What Ships Are Built For

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
John Augustus Shedd (1859 – 1928)

Picture a boat in a harbour. Let’s call her the Scotia. She can be any kind of boat you like: a proud Birlinn, a swift Sgoth Niseach, a stout Gabbart, a bonny Clyde Puffer, a dainty Fifie. The boat is old and well-travelled, though she has not been on a voyage for a very long time. Yet she still floats; her hull is solid and sturdy; the deck and gunwales clear and well-maintained; cargo manifest up-to-date, even her paint still vibrant. Like the Ship of Theseus, she has been built and rebuilt countless times, yet retains the shape and spirit since she was launched. She boasts a dedicated, enthusiastic crew, of many talents and experiences, ready for any and all challenges. People the world over look to this boat as a truly exemplary craft – one that passenger, crewman, and officer alike would be honoured to board & serve.

Now imagine that boat never leaves its harbour.

Continue reading

The Downside Up

I had this election all wrong. It seems so obvious in retrospect.

This was never about the EU negotiations, of course – though this result undoubtedly wrecks what little clout the UK Government had. It may have been about the Prime Minister destroying Jeremy Corbyn and his party for a generation or more, with the might of the British Establishment brought to bear, even though a majority is a majority, which they already had. A more cynical explanation could be that it was to dodge the then-incoming election fraud allegations. What I didn’t realise is that this election was most assuredly about crippling the SNP – and stopping a second independence referendum.

Consider: how many Labour heavyweights were ousted last night? I can’t think of a single one. Then consider the SNP figures we lost. How many seats did the Tories lose compared to the SNP? They lost 12 to the SNP’s 21. How was it that, in a UK General Election, a party contesting only 59 seats lost more than a party contesting over 600?

Well, it makes sense once you realise that Labour weren’t the target in this election – it was the SNP all along.

Continue reading

Why I Don’t Like Football

football-in-the-rain

I used to be a very active child. Back when I was a wee guy, I ran. And when I say that, I mean I ran. I was like a wind-up toy, as soon as my mam or gran lowered me to the ground, off I went, tearing down the road as fast as my wee piston-like legs could carry me. It got me into no small amount of trouble, as I frequently found my poor mam or gran miles away, even as I kept running. Even today, I still remember the exilaration of running: the sense of leaving the world behind me, the sense of control over my destiny as I left adults coughing in my dust, the rush of endorphins and adrenaline pumping into my little brain. As such an active child, it seemed natural I would get into football: half the game is running, after all. Even if I didn’t have a particularly competitive edge, I would at least have fun playing, right?

Only I live in the West Coast of Scotland. I grew up during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Football wasn’t a simple game for me.

Continue reading

All Unions Are Not Equal

EBC

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was recently adapted into a 10-part miniseries. This pillar of alternate universe science fiction posited a branch of time which diverged from ours with the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt: the Axis won the Second World War, conquered the Commonwealth and USSR, and occupied the Americas.

A common refrain from many in the Leave camp is “why do the SNP want independence from the UK, only to hand it over to Brussels?” Such a baffling false equivalence between the constitutional monarchy of the UK and the supranational union of the EU can only be the result of one thing – a parallel universe, where the EU truly is to the UK what the UK is to Scotland.

In this bizarre world, the European Union is a unitary state in the United Nations. It is composed of four nations: Britain, Ireland, Denmark, and the vast Western Europe, many times larger than the other three put together. The capital city of Europe is Brussels, in Western Europe, which is also the location of the parliament. In recent years, Britain has reconvened parliament following a historic referendum: they have responsibility over health, education, local government, law and order, social work, housing, economic development, transport, environment, agriculture, forestry, fishing, sport and culture, with 63% of total public spending from the EU devolved to the British Parliament. However, Brussels still has control over the European Constitution, civil service, defence, national security, foreign policy, immigration, fiscal and monetary policy, oil revenues, trade & industry, income tax, corporation tax, VAT, employment, social security, nuclear energy, and broadcasting.

I watched a current affairs programme from this strange alternate universe….

Continue reading

Hail the Conquering Heroes

UNIONISTS! LOYALISTS! Oh, my brothers and sisters! Look! Look ye – to the south!

Behold our salvation, our shining lights, our guardian spirits of protection and benevolence! They ride, they ride in their dozens to our aid! Lo, the Dread Nationalists, they retreat against the cleansing tide of the Defenders of Albion! Truly, this is a sign – a sign that Caledonia says NO! NO to the disloyal disinherited! NO to the Nationalist Plague! NO to the separatist scum that would literally wrest our land apart!

HeroesOfTheUnion

We have won, my brethren – we have won!

Hail our saviours! Hail our champions! Hail the conquering Heroes of the Union!

Continue reading

When My Home Was Burning

He who had been born in a mud-walled, wattle-roofed hut, in his old age sat on golden thrones, and gnawed joints of beef presented to him on golden dishes by naked slave-girls who were the daughters of kings. Conquest and the acquiring of wealth altered not the Pict; out of the ruins of the crushed civilization no new culture arose phoenix-like. The dark hands which shattered the artistic glories of the conquered never tried to copy them. Though he sat among the glittering ruins of shattered palaces and clad his hard body in the silks of vanquished kings, the Pict remained the eternal barbarian, ferocious, elemental, interested only in the naked primal principles of life, unchanging, unerring in his instincts which were all for war and plunder, and in which arts and the cultured progress of humanity had no place.
– Robert E. Howard, “The Hyborian Age

greenock_blitz

And then it started, the first glow of red in the sky which built up until it was practically like a full sunset, just a complete blaze of light. That was it. That was Greenock being bombed.
– Bill Murray. That tower in the lower right is Greenock Town Hall.

While I was born in Greenock and lived there in my early years, it is the nearby town of Gourock which I consider my home. I suppose one could consider Greenock & Gourock to be two sides of the same basic settlement, possibly named for the twin hills from which they took their names: Guireag, “round hill,” and Grianaig, “sunny/gravelly bay.”

Today is the 75th anniversary of the second day of the Greenock Blitz.

Continue reading