Celtic 3—Manchester City 3.


Watching Celtic is like going to chapel, but you want to be there and you’re a believer- even though, secretly, after getting humped 7-0 by Barcelona and facing another squad worth a quarter billion pounds, that’s won ten on the bounce, you don’t really expect miracles. Yet, you do, otherwise you’d be ffafing about watching Coronation Street. Belief isn’t optional, it’s part of the tapestry of football, against all the odds (or even 10/1) your team will win. More than that you can somehow help them win by jumping, screaming and acting like an eejit even though you’re not at the actual game. Seems daft. But without fans going absolutely nuts when Dembele scored that first goal after two and a bit minutes, dancing about like drunk man holding a coat hanger for a telly Ariel,  without an audience there is no spectacle no money to pay the players on the pitch, no Celtic in Paradise. And what a game it was. A wet and windy night to say fuck you to those that delighted in telling you Celtic wouldn’t get a point or score a goal in this Champions League section (although you might have grown horns and believed them).

Manchester City equalised eight minutes after Dembele’s opener, in which the home team had dominated and looked far more likely to score a second, rather than concede. Kolarov’s shot was going nowhere but broke to Fernandinho in a crowded box and he tucked it away leaving Gordon, the recalled Celtic keeper, with no chance. But Celtic rolled with it and took the lead again. Of all the multimillion pound midfielders on show, the pick of the bunch in the first half, was Tom Rogic, and his weighted pass  into the path of Kieran Tierney, whose deflected shot came off Raheem Stirling, gave Celtic the lead again and the stadium was rocking like the Tower of Babel. Dembele was involved in the Manchester City equaliser. After some great hold up play, his pass on the half-way line to Scott Brown was short, and a pass later Stirling was through on the Celtic goal, keeping his cool and wrong footing both Tierney and Gordon to slot the ball in the corner of the net. Celtic were on the back foot and it was good to hear the half-time whistle.

The second-half started much as the first, with an early Celtic goal. Nir Bitton fed Tierney who launched it into the City box. Dembele brought it down with his knee, and took enough time to put another ten million on his valuation, by flipping it over his head and wrong footing Kolarov, Claudio Bravo and the home and away support by somehow putting it to the keeper’s right and scoring. You hadn’t heard such a roar since the moon landing. If there was any justice in the world, the game should have finished them. But we still had another 40 minutes to play, in which Nolitio scored a City equaliser. It’s not often Aguerro is outgunned by an opposition striker. Watch this space.

Secrets of the SAS: In Their Own Words, Channel 5, 9pm, directed by Billie Pink.

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Secrets of The SAS: In Their Own Words

As Eric, my mate, often parrots, when pissed, ‘I can’t tell you if I’ve been in the SAS or I’ll need to kill you afterwards.’ Usually by that time he can’t zip up his fly and Liz is dragging him up the road. I could probably reconstruct the whole thing, with an idling taxi and two actors and an actress, playing Liz, in a dramatic reconstruction, with the sound of gunfire zipping in the background.  Most nations’ elite forces portray themselves as being the best of the best: The American Delta Force, Russian Spetznaz, French Special Operations, Scottish Rab C Nesbitteers. What they have in common is their ability to use ‘extreme violence when necessary’. Harry, a wee guy from Pollok that joined up when he was sixteen, malnourished and in pretty bad shape tells us that. The army was his family and he went onto to become part of a SAS operation during the Falkland war that planned to drop troops behind lines in the Argentine mainland and blow up their jets, whose Exocet missiles were sinking our ships and kill all the pilots. Those going on the mission weren’t expected to make it back, or to make it to the neutral territory of Chile. But being a Pollok man a suicide mission was more than compensated for by the appeal of killing officers. They were taxing on the plane when that mission was called off. Most missions don’t make it beyond the planning stage. Despite coming from Pollok in Glasgow, or perhaps because he came from Pollok, Harry went on to work for the Northern Ireland police, rise up the ranks and leave to become a Queen’s counsellor and represent the victims of violence. That’s quite an achievement.

