Great Scottish Writer—Neil M.Gunn (1941 [1989]) The Silver Darlings.

The Silver Darlings, referred to in the title, are herring. Neil M.Gunn’s most popular novel was published by Faber & Faber in 1941. Think about that. T.S.Eliot was the main man at Faber & Faber. The phony war with Germany was over. Britain was in retreat and awaiting imminent invasion and possible starvation as U-boats sunk tens of thousands of tons of merchant shipping. Gunn dedicated the book ‘to the memory of my father’. And men like him, men of deep faith that have been torn from the land by bailiffs and absent landlords, but still cling onto hope ‘because no landlord owned the sea’ (or so we thought). William Faulkner’s, much quoted requiem to neologisms, still holds true, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’  

The first trickle of the herring boom allowed ordinary men and women to cling to the land, by going to sea, in much the same way the oil boom regenerated the Scottish economy. Its surplus squandered by Thatcherite monetarist policies that continue causing misery to the poorest while rewarding the richest for nothing much more than being rich. This is a love story, but it’s also a lesson in economics.

Chapter 1, The Derelict Boat.   Toland aged 24, ‘felt full of a great competence. Catrine was only nineteen,’ and pregnant. Like many others they’d survived the winter on shellfish and seaweed. Colic and dysentery their bed companions when they ate the wrong things.

‘Old men, trying to live on nothing to give the young a better chance, had become unbelievably gaunt, so that children would run from them frightened.’

Catrine clings to Toland. She’s hysterical. ‘All along these coasts—the coasts of the Moray Firth—there was a new stirring of sea life.’

The sea is their common salvation. Listen to the almost biblical language of Gunn.

The landlords who had burned them out in order to bring a suitable desolation for sheep (italics my own).   

[They] had set about making a harbour at the mouth of the river, the same river that, with its tributaries, has threaded the island valleys. Money had been advanced by him (at 6 ½ per cent, interest) to erect buildings for dealing with fish.’

I thought this would be a book about Catrine and Toland, but by the end of chapter 1, he’s gone from Dale. And Catrine is with child. She travels to a strange country, Dunster, to stay with her older friend Kirsty. Kirsty has a large croft with only her father to keep, but they also speak the common language of the people, the Gaelic.  Catrine is almost raped on the way from Dale to Dunster by a shepherd. But it’s subtly done. These things didn’t happen in Britain at the end of the Napoleonic era, not to good girls.

She meets skipper Roddie Sinclair. And old woman instructs Roddie to take her to Kirsty’s father’s croft. He’s no rapist (well, to jump ahead twenty years, she says ‘no’ but means yes, I’m not sure how that would translate nowadays). Roddie declares he’s married to the sea, but we know that he’s the strongest, bravest and best skipper, while she’s the bonniest, (mirror, mirror on the wall) she’s the prettiest of all.

But she’s still married to Toland. He’s been taken by a warship, while fishing off the coast, press-ganged into the Royal Navy. Catrine has a vision that he’s dead. But Roddie and Catrine’s lives must run in parallel, because that’s what the good book says.

Catrine gives birth to Finn. The good book follows his life as he grows up, and establishes a relationship with Roddie. A preacher teaches arithmetic with examples from the sea.

‘How many women are in a gutting crew, and what do they do?

Three. Two gutters and one packer.

What do they jointly earn for gutting and packing one barrel of herring?  You!

Fourpence, said the fisherman.

How many herring are in a barrel?

… There can be 800.

What does a woman get for gutting 100 herring?

… Now we have in our midst, a distinguished craftswoman in net making… How much is this woman paid for a net?

Finn raised his hand. ‘The number of knots along the top is 1801. The number down that 504…The total is 909 500 knots.

How many knots does she have to tie to earn one penny, ignoring fractions?

Mag had to tie 5790 knots to earn one penny.’

