Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Trouble with Bob

 Bob about to say f**k on telly probably
like a normal person

Better writers than I have written about their uneasiness with Bob Geldof and the "new" Band Aid single today so I'm not going to give chapter and verse on my range of reasons. But I too won't be buying it, preferring instead to give money when I can afford to charities run by ordinary people working hard with local people to mitigate disaster and poverty, not publicity vehicles for celebrities. I mean, it's not as if we didn't know about the Ebola crisis until we heard the curly one from One Direction singing about "them" not knowing nothing about our winter holidays. I have the same problem with Comic Relief and Children in Need, especially when I read that Jonathan Ross admitted for many years he never put his own hand in his pocket while he was the presenter or Terry Wogan commands a substantial fee whilst everyone else works for free. Being invited to perform on the Band Aid single is like the world acknowledging that you are the chosen ones, rather than any selfless act of charity. Right now Cheryl Cole is probably bloody raging she wasn't included, signifying her star in the descendant. The warm fuzzy feeling they get performing is less about doing good and more about the fact they got the call in the first place. Good on Adele for not picking up and just quietly giving some money to Oxfam without a fuss.

I have other niggles. Loads of them in fact, to do with the fact that charity picks up the slack of bad government and no-one makes as big a deal about the bad government. Tax payers being asked to give more money when their tax should be keeping child poverty in check, whilst tax dodgers do neither. We all know the statistics on which sections of society give the most; it's the ones with the least money. 

The other niggle is Geldof himself. My family have had two slight brushes with Geldof and both speak volumes about the man's character, I think. The first was my mum who observed him using his celebrity to try and cadge a free coffee in a cafe in London, and the second was my husband who, with a friend, was the support act for Bob Geldof at Aberdeen's Lemon Tree many years ago. Meester M was a Geldof fan, not so much of his music but of the man himself. He had read his autobiography and was impressed and excited to meet him, not least because he was doing a project on humanitarianism with a class of his at school. Let's face it, he wanted his pic taken with him for the classroom wall frieze. "Here's me with 'Saint' Bob, kids!"

On arrival at the venue he was to be disappointed. Geldof's management had made the venue sign an agreement that nobody was to approach him. "But I'm on the same bill. Surely he'll be ok about meeting the support act", Mr M said. But no, the contract was clear; any approaches by anyone out-with his own entourage could and would result in him pulling the gig. Seriously. Personally that would have been it for me. I'd have walked away, played my set, possibly trying out an impromptu song called "Bob's an Ass"  and then left with my fee in my pocket before Bob's minder could kick my butt for me.

Mr M wouldn't let it lie though and played the teacher card. He got a message to his management saying that he'd like a photo with him for the project he was doing at school- he possibly over-egged it a bit and said the whole project was about Live Aid or simply a big old celebration of El Geldof himself. Anyway, whatever he said worked and after the gig he got his photo. I wish I could say I have a copy but it's been lost. But I remember it clearly. There's Bob with his arm around Mr M like they were big mates; for all to see an image of bonhomie and Bob being a "good guy". Yet know this, Sir Bob did not once look at or exchange one word with Mr M. The moment was over in seconds before Bob sloped off.

Never meet your heroes they say. Still at least everyone seems to have forgotten that my husband's band also once supported Rolf Harris.....

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Political Knotweed

A few years ago there was a programme about bad neighbours. There was one particular landowner that wanted a wee cottage owner in the middle a group of their fields that belonged to someone else. The owners refused to sell. So the landowner decided that their only course of action was to make the cottage owner get so fed up of them that they'd sell them the cottage and move out. They would start all types of noisy, time consuming and pointless work in the fields at all hours of the night. Tractors would be sat  a metre away from the perimeter with engines running wasting diesel all night to keep the cottage dwellers awake. It didn't work. They then started to erect ridiculous view blotting fences and structures and dig massive trenches churning up the fields just to piss the cottage owners off and ruin their nice vista. When the owners still refused to sell they planted all manner of invasive and horrific plants which actually did damage to their own land but were designed to make life intolerable for the cottage landowner with their small garden. They surrounded the square perimeter of the cottage in horrible fast growing dense leyandii conifers which not only blocked out the light of the cottage but whose roots invaded their grounds and began to take up paving and lawns. They also introduced impossible to kill Japanese knotwood into their land so it would creep across and start damaging the foundations of the cottage.  

