I must admit a tinge of satisfaction. I knew Rangers were one goal down at Benfica. When I checked again they were 3—1 up and Benfica were down to ten men. It ended up 3—3. Not quite a crisis.
Here we go again. All the fireworks at Parkhead were from the Czechoslovakian team. They scored four goals. Hit the bar and post. Every time the Czech team went forward they looked like scoring. Celtic have lost at home to Rangers, A C Milan and Sparta Prague in quick succession. We had a reasonable draw in France, a disappointing draw at Pittodrie and a decent win at Hampden.
‘They’re all over the place at the back’, was Alan Stubbs’s summary after the third goal. Lukas Julis swept the ball into the net from just outside the six-yard box for a hat trick. Game over, after substitute Griffiths had scored on the 65th minute to give us hope of a fight back, a draw, or even enough time for a win.
But it was the Czech, number seven who made it look so easy. Karrison wasn’t far behind Julis for man of the match. Then again, he was up against Shane Duffy in a foot race, which the Irish man looked odds on to win. Duffy has the habit of making it look so easy for the attacker. Karrison swept past him, just over the half-way line. The ball was lost, the game was lost. Krejci added a fourth for Sparta on the 90th minute.
The Sparta manager claimed Celtic were the weakest team in the group. He retracted, and added, what he meant was Milan and Lille were leading their respective leagues, which were competitively stronger. He was right the first time. The stats don’t lie. Four European ties on the bounce lost at Parkhead. Not since Ronnie Deila, when we closed the top-tier, have Celtic looked so unconvincing in defence and powder puff all over the park.
Lennon has rolled the dice. Difficult to see what he does next. Laxalt and Rogic coming back have been positives. Elyounoussi checking his phone, after being subbed. That tells us all we need to know about priorities. Maybe he was checking the league tables.
Celtic are not in a good place. Out of Europe. We’ve all being saying the say thing, concentrate on the league. I wish it was that simple. Shane Duffy is the worst loan signing since—(stick your own suggestion in here). The Celtic defence is all over the place. So is the team. So is the management team. Sixty thousand Celtic fans who would have turned up for these games would have been short-changed had they paid good money. Robbed. We’re watching through the cracks in our fingers. Hoping that other mob crack first. Whatever they do, we can do better. We showed it again tonight. Away to Motherwell on Sunday—must win. What Celtic team will turn up?
Palast shows that following the 2000-1 Presidential election stories of African American voters being targeted, racial profiling, that excluded voters from the electoral roll weren’t fake news, but fact. He had a copy of two CD-Rom disks from the office computer of Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State. 57 700 potential Democrat voters named as felons. Purged from electoral roll in the run up to the election. 90.2% innocent of any crime. Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush spent almost the entire Republican budget on a computer hunt for black voters. What Governor Jeb Bush did was illegal. He later ran against Trump for leadership of the Republican Party. I guess he’ll be back for another try.
My favourite quote here was Trump telling Rupert Murdoch he was running for the Presidency and Rupert Murdoch telling him, ‘no, you’re not’. That’s power Without the backing of the Murdoch corporation and Fox News, of course, there’d be no President Trump.
Ironically, former Governor of Florida, George W. Bush had a prior drink-driving conviction (misdemeanour) therefore he shouldn’t have been allowed to vote, for himself, or anybody else. That purge would have added or subtracted one vote to the 500-600 chads he won the election (minus the 57 700 he’d have lost by).
We all know how the moron’s moron did it. What he did was not illegal. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook took what was for him chump change, most of the Republican candidate’s budget of around $44 million, and matched it with expertise. With Russian bot farms churning out memes and disinformation, Trump rode a wave of discontent all the way to the Whitehouse by winning the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. Hillary Clinton won more votes but lost the election.
Florida signed a $4 million contract with DBT Online merged with ChoicePoint of Atlanta to purge voters. Cambridge Analytica https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge also involved in the Brexit debate tried to keep their methods secret, claiming it was private and commercial information, but were outed by Guardian journalists.
Nothing new from the Trump handbook, with Mark Zuckerberg again handling Trump’s funds for re-election.
