Friday, July 31, 2009


The Year of Homecoming finished I think at the gathering in Edinburgh on Saturday; the vast majority of people didn’t know it had started which tells you all you need to know about this manufactured disaster of a celebration. It was based on a model of Scotland and her people which portrays us all as descendents of Harry Lauder who was of course a forelock tugging music hall caricature; an image which most Scots. do not recognise and find embarrassing, not a lot to build a culture on is it. Still you can buy a full highland rig out from about £800 so some people are happy with it; anyone who wanted to estimate it’s success should have taken a step back and considered the annual fiasco known as Tartan Day in America.

Scotland has long envied the success of the Irish in America and Tartan day was an attempt to emulate that success; it has been an unmitigated disaster; a complete flop; Americans don’t want to know because they simply don’t buy the story. The whole thing is without substance and will not grab America; as ‘Rick’ said in Casablanca “it don’t amount to a hill of beans” and no amount of political spivs like Salmond or washed up ham actors like Connery will change it.

The whole circus and one event in particular made me think back over the years to an event which I attended with my great friend Davie Speirs during the ‘Folk Revival’ years; as was normal there were a group who always stitched themselves on to these events with the intention of hanging a kilt on everything that went on. These people were tolerated and treated as a source of fun and most of them were harmless; in the bar Davie who was a singer and guitarist as well as a great raconteur was among the bravehearts and he had them hooked on a story. Bonnie Prince Charlie was on the run from the evil English and they were close to catching him; the brave highlanders stole him away in the dead of night and hid him in a field where they carefully covered him with stones and rocks etc. the evil English failed to find him and he survived; Davie embellished this hokum as only he can and they loved it; until he said that this incident had been immortalised in a famous highland song called “ Bonnie Chairlie’s noo awa” ( Bonnie Charlie’s now a wall ) well if looks could kill he would have been deid.

What made me think of this old chestnut was the attitude shown by some people at the gathering on Saturday; all kinds of bogus Scottish activities were afoot and the crowd resembled a special Ladies Only Day at Ascot with the proviso that only tartan be worn and the more outrageous the outfit the better; the chaps easily outdid the girls here. Guffaws and braying gubs were everywhere and the biggest collection ever of upper class clan chiefs were assembling their troops for a “Clan Parade” or was it a “Clan Charade” anyway if they can do this kind of parade in Disney Land why not here in Scotland. Off they went looking splendidly silly but; it was fun until the Campbells led by a Duke and Duchess hove in to view this caused a chorus of boos and abuse which were genuine and malicious it destroyed the Campbell marchers day, seriously it did.

People wondered about what could cause such terrible behaviour; some rather cruelly speculated that it was the legacy of Alistair Campbell the “spinning piper” others blamed a build up of resentment over the years because of the ‘minging’ soup which they sell but no; incredibly enough it was because they proved to be dirty fighters some couple of hundred years ago when all these clans were painting themselves blue and nicking each other’s cattle. They ambushed the McDonalds or was it the MacDonalds these things are important; anyway it was by all accounts a “right steam in; with blood and snotters everywhere” and the Mc/ Mac Donalds took a right second prize but; a couple of hundred years later wow! This is how Scots. treat their country men and women based on a load of old bulldung. Does it not make you wonder what their attitudes are to the Germans who were bombing us 60 odd years ago must be or; even worse the Engurlish but lets not go there just now.

Modern Scotland right; what a farce maybe it’s time to look again at all this c**p when was the last time you saw a guy in a housing estate wearing a kilt or creating a bloody racket with bag pipes? It’s a false and embarrassing picture, we need to think again about what we present to the world, a giant enema for the whole country would be a good start and then a dose of the truth.

Monday, July 27, 2009


People who read my blog will be aware that; notwithstanding those who actualy fight; I am not a fan of the British Military; there are reasons for this; some historic and some; like leadership or the quality of it or the complete lack of it have always been with us. To the long list of privileged chinless oafs who have traditionally made their way from Eton; Harrow and the Guards most of them because they were too dense to be hidden in the office of a city bank; we discover today a true champion of the type, step forward ex C.O. Parachute Regiment Colonel Stuart Tootal. This guy has come out with a statement that would make me very nervous about giving him responsibility for anything let alone soldiers lives and guns and stuff that is dangerous.

