Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Unexplained Mysteries

This post is adapted from a piece I wrote for a Perthshire Writers' Critique Night. They don't do blood-'n'-guts politics, so it's a wee bit gentler and (gasp) more even-handed than the norm.  It was even gentler before I adapted it! Anyhow, enjoy, and I'll be back with teeth fully bared in the next day or so.
Life is festooned with unexplained mysteries.  
For example, the irresistible attraction of soup stains to my pullover, even when I’m drinking the stuff from a cup through a straw.  My wife’s ability to ask me a question to which every conceivable answer is incriminating.  The fact that ostensibly sane people still watch Celebrity Big Brother.  My habit of ordering liqueur coffee in restaurants, knowing fine that (1) it indicates beyond question that I’m already blootered, and (2) I’m rarely at my best ransacking the medicine cabinet for Paracetamol at 4 am.
News reporting, nowadays fuelled by social media like petrol chucked on a barbecue, only amplifies the sense of mystery.  This week our faces were soundly slapped by the news that the richest 1% on the planet are now as wealthy as the other 99%, and the combined assets of precisely 80 fat cats match those of the poorest 3.5 billion. I don’t wish to be a miserable old cynic, but if you believe this is purely the result of talent and hard work, you must be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Gullibility.
But here’s the mystery.  Why do we persist in electing governments that are, at best, complicit in bringing this state of affairs about?  Or is it that the politicians we elect start out honest and idealistic, only to find themselves confronted in a dark alley by a mysterious stranger stroking a white cat and offering untold riches if they co-operate, and a motorcade trip past a book depository if they don’t?
And, as we respond to the carnage in Paris with placards proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” in the name of freedom of speech (for which, mysteriously, each has his own private definition), why aren’t we considerably more enraged that our high heid yins are busy leaning on Google and Facebook so that they can listen in on us more effectively?  One might conclude that a bunch of Charlies is exactly what we’re being taken for.
Meanwhile, the BBC, though happy to allow us to expend our anger on Cadbury’s mucking about with the Creme Egg, or a cost-conscious mum invoicing a five-year-old kid for not showing up to her son’s party, remains completely ineffective at holding our leaders to account.  That’s not unexpected, given the organisation’s embrace of snivelling mendacity in the independence referendum. Nor is it particularly mysterious, since interviewers know that asking the powers-that-be, or powers soon-to-be, awkward questions won’t help their line manager earn his MBE, and, anyway, there’s little need when the Government writes such informative press releases.
However, the real mystery arose just today, namely how the BBC thought it could hold an event with the Twitter hashtag #BBCDemocracyDay without being washed away in a tidal wave of irony.  This, from one of the broadcasters with the effrontery to label certain political groupings “main parties” and exclude the rest from their televised pre-election debates! 
In the interests of preventing a peaceful writers’ meeting from degenerating into a “stairheid rammy”, I must stress that I’m not particularly pushing the SNP’s interests here.  As the party with the third-largest membership on these islands, they certainly have a cast-iron case to be beelin’, but at least – rubbishy consolation as it is  - Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to dig her tartan stilettoes into her counterparts will have free-ish rein on BBC Scotland.  But the Greens have been treated disgracefully, for no better reason than that UKIP, and particularly pint-wielding, blokeish charlatan Farage, offers the juicy prospect of controversy and headline-grabbing gaffes.
Mind you, as we all contemplate the unfettered joy of a General Election campaign dragging on for four months, democracy itself is something of an unexplained mystery. With the Labour spin machine in full cry, powered by Keir Hardie rotating in his crypt, Murphy & Co are all set to take the credit for any policy you can imagine, just as long as someone else thinks of it first.  But it’s what happens as a result of our vote that’s most mysterious, with the threat of a hideous series of unintended consequences hanging around like an unflushable floater in a toilet bowl.
Depending on whom you believe, a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Tories, a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour, and a vote for either Labour or Tory risks bringing the two parties together in the “national government” Coalition From Hell.  At least everyone is agreed on one point: a vote for the Lib Dems is the equivalent of setting fire to your ballot paper and dancing around it naked until men in white coats come to sedate you.
But, in the end, the most inexplicable of this week’s news events is one where the medium itself has become the story. Suddenly, and it would seem spontaneously, the super soaraway Sun is ending a 40-year tradition of sordid, complacent British misogyny by doing away with Page 3.
The mystery is:  where on earth can that raddled old reprobate Rupert Murdoch possibly have found a conscience?

Update 21/01/15:  Hmmph! Was ever a blog overtaken by events as spectacularly as this, with the broadcasters now edging back towards fairness on the TV debates and scrofulous git Murdoch smirking about how he's fooled us all?  There will be revenge.....