Finn had listened to endless arguments over the years. Mr Hendry at first said that they might as well haul their boats and close down. From four shillings on the barrel the [government] bounty had gone down to three shillings, to two shillings, to one shilling, to nothing.

Finn’s coming of age is marked by a seeming downturn in fishing. He falls in love, but cannot admit it, especially to himself. This is Toland and Catrine, but for the next generation, and for our generation. The story of love does not grow old and weary in the way our bodies do. In the way his mother’s body does. Only Roddie seems to defy the laws of aging. A hard man and hard taskmaster, he has the patience of Job.

When Roddie and Finn clash, as they must, both have some growing up to do. Catrine, ever virgin, despite being married and having a child, is the ballast.

The Silver Darlings is rooted in Scotland’s past, when those that owned the land, owned the people on the land, and created ‘a desolation’ of wealth. Much as now. They still do, even as fishing has dwindled to less than 1% of GDP, with boats coasting tens of millions of pounds that can catch and package fish for the market while still at sea lying rusting in dock. The lie of Brexit, fouling the nets. Gunn’s requiem for his father and his father’s father way of life and fishing so they might live and prosper. It’s all here. Open the book and read one of the classics of Scottish literature.

Dona Marie Thompson 1959-2021.

dona marie thompson

Dona was much the same age as my older sister and was born in 1959, on the cusp of The Swinging Sixties. Nineteen men died in a whisky explosion at a warehouse on Anderston Quay the following year, one of Scotland’s worst fires. Real Madrid were Kings of Europe after the Spanish champions went a goal down, but beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in front of 127 000 mostly Scottish fans. Hearts were Scottish champions. A packet of fags cost around three shillings and sixpence. A pint of beer a shilling and fivepence. To post a letter cost threepence. And if you wanted buy a car it would cost you around £700. Dona wasn’t big on cars. She never learned how to drive and left that kinda stuff to her older brother Leo. Fags and beer, well that was a different story, and more to her liking.  

I only saw Dona in denims and t-shirt and a jacket, she didn’t dress up. A smidgen of lipstick for special occasions. Often she’d have a fag in her hand, her ginger frizz a fox’s tail that gathered around her face. She looked the world square in the eye and spoke bluntly, but not unkindly.

Beauty she left that to her daughters Michelle and Cheryl to fuss about. Men were like tortoises, a bit slow, easy to pick up, but harder to get rid of. She’d a soft spot for the underdog. The kind of drunk guy that couldn’t find his pockets. Candidates for the last train home. That would argue with the train guard that they’d moved Dalmuir to the wrong place, and he could call the police if he liked, he wasn’t for moving. Donna was father and mother to her children.

Michelle was born during the mass furore of Thatcherism and the introduction of the Poll Tax. Only one of them was wanted. Fags were hammered by tax and cost almost £2 for twenty and a pint was almost a pound. Phone calls cost ten pence.

‘I’m gonnae kill that Cheryl,’ Dona’d say.

She used to bring Cheryl into the Drop Inn in her stroller to play a game of pool and have a pint. Her youngest girl with her shiny long hair, big smile and knee-length skirts soon had the run of the place. Dazzled by the lights of the fruit machines, crisps in hand. Wheeling and dealing, coming back, knowing her mum was there for her—always there for her—filled with grace, but crushable. She knew how to press the buttons in the machine and what the jackpot was. When all the coins tumbled out, the world was hers to divide.

 Dona made a bit of money cleaning the stairs in the tenements around Castle Street where I lived and the other tenements in Dalmuir. The cash-in-hand job my own mum had done, and generations of mothers before that. Dona liked to keep busy and worked hard.

The high flat beside the station. An island in which her daughters Michelle and Cheryl also had houses. An enclave of Dona-ness. Mother and granny. Her girls got her and she got her girls and grandchildren. That was enough.

Dona’s friends and muckers were special to her. She wouldn’t let you down, but if you let yourself down, well, there was that shrug. But injustice left her fizzing. Especially, against women. Everybody in Dalmuir has at least one fight with Rab Adair. I’d punched him with a pint glass in my hand and cut the meat of my hand. He picked up a ball from the pool table. Donna just knocked him out in The Horse and Barge, which made me laugh.

When Dona’s brother Leo died in Thailand there was nothing much she could do, but bring him home to be buried. Just the same as she’s been buried with honour and dignity.  

Dona wouldn’t thank you for sympathy or allow you to look down on her. Last time I saw her, I did just that at the Co-op, beside her flat. She was in a wheelchair. But, hey, it was the same old Dona, bright as a brass button with warmth in her voice. She was always glad to see you. I’m sorry to see her go. RIP.  

https://www.westreamitfunerals.co.uk/thomsond

Bernard Hare (2005) Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew.

I picked up this book and put it down a few times. I doubt if I’d have read it, but for one thing—it was Bob’s book. He carried it around like a lucky rabbit paw in his rucksack (not so lucky for the rabbit) Mostly in the first 150 pages of the book, around the middle of the book, Bob scribbled messages to himself in biro He underlined words like Urbie and wrote things like ‘Visible From Space So We r Told’. Adding a tick mark to quote from the narrator to Sparky, ‘Here, who you calling a cunting heretic?’ I don’t know if Bob finished the book. I guess I finished it for him.

Mad, Bad, or Sad?    1990, According to The Guardian headline, Five ‘cold-hearted and evil’ teenagers, from Skelton in Leeds, tortured and killed Angela Pearce, aged 18, who suffered from schizophrenia. The three girls and two boys showed no remorse when they were led away from the dock. Bernard Hare, the middle-aged narrator, known as Chop in the book, and his adopted son given the name Urban Grimshaw, visit the shallow grave where Angela Pearce was buried and leave a memento, a gold locket, at the site. Recognition that could have been them that did the torturing. Them that was tortured.  

Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew—his brother Frank, Skeeter, Sparky, Sam, Pinky, Theiving Little Simpkins, Trudy, Cara, Molly, and Pixie with the exception of the Tyson, the dog, who was sold by Greta his mum for a fix, where mad, bad and sad. As we all are. We’ve gone to the dogs is the message of the book. It’s almost 20 years since Angela Pearce’s murder and Chop gave himself grief. He saved himself and the adolescent boys and girls that looked up to him for some kind of parental guidance.

 Hare/ Chop is initiated into the Shed Crew and becomes one of them. Their unofficial leader and guru. I wasn’t overly convinced by the screeching tyres and stolen cars and the way they’d outfoxed the police. I was convinced the girls were sexually abused by nonces and the boys were thugs that stole and did whatever they could to stay one-up and alive. Hare, for example, has the reader believe, a fifteen-year-old Sparky, who was ‘built like a brick shitehouse’ and sets up home with Natasha, a schoolgirl who needs a good shagging and is straight out of the pages of Trainspotting, somehow also reads the collected works of Shakespeare for fun. Quotes, verbatim, from The Merchant of Venice, ‘do I not bleed…’. That’s just clichéd shite with a coating of literary havering.   

And I certainly wasn’t convinced that twelve-year-old Urban fell into a sewer, then into the canal and Chop dived into save him and Tyson bit him. They both survived. Covered in pish and shite they went to Urban mum’s house, because it was closer. Chop also knew not much would be said. He’d been shagging his mum, Greta. And had taken the boy out to help on a few of his jobs, delivering stuff. Man and van. Man, van and boy, made a more interesting story with a moral punch. Urban was street smart and he’d warned Chop, because he liked him to stay away from his mum, because she’d destroy him.

Here was have the shtick:

He was twelve going on thirty-seven. Oddly enough, I was thirty-seven going on twelve. Maybe that’s why we got on so well.

