Mrs America, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, written by Dahvi Waller and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08ggl84/mrs-america-series-1-1-phyllis

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08gglyp/mrs-america-series-1-2-gloria

It’s 1971, American troops are still fighting in Vietnam. Richard Nixon is President and is engaged in ongoing peace talks with his USSR counterpart, President Brezhnev. Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) is scheduled to talk about the arm’s race, to give a women’s perspective on local television. She knows her stuff. She’s ran for Congress as a Republican candidate. The talk-show host is enamoured, not only is she knowledgeable, she’s beautiful. He wants her to go to Washington with him and talk to Senators, including Barry Goldwater. He’s a man who knows the money men, the men with power and hoping for a bit of hanky-panky. She smiles as she’s been told to do. She’s good at smiling. Good at most things. She’s a leader and follower.  

Next up, we get Schlfly at home in Missouri. Her husband Fred Schlafly (John Slattery) is a successful businessman and her father to her six children. He indulges her political ambitions and her networking and her Rolodex and secretary and organising local mothers into a white, middle-class mother’s group against the Equal Rights Act, because it keeps her out of harm’s way.  She indulges him. After her trip to Washington, where she’s the only woman in a roomful of Senators discussing the arm’s race and latest proposed legislation, which she’s read and is able to slap down a Senator like a school teacher quizzing an errant pupil that’s not done his homework. At home she’s too tired for sex, but he isn’t. It’s his choice and her obligation.  

Perhaps I should use different similes. Metaphorical language tends to reinforce the idea of his-story being the dominant ideology. With first-wave feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, focussing on social context. Man, Woman, Other, with the distinction of being female and being constructed as a woman. Being gendered allows patriarchy to perpetuate the status-quo. St Thomas Aquinas’s idea of women being an ‘imperfect man’. In the tradition of women being nothing but an empty womb. Setting us up for the fight against abortion, which as we know from Roe vs Wade women won in the Supreme Court in the United States but has been rolled back again and again. With the poor, working class and black women overwhelmingly effected. It’s no great surprise that Schlafly received a standing ovation at the moron’s moron’s Presidential rally in 2016, when Trump was running for office. And the President of the dis-United States attended her funeral. As a rule of thumb, whatever Trump is for, I’m against. Betty Friedman (Tracy Ulman) and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) are having a conversation about who Phyllis Schlafly is, while Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) is foregrounded. It’s a conversation about nothing but everything. The reply sums her (and him) up. ‘She’s a right-wing, nut-job’.

Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, was also a right-wing, nut job.  She didn’t believe in sexual discrimination either. But, ironically, in early-seventies Britain, Prime Minister Edward Heath only kept Thatcher in Cabinet as Education Secretary because she was the token woman. In the same way, the viewer, from a different viewpoint, almost feels sorry for Phyllis Schlafly when she gets to attend a coveted meeting with Barry Goldwater and the other state senators in the Senate. The stenographer, a woman, naturally, is asked to leave because talks about nuclear missiles is too important an issue and she doesn’t have security clearance. But Phyllis Schlafly primed to speak and show her mettle is slapped down and asked to take notes and minutes. Women should know their place isn’t spoken, but shown. That’s great drama.

Carol Hanisch (1970) coined the term, ‘the personal is political’ and the second-wave feminist movement that is dramatized here ride on a righteous wave against ‘right-wing, nut-jobs,’ which crashed against Thatcher/Reagan. We lost the ideological war and live in the right-wing, nut-job world now of hatred and entrenched social divisions.  I’ve only watched the first two episodes of nine. The second episode feature Gloria Epstein, she’s beautiful too, but perhaps I shouldn’t be saying that. Judging people by the bogus standards of the male gaze. Perhaps I’ll watch more episodes. I’m a prisoner of my birth and personality (personal–reality) aren’t we all? Aren’t we all?

