Thursday, 5 August 2010

Where did she go?

I return from my now customary annual break from blogging renewed, reinvigorated, radicalised and resolute - and in part determined to use as many words beginning in the letter R as is womanly possible, or so it would appear.

Where have I been?

What have I been doing?

With whom and why?

Who cares?

Now that would be telling, that is I mean I will be telling: Such tales I have collected, things I have witnessed - adventure, philosophy, derring-do, psychopaths and mountainpaths, drunken nights in bothies and damp nights under sodden canvas - or to be precise whatever very flammable (as I discovered) artificial canvas substitute modern tents are taped together with.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The wrong kind of snow hits City Chambers...

Following quickly on the heels of universal criticism of the country's councils inability to deal with the right kind of snow over the last few months,  news reaches me of yet another story of the perils of the wrong kind of snow.

So officers from SCDEA had a meeting with the ill fated ex-leader of Glasgow City Cooncil to warn him he was keeping bad company as a result of his nose for Columbian sneezing powder.  Since when were the Drug Squad tasked with protecting a speeding yet paranoid politician who is unaccountably but overwhelmingly emboldened with an unjustified sense of his own omnipotence? Mind you, putting pen to paper to describe the likely effects of Charlie on Mr Purcell results in a description that seems very close to a breakdown of the personality traits of your average politician, sans narcotic alkaloids.

Cocaine changes people, and as somebody who has worked in and around the creative industries I've witnessed these non too subtle alterations close up, often literally, in my face.  Many of the so called high flyers I've met depend almost entirely on drug assistance to fly high; their drive, ambition and ruthlessness derived from the stimulants they chose to consume on a daily basis. Unknown to colleagues their 'success' and the personality to which it is credited is almost entirely dependent on that overwhelming sense of purpose and invulnerability that is in the gift of a gramme or two of Yeyo a day.

Perhaps Stephen Purcell isn't really that driven politician the derisible Scottish Labour movement would have us believe but just another example of an altered personality suffering under the delusion of Coca inspired ambition and superiority.  That would account for him getting very little done whilst giving the impression of being super-humanly industrious - that's pretty much in keeping with your average cokehead, and suspiciously the Labour party in general - hmmmm...

So where do those Labour bloggers Yappy and Smugdale stand on this?  Their silence speaks volumes - and after all that grandstanding over Lunchgate and Sturgeongate (I hate that gate thing)...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Poetry of Reality

Having spent the last week immersed in the application of science and engineering, professionally speaking, I was pleased when a colleague sent me a link to this. Just thought I'd share. Have a great weekend.

The Symphony of Science project lives here

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

An offer of assistance...

News comes to my silo that Christine Pratt the boss of the National Bullying Helpline, a fake charity dedicated to passing potential Employment Tribunal claimants to her husband's business which represents them in employment tribunals with 'consultants', is digging herself into a hole quicker than a mole on meth-amphetamine.

I've been involved in the tribunal system on and off over the years, and there is nothing qualified Lawyers, on the claimant's or defendant's side, like better than to be faced with an unqualified 'consultant' in court.  The smile that splits their handsomely remunerated faces in two on discovering that their opponent is represented by a self-appointed idiot tells it all.  But that's an aside.

The BBC reported Mrs Pratt last night as "going through her email" in what looks like an increasingly desperate attempt to prove that she was indeed contacted by the entire staff of Downing Street regarding bullying.

I have one bit of advice for you Mrs Pratt - try the search function - you should find anything within a couple of minutes. Just how you had time between entering a search term, pressing the search button and getting the results to call the BBC to announce your intention to search your email box does confuse me slightly.

Or could it be that you are just incompetent?  If you intend to go through every email you have ever received manually, or print the entire contents of your inbox, you probably are.   So in the spirit of egalitarian support, even for idiots, please let me extend an offer of help - just send me the entire contents of your mail folder and I'll have a look for you - just zip it up and send it to

Rest assured, I promise to adhere to the same high standards of confidentiality as your own organisation...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Urban Gunfire

Recently I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about the casualties of war; specifically voluntary war waged by the west in far off lands.  These wars are covered by media embedded within one side of the conflict, our side.  It's apparent that our infantilised sensibilities, and the politicians who exploit those, wish only to consider our losses, the brave-hero-soldier-volunteers, rightly afforded dignified ceremony and reams of paper and ink.