The road trip from Leeds to Aberdeen is believable, as is the glue, butane sniffing, boozing, drug taking, and even the code of conduct. The 101 houses that Greta inhabits. Her madhouse where her children and their pals go to take drugs. Chop goes too. But he also offers a safe house for the kids to decompress and teaches them to play chess and be still. To be children for a while.

Hare is making a call to arms. He’s saying this shouldn’t be happening. We all know that. Just think what low-life David Cameron was thinking when he made that speech at the Conservative Party Conference telling a wailing audience of yahoos that he had a list of families in London that were costing the country millions. His solution, their solution, of course, was to cut them off. Cuts, cuts and more cuts. To make the poor pay. Chop does that too. Goes on mad rants, usually about Thatcherism and the empty promises of consumerism. We’re kindred spirits. The world he wants is the world I want. For those not in the know, this is a book worth reading. For the rest of us, a reminder how far we’ve fallen.  Allegedly, the sixth richest nation on earth and we can’t even feed our children. Fuck, right off. You should be fucked off too. It’s not a read it and weep book. It’s a read it and understand, but as I said, I’m not sure Bob did read it. He was fucked up in so many ways and so wanted to be normal. Viscerally, I’m sure he understood.  That could have been him. That was him.   

#Impeachment



https://www.flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/32459807456/

I’m a hypocrite, in the week that Britain formally leaves the European Economic Union, an act of economic mutilation the equivalent of, for example, California seceding from the United States of America, I want Scotland to opt out of Britain. My fealty is not to Nicola Sturgeon or the Scottish National Party, but to the commonwealth of the Scottish people. Put simply, the future is green and will be built on interdependence not independence. Thatcherism and trickledown economics has never worked. It simply exacerbates the existing gaps between rich and poor. The direction of travel of Boris Johnson and his ilk has not changed so we as a people, we as a nation, need to leave them to their own short-term folly—for our own good, and perhaps theirs.

Democracy is a sham. But reading Robert A.Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnon, is a reminder that sometimes it can work for the greater good. As it did from roughly the end of the second world war to the rise of Thatcherism and Reaganomics when there was—limited, some would argue, very limited—upward social mobility. Now it is downward. Poor people die sooner than rich people (and yes I do go to more funerals now) but they are doing so in such high numbers the life-expectancy of both men and women in Britain, despite technological advances, is declining.

We get Boris Johnstone’s mussed hair and, staged gravitas, as he bangs a gong at 11pm on Friday, 31st January that ends Britain’s formal membership of the EEC after 47 years. Perhaps the one good thing is the reptilian Nigel Farage, and fellow old Etonian, will no longer be able to claim tens of thousands of Euros in allowance and will become just another stooge in the moron moron’s background team.

The defining image of the week isn’t of mussed hair of President Trump or of the Boris Johnston thatch, but a video of an eight-year-old girl easily climbing up and over a mock-up of Trump’s ‘virtually impenetrable’ wall with Mexico. Certainly, there should be calls to elect the eight-year-old girl to become President rather than the moron’s moron.

The impeachment of President Donald Trump in the chambers of the United States Senate as political theatre has turned into a damp squib. The senate has overseen fifteen previous impeachments, which included two presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate Scandal and before he could be impeached. The moron’s moron, as we know, wants much more than that and another term in office. He is liable to get it and get away with breaking the law at will.

Cato’s examination of the Annals of Congress are instructive of what democracy should look like but doesn’t. For example, the trail of Samuel Chase, in the Senate could also be applied to Bill Clinton, but not Donald Trump who has committed much greater crimes—both public and private—than request a blowjob.  

His footsteps are hunted from place to place to find indiscretions.

Listen to the words of Vice President Aaron Burr (indicted for murdering Alexander Hamilton) and his defence of the right to try Samuel Chase not in the halls of public opinion but in the Senate.