Storyville, Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director David France.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000kjnt/storyville-welcome-to-chechnya-the-gay-purge

Here we have Claud Cockburn’s maxim as a rule of thumb, ‘Never believe anything until it has been officially denied’.

Director David France’s documentary shows clearly that gay lives don’t matter in Chechnya, or in Russia, generally. Imagine George Michael had went missing at the height of his pomp and Margaret Thatcher (Section 28 legislation) came on the telly and told you, he wasn’t missing. And there was no such thing as gay people in Britain, and if there was ‘They are devils, subhuman.’ They should be taken to their families to be killed.

This is the rhetoric not of Thatcher, but of Ramzan Kadyrov, a Vladamir Putin appointed strongman, leader of the Chechnya Republic telling the public how it is in relation to Chechan’s George Michael and gay community. Imagine, instead of George Floyd being choked to death by policeman while other cops watched him die, you had police trophy footage of men and women beaten to death at the side of the road and raped to show they are dealing with the gay plague, the lesbian problem. Transsexual doesn’t register. Kadyrov labelled men that love men and women that love women, subhuman, not human and that’s the way they are treated, a problem that needs to be solved or eradicated.

Anna Politkovskya,  Chechnya: A Dirty War  1999-2002  gives us context. Vladimir Putin’s ‘anti-terrorist campaign’ destroyed the Chechnya capital, Grozny in a way we’ve become familiar with television pictures and reports of the indiscriminate Russian bombing of Syria and Ukraine and the targeting of, for example, hospitals. Terrorists are those on the ground. Chechnyans were labelled by Putin a ‘nation of criminals’.   In February 2001, Politkovskya was detained and threatened with rape by senior Russian officers when investigating a Russian torture centre. Perhaps she was naïve to think there was just one. Refugees talked of the indiscriminate murder of children, pregnant women, old men.  Putin won the war in Chechnya as he’s winning the war in Syria and the Ukraine. Anna Politkovskya had made enemies in high places. On 7th October 2006 she was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block in central Moscow. Three Chechens were arrested, but acquitted and re-arrested.

  Truth does not need to be subversive, but it does need to be true.  France shows how it works in Chechnya. After a police raid around 2017, a gay man’s phone was taken from him and examined. We usually use words like forensic her—forensically examined—for links to other crimes to do with drugs or other offences so the authorities can label them criminal. Terrorist is a popular word choice. What the officers found was gay messages and images. Gay men, or women, were taken to Argun Prison in Grozny and tortured, with many beaten to death, reminiscent of Lubyanka and Stalin’s reign of fear. Victims were forced to give names of other gay men or women that the police could roll up, torture and kill, to get other names. This reign of fear France labels a Gay Purge, which is denied by authorities in Grozny and Moscow, using the logic that such people don’t exist and even if they did, there’s no official notification of it or them.    While at the same time, Ramzan Kadyrov promises to ‘cleanse the blood’ of Muslims and eliminate those people that don’t exist.

France’s film follows Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual (LGBT) activists in Moscow, such as Olga Baravov, who have helped Chechnyan LGBT victims escape. We follow, for example, Akmad aged 30, (not his real name). Identities are protected by digital remastering because of a risk of reprisals at home in Chechnya. The rescue of ‘Anya’, aged 21, takes the viewer from Moscow to Grozny and had elements of a thriller. ‘Anya’s’ uncle told her he’d out her as a lesbian unless she slept with him and she had to be smuggled out. LGBT activists helped provide an underground ‘railway’ and safe houses. They try and relocate victims of torture and state violence. Asylum seekers of whatever sexuality are not popular (America, as you’d expect, is not on their list). Canada figures strongly. 151 victims processed by LGBT activists in Moscow, 44 men in women seeking asylum when filming took place.

‘Anya’ disappeared from her safe house. Olga Baranov and her child had herself to seek asylum in Canada after been outed by the Russian authorities. Moscow was not safe with its anti-gay rhetoric and threat of reprisals.    

