Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

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The story of Jack

In Friends,Lessons,Life on June 3, 2012 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , ,

I guess this is a simple blog post about love. Love of family and love of a pet.

You see my cat Jack died yesterday. He was at my parents house back in Scotland and my mum phoned to tell me and I’ve been a bit of a mess this weekend because of it.

Never mind me though let me tell you his story…

24 years ago when I was in my teens my mum came home with her green cardigan in her hands.

It turned out my mum spotted something moving in the snow when she was out for a walk one day. A tiny little black and white ball of fluff. It was meowing quietly and lying next to his dead mother. She had been hit by a car and there he was lying next to her.

My mum took off her green cardigan and wrapped the little guy up in it.

She named him Jack after Jack Frost cause he was found in the snow.

We took great care in feeding and caring for him because he was so small. The vet gave us special stuff to give him to help him grow.
Our Springer Spaniel Cara was a loving dog and looked after the wee guy. She was incredibly gentle with him even when he was clawing and biting her.

Jack grew up into a chilled out, pretty lazy cat. He ate, he wandered and he slept. In his youth he would wander but never too far. Sometimes we’d see him a few streets away and occasionally in the field across the main road but he was a survivor. He was never hurt. He never cried and he always came home.

He was smart and gentle and nice to the other neighbour’s cats. Even the nasty ones. Two of the neighbour’s cats would sometimes come in and eat his food. He didn’t care. He didn’t complain. He just lay against the radiator cosy in the heat letting the world go by.

But the thing that made him the happiest was the green cardigan. He would walk around the house with the cardigan in his teeth dragging the rest of it between his legs. He went everywhere with it. He slept on it every night. Carried it around during the day. Ate his food with it in his eyesight.

He loved that green cardigan.

We always felt that he thought it was his mum. It was always with him and I guess it loved him unconditionally. That love plus the way we looked after him probably helped him reach the right old age of 24!

However, a blood clot on his spine meant a visit to the vet to be put down. The vet said the blood clot could happen at any age and apart from that he was in great health. He could have kept going if it wasn’t for that clot.

Poor wee old guy.

I’ll miss him.

Here he is getting his tummy rubbed by my big sister:

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Some handy iPhone and iPad tips

In Lessons,Technology on October 10, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , ,

These tips are current as of iOS4 and I’ll update them once I get access to the new operating system.

1. If you have scrolled down your contacts or while using an app or reading an article etc all you need to do is tap the top of the touch area of the phone to return to the top of the page (called the status area)

2. If you need to search the app or doc you are in on your phone simply pull down on most apps to bring up the search function

3. Hold down the .com button while using a web browser and it should give you a list of extra options including .au and others

4. Double tap the shift key till it goes lights up blue to gets caps lock. If not working go to settings > general > keyboard > caps-lock

5. Screenshot. Simply press the home button and the off button at the same time to take a pic of whatever you are looking at on the screen

6. You don’t have to type www when typing in web addresses

7. Double tap text on a webpage for the screen to fit to size on screen

8. If you use accents in your writing you can hold down any of these keys: e y u i o a s l z c n to get access to them

9. Also if you swipe up on the comma you get an inverted comma. Same with full stop key. If you swipe up you will get quotation marks

10. Tap and hold a link to get more options. Such as email, read on instapaper etc

11. If you have an image on a web page just hold down on the image and you will get some more options including saving the pic

12. If you use the Calculator app turn the phone sideways and it will give you a scientific calculator

13. Creating folders. Many people don’t seem to know this but if you hold your finger on an app till it shakes and then drag it onto another app then it will create a folder. You can name it whatever you want 🙂

14. You can sync all your notes and have them sent to whatever email account linked to your phone. Just click Settings > Notes > Default Account and it will automatically send to the account you choose including Gmail or MobileMe or simply store on your phone as usual

15. With your iPhone you can lock the orientation and stop it moving around by double clicking the home button and bringing up your multitasking dock. Swipe left rather than right to get to the iPod section and next to it should a lock button. If you have your iPad set to lock using the mute button as orientation then the mute button will appear next to to the iPod section on the multitasking bar

Hope this helps 🙂

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Apple Focus

In Digital,Lessons,Marketing,Media,Technology on October 10, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , ,

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about Apple since the death of Steve Jobs. He got me thinking about the meteoric rise of the company from it being months from collapse to where it sits today – a technological marvel and marketing maestro that seems to be ahead of the game against their competition.

