Monday, 27 April 2009

Scots on the poster: Edinburgh, Scottish but not too Scottish

Swine flu in Lanarkshire - we ask, is there a downside?

With swine flu already affecting the UK, hard-pressed emergency services in Airdrie this week reported rioting in the streets, widespread law breaking and Monklands A&E full to breaking point! 

We contacted Monklands Hospital to ask how the outbreak of swine flu was otherwise affecting the area only to be told : "Swine flu? Never heard of it. Weekends are always like this in Airdrie."

Indeed, hard-pressed medics at the hospital, in an unusual move, welcomed the imposition of emergency public health measures if swine flu spreads. One spokesanalprobe told The JT: "I like that quarantine idea. If we could keep all the local bammers aff the streets while the pubs are open it would certainly make my Friday night shift in A&E quieter."

And local bammers contacted by The JT also gave a big thumbs up to other swine flu measures: "See they blue masks the polis are  handing oot tae they Mexican punters? There's a ready made disguise for going on the thieve in Boots. Quality man, quality."

Inside: Of course after a night oan the Buckie in Airdrie, the resulting hangover is colloquially known as "wine flu". Or it should be, if it's not.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Scots on the box

"Here come the Tattie Howkers", BBC 2 Scotland, Monday 20th April, 2009.

(cue the music from the Hovis ad)

"Eeeh, when I were naught but a lad, (unaccountably speaking in a Yorkshire accent despite being raised in working-class Central Scotland), in our house we looked forward to the year's first new potatoes. Ayrshires they were. I remember the yellowish tinge to the flesh and how you could rub away the fragmented papery skin with just your finger. And oh, the taste. Our Mam used to say "Eeeh, our kid, thou dunt need salt on these beauties soft lad, these are grown in salty soil above Girvan beach!" And we'd say, "Mum, why are you talking like that, have you had a stroke?""
And so on, and so forth.

Yes, Ayrshire Earlies, the mainstay of many an early summer dinner in our house and likewise throughout Scotland and beyond because of the railways as it happens. Wide scale potato production in the Girvan area was predicated on a comprehensive (a station every four miles) and intensive (early trains for the markets) railway system.

Beyond the 1840s, (famous for other awful reasons across the water), Irish tattie howkers became a seasonal fixture as potato production in Ayrshire and West Lothian expanded to feed the towns and cities.
"Here Come" catalogued the experiences of an older generation of almost an exclusively Irish picking class while giving brief mention to the modern class of howkers mainly recruited from Eastern Europe.

At root here (sorry) the programme was centred on the bumpy, uneven path taken by economic development in history.

Frank, who made his first trip over from Donegal in 1953 remembers an Ireland of poverty and large families. It fell to Frank at 14 to work the season in Scotland, sending £2 a week home.

Maggie, lovely luminous Maggie, from Achill Island, had come over in 1935 because :"there was no work over there, so you just had to go somewhere else to get money."
Later in the show an unnamed Lithuanian worker echoes Maggie's cold-eyed realism perfectly when she says : "we work here (in Scotland) because we need money." Different eras, different trajectories, from different areas of Europe but driven by the same impeller - economic necessity.

And of course there's more to this picture of uneven economic development than comparisons between countries. A farmer recalls that in his grandfather's day, 500 workers were needed to bring in the crop. They worked in pairs, taking turns to dig and pick, loading horse and carts with hundredweights measured in a staved barrel.
Today, 15 workers bring in the same quantity, sitting sorting on the back of a tractor-trailer. But the "old ways" lasted longer than you might think. An Irish priest, ministering to a flock that had stayed and grown over the years reported on poor accommodation, overcrowding and the widespread use of under-age labour - in 1971, just prior to the introduction of mechanisation to the process of digging up tatties.

And while there are useful and thoughtful parallels to be drawn between the experiences of different generations and nationalities of workers, it was implicit in the programme's narrative that these new workers are unlikely to leave much of a collective mark on Scotland. The (relatively speaking) large scale influx of Irish Labour resulted in some staying this side of the water, Frank and Maggie to name two. So few are the Eastern European numbers that it seems unlikely that they will ever be much noticed in the wider society.

Back in Ireland, one cohort of workers will never be forgotten. Ten boys from Achill Island burned to death in 1937 when a bothie in Kirkintilloch caught fire. The farmer subsquently claimed that he had always locked the barn door; it was just bad luck, that was all.

On the island, a monument lists the ten names below a marble cross. It looks for all the world like a war memorial erected for sons lost overseas.

Elsewhere on planet media this week I think you'd have to be deaf and dumb not to hear or see the Susan Boyle bandwagon as it gathers pace. The Scotsman reported that in Susan's home town, Blackburn, the council have hurried up the process of replacing a fence ootside Susan's hoose.
Unfortunately, Susan needs this extra bit of security because according to other press reports, local neds think it highly amusing to harass a woman with developmental problems by shouting "Simple Susan" at her. Charming.

I really hope things go well for Susan who could teach us all something about trying against the odds. I especially look forward to the day when Susan is moving to her new mansion, in her gold Rolls Royce, when she rolls down her window and shouts to the neds watching on: "Aye, so whose simple noo ye fannies?"

Thursday, 16 April 2009

"Blackburn, West Lothian's Got Talent!" (and running water apparently)

Internet-squawking sensation, Susan Boyle, is now a shoo-in to win TV's Britain's Got Talent, but what will the subsequent fame mean for the single, God- bothering resident of Blackburn?

(That's "Blackburn" in West Lothian, apparently.
No, I'd never heard of it either...)
  • Develops serious coke-habit. Drinking up to a can a day!
  • Forms relationship with West Lothian-based rapper, Fifty-Pence.
  • Builds £150k mansion in Blackburn, thus doubling total property values in a thirty-mile radius.
  • Flights of her celebrity helicopter have locals forming millennial sect, convinced end of world has come and predicting the destruction/improvement of Bathgate by fire.

Inside: I see the provost of Blackburn has welcomed the publicity because it's "put Blackburn on the map."

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Oh dear

Fresh out of the box, reader dear, courtesy of The Scotsman, arrives one of those cherishable comments that the commentator immediately wishes he hadn't made.

In an item about putting a new roof on Waverley Station, railway plod Chief Inspector Martyn Ripley made the point that the newly strengthened roof might stop suicide jumpers from the adjacent bridge crashing through onto the platforms below.

To The Scotsman reporter, (who doubtless muttered "Thank you Jesus" under his breath as he scribbled the comment down), Mr Ripley said: "My fear is that someone is going to be killed. Four people have jumped from (North Bridge) this year, and one narrowly missed some passengers. We do not want anyone else to die as a result of this."

I can't help but think that CI Ripley doesn't spend his free time volunteering with The Samaritans...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Christ on a bike

Although all the evidence is pointing that way, can I just assure readers that I'm not personally responsible for any of Cardinal O' Brien's (ahem) "insights" detailed below.

Having spent a head-scratching few minutes trying to make sense of "The Brain"'s analysis of, and prescription for, society's woes, I can only conclude that he is unconsciously channelling your editor's worst anti-clerical tendencies and vocalising the same by talking bollocks.

I don't know why, but the tone of "The Card"'s comments irresistibly reminds me of a very old but very brilliant bit of satire that featured in The Onion.

Senior church leader effortlessly displays moral leadership

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

"Just drive round it."

According to yet another report, Scottish roads are the worst in The UK for potholes.

              "Fuck it. We'll just stick a patch in the bastard, fix it proper in the next financial year"

Monday, 6 April 2009

"Ees already got wan".

According to The Herald, IMDB readers have voted "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" best Scottish film of all-time. 

And quite right too.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009