Maxim Lapunov, his real name, returned from asylum and challenged the authorities in Chechnya and accused them of state torture, placing a deposition in the Russian Municipal Courthouse. His digital mask protecting his identity was dissolved. The case was, of course, flung out. For Putin acolytes, gays don’t exist in Russia or Chechnya, and even if they did, they law does not exist to protect the likes of them. Lapunov claimed he’d take his case to the European Courts of Human Rights in Strasbourg.  Watch this space, if he’s not disappeared or dies mysteriously, he might just do that, but I doubt it.

George Orwell recognised ‘to be corrupted by totalitarianism’— for example, the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse—you ‘do not have to live in a totalitarian country’, the un-United States of America. We’re all corrupted now.  Putin the strong man goes from strength to strength. Ramzan Kadyrov does not have the final word. He does what he’s told. The gay purge hurts no one—that counts—and nobody is counting.

First they came for the gays

and I did not speak out-

because I was not gay

[adapted from Pastor Martin Nemoller (1892-1984).

Manchester City 4—0 Liverpool.

It could have been worse for Liverpool. Raheem Stirling instead of hitting the post against Chelsea could have scored and put Manchester City 2—1 ahead and they’d have probably won that game too. This game might have mattered. It could have been worse for Liverpool, substitute Mahrez goal after 94 minutes was chopped off. That would have made it 5—0 for City. The same score they lost at the Etihad the last time they were here.

I was thinking before the game Pep Gurudiolo’s and Manchester City’s worse decision in recent years was to buy John Stones and not Virgil van Dijk. City would have had the title this year with van Dijk in the team. But for such an emphatic win tonight, early on it was even. With both teams playing a high line, chances came and went.

Gabriel Jesus ‘goal’ was disallowed for a marginal offside. Mo Salah hit the post. Liverpool’s balls in behind the City defence was causing problem. Mane should have scored with a header. He should also have scored with a much easier chance in the second half. He’d a poor game, as did most of the Liverpool team. I’ll need to change that to all of the Liverpool team.

Sterling created Kevin de Bruyne’s first goal when the Manchester City forward was hauled down by Gomez. De Bruyne scored from the spot. Then Sterling scored the second goal by turning away from Gomez and hitting the ball through the Liverpool central defender’s legs. Nutmeg nightmare. The Scottish international Andy Robertson, and left-back, had a good claim to be the worst man on the park. He lost Foden for the third goal. And on this showing Robertson would have a hard time getting a game for Clyde, his former club. The best players on the park were wearing the City shirts.

Oxlade Chamberlain tried to stop Sterling adding to his tally and scored an own-goal. By that time, midway through the second half, the game was over.

Liverpool chances came mainly from Manchester City’s defenders and goalkeeper trying to play from the back. Manchester City’s chances came for de Bruyne, Sterling and Foden, who looks a real prospect.

In what could have been one of the biggest games of the season, but in reality a glorified friendly, Liverpool were the losers, but the winners. But I remember a time when the most important fixtures weren’t dictated by telly money. And would have been played on a fucking Thursday night. Crap game. Liverpool were terrible, but that doesn’t matter. City’s defence was terrible. They’re still in the European Cup. That does matter, but not to me. I’m focussing on the qualifiers for the Champion’s league. Celtic should go for De Bruyne and bring him home to Parkhead, where he’d be appreciated.  

Diana Wilson: 28/6/2020 RIP.

Diana and grand-kids, Danya and Leo.

Diana Wilson got allocated one of the new builds in Trafalgar Street, 2003-4. She was much the same age as Ricky Ross, Deacon Blue, and Dignity has become a bit of a naff-classic. In those days of the late 1950s a Daily Record cost 2d, now it cost 85p. You could buy a bungalow in Great Western Road and have change from £125. Black-and-white telly, but not for all. Most couldn’t afford it, even with Radio Rentals. Crowds flocked to new X-Ray Units, which was the next best thing – and free with the spanking new NHS. 25 000 test in one day, setting a new world record in a drive to beat tuberculosis. TB, remember that? Lots to do with lack of sanitation and overcrowding. ‘Real Gone Kid,’ Ricky knew about that. Falkirk won the Scottish Cup.  The game wasn’t even on the radio. The problem of over-crowding at fitba was being debated.  