The historian and author Robert A. Caro magisterial (unfinished) biography of Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) offers another tale of straight forward electoral cheating. Caro juxtaposes LBJ’s fight for a senate seat with ‘Mr Texas’ Coke Stevenson.
Nobody much is interested in Box 13, or that old stuff called history. The guys in the photograph LBJ showed a hostile reporter are Texans that stole enough votes and stuffed them into Box 13 so that LBJ could become a Senator in the 1948 race. A race Mr Integrity Coke Stevenson won. He was diddled. LBJ became Senator and, his gamble he’d be a heartbeat away from the top job of President paid off when President John F. Kennedy was killed in Texas.
That’s the traditional way of doing things in American politics. Kamala Harris will be the first female President.
Robert A.Caro’s advice was turn every page and do the maths. Four years ago I thought Trump could win. I no longer think that now. ‘Power corrupts’ argues Caro, ‘but it also reveals’. What it has revealed about Trump is an unclean spirit channelling hate for his own gain. Or in other words of psychobabble: a psychopathic narcissistic personality with low intelligence.
Trump is not leading the dis-United States to disorder and disaster. Any politician can do that from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. Trump is the disaster. The risk of Armageddon is lessened with him gone. Everything Trump touches turns to shit is the closest thing to the truth I’ve heard about the 45th President. We can sleep in our beds more soundly with him gone. That’s a starting point. Not a finishing point. Go Joe Biden. Go. There can be no neutrals in the American election of the 46th President. Mankind depends on it.
River of Fire is a book about before and after The Clydebank Blitz. Those who died in the aftermath of Luftwaffe bombing of Clydebank on Thursday 13th March 1941 and the following night. Those who survived the bombing and fled the town. Those who stayed. Others that came through a sense of duty and solidarity to help the victims of the bombing. John MacLeod looks at the aftermath, the thousands, who did not return to Clydebank after March 1941.
The facts are listed, the dead and injured, but juxtaposed with the way they were framed at the time.
When 528 were (with some revision) listed as dead over the two nights of bombing. The first wave of German bombers, largely unchecked, converging over Clydeside around 9pm and following Luftwaffe radio transmission beams. Around 236 Junkers 88 and Heinkel 111s that came from bases in northern France, Holland and Germany, and hugged the coast. Saturation bombing took place in a British city. Explosions could be heard at Bride of Allan in Stirlingshire.
Such was the ferocity of bombing that one worker who had been there and experienced the bombing, when told over 500 died, remarked, ‘What street?’
The town of around 42 000 people was levelled. From one geographically small community 528 people were dead; 617 seriously injured. Hundreds—perhaps thousands—more were superficially hurt and cut. Of some 12000 dwellings—including tenement blocks as well as villas and semi-detached homes—only 7 were left entirely undamaged. Four thousand homes were completely destroyed: 4500 would be uninhabitable for months.
Those that died in the Clydebank Blitz on March 1941 are listed in the back of the book alphabetically, street by street, but in a changing burgh and districts are knocked together. Further complications are that many did not die in their homes. The Rocks’ family are listed as having lived at 78 Jellicoe Street.
Ann Rocks, Age 1, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Annie Rocks, Age 54, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Elizabeth Rocks, Age 28, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
Francis Rocks, Age 21, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
James Rocks, Age 4, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1941.
James Rocks, Age 32, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
John Rocks, Aged 19, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Joseph Rocks, Age 17, At 72 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Margaret Rocks, Age 2, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Patrick Rocks, Age 6, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Patrick Rocks, Age 28, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Theresa Rocks, Age 25, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Thomas Rocks, Age 13, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Thomas Rocks, Age 5 months, At 78 Jellicoe Street, 13 March 1942.
Many of us are will be familiar with the story of Patrick Rocks, who swapped shifts with his son at Beardmore’s. MacLeod uses fiction to dramatize his homecoming.
‘It was still not dawn when the planes retreated and bombers faded away, he picked his way to Jellicoe Street thorough what was left of Dalmuir. Wedged between the blazes at Singers and Old Kilpatrick, this sturdy community had been pummelled through the night… Rocks meandered through wreckage with mounting alarm. When he rounded the corner, his heart lifted to see the light through the window of his flat. Then, a few steps on, he realised it was but the moon, and the glow of flame, through one tottering gable.’
