a Saturday morning if I hadn't got up to go out.

And then, BOOM- naked man number two! This time smoking a fag- a devil-may-care-singe-risking maverick! And then I thought how wrong I'd got things. Jeez, we're not reserved British who keep their vests on at all- we're natural Scandinavians! Before we know it, we'll be sauntering along the beaches with nothing on but a jaunty sunhat, we'll be sitting talking in saunas giving each others' backs a good burnishing with a bunch of Douglas fir twigs, not caring about seeing each others' bits in the slightest, we'll be cutting iceholes in the Dee and jumping in, bollocks to the wind, in midwinter. There will be snow rubbed about our person, and no-one will cry like a jessie at that.

Hogmanay, East Kilbride, 2019

That night Nicola Sturgeon tweeted me again after she got back from the Anti Trident rally in George Square. "How did it go today?" she asked. I told her about my day*. Turns out she couldn't top that.

* Note to everyone. Not all men can do nudity justice. Be warned.

Disclaimer: Getting off your butt and going out to speak to voters does not guarantee shocking displays of nudity. But it does make you feel like you are actually doing something. Dinnae be feart, it's ok.

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Scots for Flying Visitors

The Flightpath into Aberdeen (plus my dog Lucy)

I am concerned about the flying visit of the UK cabinet to Aberdeen tomorrow. So often their briefings on Scotland leave them unprepared, exposed and frightened. Look at how George Osborne ran away frightened from STV's Ponsonby.

Being a friendly nation I feel I have to do something to help so I have compiled a glossary of Scots language that they may hear when visiting our fair city and I don't want any of them to feel foolish because they don"t understand. As a native of Clydebank I had a bit of a head start but when I first came up to school in Inverurie at the age of ten I fell foul of the Doric language which left me startled and confused in the playground for about the first 6 weeks until my ears adapted. George, Dave, Willie and the chaps only have six hours. It would be churlish of me not to help. So here goes; A sma traivel intae some of the mitherspik that'll bash yer lugs in Aiberdeen the morn (tr: A simple short guide to some of the vernacular you may encounter in Aberdeen tomorrow)

Doric: A Guide for Conservatives

Haiver: (tr:) to speak nonsense. 
Example of use: "Thon loon George Osborne is aye haiverin' "
Translation:  "George Osborne has no academic or working background in economics and is ignorant of the many studies that impartial economists have done on the validity and sense for all partners of a Sterling Zone in the event of Scottish independence. It is my guess this is a bluff to scare the Scots into voting no. In reality, he knows full well the a Sterling Zone is in the economic interests of the whole UK and Scotland.

George Osborne on the cusp of a haiver

Muckle: (tr:) A lot, many. 
Example of use: "Thon Better Together loons ur haein' us oan that there's nae ile tae mak us a gey feart. But ma faither works oan the rigs and he says abdy says there's muckle."
Translation: Only two weeks ago a report by Sir Ian Wood concluded that North Sea oil can deliver a £200 billion injection into the Scottish economy over the next 20 years. The report – described as “the biggest independent review of the North Sea oil and gas industry in its history” . He argued that reforms to exploration and production would vastly increase output. An independent Scotland, which mobilised such resources, would be well placed to generate far greater prosperity for people and business. If you don't believe me, hop on over to Business for Scotland and put "oil and gas" into their search engine. Then come back and thank me.

Meikle: (tr.) A little
Example of use:  "There's meikle Tory high heid yuns in oor country. Wiv mair pandas, fir crying oot loud."
Translation: Scotland has consistently voted to have few Conservatives representing us, yet we've been subjected to many terms of Tory government irrespective of the way we vote. Proportional representation means a vote in a Scottish ballot box counts for less than one in the South East of England. However, we do elect a lot of Labour MPs to Westminster, around 41 at the last count. Therefore, the Conservatives would have a more convincing majority if Labour were to lose 41 seats. Even former Tory Secretary for Scotland in the John Major years Michael Forsyth admits it would be better for the Conservatives in England if the Scots voted YES. This may explain Scottish Labour's stance on the referendum. Because we're at a loss as to why a bunch of Scots Labour MPs who are supposed to have their roots in socialism would even align themselves with their Tory enemies to prevent Scotland from gaining independence, frankly. And we've two pandas in Edinburgh zoo, that's double the amount of Tory MPs we give Westminster. It would have been three but the pandas have been having a right carry on with us.