The late summer of Diana’s life, after an overcrowded tenant block in Castle Street Dalmuir, and the old Trafalgar. New build. New start. New shiny Trafalgar for shiny new people that didn’t steal astroturf for their bedroom from the pitch nearby (ahem, a close neighbour).  I used to pass the back garden, real grass, and grandkids out the back—Danya and later Leo— staffie dog on the doorstep, keeping an eye on you through the metal railings. It was meant to be her son Tam’s dog, but it wasn’t daft it knew where it’s Kennomeat sandwiches weren’t buttered. Her car would be parked out the front. It didn’t go any further than Clydebank shopping centre, but it was proof she could drive, although she’d rather not. Children and animals were drawn to her because she was a Goodfellow, sometimes names ring true.  

Often there’d be familiar faces sitting in the garden, holding up a bottle of beer in a sunshine salute. Tam’s pals were also Diana’s pals. I’d run into them in the pub. And after listening to a Pickering wittering on for so long even the devil had went up the road for a sleep and hid his head under the blankets, Big Pat would ask, ‘whit was that about?’

I’d shrug, my ears had melted like wax to the side of my baldy head, and, to decompress, I’d go and talk to Wullie Dalziel because he knew everything.

But Diana Wilson, Diana Goodfellow, wasn’t a know-it-all; she was a listener. You could have a laugh, but you could also trust her with your secrets. Listeners are where love is. Children loved Diana because she listened. Dogs loved her because she was what love is. Her concern wasn’t for herself, but for others. Listeners know where you’re coming from.

The last time I saw Tam was about a month ago, in the shop we go to for papers and rolls, which used to be Ramjam’s, then Iffty’s and I’m not sure what it’s called now. I meant to ask Tam how his mum was, but I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t. Diana always made time for people. She would have asked about me and mine. I’m an open-mouthed grazer.  In biology there’s the notion of the keystone species. They play a critical role in the balance of ecological communities. Diana Wilson was a keystone species; she was a carer and listener. Her death doesn’t just leave her family—son and grandchildren—gutted, it deadens the water of our community and makes it a poorer and more poisonous place to live. Kindness was her religion. Sorely missed.  RIP

Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Film 4, 11.05 pm, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche (2013).

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/blue-is-the-warmest-colour

Wow, Mary Whitehouse, this was a sizzler. To think back in the 1970s I used to get red faced watching The Sweeney, when they showed a bit of tit. This would have been a swift case of spontaneous combustion and my charred remains found glued to the false leather settee. Whoopee, finally, a blue movie on the telly, but I’m too old for it now!

But if you cut away the nudity, which I gawped at and enjoyed being a voyeur for a few hours, this was a tremendous film. Honest in a way I recognise in the best writing and could—honestly—say that could have happened. Emma ( Léa Seydoux) is a fifteen-year old Parisian schoolgirl who likes books and reading (Jane Austen’s Emma, like many of her protagonists is in love with the idea of being in love). Our first glimpses of her are in the classroom, discussing—you’ve guessed it, love at first sight—and there’s a play on this theme. Thomas (Jérémie Laheurte) fancies Adèle and her girlish friends are soon letting her know, hinting that the senior schoolboy isn’t Brad Pitt, but isn’t bad and he’d be good in bed. Emma is part of the queen-bee school set, a French Mean Girls, with sex and more sex a constant topic. Emma’s unsure, but she plays along. She agrees to date Thomas. But her head is literally turned when she sees Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) a young woman with eye-catching blue hair in the street, with her arm flung around another young woman. They are obviously lovers. Emma’s and Adèle’s eyes briefly meet. Love at first sight, definitely, maybe.