You can’t get in the SAS if you’re stupid. You need to be in exceptional physical shape. And it’s a common pattern, voiced by Andy McNab of Bravo Two Zero fame, you need to come from a broken home and have failed the equivalent of the eleven-plus, be classified as stupid and disruptive, and be destined for grunt work or prison, but be able to think on your feet. I’m hoping the SAS can get behind the lines of the May Government and sabotage plans for the extension of grammar schools and the eleven plus and use extreme violence in achieving their goals. Payback for all the Tory white-noise propaganda and destruction of poor people’s lives through alleged welfare reforms. It should be right up their Council house street.

‘If you’re breathing, you’re winning,’ argues McNab.

Another Nietzschean commonality is ‘If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you’. Yorkie epitomised this with the mantra ‘take a life and save a life’. He killed a young Iraqi soldier at close range, in an undercover operation behind lines, during the Desert Storm, First Iraqi war in January, 1991, but he was lucky and wasn’t captured and taken to prison in Bagdad, interrogated and tortured like McNab, who was taking part in another mission in the desert about 100 miles away. At home Yorkie’s son was dying and he came home and left the army to nurse him. This dissonance between extreme violence and the everyday life that goes on, for example, shopping in Asda, is internalised. Silence is violence and another ex-SAS soldier, Rob, who created a charity to help his comrades, talked about getting drunk and putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. In the First World War it was called shell shock, now it’s a constellation of symptoms: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  A common response to PTSD is to get absolutely pissed.  A disproportionate number of those in jail and the homeless are ex-forces. I’m not SAS material, but neither would I want to be. I guess we’re back to that Jack Nicholson quote in A Few Good Men, ‘You want the truth? You couldn’t handle the truth.’


The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs, BBC 1, 9pm, directed by Emeka Onono and Jack Rampling

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I’ve invested almost two hours of my life in these two programmes presented by Dr Chris van Tullaken, with a side-line in epidemiology. He’s evangelical in his belief that too many people are being prescribed drugs they don’t need that don’t work and the side-effects are harmful to the patients and to society. Over prescription of antibiotics, for example, lead to mutations in the viruses being treated, many of them becoming ineffective treatments, leading to a spiral of higher doses and the search for antibiotics that do work. It’s a lose-lose situation. Fling in some damning statistics. An average health patient (whatever that is) takes 10 000 pills in his/her/its lifetime. In the last twenty years there’s been a 50% increase in drugs prescribed for chronic pain. Five million people in Britain are prescribed antidepressants every year. None of them are happy about it. The only ones laughing about it are the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, who offer what Dr Chris calls ‘bribes’, free lunches to General Practioners (GPs) in a Medical Centre in Chingford, East London, with 14 000 patients and the highest antibiotic-resistance-prescription rate in the area. The GPs are a cynical bunch and don’t fancy Dr Chris’s chances of changing much in the short-term, but in terms of statistics they are 99.1% less cynical than me.

Dr Chris offers quite a few sweeteners (bribes) to the patients he helps come off prescribed drugs.  Take Crystal, for example, who is taking 30 pills a day for chronic pain, mainly opiates such as Tramadol and Codeine, but with other drugs, for example, a variant of Lactulose to help her shit. Crystal is the happy ending. We see her bent and in pain and telling Dr Chris that sometimes she needs to go upstairs to her flat on her bum, one step at a time. Even a private physiotherapist suggests Crystal will find it hard to avoid taking pills. Dr Chris seeks the advice of a one of the leading specialists in pain management who confirms opiates are shit for you and stop working when a tolerance is reached. What we are seeing is the placebo effect in action. If we think something works it will work. Dr Chris prescribes a Kung Fu specialist and number 1 superguy with 40 years’ experience teaching the right moves to those that want to learn. Crystal believes in Dr Chris. Chris believes in the number 1 superguy and the in the last shots of her we see her pain free and high kicking.