 One Tory. Yesterday. London. Probably

 Two Pandas, yesterday. Edinburgh. Not shagging.

Pooch: (tr: ) pocket.
Example of use:  " Yon Tories widnae be sae feart tae lose us, if it winna fur the clink in their pooches"
Have a good look at this video from Ivan McKee, a business and economics expert who in just 30 minutes can factually explain by looking at government produced GERS data how Scotland would be so much better off if our revenue came directly to our government instead of to Westminster. 

And also bear in mind how much of our taxes would have gone to pay for the illegal war in Iraq that very few people in Scotland supported, or the cost of maintaining the nuclear weapons of mass destruction currently being babysat in the Firth of Clyde.
Scunnert: (tr) To be annoyed or uncomfortable with something.
Example of use: "Aye, I wis fair scunnert when I foun oot the Tories were in the toon the day"
Translation: Last month David Cameron preached to Scotland about how much he loved us from the Olympic Park in East London. He also appealed to all of the rest of the UK to pick up the phone and ask us to stay. So far I've only heard of an old guy in New York doing this through the medium of a more attractive avatar and my mum's Geordie mate Ann, who we think might have been taking the piss, we're not entirely sure. Anyway Cameron was roundly criticised for not bothering to come up to Scotland. His chancellor George Osborne came up to Edinburgh the week after but not to proclaim his love for us, contravening his boss's instructions and giving us a right telling off for being cheeky and wanting to keep usng our currency. We're unsure what mix of lovebombing and scolding we're going to get in Aberdeen tomorrow but we're prepared to be irritated with either or both. Still, Cameron may yet have actually read the independent economic reports supporting a currency union and might surprise us all by saying "Sorry Alex and Nicola, you were right. You can use the pound. My bad. George has been a very bad boy. He won't bother you again, will you Gid?". Whatever he says it's worth noting that this is the second time in over 90 years the UK cabinet has met in Scotland. Make of that what you will.

Bam: (tr.)  A ruffian, or someone who means you harm.
Example of use:  "it's oor poon, an' aa, ye bams!"
Translation:  I'm loathe to trust a government who introduced the bedroom tax, preying on the most vulnerable in our society and set up an organisation which tries to frighten benefit claimants, some of whom have been driven to suicide by the threats that have come from ATOS. Tommy Sheridan has the details. Get some popcorn and watch. He's good. Also, nice jumper.

So, forgive me if I don't entirely believe you when you say we can't use sterling, especially when the Government of the Bank of England, and economic answer to George Clooney, Mark Carney came up to Edinburgh the other week to say that although it would have challenges initially and he'd have to pull some all-nighters, he could make a Sterling Zone work if everyone involved decided it was best. The London owned papers reported it slightly differently but get this, Carney is STILL in talks with the Scottish government. How do you like them apples?

Greetin' (tr) to complain in a vocal and irritating manner. 
Example of use: "Aye, that Alistair Darlin' is aye oan the telly greetin' aboot Alex Salmond. That's cos he's feart for his joab and that he winnae be in thon Hoosie o' Lords wi his freens."
Translation. It's not difficult to understand why backbencher and failed former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is so against Scottish Independence. Despite a Scottish Parliament being in operation for around fifteen years Darling has stayed a Westminister MP. And why wouldn't you? They are getting an 11% pay rise next year and they all get a swish flat in Central London for nothing! How many of you are getting a pay rise? Oh, right.. yeah, I didn't think so. And Mr Darling gets expenses for loads of stuff including two homes. He got into trouble for it at one point but he doesn't really talk about it.

