Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Friday, 3 April 2020

Get Out the Choons

I'm on a Facebook group, where people post music videos, albums and playlists. Please, jump on board HERE.

This is my latest post... 

All Tomorrow's Parties... 

Back in the early eighties, I read, avidly, as if it was the most important thing in the world, the music press, which came in the form of newspaper like publications, giving it a precious gravity, before you read the words.

I had favourite songs, and some bands, and a huge big poster of Debbie Harry on my bedroom wall, wearing a tee-shirt that said, "Andy Warhol's Bad."

I didn't know anyone in my hometown who talked about music, art, or cultural things. I knew people who had favourite bands, and later in the eighties, I found other people who loved innovative music, art, and discussing pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, political, important stuff over litres of booze, and packets of fags, all night.

But, at that time in the early eighties, my guides were the writings of music critics who wrote dense, and absolutely crucial, reviews and views of music that is still important to me. Layers of cultural and political meaning far beyond the original intent were piled on to these pop songs; the semiology of a line, the use of a particular sound, wrapped up in the constructed image of the musicians, analysed, explained and exploded into black and white by writers vomiting their entire rainbow coloured  Collins dictionary on to the page.

And I learned about Warhol, The Factory, The Velvet Underground and that Banana cover, because indie bands, post punk bands, the alternative scene-- all had connections that led back to the stuttering, fey, manufactured Andy. And I loved everything about it.

Living in a Troubles locked down mid-Ulster town, where the most important thing in the world was to fit in, I couldn't. I didn't. I dressed, and acted, in the early to late eighties, at times, relatively outrageously. I had wild hair which I at times dyed, and shaved at the sides of my head and grew into a curly mass, and conditioned with Lenor fabric conditioner. And threw together clothes in combinations that probably reflected the madness within.

But the music of the "alternative scene," as it was known then, screamed, whined, barked, and weaved out of my tape deck and record player.

And The Velvet Underground albums were sought-after, in amazing Belfast record shops and ordered in my Library.

None of my friends "got" them, until eventually a few years later I fell in with other people on the edge. And we'd discuss them, and played them, Bowie, The Doors, Roxy Music, Japan, Joy Division, jazz music, JaMC, long overtures, and lots of sixties pop and psychedelia, into the wee small hours.

Pretentious, moi?

Enjoy.

(click HERE, not the pic) 



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Cody and Neil... Covid Diaries... 4

On my parents wedding dding anniversary, nd on the lack of ventilators. Click HERE (Not on the picture)

Monday, 30 March 2020

Covid Country... the Cody and Neil Diaries pt3

Cody and Neil in CodyCar... (For video, click HERE, not on pic). 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Covid Vlog 2...

Covid Vlog 2... Click HERE... Not on the picture. 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Clapping the NHS Overworked and Underpaid Heroes...

... and my Covid-19 #BuildBackBetter Vlog number 1

The public came out tonight and stood at their well meaning doors and clapped, applauded, cheered, sent up fireworks for, sang for, etc etc the NHS staff and "key workers." Damn it, it brought a tear to my eye. 

My wife (nhs consultant) , and her sister (nurse) response, "clap. Huh. Maybe next election you'll all vote for a political party that gives a shit."

The claps are little recompense for frontline workers on shit pay, and in grave danger.

Society needs a real shake up. We need to #BuildBackBetter after this is all over. And that rebuild needs to start now through discussion and the sharing of ideas.

It really comes as little surprise that some people don't seem to understand that one person's health is dependent on everyone else's. A lesson learned during the genocide that is called the Irish Famine, when disease caused by the starving, dying, wandering poor jumped classes and killed thousands of the middle classes and upper classes.

A lesson that was learned during the recruiting for the Boer war, when our working class soldiers were found to be malnourished.

A lesson learned during the cholera outbreaks in Victorian Glasgow, leading to the creation of the engineering feat of the waterworks that syhons off millions of gallons a week of water from Loch Katrine.

A lesson that was learned during the flu epidemic following World War One, and a lesson learned after World War Two, when enough was enough and our NHS was created.

But a lesson flushed down an idealogical floo bent right by the idiocy of Thatcherite greedy individualism and resulting in the incredible underfunding of our NHS and the murderous decision by Boris' cabinet not to invest in pandemic response in February, and instead aim to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of pensioners and Ill folk.

Please, add your responses, ideas, responses to Ungagged 's request for covid-19 vlogs, and #BuildBackBetter ideas...
 
Have a wee swatch at my short video. Click HERE, not the picture. 



Sunday, 8 March 2020

Werner Heubeck and my Da': Working Class Heroes of Northern Ireland.

I'm very thankful for men like this one, who during the Northern Irish troubles, kept bread on the table and did so under threat from "all" sides, and I'm remembering ordinary workers who felt fear and were maimed or killed by terrorists during that time, while doing ordinary jobs. And I'm remembering some of my own fear. 

His name is Werner Wolfgang Heubeck. A man who kept the public transport in Northern Ireland running, and went on to the front line to do so, carrying bombs off buses.