The problem of self-selection and motivation is brushed aside. For a scientist looking at the facts Dr Chris skips the obvious and plays dumber than Godot. Here’s the message he’s peddling, a wonder cue, or cure, endorsed by a paper published by a less than leading university, in a select medical journal and it’s free, ‘a miracle cure’ that benefits the ‘whole body, brain to bones’.  In a word, EXERCISE.

‘You can’t put that in a pill,’ Dr Chris tells us.

You also can’t put housing in a pill. You can’t put poverty in a pill. You can’t put decent jobs, for young people, in particular, in a pill. I’m not sure who this programme is aimed at. Raw Production Company sold it to the BBC who gave it a peak-viewing slot. I’m not buying. Neither should you.  It reminds me of ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith piling up slabs of sugar on a table to show how disgusting the person was before transforming their live with a strategically placed celery stick. I’d a few depressing thoughts about that too. But I tend to be 184% more depressed when I view a picture of Jeremy Kyle and hear  his prescription of ‘ger a job’. Yep. Dr Chris, medical man, should take some of his own advice and go for a long walk.



National Treasure, Channel 4, 9pm.

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‘They think I’m fucking Jimmy Saville,’ says Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) when he’s arrested for rape.

A writer could have a lot of fun with this four-part series, as I’m sure Jack Thorne does. The litmus test for National Treasure is whether the named and shamed celebrity such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris or indeed our very own Cliff (although the tabloids are playing coy on that one) was allowed to hob-nob with the Royals and had Prince Charles, or poor old Diana, on speed-dial or Messenger. Oscar Wilde, who knows a thing or two about how fickle celebrity was, tended to rattle on about: ‘All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.’

Thorne sets up the before and after of the celebrity death spiral. I was a bit confused at first. Viewers see Finchley hobbling with a walking stick behind a glamourous lady host in evening dress, in what to me looked like cells in a prison, and because I knew the nub of the story, I thought this was him getting jailed, with possibly some kind of hallucinatory episode. But it was more prosaic and simply the backstage setting of a London theatre. Finchley was shown hyperventilating before he went onstage to present a lifetime achievement award to his comedy partner and he deadpans, in all seriousness, that it wasn’t him getting the award and that wasn’t fair. Nobody loves him, but of course they do, they just love his partner more, but he’s still in the business, with a daytime quiz show and his agent is still trying to cut deals with the big hitters. This is the before.

Before anything happens normality is a big house in London, but not too big, he still bumps into his neighbour taking his bin out. The grandkids are bickering and his wife, Marie (Julie Walters) is keeping an eye on them. Later, we learn he’s been cheating on her for years, and she’s shown to be a religious maniac because she says the Hail Mary and prays. Finchley when he stays the night with a prostitute laments Marie’s loss of beauty and gives us a Wildean epigram about women being beautiful in a way that men never are. Quite so old boy, quite so, hide all the mirrors.

Now we are in the after territory, all that’s gone before changes shape. In particular, when Finchley visits his beautiful but troubled daughter, Dee (Andrea Riseborough) she rambles on about a dream, or vision, she had about her Dad and her husband, which makes you think that the trouble with the daughter, may be dad. Incest. Finchley seems keen to establish that she’s got the money he sent her for her keep . But this may be the red herring.

Bang, bang, bang it goes and ends with a bang, with police trawling for other cases and finding them. One of them being the baby sitter, which pisses off even the saintly, or dim, Marie, depending on what point of view you take to her wifely duties. Finchley said he didn’t do it. Does anybody believe him? The real scoop would be if he does, indeed, prove to be innocent. Somehow, I doubt it, there’s more chance of getting ten minutes of drama without a break for adverts.


The carrot and the thick.

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Maslow’s hammer – if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I don’t believe in a market for healthcare. I don’t believe in a market for schools. And I don’t believe in trickledown economics, the belief that giving money to the rich helps the poor.