Also heaps of his old MP pals who were voted out in previous elections are still able to decide on constitutional matters and make a jolly good living just for turning up to Westminster every day. The don't even have to bring their own sandwiches, they get fed. Rememeber these ghosts from the past?

Helen Liddell, Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke

Jack McConnell, Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale

Also Alistair looks ace in ermine. it's the hair and eyebrow combo- he was BUILT to wear ermine. He might actually be part ermine. If Scotland votes yes and he's no longer a citizen of the UK  he'll just have to make do with wearing ermine on Halloween or if him and his wife do one of those Murder Mystery dinner parties. No wonder he whines about Alex Salmond all the time. Alex isn't a fan of a cloak. A cloak is terribly unflattering to a man trying to shift a few extra pounds......Or something about democracy, or something. I dunno which.

Anyway, David and Co I hope this helps and enjoy your day in the Silver City. Oh also, try a rowie - they are good with jam, but I'd skip the macaroni pies. I once found hairy mould in one once. Fair put me off (tr. Gied me the dry boak).

Lovebomb right back at ya,


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Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Wee Bawbee

Another day, another threat from Westminster to deny independent Scotland their share of the sterling currency. Personally I'm fed up of it all. I say, let's have our own money. There's no doubt that it'll be a strong currency, but what do we call it? 

Up until now the Scots government were offering to share the currency as a kind of olive branch to the rest of the UK. It was a kind of "you scratch our backs and we'll scratch yours" kind of arrangement. A kind of "we may be leaving but we're not going to be complete arses about it" gesture.   

A currency zone between partners equal in economic stability and output would be the best option for all involved. Comparing us to Greece and Germany sharing the Euro, was a scare tactic by the Better Together campaign, because in reality we are nothing like Germany or Greece ( I am assuming that Alistair  Darling  sees England as the Germany in this scenario...thanks for the vote of confidence in your own people, Dazzer). But no, an announcement telling us that we can't have sterling is in the offing from former house captain of Slytherin, Gideon George Osborne. 

This declaration will be backed by all the UK political party leaders. So NO MATTER WHO is in power in Westminster, the Scots aren't getting the pound, so say they.  Fair enough I say. Let's bring back the BAWBEE. Yes, you heard right- the BAWBEE.

As of this morning, I have come up with what I think are key criteria for the naming of our own currency.
1. It should be a Scottish word.
2. It should not be a made up name like Snickers or Wendy or Jayden.
3.It should come from Scottish culture.
4.It should be an actual known historical name for a unit of money.
5. And because the Westminster government have been such children about this, it should be a name that when pronounced in an RP public school accent makes them sound like dicks. 

Those of you with Scottish parents will already be familiar with the "bawbee" which I hasten to add is nothing to do with the "bawbag" as in "Hurricane Bawbag". Although I did consider briefly it as it did meet all of the criteria above. 

You'll have heard the term "Bawbee" as a kid. Remember this?

Ally bally, ally bally bee

Sitting on your mither's knee

Waitin' for a wee bawbee

Tae buy some Coulter's candy.

When I hear it I always hear my late gran, Jessie, singing it. She had the right kind of twirly voice for it. A twirly voice is essential in this case. If you don't recognise it straight away get someone to sing it to you in a  twirly voice; it'll soon come back to you.

Still unsure? Here's the Wikipedia description of the Bawbee:
A bawbee was a Scottish halfpenny. The word means, properly, a debased copper coin, valued at six pence equal at the time to an English half-penny, issued from the reign of James V of Scotland to the reign of William II of Scotland. They were hammered until 1677.

Now that's settled, in the spirit of this post I've asked an actor to play the part of a BBC news announcer delivering the financial news in an imagined 2017 Radio 4 Today programme bulletin for your listening pleasure.

