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Writers’ Bloc Hits the Airwaves

If you want a taster for the Writers’ Bloc performance due at the Bongo Club, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, tomorrow night (31/10/12) then check out this link to BBC Radio Scotland’s Book Café which I’m told features some extracts from the show.

I’ve been working late tonight so haven’t yet had time to listen myself …

But then of course I intend to be at the show (even though I’m not reading anything.)

The Iron Lady

I see and hear a film has been made about a certain former Prime Minister of the UK.

I must say at the outset that I shall not be going to see it – not least because the good lady (my good lady) is still too scarred by that woman’s actions that she cannot bear or contemplate anything to do with her.

I gather the film portrays its heroine as frail and dotty. (I suspect this may be a dramatic necessity for the purposes of making the film.) I have heard a speaker on Radio Scotland – a Tory MP – English of course – complain that it went beyond good taste as the person concerned was still alive and it therefore compromised her dignity. Well, that was rich.

Firstly and brutally, if she is frail and dotty she won’t know, will she?

Secondly, did she in her prime give a shit about the human dignity of all those she condemned to hardship and penury, everything she destroyed, as a result of her policies? You could call it karma.

In any case there were signs in her late Premiership that she was unhinged, if not deranged, so it’s not surprising she’s not all there in her dotage.

Yet none of this is to do with the thrust of this post.

Coincidentally I read an article from Tuesday’s Guardian that, as part of the setting up of Sky, Thatcher made the BBC pay £10 million a year to have their channels broadcast on Sky’s platform. Yet one more example of the baleful influence the woman had on British public life. And these payments persist: they are happening now.

Is this circumstance more widely known? Because I was outraged.

Does any other broadcaster – anywhere – have to pay another to have its own programmes shown on that other’s channels? Surely not.

Doesn’t the BBC sell programmes/formats around the world rather than pay others to broadcast them? Don’t the BBC, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 pay to the originator for US (or Australian or whatever) generated programmes? And doesn’t Virgin have to pay Sky to have Sky channels on its (Virgin’s) service? Doesn’t Sky itself pay HBO hefty amounts for their programmes?

We all know the reason why there would not have been much protest from the BBC at such an arrangement. The perceived power of the Murdoch Press. The pusillanimity of politicians of all parties with respect to that power.

That power may now be a busted flush and despite the Tories’ antipathy to anything that smacks of public endeavour surely the BBC ought to be demanding an end to this public subsidy of a private company. For that is what the arrangement amounts to.

As it stands it is – and always has been – a total waste of licence fee payers’ money to throw it away on Sky for no content in return.

The boot should be firmly on the other foot. Sky ought to be paying the BBC – and handsomely – for any access at all to BBC programming. Not to mention providing adequate compensation for all the years in which money has been shamefully drained away from the BBC in this way.

Edited to add:- my good lady says the speaker on the radio was none other than Jeremy (H)unt – her parentheses.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Scotland

Euro 2012 Qualifying round, Rheinpark Stadion, Vaduz. 8/10/11

I missed most of the first half of this as I was travelling back from Dundee. By the commentary on Radio Scotland it sounded like we were scorning innumerable chances. It was 0-0 when I arrived home. Imagine my surprise when, two minutes later, I turned on the TV and saw we had scored. Chris McKail-Smith, the first double-barrelled surname player ever to start a game for Scotland, took it well.

The second half was a snooze fest – with Liechtenstein shading the mid part of the half – up until the last ten minutes when Peter Jehle in the home goal had to make two great saves in a minute.

So. Only Spain to beat now.

Onwards and upwards to the play-offs.

(No. Me neither.)

David Francey

The missing days from my blog meant I wasn’t sure if any new posts would appear. As a consequence I did not post about David Francey when his death was announced.

Francey was football’s radio soundtrack to any Scot of my generation and those before. Who who heard it could ever forget his trademark, “It’s a drive!!!”

I remember he was reputed to have been driving home from a commentary game, up around Aberdeen way I think, and spotted a notice for a David Francey sound-alike competition that night. He stopped; not to observe but to take part! He came third and didn’t tell the organisers who he was.

This may be apocryphal but like all good stories really should be true.

David Francey: Feb 1924 – Sep 2011. So it goes.

The Death Of Scottish Football 5? (Woe, Woe, And Thrice, Woe)

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the realm of Scottish football over the results of the qualifiers for the Europa Laegue.

After the first leg comprehensive horsing of Hearts by Spurs and the draw and defeat for the ugly sisters (Rangers and Celtic for those who don’t share the disregard in which they are held by Scotland’s real football fans in the lower divisions) the BBC Scotland Saturday football airwaves were full of doom and gloom.

Since this Thursday and the – extremely predictable – elimination of all three Scottish clubs this rose to a cacophony on Radio Scotland this afternoon as I was making my way to New Bayview.

Most contributors seemed to be under the illusion that somehow or other the natural order of things had been upset and that Scottish clubs owed it to the country (or the fans, or something or other not entirely clear) always to survive these early rounds.