When I see the innocence of children I can believe in God. As Dr Benjamin Spock wrote for post- Second World War baby-boomers: ‘Each child is retracing the whole history of mankind, physically and spiritually, step by step’.

‘We believe that the person with a stigma is not quite human’, Ervin Goffman.

We can build more schools or more prisons and follow the lines and lies of the American model as we’ve been doing. This isn’t Trump talk but propaganda and ideology in action.

I sometimes watch The Chase on ITV with Bradley Walsh. It’s a quiz programme, general-knowledge quiz on around dinner-time, or tea-time depending on what you call it and whether you are a bit of a nob. Contestants play against a quiz master, the Chaser, someone like Shaun Wallace who is a barrister and has won Mastermind. Amateur again professional is a mis-match, but in the final round there can be a maximum of four amateurs again one professional answering similar quiz questions. The Chaser attempts to knock contestants out in earlier rounds, which are easier multiple-choice questions than the cash-build up. All contestants start with a one point advantage. That means that if they get a question wrong and the Chaser gets it right, they don’t get caught right away. Contestants get a second chance. Most contestants win usually between three and six thousand pounds in an earlier question-and-answer format called the cash-build up. If they want to play against the Chaser for that amount they can get two questions wrong before they can be caught by the Chaser. The Chaser tries to entice the contestant to give up a potential life by offering vastly inflated sums greater than the money they have won. Usually this is a multiple and ranges from £20 000 to £60 000. The maximum number of lives a contestant can opt for is three. That gives them a three point and three question start on the Chaser. In effect they’d need to get three questions wrong out of seven before the Chaser could catch them. But here’s the rub, when a team is doing well, and has for example, £30 000 in the collective pot and two contestants have made it to the final Chase, the Chaser often offers a negative amount.  If the contestant has won, for example, £3000 in the cash-build up, in order to qualify for the three extra lives the Chaser will usually offer a negative amount of, for example, £5000.  If the contestant qualifies the team receives less money than they would where the contestant be put out by the Chaser (£30 000 – £5000 divided by 4 and not 3).

Let’s look at grammar schools. There are around 57 different types of state sponsored schools in England and Wales with shrinking budgets, growing teacher shortages and calls for an additional 750 000 pupil places projected for the next ten years. An increasing gap between expected funds and expected delivery.  Teresa May envisions spending around £50 million a year on grammar schools out of a total educational budget of £80 billion. The pitch is the same one made by the contestant taking money out of the pot, making is smaller (adding a negative amount) that by doing so they make the collective team, our countries, stronger and benefit everyone as we face further tests. Not funding grammar schools puts the nation at risk.

That’s true in the same way that the contestant going for the negative pot in The Chaser is true. It denies money in the public purse with cuts to services such as Sure Start that benefited the poor to help the rich and it denies the majority of children life chances. Sainted Margaret Thatcher as education secretary in the 1979 recognised this and shut more grammar schools than any other minister, Labour or Conservative. But she didn’t need to shut them, just no longer fund them with public money, taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich and out of 315, 139 public schools became comprehensives. Post war the gap between rich and poor had narrowed and not enough parents could afford to send their children to such schools. There is an interesting cameo of how the world was viewed in 1964 in a Granada series 7UP directed by Michael Apsted. The three upper class boys attended a preparatory school, then they said they’d attend Westminster Public School then they’d attend Oxford or Cambridge. The idea of attending any other university was snorted and laughed down (later one of them attended a northern University, but went on to work for the BBC, and was, of course, headhunted by Channel 4). Out of the mouths of babes was a keen understanding of how the world worked. The middle-class banner against comprehensive schools and the mingling of the the poor with the rich wasn’t because the latter were smelly and noisy as the Apsted’s Public school boys loudly intoned to the camera, but because, then as now, standards were seen to be slipping. Only the upper and middle-classes knew how to behave, speak properly and write properly, the first Black Paper was prophetical, ‘The Fight for Education’ in defiance of the Government’s White Paper announcing changes needed to modernise schools. This was a war that poor people and their children lost.

