Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

My perfect body...

East Dunbartonshire Council have it wrong...

We are having a new bathroom hammered and scraped and crowbarred into the house at the moment. Besides the fact it's painful - only having a toilet that is flushed by a bucket, no door on the room and no shower or bath for a week- it has changed my life in other ways- for a week. Or who knows- more? We'll see.

 I hate not being clean, so rather than booking into a hotel (we couldn't afford to), we've been using the local leisure centre for our morning ablutions.

And what a revelation! I swim for 15-20 minutes, slowly, managing around 15-20 lengths of the pool. At 50, I'm no longer racing anyone! We use the showers and quickly get dressed.

My wife takes a little longer than I do to dry her hair. She has hair, which is nice for her. I towel dry my beard and shine my baldy heid. And as I wait for her in the reception area of the Allander Leisure Centre in Bearsden, I notice the glossy adverts created to attract people to use the wonderful facilities- facilities always under threat from Tories who feel health and wellbeing are a market to exploit and squeeze profits from. And I think, "One day I will have a body like that 20 something, active looking bloke in that shiny, well taken photo..."

I'm a bit taken aback by the adverts, in all honestly.

Buffed, tanned, perfect bodies don the walls, urging us to change our lives by joining the gym or coming for a swim. But after over forty years of worrying about how I look -a lifetime of putting off working hard to achieve the perfect body, I see these adverts as a really negative thing. Who are they aimed at? Me? They can't be. My 19 year old son? I hope he really doesn't pay any attention to them.

I look around the reception area. And in the queue are pensioners, children, harassed parents, middle aged women and men in all shapes and sizes. And I think of who I shared the pool with a few minutes before. None of them looked at all like these professional models- people whose lives are dedicated to looking this fit and tanned in order to make money from lenses that tweak, deceive and retouch their poses into the sculpted visions of perfect humanity, torturing the rest of us.

Yes- torturing. Creating mental blocks to health.

East Dunbartonshire Council don't seem to have heard of social marketing- the latest craze in the high street and on the catwalk.

Social marketing is about persuading people to buy/do something by showing them that other people like them, buy it/do it. It is a way to show that ordinary folk with bodies like me or other people who have lifestyles that mean they are working 9-5 NOT feeding a camera lens; people who have reached that golden time called retirement; people who need sticks to walk; people with the real imperfections that everyone has that are never shown in GQ or Vogue; people with bumps lumps, smiles and resilience through the onslaught of the media scrum that seeks out youth and holds it above reality- an unhealthy obsession with youth going back to the turn of the 20th century and under aged model, Evelyn Nesbitt and the IT girl and resulting in the dreadful diseases of self hatred, harm and nihilistic eating, drinking and smoking some of us resort to! The unattainable as an ambition. A reality divorced from the streets and the coffee shops and the pubs and the supermarkets where real bodies slouch and run hurriedly to their work.

Of course, this social marketing is beg used at present by really unhealthy brands. Ordinary people- with ordinary bodies and faces and habits- are showing us that fast food and fizzy drinks and tv channel hopping as a lifestyle choice are for them.

But the counter to that really is not what East Dunbartonshire Council seem to think it is- presenting what is unattainable for most of us as "health."

My revelation has been this. I don't look like that model. I'll never look like that model. I don't have the time or the narcissistic tendency to spend my time, money or mental health in achieving the perfection of the East Dunbartonshire Leisure Centre photo models. But I feel good! The necessity of having to go to the Allander this week and having a swim has made me FEEL good.

As a young person, I used to run, cycle and I did my time sweating in a gym. And even though, for a short time, I was addicted to the reshaping of my 20 something year old body- it was in vain- I did not become Adonis. I was still a 6 foot 1, slightly stooped, bandy legged, buck tooth *me.* Just a fitter, healthier me. Well, physically healthy- not altogether mentally fitter as the unattainable just seemed to become more and more unattainable as I strived to attain it. The high and happiness I got from exercise was negated by the presentation of perfection the media, Holywood and advertising presented to me.

