Blazoned Across The Stars: International Women’s Day 2020

Grannies are formidable figures in Scottish culture, hence why this 4,000 year old megalith is affectionately titled “Granny Kempock.”

Men have sat at the feet of women down the ages and our civilization, bad or good, we owe to the influence of women.
Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, December 1928

I watch Suffragette back when it came out, knowing it was going to be rather difficult to get through. I’m not good with historical dramas which centre around oppression and unfairness: I keep wanting to leap into the screen and sort everything out. Because in cinema, that’s how things work: charismatic individuals with right on their side just get things done with rousing speeches or acts of defiance. It’s why heroes like Zorro and Superman are so popular – the will and the determination to change things for the better with the strength & ability to make those changes. The strong should use their strengths to carry, not to crush – but it has been bred into us to suffer some tyranny for some security.

I still profess to having a childlike view of such things. I don’t like it when the strong use their power to keep those weaker than them down. But worse, to me, are those who just stand by and let it happen – because I know there have been times when I was one of those bystanders. When women were beaten by policemen with truncheons, sympathetic men and women did nothing. When women are imprisoned, their husbands are ashamed to pay their bail. When women go back to work, they are disciplined – by their employers, or their husbands – for their insubordination. That was at best. At worse, they were complicit in the social exclusion that the state fostered against the agents of change. Alienating. Shaming. The violence against their bodies is bad enough, but the violence done to their minds and souls is what truly cuts.

And we, as a species, are still at it. For all we’ve made strides in many nations, there are still too many where women and girls are forbidden from basic freedoms, forced into “marriage” (how anyone can define such a union as marriage is beyond me), where abhorrent treatment is a fact of life. Being part of a global community carries responsibilities – otherwise, it is a community without collective consequences. All throughout history, women made their mark, from Sappho and Elpinice to Aspasias of Athens and Thargelia of Miletus: and this is no less true in Scotland, from the Caledonian Period to the Middle Ages, on through to the present leader of our nation. Even my own little hometown of Gourock can boast women writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and war heroines. – to say nothing of my mammy, my sister, my niece, my granny, my aunties and great-aunties and cousins, and my many brilliant female friends who are such an inspiration to me.

The least I could do is be as brave as they are.

Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory.
– Robert E. Howard

 

Quick Question for Democrats

So the new clarion call is “if the SNP win a majority in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, then we’ll recognise the mandate that we’ve refused to recognise no less than four times since 2015.” (Unless you’re Lisa Nandy, Willie Rennie, or Alister Jack.)

Here’s the thing, which it amazes me hardly anyone brings up – by every reasonable measure except the number of seats (in a system designed explicitly to prevent any party gaining a majority) & regional vote share, the SNP have a stronger mandate for an independence referendum in 2016 than they did in 2014.

  • In 2011, 45.4% voted SNP on the constituency list: in 2016, that rose to 46.5%
  • In 2011, 876,421 voted SNP on the constituency list: in 2016, that rose to 1,059,897
  • In 2011, 53 of 73 constituency seats – as in, the First Past the Post system used in UK General Elections – went to the SNP: in 2016, that rose to 59

It is only because of the method used to elect members to the regional list that the SNP lost their overall majority despite increasing their vote share, the number of voters, & the number of constituency seats – which tend to be all that matter in First Past the Post systems such as the UK’s ancient regime. (And this isn’t taking into account that the SNP went into the first independence referendum with a mere 6 MPs and 19.9%, etc.)

So this poses an interesting question.

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Gather Ourselves Together

The reaction to the First Minister’s announcement this past Friday has been decidedly mixed. Some considered it a perfectly balanced and ultimately realistic approach; others have criticized it for excessive caution or repetitious platitudes. Where you lie on that sliding scale seems to correlate with how much you trust the SNP, the Scottish Government, and the First Minister, to deliver the intended 2020 timeline for the next Scottish Independence Referendum despite the monolithic obstruction that is the UK Government.

Whatever you thought of the announcement, it is clear that it is beyond time to get things going again. There has been a considerable vacuum left by Yes Scotland since its dissolution three months after the 2014 Referendum. Many groups and initiatives have attempted to fill that void – All Under One Banner, the SNP’s new Yes campaign, the revived Scottish Independence Convention and its Voices for Scotland campaign – but for various reasons, none have truly captured the movement in that sense of united purpose felt in the run up to 2014. Personality conflicts, party dynamics, internecine disagreements, campaign fatigue, and lost momentum have taken their toll on the movement’s structural integrity.