The House is a sanctuary; a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty; and it is here, here in this exalted refuge; here if anywhere, will resistance be made to the storms of political phrensy [sic] and the silent arts of corruption…  

   Or the words from Robert Byrd, who served the Senate, two centuries later.

The Senate exercised in that fine moment of drama the kind of independence, impartiality, fairness and courage that, from time to time, over the years, it has brought to bear on the great issues of the country.  

We see the opposite of that in the Senate, and in the world, generally. We see the partiality of the rich and powerful and politicians who bend at the knee. We see unfairness and a lack of moral courage. We see a President who when the call came refused to fight for his country leading other weak men who refuse to see any wrong in their leader. We see the politics of the ghetto given national stage.

We’re not comparing like with like. Samuel Chase was, by Caro’s account, an intellectual colossus whose inflammatory rhetoric led to him being impeached. The moron’s moron intellect is the kind of genius that if he went head to head with the eight-year-old, who climbed all over his pseudo-fence, I’d be backing her.

Compromise is not a crime. It’s an essential part of political life and life in general, but if the men we elect do not act in the interests of future generations then they shouldn’t be in office. We can no longer think locally, or national, but need to think globally, to work together to save our planet. Ironically, that means Scotland leaving Great Britain. An act of economic mutilation akin to Johnson’s betrayal, but necessary for the greater good of all and not just the super-rich few.  

63 UP, ITV, directed by Michael Apted.

7 Up.jpg

https://www.itv.com/hub/7-63-up-uk/2a1866a0001

‘Give me a child and I will show you the man.’

That old Jesuit or ancient Greek aphorism is alive and well. I’m at 56 and UPward myself and one of my classmates, George Devine’s funeral, was on Wednesday. Arthritis creeps around my bones, but I’m still gloriously alive. When I went to school Mrs Boyle taught us that 9 x 7 = 63 (UP). My life has been in eight instalments, but I’ve followed the nine episodes of this soap opera and read into it things I already know. Class is alive and flourishing in Britain as it was in 1964; a half-hour documentary made by Granada, a World in Action, looked at the state of the nation through children’s eyes.

The villains of the series, as in life, have always been to me the upper classes. I’m like that old priest in Father Ted that when drink is mentioned his eyes glaze and he jumps out of his chair. With me it’s Tories. Fucking, Tory scum.

The first series (7UP) shows us three boys representative of that class, aged 7, Andrew, Charles and John.  They are shown singing Waltzing Matilda in Latin.  In their posh English accents they also boast about what newspapers they read. The Financial Times and Guardian. And tell the viewer exactly what prep school. public school and universities they will attend. And this all comes to pass with Biblical accuracy.  A world away from North Kensington, Grenfell Tower, the same rich South Kensington, London borough, where these boys hailed from.

The exception to the rule was Charles. We see him in 21 UP, long hair, hipster, telling the viewer how glad he didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge and attended Durham University instead. And he was glad of that because it gave him a different view of the world. Ho-hom. He does not appear in the subsequent programmes. Being educated at the right schools and having the right connections, of course, he went on to become something big in Channel 4,  something big in film and theatre and  threatened to sue his fellow documentary maker Michael Apted for using his image. This shows no class at all. Apted being one of those national treasures, like David Attenborough. Imagine, for example, a beluga whale suing Attenborough for impinging on his right’s images and all because of a bit of plastic.

Andrew went on to become a partner in his solicitor’s firm at 31, by that time he’d married outside his class to a good Yorkshire lass, plain Jane and they had two sons, Alexander and Timothy. His firm was taken over by a larger corporation and he regretted spending so much time at work, but in his modest way, admitted those were the choices he made. I quite liked Andrew.

