I’ve missed Saturnalia Again…

No, not Satyrnalia….sit down at the back there!…..though you might be forgiven for the confusion.

Saturnalia was the ancient Roman festival of the winter solstice when the world was turned upside down…decorum and status forgotten, masters serving their slaves – well, a bit like the officers serving other ranks in the Army, a bit of fun for one day and then back to the status quo.

Faced with feeding, watering and bedding down the menagerie singlehanded on Christmas Day…to be done again on New Year’s Day…it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a Saturnalia when the menagerie could look after me.

Having visions of dogs like those of Beorn who could walk on their hinds and lay tables I dreamt of hens laying an early morning egg, to be soft boiled and served to me on a tray with a tray cloth accompanied by a cup of tea.

Reality intervened, though. I know what would happen if Sophie entered the hen house…much squawking, feathers flying and hens taking to the hills. Even if by some miracle an egg could be obtained it would be appropriated by Bunter and Einstein – who always have a morning egg – as their property so all that I was likely to get would be a leftover bone – probably well chewed – proffered by kindly Plush only to be snatched away by his mother, little Scruffy, to be buried in the pillows and defended against all comers.

So forget Saturnalia…and even Satyrnalia. At least on the domestic scene.

But there is a chance of Saturnalia – the world turned upside down – in post Brexit politics in the United Kingdom, which might well become the Disunited Kingdom should Scotland press for its independence.

The Independence Referendum of 2014, which resulted in a vote for Scotland to remain in the union, was supposed to be a once in a lifetime event…as usual, though, nobody specified whose lifetime.

Then came the 2016 Brexit referendum where the majority of constituencies in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union whereas those in England mainly wanted to leave its clutches.

Thus, argue the Scottish National Party – SNP – who are in a majority in the Scottish Parliament and hold a significant block of seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regardless of whose lifetime it may be, there has been a dramatic change in the relations between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. which justifies another Independence Referendum, allowing Scotland the possibility of applying to remain in the E.U. as an independent nation.

Given the Tory majority in the U.K. Parliament, this view is unlikely to obtain the necessary votes…the Tories are not called the Conservative and Unionist Party for nothing – even if they have just dumped Northern Ireland into the lap of the E.U. as part of their disgraceful Withdrawal Agreement with the said body. Northern Ireland has cattle…Scotland has oil.

What, then, is to be done?

Invoke the Declaration of Arbroath? That document of 1320 addressed to the pope of the time to ask for his intervention to stop the incursions of the English in their quest for sovereignty. Based on the Celtic traditions of kingship, where the seven mormaers – earls – of the kingdom elected the high king, those signing up to the Declaration stated that should Robert Bruce betray them and submit to English rule they would deny him as king in the name of the freedom which they proclaimed to be that of the kingsom of Scotland.

Rather like Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath has taken on the false glamour of democracy …but it still resounds in Scottish history.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.

However, when Scottish economic power crumbled at the failure of the Darien scheme in the 1690s the powers that then were acceded to the Act of Union of 1707…celebrated by the song, such a parcel of rogues in a nation

Indeed, Scotland might be secure in valour’s station…but valour had no value when weighed against the bribes to the members of the Scottish parliament.

So Scotland became North Britain, part of the United Kingdom – again leaving aside the history of relations with the island of Ireland.

It accepts the reign of Elizabeth II…though no Elizabeth I ever ruled in Scotland and the lady in question uses the title of Queen of Scotland rather then the traditional title of Queen of Scots….but that might have to change with independence.

So, once again… how to proceed?

Armed rebellion? Blue bonnets over the border?

My backside. The only armed rebellion in the U.K. these days comes from drug gangs fighting for possession of the streets.

Set the Wee Free loose on the English? For those not acquainted with this body think a Scottish Presbyterian version of the Spanish Inquisition. It did not work in the Civil War and is unlikely to win hearts and minds now…especially as its face is firmly set against satyrnalia of any sort.

There has to be an answer..a constitutional answer…. to force the U.K. parliament to accede to another Independence Referendum for Scotland.

The current leader of the SNP in the House of Commons is so boring that he can empty the chamber faster than a thirsty Glaswegian can sink a pint of heavy. Success will not come from his portentious utterings.

So the SNP must change tactics.

.During the Brexit votes the SNP members sang or whistled the Ode to Joy…adopted by the E.U. The then deputy speaker was not too chuffed.

This can be the new weapon of the SNP…but one that reflects the Scots heritage.

Forget reasoned argument…that has never worked in the House of Commons.

Go for the jugular!

Give them Scotland’s finest!

Jimmy Shand and his Band….

And if that is not enough then unleash the nuclear option…..

Donald Where’s Your Troosers…

Forget the claymores charging out of the mist at Prestonpans…their day is over…but between them Jimmy Shand and Andy Stewart can bring victory home to Scotland…

If the SNP follow my advice we’ll have independence before we know it!

I would like to thank you for your company this past year and wish you all the best for the year to come.

Lang may your collective lums reek!