This would be a thin volume charting the rise and decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde, with some questionable assumptions, you’d expect from the son of the manse, such as Thatcherism being a necessary corrective to the British and Scottish economy. (Here’s a hint, we didn’t vote for Thatcher or Johnson and we didn’t vote Brexit. We didn’t vote Scottish Independence either – not yet).
MacLeod also seems to be conducting a vendetta against a left-wing shop steward in the Daily Mail, a newspaper where he was once a reporter. (Nobody much in Scotland read the Daily Mail, not then, not now, not ever).
MacLeod is also quick to correct what he believes are the failings in Meg Henderson’s book about a fictional family set during the era of the Clydebank Blitz, The Holy City. (I just thought Henderson’s book about a matriarchal and feisty working-class family was pretty crap, whereas Henderson’s Finding Peggy was a Scottish masterpiece. I guess this is a matter of taste and I’ll tackle TheHoly City again.)
MacLeod also seems to have a bugbear against nuclear disarmament.
His chapter, The Bombing of Ethics (which is a convoluted way of saying the ethics of bombing) looks at the German experience of being firebombed. Hamburg and Dresden.
In Hamburg, for example, MacLeod quotes:
‘freak air currents spread a storm of fire across a four-square mile radius. People on the streets flashed into flames, while those huddled in shelters died asleep as the fresh air was replaced by lethal gases and smoke. Others were transformed into fine ash. By the time air raids ceased, 45 000 had been killed and a further 37 000 injured. 900 000 had lost their homes- up to two-thirds of the population of Hamburg fled the city.
Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five, begins with the narrator explaining, ‘all this happened, more or less’.
MacLeod’s account of the bombing of Dresden 13 February 1945 is more of a turkey shoot, Lancaster bombers stacked on top of one another dropping 4000 pound and 8000 pound bombs. In comparison, no bomb bigger than 1000 pounds fell on Clydebank. And they dropped only four of that weight.
Air-Marshall ‘Bomber’ Harris wanted 5000 strategic bombers. 244 Lancasters flew over Dresden. They created a firestorm.
Temperatures rose to 1000 degrees Centigrade, jets of flame fifty-feet high hissed across streets…Dresden burned so bright, night became day.
Reap what you sow is MacLeod’s argument. There was a qualitative difference between what the Allies were trying to achieve by firebombing than the Nazis. What we did was right. What they did was ideologically and morally wrong. Them and us.
A quip (and perhaps apocryphal story) from Bomber Harris sums it up. Stopped in his car one night for speeding, the policeman warns the Air Marshal, he might kill someone with his driving.
‘Young man, I kill thousands of people every night.’
Perhaps it’s more instructive to look at the grandiose behaviour of General MacArthur in the Far East in 1945.
‘No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin’ was a New York Times, front page, report. Most of the world remained ignorant of what radioactivity was.
The diminutive Australian reporter, Wilfred Burchett, armed with a typewriter, travelled by train through Japan after their surrender to witness what had happened after the A-bomb, Enola Gay. He called out President Truman and General MacArthur.
The Atomic Plague was his report.
‘I became very conscious of what would happen in the event of a new world war. From that moment on, I became active on the question of nuclear disarmament…It was not possible to stand by.’
Burchett was on the winning side. He was on the side of right. Them and Us. What he was saying is there is no them and us. Just common humanity. We sometimes lose that in the small print. Mass murder is mass murder. And nuclear weapons will tip the planet into permanent winter. Lest we forget in the scramble to claim the moral high ground. .
Celtic get a Europa League away point. We’d have probably taken it before the game, but it’s disappointing. I’m just glad we weren’t beaten. A second-half siege had Celtic players camped in their own box. Lille had sixty-eight percentage possessions at one point. The kind of stats Barcelona used to chart in their pomp. But the Lille goals were, oh-so, preventable. Celtic are a big team, with big players, yet they keep losing goals from cross balls. A cross ball from a corner is blocked. We lost the first header and it falls to Celik, unmarked at the back post.