I detested his and my namesake John. Of all the upper-class twats that little Tony wanted to punch, he would have been my prime candidate. I hated everything about him. The way he looked and sounded. His pronouncements that (Luton) car workers with their fabulous wages could afford to send their children to public schools. His life went exactly to the book, his pronouncements, aged 7 UP, realised. He became a Queen’s Council and gained his silk robe. He married the daughter of a former ambassador to Bulgaria and admitted his great grandfather, Todor Burmov, had fought against the Turks to gain independence and had been Prime Minister. No surprise, the gone, gone, gone girl, Teresa May, who attended the same Oxbridge institution, and helped create the hostile environment for immigrants didn’t exactly rush to deport him. John had the wrong accent, the right register of the Queen’s English, fabulous social connections and the pasty-white colour of skin favoured by immigrant officials. Two of his friends were Ministers in the Government.  Even Nigel Farage, the ex-Etonian, would have complained if John had suddenly been napped and put on a flight to Sofia, but then a strange thing happened. I didn’t mind John so much, and actually admired him.

He was one of the few that didn’t tell the viewer whether he had family or not. The reason he kept appearing in subsequent programmes was to promote a charity that helped disabled and disadvantage citizens in Bulgaria. He admitted modestly that he’d worked hard. While that usually would have me thinking nobody had worked harder than coal miners who’d powered the Industrial Revolution and paid in silicosis and black death, or Jimmy Savile who prided himself on being a Bevin boy and working (hard) down the pits and incredibly hard with his charity work and had other interests. John mentioned his mother had needed to work to send him to public school, in the same way that tens of millions of mothers have to work to put food on the table. John gained a scholarship to attend Oxford University, with the inference he was poor. I’m not sure if his mother was a Luton car worker, but I’m sure she didn’t work as a cleaner in a tower block in South Kensington. I didn’t exactly like John, but I understood him better, which is the beginning of knowledge.

I guess like many other viewers I identified with Tony, this tiny kid from the East End of London, his dad a card-shark crook and he looked to be going the same way. Larger than life Tony from 7 UP was a working-class cliché. He was never going to make anything of school. Left at 15 and he tells you early he yearned to be a jockey. He was helping out at the stables and got a job there. I know how he feels. I wanted to play for Celtic and trained with the boy’s club at 15. Trained with Davie Moyes, Charlie Nicholas on the next red gravel training pitch. Clutching my boots in a plastic bag I wasn’t even good enough to be molested by Frank Cairns, although he did give me a passing, playful, punch in the stomach. I guess he was aiming lower down and the lower league. Tony in a later UP series told us he’d ridden in a race against Lester Piggot. He wasn’t good enough, and is big enough to admit it.

Tony with his outdated attitude to women. The four Fs. Fuck them, forget them and I can’t remember the other two. Debbie sorted that out. She gave him three kids and now he’s got three grandkids. Tony admitted he’d had an affair. Tony, plucky London cabbie, having done The Knowledge, as did his wife and son. A spell in Spain trying to work out as a property broker. I guess, I should have guessed. Tony admitted he’d voted Tory all his days and now he wasn’t sure. More of a Farage man. Fuck off Tony.

Tony got a bit heated when he thought Apted had accused him of being a racist. ‘I’m a people’s man,’ he said. ‘You know me.’

Then he talks about the Arabs, in the same way you’d talk about poofs and Paki shops. The Arabs were the only ones that were helping him make money. It wasn’t Uber, that was ripping him off, but Labour that were taking everything and giving nothing back. Fuck off Tony, read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and find out what part of Mugsborough you’ve moved to. Yet, there were his daughter, something that had gone wrong. Sometimes we’ve got to realise that although we circle the wagons, as Tony claimed, only a community can save us.

The old lies are made new again.

Let’s look at the girls from the same social background as Tony. My kind of people. Straight as a die, Lynn, attended the same primary school as Jackie and Sue. Married for 40 years. Two daughter and two granddaughters, Riley, only two-and-a-half ounces at birth. God bless the NHS. Lynn whose first job was in a mobile library. Lynn, who loved kids and loved helping kids to read. Then she worked in Bethnal Green in the library. Under the Tories, of course, we don’t need libraries; we don’t need women like Lynn. Her job was redundant. She was redundant. RIP.