When Emma masturbates in her bedroom it’s not Thomas she fantasises about, but the girl with blue hair. She does have sex with Thomas, but that soon fizzles out.

One of her girlish school friends teases her with a kiss, but when Emma follows it up, wanting more, she’s shunned as a dyke. But her best friend at school, Valentin (Sandor Funtek) is gay (that old trope of Hollywood movies) and takes her to a gay nightclub. Emma wanders away to another club, following a gaggle of women into a place that is a lesbian-hang out. Here’s where the meet-cute takes place.

The law of the meet-cute is nothing happens, but everything happens. Camera work tries not to beautify but make Emma uglier and therefore more human, emphasising her teeth or the way she plays with her hair. It works by not working. She’s a stunner. Adèle isn’t as pretty, but has a girlfriend in tow. She pays for Emma’s drink at the bar, and tells her girlfriends that they are cousins. She knows she’s underage, but gets her phone number.

She appears outside Emma’s school and Emma gets into a fist-fight when her school-girl friends hassle her about being a dyke. She denies it.

Adèle is a fine art student on the cusp of graduation. They hold hands, but Emma wants more, needs more, and when they kiss for that first time you know she’s going to get it. Boy does she. Only it’s not boys, it’s girls. The camera doesn’t miss a trick.

We play a game of meet the parents.  Adèle’s parents are solid middle-class, unfazed about sex and their daughter and step-daughter, respectively, having a girlfriend and not a boyfriend. Emma said she hates seafood, Adèle says something like shellfish tastes like pussy, so she loves it. Anyone for oysters?

Emma’s mum serves bolognese. She is grateful for all the tutoring Adèle is doing to help her daughter’s grades improve. Her dad asks Adèle about what kind of jobs she can expect to do when she finished swanning about with a fine-arts degree and what her boyfriend does. Adèle plays along and tells him, her boyfriend is a businessman, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do after graduation.

Emma, beautiful, nude, Emma is Adèle muse for her graduation and her up-and-coming exhibition. By this time they’re living together. While Emma does the grunt-work of keeping the house running and doing the dishes and at the end of the night, wants a kiss, a real kiss, Adèle turns away.

Emma is also working in school, training to be a schoolteacher. One of her male colleagues obviously fancies the pants off her. You know when she goes along to one of the teacher’s night’s out, well, you know. But it’s off camera.

Adèle finds out and they split. It’s messy because it’s no longer about sex, but love. Emma is eminently loveable, but she admits to having fucked up. We root for her. We want her to succeed. But you know, Adèle, older, wiser, we want her to bend a little. That’s how much of a good movies this is. We want characters on a screen to be more unlike characters on a screen, or in real life, because we’re not really sure.

They meet again. Don’t know where. Don’t know when… And Blue Is the Warmest Colour… Great film.

Everton 0—0 Liverpool.

The latest of the must-watch fixtures. Liverpool look to win and go on and win the Premier league for the first time since before the early, Dalglish management era. A youthful Alan Shearer playing up front with Chris Sutton for surprise-package Blackburn.  I might also fling in that Roy Keane agreed with my assessment of Manchester United superstars, de Gea and Maguire, he said he wouldn’t have let them on the team bus. I’m waffling on here because this was by far the most boring of the three games I’ve watched. Matip put a header past from an Alex Alexander free-kick, a decent chance. And Firminho missed a decent chance from inside the box, dragging the shot wide, when he could have played Keita in. James Milner, in for Andy Robertson, came off with a injury just before half-time. The only player born when Liverpool last won the league. The progression to the 2020 championship goes on. But this will be a match quickly forgotten. Saha on the bench. The ace in the pack, not used.

Richardlson had a half-chance for Everton on the break, after cutting inside substitute Loveren. Liverpool dominated. Stoppage for drinks. Matip gets injured. Hmmmmmm, it’s boring enough. The risk of injury. Thr risk of dehydration. Tom Davies hits the post, with the best chance of the game.

