Imagine. Antony Gormley: Being Human BBC 1, 10.35pm

gormley angel of the north

Like Antony Gormley, best known for Angel of the North, I can imagine being human. I can imagine lots of things. As a wee boy I imagined what it would be like to live in a sweet shop, to slay a dragon, or right every wrong. There were lots of things I wouldn’t admit to imagining. Like Antony Gormley I came from a big Catholic family, big on Catholicism, five kids and a few near misses. There was seven children in Gormley’s family, he was the youngest. Like me Antony Gormley hitchhiked to Lourdes, the Disneyland of Catholic faith, and had a look around. Lots of clerical big wheels, plaster cast Virgin Mary with doe eyes, and lots of people that should have been working and not kneeling about, scrounging and claiming supernational benefits. I hitchhiked to Biaritz, where women showed their tits. Antony Gormley had to go one better. He went to India for two years. Discovered a skill he developed as a kid, his inner guru, how to meditate and connect with that inners space that makes each person different but the same. I’ll let you decide tits, or the meaning of life? Antony Gormley channelled his search into a career as a sculptor and artist that has lasted forty years. I’m still slaying dragons.

Could I slay the Angel of the North? Aye, if I’d a sword big enough. I guess I’m one of those Neanderthal Northern wankers that shouted ‘fucking wanker’ at him when he unveiled the Angel. One of those like Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Black Stuff that claimed, I CAN DO THAT! All I would have needed was a gigantic pair of wings, like mega-aircraft wings, and a human model. A person rolled up neatly in a spider’s web, much in the way that Gormley encased himself in plaster to create casts from his body of the universal everyman, but also something more than human, gigantic and intimate, like the Angel. I’d have been one of those spitting mad, flinging bottles as his installation in Northern Island during the Troubles and seeing it as gigantic waste of public money. And I’m ashamed. Because all art is a waste of money, a luxury good, an added extra. So begins the choreographed championing of ignorance. The burning of books and those that write them. Nice things only for the deserving rich.

But I’m not wholly penitent in sackcloth and ashes. His Florence installation, cuboid and classical Gormley figures still leaves me cold. And I’m with those marvellous Italian cleaners who separated the chaff from the wheat, the cigarette douts for the bins and recycled glass and binned a modern art installation. Tracey Emin’s unmade bed needs spin washed. When a warehouse containing her ‘artwork’ burnt down, you can imagine how gutted I was. Tens of millions in insurance compensation paid to the ‘artist’ just wasn’t enough? Art has always been about fashions. The next big thing. Marketing more important than the product being marketed. Take bottled water. Anyone that buys it in Britain (and in Scotland in particular) should have mug tattooed with Indian ink on their forehead. That’s my opinion. Arts different from other commodities, but quantified and given monetary value, it isn’t.  It’s only human to think the Emperor has no clothes. Well, sometimes, he or she hasn’t.

Pat McDaid marries Pauline (nee Ward) McDaid


Pat did me a favour. His wedding was in the Town Hall. He knows I can’t be bothered going anywhere, but it was only ten minutes along the road if you were walking. But it wasn’t all plain sailing or even walking, since I took my van, and even took my partner Mary. Celtic were playing Aberdeen in a big top of the table clash at 12.30pm. Pat’s wedding was at 2pm. You can see my dilemma, can’t you?

Pat should have planned it better. I’m not blaming him. But he should be getting better at it, he’s already been married once, and he’s not even as old as me.

Anyway, I’ve been to lots of funerals lately. And I guess both offer free drinks and a free meal, but only one has a stinky corpse. There was no way of getting out of it. I had to go.

We were fashionably early, 1.58 pm, parked up and met Betty McCann wandering about and searching for an entrance to the building. Vince, her partner, said he didn’t recognise me without my lawnmower, which is my kind of joke, because it’s not funny. We followed them inside. It’s always good to have someone to blame if you’re in the wrong place. Old folk take the fall. We were just through the back bit of the museum and into an adjoining hall. I took the credit for following the right kind of people.

Pat was at the front, waiting for his bride. Stevie McCann, the best man, was beside him fizzing about like a firework. He’s the best man for being uncomfortable with being the best man, but the best man for the job. The place was already mobbed. We took seats in the back row. I pushed right along to the end. Mary sitting beside me. The back row has got a bit of street cred and sure enough Bernie (Bernadette) McCann and Kenny joined us in the back row. Mags and wee Rab, who didn’t cut the mustard as back-row material drifted in just before the piper droned to the wedding dirge. Pauline floated in, white dress, bridesmaids and, well, you can imagine, she was wasting valuable drinking time and everybody was hoping she and the registrar would hurry up and get on with it.