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Another Bloody Relaunch

Apologies, folks, for the outrageously wide gap between blog posts of late.  As usual, my biscuit-tin of excuses is emptier than a pre-referendum bribe, but I’ve never let lack of decent material stop me in the past, so here goes.

In the immediate aftermath of the festive fortnight, as I cowered under the duvet, my head whistling with Paracetamol and my mouth like a ferret’s latrine, I could surely be forgiven for pulling a sickie, couldn’t I?  Then, when I next awoke, we were smack in the fallout zone of a weather bomb, with a howling gale scattering the contents of my bin all over the street, so there was clearly enough embarrassing rubbish flying around without me creating more.  Two days later, the carnage in Paris rendered my snappy one-liners about pygmy politicians judderingly irrelevant, even if I tried to pass them off as cutting-edge satire.

One week on, however, it’s hard to see how I can get away with pleading emotional damage caused by Cadbury’s desecration of the Creme Egg, so enough is enough.  There’s a General Election just down the road (or autobahn if you’re Tory), politicians are busy showing off the megaphones and la-la-can’t-hear-you ear muffs they got from Santa, and the air’s so thick with dunderheidedness you could slice off chunks of it for loft insulation. A cornucopia of delights for an aspiring humorist.

Anyhow, you don’t get nominated for “Funniest Blog” in the Bella Caledonia awards if you constantly fail to show up for work.  Accordingly, I didn’t, although I remain optimistic that someone with D, U and G in his name will win this year. But I’m buggered if I’m going to give the competition such an easy ride in 2015. That means it’s time for Another Bloody Relaunch.

I’ve been inspired in this effort by the parallel relaunch of the new darling of the Scottish political scene, the Blessed Jim Murphy, who’s managed to teleport out of his moribund Westminster career by discovering a love of Scottish politics hitherto invisible to the naked eye.  As a result, despite having previously achieved little of significance in his entire sojourn on Planet Earth, apart from costing the taxpayer more for his higher “education” than any other university dropout in history, Jim’s now become the fawning media’s go-to guy for headline-hogging political quackery.

His indyref strategy of aggressively shouting gibberish at random passers-by, which at the time seemed like a cry for help from Social Services, has unexpectedly proved to be a career masterstroke. I’ve already stuck my Caps Lock down with Blu-Tack and, if I can learn to crank out stuff even half as unhinged as he was spouting, I’ll be on the fast track to literary stardom.

I’ve also been impressed by Jim’s willingness to pursue insanely ambitious goals, such as retaining all 41 Labour seats in Scotland in May despite unanimous polling evidence that it’s as likely as a herd of rampaging wildebeest winning Strictly.  Of course, it’s possible that he’s had a tip-off from John McTernan, who’s already seen the postal voting results.  But the heck with it: if he can set that sort of target without peeing himself with laughter, then I’ll expect a Nobel Prize for Literature by return post just as soon as I publish my new book about flower arranging.

I have plenty of Post-It Notes and crayons, so emulating Jim’s policy development techniques should be no problem.  The central thrust seems to be “1,000 more of everything than the other lot, no matter what”, which if the SNP responds in kind may make it impossible to visit the shops without being stalked by half-a-dozen nurses trying to take your blood pressure.  In that spirit, I promise readers that each year I’ll publish 1,000 more seven-syllable words than Lallands Peat Worrier, 1,000 more scatological references than Wee Ginger Dug and 1,000 more scathing put-downs than Rev Stu.  My parodies will be 1,000 times subtler than BBC Scotlandshire’s, so I won’t even need to write any jokes and everyone will think they came straight from the pen, or the arse if I’m being scatological, of Blair McDougall.

Dressing to impress could be a problem for me, since I don’t possess a Scotland top like Jim’s, although I daresay I could rig up a giant neon arrow to point at me saying “PATRIOT”.  And if my body’s a temple, it’s one devoted less to the sharp-elbowed cult of James Francis Murphy than to the worship of beer, crisps and carefully-managed flatulence.  If I ever went jogging, it wouldn’t be along the Clyde towpath in front of a bank of slavering paparazzi;  it’d be around the perimeter of Perth Royal Infirmary, in case the crash team needed to haul me in for emergency resuscitation.  But, hey, nobody’s perfect.

So here I am, inviting you to hang on my every word once again.  If there’s anything you haven’t liked about my blog in the past, remember:  just like Jim, I can change.  All you have to do is undergo the standard Men In Black memory wipe to forget my flagrantly contradictory past.  As long as it’s within the law or I’m unlikely to get caught, I can pretend to be anything you want me to be. Socialist, capitalist, nationalist, unionist, onanist… it’s all the same to me.

And, of course, if the foregoing turns out to be a total pack of lies and the whole thing falls pathetically apart, I’ll deny I ever said any of it.

See you soon!  Honest….