I mention this because something really odd and quite similar is happening with Scots Labour. It seems even the fallout of their getting into bed with the Tories during the referendum has still bizarrely left them wanting more of that posh boy action. In Aberdeen alone I have heard reports from friends that Labour is out canvassing and their message on the doorsteps is, quite frankly, mental. It is Vote Labour or vote Tory.

Of course this is designed to do only one thing and that's get as many people as possible to vote for any other party than the SNP. That's the singular message. It's not a message of what Labour can do for anyone when in power but one simply of "We cannae stand the Nats, let's make sure they don't get any seats for we hate their guts". They'd rather you voted for ANYONE than the SNP no matter what the implications.

On Saturday the SNP MP Angus Robertson reminded the SNP conference of a fact which many of us have forgotten which was that after the last general election when there was a hung parliament, Labour had the chance to work with the SNP to stop a Conservative coalition from happening. They refused point blank. They would rather not be in government at all than work with the SNP. They let the Tories in instead.

This is simply tribal. And it not only is killing Labour in Scotland but it is completely missing the point of their existence. What are MPs for? Is it not to serve and represent the people, is it not to make society and life in general better for people? (Am I naive? Don't answer) If you would rather that an individual voted for your most ideologically distant competitor than the party that just happens to keep beating you in elections, yet, on paper, has much more in common with your supposed ideology then we, the public, have a problem. If a party would rather policies which go against every fibre of their being were introduced by that ideologically distant competitor just because it was preferable to seeing their nearest ideological neighbour doing better than them, then we have a problem. If a political party acts more like a football team than a political party which is supposed to exist to do a job for people and have ideas, rather than just winning things,  then what is the point in their existence?

And if that party would rather introduce the political equivalent of Japanese knotweed into their home just to muck it up for everyone just because they can't have it, then I'd suggest they are not fit to be in charge of a pair of gardening shears never mind a country.

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Still Working

I never write about my work. It's tremendously interesting and I have loads of funny stories but I lecture and it's off limits as far as I'm concerned as material for blogging.
However I am going to make mention of it today, for a simple reason; recently someone who I don't know tried to come between me and my work. In short, they attempted to take something from my life outside work and use it to get me disciplined, or who knows maybe their intention was to get me sacked.

I've been lecturing on and off for  20 years. In that time I've only had two threats to my professional reputation. The first time was when I'd only been teaching for about 3 weeks and a lassie got up a petition against me because an assignment I'd set was too difficult in her view. For about 24 hours I was horrified, until I came into work the next day and found out that nobody apart from her had signed it and her guidance tutor had told her to get on with the work and pointed out that in the time it had taken her to organise the petition she could probably have completed her  assignment. She was a young lassie quick to react, and I too was only 23, and too quick to take this kind of thing seriously and have a sleepless night over it. 

I am a lot older now, and shrug things off more easily. Which is what I did with instance Number 2. A few weeks after the referendum I saw a tweet from a person from the Aberdeen No campaign. It said, "I voted yes but now I won't be joining the SNP" There was a link beside it. I have a screenshot of it here:

Anyway, I retweeted it making the point that it was designed to look like the author of the tweet was the person who voted Yes and that, in fact I knew this person was part of the No campaign and had been at the Aberdeen City count.  The link went to a blog post but it was from an unnamed source, so I felt the misrepresentation stood.  I happen to have over 4,000 followers so this observation got retweeted a lot. Out it went into the so called twitterverse and multiplied. At no point did I make direct contact with its author, but Twitter being Twitter, lots of other people did.  It transpired that I couldn't see any of the original tweeter's replies as at one point I must have blocked him. I cannot remember why, but during indyref I campaigned and was often on panels. I tended to find once I got home from panels that audience members would have used my @misssym name  in tweets and my timeline would be full of observations that they did not see fit to make in person to me whilst I was in the room . Often I got not very nice things said about me from the No campaign, particularly the younger campaigners, so I would just block them.  It's really all you can do to keep yourself sane in these situations.  Maybe he had been one of them. I genuinely don't remember.

So far, so what. However, what I couldn't see was that this original tweeter, a certain Braden Davy, was making mention of my professional life. He had clearly been  googling me. Nothing on my blog or twitter feed makes any mention of the lecturing I do or who I work for. In fact, you have to actually go quite a few pages of google results in to find out where I teach. However a few people started mentioning to me that he was attacking me in my position as a "teacher". I pretty much ignored it.