But what of the the innocent victims?

Biased casualty coverage is the new propaganda machine, to quote the Wachowski brothers "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." Politicians in cahoots with our media, the media we deserve, expediently neglect civilian deaths - civilian deaths have considerably outnumbered military deaths in every conflict, this is the true price of war.

This current war, like the others we have waged, is a good war we are told - as Orwell saw it "War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength." One sided reporting and the military's "we don't do body counts" policy are transparent tactics to secure our support without disturbing our fragile sensibilities. The uncomfortable truth is that around 200,000 - 500,000 civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan (some estimates are higher), 3400 civilians died in well documented terrorist attributed attacks in the USA and Europe, attacks used to justify the military action against these countries - how many of their civilians will we kill before we call it a day?   What ratio would you say was fair?  Well don't you worry yourself, there are no official civilian body counts, and no reliable reporting in the mainstream media - so we can all sleep well in our ignorance...

As I've mentioned before the foremost Scottish poet, in my most 'umble opinion, is the incomparable Edwin Morgan.  Obviously Edwin felt the need to express his discomfort with the much neglected reality of war, and of course does it with his characteristic incisiveness and economy of language.
Urban Gunfire

‘Civilians’ are not really, truly, people.
As regimes fall, they’re only ‘caught in crossfire’.
Expendablest of the expendable, they
crawl, or if they’re lucky someone drags them,
to doorways where they slump and shake till nightfall.
How great it must be not to be civilian
or anything but gun in hand, young, mobile,
slogan-fuelled better than machines are,
you cannot even hear the shattered housewife,
far less see her blood and bags and bread, it’s
bullet time between you and your sniper,
hot streaks go shopping, nothing else goes shopping,
no one is out there in the open, we are,
we are it and it is where they vanish
like a clapped piece of tawdry human magic,
too feeble to be seen by psyched-up fighters.
Their cries are in another world. The trigger
is steady as they roll about the tarmac.
And it goes on as if it could not finish.

© Edwin  Morgan
from Sweeping Out the Dark published 1994.

If you want to find out more about Edwin Morgan the Scottish Poetry Library's archive is here, his official website here, or if you want to avail yourself of one of his publications then get on over here.

I recommend all three...

Friday, 19 February 2010


It's been a long week; I've rebuilt mail servers, carried out radio surveys, attended meetings, written reports and finally got around to some billing - mustn't grumble, after 6 months of searching around for any bit of business that would fit my repertoire it's nice to be gainfully employed.

The choices made for me by a well intentioned guidance teacher at 14 set me on this course "No arts! Science and maths - that's what you'll study" my choices of music, art and history binned at the stroke of a red pen.  Although I haven't quite 'lived to regret' that decision there are times, quite often these days, when I wish I had chosen another career - but hey no regrets, at least I have a modicum of marketable skills.

My last appointment of the week was to deliver a younger member of the clan to Glasgow Caledonian University for his degree interview.  I was up at 6:00 this morning to deliver him safely, after dropping him off I drove out of the city centre intent on a walk around Hogganfield Loch to kill some time.

I haven't been there in years, Hogganfield Loch is one of those little idylls in Glasgow, one which I have fond memories of: Playing with brothers and cousins, rowing boats, ice cream and family picnics as I burned in childhood summer sun, you know that sun - the childhood one; hotter, brighter and set in a perfect blue sky, the like of which we never seem to fully recapture as an adult.

This morning couldn't have been further from those distant days (well I'm old for one thing) - it was misty and below freezing, the island in the middle of the loch hidden by mist's gray curtain; occasionally peeking around its veil to show me the vague outline of a denuded winter tree as I circuited the loch's shore.   The confused waterfowl were clumsily skating on the ice capping the loch, stopping to beak-butt the glassy surface in a vain attempt to access the larder below, then skating off to what they believed might be a more rewarding location only to repeat the whole comical beak-ice interface thing again.