And at times when I realised the Adonis me was unattainable, I gave up. I over ate; I over drank; I smoked and I slumped in front of the telly (not always as a reaction to my imperfections- I enjoyed these things, and the alcohol marketing man or woman showed me another way to attain the photo model/movie star look through a cigarette balanced between my lips and a drink in my hand!) All the time, though, knowing that I didn't feel that good. And all of these unattainable images telling me; torturing me; taunting me.

Now, after a few years of casting off things that make me feel bad, I think I am going in the right direction. I don't drink- and after four years of being alcohol free, I feel confident enough in situations where alcohol is the social driver, to drink non alcoholic beer or sparkling water and still have a good time. I don't eat meat and am transitioning to vegan- and this makes me feel good in that I am not supporting the torture and slaughter of other beings on the planet I share with them. I stopped smoking many years ago; and the only drug I take is caffeine in coffee and green tea. And I feel good!

Swimming this week has made me feel good as well.

I dipped my toe in the pool for the first time last Tuesday. And it was with trepidation. Embarrassment. Embarrassed at my shape and lumps, bumps and imperfections. I wasn't the model that they used to advertise their facilities.

But no longer. Because the reality of the Allander pool is not the perfect bodies on their adverts. The reality is that those sharing the pool with me are all shapes, sizes, weights and ages. And they look happy and healthy.

Social marketing - reflecting reality..?
Of course there are a few people in the pool, in the lanes, powering up and down the pool; gliding through the water -being almost perfect. They are noticeable, only because at the start of the week they showed me how unfit I had become. There was a time when I could swim fast, with a perfect stroke. But they no longer put me off. I no longer focus on that perfection. And I think, "are the same things goading them that goaded me when I was twenty?"

I look to the other people-the people like me- the majority of us of different ages, shapes and lives- and I am comforted that real health is about feeling good. Looking good is for those who are blessed with faces and bodies that magazine editors and marketing women and men (who are probably imperfect like the rest of us), seek to create in art that the photographer and her lens presents as perfection.

The models East Dunbartonshire Council have donned the place with, make the place look good, like the pages of a glossy fashion/unattainable lifestyle magazine- but their perfection honed in a studio is off putting. It is damaging. It does not promote the reality of good health.

Good health is not feeling shame walking from the changing rooms to poolside. Good health is knowing the short swim I do is protecting me from our societal diseases -diseases our marketing people have a huge responsibility in raising to the dreadful heights they are at.

But I am feeling a bit more confident despite their photos. I am feeling more energised by the exercise, and I am happy with some of my imperfections. And that's where I am.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Imagine we weren't lied to?

Don't be lied to. That's the advice I'll give to young people. That is the lesson every child should learn- and then the skills that will ensure they will question everything, should be painstakingly related, experienced, written and learned.

Take one small lie told to me- and told to generations before me. One that is still painfully being unraveled and slowly rubbished.

The political map. The "British" map of the world.

Populations used to be measured in "white people living in an area."

When I was little, at primary school in the seventies, the walls of my class were a strange mixture. The alphabet, Dick and Dora, numbers, Egyptian Gods, Roman gladiators, Norman invaders, animals, fauna, flora and that map. The one that showed the empire. The one that showed the white domination of the world. The one that minimised the brown peoples of the world's place in our planet.

All of the history I was taught was the history of white tribes who conquered each other by brute force and lies, some of those lies persisting to this day (The Royal Family and the inevitability of the class system being what we have been bequeathed by white warlords and power seekers).

As a teacher, I am equipped to and it is much easier to, perpetuate the accepted compartmentalised history I was taught- with a little tweaking to take in more recent politically correct interpretations. But to re-examine and to teach power structures and to explain to children their privileges and their oppression is much more difficult (especially as we must, as teachers, hit targets that our lying -or just lied to- societal leaders have set).

The worst lies we are still working through, lies created by people wanting to solidify their power, are those that mean that white men still dominate our world's  culture- from our law makers, doctors, planners and political plotters through to our architecture, art, farming, marketing and clothes design.