A 2009 OECD report showed that Britain routinely diverted the largest share of education spending, 23%, for any comparable modern nation from poor people to a small group, 7%, of privately educated children with rich parents.  Teresa May’s decision to continue with this trend is a reassurance to her Conservative backbenchers and Select- 22 Committee that nothing has changed. Britain is a good country to be rich.

Margaret Thatcher before donning the garb of Prime Minister and bastardising the words of St Francis of Assisi shared her thoughts with a rapt American audience. She utilised a poppy analogy, ‘we value all individuals…not because they’re all the same, but because they are all different…I say let our children grow tall and let some children grow taller than others if they have the ability in them to do so’.

The message is clear, some children (the 93% majority of poor children) are holding back other children (7% rich children). Coal miners were an industry-sized example of greedy workers that were holding the country back. They were ‘holding the county to ransom’ and getting paid as much as twice as much as the average worker. There’s a moral in that story of what happened to them. Thomas Piketty, Capital, and more recently The London School of Economics’ paper, have shown how money is moved from the poor to the rich. Mark Townsend quotes from a TUC report that shows that the average remuneration of a FTSE 100 boss in Britain is 123 times that of a full time worker. An example of this is advertising executive of WPP, Sir Marin Sorrell whose annual package is worth £70 million. He has grown into a very tall poppy indeed and earns in 45 minutes of his precious time the annual salary of a non-unionised full-time worker that has the same rights as a plastic spoon.

But the story is an old one of Gothic horror and the fear of contagion and contamination with the rich being a different breed of human, with children in particular needing to be kept apart, for their own good. Think tank, Policy Exchange, the Notting Hill sect, prior to Cameron’s election, suggested that city’s outside the rich South were beyond revival, full of Lamarckian chavs, feral and promiscuous youths, bent on destruction and unwilling to work. Stereotypes that proved hugely popular as had the fear of the Irish in Scotland, and the fear of the Jews in London’s East End in the late nineteenth century. Both were seen as threat to our nation’s stock.

The issue was one of control, not education. Theresa May is playing to a gallery, and singing from an old hymn sheet, build more prisons and less local authority schools, less public anything. Talk about weaning ourselves away from the nanny state while filling her friends’ pockets with loot from the nanny state. It’s a great trick when they pull it off.  Poor people deserve what they get, because they are different. Their children are different. They are Goffman’s ‘other’.

Barcelona 7—Celtic 0.


Where’s the ba? In the net…

I must admit I’d a fiver on Celtic to win at 33/1. You know it’s not going to happen, but think it might. And at those odds, you can’t really lose, although you did. We all know how it works. Barcelona need to have an off day as they did on Saturday against a newly promoted team. The Celtic goalkeeper has got to have the game of his life, as David Marshal once did, or even Frazer Foster.  Here De Vries came in to replace Craig Gordon, the latter whom had taken to making a few howlers, most notably bumping into Janko in the Champions-League qualifier. De Vries has been notable by his absence. Since replacing Craig Gordon I can’t remember him making a save. Here he was at it again. Dreadful. Gamboa replaced Janko, but it’s difficult to make an assessment of him. He didn’t seem to touch the ball. Lustig was often in the wrong place at the wrong time and never made a tackle. You can add the other centre-halfs to that list Shevchenko and Toure. The shining light in Celtic’s performances last season, and this, has been Kieran Tierney. His worst performance came in Israel, but this was topped last night. A toss-up between De Vries and Tierney to determine who the worst Celtic player was, but Scott Brown our captain would probably have lost that as well.

Of the midfield four, Scott Brown was Celtic’s man of the match because i) he tackled and ii) he made two passes in a row to his teammates. Bitton was the straw man from the Wizard of Oz and could have been taken off at any time. Sinclair, who up until now, has that magic touch and scored in every game, lost his touch here. Roberts at least tried to get forward, taking people on, but losing the ball.