For their second a long ball into the box is cut back, mishit by Iknoe, although it might have hit Shane Duffy on the way into the net
There’s little point in going on about Shane Duffy. He did give away a penalty when he made a rash tackle outside the box. That’s the kind of luck he’s been having. It was given inside the box. I wonder when, or if, we’ll start resting him. Unlikely. And with Ayer out, we’ll just need to get on with it.
Wonder of wonders, a Celtic goalkeeper makes a save. Well done Scott Bain.
Elyounoussi, who sometimes does that disappearing trick, hit two cracking goals here to put us on easy street. On this form he looks a steal at £16 million. After half time, he disappeared, only to turn up with a potential third goal from a breakaway. Unlucky.
Ntcham, with a point to prove on French soil, also started well. But had a bit of a huff when taken off in the second half. That was an easy call. He kept getting caught on the ball. Giving it away. It was an easy choice for Lennon.
The diamond in these rough times is Diego Laxalt. He didn’t lose a tackle. Outstanding, again. He’s not had a bad game for Celtic. Even when the players downed tools against Rangers, Laxalt gave his all. He’s perhaps the only Celtic player in modern times to have played for Celtic four times and still not had a win in a Celtic shirt.
Hopefully, Sunday, when we beat Aberdeen. I’m pretty sure we will. But it’s the league that matters most. And it’s the hope that kills you. Here’s hoping. Hail Hail.
I sometimes wonder if books are like bananas, after a certain time they go off and are sold at bargain-basement prices. This book was a clearance – 50p. That’s around the price you pay for books in charity shops. I got it for nothing. And no, I didn’t steal it. I just read it before the person was putting it into the charity shop dumped it.
I read a good idea today about books you dislike, rather than giving it the one-star treatment and writing a terrible review, just drop it off at a charity shop.
Not that I think Lisa Jewell’s book is terrible. ‘Life affirming and uplifting…perfect’ and five stars from the magazine heat is on the cover. Lisa Jewell has one of those names I imagine to be a pseudonym, something upbeat that dazzles. Her stories have sold in hundreds of thousands.
The truth about melody browne is perfect in its own way. No real sex. No real violence. Melody’s mother suffered from post-natal depression and after the baby died she split up from husband. This has a strong semblance of what happens in the real world, but isn’t really a story.
The king dies is a story, waffling creative writing students are told, but there’s a punchline. The queen dies of grief is also a story, but the plot thickens the broth. What happens next springs from emotional engagement?
Melody Browne had a council house in Covent Garden (I know, miraculous enough in itself to inspire a how-dunnit) and she has a seventeen-year-old son, Edward James Browne. He’s just turning eighteen, keys to the house and all that jazz. Melody had her son when she was fifteen. But she’s doing alright, working as a dinner lady in the school he attends. There’s no right-wing hate mob hunting her down and calling her a scrounger, telling her to get a job—even though she’s got a job. Sorry, I tend to go on these rants.
OK. That’s the equilibrium. It’s tipped when two things happen. A stranger approaches her when she’s on a bus and tells her she’s got perfect upper arms. He really fancies her and gets her number. That’s pretty weird, but we’ll flip that one. In Jewell’s world he’s a perfect gentleman, with some baggage, enough to make him believable because he’s aware of his own inner irony. She agrees to go on a date with Mr just-about perfect to a Derren Brown show. Although the fabulist isn’t called that, probably for legal reason, but something else. Melody Browne is hypnotised and shares a stage with Derren Brown (no relation), but when she comes to, she has strange memories of her childhood. She can no longer remember what happened to her before her ninth birthday and what she can remember doesn’t make sense. The kind of difficulties that would have an American President wondering if he’ll be re-elected. But it’s not real life. Just fabulist.
This is the jumping off point for a before and after. Melody Browne’s existence now becomes a whodunnit. What happened to the little girl before she became pregnant? Even before that and why can’t she remember?
Chapters are arranged in a now and then format. Easy to read and follow format. Chapter 3, for example, takes the reader back to 1976.