I just watched a BBC Northern ireland documentary about him and the heroic people, whose jobs were to do no more than drive buses. It brought back lots of memories from the time. 

(On the Frontline, Buses on the Frontline: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04gvjd6 via @BBCiPlayer) 


But the biggest memory that came back, was sparked by an interview with Werner's son. He told of his worries as a child of his father at work. A worry I had, especially when I was old enough to  realise what was happening in Northern Ireland, and the realisation quite young, at how the terror organisations and political players cared little for ordinary peoples lives... especially if their ordinary lives could be exploited, or got in the way of some political goal. Bus drivers such as Harry Bradshaw and Sydney Agnew who lost their lives, due to nothing more than working to ensure their families could afford food, electricity, heating and a home (please Google these people. Heroes of the Troubles really were not the politicians and flag wavers. Heroes were those who struggled on for their families). 

[ From 

https://belfastchildis.com/tag/harry-bradshaw/ 

Tuesday 10 May 1977

Harry Bradshaw (46), a Protestant civilian, was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries as he drove a bus on the Crumlin Road, Belfast. He was killed because he was working during the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC) strike.

Sydney Agnew 


(from Wikipedia 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Sydney_Agnew)  ] 


My father was one of many thousands of unsung heroes of the Troubles. When I realised he worked as a joiner, as a foreman, on building sites in areas that almost daily appeared on news bulletins, I became scared for his life. 

My dad drove a bright yellow Farrans (construction company) Transit van too and from Belfast, from Banbridge, every day. He drove through many different areas, across borders (peace lines), collecting and leaving off workers on the way. Dad was well respected, and liked by those he worked with. One of those people he drove too and from work ended up in jail, and when my dad passed away earlier this year, we found letters from jail from the man, who praised his friendship.

Dad really had little interest in sectarian division. He worked on both the Shankill and Falls and other places as equally as divided and religiously ghettoised. And we had to change our phone number to "x" directory, because of the threats made to him when he had to pull people up, from "all sides," for their work.

On one occasion, a young worker, who he'd asked to redo something he'd not done well, told him he was now a marked man. A "we know, where ye live" speech, one that folk say in jest nowadays, but one that was a dreadful threat coming from someone who could well be a player. Dad was like many ordinary people in Ireland, in the situation of having to do the firm's dirty, dangerous work, and hand over the "protection money" to the paramilitaries. So on this occasion, when doing so, he reported the threat to the IRA commander who picked up the money. The commander told dad not to worry, as he and the other construction workers were, "building houses for the people."

The young guy came to work the next day and apologised to dad.

On another occasion, in a Loyalist area, on handing over the money, a well known Loyalist terrorist opened his jacket, to reveal a gun. My dad said, "Oh... What have I done?" (Oh how fucked up society was when workers were so much on tenter hooks that they had to watch their step in case of some perceived insult to fanatical sensibilities).

The terrorist, laughing, opened up the other side of his jacket to reveal a bottle of whiskey... A present for dad, and said, "Only joking Bobbie!"

When the terrorists drove off, dad went in to the site office, opened the bottle and took a few swigs of the calming spirit. Some joke. 

There are a few stories I could tell about my dad, and the threats he and his ordinary work gangs suffered.

I worked with him as a labourer on occasions. I witnessed the hand over of the cash a few times. And I visited terrorist HQ's with him on occasions as well. And I remember driving through "peace lines" and past cordoned off crime scenes and devastated bombed out homes and work places.

And I remember the laughter and the crack in that van... I remember in the early eighties long conversations about electronic music with a young joiner and I remember the shouts and whoops of the men in the back of the van as dad raced the newly built Delorean cars as they were tested along the M1.

And I remember as a young boy, watching the 5.45 news, to see if Belfast featured, as mum cooked the dinner. I felt then, worried sick for my dad. But I held it, crushingly inside.  I'd tell mum, "Dad might be late, because there is a [bomb/shooting/incident/riot etc] in Belfast." And I'd stand behind our living room curtains, anxiously watching the road for a sign of that yellow van. And I remember the elation I felt when my dad returned home, and sat in the kitchen with his plate of spuds, radio on and unfurled Belfast Telegraph.

I worried so, so much, about my dad all my life. In more recent years, about his health.

But how do we heal a generation of grown ups who were put through mental torture by idealogues who targetted, or disregarded ordinary workers?

My dad, although he would never show it, worried about what was going on: look up Kingsmill Massacre and Teebane, and other incidents that targeted ordinary workers for putting bread on the tables of their children, to understand why.

Like quite a few people who lived through this horror, this terror, this fear in Northern Ireland, I resolved not to let it get in my way. I had friends who were from all corners of our broken society. I partied across peace lines and drank with UDR men in their bases, and Sinn Fein members in student digs in various areas of Belfast. 

And I crossed all borders. 

When I look back, I wonder if I hadn't have left Northern Ireland in 1993, would I have become collateral at the hands of some idealogue or other from either side (the murder of two friends, a Catholic and a protestant in Poyntzpass was carried out by someone who drank in the same company I did, a mixed crowd of Banbridge catholics and protestants).

Education, as always, is the key, to stamp out ignorant hatred that leads to "the enemy" being a bus driver or joiner earning a wage in order to raise a family.

This is why I support, whole heartedly Stephen Travers (Twitter @MiamiShowband) in his drive to create a space for Truth and Reconciliation in Newry, County Down. (@TaR_Platform). 

I wasn't shot, I wasn't blown up, but like many children of the Troubles, there was an impact that stays with me through what I experienced both emotionally and physically (I was threatened and attacked a few times for being in the "wrong place," and for saying the wrong thing to the wrong people).

My dad and our family suffered loss through the troubles, as did thousands of people. But we all suffered fear. Everyone in Northern Ireland, across our visible and invisible borders. And some people, ordinary people, heading out to ordinary workplaces, suffered fear because their jobs crossed the indiscriminate paths of gunmen who could at any time, pronounce them as collateral, or collaborators.

Remembering Werner Heubeck & Bobbie Scott. 

"Noone has a monopoly on suffering or loss."


Monday, 2 March 2020

It's time for justice.

A few years ago I wrote this about The, Miami Showband Massacre and that awful event has featured quite a bit in my writing over the years. 



I just watched the Netflix documentary "The Miami Showband Massacre." I recommend anyone with an interest in justice and peace, regardless of political allegiance or belief, to watch. And please follow Stephen Travers, who is one of the survivors of the terrorist attack, on twitter (@MiamiShowband).  The documentary can be found here.  

As a Banbridge man, and one who loves the town and its people across the political and religious divides, I feel the town council, churches and civic organisations (the council twitter is @abcb_council) should have a memorial to The Miami, who were attacked after a gig in The Castle Ballroom in the town, and to the civilians killed from the town during the Troubles. 

I was nine years old when this dreadful massacre happened. It was a time when I began to notice the abnormality of the society I lived in. I began to notice and realise the abnormality of things like "bomb sales," road blocks, closed towns, security in shops etc, and started to take an interest in the News. My best friend was a Catholic, from a family who owned a business and his sister discovered an incendiary device in their shop. Local policemen, business people and friends of my family were caught up in dreadful incidents, and later in that year, and my dad's cousin, who had been brought up almost as a brother to him, was killed in a pub in Gilford, a bomb that I heard as I was staying with my grandparents two miles away. We had been sitting by the fire with my aunt Marjorie, who was telling us about a car accident someone they knew had been in, when there was a distant, echoing, vibrating boom. I remember saying, "It sounds like thats another car crash." 
{images, Copyright Victor Patterson, 54 Dorchester Park, Belfast, UK, BT9 6RJ

In order for real justice to be seen to be done, for all of those innocents caught up in the dreadful "event" in our history that is given the odd name, "The Troubles," there needs to be openess, and honesty. And the organisation Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP - @TaR_Platform on Twitter) has been set up to do that.

I spent a lot of time socialising in Newry as a young man, drinking, going to the cinema, eating out, and on stage as part of Banbridge Choral Society and Acting Strange Theatre Company. And I got to know the new Newry during December and January as my late father was looked after by the great medical staff in Daisy Hill Hospital.

 It is fantastic to learn that The Truth and Reconciliation Platform are planning to open a TaR Centre, but need funds. I feel that families who were caught up in this war, those bereaved and people who were targetted or who just people from Banbridge should get involved in this. The TaRP motto is, "No side has a monopoly on suffering or loss." And a centre like  this in Newry would really go a long way to give peace to people carrying horrors of the past in their every day being. Please follow Stephen Travers on twitter (@MiamiShowband) to find out how you can help with this wonderful, absolutely necessary project. And please visit the TaRP website and watch the Netflix documentary. 


Thursday, 27 February 2020

Clive Cussler, The Titanic and how Reading Strategies brought me to Greenland.. ish

My eyes were transfixed. The Titanic had broken the surface, bow first, and then they'd boarded. But the heroes had been tricked both by the Soviets and by the past... 
This movie had just made real, something I had fantasised about, and something Clive Cussler's words had lovingly described to me just a few years back.  

Dirk Pitt® (who didn't look like what I thought he'd look like), standing on the sodden deck of the once lost ship, the ship being the real reason I came to see the movie of a book I'd read four times said, "You want to talk about distress? We have Navy weather forcasting a force -12 storm, we have Russians looking down our throats and we are on a ship that never learned to do anything but sink. That’s distress!” - and they were left to the storm and the Soviets and the Titanic looked as if it was to be lost again... 

Exciting stuff, though for me, not exciting enough. 

For me, the most exciting thing was the artifact under Pitt's feet. The big, Iron relic from the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha'n age. An age when rich, white, English posh people's lives were oh so much more valuable than the rest (has much really changed?) and the Director had concentrated on perhaps the most boring aspect of the story for me... The cold War, damp squib fight for what was buried somewhere below the dripping, rusting decks in a safe. 

I wanted a tour of the ship! (James Cameron, in his post wreck rediscovery movie, didn't disappoint in that way years later). 