About a week later I get a phone call from my work saying there has been a complaint put in about me. It was from a chap called  Braden Davy who was accusing me of being unprofessional and leading a bullying campaign against him. After the initial explanation by the person from my work they quickly wanted to say before we went any further that they completely supported me and did not see this as having anything to do with my work with them. In short, they were great. In fact they were fairly incredulous that someone would take the time to contact a person's work to complain about something they did online which had nothing to do with their employment, made no mention of the institution, and was, in their view nothing to do with them. They would be replying to that effect to Mr Davy and wanted me to know they would not be taking anything any further.

In short the whole thing was ridiculous. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and I also found out from a couple of them that they had seen tweets from him about me which claimed he had also contacted the local police. I never got a visit from the police.
I forgot about all of  this. Until last night. When I heard that Braden Davy had been selected to fight MY constituency of Gordon on behalf of the Labour Party.  The guy who had try to lose me my job could be my MP. I believe he has already been out on the doors canvassing for votes.

All I can say is, I look forward to you appearing at my door to tell me what you can do for me and my family, Mr Davy.

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Are You No to Yes?

I am currently writing a feature on people who voted NO in the Scottish referendum but who have since changed their mind on the independence issue and would, if they had the chance again, vote YES. Recent polls suggest that a significant amount of people would change their vote. But I want to speak to you and find out why. Maybe it's not even you and you  know someone who has been quite vocal about changing their mind?

I understand that it might not be easy to come forward but if I could put these reasons to go for it to you then maybe you will grant me an interview and I can put your views forward via my feature which will, I am hoping, include a few contributors.

Reason 1: I am a nice girl; ask anyone. I'll give you a good account. I am not interested in making anyone look bad.

Reason 2: I really think many people would be interested in hearing your reasons and your story. What stopped you from voting yes? Why have you changed your mind? What message do you have for politicians about the Scottish situation?

Reason 3: I am perfectly happy for you to remain anonymous. I'll give you a pseudonym if you want (I'll even let you choose one!)

Reason 4: The interview can be as lengthy or as short as you want. I am happy for you to decide how you wish to be interviewed. We can do it by email where I send you questions and you take your time to respond. Or I can phone you and we can have a chat. You decide.

Reason 5: You will be welcomed. Coming forward might not be easy but you deserve your right of reply. At the moment there is silence from those who have changed their mind, possibly because people feel they might be criticised or vilified by YES supporters. There will be none of that on my site. Comments will be switched off anyway, and the piece will stand alone.

Reason 6: I don't work for anyone. This is being written to be put online not to be used by any political organisation or publication.

So how do you contact me? It's easy. See over there to your right? There's a contact form. Fill it out and say you're interested and I'll take it from there.

All the best
(Misssy M)

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Friday, 7 November 2014

The State We're In

My friend Moreida direct messaged me this morning on Twitter. I'm sure she won't mind me sharing it.

"Hi Gillian! I'm away in USA - hard to keep up with recent news. What's up?"

I started to reply, and then I thought, Moreida is going to think I'm taking the piss! This week has been mental! I don't know where to start, so I've written this instead. Here would have been a series of 140 character replies to Moreida's question. 

Tweet 1: Dear Moreida, whilst you are in the States, this is the state we're in:

Tweet 2: Sussex town makes two massive papier mache Salmonds to burn. Scottish folk get angry so Sussexers blow them up instead

Tweet 3: Alex Salmond tells him they are right to liken him to Guy Fawkes as he too is threat to the Establishment. With eye twinkle.

 Moreida, this is real

Tweet 4: Jim Murphy is voted Scotland's most despised politician in online poll and promptly puts himself forward to lead Scots Labour.

Tweet 5: Anas Sarwar steps down and into Jim Murphy's job which is completely unrelated to anything or any deal. Let him make that absolutely clear.

Tweet 6: Blair MacDougal who said at Tory conference that fear won him indyref campaign put in charge of scary Jim's leadership campaign.

Tweet 7: Murphy tries to bring Scotland together by promising to repeal act that bans football supporters from singing songs about doing bad things to the Pope and celebrating killing folk ages ago