Here it comes again….

Christmas is coming

The geese are getting fat

Please to put a penny

In the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny

A halfpenny will do

If you haven’t got a halfpenny

God bless you.

So here comes Christmas. Those with the cash will be splashing out for all the bling that the media can push at them – the clothes, the presents, the food and drink, the parties. Those who don’t have the cash but can get credit will be doing the same..refrigerators groaning under the strain of hoarding the items held essential to the season.

Those who have neither cash nor credit will be making do…the lucky ones helped by their families, the unlucky well in need of the the blessing of God just to get through.

I was in San Jose on Friday…the pavements have been cleared of the huge inflatable santas and the wickerwork reindeer which were, for all the years I have been here, a hazard to navigation, but in their absence the vast tide of shoppers now surges unhindered. All very well if you are coming in on that tide – next to fatal if not.

Trying to go down to the cheapo cheapo off licence downhill from the Mercado Borbon, where items for sale seem none the worse for their fall from the back of lorries, I made no headway whatsoever against the swarm of large ladies bearing shopping bags, followed by meek menfolk carrying sacks on their shoulders.

Women rule in Costa Rica.

I was reeled in by the tiny gentleman with a tomato stand by one of the entrances to the market and plonked down on his stool to recover my breath.

He summoned one of the market porters…

‘Take this lady down to the off licence…slowly now, she can’t walk very well. And bring her back!’

His solution to breaching the tidal wave was to take me by the arm and step out into the road, waving his arm to slow down passing traffic. It still amazes me how good humoured Costa Rican drivers are…try that in London and hope you have prepaid your funeral.

I made my purchases, was escorted back up the hill…still in the road despite going with the tide…and was deposited in the car park. Obviously I tipped him…but it was clear that he did not do it in hope of recompense. Helping old people is still regarded as normal here – at least as far as middle aged people are concerned. Younger ones are beginning to become less aware.

Christmas here is as commercial as in Europe…..and the tradition of the creche in each house and the visits among neighbours to pray together in the days before the 25th is dying out. State institutions still put up a creche in their premises, but this is increasingly cut off from the roots of the practice so will eventually become a hollow acknowledgement of tradition.

But Christmas is not just a commercial feast…it celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace as heralded by the prophet Isaiah and, nomatter what our beliefs, that peace refers to a truce among nations, devoutly to be hoped for…but fearing the worst given the U.S. coat trailing against China and Russia in recent months.

At midnight on the 24th we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace…and hope and strive that we can force our national leaders to respect the call to beat swords into ploughshares.

Atmidnight inthe 24thin gthe meantime

In the meantime, let us, as in Alcis and Galatea, be happy for the moment, nomatter what might befall.

When men had hair….and balls.

So why did I have to wipe my eyes on learning that Bob Willis had died?

Bob Willis, you ask? Who he?

I know that most, if not all of you, know nothing of and care less for cricket.. a game, at its best, of physical chess, of courage, of grace, of power… a game I have loved since my grandfather took me to The Oval as a child.

Bob Willis was a fast bowler…working mostly unsupported in his era. Most fast bowlers hunt in pairs…he rarely had a worthwhile partner. He was not built for fast bowling…a beanpole of a man with no observable muscle. He had an eccentric action to deliver the ball – described as a goose attempting take off – and knees that gave him continual pain, but between the years 1971 to 1984 he steamed in for his country…six foot six when height was rare among English cricketers the ball was eight feet above the ground when he delivered it, with malice aforethought, to destroy the batsman.

He wasn’t a ‘company man’. As a player and even more so as a broadcaster he cast a cold eye on the situation and told it as he saw it…welcome or not.

Tour South Africa under apartheid? No.

Ostracise those who did? Yes.

Proud to represent his country? Yes.

Gloss over the failings of those who did not pull their weight in the team? No.

His era has gone….cricket is now in the hands of an England and Wales Cricket Board who are running the traditional game into the ground in favour of a hit and giggle formula they can patent and sell abroad.

No more broadcasters like Willis…now they are ‘stakeholders’, pushing the ECB policies to keep their access – and their jobs.

Now he would not get near a Test team. The vast and expensive structures set up to mould future Test players stifle any individuality – have ruined several promising bowlers – and would not have entertained Willis for a moment…as much for his action as his attitude in an era when cricketers too are ‘stakeholders’ and toe the party line.

When you don’t, you get dropped and those players who supported you get dropped with you.

The lack of success of these structures is something to be glossed over, needless to say.

Did I know him? No.

So why was I wiping my eyes?

Every reason.

He was his own man and I don’t see too many of them around these days. Too many ‘stakeholders’…too many bullshitters…..too many observing whatever flavour of political correctness is tops this month…too many mental eunuchs.

I look at the General Election going on in the U.K. with the barefaced lying and blatant media bias and wish for a political commenttor like Willis…facts, not spin….honesty, not deception,…. intelligence, not received message.

Rest in peace, Mr. Willis…the society we knew lies in the grave with you.