But there it was, the reason I had come to the Iveagh Cinema. And I was hugely disappointed. I had been excited to see this, but the movie didn't deliver for another, huge reason. All of the technical wizardry of Hollywood had only delivered a special effect, not the still lost Titanic, not in the way reading Cussler's book had. 

Because Cussler, like me, loved the ship. Loved the stories of the ship. Loved the atmosphere on that ship. Loved the glimpse into another world, a world of class, that we were told was disappearing in the seventies. 

And I learned in those facts, that movies were rarely as good as books. 
When I was little, I was fascinated by the Titanic. Children can become totally obsessed by events or stories or other aspects of our world. My childhood was a '70's completely analogue life... with the exception of TV (it's odd to describe TV as analogue), so the only dramatised Titanic film I'd seen until I had read Cussler's love story to the ship, when it was shown on telly, was the wonderful  "A Night to Remember." It had the impact on me that I suppose, Cameron's "Titanic" had on audiences much later. And a year before the release of the movie, a TV movie, watched with the family, at my parents feet (I usually sat on the floor watching telly) "SOS Titanic," had added colour to the beautiful machine (and drama and flesh to the accounts of people I knew from various factual accounts, for example, Lawrence Beesley's). 
My Grandmother told me of a visiting storyteller who had taught her and her class a poem about the ship, which she recited to me (and painstakingly wrote out for me... I wish I still had that). Both her and my grandad were about the age I was when I became obsessed by the ship, when it was being built alongside the Olympic, and set sail for the bottom of the ocean. She knew of someone who had been on it, a friend of a friend. And I felt through her, I was connected to the ship. 

The real wreck of the Titanic was as yet still undiscovered, and not only did I seek books on the known Titanic; survivor accounts, photo books etc, but I sought out books that surmised the whereabouts of the wreck, the state of the wreck, and newspaper articles that told of millionaires who were going to build Titanic replicas, conspiracy theories about the Titanic etc.

And then Clive Cussler entered my life. I listened to a "Home Service" radio report about his book, Raise the Titanic in 1976/77 and had to buy it to add to my collection of clippings from newspapers, xeroxed pages from library books, my Revell plastic model of the ship I had saved for and painstakingly built and painted and books bought in Eason's in Newtownards Shopping Centre and Walshes in Banbridge. I was 11. The Internet had yet to be invented and  computers were scifi monsters. But I had more than the contents of the Titanic wikipedia page at my fingertips and buzzing around my head. 
I had been a reluctant reader until I was in P3/4. But I saw the value in reading. I saw it was important, so I became determined to read around the age of six/seven, but hated the grinding torture of "Dick and Dora," whose adventures were like a rainy, boring Sunday, forced to eat leather fried meat and tomato sauce whipped potatoes. 
But then mum started buying me comics (and cooking lasagne!). The Beano, The Dandy, Topper, Shiver and Shake... There were loads of brilliant, funny comics in my newsagent, renewed every Wednesday  or Thursday. And then war comics, Warlord, Battle, Victor etc... They were where I really learned my reading. I remember at six or seven being unable to read the speech bubbles, but being bloody determined to find out about what these characters were saying. And quite quickly, I saw sense in using the reading strategies my teachers screamed at me, and hit and pulled my hair, taking out their own mental torture on this odd, annoying, chatty boy. The fear of God really didn't help me read, stay quiet or count, etc. But reading became an escape from their torture. 

The first book I read was one given to me by my Anglican Sunday School on Children's Sunday, about the Donkey that had brought Jesus to Jerusalem before his arrest. And I remember the pride in that. I read the last page as I sat on a rainy Saturday morning, waiting in the car for dad, who had called in to a car garage for something. When he came back, I remember telling him, "I've read a book!" And he said, "That's good," and we drove home. I remember thinking that this reaction really wasn't what you'd expect for such a feat... A whole book! But the subdued, anticlimactic reaction didn't put me off. I wanted to read more stories, and find out more stuff... Stuff I wanted to know, not just the stuff that was stripped of all excitement and turned into a workbook or xeroxed literature exercise in school.

And I found Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt® and NUMA, and the oceans, and adventures across the globe (I've still not visited Reykjavik, or Greenland, two places described by Cussler that made huge impressions on my mind), and I discovered global politics, nuclear weapons and a happy place to go between Bond movies that was modern, and imaginative and to my young mind, serious and exciting  literature.

I read the first seven Dirk Pitt® books, but by the seventh, I became an undirected, uneducated, unschooled (I left school with a couple of O levels, a bit of luck and a lot of help in getting my first jobs!) literary snob, realising that these novels that had gripped me as a child and as a young teenager, were not classical literature and I haven't read a Cussler novel since, but always smile inside when I see his books on shelves in airport bookshops. These books that made me feel like a grown up reader (it was difficult to explain the excitement of Watership Down to my friends, but my enthusiasm for Cussler dragged them along to the cinema to see that Belfast Liner cut the surface), taught me the excitement of the world outside my small place in County Down, and taught me how exciting reading really was.

