Skip to main content

Late, but not too late

It has been some time since I sat down to start my daily diary at three in the afternoon. It is the weekend, and so I guess I am allowed a bit of time off from the mandates in my own calendar.

We head into a new week where for the first time our, now sixth-decade, First Minister will present but three updates on the SAR-CoV-2 virus in Scotland. Today's deflection from the timetable I have previously put down for myself also relates to the virus.

One of my distant cousins, Ken - who is a fifth cousin twice removed, lives in Massachusetts, USA and is chafing at the bit because his local family research centre is closed because of the virus. He asked for my assistance in finding the ancestors of his seven greats grandparents, they are my five greats etc., and always being up for a challenge, I diverted from good timekeeping to help.

In this particular case, it's one of these tricky ones. They are from the English quarter of my family. But only just, in the sense that living close to the Scottish-English Border means they regularly flit across it. Hence one curses because you cannot find a record of an event and then remember that one has to look in another jurisdiction.

Perhaps the PM, who asserts that there is no border, might care to explain that to me. But then he does seem rather conflicted about this kind of issue. He did not like the supposed absence of a border between the UK and France and is now eagerly constructing one. And yet the actual reality has always been that such a border existed. It was merely that moving from one side to the other, from one sovereign state to another, was "frictionless". A bit like moving between Scotland and England is frictionless.

The PM is actually not creating any new borders. Just new friction. Speaking of which, that perfectly describes his imposing an overarching body through which he plans to veto hitherto legal actions taken in Scotland.

Back back to the Borthwicks, for it they who cousin Ken and I share.

They are an interesting lot. Most families are when you dig into them. In their case, it is their military service that reminds one of the accelerating decrease in the UK's global influence.

One of Ken's ancestors, a first cousin four times removed of mine, signed up for the army when he was sixteen and served for twenty-five years. His discharge papers speak to his service and his heroism;

"Served four years and a half in the Peninsular War, upwards of seven years in Ceylon, the remainder at home. Wounded severely in the right hand at the Battle of Vittoria and in the shoulder at the Battle of the Neville, present at the first Siege of Badajos and at the second Siege and Storming of the same place, at the Battles of Fuentes D'Oure, Salamonica, Nive, Octhes and Toulouse."

On discharge as a Colour Sergeant, he married, raised a family and lived at 14 Middletons Entry which was off the Canongate and therefore near our Parliament. As a Chelsea Pensioner, an "out-pensioner" not one of the red-coated "in-pensioners" you would see in London, he had some money to help him in civilian life. Despite his hard service, he lived into his mid-seventies.

Not too bad for a young lad from Moffat.

A reminder for us all, that if you want the record to remember you long after you have passed on, be a criminal, a Lord or Lady, or join the services. The administrators will document your every move for future generations to mull over.

And to encourage people like me to become engrossed in your story. So that other activity gets delayed. But not ignored.

Today we can all achieve our own form of documentary immortality.

Social media, be it Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, ensures that your choosing to publish your story or your photographs is an irreversible action. A number of people in, or close to, politics have discovered that.

Bluntly, at the moment you first contemplate taking your initial steps into the political world, and before you tell a single soul of any plan you have, no matter how nascent, close all your social media accounts. Download the contents if you must, but store them out of public reach. Even before deletion, if the platform concerned allows it, change the name under which it is published to a name not readily identifiable as being you. Ideally, go to "www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk" and make sure that the chosen name is not used by anyone since the dawn of recorded time.

Aa a member of the general public one is allowed to behave idiotically from time to time, provided no law is broken, and no one else is injured. But the media, and those in your chosen political party who vet you before you may stand as a candidate, will apply much harsher standards in the political sphere.

Mind you, don't rely on your political party's clearing you for political takeoff. It's not enough that they didn't ask you the right question which would have elicited the wrong answer. Look long and hard in the mirror that is your memory of all your past life.

I remember sitting in the jump-seat in the cockpit of a British Midland jet taxiing out from the terminal at Edinburgh Airport en route to Heathrow. As we departed the apron heading towards the runway, we, I say "we" but actually I was silently spectating, anyway, "we" turned left at the exit when we should have turned right. We got away with it, but it could have gotten a bit messy. Thank you to the Captain of a landing turboprop for braking a bit harder than usual, turning around on the runway and using a different exit from one planned.

In real life, a bit of a gentle chaffing in the crew room afterwards. Perhaps a quiet word from the airline's training Captain. In real life, outcomes matter. This mistake was entirely benign even if mildly embarrassing.

In politics, its the action, not the outcome. Fair it ain't. But any lever to dislodge an opponent will do.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Train time

After one hundred and seventy-four days, I resumed sitting in our Parliament's debating chamber. It was the first time I have seen how members dialling in by video-link look and sound at the "business end". I found that I was a bit rusty. My only oral contribution this week was to ask a question. As I approached the end of it, a sound from a mobile phone totally distracted me. Worried that it was my own phone, I paused and for about a second, lost the thread of what I was saying. I wasn't that pleased with my neighbour when they returned to their seat. Their phone, not mine. It just shows that one can travel backwards in one's abilities. Like an athlete who has had an extended layoff and loses muscle tone, my brain had retreated from its previous peak of perfection. Next week will be our first proper three day week. I think I will ease myself in by participating in the two Member's debates scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. That will be about eleven hu

A public debate about privatisation

Yesterday I tweeted from the Financial Times. I subscribe to the FT, so perhaps that's not too surprising. Martin Wolf is their Chief Economics Commentator and has seen sufficient economic shocks during his life as a journalist to deserve to be listened to when he writes as he did; "We almost certainly [...] need to take the provision of at least some essential public services out of the hands of privatised businesses." He has also commented, a week ago, on some of the effects of the pandemic on countries already struggling, saying; "in emerging and developing countries, the crisis threatens severe underfunding of important health and welfare programmes" I am not here to heap peons of praise upon his already "be-jewelled" shoulders. Others can do that. But he does alert us to the need for radical public policy and practice shifts. I have not seen him commenting on the merger of the UK's Foreign Office with the Government's internati

End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow