What a strange day, and it’s not over yet.
Destruction begats construction
It began at the house I am trying to build, the garden and lawn around it reduced to a facsimile of the Battle of the Somme, destroyed by a mechanical digger and dumper trundling this way and that, a depressing sight. The original tranquil setting balanced the chaos that is a house under construction. We all know the psychiatrist’s conundrum of perception. When is a chair not a chair? When it is deconstructed. My house and grounds are exactly that and more, deconstructed and wrecked.
A wheelie purloined
Anyhow, somebody stole my green wheelie bin. It can only have been a neighbour, who else would trouble to drag a used wheelie through the streets to a house in another district? How poverty-stricken must you be to steal a man’s council waste bin?
Brown the sage brush
Then, at the car dealer workshop to get a brake light fixed, I notice our ‘national’ newspaper with the farcical title, The Scotsman, has given arch inadequate, Gordon Brown, a page and a half to state his case for an oil fund.
Wait a minute! Was not he the same failed politician who, with others of the Labour party angrily claimed Scotland’s oil a curse and a millstone around our necks? Did they not describe as mad the SNP’s proposal to place the taxes from North Sea oil in a trust fund as a reserve for bad times, like Norway? Are they not the same deriding us, jeering at us each day, look how the price of oil would have bankrupted Scotland?
Had enough of us a backbone to grasp self-governance, oil was destined to remain in the UK Treasury’s books at least until 2018. It’s there now, and if we agree with Brown’s logic, those same oil revenues must be bankrupting England because Blighty is the nation drowning in £1.5 trillion debt, and counting.
What is Brown up to now? Unbelievably, he is stealing a key SNP policy and advertising it as his own – a trust fund built on oil revenues. That is what he did with the phony ‘Vow.’ He stole an online campaign, organised to get Scotland greater powers, and exploited it as if his personal campaign to exhort his supporters to convince Westminster to make good on his empty promise. When lost for a good idea steal one. A discredited politician seeks rehabilitation by adopting a policy his party discredited. How weird is that?
If only Brown was a drunkard. At least we could blame his odd behaviour on that.
The day got weirder
On the car radio back to the building site there was a thoughtful discussion on non-violent protest, and how organisers who know what their goal is, and can articulate it clearly and concisely to followers, tend to win the day and the argument. Among various experts discussing the hypothesis was one inexpert English expert. Suddenly, I heard him say the SNP was a party of protest alone; it had failed to convince people how their lives would be transformed for the better if they voted for independence.
From a reputed ‘less than 25%’ of the Scottish nation, back then a few ostensibly crinkly old kilted ‘eccentric’ supporters, to a 45% surge, plus many of the 55% against full independence wanting more powers for Scotland, and BBC’s Mr Inexpert interprets that result as evidence the SNP were ineffective in convincing the masses to vote for empowerment. Barely had he uttered that stupefying nonsense, when, knowing what was coming next, I began to count down from ten, but got beaten to it when he linked the SNP with Ukip. They are the same party, he said. They dislike Westminster and that’s about it.
Over seventy years of SNP intellectual debates, learned papers, books written by respected academics, open discussions, and elections to Westminster, yet it takes only one day for a BBC pundit to link Scotland’s only party to an English right-wing neo-fascist lobby.
It’s all in the book
Six hundred and fifty pages of the well-researched ‘White Paper,’ explaining how Scotland will be transformed politically and constitutionally, and somehow this one BBC pundit decides no doubter was converted by rational proposals. The English inexpert expert waffled a great deal, sounding the least knowledgeable of the guest speakers. He left wary listeners wondering if he was the obligatory BBC establishment plant. And yes, probably he was. He reminded me of one BBC senior journalist recruited by MI6 so overt that an executive colleague had to caution him to dampen down his true blue rhetoric.
And on the way to Greggs for a lunch bite, (‘Gregg’s spelled with two ‘g’s’) life got weirder still. I allowed an elderly one-legged man on crutches trailing his three-legged dog across the pedestrian way. As I waited a Smart car jam-packed with two very large policeman did a birl around the nearby roundabout, passed the old blue police box undergoing crimson, orange and yellow re-spray as a coffee stall. The image of the Scottish policeman is undergoing a television-type lurid make-over. How weird.
Standing in a queue behind some of the oddest shaped people you can imagine, one man was all of seven feet tall and double that around the waist, bearded, hair unkempt like a manic lumberjack, wearing a crumpled blue track suit. I thought, here we go, three large meat pies and six cream doughnuts. But no, he bought a single bottle of Coca Cola. Weird.
Mr Spherical rolled off to the bus stop. I wondered how far the bus would lurch when he took his seat, all three of them. Would the other passengers have to rush to the opposite side to keep it on the level?
Back in Greggs none of the lumpen proletariat quite matched the assistants behind the counter. The manageress is a character straight out of a Breughel painting, stern and unrelentingly serious, without a good morning to her name. “Yes, what would you like?” she asks. I want to answer, a pleasant smile, but instead stiffen up regimental fashion to make my request. Another is so cripplingly shy she cannot look a customer in the eye. A third, her hair net pulled tight over a wig, is trying to sweep the floor clean of a loose sausage roll between customer’s legs, an impossible task in a crowded bakery, like trying to catch a mouse under a hawthorn hedge.
Outside, munching my Cajun Chicken Wrap, a stodgy blend of hot paste and cold cress, as much relationship to New Orleans cuisine as Jeremy Clarkson has to fine art, I thought of the manageress as someone who starts each day with a smile to get it over with.
A moment’s respite in a frenetic Monday. I picked up a woman’s magazine on the street bench beside me. An article on the aftermath of the Oscar awards caught my eye.
After watching the most predictable Oscar awards ceremony for many years filled with the same sort of movie up for nomination I recognised they were the same films nominated: biographies of real life individuals, a famous American army sniper, a famous civil rights campaigner, a famous neurotic actor-director, a famous Bletchley mathematician and closet gay, a famous wheelchair-bound physicist. (If you can star in a film about a man in a wheelchair you will win Best Actor Award. Guaranteed.)
There, staring at me from the glossy pages of the magazine was Eddie Redmayne, fresh from his decent impression of Stephen Hawking, depicted first young and energetic and then immobile, twisted by motor neuron disease, only now his face, or rather, a female version, stares at me. He is playing another real-life individual, a famous Danish artist, Einar Wegener, a man who underwent one of the first a sex change operations to become Lilli Elbe. Redmayne is drawn to odd people. I wait to learn he leads a weird private life.
A rash of freckles under a chestnut wig, a dancer’s neck, low-cut blouse, and a splat of blood-red lipstick. Just as well Eddie does not have a prominent Adam’s apple. I hope he has no hair on his chest. A shaved chest itches. One second male, the next second female. And I thought we had seen it all after John Hurt’s turn as Quentin Crisp, the English writer and oh so camp raconteur.
Is the world turning into a truly weird place, or am I crushingly ordinary? A while back a Hollywood producer surveyed my dark detective thriller, chunks of it set in an S and M brothel. “Man, what kinda life do ya lead to write this stuff?” he asked. “It’s called creative writing, you idiot,” I replied. “I’ve never been in a brothel in my life.”
So far, I feel I am walking through the surreal mindscape of Salvador Dali. Suddenly, a coalition between the meek and mild Liberal-Democratic party that is really Tory in ideals, and the Conservative party that is Ukip in a top hat and tails, seems sane and rational.