This is a stage play, a successful stage play, so successful that my mate Sharpy went to see it and he doesn’t usually go to plays, but it’s about the Old Firm and bigotry, so that’s alright then, but reading a play and seeing a play are a bit like looking out the window at midnight and wondering how cold it is outside. I read the whole book in about an hour, which includes the review of Dillon’s other books (some of which I’ve read) and the afterblurb some guy telling us how good the play is.
Two hate filled Old Firm fans are put in a prison cell and verbally lacerate each other while their teams assemble on the park. Under the microscope, Des Dillon plays out all their fears, paranoia, misconceptions and most significantly a loathing that has shaped their whole lives.
So it’s quite a simple set up. Prison cell. Harry, a 50-something turnkey refereeing and Tim and Billy (gettit? the names are suggestive of a particular allegiance) going at it hammer and tongs when Celtic are playing Rangers. Remember that game when Kyle Lafferty scored? The Derry Pele equalised late in the game? Kinda? So do I. That’s the background noise. The gun on the table is that Tim has bet Celtic to win (or at least initially thinks he has) and Billy punted on the Gers. It’s all or nothing. All the cash they have in the world is on the outcome and if their bet doesn’t come up they do not pass Go, do not make bail and stay in jail. Early on, even without knowing specifically what Old Firm game it was, my money would have been on the draw. Both Tim and Billy will come out as losers.
When they swap shirts you know they’re fucked. Harry’s backstory involving a sick grandson and son that doesn’t speak to him is a long punt up the park. You know it’s going to be the real winner and the leveller. When someone tells you something is funny it usually isn’t. I’d need to see the show in the flesh.
One thing I am sure of is the idea that merging Celtic and Rangers into a kind of super team and letting the bigots support someone else, such as Hearts and Hibs and those teams merging, and so on, like the idea of the machine designed for perpetual motion and as the answer to sectarianism in Scotland, then it wouldn’t work. But it doesn’t need to work. All it needs to be is funny. And it’s not my play.
My answer to eliminating sectarianism is simpler. No longer allow a statutory provision for priests or vicars to be consulted on education and school policies. All schools should be secular and local. No Catholic schools and no Protestant schools and no Muslim or Jewish schools, or Academies, or whatever you want to call them. Withdraw government funding for all of these schools and put it in the one pot. People can spend their money in whatever way they want. And those richer members of society that want to create their own schools, or maintain schools that already exist to exclude those whose face does not fit, then that would be fine. But I’d take away their charitable status. Because they are not schools, but businesses, I’d also make them pay tax. Fuck the Pope and Fuck the Queen. That’s what I’d say. Bring kids together in nursery schools and secular schools and then football will become just a boy’s game. I’m sure hatred will find another shape. But that’d be a start. Perhaps I’m singin from the wrong hymn sheet? Discuss.