When Melody Browne was three years old, she Melody Ribbensdale and she lived in a big red house right in the middle of London. At least, that’s how her three-year-old consciousness saw it. She lived, in fact, in one corner of a red mansion squatted unprepossessingly on a busy juncture in Lambeth, south London.
Jump forward, Melody Brown is 33, she still in London. Maths was never my suit, but 1976 and 30 = 1996. It’s 1996. Melody Brown needs to figure out the truth about her past. Then her future will open like a flower. I’m not good at naming flowers or maths. Fling in the type of flower that opens.
That’s it. You get it. The narrator will follow her on her journey. The king is dead. Long live the queen. I got it. Read on.
I’m old enough to remember this when it was first broadcast 8th November 1979. Peter McDougall’s portrayal of working class life hit a nerve. It helped that large chunks of it were filmed in Clydebank and Drumchapel (I’ve since been told it was Greenock and Port Glasgow). Marathon shipyards featured. Or it might have been John Browns. We’re on the nostalgia trail.
By day Jake McQuillan (Frankie Miller) works in a crane. We see him up there with the seagulls. Toasting his piece of Sunblest on the electric fire. This was a time when Clydebank had shipyards. Titan Crane, was still working and not a museum piece, it and other cranes dominated the skyline. At St Andrew’s school art teachers regularly asked us to draw a crane. We could see it over the roofs of the tenements..
By night Jake McQuillan is a hard man. We first see him in a pub, with his best mate Dancer Dunnichy (Ken Hutchison). I’m sure some of you would be able to identify the pub. Remember when we had pubs? The boys are drinking exotic mixtures, halves, double measures that cost £1.90 for four drinks and you still get ten pence change. We’re in you go out with a fiver and get pissed territory.
Thursday night. Time for a fight. McQuillan can’t be a hard man, unless he’s tested. But he’s getting too old for the game (it’s a Boys’Game) and had put down his blade. When some daft bird nudged into Dancer’s back and they get into an argument. You know what’s going to happen. The shutters are going to come down and blades are going to appear. This is a portrayal of working class life with the chibs down.
McQuillan can put down his blade, but he’s a scalp worth taking. Other boys want a part of him.
Dancer, his sidekick, takes him away from work. ‘I declare Friday, a public holiday’ and into the embrace of booze and the institution of Clatty Bella. Entrance price, one bottle of your finest Eldorado or VAT 69. The Buckfast of their day. Nobody accused monks of making Eldorado or VAT 69 and profiting from alkie’s alcoholic tendencies, especially since that’s got too many syllables. Clatty Bella has no electricity and no bath towel, and the throw over the couch would walk Dancer down to the harbour and fling him in. But she’s one of the good ones. She’s one of us. The kind that Tories loved so they could vote down free school meals.
The backstory of McQuillen not having a mum and dad and staying with his grannie (Jean Taylor Smith) and his granda (Hector Nicol) is a chance to see how working class folk once lived.
Ironically, Tanza (Gregor Fisher) who went on to become Gregor Fisher, Scottish institution, in his autobiography, told the reader how his da (or was it his granda?) used to batter down on the ceiling to tell his ma (or grandma) to get the breakfast on. His Ma did what she was told, without any lip. This is man’s world.
Here we see Grandma running after Grandpa, dressing him, and putting him to bed. Brushing his false teeth and sticking them in his gumsy mouth. Deprivation comes in many forms.
McQuillan is aping the life of Grandpa, who also ran with the gangs and was the hardest of hard men, who killed McQuillan’s da. This is also part of the boys’ game.
Saturday shift. The loveable Dancer and the likeable Tanza are wanting a bit of drunken fun. But they’re drawn into a game not of their making. If you run with the wolves argument. McQuillan springs into life when they’re attacked. Dancer, an innocent, victim.
For McQuillan that’s just the way it is. Tanza, another innocent, bangs the roof of the Panda car and blames the police. ‘Where were you?’
Frankie Miller gets to sing the eulogy and sets himself up for another little number in Peter McDougall’s Just Another Saturday. It’s the same story, but set to the tune of The Orange Walk. Billy Connolly was in it. It might have been called The Elephant’s Graveyard. Can’t remember. Remember, when he used to be funny? Aye, nostalgia gets you there and that little kick.