To reiterarate, the worst game of the three I’ve watched so far. Liverpool dominate. Everton have the better chances. In a word, boring. Liverpool still await their title.

Tottenham Hotspur 1—1 Manchester United.

After watching the Manchester City game against Arsenal, I thought I’d give the next—must watch—game a try. Yawn. Let’s get to the first-half goal. Stephen Bergwijn, The Dutch and Spurs forward, got the ball near the touchline. He turned and ran past the £70 million England centre-half, and Manchester United defender, without actually doing very much more than sprint and pick apart a disjointed offside trap. His shot from the edge of the box had power, but had a Celtic keeper let in this type of shot I’d be totally raging. David de Gea, the Spanish national, and Manchester United goal- keeper, made a total hash of it. If this was a Scottish keeper you’d hear the usual condescending chorus of ‘dear, oh dear’ and there’d be patronising smiles and  a debate about how rubbish we really are.

Ironically, Spurs scored when Manchester United were having their best spell of play. Marcus Rashford, fresh from his humbling of little trumpet, Boris Johnson, had one snapshot on goal.

In contrast, the other England centre-forward, Harry Kane, back from injury and into the Spur’s attack, had few touches and no shots on goal and was anonymous.

United started the better team in the second-half and dominated. Martial had shot blocked by Spur’s centre-half, Eric Dier, but Martial did better a few moments later, getting his shot away. But it was saved by Lloris. The equaliser was down to substitute Paul Pogba. He’d rolled Dier on the touchline and the Spurs defender with a clumsy nudge pushed him over. Bruno Fernandes, the best player on view (almost as good as Callum McGregor) scored with the penalty.

Spur came into a bit after that. The referee awarded United another penalty when Dier was adjudged to leave a foot in on Fernandes, but it was overturned by the video ref. Greenwood, on for the United winger, James, had the last meaningful shot of the game in extra-time of extra-time.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed the game, but the second half was a lot better than the first. Next must-watch game, Everton v Liverpool. Don’t really care who wins that one either. Bring on the Celts and real football. From what I’ve seen so far Celtic would have beaten Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal. But I’ll hold fire until we get through the Euro qualifiers to see which of these teams we get in the Champions League. Obviously, it can’t be Manchester City who’re barred. We might not even bother with Europe and winning the Champions League in season 2020/21 and concentrate on ten-in-a-row.

Manchester City 3—0 Arsenal

I don’t watch much of English football now. Usually, I fall asleep on a Saturday night watching Match of the Day. After lockdown I watched the big game. When you don’t really care who wins, as I do, the game needs to be sparkling to keep your attention. Arsenal started quite well, but City made the better chances. They’d four shots on goal, before Kevin De Bruyne tried a speculative pass. Earlier he’d misplaced a pass and helped create one of Arsenal’s two first-half chances. Here he misplaced another pass, but David Luiz let the ball hit against him and he played in Raheem Stirling who slammed it into the net. Luiz had came on as an substitute, one of two, Arsenal changes to their first eleven, as players not quite up to speed suffered injuries.

Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal boss, who once played for Rangers, knows a diddy when he sees one and Luiz comes into that category. I was half supporting Arsenal because ex-Celtic player Kieran Tierney was given a run out.

  Ederson Santana de Moraes, the Man City goalkeeper picked apart the Arsenal defence with his first two, second-half passes in the opening minutes. Riyad Mahrez, first touch was poor and he was through on goal, but the chance gone. A minute or two later, another defence-splitting pass. Luiz pulls Mahrez back in the penalty box. Luiz gets sent off.

De Bruyne scores the penalty and it’s just a matter of how many City will score. Eleven players against ten. Training match, with water breaks.  

Substitute Fernandino to England hopeful Phil Foden to make it three…

Arsenal’s best player, goal-keeper, Bernd Leno, which pretty much says it all.