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Night Off

 Comedian Scott Ironside
Compere, Aberdeen National Collective launch
(Photo: G. Martin)

It rained. Man, it rained. And it was January. Ugh. More than that it was the end of January, officially the most skint time of the year. January in dark miserable Aberdeen, the town Billy Connolly said was the Gaelic word for hypothermia. In retrospect we couldn't have picked a worse night for our National Collective Aberdeen launch. But we banked on having some of the things that trump being skint, soaked and virtual strangers to sunlight. A quick glance around the Tunnels about nine o'clock confirmed that we were right to open up our doors and take a punt  that folk really do care about what happens this year. What a great turnout to come and see our selection of comedy, music and poetry. Things that shouldn't have worked did, and the reputation the Aberdonians of being a wee bit reticent was momentarily overturned when John Martin of the Lorelei elicited a mass percussion participation through the medium of plastic cups given out to the audience. For one night we didn't need to debate the issues to get that across, they weren't even mentioned. We just showed up, listened , laughed sung along,  played and enjoyed being in a room of like minded people with the same goal. I believe some dancing may have even happened.

 Multi instrumentalist Esperi
(Photo: G. Martin) 

My sister was there too She said something that struck me. "It's just so nice to have a night off from arguing with folk!"

She was right, it was great to be in a room with folk that all care about the same thing!  It's been exhausting, hasn't it? Feeling so strongly about wanting independence and realising that other people don't care or disagree with you can be a little soul destroying. It's not that I don't respect views contrary to my own, I love a good discussion and I'll take strong opposite views over apathy any day. It's just that with only a few exceptions, if you take time to tell sceptical people why you are going to vote yes in September, they will start to agree with you, or at the very least admit that they maybe should start doing a bit of reading before September.  The conversation is usually peppered with phrases like "Hmmm, I've never really thought of that," or "I suppose that does make sense", or "I didn't know that". Once you start chatting to someone and allow them to see things from a different angle you realise the work ahead. Because, once you've had that conversation with one person, you've got to keep going, and man, it's an exhausting process. 

 The ABZ Nat Coll gals
(Photo: Alex Aitchison)

When folk know you are so passionate about the yes campaign they often want to talk to you about it. Often to challenge, sometimes to just chew it over. Even those who say they are fed up of hearing about it will open up conversation by stating their annoyance at the national conversation we're having. I am not a member of the SNP but when recently I was confronted by a colleague of mine apropos of nothing exclaiming, "I cannae be doing with nine more months of seeing Alex Salmond's fat face on my telly!", I let out my, here-we-go-again sigh and proceeded to put myself out there are a yes voter armed with my bag of facts figures and reasoning. Starting with "It's not Alex Salmond's thing, it's our thing".

John and Beefy of The Lorelei  
,with guest Scott Ironside
(Photo: G. Martin) 

It's not easy having strong views. You sometimes think you might run the risk of being evangelical and...well..bloody annoying. And sometimes you get tired of explaining yourself. Some days you just want to have an easy day where you keep your head down. But the thing is, stuff just keeps on happening that you can't let lie. "You know the bus passes will get taken off us if that Salmond gets his way," a strange lady mutters to my mother as they both stand waiting for a bus. "We'll be attacked by terrorists!" my son's friend says to him, seven months shy of voting for the first time. "Mobile phone tarriffs will go up you know," says a teacher at my son's school, "But I like the Royal Family!" a relative says as a reason as to why she'll vote no at a family do. I can't keep quiet! I can't!
And we've got seven and a half more months of this! I'm going to give myself an aneurysm.

So here's my prescription, take a night off. Go to a National Collective party, listen to good music, laugh at good jokes and bask in the warmth of like- minded pals who you can just shoot the breeze with. For tomorrow we go back to overturning the misinformation of Project Fear. One daft comment at a time.

National Collective Aberdeen chief David Officer with
poet Lesley Dickson and singer John Martin 
(Photo: L Allardyce)

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