I got to a-thinking not only of long gone perfect summers but of the exciting adventure my young charge was embarking upon.  He is being interviewed for admission to a BA course in Journalism, his enthusiasm for this opportunity inspiring to witness.

He has worked hard on his Highers; having given up a sought-after engineering apprenticeship (against the wishes of several family members) and is returning to study in order to pursue this dream. This was the right thing to do, in his case a mature decision based on real life experience.

View this in its stark contrast to the 14 year old high school student choosing subjects that will determine their future, with no life experience and more importantly work experience.  Is it any wonder we have so many colleges and universities offering beauty, health, sport, fitness and other pointless over-subscribed courses - these are students studying subjects based on childish choices, informed by immature interests.

Furthermore is it any wonder we have a population of unhappy, poorly motivated adults and record numbers of mature students?  I have no idea what the solution is, if there is one, what I do know is that to restrict a 14 year old through the imposition of academic blinkers in a second rate target driven education system is damaging to any modern society and the best interests of the individual.

I'm just glad some of us manage to fix the damage before it's too late, perhaps I'll pick up a prospectus from the faculty of arts - now what is it to be, gel nail technician or personal trainer?

This post is dedicated to you R - good luck honey, I'm jealous...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The fear of death, the undiscovered country, laughing at it and emotional immaturity

I noted with alacrity that another blogger took exception to my guest post - expressing, in no uncertain "holier than thou, self-righteous" terms, his immature attitude to the one irreconcilable fact of human existence.  To call my fellow author a cunt is just fine, I defend your right to self expression; of course he is also somebody's son, as the commenter is - as every man, good or bad, is - and in the case of the dead, was.  What's the alternative for your average male?

I know that son, and his sons.  That son has experienced death, in particular the loss of both of his parents in the last few years - he conducted himself with good humour and a resigned acceptance of reality.  Sour faced Mr Cunt Caller may wear big pants when commenting on a blog, but would he call him a cunt to his face?  Would he really?  When confronted by a good humoured, intelligent human being - a father and a son who has the advantage of being able to find humour in death, rather than self indulgent life limiting fear.

I wonder?

Friedrich Nietzsche famously suggested laughter to be a reaction to the sense of existential loneliness and mortality that only humans feel.  Nietzsche put together a very compelling argument that all abstract thought, and in particular laughter, exist only as a result of our mortality, sentience and our inability to accept the inevitable.

This is not a new philosophical stance; past examples include; Shakespeare's human 'being' life and death analysis, in that powerhouse soliloquy in Hamlet Act 3 scene 1 - and the ubiquitous 14th and 15th century dance of death carvings and engravings, which extend us an invitation to laugh at death as an encouragement to live in the moment.

Interestingly both were aimed at inhabitants of a time we now believe to be simple in comparison to us with our sophisticated-modern-intellects.  This was an audience who were more accustomed to witnessing death close at hand and understood its fundamental significance.  They 'simple folks' exhibited a considerably more mature attitude towards death than our contemporary self-indulgent, hotline-backed, childish rejection of the reality of existence.

The very essence of an adventurous spirit, one drawn to the Scottish mountains in winter in this case, is exploration of the unknown and the thrill and challenge of just such.  Such adventures, like life, have a simple binary outcome:

To die


To live another day, and die later

To find death, "the undiscovered country" is the very apotheosis of the adventurous spirit; walkers and climbers, like soldiers, accept that price - no qualms, no cowards.  Those around them who cannot accept their death are unable to accept the simple truth, and rather than celebrate a life worth living they give into the dark shadows of loneliness and mortality.  By illogically and immaturely giving into melancholy and refusing to accept death they negate the value of a positive life and the privilege of having lived and died - is that a suitable mark of their love?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
Final word to Mr Richard Dawkins
"We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place, but will in fact never see the light of day, outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA, so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I in our ordinariness that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred."
 Get over yourself, who are you?  The Mutaween?