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Scotland & Independence: The Frabjous Day

For those of you who have not read Alice Through the Looking Glass, or seen the Alice in Wonderland film starring Johnny Depp, the Frabjous Day will mean nothing to you. It is from the poem ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll and appears in the Looking Glass part of Alice’s adventures.

The Frabjous day is momentous because the Jabbberwocky is killed.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

It has all made me think of Scotland. Whichever way the vote goes, and I have nailed my colours to the mast, nothing will ever be the same again. If the Union survives, it will be different. It if does not, it will be different. Whichever way the vote goes, Scottish hearts will be broken.

I was cutting an onion earlier. The onion in question was not content to be a mere vegetable for supper, instead it wanted to send us a sign (well it is the Frabjous Day after all). I only noticed the message through my tears, just as I wielded the knife to cut through the very heart of it.

onion heart1

This is the top of the onion, intact.

onionheart2

Funny what you notice when you aren’t really looking for it.

More on Scotland’s Independence

Listening to the radio today I heard the English for, and the Scottish against.

The English sounded like a bunch of hysterics, crassly trying to appeal to the emotions with words such as divorce, and family, of being ripped and pulled apart. The Scots simply stated they were taking full opportunity to re-engage with democracy by stepping up to the plate – their plate.

I think the English have sealed their fate. Serves them right. David Cameron won’t be remembered for much, but his name in history is assured. He will be the Prime Minister that blethered us right out of the Union.

Yes: One Day

My father’s family are Scottish, but long since expatriated.  There is nothing, apart perhaps from a riffle through our surnames, that would give the game away.   Oh, and the fact that both my great-grandfathers on my paternal side were called James, as is my actual father.

I’ve not been to Scotland since a child.  We went to Fife and I can’t say I liked it too much. It was singularly dreich and cold, even in summer. The week was saved by one thing, the glorious sight of a golden eagle soaring above us, on an otherwise unremarkable and seemingly interminable tramp across moorland.   That eagle was in the wild.  It was probably the most spectacular thing I had ever seen, in the true meaning of the word, and most of all, it was free.

I can’t claim to know anything much about the Scottish Independence vote, not really.  I have no idea about the intricacies of what it would all mean, were Scotland to become independent from the United Kingdom.  What I do feel in my blood and my bones is that the vote will be Yes, and if I was a resident of the country that’s what I’d be voting for too.  Even without knowing much about it, I would be voting for social justice and an overthrow of the hegemony run by Eton posh boys.   I would be voting for national identity too, and even though it is something of a cliche thanks to Hollywood, I would be voting for freedom.

Who knows, one day I might even move across the border.

An interruption to the planned Stoic service

To bring you…

HORSES. Giant ones.

These were finished today in Scotland. I MUST go. Utterly magnificent.

By the artist Andy Scott (under construction) Falkirk

‘Hamnavoe’

This is a magnificent poem by George Mackay Brown.  I think Hamnavoe is the old name for the Orkney Islands; Brown lived in Stromness where the poem is set.  The language and imagery are stunning.  I am not one for pulling poetry apart, preferring rather to enjoy the turns of phrase via the whole experience, but his use of word gull really caught my eye and called to mind a strong feeling of gulls everywhere there – on land, sea and air.  Perhaps one day I will travel north and confirm this.

Hamnavoe

My father passed with his penny letters
Through closes opening and shutting like legends
When barbarous with gulls
Hamnavoe’s morning broke

On the salt and tar steps. Herring boats,
Puffing red sails, the tillers
Of cold horizons, leaned
Down the gull-gaunt tide

And threw dark nets on sudden silver harvests.
A cart-horse at the sweet fountain
Dredged water, and touched
Fire from steel-kissed cobbles.

Hard on noon four bearded merchants
Past the pipe-spitting pier-head strolled,
Rosy with greed, chanting
Their slow grave jargon.

A tinker keened like a tartan gull
At cuithe-hung doors. The brass
Tongue of the bellman fore-tolled
`Coon concert!’… ‘Cargo of English coal!’…

In the Arctic Whaler three blue elbows fell,
Regular as waves, from beards spumy with porter,
Till the amber day ebbed out
To its black dregs.

The boats drove furrows homeward, like ploughmen
In blizzards of gulls. Gaelic fisher girls
Flashed knife and dirge
Over drifts of herring.

And boys with penny wands lured gleams
From the tangled veins of the flood. Houses went blind
Up one steep close, for a
Grief by the shrouded nets.

The kirk, in a gale of psalms, went heaving through
A tumult of roofs, freighted for heaven. Ploughboy
And milklass tarried under
The buttered bannock of the moon.

He quenched his lantern, leaving the last door.
Because of his gay poverty that kept
My seapink innocence
From the worm and black wind;

And because, under equality’s sun,
All things wear now to a common soiling.
In the fire of images
Gladly I put my hand
To save that day for him.

George Mackay Brown: Selected Poems 1954-1992 (c.) Archie Bevan

‘Wild Mountain Thyme’

My friend Enkunalma is off on her travels tomorrow, so I wanted to wish her well with a song. Now, she is doing some high-level managerial tasks at the moment (aka the budget); so if I were to burst into her (blind-up) pizza den (aka the office) and start warbling it might give the lovely people who make the place their home-from-home a laugh, but it would not be an especial treat for their ears… which is why I am opting for a You Tube event.

Recently I have been going through a real period of musical nostalgia, kick-started by the fabulous Rodriguez. He reminded me of something I had nearly forgotten: I love most music, but sometimes you don’t want crashing drums, screaming guitars and electronic gizmos. Sometimes, all you want is a bit of guitar gently strumming and the human voice. That falls under the category of folk music apparently. A folk song is one that has been handed down over generations, both the tune and lyrics, a song that is pre the recorded music industry. So, I was thinking that’s the kind of song I wanted to send Enkunalma on her way with. And the song I really wanted was ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, because it starts with the leaves coming into bloom, like they are now, and that’s what I hope for her at the other end when she gets off the great white bird and is reunited with family and friends, and no doubt some Finnish dogs and cats she has taken to her heart too.

Finding the right version of the song has proved tricky… I am heavily influenced by my youth, so the Corries’ version was right up there. And then I listened to the country singer Don Williams who has a version with the pipes and The Chieftans (sadly, too slow), James Taylor (my heart aches for his songs but he makes this song a bit too easy listening), Joan Baez (too scratchy and a bit bubbly on the high notes for my taste), Bob Dylan who is doing a great vocal job until it gets a bit too acrobatic in the epiglottis towards the end, and then there were the videos that contained a myriad of soaring Scottish scenery and uncredited voices which it was hard to turn down… But in the end, and I have surprised myself, I have gone with this version.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because I wouldn’t have expected him to have done it and he renders a beautiful folk song in its most simple form: a young man performing traditional songs without fuss or a rock star fanfare, for free on the radio. It reminds us that amidst what sometimes feels like chaos the world keeps turning, spring keeps arriving and what ever happens in life some things don’t change and those things are good.

Have a good trip!

The Clan Motto: Forget Not