I know we’ll get that old line, for the neutral this was a cracking game. A great advertisement for Scottish football. I’d have taken a bog-standard Celtic victory. I know 27 league games to go. We’ll get the standard fare of no need to panic. I’m not panicking. Listen, I was at Love Street that day when Celtic needed to score four or five and we needed Albert Kidd to dig us out of a hole of Heart’s own making. Even early in the ten-in-a-row season, we’re looking at dog’s chances.
Rangers, from what I’ve seen, aren’t going to roll over this year. We need to be better and we need to be better fast.
Be careful what you wish for. Scott Bain in goal was a good start, but like Barkas, he didn’t make a significant save. Two of them were penalties, just before half time, and the extra-time of full-time. You don’t expect keepers to make saves then, but you kinda hope. The other goal, the second for Aberdeen was another Shane Duffy moment. You know the script and we’re getting the jokes, Shane Duffy is an Effie Ambrose waiting to happen. But we’re not laughing. Bring back Effie.
McGregor was in for Scott Brown. And McGregor gave us hope, when we were one down, with one of those dancing feet goals that dragged us back into the game. Good to see Rogic involved. Good to see the Australian back in the team.
Elyounoussi, after his cameo, against Milan, started here. He’d a poor game. But let’s look at the positives, he did get on the end of a cross and got us a penalty. A winning penalty- I’d hoped.
Come back Johnny Hayes (I’d have kept him and played him). He’d Frimpong in his pocket until the ninetieth-third minute when the Celtic youngster finally ran past him.
In a four-four-two and with Frimpong playing full back, we hoped he’d be able to run into space. But although he got lots of the ball, again and again he came inside. Leaving us no width.
Just when we seem to have the left-back position sorted with Laxalt, the right-back position is our weakest point in attack and defence.
McGregor might have dug us out of a half-time hole, but it was the return of the Griff that fired us ahead –and had us thinking we’d win.
Ajeti is a goal scorer, but he needs to hold the ball. He didn’t. He mumped and moaned, looking for fouls.
Griffiths, came on, as he did in the game against St Johnstone, before the international break, and turned the game. He made space for himself in the box. And his strike into the top corner was a thing of beauty.
Game over—I wish. You’ve got to allow for Duffy, wandering out to the left, like a cow returning to pasture. Still in control of the ball. Then that flick. We all make mistakes. But what was it we kept saying about Effie, in the big games, then the Irish Ambrose came to the fore. Ryan Hedges, who was Aberdeen’s best player, scored from a rebound. An almost save, we seem to plagued with almost saves.
Aberdeen’s first penalty—which was a penalty—was a clumsy tackle, that wasn’t even a tackle by Ntcham on Ferguson. Ironically, Ntcham was having one of his better games before that incident.
There was talk, after the international break of the games against Rangers, AC Milan, Aberdeen, Lille, Aberdeen and Motherwell defining our season.
We all know what happened against Rangers. AC Milan was a defeat, but it wasn’t total capitulation. Aberdeen today.
We’re 3—2 up, going into added on time. We’ve dropped back, but we’re patting ourselves on the back, thinking we’ve been lucky here. All teams need a bit of luck.
The game against Lille doesn’t matter than much. I think we’ll beat Aberdeen, comfortably, at Hampden. I’m not sure about Motherwell away. I’m pretty sure Rangers will keep on winning and winning.
I hate saying it, but we look far more less likely to win than them. Here’s hoping, we take any dog chances we get between now and the end of the season. Shane Duffy has been a nightmare. The Greek keeper, an empty jersey, but here’s hoping he turns it around. Frimpong is only eighteen and showing signs of insecurity, taking the easy pass, going backwards in so many ways.
The return of the Griff has been great (anonymous against Milan, but I don’t mind that). Rogic has class. We need more of class. We have the best players in the league—by far—but we make so many amateur mistakes.
In the games that define our season, we’ve lost two and drawn one. Commentators were already adopting that gloomy voice and telling us the last time Celtic lost three games in a row was under Neil Lennon. Ten-in-a-row? I’ll use another cliché. A big ask.
