Yes! Yes! UCS! Townsend Productions written by Neil Gore.

Oscar Wilde:  ‘Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has ever read history, is a man’s original value.’

A writer’s job is to remember. The better the writer, the better we remember. I’d a day out at The Golden Friendship Club on Saturday. Jim McLaren performed two miracles—and perhaps there’ll be a play about that one day—buying the old Masonic Club and finding the money to renovate it. If he wants to hang a picture of his mum, Agnes, and Auntie Molly Kelly in one of two the main halls, well, that’s really up to him. In the old days, you had to stand up for old Queen Lizzie. He’s standing up for his mum, and she’s more to my liking. He needs a third miracle to find the funding to keep the place going. The Golden Friendship is a Community Hall in a real sense of being paid for and belonging to the community. Workshops during the day and Neil Gore’s play, Yes! Yes! UCS!  were held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UCS work-in on the Clyde in 1971 (for those not very good at arithmetic a Covid year wasn’t carried over, so to be pedantic, 51 years).

Bernardine Evaristio: Girl, Woman, Other, ‘she wants people to bring curiosity to her plays, doesn’t give a damn what they wear’.  

When I came into the hall Jim was there to meet guests. There was no sneaking past in casual wear. They set the seats out with a free copy of The Morning Star (cost £1.50) which made me smile. I didn’t think they still printed it. I’d a quick chat with that old dinosaur, John Foster. He didn’t remember me, but I remembered him in a tutorial asking us if we knew what hegemonic meant. We were more interested in when The Wee Howff opened. He taught us always to cite your sources. Hating Tories was a given.

Rhyming couplets and verse Yes! Yes! UCS! 

I’m up for a writer’s challenge. So a quick sketch of Peter Barra McGahey with his handlebar moustache:

 Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The sootie tenemenet walls, Dalnator, where we lay out past

Glasgow Airport moles that didnae depart

An a the rats and birds that flies

pay a feu rent fae their tinker’s tents

the dog that shits, cats that hiss

the foreman’s toot isnae his

Fae James Scott Dry Dock, Yarrows and John Brown’s on the Clyde

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The Morning Star we see.

Yard owners haunds oot free.

Their coats of arms with all its charms

Our cranes feeds your wains memes

With patriot calls to our common country

Futile dreams and poet themes of equality

the match that lights the dout

lame-duck yards goin slow

Tartan paint and a long wait—work to rule

Fair democracy, where do we place we?

We that toil should own the soil and Broomilaw

A welded chain for those that pass laws again

Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

No part of our common we.

A zip in his trousers at the back

for emergency purposes only

Christmas lights on his welder’s hat

the unfair and grand

none as light-headed as he

In Barra’s place, we place our grace.

None forgotten, or will be.

His gravelly laugh still finds a path

To our common humanity.

We had lunch in the hall, and Jim put on a fine spread. We could make a donation to a food bank or to The Golden Friendship. I grew up in the seventies. I could never have imagined the idea of food banks. Worker’s memories of taking over the yards and forcing Ted Heath’s government to backtrack. Go from spending a possible £6 million government package to nearer £36 million is at the core of our day out. Yes! Yes! UCS! as an antidote to the highest grossing film of 1960, I’m Alright Jack, with the stereotypical bungling and walkouts of the shop steward movement in Union Jack Foundries portrayed by Peter Sellers meant to typify a Britain that was going in the wrong direction.

I asked John Foster if there was still a Communist Party, still a Socialist Movement. In particular, if it had younger members. I don’t think anybody in the hall was under forty, apart from the two actors that played Aggie and Eddi.

I’d guess very few adults under-thirty could tell you what the plaque on Clydebank College labelling a building John Brown’s means. The Clyde has become a feature, a waterfront for selling property.

John Foster did say there was a growing Socialist movement. I’d guess Greta Thunberg, aged 15, sitting in silent protest outside Parliament (Skolstrejk för klimatet) is more important and certainly better known.