Getting the disparate independence supporting groups together is the primary goal of the National Yes Registry.

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A Week for Walking Worms

This is a Velvet Worm. It’s the cutest worm I can find.

A week to go for the third UK General Election since 2015, and I suspect a great number of folk in the isles are sick to death of them all. They’re sick of an incumbent Prime Minister who seems incapable of telling the truth; they’re sick of an opposition that should be wiping the floor with the most evil government in living memory; they’re sick of the Third Party promising change who they know, deep down, will happily facilitate the evil government for the price of a ministerial role. And even in Scotland, where the First Minister is widely considered not just the best, but the only serious politician in every debate – by newspaper readers, commentators, many folk down south, even the BBC – we Scots seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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The War Among The Vampires

He is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.
The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter V, “The White Rider”

A while back I speculated that the EU Referendum was being used as a proxy war between two different factions within The Establishment.

On one side, you had the Nativists: these are people who have – or at least believe they have – genuine pride and concern for the United Kingdom, a belief in their nation, and a willingness to put party-politics aside for what they perceive as the greater good. Despite their selfishness & arrogance, for whatever reason, they really do care about the UK’s international reputation, its territorial integrity, and its wealth. This is exemplified by the likes of David Cameron, Theresa May, John Major, and other pro-EU figures in the UK Government Party.

On the other side, you had the Conmen. These people might talk a big talk about the United Kingdom and Great Britain, or even let the mask slip & talk about England – but in truth, it’s all lip service to their voting base. They don’t care about the UK, its people, its borders, or even its wealth, even in a nominal sense: all they care about is themselves and their own coffers. This is clear to see in the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage, and all the other squillionaires who look set to make themselves even more rich in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

So what does this mean for Scottish Independence? I have a bold theory.

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Of Sma’ Fowk, and A’ Fowk: Robert the Bruce

A common criticism of historical fiction, particularly historical cinema, is its focus on the Great Men and Women of history: the kings and queens, princes and princesses, lords and ladies, emperors and empresses. Stories about the common people seemed – rightly or wrongly – to be rarer than sagas about royal dynasties, mighty conquerors, and cruel tyrants. I’ve seen more than a few criticisms of Outlaw King which lament a question they never found the answer to: what were the common people fighting for?

That such a question is even asked shows the importance of cultural representation of this period in Scottish history.

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Louie

It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce the passing of ‘Big’ Louie Pastore. A loving husband, dad, grandad, brother, son, brother-in-law and great friend to many.

Louie passed away at Ardgowan Hospice this morning surrounded by his family.

His memory will live on through his photographs and his contributions to Inverclyde’s arts and music scene.

His family would like to thank all the staff at Ardgowan Hospice for all their hard work in looking after Louie, and we would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and condolences.

“𝐼 𝑑𝑜𝑛’𝑡 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝐼’𝑚 𝑔𝑜𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝐼 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑚𝑖𝑠𝑒 𝑖𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑛’𝑡 𝑏𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔.” (David Bowie)

Louie Pastore
Rest in peace
1962-2019

Louie Pastore was a very close friend to the family, especially my mother and father, who knew him for most of their lives. He was someone I wish I got to know better, because he shared a lot of interests, hobbies, and causes with me. We graduated from the same university course, where he went on to do teaching. He played music at the Spinnaker; he adventured all around Inverclyde looking for ancient artifacts and taking wonderful photographs; he contributed so much to the local community, through projects like Heid ‘o the Hill and Dark Side o’ the Clyde.

Louie was a big reason I became so invested in local history. I always had a great love and appreciation for Scottish cultural heritage, but Louie knew about the Roman remains at Lurg Moor, the prehistoric rock carvings at what is now Gourock Golf Course, and anything and everything archaeological in Inverclyde.

A great deal of the work I do, from occasional posts on this blog about local history & lives, to Gourock Heritage & Arts, is thanks to his shining example.

A man like Louie lived for his family, his tribe, his local community. I hope we can keep his spirit going.