Friday, September 08, 2006

Wir Tommy, The Man of La Mancha, whisky and Red Brian The Viking Socialist

SINGING and politics may seem natural bedfellows, from the Horst Wessel to the Red Flag, from Billy Bragg’s A New England to Andy Stewart’s well known nationalist anthem Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers. But never has the formation of a new party been so…well, perhaps tuneful is the wrong word – as that of Solidarity (West Central Scotland Sunbed Faction).
The look on Tommy Sheridan’s face as his mother Alice belted out The Impossible Dream was one of a man dealing with the onset of ferocious pain, a man battling an overwhelming sense of panic as the launch of his new political package was overwhelmed by maternal acapella. Alice’s gloriously variable Glaswegian vibrato inevitably recalled another classic Scottish rendition of the same song (which comes originally from the musical Man of La Mancha. Actually, I know a swinger’s club in Wick called La Mancha’s, but that’s another story). I mean of course the late great Alex Harvey, who invested the line ‘to love, pure and chaste from afar’ with a certain lascivious verve. He also covered that infamous political tune Tomorrow Belongs To Me, which Alice’s vocal technique would undoubtedly suit. Then again, perhaps not.
Meanwhile, far far away, on another couple of archipelagos, Tommy’s cultural wing, novelist and former teacher John Aberdein, looks like bringing Scottish Socialist Orkney under the Bronzed One’s wing. Somewhat nearer Norway, Shetland’s leftists seem less Tommyist. A letter to the local paper from Shetland’s full time archivist, the formidably acerbic historian Brian Smith, fairly smoked with apocalyptic rage at Sheridan’s treatment of his former comrades. Raiding parties of left-leaning Vikings, led by Brian the Red, could soon be making their way to Orkney ready for a bit of burning. Meanwhile, Brian is lecturing in Shetland about rough justice in medieval times, mostly hangings on handy hills. This not thought to be in any way metaphorical.
Other goings on in Orkney include the highly controversial change in shape of the Highland Park whisky bottle. I was first informed of this by my old friend and colleague Iain MacDonald, not just a kirk minister on Westray but a Labour activist and candidate for the Scottish Parliament. Once Runrig’s press and publicity officer, Ian is quite right to be distrustful of Highland Park’s new approach to glass blowing. The old one had a reassuring dumpiness which I for one felt contributed to the wholesome body of the cratur itself. You felt you were getting a handful of something substantial when you grabbed a bottle, unlike, say, that sissy triangular bottle Glenfiddich ( a girlie whisky if ever there was one) comes in. Guess it’ll have to be straight from the barrel from now on.

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