I stopped being snobbish about reading quite a while ago... I read almost any genre, good and bad. And just a few weeks ago I promised myself I would revisit the brilliant Cussler, an old friend and one that really entertained and made me happy as a child and teen. Entertainment and a talent to entertain are genius. Escapism and fun are massively valuable beyond the tortuosly worthy novels I sometimes crawl through in order to feel some benefit from the effort. Like a diet of watery soup and vitamins, cold baths and a regimented exercise regime. 

Cussler's talent was wonderful, imaginative, uncomplicated, happy entertainment through his obvious enthusiasm. And his enthusiasm brought me the world of literature. 

I was sad to read of his death.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Jim and Andy.

I've never really understood grief, perhaps until now. I managed through my Grandfather's funeral ten years ago, my nanny's a few years before (nanny is a, word we used to distinguish her from my other grandmother) and in the eighties and nineties my other grandparents, uncles, aunties and a little niece. They were hard, hard times. But the grief I'm working through at present after dad dying two weeks ago, is different. On a different level. A different saturation of grief, that soaks right into every cell and thought and experience.

I have a list of worthy documentaries I want to watch, and today being a day I really could barely pick my self up from the bed, the seat, the toilet, the sink at the mirror that had me staring at this old man stripped bare of the face I wear, I resigned myself to the comfy chair and the Netflix list. 

My watch list is full of politics I must watch and science and history to shift me somewhere else, but clicking through them, I flicked past this one... And then went back and gave it a go. 

I didn't really set off watching it expecting it to be that memorable. But, it was the right thing at the right time.

Carrey, a working class guy who has reached the limits of his dream, who has stripped his being right the way back to the core, is a beautiful being. Sad, delicate, damaged, but through it all, knows himself, even though he says he came out of the film about the life of Andy Kaufman totally confused about where the real Jim was. His referencing The Truman Show, and walking through that door to the real person, is one we all long for. I found my door at 17, in discovering the comradery and freedom alcohol brought, but no longer drink or take drugs beyond caffeine because walking through that door sometimes revealed someone I really didn't want to be... Rarely... but often enough to make me decide to stay this side of the entrance, and to find another door to the real me. 
There is so much to strip back. Carrey talks about the layers we build around us, the show we put on. And he says he no longer wants to do that. He realises that it isn't just a show business thing to be "someone else," that many others - everyone does it. And with that I agree. To be authentic in a world we are forced to be something else day by day, to survive, to earn, to live among people who would not seek out to be with.

Carrey does some beautiful things, as well as some rather mean things, and I think he may still not really realise his version of Kaufman may have been just that- his version, and not what he implies - that is, a possession; Andy revisiting the world through him and the movie. 

He does push buttons... He does push people in the way some of Kaufman's characters did, but Kaufman did what Carrey set out to do in his early career--bring joy. 

Make people forget. 

Made them happy. 

Carrey's treatment of the wrestler Jerry Lawler, and some other people is quite bad, and excused as "what Andy did," when he didn't actually.
But it is his treatment of Kaufman's family that is redemptive, at one point he cries because of meeting Kaufman's daughter privately for over an hour, a woman who had never met Andy in real life. To "channel" Kaufman for that woman at that time really was a beautiful thing.

And back to grief... Carrey talks about death, and how it is something, a point, we aim for. That time we can let go and feel relieved we don't need to care anymore. I understand his thoughts in this, but witnessing my father's death, his want to live and his need to care, and his want to continue caring, especially that last day of his life when he seemed to have come back to us in many ways, I disagree. Dad screamed at death and called out for my sister, who he cared for to the very end... That daughter he sat in primary school class with when she was a child, because of her fear of the world at that time. 

Kaufman, the King of resurrecting The King of Rock and Roll, through his at times painfully, cringey, embarrassing, knowingly awkward, beautiful, divisive "Foreign Man" act, I feel, Carrey believed at the time, was resurrected through him. And inso much as someone can be resurrected through memory and revisiting place, music, conversations, was. My father lives in my head. The conversations real and imagined continue to reel in my head, though the past couple of weeks, or even the past couple of months, I realise many life long assumptions of who he was, really were assumptions based on my own bias, fears, likes, and edits. 

The film, which is Carrey commentating on footage made behind the scenes of "Man on the Moon," is hilarious, poignant, frustrating and in many ways, better than the movie that was being made. Watching this man live the character he based on his own bias, fears, likes and edits 24 hours a day throughout the shoot is a tour de force of comedy, but so, so much more.

I think I'd like Carrey. I like people who understand themselves, their limits and what is broken about them. Authentic people. I don't know anything else about Carrey, other than his movies and this documentary (and some of his more recent existential statements), but I hope he has people, around him to listen to, who are authentic and whom he realises are so.

Before he was famous, Carrey wrote a £10million cheque to himself. His father died a few weeks after his film, The Mask, was released. Carrey's love for his father seeps from this film, and is contrasted with the not so ideal relationship Kaufman had with his father. 

When Jim's father died, he slipped the £10 million cheque into his suit pocket before his burial.  I understand the significance of this... The need to prove yourself to your parents. The need to show them that you are ok... That you have succeeded... And  ambition tied up so much in that primal relationship with the unquestioning love of good parents for their children, and vice-versa. 


Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Revolutionary Change part 1

I turned 54 yesterday. It was a terrible day for me in some ways. Lots of people did their best to bring me out of my grief and depression. And my son taking me out for lunch did make me briefly happy. But distraction really is the name of the game at this time. 
{I've jumped 53...}

So, a wee post on something I've distracted myself with today. 

Back in the eighties, social change was not only palpable, not only just protest and left wing rhetoric, but beginning to reach mid-Ulster. And some baby-boomers I worked and socialised with, didn't like it.

Being part of the "Pro-social change," wing of GenX, I defended change, to the point, in mid-Ulster, I was looked at like some sort of terrorist collaborator peacenik "hippy punk." 

I've just watched a documentary on the Korda/Korda-Fitzpatrick Che image.

I'm watching a lot of documentaries at the moment to distract me during the day-time. Netflix dramas at night, fiddling about on Facebook and messenger groups, twitter and lots of dog walking and some reading... When I stop, the grief gets in. It envelops, and folds me over. It stops me in my tracks. It's living that Edvard Munch painting. 

Anyway, this isn't about grief... Or Che or his image. A young, millennial woman in the documentary described the group she felt part of who wear Che shirts as, "Hippy punks." As a Genx'r, this description is odd to me. But I suppose the youth movements and music movements of the past are strange territory nowadays. Millenials group themselves as online groups, gamers, different types of gamers, non-gamers even... Instagram, YouTube followers... The social movement aspect of music, clothes and politics seems to escape them (or they really don't, as I suspect and applaud, care). They dress in a mish mash of vintage clothes, and talk as if the world outside their screens is something noone else has ever noticed before... (I'm sitting in a coffee shop listening to a loud American describe Prague... And now describing, loudly in detail, a movie, frustratingly, I haven't yet seen to someone I think he thinks has never seen a movie before). 

Millenials belong to groups sold to them, rarely created by them (I'm perhaps being an old fart and misrepresenting a generation... I do respect millenials.  I feel they are the most logical of generations, and I place a lot of hope with them. We fucked up... They are going to create the world previous generations could only dream of). 

Now this isn't their fault (as my previous parenthesis hopefully begins to describe). The labelling of everything from style, through to shoes and teeshirts and underwear, happened in my generation... Something I always hated. The fractionalisation of movements, types of clothing etc, sold with a label on a tee-shirt.
{Korda/Fitzpatrick Che image, 1968}

I diverge.

When I worked in the Technical Office of a shoe factory, change seeped in. Young women started to become employed as management trainees, rather than just stitches or office workers- this became a bit contentious. Don't forget, the eighties was just the beginning of the atomisation of workers rights and pay (as well as society, and consumerism beyond the previous three or four income groups or classes). 

Nowadays, two salary/wage families struggle to pay mortgages and bills, when before Thatcher, one income did this for most households. The eighties, for those who were there, were a time when capitalist exploitation clashed and seemed to merge with the feminist movement (bad description... I mean Thatcherism exploited feminism, I suppose, what with newspapers highlighting "superwoman" who could hold down 12 hour day jobs and raise kids and play golf). Feminism and women working, seemed to the baby Boomers I worked with, to be the thing that was going to drag down wages, much in the way the baby Boomers nowadays blame foreigners. The baby Boomers had social movements that led change, yet it was instigated during the GenX immersion into the work place. And the women management trainee pioneers had to put up with sexist jokes, comment, insult etc and had to take it. 

Another documentary I watched yesterday, about the Moon Landings, and focusing on Mission Control, highlighted this sudden social change very graphically with the modern day top techs of Mission Control being women, contrasting the entire room of controllers for the Apollo missions being men. 50 years since Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins flew around and landed on another world, women have control of the new push to the lunar and Martian surfaces. 
{Photo taken by white men sent to the moon by white men, while women & black people worked on the project, unseen} 

 British Shoe factories have died in the UK, like most of the old industrial manufacturing vase did during the eighties. But the women pioneers who had to fight through the awful insults and misogyny I witnessed daily, are taking their places at the top tables. 

This is a revolution and we are right in the middle of it. After 2000 years of Abrahamic religious sexist tosh, and 250 years of capitalism that built its systems atop this tosh, walls are tumbling. Glass ceilings are smashing. And gender, sexuality etc really does not matter if you have the right skills. Of course, baby Boomers and the GenX'rs who conservatively held on to the beliefs of their fathers still are a majority as Brexit and the temporary resurgence of the right has shown. 

But we are at tipping point. And those millenials who really could not give a fuck if punk and hippy were two opposing social movements and dress senses and in fact different disappointed generations, are going to bathe the precarious, almost ethereal and endangered gelatine-silver image of equity in strong fixative. 

They'll stick it in an album called "analogue history," and digitally move towards total disbelief at the disrespect previous generations had for gender and for humans they shared streets, buildings and families with. 

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Goodbye, daddy.

My dad died on 31 January. My hero. My compass. This man gave me life. And now I have to learn to live without him.

Thank you dad, for all you did, taught me and helped us all with. 

The world really is all the poorer. 
{dad, with Tiger the alsation, mid 1960's} 

{dad, third from right. 1940's. There is a story to this picture, that I know only part of... For a post next week} 

{mum, me, dad at Spelga Dam, a few years back. October 2016}

{dad and I in Glasgow, circa 2015/16}


Sunday, 26 January 2020

Broke Pants

I was brought up in my older second cousin's colourful seventies cast off silver streaked cuffs; working class, and then married a "schemie" from Scotland. 

Both of us, after feeding the ba' and the lecky meter working in various jobs from crap jobs through to less crap jobs, (me beating her record of zero sackings by three) went back to the education and then became, I suppose, professional class (her by way of brains, me by way of just hanging in there until employment law meant they couldn't easily get rid of me

{Cruising to middle classyness

I don't know how else to put that, because I don't see myself as middle class for a number of reasons, including the occasional present day silver streaked cuff. And because we did this professional thing later in life, we have much more debt and mortgage than most people our age who may had taken the same "journey" earlier, who have had millions of holidays and have now retired early with pensions that ensure forty years of cruises, fondue parties, cocktails on the decking, and voting for that nice wee girl they kicked out god love her, Jo fecking Swinson

But, now at 53, I'm beginning to be able to afford stuff like new glasses, the dentist, new shoes, an annual toothbrush, soft toilet paper and crockery that hasn't been superglued for the fifth time now and again. Though I still resole shoes (one pair are on their sixth sole, the Timpson man now knowing them by the pet names, "I can't get the smell from my fingers for weeks") and wear clothes until they actually fall apart -eg, I reluctantly had to get rid of a pair of pants today that are older than my 23 year old son after I found they were literally being held together by a couple of threads and the prayers of a sect secreted by the Slaney rivulet for over 1500 years; instructed by chieftain, Dichu, (who gave St Patrick his barn as a place of worship, in the village now known as Saul), to "Do the Great Mother's work, while I humour this Roman biddie..." It turns out they are an important Scots/Gaellic/Gealic/Irish relic, and I should have been charging Americans to mop their brow with them to give them the great Scots/Gaellic/Gealic/Irish gift of supermarket queue flatulence, something those pants survived perhaps weekly for 25 years. 

{Working class unclaimed bodies

Those pants, like many of my clothes and possessions were tested over many years, tribulations, stretches and fashion seasons and cycles. In the end, they didn't give up on me. I gave up on them in case I was knocked down, and my family had to endure identifying the body. I want at least some tears in that situation. Not red faced, outright denial. 

Though really, this leeting of kecks really has to be a process rather than a sudden change, as the new, less broke me, can only afford to catch up on what I've been denied for years, slowly, tentatively, step by step like the process of peace that hasn't yet had Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill walking at Belfast Pride, hand in hand (am I expecting too much after the Ian Paisley/Martin McGuinness comedy duo Chuckle Brothers act?). These things should happen slowly, at a pace in which eventually a Free Presbyterian can embrace drag as part of their marching Kultur, after much bending of scriptures, and the re interpretation of the big Reverend Bigotted slabber's words throughout the war known as Paisley's Troubles. 

Inviting boxer shorts into the underwear drawer regardless of how slowly I'm doing it, has been like introducing Ru Paul's Drag Race to the Twelfth. 

{Down with this sort of thing...

This tightness around the wallet region of my lower abdomen sometimes means lack of personal political funding. A couple of weeks back, for example, in Glasgow, loads of folk were marching for Scottish Independence. Tens of thousands, in fact. We couldn't go, as we were having a guy round to fix a window in our room that had blown in during the storms the night before. Now, I suppose one of us could have gone, but the expense of the windae really had us thinking about the extra shoe leather we'd be out walking to the bloody station before we bought the ticket to Queens Street. Poverty really does follow you for life. 

But I had my own, bargain bucket demo around the house. 

NWS. 

{👇 me setting off marching around my house for the Scottish independence. Add me to the total marchers...} 



Saturday, 25 January 2020

Daisy Hill, Seamus Mallon and my da'.

Today, I have spent more hours in Newry than most days of my previous life. I have, in the past, shopped, drank, clubbed and cinema'd here, and cycled and drove through, relatively briefly. I say, "most of my previous life," because I've spent quite, a few hours in Newry over the past few weeks, starting with an overnight stay, with my wife, when my father was as admitted to the University Daisy Hill Hospital A&E, on new years eve unconscious and in not too good health. 

He's since had the improvements that sent me back to Glasgow and the setbacks that interrupted my lesson on 3D shape that had me flying back over from Glasgow, the latest setback moving him into the High Dependency Unit. His progress since then has been slow, and none of us expect a return to his former faltering health, but we hope he recovers enough to get home to decent spuds and TV football. The Doctors are very cautious. The Doctors, and all staff in Daisy Hill I've met so far, are wonderful. Hard working. Friendly. Socialism's highest citadel, and  incredible people work in this amazing citadel on a hill in a small city once at the centre of Northern Ireland's darkest times. 
Today was a mixed day of delerium, sleep, hacking coughs and curses, but after six hours of that, he settled and read the sport in the paper. He was surprised to hear of Seamus Mallon's passing, and his being the same age he is.


