Monday, July 28, 2014

From the Referendum Songbook: Pure Dead Amazing (The Commonwealth Games Song)

A new song from Scar Quilse over on The Referendum Songbook.

 The Trongate's so clean I licked up my spilt pakora sauce last night
I got the late bus home to Possil and I didn't see a single fight
All the junkies are in a big shed at Weirs of Cathcart
They're getting sent to Edinburgh when the festival starts
And everything is pure dead amazing in Freedom City now

The queue at Mother India is longer than the River Clyde
There are bowlers in the park eating pizzas that've been deep fried
I'm going to take up Judo it's right up my street
Though I'll not wear pyjamas or be in bare feet
Everything is pure dead amazing in the Freedom City now

 Pure dead amazing and brilliant and completely sublime
All the poor folk are invisible, and nobody's committing crime
Nobody gets beat up here for being gay
At least not in the west end, or not every day
Everything is pure dead amazing in the city now

 See when it's over, it'll still be fantastic then
Dalmarnock's on the up and up, it's gonna be the new Bearsden
Cappuccino and focaccia and juice bars too
Life expectancy for men will rise to 52
Everything is pure dead amazing in the city now

 Copyright Scar Quilse, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Old Sea Barn, Hillswick (on the hottest day of the year)

....Holiday cottage right next to the sea in Hillswick, Northmavine, Shetland, sleeps four. Check our new outdoor loungers and bench, made by Mike Batty! Some dates still available throughout the year, even in what's left of the summer. Picture of village shows hotel with pub, shop, health centre etc. Contact us here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New on The Referendum Songbook: Naebody Ever Asked Me (The Opinion Poll Song)

The full Referendum Songbook (a song a week until 19 September) is at

I’m quiet as a moose
I very rarely leave the hoose     
Shop at the Co-op, Tesco, never
(Except if I’m desperate, cause they deliver)

I’m hardly young, but I’m no very old
I don’t like doing what I’m told
Folk say they speak for me on television
But they never asked for my permission
Naebody ever asked me
Naebody ever asked me
I’m a simple soul, I’m no in they polls
Naebody ever asked me

I call him Max for short, he’s a rescue pug
Maxton’s too long a name for a dug
My pal Sue’s got a mutt called Karl, a Staffie
She walks  him in the park, she likes to wear her baffies

Naebody ever asked me....

So will I make to the polling station
To seal the fate of this wee nation?
I’ll make it if I have to crawl
Karl and Max’ll be there and all

And me and and Sue too, you will see
We'll be voting for solidarity
For the union of the working class
Our voices will be heard at last
I could've tellt you, but you never asked...

Naebody ever asked me...

Copyright Scar Quilse 2014. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Deafened by the static: Separatists are listening only to their own noise

A slightly different version of this was printed in The Shetland Times published on Friday, in print only.  I tweeted on Friday, when one irate offline reader described it as ‘utter shite’ on social media, that I would not be blogging the piece until after I’d finished my weekend run of Morton Through (To) Midnight radio shows.

So here it is. Three days have passed since the column’s original publication; Sunday saw an old friend resign as writer for the local magazine I edit, Shetland Life, appalled by my ‘rant’. Judge for yourself. Oh, and there’s a piece by Ian Smart which covers similar ground  here:

It’s been interesting, over the past couple of weeks, to see some of the most strident MacMeeja Yessivists cautiously modifying their public stances as  the quiet majority for ‘No’ becomes more and more evident.

Even in the event of  a ‘No’ vote, Scotland has changed, changed utterly, seems to be the emerging line. A new political discourse has been born, and we are in the glorious sunkissed uplands of a country irrevocably bound for alteration. Just...not yet. Because there is the beginnings of an acceptance that on 18 September, Scotland will vote to remain part of a United Kingdom. The cover-up of exposed backsides, and their ‘Yes’ tattoos, has begun.

Still, some established chatterers are convinced that the Great Turnaround achieved by the SNP in 2011  could repeat itself, that the bookies’ odds against ‘Yes’ are a delusion offering potential profits to the daring (currently, we’re looking at 1/5 to 1/9, averaging at 1/7). I’m fairly sure the wishfully-thinking Yessers are confusing a low-turn-out  PR protest vote with a (hopefully) high-turn-out yes/no referendum. Also, remember the way the SNP focussed that 2011 vote on Alex Salmond as an individual? It’s notable that personalised Salmondism has waned drastically and the ‘Yes’ campaign has tried, strenuously, to keep his profile low. It’s surely the contemptuous giggle which offends most. 

But more importantly, I think the trumpeters of a ‘Yes’ victory have been deluded by something else: They have confused debate with the sheer blaring noise generated by their own internal conversations. They want it to be so. They say, loudly and at interminable length that it shall be so. Everyone on their online social media feeds seems to agree with them. Therefore it must happen. But those social media feeds are curated by their owners, with numerous blockings and dismissals. They’re all ‘friends’. And so the separatists have listened to their own chatter, deafened to everything else by their own static.