It’s populist; it’s apparently compassionate; some people will embrace it unthinkingly; some will say he thinks about his men and very few will latch on to the fact that he has a book out about his career in the Army so; what did he say? He reckons that Military casualties should receive preferential medical treatment; that’s sure to have them flying off the shelf; I would buy a copy just to see the kind of total clown who got to become a Colonel and a C.O. during a time of conflict, the mind boggles at what his men must have thought of him.

“Brave soldiers should not be sharing wards with geriatric patients” says the Colonel so there we have one of his pearls of wisdom, wounded soldiers are de facto brave and there is something wrong with being a geriatric even if you are a geriatric with a Victoria Cross you should not be near a “brave soldier” I could have invented this clown but honest I didn’t, he demands Army only hospitals as well.

If someone joins the Army Colonel Tootal can they request a post where they won’t get hurt? Do they know that they can get hurt? “You there! you with the cancer; pick up that bleeding child and push that wheel chair with the crash victim out of the road, make way for this wounded soldier” This guy was in charge of men in battle; can you believe it? Everyone and I mean everyone should be equal when it comes to the provision of health care, being a soldier or a millionaire or Monarch should not come into it, we know that it does but it shouldn’t. Am I the only one who is getting fed up with these retired generals and colonels kicking up a fuss when they leave? If it’s not to sell a book it’s to cover their own backs, they are a disgrace to the men and women that they commanded.

No matter who or what you are it’s medical need that should count not anything else, this means treatment should go to who is first for medical reasons even if that person is a villain and someone else waiting is a wonderful human being. It’s a difficult concept but its right; it means Hitler before Ghandi and Thatcher before Mother Theresa if their need was more urgent. Sometimes I don’t have to do too much to highlight the shambles that is the Hierarchy of Britain’s Armed Forces a dangerous self serving clown like Colonel Tootal will come along and do it for me, pity the troops.

Perhaps Colonel Tootal should ask his troops how they feel about leap frogging sick children or pregnant women to get treatment because they are soldiers, I wonder what kind of response he would get.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The beautiful game looms again; in a short time we will be off and will no longer have to put up with tennis; golf; cricket and other less satisfying sporting pursuits; we can concentrate on the beauty and skill of the greatest game ever devised and no longer have to concern ourselves with sporting headlines which relate to some South African rugby baboon trying to gouge out an opponent’s eye; you need proper training and skill for a manoeuvre like that. Don’t get me wrong I like watching tennis when the players are evenly matched which is rare; golf can be exciting over the last couple of holes of a tournament if the score is close and cricket has redeemed itself as the choking grip of the traditionalists slacken, but they are not the same.

I was lucky to see some great players in live action; earliest memories are of Di Stefano; Puskas & Gento strutting around Celtic park to a 3-1 victory, Pele at Hampden and the precocious 18 year old Maradona at hampden swaying past two Scottish players and sending the goal keeper the wrong way for a goal which made us all think about the future of this kid with the sublime skills, Dennis Law’s reflexes and Best’s speed and skill were memorable. The greatest? My money goes on Charlton probably unpopular with some but I couldn’t see a flaw in his game; I have never seen him play badly and the standard he set himself was tremendous. I saw him many times; too many some might say as he always caused the Scottish fans so much misery but he was uplifting; fast, fit and strong with great skill and immense power and accuracy in each foot, the nearest I’ve seen to the complete player.

The game has gone a bit daft in financial terms and Scottish Football has never been in a more serious position; teams could go under and the financial gap between us and England and the continent is huge, it could be some considerable time before we see a Scottish team compete in the later stages of a European competition.