Well, ask yourselves. When was the last time a Scottish club outwith the Old Firm won a two-legged qualification tie? Motherwell was it, against Llanelli? And did they survive the next round? While I do remember Aberdeen doing well when Jimmy Calderwood was their manager, that was a good few years ago now. Most others have been deposited on their backsides very quickly indeed. And that is where Scottish football is and has been for a long time. This is the competition the Old Firm has to beat (and finds it ridiculously easy to do so by and large.)

This set of results has been coming down the pipe for a long time.

And they are perhaps to be expected from a small, poor country on the north-west periphery of Europe.

The riches pouring down on those clubs – and the leagues where they play – which habitually inhabit the knock-out stages of the so-called Champions League from television rights make this a circumstance not easy to alter.

That is where a lot of the disfunction lies. The Champions League is a monstrous carbuncle on the body of football ensuring (with only a few exceptios) the same old teams divi up the rewards between themselves. Only a Russian oligarch or oil-rich sheikh can have any hope of upsetting the apple cart.

Had the Champions League never been invented the world of football would be a purer, more innocent place. But Scottish football at the highest level would still be a self-serving, myopic miasma.

Another Empty Saturday

What it says on the tin.

But… imagine my surprise on turning the car radio to Radio Scotland at quarter past four and finding the Cowden – Stenny play off final as the commentary game.

The bits I listened to they made it sound a decent enough game.

So, at the moment, seven attendable away venues for me next season. That’ll be eight if Ayr win tomorrow. (Peterhead is a step too far.) A home game will be the furthest I’d have to travel.

I’ll be skint if I go to them all.

The Oxymoron Where I Live

Reading €œThe Fanatic€ recently caused me to reflect on the following question. How much Scottish history was I exposed to at school?

Answer?
Apart from the brochs at Skara Brae in Shetland, which were suitably far off in time as to be uncontentious, absolutely none. Rien. Nada. Zilch.

This is notwithstanding what Ronnie Ancona said on the TV programme, QI, about her experiences in a Scottish school which were apparently somewhat different from mine.

Instead of Scottish history I was taught European history from the Partitions of Poland* onwards through the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna etc and – nearer home – the Chartists, the Reform Acts, Disraeli and Gladstone; all good and worthwhile (shared) British history certainly, but a bit, distanced, shall we say.

This meant that all that Wars Of Independence/Bannockburn/Flodden/Civil Wars/Covenanting/Darien Disaster/Act of Union/Jacobite Rebellions stuff had to be picked up by osmosis from the surrounding culture, or by myself. There was really a kind of black hole where historical knowledge should have been.

I tried to fill in some of the gaps in my early twenties, sugaring the pill by reading the historical novels of Nigel Tranter (I know, I know, but he spun a good yarn while he was at it.)

I always put the original omission down to the fact that Scottishness was in some way considered second class or else had to be kept down by the establishment (it had not been long before this that pupils in Scotland were physically punished for speaking Scots or using Scots words after all.) That it was feared in some way.

But perhaps it was that I had “€œpassed”€ my qualie (≡ “qualifying” exam; eleven plus) and so went to a Senior Secondary (≡ Grammar School) which was converted to a comprehensive in my last year there, and we were still somehow being trained for Empire – despite the winds of change.

Or maybe it was just the cultural cringe writ small.

Whatever; it didn’€™t work.

Growing up in a Scotland where the vast majority of broadcast media output was geared to the English audience it was just about impossible to be unaware of England and Englishness. But it was not impossible to feel somehow disregarded as a result of this.

Remember there were only 3 UK radio stations till ca 1967 when it became 4 – though there was also a BBC Scottish service (but I don’€™t think it was called Radio Scotland at that time.) The pirate stations were never UK-wide. TV had just the 3 channels – only 2 up until about 1962! – which had the occasional “€œregional”€ opt-outs.

My sense of Scottishness was only reinforced when visiting cousins on England’s south coast and also, after University, by working for two years in Hertford. My home then was in Essex and involved a long commute – by bus; those were different times.

I discovered then that the vast majority of English people knew nothing of Scotland – and cared less.

I came to the conclusion that for most of my life I had lived in an oxymoron – in a state called the United Kingdom that was neither united nor a kingdom.

It’s actually two kingdoms, England and Scotland; a principality, Wales; and a province, Northern Ireland. And that does not include those anomalies, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which recognise the monarch as head of state but are not part of the United Kingdom proper as they don’t elect MPs to Westminster. A citizen (sorry, subject of the crown) could be forgiven for being confused.

Maybe that original omission to teach me Scottish history was simply the result of a curriculum choice by the History Dept at the school and pupils elsewhere did receive a grounding in Scottish History as Ronnie Ancona claimed she did; but it still seems bizarre even after all these years.

Was anyone else’s experience like this? Or was theirs more like Ronnie Ancona’s?

*My teacher – nicknamed Greensleeves (that may be another post) – wrote this on the board as the Partions of Poland. To much bewilderment at first, quickly followed by derision.

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