The innocence of political lies...

And unpicking those lies- the hidden rest of the world, the women, black and brown people, glossed over history of the Americas, Australia, Africa, Asia and the Middle East -and the "aryanisation" of religion and value, is dreadfully difficult.

My degree was in Film and Media. As part of that, the almost hidden world of how power is perpetuated by those who inherit of are able to buy it, was revealed. Our modern day media and who owns it and how it works, is an important thing to unpick. But history- the history of how Govan, Easterhouse, Drumchapel, Stevenston, The Falls, The Shankhill etc were impoverished; how slavery and the dispossessed became the engines on which those who own the world became our rulers; is a really complex thing to impart.

Inclusion, equity, fairness and truth are what we should have as the mainstays of our curriculum. Instead, the lies of the powerful are maintained.

We don't have the big, political map on the walls of classrooms anymore. But we do perpetuate the history of the oppressors. We do perpetuate the myth that the history of the aboriginal people of Australia; the history of women; the native Americans and the dispossessed peoples of Easterhouse, Govan etc are unimportant and nothing to do with modern day life. And that is the lie. It is a lie that perpetuates racism, division, homophobia, transphobia and grinding poverty.

Our curriculum has been politicised. We have been told that there is one way to teach The Normans, World War 1 and 2, The Stuarts, business, finance, science and we are told not to, perhaps not directly, teach children in Easterhouse, Govan and The Falls WHY they are in those places. Why they are trapped in the grind of poverty. Why they have to work harder than any other "class" in order to escape the social engineering, torture and whims of those who rule them. We don't teach our immigrants that they are important- their history is our history more than Mary Queen of Scots final resting place.

The Norman"Harrying of the North," A stability the White West still bestows on countries across the globe.

Phillip Green - and others - command this kind of capitalist respect.  Only for them we would all be barbarians...

Thirteen years ago a primary seven pupil in my class, on our way home on the bus from a trip to the countryside said to me through tears, "Mr Scott, why can't Glasgow be like the countryside?" I asked her what she meant. She said, "It feels so light and clean. Glasgow is so dirty and it makes me scared."

Another young boy from another part of Glasgow said to me (about ten years ago), "You are from Bearsden. My da' says that's where people from come from to tell us how to speak."

The clearances - how the countryside was stolen from those now in Govan, Easterhouse, etc...

And in those two children's words, the lie is perpetuated. The division of what is ours and theirs and out of reach, and who holds power and whose culture and history is important in our society is plainly present.

As I type this, on TV, a man tells me that a man has committed another murder. This is news. There is no examination as to what lies have created so many male murderers. Let's be clear- there will be tens of thousands of people who lose their lives today. Those who are murdered or die needlessly of hunger or poverty related disease will do so because of the perpetuation of that political map and the White history and power we are taught through school, our media, our culture and our new media.

Literature, education and the democratisation of knowledge over the past thousand or so years has been incredible- especially in the rapid growth of the Internet and its availability in the past five years alone. And I fully believe that the education system we have is running to catch up on the availability of truth.  Far enough behind to ensure those in power can control what we see, learn and know.

Gandhi strived in his life for truth. He used what he could to find that truth- his senses, religious and philosophical teachings and literature. His truth led to the semi- freedom of a nation. Though in the "freedom" of India, compromises were made with the lie that had been imposed on them for generations by the British Empire. And on leaving, the British ensured the Indian people remained divided.

Gandhi seeking the truth landed him in jail at the hands of those who perpetuated the lie...

The education of the people of the world, and in particular the dreadfully divided, fooled, misdirected people of the British Isles must be through finding truth. Learning about the clearances, slavery, power, political lies and the interfaces between us and the powerful that perpetuate our place in a system created to ensure thieves and murderers like the corporate CEOs of the world remain our hidden Kings.