The only long term way forward is coaching and rearing our own players but when Wigan can take a kid like McCarthy from Hamilton it looks like a long hard struggle, whether you favour Celtic here is not important but when they lose out to Wigan it is serious; the kid can’t say he chose Wigan to win medals or to play in Europe and that is grim for the future of our game. Money talks and when it comes to Football it shouts and bawls; perhaps it requires legislation to bring the game to its senses; is Alex Ferguson for instance a great manager or is he a very rich manager? It can’t go on like this for ever surely. I would urge the smaller teams to threaten to strike unless there is a redistribution of wealth all over the game; what would Man. Utd. Real Madrid or Juventus do if no one agreed to play them? Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The approaching 26th July sees the 56 th. anniversary of the Attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago led by a guy called Fidel Castro (the big guy with the beard) He went to jail for his part in the abortive revolution; the Americans thought that would be the last they would hear about him. They could have had him shot in jail but didn’t, you could say they lived to regret that and that would be one of the greatest understatements ever made. 56 years and 11 USA presidents later he has stood down and now sees the great imperialist Satan America making friendly overtures to his revolutionary country.

I remember the election of Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs invasion which left us distraught; we supported the revolution and also the first Irish Catholic President of America and didn’t know which way to turn. Kennedy lived long enough for me to become more politically aware and see him without the sentiment and “Oirishness” I remain to this day a supporter of Cuba and an admirer of Fidel as well as a trenchant critic of America’s treatment of their tiny neighbour for all these years.

Cuba remains a beacon of hope in a world where greed is king; the idea that human beings can live in harmony while looking after each others interests is the cornerstone of Socialism which remains the hope of the planet.

Celebrate the Cuban Revolution by going along to Buchanan St. Glasgow outside Borders Books between 12 – 4 PM. On the 26 th. find out about Cuba from those who know and join in the celebrations while protesting against poverty and exploitation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I am sitting on the upper deck of a train approx. 20 ft off the ground travelling at speeds up to 150 mph across France from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the south. The carriage has every facility and the train is smooth and almost noiseless; the scenery is lovely and we learn that to take it in you must look several hundred yards ahead of your position or all you get is a sore neck and blurred vision. This is the fabled high speed French bullet train and I am very impressed, Glasgow to Kings Cross was torture compared with this. My Labour colleague Jim Sharkey who is something of an anorak when it comes to rail travel informs me that the Japanese do this kind of thing considerably faster; the mind boggles.

We join our ship “The M.V. Emerald” at Marseilles and she is a beauty; 50 years old and on her penultimate cruise before being decommissioned she is noticeably slower than today’s ships but she oozes charm and style; all oak and brass, very relaxing after the fascinating madness of 150 mph overland. We find our modestly priced cabin to be large and comfortable with TV; phone; radio etc and two large windows or ‘port holes’ as we seafaring types call them; we gaze out as we set off on a flat calm sea, these conditions were to prevail until we docked again at Marseilles on the way back with the exception of a couple of hours in the middle of one night.

Having booked our holiday through a British Newspaper advert we were rather naively surprised to find that there were Approx. 50 English speaking passengers on board with the other 700 made up of Italian, French and German the crew though were all multi lingual and the Filipinos spoke better English than me. I quickly settled in to an ‘at sea’ regime of being out on deck with my books, mags, and papers, mainly in whatever shade I could find because the heat was intense; this made it necessary to drink lots of cold beer to stay hydrated, the Filipino waitresses quickly started greeting me with a shout of “meester Terree, large beer” they did this on shore as well which was a scream although the boss didn’t always think so.

We went to Genoa; then Naples; Athens and various Greek Islands; Patmos, Santorino and others, my father had been in a lot of these places during the war and it was quite poignant being there and imagining him there as a young man some 65 years ago, he described to us once a terrifying journey where his troop ship sailed through the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the mainland of Italy which was occupied at that time; this was done in the dead of night with the soldiers lying on deck whispering to each other about who could and who couldn’t swim and afraid to light a fag; the narrowest point is only 3 miles apart.

