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

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 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 not representing a generation ery well... I do respect millrnials..  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 starts t 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 newspaper s 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. 


{👇 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. 


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.} 

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Obsessively 2020 Vision

2019 was in many ways a defining year for me. Lots of it quite shite, but with some positives floating in the mire, like little shiny glass baubles. 

Politics was awful, but the gem of a campaign me and a few others from the website leftungagged.org executed in East Dunbartonshire, highlighting the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson's tory voting record that helped oust her from Westminster was a particularly shiny moment. Helping to rid Westminster of one of the awful coalition members was a happy moment-- helping defeat this woman  who plunged many vulnerable people into DWP despair, poverty and helplessness, did take a tiny sliver off the edge off a decade dominated by Thatcherism on speed, far right fascists becoming "mainstream" and a dreadful opposition to this in the form of a left that has led to strangling, and quartering itself in slogans and obsessive recruitment dislocation.

Personally, the year ended dreadfully as my father became terribly ill, and my "Hogmany" was spent in a ward off A&E in (the pretty sounding) Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, a night I will never forget. And amongst nursing staff again placed in dreadful situations by a decade of Tories. Our NHS is being drained of resources by these ideological and privileged bastards, who see more value in spooning our taxes out to their mates who crashed the economy in 2008 rather than ensuring there are enough people looking after our sick, Ill and old folk. That night shift for the small amount of staff was a herculean effort. Our nurses and doctors really deserve more, and we deserve more of these absolute angels.

I suffer from self diagnosed winter depression, which takes the form of obsessing over something in my past--usually something I feel I've done badly-an interaction or how I've treated someone. This year is no exception as I obsess over self destructive behaviour of 1988. At least I am coming to some, sort of understanding of why I acted so badly in my past.

The book I really want to write is going to be written after the one I feel compelled to write to make me happy. The one I'm working on will create worlds. The one I want to write will be based very much on the real world.

It's very difficult to be inspired when all feels like it is crumbling around me. 

Anyway, I am back on the blog. And hopefully the practice of writing here will allow me space to write better stuff as the year progresses. My writing muscle really needs flexing and exercised, as it really has become flabby.


{scene of 1988 bad behaviour}

{after days in Daisy Hill... 👆}

{Daisy Hill 👇}