The history of our world today- what people will look back to, is the waste of talent and productive enjoyable lives by the "new Royals" floating around the Mediterranean and Caribbean on their million pound yachts; living gated and protected on their walled estates and islands and how their robbery of Govan, Easterhouse, Milngavie, Warrington, Drumchapel, The Falls, The Shankill, the reservations for Native Americans, the Aboriginal people of Australia, the many tribes and peoples of Africa, etc meant huge swathes of people were consigned to dirty, oppressive lives. How others were indebted and fearful. And how many died at the thumb press of a salaried drone pilot or a fooled, impoverished, hopeless suicide bomber.

On my class wall this year will be the words of a flawed working class white man from Liverpool.

"Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer."

But I'm not. I just want the truth.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Miami Showband -murder is never in my name

42 years ago, this band played my home town. On their way home, they were stopped by loyalist murderers (the word "terrorists," in those days, meant mass murdering, public scaring bastards-White OR brown,- Nowadays the term is almost a racist term) posing as army and three of them were executed - the others left for dead.

Terrorists and killers have always operated in my perceived political position. I'm perceived to be "the west," and Bush, Blair, Obama, Brown, Cameron, Thatcher or May order death on my behalf every day. I'm perceived to be socialist- and some who self identify as that kill and maim for the liberation of mankind. Im perceived to be a consumer and people and animals are killed for my "needs" and wants and must haves. And when in Northern Ireland, either all Ireland'rs, or British Nationalists killed and maimed in my perceived name.

None of it is. No death, no injury to support ANY cause is in my name.

When the Miami Showband were massacred, it was in the name of "Britishness." I don't accept that. Those who carried this out, those still living, were no soldiers on the side of right. And they are in a living hell, knowing what they did. I am not freer or happier because of the deaths of these musicians who shared their joy in Banbridge that night 42 years ago.

And I am ashamed to say, Banbridge has no memorial to these and other innocents killed in the name of some sort of perceived freedom. No place of contemplation for the musicians, music lovers, daughters, sons -lives- extinguished agonisingly and with dreadful consequence, in the name of perceived freedom, soul, borders and flags.

Murder tacked on to any ideology is not in my name, every bit as much as murder by men for their sexual gratification; murder by a drone guiding soldier for his pay cheque or murder ordered by those either I voted for to bring equality and equity closer- never mind those in power I would never vote for.

If ever there was a symbol for needless, shameful murderous madness, it is the deaths of the Miami Showband- and the excuses made by people afterwards to justify the slaughter of young men, sons, husbands,friends who loved to play musical instruments and sing.

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Band is Back thegither...

A wee podcast I produce... Lefty, pro-independence - and totally free of interference... UNGAGGED!!!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Pen Pal

Back in the seventies, opinionated working class people did not have spaces in which they could rant, or reminisce or ruminate. As someone who became a teenager in 1979, the Internet wasn't even a dream. No one I had ever read or listened to predicted a social "space" in which individuals could learn, be abnoxious, post penis pictures or work collaboratively with others to help bring about change. Representatives- heroes- keyboard warriors - did that for us from the newspaper columns and music press and comics we bought. And to learn about the world, we had pen pals.

Before I turned teenager, A friend of mine, Clark, had a pen pal. Clark had a lot of things I didn't have. Guitar lessons, straight hair, a tent, a pink panther car, a telephone in his house and his house had the number of my favourite Disney Character, Herbie- number 53.

His pen pal was from South Africa, the other place apart from Northern Ireland, where I was from, that was in the news every night. Clark told me about his pen pal having a swimming pool, a huge car and brilliant, sunny weather all the time. 


West belfast - on the news 1976

I wanted a pen pal.

And then came my opportunity. Clark's pen pal had a friend who wanted a pen pal. He had sent his Durban address and a photo for Clark to give to one of his pals- and Clark gave it to me.

This guy, at the age I was- around 10, was who I wanted to be. He had straight blonde hair, a tan and a bright straight smile.

"First things first," I thought. "I'll have to get a photo."

In those days the only way we knew how to get a selfie was to pay in the Photobooth in Wellworth's (across the road from Woolworth's). So, with my pocket money, I went off to have the pictures taken.

Each strip of "selfies" was made up of six photos- each one individually taken by the automatic camera. I only needed one, smiley, ordinary pic, so the other five were for me to make a comedy book mark.

I hated the strip of pics. They were the opposite of everything that was good about HIS picture. I closed my mouth to hide my huge rabbit teeth and I had TRIED to clamp down my unruly hair. And those fucking freckles... "Anyway," I thought, "maybe he'll like me as I am. Maybe like my friends, he'll not really judge me by how I look," which was daft as we all ad Nick-names for each other based on how we looked...

I cut the pic from the strip and went about writing my letter. My P6 teacher and now my P7 teacher both encouraged my writing. Both made me feel good about what I wrote. And I always had my stuff read out to the class- or was asked to read it out. So I thought the writing would be the easiest thing to do. 

To be formal, "Dear..." Or less so, "Hi!"

To describe were I lived, "lots of fields, we play on bikes, my best friend is ...erm, Clark (Mickey); my dad is a builder, my mum a cleaner." Or to avoid talking about my mundane, working class life?

It sounded a bit boring, unlike the imagined description of the swimming pool and servants and Savannah land with elephants he lived on.

But I told him about the games we played- "pretend road blocks," where we stopped cars in the street and asked the drivers for their licenses, and throwing stones at the earth removers building the local bypass.

I told him about Mickey, who had explained to me what "bigoted" was. I told him about Mark, who had come off his bike going down the hill and banged his head and forgot who he was, and I told him about my sisters, one a pain, and the other one who was into Saturday Night Fever.

And then I thought, I have to ask him about where he is from.

I asked.

"How come some white people are so nasty to black people?"

(I would dread to see the original letter- the language I was brought up on to describe black people-none of whom lived near me - and gay people- and disabled people, all perpetuated by the media and repeated by us, was awful).

I asked, "How come black people were forced to be servants and why they weren't allowed to have the same things white people have?" I asked him, "Do you agree with apartheid?" I told him that I hated the idiots in my country who thought Catholics weren't equal to Protestants (a distinction between people I was, at the time, struggling to understand) because Mickey and his family were brilliant people and didn't have horns or anything.

I signed the letter with my newly perfected signature, stuck it in a business envelope stolen from my mums work and decorated the envelope with Suzuki and Kawasaki signs, stuck stamps on it and posted it on my way to school.

I think most people want to communicate who they are- how they look, what they do, how they feel, their opinions on the world around them- all done in different ways and using different media. From buying a fancy car, through to wearing a teeshirt with some sort of message on it, through sculpture, painting, writing or sticking a few bulbs in their garden. It is a need- so I never judge anyone who expresses themselves in different ways than me, unless it is harmful to others and other animals etc. Express yourself! And use all the media you feel comfortable on and using. And as a teacher, that's what I aim to teach children. Be yourself. Don't worry about what others think of who you are, and collaborate on things that can make the world better, brighter, happier, fairer. The free internet goes a very long way to helping with these things- we have spaces and devices available nowadays 10 year old me could not imagine. We make films, we speak face to face from thousands of miles away from each other. We publish spiels of words, telling the world, "I am here- these things are me." And we argue and we fight and we take selfies and we have pocket TV's and communicators that even the original Star Trek creators could not imagine.

And I think, in the early days of this new way of being- this new way of discussion, collaboration and fighting, eventually the world is finding out about itself. It doesn't really matter if you have light or dark skin, feel different from how people perceive you or have curly hair. We are rapidly changing from a distrustful, bigoted, segregated race to an open and more understanding one. The old are kicking out, thrashing and lashing out in their death throes, Brexit, monarchism, Britishness, The Daily Mail, The Sun and Trump- all looking and sounding like something from a different era. 

Get connected and rant...
The fact I waited and waited and never received a letter from this blonde haired, blue eyed Afrikaner devastated me at the time. He hated my freckles, my woollen jumper, my curly hair and my obviously "hidden" buck teeth. That's how I interpreted his silence.

As I got older, and involved peripherally, with the anti-apartheid movement, I wondered had he taken offence at my questions? And I hoped so. Maybe this person was racist. And then as I got older I thought, "how could this person ignore me because of any of those things?"

Anyway- I write. Some people read. Some people write to me and tell me I'm a prick. Some people agree with me.

But the Internet, and art and writing and using capitals on forums to show how right I am are my right.

And I still have those over large front teeth and I wonder is his smile still as straight and white? I wonder did his family lose out when Mandela was freed? I wonder is that blonde straight hair long gone?

Or, did I not put enough stamps on the envelope?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Image, learning, self indulgence, addiction. Me.

Identity. What creates it? Is it who you are; is it who you think you are; is it who others think you are, and what makes these things?

Addiction. My definition (and definitions, like experiences and like language can be personal): something that a body experiences and either psychologically or physically craves and consumes or experiences to the point of damage to that body and its community.

I'm sure plenty of people reading that will disagree or correct me. So I'll explain what those sentences mean.

Identity is tied up in so much. How you identify yourself; how others interpret your identity; how your community identifies you and your relationship with your community. And how your identity is part of what is sold to you- how those who own the media/run society sell back your identity to you and how you engage with that.

This self indulgent post will create an image of me, in your head, if you can read the whole thing.

2011 - in need of a change.. I have been Elvis....
What is learned cannot be unlearned. Yet sometimes it takes years to learn things. And at 50, I know that. Or in the scheme of things, compared to my older friends, beginning to anyway. Or began to, at first almost imperceptibly, when I was in the pram.

Some lessons take years- generations- millennia. And in our limited time, our relationship, our interface with the world-our identity, in my opinion, at this moment in my life; is ever changing. At times imperceptibly; or at times change comes quickly, to do with circumstance, health, relationships, and your geographical position, family and other outside influences change you. But there are somethings we cling to, whether they be music, clothes, words or addictions. Addictions we poison ourselves with or addictions our society, economy or our class -or other classes- impose on us- force on us.

The political image I wanted to convey... but me?

When I was younger, I knew more than the slow, boring old men and women around me. I ruled the world around me, yet didn't control anything only my wild nihilism... Sometimes...

Me (centre) - beer, smoke and peace... or something... (1994-ish)
Yet some looked wise and content. Propped up in bars, retired from work and seemingly retired from responsibility and the madness surrounding them. A slow nihilism.

But slowly they died. And from my thirties onwards, so did quite a few of my peers who filled their lives in the ways we working class people were conditioned to believe we should.

I smoked, I drank, I longed for a good steak, a Chinese and a fish supper. And sugar and drugs and fast food and pizza and Coca Cola and vodka and meat twice a day (at least).

Nursing a working class hangover at the G8, 2005.

And I learned. I learned that smoking would kill me. Not through reading about it or on the packets- I learned through watching people die, losing limbs, hacking coughs, leathered skin, yellowed eyes. And I didn't want that, so I fought my working class want to socialise during work with other smokers. I kidded myself for a while, that some tobacco was healthier than others, roll ups and low tar, white tipped pure looking boxes. I was persuaded by corporations their product would be less fatal and persuaded over drinks that I was a woose for smoking nothing but the full fat fags. "you'll die of something- you may as well enjoy yourself." Then my coughing doubled me over and I watched as around me my contemporaries wheezed and slowly, slowly ground to a halt "enjoying themselves," unable to run, walk and in the end live. I learned. And I quit.

Circa 1985? A few months of health to train for a few runs...