It was a really nice Holiday and I would definitely do it again but not in July; we saw some beautiful places and met some lovely people. On the last leg of the sea journey back to Marseilles in the middle of the night I woke and went to the bathroom and found myself gripping the side of the bed as I realised that the boat was rolling from side to side, these were big swells but not rough; the boat swayed as I looked out to see the water come up to meet us and then recede, this lasted about 2 hours and was quite enjoyable after about 10 minutes or so once I was sure we were in no danger.

I realised again that I am quite happy to sit on deck and read while at sea and visit churches and museums when on shore or put another way I am getting older; I’m now 60 and half my life is gone.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


How long will it take before the public decide that the people who lead our armed forces are running out of excuses? A cabal of senior army officers and retired ex soldiers backed up by anti govt. newspapers and populist politicians have been telling us for months now that the reason for our lack of success in Afghanistan is Gordon Brown, I don’t buy it.

Our soldiers are ‘the bravest’ ‘the best trained’ ‘the most professional’ ‘they are second to none’ etc. etc. you can pick and mix from any of these bombastic claims and even add some of your own; then sit back and consider the following; do you really believe this stuff? who decided these things? what criteria was used? Do you trust the opinions of right wing newspaper editors and retired colonels when it comes to a conflict like this, I don’t; would they use the deaths of soldiers for political ends? Cameron and Clegg already have; Salmond doesn’t count we already know that he is capable of using anything, to him nothing is sacred.

I feel that I am being lied to by the Army leaders; I admit up front I’m not a military expert but neither are thousands who are joining the argument; most of us only have the Army’s word for things and someone once said that “the first casualty of war was the truth” Our Army enters Afghanistan with the world’s best personnel (everyone agrees on that) we have Planes; Helicopters; Tanks; Armoured cars; Sophisticated computer technology; Smart Bombs; Big Bombs; Wee Bombs and every other hellish method of killing people devised, oh and did I mention that we are fighting a 3rd. world rag bag force with soldiers who could be some of our troops grand parents.

Is it not valid to say to Sir Jock Stirrup, General Dannatt, Lord Guzzle Gutbucket and the rest of the top brass who are making excuses; why can’t we beat these people/ the odds are overwhelmingly in our favour; they are fighting us with home made bombs and ancient rifles, what is your explanation? I have a feeling that some of these brass hats want to make sure that they can shift the blame for their ineptitude and lack of candour on to Brown to protect their own reputations. “We only have 30 helicopters that’s why we can’t win” is their cry; hold on here; the Taliban don’t have any helicopters or tanks or planes, what is going on? Something is not right about this we need to hear the truth.

Meanwhile the grand lies continue and war is glorified by hypocritical pomp and flag waving; today’s news suggests an upsurge in young male recruits; what does this tell us? The truth might sound something like this and it wouldn’t help to recruit anyone.

“Today two 18 year old British Soldiers were killed in a Taliban ambush, we don’t really know how they faced death and we are not going to make up any stories; they might have been brave and heroic and they might have died in terror we don’t know but we grieve for them and we will no longer send youngsters; not long out of school to meet such a fate” they wouldn’t dare would they?

We need to draw a line under this ASAP and stop the fighting; also in Iraq; my belief is that if we started telling the truth about war and armed conflict we would take a big step towards ending it; we might start by agreeing that in future when America suggests any adventure to us we say F**k off, and then clean out the military hierarchy. When I see a coffin containing a dead soldier and witness his distraught family and friends I am enraged; when I hear and see the propaganda machine swing in to action I despair; reacting with pity and sorrow is natural and heartfelt but it’s not enough we all must resolve to put a stop to it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The weakness of the SNP argument over the closure of South School continues to haunt and embarrass them. The humiliation started when the public meetings were called as night after night the parents destroyed the arguments of the education officers and the SNP administration; their organisation and resilience were very impressive as they fought every inch of the way with very well researched arguments. There was no doubt that the meetings were overwhelmingly won by the parents; the council had to hold on grimly and display great intransigence in the face of this force of angry and determined parents and friends of the school, it looked more and more as if the parents would have to knock their council opponents out to get draw.

