Sunday, December 15, 2019


I initially thought I wouldn't make it to this party, my macbook's hard disk seeming to be in dire need of  palliative care, the icing on a week of disappointments. Yup, just as you guys are belatedly getting around to impeaching your bleach blond furball, we have elected ours back in, with a steaming majority. Steaming as in, well, you know. So Brexit has been "done" and, pending 5 or 6 years of expensive, extensive wrangling with Europe, our garage sale of goodies will be up for grabs. It is what it is, and chlorinated chicken can't be all bad.

In the UK, our politics is gauged by colour. Red is Labour, a sort of rather more socialist Democrat party, not communist by any means, if still a shade by far too goddam lefty pinko for your Republicans. They were trashed on friday. Orange is the colour of the traditional 3rd party in the usual two horse race we run here, the Liberals, or, as they re-badged some time back, the Liberal Democrats. They came, traditionally, 3rd. Or rather, 3rd in England, somewhat swamped by Scotland's resplendent bright yellow party, the Scottish Nationalists, dominant party in that aspirational stand alone nation for 3 elections now. And counting. And, much as I am despairing the blue tide of the Conservative party in England, more right wing than they have ever been, who have triumphed and some, I doff my bonnet to the SNP. If and when, my scottish parentage may offer me the safety net of a scottish passport, when and if ever should become a reality.

Billy Bragg is the nearest thing we have to a Woody Guthrie. (OK that's harsh on Ewan MacColl and other musical firebrands, but, in terms of success, sales, and ubiquity, Bragg has a greater claim to the accolade, in my humble.) I can't imagine he will have been raising any glasses in good cheer this weekend, if similarly, like me, probably downing some. Of course, he is known in the US, having been chosen by Nora Guthrie to add music to the reams of songs found within her father's legacy, she appreciating their shared stance about fighting (aka singing) for the undertrodden and overlooked. The song chosen would be as much at home in the US as UK; it is an american song after all. All feeling today, mind, as equivalently out of step.

I'm spoilt for choice in looking for something evocative enough for the SNP; music of the scottish tradition is within an equivalent renaissance now as was irish in the 1970's and 80's. In my cups, sentiment is all, and so it is the Battlefield Band to whom I turn, with this tear stained version of the old Charlie Rich standard. I'm not so naive to believe in the the shortbread tin school of scottish thought, as so savagely laid into by Dick Gaughan, another firebrand politico, but you never know.
I think the UK will dissect in the near future, a new referendum demanded by the SNP of the new government, allowing the scots their right to an independent future, if so sought. This time it will be closer. Meanwhile, in Northern Island, the Unionists (stay with UK) are for the first time in a minority with relation to the Nationalists (join the rest of Ireland).......

I was never that much into the Liberals, feeling them often more material for a protest vote or for tactical voting. Sure, they have had some good ideas in their manifestos, and some fascinating characters in their ranks, but their time has rarely seemed right. As for a song with an appropriate link, it is back north I go. The scottish northern isles, Orkney and Shetland, with their respective scatter of tiny islands and far-flung communities, have long been staunchly electing Liberal members of parliament. Too far north to ever consider themselves Scots, I think this is why they sleight the Nationalists, a greater affinity to the Vikings and Scandinavia than to other britons, whether scottish, english, welsh or irish. The song has no political axe, but is as good a place as any to introduce Orcadian songwriter Erland Cooper to these pages, one third of Magnetic North and the Erland of the earlier Erland and the Carnival. He describes the music of Magnetic North as psychogeography. And that's fine by me.


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