I lectured and machine gun-like quoted facts, philosophy's and ideology. I shouted about being the change I want to see in the world, yet comfortably slipped on the cloak of "the system." The system we can't change unless we all rise up- I'll justify my next Big Mac because that's the world I live in. I'll justify my primark teeshirts produced by children in a factory at a machine where they can't leave to piss when they need to. My coffees and chocolate produced by the bleeding hands of farmers forced to live in debt as they are exploited by the corporations we can't bring down until we all hoist the red flag over the White House. I shouted about change, but consume "as a victim of capitalism; a rat in a race; a health time bomb created by a class unable to break the chains of the crap being forced down our throats - consent of our imminent early graves manufactured by fit, rich, tanned Gods on Necker Island or on floating palaces in the Caribbean."

image in food...

...and coffee...

...And vegan Scandinavian "Herring" meals...

And all of those holding their fists up, all of the comrades unable to act -unable to create change because we have trapped ourselves in our working class cages.

Unable, not wanting, to change. Stuffing dead, fattened, tortured animals down our throats, wearing clothing created by kids chained to desks for our sartorial pleasure, smoking tobacco made by companies that grew in power and wealth using kidnapped people from Africa, Scotland, Ireland... Digesting sugar harvested by modern day slaves...

We are killing them. They are killing us.

And someone lights a Cuban Cigar on their yacht, toasting the media they own for telling us how working class people should behave. What cheaply processed "foodstuffs" we should identify with and clog up our bodies with.

Image in music...

Image in comics...

How we rebel, nihilistically- how we consume and rant about capitalism and die its victims, taking many thousands with us.

You can't unlearn. But you can break the circle of consuming. You can stop your consuming. You can do without the "working class" football tops and the sugary fizzy drink. You can do without the addictive substances, and you can live and give the finger to the yacht. The "viccy" to the billionaire owned media. You can find people to work with- on equal terms- and share your fun, healthy, alternatives to this packaged working class mortality rate.

I told my pal, "if you make us a salad I'll throw it at you." It was his turn to cook for those of us who had signed up to one night a week feeding each other. It meant we only slaved over a cooker one evening a week-and it worked out cheaper. Students needed every penny they could get. That was over twenty years ago. I don't eat meat now. At all. I learned and couldn't unlearn- about health and about environmental destruction and then finally about the fact that animals I ate loved their young - and their friends and life every bit as much as I do.

Image in teeshirts...

On Friday nights during the seventies, we ate sweet after sweet given to us by both sets of grandparents and I buzzed and sometimes felt ill. So I knew sweets, those shiny, scrummy, brightly packaged things aimed at children; aimed to addict us, made me feel ill.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I

ran and cycled and during short bursts of training lasting a few months, I would quit sweets, crisps and crap and eat as healthily as I could. I rarely felt ill or tired during those times. My skin cleared up. I was not short tempered.

I realised that crap made me feel bad, short tempered, tired, sluggish.

So I had periods of my life in which I gave things up for a year- sugar, alcohol, meat. And I felt good, but socially excluded. Like when I no longer shared the conspirital , cool, sarcastic, sardonic, nihilistic smoke break. Or the laugh at the bar. Or the speed of the burger or the chippy or KFC... So inevitably, sugary foods bought by someone to share, were shared. A pie or a McDonalds was quick, easy. A pint with pals felt good- and I would push my healthy lifestyle change to somewhere in the future.

But then photos of me made me think "heart attack," stroke," "cancer," early death. And my mood and coping mechanism was shot. Drudgery, work, chores, bed, -- look forward to that booze on a Friday night after work; Thursday after work, Friday after work, Saturday because it is Saturday... Wednesday because it is the turn of the week; beer every night on a holiday from the drudge... Drink the free bar dry; wheeze and sweat my way to the bar... My identity- my working class health nihilism; food on the go from Greggs, full fat everything and victory in volume... was killing me. One more beer- it's only water and grains... And then you realise it is sugar; it is storing around your internal organs; it is pushing sugar levels to huge heights; it is making you sweat and it is in control as you run to the shop to ensure you get there before 10pm to get three more litres of fizzy lager...

My identity was, both from my point of view and the point of view of others, tied up in alcohol.

Roll us another one, Kev. Make it a good one. He laughs and looks at me through his lank, long greasy hair as he sprinkles the tarry substance amongst the tobacco from the Marlboro.

