Lewis Grassic Gibbon (2014 [1933]) Spartacus

James Leslie Mtichell took the pseudonym of Lewis Grassic Gibbon and was author of the classic A Scots Quair, the best known (and best liked) being Sunset Song. I can’t say I know a lot about the man. He died young, in his early thirties in the 1930s. He was a Socialist that lived in Aberdeen and like his heroine Chris Guthrie had a strong link with the Cloud of the Howe land and a calling to be educated with a love of books and learning.   Mitchell wrote 4000 words a day. He put this down to grounding himself in a language and time he was familiar with. It’s a half-breed lilting language not of the written word or the spoken word but musical in tone. Try writing 4000 words.  It’s a prodigious amount. He also learned Russian so he could speak with the Soviet envoy that was arriving in Aberdeen to meet with fellow Communists.

Spartacus is for me Kirk Douglas with a sword and some of the more rowdy kids in the ABCminors shouting ‘get into those Roman bastards’. It was nearly as good as Ben Hur. It was based on a historical novel by Howard Fast. The novel plays fast and easy with the rules of writing and is awful. Now get into those Romans.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Spartacus is a different kind of beast. A slave revolt against a controlling state and you know whose side he’s going to be on. Kleon stabs his master in the throat. The reader’s sympathy is with the slave. His master enjoyed tracts like ‘the Nine Rapings of the Greek Ataretos’ (a book that I’ve never read) and likes to have young Kleon whipped with wire before indulging in carnal pleasure with him. There are echoes here of Guthrie’s father calling to Chris to come to him because she is his. But Chris Guthrie belonged to no one but herself, as unchanging and changeable as the land. Kleon I fear is a truncated figure that will never grow to the stature of a Guthrie. I’m sure Spartacus is a juvenile work. Twenty pages in I ditched it.


Catholic church and the black-baby scandal

Scratch’s ‘Daniel’ series of stories on ABCtales is coming to a conclusion. I’ve been having flashbacks, images of long black frocks and oversized crucifixes,  the parish priest Canon Mallon and my teacher Mrs Boyle standing next to him, but with a slightly smaller crucifix. Little did I know that I was involved in a cruel experiment and like many others I’m ready to sue and seek therapeutic help by getting it down on paper. There are others like me out there.

Anyone who went to St Stephen’s Primary school as decribed in this book http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole

should contact me for counselling. Anyone that did not go to St Stephen’s Primary school should buy a copy of the book to see what we are talking about.

Walter Mischel’s Stanford Marshmallow experiment describes how a young child, under five, is given a choice. Have a marshmallow (or sweet) now or wait, and get two marshmallows later. Children who deferred gratification until later Mischel found, in long-term studies, did better in education and life.

The St Stephen’s Digestive biscuit test was much more exacting. At school break time in the morning we could buy a Digestive biscuit off Mrs Boyle our teacher for one old penny. Some, like myself, were often excluded from this experiment because they has lots of brother and sister and too few pennies. But unlike the Stanford experiment Mrs Boyle didn’t offer two -or more Digestives for delaying not eating a biscuit we couldn’t afford – she offered salvation, for an old penny. She gave us the option of eating a Digestive, or buying a black baby.

If we bought a black baby for a penny it was ticked down on a sheet and when you got to  a shilling eventually you got to own a black baby and you were given a picture of it. For giving up Digestive biscuits you were sent to heaven. Now that’s what I call delayed gratification.

I’ve been trying to find Dennis Deeney because like me he never amounted to much and went bald. Unlike me, however, his mother’s sister was a nun, Sister Hosey.  It might have been genetic but in the biscuit or black baby test he always took the black baby. He bought so many black babies that any God fearing slave-ship captain would have found it difficult fitting them below deck.

I’m just wondering if Dennis Deeney is in heaven. If he is can he contact me and let me know and I can rest easy.

How Unbound Works, Blue Peter and how to save Africa from the Africans

Lots of folk ask me how Unbound Works. (Well, one person, thanks for that Eddie.) The answer is quite simple. I’ve no idea But then I thought back to my gilded youth when everything was quite simply complicated so that even a kid could understand it.

Unbound is like Blue Peter without -down Shep! In those days John, Peter and Val stood in front of a big hollow tower, made out of polystyrene, with banded numbers on it. They’d look quite glum because there was something bad happening on the other side of the world. But then they’d perk up because they’d thought of a wheeze. All you had to do was send in bits of silver-backed tinsel, take it to the post-office and tell the man it was for Blue Peter. They’d send it on. The tower would fill with silver paper from  kids getting high on helping others and, in particular, helping to save Africa from the Africans. When the tower was full (this would take at least three weeks – unless the postmen were on strike in a show of  solidarity with  the miners) and there would be a triumvirate of triumphant wooly jumpers in front of the tower and Peter or Val whooping and  would tell us that we’d done it again. With all our unstinting efforts we’d save Africa from the Africans.

Unbound work in the same way. But instead of tinsel you send them money. You don’t even ask you  to use a hard-working postman. They let you do it by credit card. And in the back office Val, Peter, John and down Shep sit round a circular table and count the cash for you as it pours in. If you haven’t any cash share this link. If you can’t share this link Shep will be very unhappy.

C’mon you kids out there, pledge to this worth-while cause. http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole