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!

A Guid New Year Tae Ane and A’

Here comes the first foot…bearing coal for the outer man and whisky for the inner…

first footing

Let us find a new voice for the  year to come…

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.’

Let us find a voice for ourselves. for those whose voices are never heard, and may we speak for freedom and justice.

 

But not forget the fun of seeing in the New Year… years ago German friends introduced us to their cult New Year clip

Dinner for One

We too watch it every year..as much in celebration of our German friends as for the absurdity itself…part of the ritual of the passing of the old year.

And so we remember…

Happy we’ve all been together

 

And look forward.

 

Many thanks to all of you kind enough to follow …and to comment…on this blog. I enjoy your company.

Lang may your lums reek.

Emerging from Hibernation

Afghanistan cricket team
Yes, I know that it is summer here…a summer which has come roaring in with searing heat and high winds, drying off the pasture and presaging no good for the months to come.
Still, summer or no, I have been hibernating.
Under the weather myself before Christmas, husband since after a spectacular fall resulting in large hole in leg, ten stitches and daily dressings at the clinic.
Then my dear Alsatian died, attacked by a galloping form of cancer, followed days afterwards by his ancient friend the Costa Rican King Charles Corgi….it might have been old age, but I fancy it was more like a broken heart.

Still, visitors arrived to rouse me from my torpor and the door to the hibernation cave is sealed up. Life, changed though it is, goes on, though no tail thumps the floor waiting for the breakfast egg.

I am following Scotland’s ‘progress’ in the World Cup….the One Day Cricket World Cup, that is.
Somewhere, distantly, I hear Adullamite beating his breast and crying ‘Ichabod‘ at this example of the decline of Scots values, but follow it I do.

As always with Scotland’s teams in whatever form of sport they suffer from an excess of sportsmanship.
They like to make opposing teams feel at ease by giving them vast leads and then fail gallantly to overtake them.

I consider that this is all down to the example offered by that flower of medieval chivalry the Good Sir James Douglas, companion in arms of the Bruce in the Wars of Independence who, charged with taking the (by now dead – yes, I know, but we are speaking about Scots here) Bruce’s heart on Crusade to the Holy Land,
A…hung about a bit before doing anything about it – Scottish team captains demonstrate the same tendency…
B…went on Crusade to Spain instead….Scottish football fans know the way by heart…
C…disobeyed orders and found himself cut off at which point he hurled the heart in its container ahead of him and followed it to certain death, bellowing ‘Lead on brave heart as thou was wont to do’ – a practice followed, though with less poetic language, by Scots rugby players and with the same result. Marmelised.

Add to that disadvantage the obligation on national teams to sing that dirge ‘Flower of Scotland’: and you begin to understand the obstacles to success under which they labour.

What was wrong with ‘Scots Wa Hae’, I should like to know,

Or, come to that, ‘Blue Bonnets’ which, despite having the lyrics written by Sir Walter Scott, manages to stir up the memories of the Border reivers, whose motto was ‘nothing too hot or too heavy’…that is, nothing too hot or too heavy to steal from their English neighbours.

Now that should inspire a bit of gumption!

‘The Ball of Kirriemuire’, as will be evident to anyone rash enough to look it up on Youtube, while well in the running in the enthusiasm stakes is more suitable to a victory celebration and is thus but rarely heard.

So far in the World Cup Scotland have been defeated by New Zealand – though they can comfort themselves with the thought that there is a great deal of Scottish blood in New Zealanders, not only from historic migration but also from ears bitten in encounters on the rugby field with the All Blacks.
I suppose that the Scottish cricket team should thank their lucky stars that the match was heralded by a Maori playing a didgeridoo rather than by several All Blacks performing a haka.

It’s enough to make you want to lie down in a darkened room with a cup of tea.

Unfortunately, Scotland have also been beaten by England.
For which there is but one appropriate musical reference…the piobaireachd ‘Too Long in this Condition’…. which while you’ll need the stamina of an ox to see it through to the end, does give time to smother all the untoward language which you might – if a Scot – wish to use on such an occasion.

After these performances Scotland can look forward to meeting Sri Lanka….prepare the mourning garments and the jet jewellery: Bangladesh….whose Asian players will perform the best?…and Afghanistan.

Scotland versus Afghanistan.
Given the current disparity between the teams the result can only be a re run of ‘Carry On up the Khyber’

And I have a horrible feeling that it will not be Scotland carrying on in the competition.

.

Nostalgie du Pays

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the Front de Gauche, after the success of the hard right parties in the European elections in France in May this year.

Even if you don’t normally watch videos, even if politics leave you cold, even if you don’t understand French, please take the time and have the patience to look at this – a man visibly moved by what is happening to his country.

 

Va, la France. Va, ma belle patrie. Allez les travailleurs, ressaisissez-vous, ne laissez pas que tout ça soit fait en votre nom. Ne permettez pas… Ne permettez pas que la France soit autre chose que ce qu’elle est dans le coeur du monde entier…

 

Forward, France, Onward , my beautiful country. Workers, organise; do not permit all this to be done in your name. Do not allow…Do not allow France to be any other than that which she is in the hearts of the whole world.

 

This came back to me in the wake of the murder of the young  Canadian soldier guarding the war memorial in Ottawa….we can know our country is not perfect, but we can love it despite – and sometimes because.

The corpse of that young man travelled the 310 miles of the Highway of Heroes – named as such when the dead from the war in Afghanistan were brought home  -with, it seems, every inch lined by people wishing to express solidarity with his family and solidarity with the values of the country in whose service he died.

Because the people of Canada have not reacted with hatred, but with sorrow, not by instigating witch hunts, but by expressing their love for a young man whose life was needlessly lost – and by setting up a trust find for his young son.

Practical, kindly, level headed people.

 

So why should this remind me of the words of a defeated French politician?

 

Because the love of country is a strange and unfathomable beast.

 

You can loathe  a system yet love the people who live under it….

You can live under oppression yet find relief in the memory of ancient freedom…

You can experience nostalgia for a way of life that once you knew, that you know to be gone, but whose memory lingers like the scent of lavender in your grandmother’s handkerchief drawer.
A scent which comes to you, softly, faintly, when you least expect it and rouses memories of times past.

Apollinaire in his ‘Cors de Chasse’ says that memories are like the calls of the hunting horn, dying away in the wind…but for me those calls bring the past vividly to life…while you live and remember, these things are real.

And the love of country seems to me to be to be a love of your memories…not the abstract ideals trumpeted by politicians who defile the very ideals of which they speak.

Much as I, a Scot, loathe ‘Flower of Scotland’, that dirge now sung on all national occasions…the lines ‘fought and died for your wee bit hill and glen’ conjure up for me my grandfather’s farm…the cattle in the byre, the sheep on the hill, someone cursing the reaper binder and all its works …and although I know that all that world has passed its memory still attaches me to Scotland.

I might know of the Declaration of Arbroath and all the tarradiddles about its real intention; the Wars of Independence, the Darien scheme which brought the country to its knees …but Scotland to me is my own small world when young; the neighbours – ‘canty and couthy and kindly, the best’…the soldiers of my father’s regiment, so kind to me when a child….my grandmother – the terror of the family – explaining to me that every stranger who knocked at the door was the Christ and was to be received with respect and assisted if in need…not that that prevented her from asking the Christ to chop a few logs…

I never really took to England…formed too early in Scotland, I suppose. Perhaps had I grown up in Edinburgh and gone to the right schools…but I had not.
I lived there, I worked there, but despite knowing a number of good kind people, overall life there confirmed my father’s view of the English.

The English? They’re like kippers. No guts and two faces…
Unfair, I know and untrue in private life, but all too evident in the public sphere.

I remember the miners’ strike in the Thatcher years…and how glad were the other union bosses that Scargill would not take the – by then – legally obligatory ballot for strike action…those yellow bellies sold out their own movement and now we have unemployment…people working zero hours contracts…and tax evaders ruling the roost.

I enjoyed the county shows…the magnificent animals and their proud owners…but no landscape held me, no one place anchored me.

But I came to England as an outsider..as a child…

When I moved to France it was as an adult, eyes wide open.

I had made the move as, at that point, property was much cheaper, as was the cost of living and I could still work by fax….without the commuting, without the hassle. Less money, more time.

I was lucky…the neighbours were decent, welcoming people…I made friends with them and, through the man who ran the library in the local town, met others of a more literary bent.
I began to get to know the place through their eyes….

And what a place it was!

I felt at home as I had not since childhood…there was a real inclusion in local life, an expectation that I would participate.
And participate I did, in the Maison Pour Tous – the local centre for activities for all, young or old – in the walking group, in the gardening club, and the Am Dram, playing Feydeau farces under the manic direction of the local dentist.
Unfortunately I wasn’t then eligible for the Old Age Pensioners meetings…a real den of iniquity under the guise of cards and knitting.

Walking the dogs in the evening I would be invited to join the game of boules in front of Jules’ farmhouse, or get hijacked by Papy into helping him fix the window of his little Renault van..Edith would pile us all into her ancient 2CV and we would visit Alice in the next hamlet, her garage full of the implements invented by her husband, who had been a surgical instrument maker…

These people let me into their world and gave me a great love for France – not the France of the caste of vain, incompetent buffoons who run the place, nor the France of the colour supplements where people sit at cafe terraces inhaling vehicle emisssions, nor yet the France of culture and architecture – but the France of ordinary people getting on with their lives as best they can and what those lives bring forth.

I love to keep in touch with it all…I can still see in my mind’s eye the woods at the back of my first house where the flowers of the sweet chestnut trees burst in yellow fireworks against the soft green foliage….I can still ‘hear’ the town band on its erratic way round the commune on July 13th.

Costa Rica has proved to be an amazingly happy place in which to have landed and has conquered me hook, line and sinker…

But, from time to time, I have nostalgie du pays.