We smoke all day from waking at midday;

people visit and join us for joint after joint as day turns to night and eventually we all head back to our rooms. I'm last out; first there tomorrow.

For a few years, my identity was tied up with my long, dyed hair, shaved up the sides; my colourful clothes; my not give a fuck, lefty, Irish hippy, charity shop and "man" flecked sentences; chill... Roll another one. My identity. Days wasted, but not wasted - learning.

Calimotxo, metaxa, Czech beer at source, ricard, stroh rum, Havana rum... Necked at source in all those countries.

Alcohol, nihilism, drugs, all part of my identity- an identity found at 17- drinking beer outside with my mates before hitting the pub or club. An identity with its roots in my high school- my rebellion- my statement to a friend that I wanted to find out all the secrets. An identity hard to shake.

But what is learned cannot be unlearned and as community crumbles; body function begins to fail- addictions need to be faced. And the person I want to be rather than expected to be as a working class baldy pasty, fat white bloke, must be faced. The future embraced. A new identity formed from better informed me.

I don't drink, I don't smoke, what do I do?

I learn.

I be. The vegan, clean living, very, very flawed, husband, dad, cycling, dog walking, coffee drinking, comic/novel/biography reading, political 50 year old me.

Constructed image- what is real?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Je Suis... Redux.

All my life, it seems, little armies have been taking their grievances out on ordinary people eating, drinking, shopping, celebrating, singing, sleeping, walking, working, playing, crying.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, our news was almost daily filled with atrocities carried out on crushed families, carrying their fathers, mothers and children to cemeteries across the six counties. And far from preserving or helping a cause, all these acts have done is divide and aide bitterness that still lives on in Ireland. Although time is healing some wounds, bitterness against those who used families as their causes machine gun fodder still poisons many a heart. Though of course, as I say, time is healing, as are words spoken in the media, to neighbours and in courtrooms and hearings. Voices of victims and oppressed people are being heard and divisions -slowly- and as peacefully as possible, are being bridged.

Little armies smash, kill, maim, causing desperate, unquenchable grief, all the time negating their cause- sometimes just- sometimes a cry for help- sometimes a last resort, by tearing the life out of people far removed from their cause by the gulf created by the media, language, cultural difference, years.

Terrorism, whether it comes from a little army or one paid by taxes, is never going to bring justice. It will always bring repercussions that are bloody or full of hate and revenge.

And terrorism makes victims of us all- from the plotters, their families, their cause- through to the victims, their families and their mediated solutions.

There is something badly wrong with the world when someone feels their voice can only be heard through horror meted out on innocent people. Something badly wrong when oppressed people's causes are represented by a tiny army of angry, desperate, murderous thugs. The only voices we hear are the explosion of bloody terror and the cries and sobs of the victims and their families.

The world is wrong when a Peace Envoy is the man who enabled and armed extremist thugs to carry out explosions in cities that kill over 200 innocent people; enabled and enraged people enough to bomb buses and railways; enabled and gave encouragement to people enough to massacre people eating and laughing in restaurants; enabled and gave excuse to murder to untreated psychotics who mow people down in the street who were celebrating freedom.

And the world is wrong when the poor are taught to scapegoat by millionaire newspaper and media outlets, taking out their anger on people who have fled from towns and cities targeted by little armies and huge armies, as a result of what a peace envoy did along with a religious maniac of a President, back at the dawn of a new millennia.

In Ireland, will everyone forgive those who took their grievances out on their loved ones? Mostly not. But will these people call for revenge killings of a perceived "other" to quench their grief? No. That idiocy is over.

The present international fora for talking are not up to the mark. The voices of the oppressed people of Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the North African and middle eastern countries blighted by the worlds thirst for oil and religious answers of the ancient world must be heard- and when they are, the dreadful cacophony of death, grief and bloody revenge will be drowned out.

War is not an answer. Air strikes, drone strikes, land strikes and tit for tat leads to more innocent families grieving and calls for vengeance.