Man City’s keeper wiped out one of his own defenders late in the game. He was taking no chances. Playing Luiz is perhaps taking too big a gamble. Interesting to see where Luiz will go next. Unbelievably, Luiz has gone for around £100 million-plus in an up and down career. He’ll soon be back at Chelsea.

Same old Arsenal, beaten 3—0 by City last time. Beaten 3—0 this time. Kevin de Bruyne taken off, but still made man of the match. Really, it was Luiz. Football is back (yawn). I suppose I’ll watch the Merseyside derby. Don’t care who wins that one either. Waiting for Celtic’s season to begin, anew.

The Salisbury Poisonings, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, director, Saul Dibb.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08dqp3w/the-salisbury-poisonings-series-1-episode-1

Before Covid-19, the coronavirus, Salisbury was briefly in lockdown in the winter of 2018 after two Russian agents poisoned former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal  (Wayne Swann) who worked for MI6 (allegedly) and his daughter,  Yulia Skripal (Jill Winternitz) with polonium, a highly toxic and deadly nerve agent. This might have been a hard sell.

Now we’re au fait with the whole situation. As soon as Sergi and Yulia start spewing up, and people crowd around them, you’re shouting that the telly, get away from them, ya numpty. Don’t you know anything about the R number?

Then DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) who’s leading the investigation wades right into the infection zone and, when he starts sweating and mopping his brow, you just know he’s got it. He goes to the hospital for a check-up. They send him home, as hospitals sent tens of thousands of elderly folks into care homes, to empty acute-care beds for sick people, malingerers, with a bit of flu, without testing them for Covid-19. We knew the DS would be back and it would be intensive care. We’re up to date with all that stuff.

You’d be sneering, when rooking police turn up at Sergei Skripal’s home and a neighbour with a spare set of keys offers to let him inside. Lucky for them, DS Nick Bailey tells them to stand down, ‘Do not go in that house!’ No personal protective equipment, we’re saying. What kind of bungling amateurs employed by Boris Johnson are we dealing with?

The hero, Tracy Daszkiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff) a civilian, director of public health and safety, needs to take charge. Which is quite a mouthful.  She’s got to give the police, council and traders the bad news. We’re shutting you down.  She’ll also need to employ trace and track. Salisbury city centre and the places were the Russian dissidents had visited would need to be locked down. All of this is so familiar; we wonder why anybody bothers arguing with her.

Of course, there are the couple that got away. Dawn Sturgess (Myanna Buring) and  Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris). They’ve also been poisoned, but they’re invisible to the public eye, portrayed as alkies, so they don’t notice, while flinging back the booze. It’s not as if they’re real people.   I’m sure Tracy Daszkiewicz will find them, but won’t be able to save them.

We’re ahead of the curve here too. Not everybody is saved. It’s not all happy endings. But this is worth watching. Now we’re all experts, it’s easier. We’re more informed and that’s not a good thing. The price has been too high. I wonder who’ll play the weasly windbag Boris Johnson in the Covid-19, mini-series.

Kenny (Keemo) Bannatyne: 1/6/1974 to 12/6/2020

fiona and kenny (keemo) bannatyne

Shakespeare’s Caesar: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…

I briefly thought about Keemo when lockdown began. Needing, in effect, new lungs, he was the highest-risk category.  Then  I forgot about him. Life gets in the way.  Now I’ve found out he’s dead. I’ll remember him for his kindness.

After Robert’s death he brought Mary flowers. He attended the funeral with his wife and we had a laugh talking about the old times in Trafalgar Street. I asked how he was getting on. Alright, is the usual reply. But he’d tubes in his nose, and told me about waiting for a transplant.

Keemo was waiting for someone else to die so he could get their lungs. Somebody younger. That’s the reality of a tissue match. As an old soldier, he knew the odds were dwindling.

Then we’d Covid-19. Triage takes place in the NHS. All those waiting for treatment of one kind or another are put on hold and in a very long queue. His odds were shortening even more.