Jackie was always the mouthy one in the triumvirate of girls pictured together. She  told Apted he wasn’t asking her the right kind of questions and patronising them – which he was, a product of his own class. Jackie, first married of the group. First divorced. Said she didn’t want children, but had three boys and ended up  in a council estate in Scotland, but separated from the father of the two of them, but still in love and in touch with him. Jackie, who had rheumatoid arthritis and told the camera, and David Cameron, if he thought she was fit for work then he should show her what kind of job. Disabled, she was classified as not disabled enough and fit for work. Tory scum. Here it is in person. Public policy without humanity and based on a lie. No great surprise the suicide rate on those deprived of benefits has rocketed. I wonder what Farage, who has never worked and continues to draw a hefty stipend from rich fools and from the European Parliament he wants to destroy thinks about that. We know what he thinks. He thinks what rich people tell him. Jackie can speak for herself. Speak for us.

Sue can think for herself too. She got married to have children and had two kids, but divorced their father because she didn’t love him. Karaoke singer, she met Glen and they’ve been engaged for twenty years or more. She works as head administrator in the law faculty of Queen Mary, University of London. She’s thinking about retirement and does a bit of acting and singing. A working class life, made good. But she worries that the world we’re passing on to her children and our children isn’t as good. Doesn’t have the same level of opportunity and social mobility. She’s right to be worried.

Bruce, representative of the middle class,  who when he was 7 UP claimed to have a girlfriend in Africa that he probably wouldn’t see again and wanted to be a missionary, always had that look on his face as if he’d missed something. His father, perhaps, in Southern Rhodesia.  Bruce was beaten at public school. He freely admits it and agonised whether Christianity was an outdated doctrine and whether it was liveable. I wonder about that too. I see the façade and under the façade more façade. The devil seems to me more real than any god and Jesus whose only weapon was love. Yeh, I like Bruce. For a start, although he was public school and went to Oxford to study Maths, he was never a Tory. He taught maths to children in Sylhet, Bangladesh and in the East End of London (Tony’s old school, if I remember correctly). Late in life he married and had two sons.

Peter, who went to the same school in Liverpool as Neil, was also representative of a different strand of the middle class. Both boys claimed they wanted be astronauts, but Neil hedged his bets and claimed he would be as equally happy being a bus driver. Peter went to university, got a degree and took up teaching. The greatest moment of his life was, he claimed, the 1977 Tommy Smith goal for Liverpool in the European Cup Final in Rome. No mention of his marriage or his teaching career. He dropped out of the 7 UP series after being targeted by the Daily Hate Mail and other right-wing publications for criticising Thatcherism. He later re-appeared, in 56 UP, having remarried and hoping to promote his burgeoning musical career. He claimed to be happy working in the Civil Service. Good rate of pay, good pension. He must be ecstatic now that Mo Salah and Liverpool have given him another greatest moment of his life in Bilbao. Anyone that sees through Thatcherism has walked in my shoes and I love my team, Celtic in the same way he loves Liverpool.

Neil never became an astronaut or bus driver. He did go to study in Aberdeen University, but dropped out in the first year and at 21 UP was living in a squat in London and working as casual labour on building sites. Neil makes for good television. Contrast the bright, beautiful and confidant seven-year-old boy with what he’d become, a shifty-eyed loner, with obvious what we’d term now, mental health problems, or as he admitted depression or problems with his nerves, madness. At 28 UP he was living in a caravan in Scotland. Then he was living in Orkney.  Neil never fulfilled his boyhood potential. But I guess that’s true of us all. Then somehow, in that long curve on life he seemed to be making a comeback. 42 UP he’s living with Bruce and later becomes a Liberal Democrat councillor in Hackney. 56 UP he’s moved again to middle England as well as being a councillor is a lay preacher in the Eden district of Cumbria. Able to administer all the rites of the Church of England, apart from communion. 63 UP he’s living in northern France, a house in the countryside he’s bought with money inherited from his parent’s estate. Neil has become a squire. Like me he hoped to have written something people would want to read.