‘Please, are you worker, or student?’ the girl asked in polite English with Chinese accent.
Kathleen Jamie, in an earlier incarnation, was asked that question. She was in eastern Amdo province, designated by China, ‘Autonomous Region of Tibet’, which means it was regarded as China. I’d heard of Amdo because of Peter Matthiessen’s classic, The Snow Leopard. I guess that makes me a student of literature. In the 1980s, when Tibetan villagers came shopping on yaks, or horseback, played Space Invaders, and perhaps visited the ancient Buddhist Labrang Monastery, Jamie was excavating herself. She knew she wanted to be a writer, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.
The work of a writer is to write. Jamie has managed to do that and make a living from writing, which is not the same thing. She begins her journey, outward and inward, in ‘The Rainbow Cave’ in the West Highlands, a bone cave where hundreds of reindeer antlers were excavated in the 1920s. No one is really sure how they got there.
Archaeology is about sifting mud and sifting theories. Jamie joins a number of digs. Dig is perhaps misleading. In the Alaskan village of Quinhagak, for example, the land thaws and freezes and thaws and freezes and everything much stays the same. Until the thaw comes earlier and the freezing later and with less snow and ice. And the past where the villagers’ ancestors lived and died, creeps up to the surface.
‘In Links of Noltland’ archaeological dig—which means sandy dunes of the land of the cattle—Jamie rents a room and joins the other fieldworkers in Orkney. The wind has obliterated much of an ancient dune system and the vegetation vanished. Another aspect of global warming, which has uncovered an extensive Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement (without much evidence of bronze). Historic Scotland provided funding for further excavation, but Historic Scotland was made history—defunct. The Phd educated students hear the clock ticking. The wind will bury their finds. The funding formula has been exposed.
‘It appears that the first farmers had built a hefty enclosing wall and, within it, several discrete houses with various yards and passageways and “activity areas”. Or maybe not.’
It’s the maybe not, that gets you. I guess when we’re young and excavating a piece of ground, as I did, behind the huts, with Jim Henry helping me, it wouldn’t have surprised us had we found King Arthur’s crown. Well, it might have surprised us a bit, but then we’d probably have fought over who found it first and who owned it. Instead we found bits of molten glass from an ancient volcano. ‘Or maybe not’.
Digging up fragments of bones and pottery is no fun. It’s work. Boring, back-breaking work and hard on the knees. If our ancestors weren’t dead by their early twenties, then they were ancient crones with arthritis and sore teeth. Or as a disillusioned George Orwell put it, after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, if they hadn’t died in battle, they’d have died of ‘some smelly disease’.
‘Or maybe not.’
Student or workers? Phd fieldworkers on digs being paid, indirectly, by the state?
They need to have some understanding what they’re looking for. And although it can seem like assembly-line work, it is and isn’t.
What were they like, these peoples being uncovered? They didn’t know they were living in Neolithic times. Just the same as we don’t really appreciate we’re living at a time of global warming and mass-species extinction. The Anthropocene Age. They just got on with it, was a common refrain. We just got on with it too.
I’d have liked to know more about Jamie’s granny, the wife of a miner, who lost her way with depression and was taken away with a blanket over her head. Given shock therapy, which helped. ‘Or maybe not.’
Good writers create connections, resonance between past and present. Jamie does that. We might just get on with it, like our ancestors. But knowing their story helps us to know our story better. Worker or student? Surfacing brings much of what it is to be human—to the surface.
AC Milan came into this game as favourites on the back of a twenty-game, unbeaten, run. Make that twenty-one. After Celtic’s capitulation to Rangers on Saturday, Lennon started with a front-two pairing of Ajeti and Griffiths. But the Celtic manager stuck with a 3-5-2 set-up. The big talking point was no Ryan Christie.
In the first ten minutes, Celtic were the brighter of the two teams. Loan signing, Diego Laxalt looks promising. He gets stuck in. Gets forward. And throws balls into the box. They don’t need to be perfect, but at least he goes in the right direction, towards the opposition goal.
But a goal after 14 minutes, undone Celtic’s defence. The ball was swung in from the wide area and fell between Duffy and Welsh. Krunic had a free header and tucked it away. Zlatan didn’t score a goal, but he simply strolled this game. The first-half fell into a familiar pattern of Celtic players falling back to their own box.