Ted Heath’s government was defeated. We had the oil-price hike and stagflation. But the token woman in Heath’s cabinet was Margaret Thatcher. Her destruction of the miner’s union with the help of a media vying with each other to create fictional stories about Arthur Scargill and present them as facts stand out.  M15 and a pumped-up police force and the loss of around 80 000 jobs is well documented in what was described as a war against terrorists. Less well documented is how we lost the propaganda war in which food banks, for example, is sold to us a positive trend.  

When I hear about a critically acclaimed singer and songwriter, I usually do a bit of planning of my own, and nip away before I get caught. I don’t listen to music in the way that other people don’t read books. I could add or go to the theatre. But when I saw a friend and nipped outside during the break of Yes!Yes! UCS!  I admitted Findlay Napier had been the best part of the day. I still don’t listen to music, but he caught me on the good side.

I asked Jim why Neil Gore’s production wasn’t on the stage. He told me it wasn’t deep enough for the set. It was impressive. A mock-up of tenement buildings, with doors that open and decades to slide into. We get to see Heath in cartoonish blue and hear his voice. ‘There’ll be nae bevvying’ cries Jimmy Reid. The roar of the crowd. On two girls’ shoulders the production hangs. I feel for them. Art makes us and unmakes us. This might be their first and last job. The yards were a men’s playground, to channel the dispute through women takes balls.

Anne Ryan was out having a fag at the canal. I’d joked with her that in 1970, everybody would have been out of the hall and smoking. She was the solitary pariah of the path, until another guy ambled over. She asked if I’d smoked, ‘Nah, I was a good boy’.

‘Whit dae yeh think of the show?’

She made a face. ‘He seems to like it.’  

Radical politics doesn’t sell is hardly a headline, even in The Morning Star. George Orwell in his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm described how ‘unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban’. Ironically, Communist China is probably best at this. Rupert Murdoch, second best. We’ve come a long way since the nineteen-seventies, backward step by backward step. Only the past can live in the present. I brought my curiosity to play. Perhaps Townsend Production doesn’t quite capture the zeitgeist. The fault might be mine. I don’t do musicals and I don’t do theatre. The wrong man in the right place. Go see for yourself. Make your own head space.    

An idiot’s guide to the coronavirus.

When we talk about the coronavirus it’s the virus part we need to pay attention to. Corona, from the Latin, means crown and is associated with the aurora that surrounds the sun, moon and stars. We also get the word coronary from corona, a constriction of the arteries around the heart. But here Covid-19, coronavirus, is a simple nametag to differentiate it from other viruses, in the same way that ship number 736 in John Brown’s yard was later tagged The Queen Elizabeth 2, to differentiate it from other ships under construction and its predecessor the Queen Elizabeth 1.

What is a virus?

The science of viruses is a field of study in microbiology, the investigation of very small objects, organisms a fraction of the size of a living cell. Viruses mutate and are as old as the rocks. But the human body also mutates and adapts and produces antibodies which fend off most viruses. Viruses can be thought of as the jamming of cellular DNA code.  The most common virus is the flu virus. It too mutates and is always lying, waiting somewhere in the world for its next victim. Viruses also have reservoirs in other animals and organisms that make the species jump to humans as did the ‘wet market’ in Asia.  But let’s not forget John Gummer, over twenty-five years ago, feeding his daughter a prion burgher to disprove the mad-cow-disease scandal.

A virus is a study in large numbers.

A virus one of the smallest of living things, over time, produces an exponential effect. We know how this works. 1…2 …4…16…infected cases (and since my arithmetic is crap I’ll leave it there). Here is a more entertaining account from Hollywood’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of how transmission of the disease occurred in fifties America, obviously it didn’t affect black or Chinese people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYrcyROSjl0

The 1918 influenza pandemic (also called Spanish flu, so we could blame Spanish people for it, so Covid-19 should in the interests of fairness be called Chinese flu) infected at the beginning of the twentieth century around 500 million worldwide and around a quarter of the world’s population of around 1.8 billion.   For those of you good at arithmetic, divide the world’s current population of around 7 billion by 4. That would be our high-water mark in the twenty-first century.

The Gates Foundation (billionaires have to do something with their money) ran a simulation in 2018 of how an extraordinary flu virus would grow exponentially: 28 000 victims after one month; 10 million after three months; 33 million after six months.   

You might also want to watch here the late Robin Williams, playing the British neurologist Oliver Sacks, in Awakenings. The Spanish flu, unlike the Chinese flu, affected the most able-bodied, the young and fit. This may have been due to a cytokine storm. Cyto indicates a cell, a small room and kine is related to kinship. A storm inside the cells of young people whose immune response works against them (that’s one theory). The Chinese flu follows the more conventional pattern of the common flu, which has high tides and low tides in which the body count follows. Here it is usually those most vulnerable to virus infection and whose immune response is compromised. We’re talking about the young, who have not built up sufficient antibody resistance to fend off infection. And the old—whose bodies are knackered. These groups are most at risk from the coronavirus. I reminded my neighbour, when we talk about ‘those old folk’, we are included in that subcategory.

The best-case scenario

The coronavirus tide is already out. All those people that puff there chest out and say, ‘I told you so,’ are proved correct. It’s also instructive to see how presidents of the two major superpowers reacted. President Xi Jinping visited the hotspot, treating it as a war zone, and Chinese Communist Party Officials locked down Wuhan Province isolating those that exhibited symptoms of the virus. As antibodies fight the virus like any other flu virus this is shown in an increased body temperature, coughing and spluttering. Wuhan’s population is around the same as that of the United Kingdom. Imagine everybody in the United Kingdom being told by Boris Johnson to stay indoors. Imagine, constructing two hospitals the size of the £100 million building in Glasgow and Edinburgh (still shut for further work) in two weeks as happened in Wuhan. Imagine the Chinese have developed a vaccine for the coronavirus. Without having to imagine any of these things the number of cases in Wuhan has spiked and is dropping. The worst of the worst may be already over and other countries might not need to go into lockdown.

Worst-case scenario.

The coronavirus tide is beginning to roll in. Lock down as in Wuhan Province. We’re seeing similar measures in Italy, parts of Germany, Spain and most other nations. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse has declared he doesn’t believe in it, therefore like United States senators preaching isolationism as Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbour being prepared is regarded as a trick of the mind. American First means pulling public funds, from example, organisations like the World Health Organisation that has the expertise to coordinate a multinational approach to Covid-19, which would be more effective over time. Being unprepared gives non-symptomatic carriers access to other victims and the virus continues mutating into a more virulent form. There’s no place of safety. We all live in 1950s America. We’re only as safe as we allow our neighbour to be whatever their skin colour, gender or class.

Keep your grubby hands off our NHS.

A small pathogen that we cannot see has shown us how everything is connected, everyone is connected. The first question dental staff asks us now is how are you going to pay for this treatment. Outside of the Windrush Generation we don’t—yet—hear that in the frontline of our National Health Service. Sure, parts of it are being sold off to private developers and bit by bit it is being dismantled, but even David Cameron couldn’t admit that he was doing it. Boris Johnson tells us he’s pumping even more money into our NHS. He’s a liar. He thinks by mussing his hair and rolling a large number such as £20 or £30 billion off his tongue, we’ll be duly impressed. Our NHS budget has shrunk from 5% of GDP to less than 4%, with an aging population and now the corona virus, the figures don’t add up. Public health is not just for the poor. That’s why we need a properly funded public-health system. The Americans used to come to us and see how we did it. Now we’re selling out to them. One of the most inefficient and expensive health-care systems in the world. Good luck with the coronavirus if you’re a poor American. Good luck with the coronavirus is your British and can’t afford a day off work.

When a just-in-time supply system breaks down there’s panic buying. That’s already happening. Supplies of masks, suits and other protective equipment for health care workers must be made available. There’s talk of hiring retired medical doctors and bringing them back to work. Perhaps the first thing the government should do is shut down those cruelty camps, centres in every major city that allegedly assess benefit claimant’s health and disabilities. Use the medical staff and facilities they already have as treatment centres for victims of the coronavirus. Children’s homes and Care homes will also need added staff and financial help.  The coronavirus has meant that selling off our NHS has become overnight more of a political vote loser than any other issue. That’s got to be a good thing.

If you know any other idiots like me that require an idiot’s guide to the coronavirus, then share it with that idiot and you’ll look less idiotic. Be smart.