Dembele missed a penalty that funnily enough would have put us 1-1. Hard to believe that now. When Barcelona are winding down and they bring on Ineista, well that just about says it all. Celtic weren’t expected to win, but they weren’t expected to capitulate in this way. But this game is a freebie. We expected nothing from it and took nothing. A reality check in the same way that the result in Israel was also a reality check. Much work needs to be done, but even now, after the biggest hammering I’ve ever seen Celtic take, we’re finally going in the right direction.

Karen Connelly (2008) The Lizard Cage

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‘Dear Brother, here where the doors are closed

I have learned to walk through brick walls

A copper-pot spider was my good friend

and many lizards fed my heart

Now every dream I see assumes

the shape of a skeleton key.


Once I heard Grandfather’s voice

calling me back through the trees

but I can’t go home that way

I will remain by an older path

over the plains on the river

My offerings as I travel

through the city of temples

will be bones and tears.


Burma, the generals say Myanmar

to make us forget our country and

their crimes but we will not forget

they build a cage around our lives

Only the ants know the strength

the weaknesses of its walls

and perhaps the child knows

who knows too much        the white ghosts

of maggots on the edge of my pail

the dark ghosts of men who haunt him

He knows the living tree of language

but cannot climb it yet

my broken face he knows

he knows my hunger feeds him

as yours feeds the men on the border

as May May becomes a vegetarian

when Hpay Hpay died so her sons

might devour the meat in every dish


Everything sharpened is sharp

and often shines

A sliver of glass in the hand

can make the history

that alters history

here in the cage and there

in your cramped room in that house

without nation the new country

is not distance at all.


Sometimes I almost see it

growing like a web

now invisible now

suddenly shining.


Nyi Lay, here where the flesh

becomes spirit

the border dissolves

with the flayed skin

Here there is no separation


Brother sometimes I fear for you

Will you enter a new era

only to make up another word

for murder?

I cannot see the weapons you carry

only that warped guitar


As for me I have forsaken

every weapon but the voice

singing its last song

And the hand Dear Brother

my own hand

writing it down


with metta



‘The torturer cannot allow himself to care about the person he hurts: his job is to destroy the body and its spirit.

‘In the cage it doesn’t matter whether you’re innocent or guilty

‘In the cage the only weapon I have is my own life

‘There are words in every language for GRIEF, FEAR, TERROR, BROKEN but none so eloquent, so precise as this, the sound of a child who cannot breathe for weeping. And there is no cowardice so profound as the adults who cannot bear to hear it.

‘That’s how it is with big people. They can be whatever they want.

‘The fourth of the Four Divine Abidings. Equanimity. To let be what one must be.

‘The boy gives the jailer a grin like a spark of fire and glances at the road.


‘What will I do with the book?’

‘You will read it.’


‘Learning his lessons makes the boy shine. There hadn’t been a child like that for over a decade.’

Celtic 5—Rangers 1.





gerund or present participle: gloating

  1. dwell on one’s own success or another’s misfortune with smugness or malignant pleasure.

“his enemies gloated over the Huns death”

synonyms: delight in, relish, take great pleasure in, enjoy greatly, revel in, rejoice in, glory in, exult in, triumph over, crow over;


It was a long time coming, a few phoney wars and some people might even have watched Scotland playing Malta, but then the media campaign ramped up, with special Old Firm pull-outs and countdowns to the big game. A bombardment of World War 1 proportions to soften us up. Joey Barton’s Twitters were raided for back-page news, and his media pal Robbie Savage reminded us he’d be the best player in Scottish football be some distance. I must admit I was a bit scared, he might be something special, and he did nearly score in this game with a back pass to his own goalkeeper, Wes Fotheringham that had the Ranger’s keeper scrambling to save it. Yes, it was confirmed, after Tom Rogic spun away and left him and his midfield partner Niko Kranjcar on their arses so often, the Ger’s duo were indeed something worth watching.  They were part of that great Ranger’s tradition of giving people money for nothing. I’m not even going to mention Philippe Senderos, because that would be too cruel. Like all great players he did his talking on the pitch, but left early having been given the run-around all afternoon to get his head together and catch the mobility bus home.