Nick, educated in a one room school house in the tiny village of Arncliffe, in the Yorkshire Dales, a farmer’s son, who went to Oxford and gained a doctorate in nuclear physics, is a story of meritocracy and upward mobility. He didn’t want to run the farm, he said, perhaps his brother that was deaf, could inherit the farm. Nick wanted to change the world. A fellow student at Oxford commented that he didn’t associate Neil’s Northern accent with intelligence.  He was right, of course, intelligence has nothing to do with accent, and upward mobility has nothing to do with meritocracy. Nick’s comments that Teresa May would never have become Prime Minister if she’s gone to an obscure polytechnic would have at one time seemed inflammatory. But Nick lives and teaches in Wisconsin-Madison. Before Trump, and the moron’s moron continual twittering, nothing has ever been the same again. Nick had a son with his first wife and later remarried Cryss. But in 63 UP he admits to having throat cancer. He’s intelligent enough to know what that mean.

In 56 UP, Nick admitted having long conversations with Suzy, who had appeared in eight of the nine episodes, but not in 63 UP. Suzy when asked about the series when she was a chain-smoking, twenty-one-year old, thought the series pointless and silly. By that time her father had died, she’d dropped out of school and been to Paris to learn secretarial skills. Her upper-class background true to form meant she was a pretty enough catch. She duly married Rupert, a solicitor and prospered as a housewife and mother of two girls and a boy. After 28 UP she glowed with good health.

Symon and Paul were the bottom of the heap in the first series of 7 UP in 1964. Symon was the only mixed race kid in the programme. His mother was white. He missed her when he was in the home. She just couldn’t cope with him, but later they became close.

Symon went to work in Wall’s freezer room. He had five kids and was married by 28 UP. He wanted to be film star. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. At 35 he was divorced and remarried. He remarried a childhood sweetheart. They met in the laundrette. She had a kid and they had a son. They fostered hundreds of kids over the years. If you take away the money Symon has been the biggest success story and has given the most.

Symon and Paul kept in touch and they reunited in 63 UP in Australia where Paul lived. He emigrated, following his father down under. Paul worked in the building trade. He was always one of the shy ones in the programme. He went walkabouts with his wife Susan, who thought him handsome and that he had a nice bum. They had a couple of kids and stacks of grandkids. Their daughter went to university. The first of their family to enter an institution of higher learning. Paul and his wife work together in a retirement home.

The 7 UP series tells us about ourselves. When it began the Cuban Missile Crisis had been played out the threat of nuclear annihilation had passed. Or so we thought. With global warming and tens of millions of migrants on the move, the threat of nuclear annihilation is more likely, but for a different reason, because countries divert rivers and tributaries and claim them as their own.

The jobs that each one did will be redundant. Self-driving cars mean taxing will be for the birds. Amazon are already delivering by drone. Any kind of administration is child’s play for artificial intelligence. The bastion of law and medicine is based on pattern recognition. We can expect the new Google to run our health service, or what’s left of it. Nick, the nuclear engineer, might not have much of a future. The future is green, totally green. Those Arab states that rely on the mono-crop of oil will become bankrupt almost overnight, like a Middle-Eastern Venezuela. Russia has long been bankrupt, but without oil it implodes. Let’s hope it doesn’t take the rest of us with it. Money flows from the poor to the rich at an increasing. rate, like an ever-growing, speeded up, Pacman creating new wealth and eating it up more quickly. We are left with dysfunctional politics, tyranny and chaos. The centre cannot hold. Our homes will be battery powered. Plants and trees are already solar powered. They shall become our new cathedrals. Scotland should be green by then.  That’s something a celticman appreciates.