In the physical, public-hall-world, the so-called ‘debates’ have been packed with disciplined, briefed, crib-sheet armed Yessists. The ‘pre-discussion show of hands’ approach has frequently been traduced by those pretending to be ‘don’t knows’. The people who will vote ‘no’ have not bothered to turn up, are too bored by the whole thing to comment either audibly or online, or have been scared into silence. Either by sheer, unreasoning, bullying shoutiness or - a nod-and-wink official 'Yes' policy, I’m certain - by personal vilification: if in doubt, play the man (or woman), not the ball.

Please, don’t tell me ‘it’s just as bad on the other side’. As recipient of some foul-mouthed gibbering from The Worst of Separatism, and a long-time online observer of both camps, I can tell you it isn’t.

Of course, all the firepower, most of the action, has been in the central belt of Scotland. As one ‘Yes’ campaigner said to me, ‘that’s where the votes are’.  It was predictable that English journalists sent north to witness Scotland’s wasting of energy, resources, time and money on the independence ‘debate’ would be seduced by the Youth-Fellowship-come-and-have-a-caress evangelistic rhetoric. Much of it comes from shiny-cheeked organisations with ill-advised, all-too historically resonant  names such National Collective and Common Weal, Yestival (Smiley Face!) and, God help us, ‘The Third Force’. Does no-one read history books? Or see the parallels with mindless, happy-clappy  fundamentalist religion? If you’re creative and arty, comes the message, hands in the air, sway gently! You MUST support separatism. And if you don’t, better shut up or you could find it tricky getting a gig, especially in Oor New Caledonia. Cuddle and carrot, sanction and stick.

I had a journalist up here recently (one of many, it should be said; everyone’s fascinated by The Shetland Question(s), to which the answer is always, always no, we don’t want a separate Salmondland, and no, we don’t want to be part of £100-a-pint Norway).  He was genuinely appalled at my conviction that there will be a ‘No’ vote, probably near the long-standing Scottish UK/Nat percentage split of 60-40.  That was not his impression from talking to, well, other nationalists. And besides, remember 2011. Freedom!

He’s right in one sense. If those who have all along quietly supported a United Kingdom get complacent, if they fail to turn out on 18 September, there is a risk that the NatMachine’s ruthless ability to mobilise its central belt supporters  could actually bring us close to an irrevocable vote for separation. So it is absolutely crucial that those who hate borders, who stand for equality and justice for everyone, irrespective of creed, race, education or geographical location, comes out and votes ‘No’. And actually, I do not believe that those  Labour supporters who failed to turn out back in 2010, opening the way to Salmond’s appropriation of power, will fail to stand with the party’s policy on social justice for all. Which is, for me, the one moral choice.  

Also: As the likelihood of a ‘No’ vote grows, elements on the lunatic NatFringe have begun muttering about (a) vote rigging and (b) preparing for ‘direct action’. This is (a) the empty posturing of the daft, and (b) threatening behaviour which clearly implies, under Scots Law, a Breach of the Peace.

After the ‘No’ vote, there will doubtless be sackcloth, ashes, rending of garments, petulant screeching. There could be closures of and mergers of newspapers and doubtless, a few flouncings-off to holiday homes in the Dordogne and Algarve by huffy pop stars and pundits alike. The SNP Holyrood administration  will be exposed as a one-issue campaigning sham, and I expect that any ‘completely altered political environment’, will come down to an utter loss of appetite for the dangerous romantic delusion that is nationalism.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One Pair o'Tartan Trews: Another ditty from The Referendum Songbook

One pair o’ tartan trews
What was Wee Eck trying tae do?
He can’t wear a kilt
Cause his bum gets aw chillt
And his knees get aw frostbitten too

Two hundred and fifty pounds
Ah but somehow the money was found
The taxpayer paid
The trews were tailor made
The first minister’s joy was profound

They were worn at a Chinese ball
Eck didnae go down well at all
Another Panda he sought
Bits of chicken he got
Deep fried in sweet and sour balls

He’s repaid the money at last
And those trews are a thing of the past
For as Wee Eck  expands
He needs elastic bands
To keep his pull-ups at half mast

Now the Commonwealth Games are here
And oor athletes have bonny new gear
It’s the tartan frae hell
Wee Eck’s got some as well
Made into a simmet I fear.