Barcelona rested seven of their first-team regulars against a newly promoted La Liga team, Celtic didn’t, but they did bring on Stuart Armstrong, who can’t be considered a first pick, but did score the fifth goal. The notable omission was Leigh Griffiths, the one player from the Ronnie Delia era that could hold his head up and who carried us to the league title last year and who has started in such fine form this year. I must admit his stand in Moussa Dembele did alright, setting up a goal for Scott Sinclair (who’s actually English) and scoring a hat trick in an Old Firm game isn’t easy. The last Celt to do so wasn’t Larsson, as you’d expect, but two generations before that with Stevie Chalmers when anyone that wore shin guards was considered a bit of a poof and even after that when Danny McGrain didn’t even have a beard and Dixie Deans was regularly knocking in six against a good Hib’s team, he couldn’t score a measly three again the Ibrox money men. Dembele kept his trap shut when not in the first eleven and unlike some Ranger’s regulars, waited for his moment. Here he pounced. Header, left foot, right foot. Early promise is beginning to pay off. He’s in line for a start against Barcelona. And even this early I’d say it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest after two years at Parkhead, you’re looking at Celitc’s first £20 million -plus- transfer. And between him and Leigh Griffiths you’re looking at finishing first and second in the goal-scoring charts. The league is won, even this early, I can say that. We’ve played the best of the rest and scored five against them.

But there’s something in the Old Firm game that brings out the kid in us all. I was thinking about Fat Robbie’s son, who is eight and was at his first Old Firm fixture. That’s probably the first time he’s seen adults who scarcely scratch a smile all week, laughing and greeting, kissing each other and dancing in their seats. Aye, it’s a belter, not to be forgotten, unless you’re a Hun.

Ranger’s supporters will be waiting and hoping that Barcelona take five off our Bhoys because the Catalans are five times better than us. That’s a possibility. A real possibility, we know that because we’ve been there before. Hearts do rule old heads, but there’ll be no shame in it. The phony war against Rangers is over. Talk about Magic Hats and Joey Barton (insert your own version of events here). Celtic have proved themselves. And they need to prove themselves again in the big league, in the Champions League, where the real money is, and there they’ll be found wanting, but they’re the best in Scotland, by a fair distance and deserve to be there.  I think we can safely say that Ibrox will be a  Priest-free zone for quite a while and when Zadok and the Champions League music starts they can turn it over and watch oops Joey in the Cartoon Network.

Requiem Mass for Hugh McLaughlin, 26th November 1934 – 2nd September 2016.

I could never call Mr McLaughlin, Hugh. He was always Mr McLaughlin, a wee, square and blokeish, old man that lived across the road from us, back in the day when everybody that was adult was old, apart from your own mum and dad, who weren’t old because they were your mum and dad. Times have changed, now everybody’s old. I was trying to work out Mr McLaughlin’s age before the mass and came up with three separate answers, one of which would made Mr McLaughlin older than Methuselah, but his first name was Hugh, so I checked my arithmetic and I checked the photo on the front of the Requiem Mass leaflet. I wasn’t sure what they were trying to sell.  Even dead people blog now. And there’s Hugh McLaughlin staring out at us, silver hair, square specs and a ruddy face, wearing a grey pullover and a checked blue shirt, staring out at us. Just the way I remembered him. Not wheezing or out of breath. And there’s another photo on the back. Mr McLaughlin as a younger man, suited up, white flower in the pinhole, Anne his wife on his arm, white wedding dress, standing on some church steps. They were quite small. So that would have saved the wedding photographer from ducking down.

I didn’t know Hugh, I only knew Mr McLaughlin. One of those men you always seen trailing up and down the hill with his wife stapled to his left arm.   Mr McLaughlin got Alzheimer’s in later years.  Maybe he thought every day was his wedding day and couldn’t let go.  His daughter Catherine did the eulogy. She reminded us what a nice guy he was. How he’d left school at 14 and delivered laundry on a bike. That must have been difficult, keeping the sheets out of the front wheel. But not as difficult as avoiding the Clydebank Blitz. Yeh, young Hugh was there. He wasn’t even married to Ann at that time. Catherine said he’d met her around 1966 at the dancing, that den of wickedness and vice. That’s what I call a fast forward, but not as forward as Hugh. Her mum thought Hugh though himself a bit ‘gallus’. I’m not making this up. The old bloke was once considered ‘gallus’.

The newly married couple moved into Hugh’s mum’s house in Dickens Avenue. They were one of the first tenants in the street. Four-in-a-block, steel huts with a roof. Gerry-built, which was fair enough, as the Luftwaffe did a great demolition job. Young Hugh stayed with him mum, and originally an uncle who’d been in the First World War. I remember his mum because she was blind. Blind people then were like celebrities. You didn’t see any of them. And she slipped you sweets when you visited. But maybe she thought she was slipping the sweets to Hugh’s first-born, Michael, or Catherine that looked so much like her mum that people mistook her in later years for a doppelganger, or granny thought she was slipping sweets to the baby of the family, Mark. Hugh, we were told, went to work at six am and came home at six pm. Dowson and Downy was his fist proper job and he worked on the Titan crane in Clydebank when it was a workhorse and not a big ornament. Then he worked in Coulport. Fast Lane. He retired pronto at sixty, medically retired because of his lungs. He’d told me that they’d retired him, but it annoyed him when the doctors pronounced him fit for work, but not in the engineering field. Yeh, that happened, even then.

Catherine real show-stopper was when she told us Mr McLaughlin fancied himself as a bit of a Rabbie Burns. A wee courin timour beastie, making poems up in his breastie and comin home and letting the wains know that there da may be old, but there’s more to man’s life than you know. Amen, Mr McLaughlin, R.I.P.


Prostitution and Lily Poole.


I like to read and I like to write. One is the engine of the other. When you’re writing fast, with dash, you just fling words down, and hope for the best. Lily Poole was a serial on ABCtales. Bang, bang, bang, around 2000 words a day. It wasn’t called Lily Poole then, I’d given it the working tag, ‘School Photos’. First-draft stuff.  Let’s not call it a novel, but a collection of words pointing in a particular direction. There was no Lily Poole, but there was a little girl that fell down in the snow. She didn’t say much, in fact, didn’t say anything other than ‘big people don’t understand’. There’s a truth in that which is hard to pin down. And yeh, a little boy I once took to school when he kept slipping in the snow, did use those very words. Nowadays kids go to school in a flotilla of cars, and if you took a kid’s hand you didn’t know, well, it wouldn’t be the school bell, but alarm bells that would be ringing.

In later drafts of the story, I gave the little girl a name Lily. And in later, later drafts, I gave her a surname Poole. Her backstory plays a part in the plot. I like to be realistic, but it did seem farfetched.  Then later when the novel has been published you read something that makes truth of fiction.

You read in Robert A. Douglas (2012, p115) ‘The Investigative Journalist and His Cause’ and the trial of William Stead, a cause celebrity, in Victorian London.

‘In order to facilitate a heightened sense of  verisimilitude, he “bought” a thirteen-year-old girl [Eliza Armstrong] under the pseudonym, Lily for five pounds by negotiating with a former procuress, who, in turn, made the arrangements with the child’s mother…The midwife certifies her virginity, she is taken to a brothel, undressed, put in bed and chloroformed. She awakes to find a strange man in her room.’

A starved and working-class girl of thirteen of the Victorian era would not be prepubescent. Physically, she would be a child, a little girl. Lily does indeed live and breathe, her time has gone, but sometimes the past does haunt us in unexpected ways and at unexpected moments.