A second goal from Brahim Díaz, just before half-time, had commentator Chris Sutton suggesting that the best thing the Celtic manager could do was pray.
Neil Lennon took off Griffiths and Welsh. He brought on Elyounoussi and Christie. Celtic began to come more and more into the game. It was great to see the return of Rogic, who came on for Scott Brown.
Elyounoussi scored with a header from a corner in the seventy-sixth minute. Milan’s keeper, Donnarumma, was booked for time-wasting. But substitute Jens Hauge put the game beyond Celtic, by sneaking into a pocket of space behind Duffy and slotting home. Game over.
Positives for Celtic- Laxalt, he tries to get us on the front foot. Elyounoussi looked great, but he does that. Appears and disappears. Ajeti, will put the ball in the netti, if you give him chances. Great to see Tom Rogic back. I’m a fan (but see the remark about Elyounoussi). We looked a lot more cutting edge with Rogic on the park.
We want to win every game, but Pittodrie is a must win. Ironically, Europe, in a straw- poll of my mates, doesn’t matter that much. I wasn’t happy with the score. But the second-half performance…well, you know what I mean.
Ali Smith is the same age as me and was born in Inverness, Scotland (for those of you that don’t know Inverness is in Scotland—yeh, that happens). She’s an international star whose writing is lauded. The Guardian, for example, called Autumn, ‘The novel of the year’. I stuck with Spring and read it from start to finish. I found bits of it a chore and probably wouldn’t have read beyond the first ten pages, but for her world renown.
I’ve made some notes, you might, or might not, want to have a quick read through. These would, usually, be the basis of a larger review. The major characters in these odysseys are seeking integrity, and mostly they manage it. I agree with the didactic elements listed below.
A simple journey from London to Inverness.
An obituary appears in the Guardian, …Patricia Heal nee Hardiman 20th September 1932-11 August 2018
The stories Mansfield wrote in Switzerland were her best (sanatorium).
Script about Mansfield and Rilke, literary giants. It’s mindblowing. 37
Virtue signalling problems, Richard tells his imaginary daughter. 27
Don’t talk about climate change or the rise of the right, or the migrant crisis or Brexit or Windrush or Grenfell or the Irish border…
Don’t be calling it migrant crisis…I’ve told you a million times. It’s people. It’s an individual crossing the world against the odds. Multiplied by 60 million, all individuals, all crossing the world, against odds that worsen by the day. 68
Dying is a salutary thing, Dick, Paddy says. It’s a gift, I look at Trump now, I see them all, the new world tyrants, all the leaders of the packs, the racists, the white supremacists, the new crusaders rabble-rousers holding forth, the thugs all across the world, and what I think is, all that too solid flesh. It’ll melt away like snow in May.
[cf Catherine of Sienna]
[cfDuncan Cambell (bent cop)
Sentenced by Mr Justice Melford Stevenson:
‘you’ve poisoned the well of justice for the crooks, cranks and do-gooders’ [who want to attack the police’]
…the fact that those two writers just living in the same place at the same time in their lives, whether they met or not.
This is the kind of coincidence that sends electricity through our lives. 99
People like feeling.
Some things that Britanny Hall learned in her first two months as a DCO at a UK IRC.
There are 30 000 detained in this country at any one time. 165
Detention is the key to maintaining an effective immigration system. 167
[ciphers not characters]
If the force of just five more nuclear bombs going off anywhere in the world happens…eternal nuclear autumn will set in and there’ll be no more seasons. 186 Florence Smith and the machine.
You can only legally detain someone in this country for seventy-two hours before you have to charge them with a crime. 204-5
Aldo Lyons (Auld Alliance) 271
235 recent escapes…detention estates.
I had no rights. I still have no rights. I carried fear on my shoulders all the way across the world to this country you call yours. I still carry fear on my shoulders. Fear is one of my belongings…
And the first thing you did when I arrived was hand me a letter saying, Welcome to a county in which you are not welcome. You are now a designated unwelcome person with whom we will do as we please 272