Monday, July 07, 2014

New Scotland (The Camper Van song)

A camper van called Scotland

I bought a camper van on eBay
I was a wee bit nervous
The guy said he’d got it from
The St John’s Ambulance Service
He’d fitted it with a double bed
And a woodburning stove
When I got of the train in Preston to pick it up
I just fell in love
Two hundred thousand miles
It had independent suspension
Ran out of fuel on the Great North Road
I wasn’t paying attention
When the guy said it was thirsty
I thought he meant he liked a drink
Not 10 miles to the gallon
I guess I just didn’t think

I called it Scotland
My beloved Scotland
It’ll take me everywhere I want to roam
Scotland, my beloved Scotland
Don’t ever tell me Scotland’s not my home

I got a tow to a caravan site
I lit the stove and settled down
It was somewhere in Northumbria
I drank  my first can of Newcastle Brown
I found I quite enjoyed the place
The folk seemed just the same
I met a girl from Penrith called Tracy
MacMillan was her middle name

That was fifteen years ago
I’ve hardly been north since
I even found a chip shop
Sells Morton’s Rolls with mince
Sometimes I go to Peebles
That’s just like Edinburgh only wee
I suppose I live in England
It’s all Scotland to me

Copyright Scar Quilse 2014

Friday, July 04, 2014

July's Shetland Life Magazine - my editorial on rural shops, Tesco and odd butters

Home delivery, the fate of the local shop and Tesco-itis. - My editorial from July's Shetland Life. Buy it here

I am not among the Tesco-itis sufferers who say, proudly, that they have never been inside the place, “and never will”. There are things hidden away there you can get nowhere else, for example the lovely Beurre d’Enseignes from Normandy. I prefer North Eastern Farmers or LHD for clothes (it’s a fashion thing) and of course the Big T does have some locally-supplied fresh food. Though I have to say that the only ‘off’ stuff I’ve bought in Tesco was locally supplied - and instantly refunded, without smelly packaging having to be shown.
And there are the Co-ops, In Brae and Lerwick. The ownership of its own farms has always meant, I’ve felt, high-quality meat at the Co-op, but now with the parent organisation in disarray and the farms being sold off, I’ve kind of lost faith. But you can get tubs of organic houmous in either Shetland Co-op, and for me that’s a matter of near-addiction. Food quality, particularly of own-brand flour and the like, is high.
The Lerwick Tesco is brilliantly and imaginatively run and stocked. Staff are well treated, quite well paid (I understand) and exceptionally well trained. Choice is massive. Prices are low.Why should you shop anywhere else?
Well, we have superb local foodstuffs in Shetland which don’t reach either supermarket. For fresh meat, the Shetland-sourced organic beef, mutton and vegetables in Scoop are not just fantastic quality, but reasonably priced, though available in limited quantities. Our various specialist butchers provide excellent products and service and the availability of locally-caught fish is one of the glories of the isles. In the country shops, fish and meat from Shetland sources is widely available too, though not every day and again, often not in the widest of varieties.
Bakery products? We have superb oatcakes, bannocks and bread, but again, wisely choosing your day to get fresh baking  is essential if you’re shopping outside Lerwick. We also, in truth, have had in the past some very average bakery products, which I think has led to the taste for ‘sooth bread’ you find everywhere, though the home baking habit has also meant that yeast and bread flour are on the shelves of nearly every rural outlet. Not to mention Shetland Dairies’ great triumph: buttermilk, bannocks for the making of.
But it’s easier to just go and do a huge, weekly one-stop supermarket shop. Convenience is, for some folk, everything. And if you live in Lerwick, why wouldn’t you nip into World of Trolley? Leaving (or not) honourable exceptions for butchery, fish, bakery products and, well, clothes and white goods? Rural dwellers with access to transport, can do a ‘big shop’, later ‘topping up’ at the local shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one: milk, eggs and...anything you’ve forgotten or run out of.
We have an excellent local community-owned shop in Hillswick, and I am privileged to have just been co-opted as a director. That it happened the week after I’d used the new Tesco home delivery service for the first time was embarrassing. But instructive.
I found the whole rigmarole of online ordering very irritating. Also, because this is Shetland, several items were unavailable. You are then provided with ‘an alternative’ or a refund. Fortunately, Beurre d’Enseignes was in stock.
I had no complaints about the delivery. Joel the driver arrived in the time slot arranged, was happy to carry the shopping into the house, and it was all curiously like Christmas. You forgot you’d paid in advance. The groceries were just...there.
I won’t be doing it again, though, and not just because of my new directorship. I believe local shops are essential to the wellbeing of a community, and there’s no question that Tesco home delivery threatens their viability. However, there is no reason why local shops cannot provide a delivery service which would be much more responsive, and not limited to those with computers. 
But it’s not just that. If I’m shopping for food, I want to see, reach out, touch, choose. I check onions’ softness and bananas’ brownness, bannocks’ give and crusts’ crispiness. Yes, I will go to Tesco and other Lerwick shops, if I happen to be in town. For sea-salted butter, among other things. But my default retail position is: the local shop. 
Use it or lose it.