My dad didn't help draft a peace project that has saved many lives, but like many people, he endured the dark times here. He lost a cousin who was brought up like a little brother in a bombing that is now almost lost in the sea of historical horror of Ulster in the mid-seventies. A bombing so cowardly amongst the cowardly mayhem created in the name of "politics," that the "socialists" carrying it out made up a new name for their group. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Bar_bombing

My dad carried out the "in between" work, liaising between his bosses and the paramilitaries as the lowest paid middle manager, a joiner/ foreman on building sites, tasked with handing over "protection money" from the suits in the corporation Farrans to the gangster like paramilitaries, all of whom at one stage or another threatened this country boy for doing his work. 

On one occasion, a Shankill Butcher signalled for him to look inside his jacket, where there was a gun. My dad, wondering out loud what the fuck he'd done, then being handed a bottle of Christmas whisky by the laughing murderer from the other inside pocket and soon afterwards taking a good few deep slugs from the bottle to calm his nerves. And on another occasion, an IRA volunteer being forced to apologise to him after he was threatened (dad went to the local commander who told him not to worry as he was helping build houses for the people, and the young guy was wrong to threaten him). 

There are other stories. Like the time he walked with a scared Catholic neighbour in to the Town when things were very threatening. Or the awful anonymous phone calls, the finding guns in houses he was helping renovate but being told to turn a blind eye...

And the love of football and his family. Working long hours, under threat like manys a worker at that time here, to own the blue Volkswagon Beetle FIJ 8797 with the eight track, Abba, Jim Reeves, Big Tom and the Maineliners, Susan McCann, Philomena Begley, and Charley Pride and the annual holiday to Blackpool we lived for... The best holidays we've ever had, including all of the luxury spa hotels, and foreign countries we've been to since. A worker with his life on the line in order to help bring up his two girls and his son. 

I spent manys a night standing behind curtains waiting, hoping to see the van arrive in. The troubles meant many spoiled dinners as he got caught up in traffic, and me, one eye on the TV news, worrying about ambushes and sectarian killings of workers... 

The pressures on him, and my mother must have been immense... But none of the worry was really passed on to us. Worries we had, but never spoke of as we became aware of the acceptable level of violence threatening and killing our friends and family. 
... 
... 
On a break from sitting beside the bed, I took a walk up the blustery hill, Daisy Hill I suppose, to the poignant places I photographed below. 

Within a few steps of each other, three tales of tragedy across the history of this windswept hill. Socialist volunteers under the Seven Stars. Paupers graves beside victims of Westminster's aristocratically enforced Irish famine. And I was really  saddened by the memorial to Michael Hughes, born in the same hospital I was;  only 16 when he was killed, fighting for freedom that was born in poverty enforced by a system that made him and his family second class citizens in this then very troubled border town. Eight years older than I was at that time. Denied a life, a family, loves, children, a place in the world. The "Troubles" were wicked, wasteful, dreadful times. Thank the seven stars for people like my dad and mum and Seamus Mallon.

{Northern Ireland's politics are stuck, painted and flap beside the roads...} 
{The citadel on the windy hill...} 

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

He is not the Messiah...

Photo: Netflix

As someone on the left, I feel there is too much of  the "men of destiny," "socialist messiah" syndrome not only taken up by working Class folk, but encouraged by people who should know better. The left, like the series Messiah, ultimately fails on the expectations of worshippers whose dream of a saviour is made flesh. Reality never lives up to dreams... And people are full of flaws that will ultimately be used as a crack to let in the divisive darkness. 

Political movements, parties, campaigns etc are only as strong as the wider need for them. They  ultimately fall - become histanai - when one person or vanguard control them. Julius Ceasar was the first fascist hero... And ultimately the prize of hero /ceasar/emporer of Rome, and the flaws of those who sought it, caused it to die. Heroism is infantile. Needy. And it is a way of Teflon shouldering solution, and then ultimately, blame. Thatcherism, the heroising of her and her rapidly ossifying creed, will make way for the next  phase of economic organisation. It won't be socialism as people imagine, nor will it be the overt fascism of the past. And it won't be a meeting place/compromise of each of either of the extremes of those as we currently understand them. 

There are manipulators of crowds who know these things. And use them to divert, and crush, what they, or their bosses don't like. 

In my opinion, and I am no messiah... I am a flawed person who sometimes inaccurately comes to conclusions.., self preservation is leading us to higher walls, and a greener, but very much less democratic world, if we don't start looking at real micro and macro solutions to existing problems.

Socialism really does need to be rethought from the individual, through community and beyond. All of us, are part of that. We don't have to wait for "experts" or messiah to lead us to salvation. There are truths in the past we can learn from. But we need to learn to be honest with ourselves, our imperfections and the imperfections of our personal takes/groupthink re dogma and ideology.

Do something positive today that changes things for the better for you, and one other person. It's a start. 


{loved these... Add to that second one, "lefty messiahs, conspiracy theorists, self proclaimed experts," and you've also got, more or less, a big chunk of the Yes movement I'm part of in Scotland.}