Your lungs don’t just make sure you breathe it also works the blood. Try running a car without oil. Red blood cells don’t behave in the ways they should. Pain, pain and more pain. Old soldiers never complain.

He’d a wife and three kids to worry about. The psychological effect of holding out the chance of treatment and then taking it away is comparable with first-world war troops in trenches. They were told they were going over the top—then told to stand down. Old soldiers grow bone weary, the hope in their eyes gradually extinguished.

We’ve had the best weather since that summer of 1974 when Keemo was born, but it was a winter of discontent, and a miners’ strike that toppled the government. We’d already tried the three-day week. Everybody backed Red Rum in the Grand National and even the Scottish Grand National. Bookies complained they’d go bust. Celtic made it nine-in-a-row. Scotland beat England at rugby. The Waltons and Porridge were on the telly. The New Seekers, ‘who’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,’ split up. A good year to be born for a future army boy.

The 1980s was a time of mass unemployment (the current depression and mass unemployment will be much worse) but the army, as always, were recruiting. He ticked all the boxes. Ginger. Red-faced. Loved the Rangers. Sign on the dotted line for a twenty-year stint with the First and Third Battalion, Argyle and Southern Highlanders.

army boy

I met Keemo in the Drop Inn, obviously. He got hooked in to playing a few games for our pub team. He was one of the lads.

After Barry Brennan’s funeral, as we waited outside to clap the wrong hearse, Lainey mentioned that it was also Terry Ross’s anniversary. Twenty-odd years since his death. It got me thinking I could maybe write something, a book of those that I knew that had died. A memorial to remember people like us, with 50% profits to the Golden Friendship and Jim McLaren.   I joked about including Wullie Dalziel, but never gave Keemo a thought.

Obviously, it was easy to start with Robert Russell. Then Terry Ross and Pieman and Benny Hagen from school. All died young. Then my own brother, Stephen. Stevie Mitchell (and his daughter, Stacey). Hamish, Ikey, Matt Collins, Tam Mc Swiggan, Jim Largactil. Old Archie Smith (Charisma) with a voice like a grand piano, bickering with his brother John, while sitting on a plastic bag to stop him getting his good suit wet and peeing on the covered seats in the lounge bar. Callum Ballantyne and Harry his da, the man with the shell suit and sponge. Rab Pickering, the only man ever to be evicted from Drumchapel by Glasgow housing. And Rab junior, leukaemia,  and serial shagger of the bar staff. Joe Reddick, who whistled down women, like a dog catcher. Ian Betty, Sweaty Betty with the one eye. Maggie Fyfe, who once wandered into my house and wandered back out again, after I pointed her in the direction of the door, but she couldn’t find the canal bridge and returned confused. I’d like to tell you there was a happy ending here, but she too died, waving not drowning. Lainey’s mum was called Bagwash for some reason. Keemo would know why. Barra McGaghey, Jim Carlisle and Maurice (whose second name I forget, but who lived beside Alan) who threatened to kill himself – and did. Billy Wilson, captain of the pool team, but only because I let him. Benny McCann, ‘hallo son’, he’d say because he’d forgotten your name. Gordon Abrahams who’d tell you a joke and forget the punchline, but he’d laugh so much it was funny. Davy, Tibb’s dad. The old guy with the ambulance he’d done up to tour Scotland, ‘the wagon’ he called it, but never had a license. Typical punter. Sandy McQuillan, Benny’s pal, who’d talk out of the side of his mouth as if everything was a secret- which it was. George Norwood and the nine o’clock gang who shuffled off to the Park Bar, and then beyond that. Davy McCallum, the boy that went missing, never to be found. Keemo knew them all, and knew him better than anyone, just as he knew Robert.

Keemo’s not missing, but is missed. His family torn apart. He fought the good fight. The one we all lose. Too early. Too soon. An army boy does not reason why. It was his turn to go over the top.  The rest of us make our own mind up and think we’ve got a choice. Forever young. He was a kind soul. We are diminished.  RIP.