The council’s mortification was seen repeatedly as they prevented the children from putting on a display of their work; by forcing the parents to remove signs and balloons etc. from the gates and fences; then in a display of indecent haste they started removing desks etc. while the children were still in the school, they couldn’t get it over with quickly enough to avoid any further discomfiture.

What does this tell us about the SNP led council? Well you might conclude that they did not have a great deal of faith in their own argument over the school such was their attempts to get it out of people’s minds; this lack of confidence in their position was also shown up by the almost total absence of SNP/Lib.Dem. Cllrs. at the public meetings, they all went in to hiding rather than face the parents, definitely not the actions of people with a strong argument. These were more the actions of a bunch of cowards who took a wrong decision and then ran away from the consequences but; as the great boxer Jack Dempsey said when told his next opponent was a fast mover “they can run but they can’t hide” and so it will prove at election time when the boxing ring becomes a polling booth.

Today saw another wretched exhibition of council blundering and callousness; throughout the campaign there has been a couple of banners in support of the school hanging on the gable of a house close by; the council workers showed up to take them down; perhaps a last pathetic attempt to make the South Primary and their turbulent children and families disappear for good but; yet again the SNP council blundered as the guy who owned the house told them to leave them alone as it was his wall. The council acting on the old truism that there are very few situations so bad that the SNP led council can’t make worse decided to tell the guy that he needed planning permission for these banners; honestly I’m not making this up. The man concerned then said that the council should write to him advising that he needed such permission and he would give their letter due consideration, well done sir.

This is not the behaviour of an organisation that have confidence in their position; they are now frantically trying to make the whole thing go away and in carrying on like this they are managing to make themselves look more cruel and stupid than ever. I can also advise that the parents are now pursuing their argument by calling on the audit commission to look at the detail of the council’s procedure which they insist has been badly flawed so; “the fat lady hasn’t sung yet”

If ever a council administration deserved to lose and suffer humiliation it’s this bunch of municipal vandals A.K.A. Renfrewshire Council SNP/Lib. Dem. Administration.

Meanwhile the children suffer.

Monday, July 13, 2009


As is my wont occasionally I am holding up my hands and apologising for a decision or rather two decisions made by the Labour Govt. both mistakes and both very damaging and embarrassing to the party members who believe in justice and fairness.

The Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs is on his last legs; he is almost blind; confined to a wheelchair and has to be fed artificially; along with his family he is pleading to be allowed home to die with his family around him.
"Whilst the medical evidence indicates that your ability to commit further acts of violence has reduced to a very low level, I am concerned that you might incite and be involved in such acts of violence." (Jack Straw; Home Secretary) With these words Straw shows us “Man’s inhumanity to man” he even has the arrogance to expect us to buy the crap that Biggs could be a threat to public order. This is the man of straw flexing his muscles for the press to show how tough he is, a pathetic charade; he couldn’t look tough sitting in a tank.

I am no fan of Biggs or his like; he is a self confessed career criminal and as such; given different circumstances could have been a Tory front bencher, an amoral thug who chose to live outside of society’s rules and was rightly imprisoned. Does this mean that he should die in jail without sight and wheelchair bound in his eighties, the answer to that is no, emphatically no.

Unfortunately for the coward Straw some of us have good memories; good enough to remember his more gentle side when he released a man responsible for the murder and torture of thousands of innocent people, the fascist beast Pinochet, one of Thatcher’s great heroes. Gentle Jack deemed him so unwell that he could not stand trial despite the fact that he flew here to see his friend and fellow criminal Thatcher and was shopping in Oxford St. prior to being released. This is a disgraceful slur on the Labour Party. Straw is a disgrace, he plays to the reactionaries over Ronnie Biggs and releases Thatcher’s pal Pinochet; a despot and blood soaked tyrant right up there with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco.

All Jack Straw has done is demonstrate that we have a Labour Home Secretary who is no better than the two others in this tragic farce; Biggs and Pinochet; a low life pair and an even worse Home Secretary. I know you won’t listen to me Jack but; I will tell you anyway.

No amount of power justifies sinking this low.