The registrar had announced the ceremony would be short. She had requested that everyone turn their phones off and that nobody take a fly look at the Celtic score. Alright. I just made that last bit up, but it was just a thought at the time. What she hadn’t requested was people shut up during the ceremony.

Being in the back row, of course, as all those years of going in school trips, and everyone knows, makes you invisible. Mary and Bernie wittered, snorted and giggled all the way through the ceremony. The fitted two-years of gossip into twenty minutes. It might seem, looking from the outside, everyone was turning round and staring sideways, that kind of feat was a physical impossibility, but you’ve never heard these two talking. Even the bagpipes and Pat and his new bride walking down the aisle didn’t shut them up.

We were free to get a drink and the drink was free. Are there any sweeter words in the Bannkie vocabulary?  Mary had a quick one-two vodkas. I, of course, was more restrained. I played tig, with Laughing Boy’s son, Jack. He’s only six and could never catch me. I guess that’s maturity for you. He wanted to go outside to play, not outside, outside, but a spot through the glass, separated from Hall Street by a wall from the old Municipal baths. There was grass and a few trees and old stone benches which I told him were tombstones under which my mum and dad were buried. Pat and Pauline, the newlyweds, were outside, doing that photo thing that takes several lifetimes. The weather was great. I told Pat if he fancied a break and perhaps a few drinks I’d stick his jacket on and take his place in the wedding photos as the betrothed. Nobody would notice, as nobody ever looks at more than one wedding photo. But, although we were mates, I wasn’t willing to put the white dress on and fill in for Pauline.

Wee Jack had a great time. There were a few hedges. Ornamental, but I showed him how to jump over them and do the Grand National. He bucked and stopped short, but soon got the hang of it. We had to be waved away as our jumping about in the background was spoiling the wedding photos. Spoilsports.

Between the grass and hedges of the Grand National were paths filled with blue stone. Jack asked if we could eat them. I said they didn’t taste too bad, but he was too smart for me and didn’t try any.

The main hall was ready for the meal and more free drinks. Laughing Boy was meant to be sitting at a table away from us. He thought that was Pat’s idea, but it was actually mine. But anyway LB wangled a chair at our table. Me, Mary, Robert, Mag’s – LB wangled a chair in here – Tracey (Stevie the best man’s wife) Andy Rat and Mrs Rat. Well, she wasn’t actually a rat and they weren’t married. But I’m not very good with names. Everybody took photos of each other with their camera-phones, apart from me. I’m not  photogenic, didn’t have a phone and I don’t like cameras. That’s two good reasons, out of three, but not good enough, I got stitched up and ended up online.  Mags had said the Mrs Rat looked like Simon le Bon’s wife, because she was tall. Kinda taller than her she meant. Even Robert’s taller than Mags and he doesn’t look like Mrs le Bon, but we’ll let that roll.  So I called her Mrs Rat, Mrs le Bon, for a while and Mary wittered away with her. Andy Rat managed to swap the wine we didn’t like for something cheaper and nastier Clydebank people would drink in extremis. Red Rossi, Buckfast for the better class of person. I’d the vegetarian option. Lovely. Most everybody else had steak-pie and potatoes. Funeral grub. But it went down well.

I met Mark McCann in the gents and he told me Stevie had writing twenty-three pages for his best-man speech. I expected him to cut it down a bit to a shouted ‘Well done, big Man’ and leave it at that. He’s not one for being in the limelight. Stevie did well.

My Mary did less well. We were sent merrily on our way as they cleared the tables for the dancing into the adjoining room we’d be in earlier. Two seats. About fifty folk. Made the musical chairs of the Ranger’s board look like a tea party. I got one chair, but gave it up to Betty, because she was slightly older. Mary had another vodka. If I’d been counting I’d have said that was about her tenth. Four freebies. Two from LB. Couple from me. Few glasses of Rossi red. This vodka didn’t work like the other vodkas. She tried to hold the glass horizontal, which I guess is better than upside down. I’ve just wrote a blog about physics, called ‘seven lessons’.

‘You’re steamin’ I said.

I’m the bad guy. Coco and slippers. Up the road before ten. Usual Saturday night.