It seems like many others have also been thinking about the company recently but one person’s comments really stood out to me – William Gibson.

Now there are obviously many people who have helped influence my life but both Steve Jobs and William Gibson are up there pretty much close to the top along with my parents, my Uncle Kenny and my best mates who I grew up with.

And I’ve spoken about Steve Jobs recently in my blog and what he meant to me.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer took me to a new world and made me see the future was cyberspace. I talked about it in school. I talked about it to everyone but no-one really understood what I was saying – this was late 80s remember and technology wasn’t as big as it is now.

And he recently spoke about Apple and why he has used their devices.

In an interview he said:

“I was never interested in getting any more intimate with whatever made my computer work. I wanted the most transparent interface possible; that is, that least required my personal attention. I wanted my personal attention to be elsewhere, focused on other things other than my computer. Design at that level kept me at Apple…”

And that sums up my relationship with Apple.

I love their equipment because it allows me to quickly pass through the fact I’m using a device and simply allows me to do what I need to do.

I have a number of friends who love to tinker with things, they want to know how things work and the majority of them are all Android users or PC users. They want to find out more about their devices and really dive deep into their software and what is possible with them – which is great but for me I want a device that lets me do my job as quickly and efficiently as possible without reminding me I’m using it.

Many Microsoft products drive me barmy because they have a habit of taking my attention away from what I’m doing (and I can be easily distracted at the best of times) and cause me to focus on the program and not what I’m using it for. I always felt that way with PC running Windows – and still do to be honest.

To me Apple computers remind me of my body (work with me here). I don’t stop to think about how I breathe I simply do. I don’t stop to think about how my muscles work and allow me to type it just simply happens. So my relationship with my body is the same as the one I have with my Apple – it exists and allows me to do what I need to do without thinking about all the stuff going on inside it.

And it was Jobs attention on getting the user-experience right that makes them so damn useful to me.

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Selling out your national team

In Lessons,Life,Marketing,Media,Social Media on October 9, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , ,

I am full of rage right now. Pure unadulterated rage.

I was watching the Australia v South Africa rugby match in this year’s Rugby World Cup. I glanced at Twitter and saw a few people in my stream tweeting to the @qantaswallabies account.

This rage has been building up inside me for all my time living in Australia but I feel that I should put down in words what I’ve been thinking.

HOW DARE YOU SELL OUT YOUR OWN COUNTRIES NATIONAL TEAM BY FLOGGING IT WITH A BRAND!!?!?!

If the Scottish Football Association even attempted to brand the Scottish football team and tie it in with say the Royal Bank of Scotland or British Airways or anything … even Irn Bru there would be a war in the country with people storming the HQ of both the SFA and whichever company decided to try and take over the team.

A national football team is just that. It’s a team associated with the country. It has nothing to do with a brand.

Yes brands can sponsor. Yes they can even have their names on the tops but they should never have the right to re-brand the name of the country from Australia to the Qantas Wallabies. The Twitter account, the Facebook account etc should all be named after the country and code or the Association – it should NEVER be linked intrinsically with a brand.

Forgive my writing today. I’m just so angry that people in Australia seem to take this for granted. It’s wrong. It’s really fucking wrong. The people who came up with the idea should be flogged in the main streets.

They have taken the identity of their country and sold it.

Imagine that.

Imagine selling your country…to a brand.

Total and utter disgrace.

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So I once met Darth Vader

In Lessons,Life,Movies on September 19, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , ,

I have a story to tell and one that I have just been reminded about after a conversation with my parents in a bid to embarrass me in front of my other half.

I once met Darth Vadar.

Well, actually, that’s a complete lie. I once saw Darth Vader.

Let me explain.

When I was five my dad took me to see Star Wars. The moment the Star Destroyer takes over the whole of the screen took my young breath away and gave me my love of cinema and movies. That point where the battle kicks off in the Corellian Corvette as the Rebels fight the Stormtroopers made my young eyes pop and then suddenly, there on screen was the most terrifying image to haunt a young kids brain – Darth Vader.

All black, with bleeping lights, and a voice that penetrated a five year old to the core scaring me so much. On the giant screen in the Dennistoun cinema in Glasgow my young heart skipped a beat and the most evil man in the universe walked on.

The next time you see him he is choking someone. Chocking them to death!

Then he chokes someone without even touching them. He had the mother-fucking force!!

Darth Vader

So two years later I go to an event in Glasgow with my parents. It was a home event showing off new things for the decade – the 80s!

I remember holding on to my dad’s hand when he said: “Scott look, there’s Darth Vader”

I froze.

I was six.

I was terrified.

It was Darth Vader.

He was flanked by two Stormtroopers.

IT WAS DARTH VADER!

I did what any normal boy aged six who had watched the most evil man in the Galaxy kill people with his hands.

I ran.

I ran for my life. I kept running till my dad caught me and asked what was wrong and I said: “He’s the scariest man in the Universe!!.”

My dad told me it was just a movie and that I shouldn’t be scared and that was just a man in a suit (it actually was David Prowse though so that was Darth Vader) and I calmed down.

So yeah, I never met Darth Vader but I saw him and he scared me … a lot.

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My top five beers

In Alcohol,Lessons,Life on August 19, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Let’s get one thing totally straight here. Beer that is meant to be made in other countries should not ever be made in your country because it will probably taste like pure and utter pish.

Let’s take Peroni for instance. In Australia some absolute numpty decided that it would be a fucking awesome idea to bottle Peroni locally. What’s worse is that Peroni liked this idea. Sell the rights they think with none of the bottling hassle but all it does it kill a brand.

I try not to buy Peroni any more simply because it tastes horrible when it is locally made. The local stuff is like someone shitting in cow dung, liquidating it and then flogging it to the public. It’s like a million voices suddenly screamed out and were silenced. It. Is. Total. And. Utter. Fucking. Shite.

I love beer. It’s awesome but I hate generic tasting crap.

And you know what? It’s not hard to get wrong but if you start fucking with perfection you are gonna end up with a total useless piece of piss-water that should be fed only to the idiots who came up with the idea of brewing an awesome beer elsewhere.

In Australia there are a whole bunch of great International beers that are made here and taste all EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME. Peroni, Stella Artois and Becks to name but a few. Hell even Sapporo is made in Canada now.

What kind of mad world are we living in???

To overcome the idiocy let me point you in the direction of some awesome foreign (and local to Aus) beers that you should seek out and enjoy:

Franziskaner – Truly the god of all beers. It tastes like the nape of a thousand beauties. It’s whispering pour can bring grown men to tears and the joy of drinking one will raise you to the zenith of your life. It is a champion. It’s as soft as it is hard. It’s a slightly fruity wheat beer that harks back to the time when men wore armour and destroyed both mythical and religious foes. It is a beer that you should hunt down, propose to and then build a small castle to defend.

Spatan Munchen – This is the beer that you don’t want to marry but want to sleep with and do a whole manner of bad things to. It’s not a beer that wants to be good. It wants to be ‘oh so bad’. It’s light and happy. It sings to you and lures you in like a siren. It loves you and then hates you but you can’t stop loving it. It’s a beer that you can’t rely on but will never give you a hangover unless you fall and smack a bottle over your head.

Duvel – This beer is the person you wish you had never slept with. This is the beer that supplies it’s own beer goggles but Jedi-mind tricks you into not realizing they’re on your face. It tastes like Sith but makes you think of summer days as it slowly slices your leg off and cauterizes the wound at the same time. It’s a dark beer. Oh so dark. It’s like the depth of a well at midnight, as the clouds contain the moon.

Moo Brew – Ok I’m gonna throw an Aussie beer into the mix. This is a Tasmanian beer. Now mainlander Aussies make fun of Tasmanians. To talk to a Scottish person I would say that Tasmanian are to mainlanders what Aberdonians are to Glaswegians. However, I know many from Tasmania and each and every single one of them are amazing. They are some of the best people I have ever met in my life and I cannot imagine my life without them in it. Now, to the beer. I’ve drank a few versions of this beer including the Pilsner (which rocks) and the Hefeweizen (which is the best beer I’ve had in Australia) and the Pale Ale. Trust me that you should seek out any and all of these beers and try them. You owe it to yourself, to your parents and to anyone you have ever loved.

77 Lager – This is a beer by the legendary team at Brew Dog in Scotland. These guys make beers so epic that imbibing their golden liquid make you feel like you are heading out on adventure to save not only the Princess, but the her twin sisters, her mum, their pet Platypus and two small gecko’s called Thunder and Horace. The 77 Pils is my personal beer of choice from their range because it is so clean a taste it feels like you’ve just gotten back from a dental visit where she used a transporter to zap away any plaque. It’s so crisp that merely opening a bottle causes tiny invisible avalanches all across the world. And it’s so tasty that Tibetan Monks hand-glide to the UK just try some.

Anyway that’s just a quick guide to some of my favourite beers. Feel free to add some of your own so that I may try them out.

Cheers!

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Green Lantern

In Lessons,Life,Movies on August 17, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , ,

I read the reviews for Green Lantern and felt sad that one of the movies I had waited near a lifetime to see was being slammed. Actually that’s me being kind of nice about it all. It has got royally slaughtered.

It took in hardly any cash at the box office – nowhere near the $200m it cost to make it.

As I watched the reviews trundle in and saw the box office receipts I got disheartened. As I waited for the launch in Australian (it was delayed by nearly two months here) I saw people on Twitter slamming it saying it was a poor movie, then I saw the people on the forum I use tearing into it. Sure there was a few people saying they enjoyed it but overall the results were ‘meh’ (which will mean something to someone in the forum if they read this).

As I waited for the release I spent some time reading old Green Lantern comics. Read some of the old classics (the oldest one I own is Number 28 from around 1962 or something like that) followed with some new ones including a dash of Kyle Raynor.

I even went to see Captain America, a movie which I don’t feel deserves its own blog posting because it’s kinda generic and bland and that’s about it. The characterization is ok and the build up is good but the rest is just ‘beat ‘em up, smash ‘em up and blow it up’ stuff.

And so the day came when I went to see Green Lantern.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

I like Ryan Reynolds. He’s been good in most movies and he can do serious and comedy. The rest of the cast looked good too but in the back of my mind was that nagging feeling that the movie was gonna be shit.

I was worried it would be like Superman Returns all over again.

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

I thought it was excellent.

It tackled the core issue of the GL story which is fear v will. It tackled the romance between Hal and Carol. And it tackled the battle of a human thrown into an Intergalactic police force with a distinct view upon the universe.

Ryan Reynolds nailed it as Hal Jordan. He brought my childhood reading comics to life upon the screen and just blew me away. He got the arrogance and the willpower right there on the big screen. He really made it for me.
Sure the movie had faults but Hal Jordan was on the screen for those two hours I watched it and my younger self couldn’t have been happier.

Someday people expect too much from movies but this delivered on every level I wanted it to.

I got to see OA.

I got to see the Green Lanterns in action.

I got to see Hal Jordan using his imagination to full effect with the power of his ring.

I loved it…I really did.

I don’t want to spoil it but if you do go see it please ignore all the negative commentary around the movie and just sit back and have fun. Ignore all those damned comic book movies that take themselves too seriously and watch a real comic brought to life on the big screen.

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One Great Vision: Chapter One – Early Days

In Lessons,Life,Religion on July 24, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , , ,

THIS IS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF MY UNCLE KENNY’s BOOK CALLED ONE GREAT VISION: See https://kiltforhire.com/2011/07/24/uncle-kenny/

Early Days

Dampness pervaded the room. It hung in the atmosphere. Over next to the door, the wallpaper had given up the struggle and virtually parted company with the wall. It was a typical Glasgow single-end of the Twenties, cramped and uncomfortable. In the bed recess lay a young boy of four, racked spasmodically by retching coughs and bathed in sweat. His eyes were glazed and he was obviously very ill.

His parents were having an earnest consultation. ‘What dae ye think Bobby, will we ca’ the doctor?’ the mother anxiously enquired.

‘Oh, ah don’t know Maggie, we haven’ae goat the money, five shillings is an awful lot.’

Whit will we dae then, dae ye think we should try a ham skin oan his chest? Ah could get wan for nothing fae the butcher.’

‘Well, ah suppose we could try it but if he gets any worse, we’ll have tae call the doctor and find the money somewhere’, murmured the father.

They were a typical working class couple of the period. The father, a general labourer and odd-job man, poorly dressed in a heavy serge suit with a cloth cap. His wife, attired in a loose billowy dress with a short triangular scarf round her neck, had strong determined features.

The boy was their fourth child and second son. His older brother had died at the age of eight months, another statistic of the dreadful rate of infant mortality of the time.

Despite his fever, the boy had listened intently to his parents’ conversation and it was indelible impressed on his memory, for I was that child and it was my first real memory of life on this planet.

Whether it was the ham skin or my own constitution, I pulled through but who knows what seeds that experience planted in that small developing mind or conditioned the path I have trod in life.

This was typical of conditions in Springburn, Glasgow in the Twenties. Grinding poverty, high infant mortality, scarcity of food, lack of decent clothing, abominable housing conditions.

No matter how much my mother tried and she tried to the best of her ability, we were always short of the decent necessities of life. My childhood experiences were in direct contrast to the almost idyllic account of life in Springburn by Molly Weir in her book “Shoes were for Sunday”. For us, like so many thousands of others, life was a grim struggle to make ends meet. This in a day and age when the sun never set on the British Empire and the conscience-less rich reaped its full benefits while their offspring sported themselves in the flapper period of the Twenties, flaunting their wealth in their idiotic antics at nightclubs and royal debuts at a time when millions were unemployed and their children went hungry. It did not need a Karl Marx or a Lenin to tell the intelligent workers that the only way they could improve their loss was by unrelenting struggle against the boss class as is unfortunately still the case today.

One such intelligent worker was my uncle Hugh and from an early age I was fascinated with his stories of organised working lass protest, strikes, lock-outs, rent protests, fights against the hated “Means Test” which determined meagre “Parish money” an unemployed worker received, and who first handed me the Communist “Daily Worker”, but this was in the future for it is important that workers realise in detail what life was like when Tories reigned supreme. There was as now, a supine Labour Party and cowardly Trade Union leaders never more demonstrated than in the General Strike of 1926. An apex of workers resolved to bring about real change, in which the much vaunted Winston Churchill used every reactionary method to crush it and finally succeeded not by the workers crumbling but by the base betrayal of the leaders of the “Triple Alliance” of railwaymen, miners and transport, exemplified in the person of J.H. Thomas. The strike lasted barely a fortnight but in that time thousands of workers showed the kind of determination that, had they been better served, would have led to a shattering victory over their exploiters.

My only memory of it was the excitement of my farther and other grown ups talking endlessly of their hopes and dreams. Even at that early age of five, I realised that something had happened which was different from our usual routine but as is the way of the very young I became rapidly bored by the concerns of the adults and immersed myself in my own childish pursuits and the thoughts of entering school.

School was a new world entirely. Strict and disciplined with strange alien people called teachers. I never did liken them to any of the ordinary adults that surrounded me in my normal life and never particularly liked school. I was so often punished for “dreaming: that I accepted this punishment as just another unpleasant fact of life for us kids.

I was left-handed and was speedily forced to start writing with my right. Perhaps they did me a favour for I became ambidextrous although I don’t think the possible consequence of their action bothered them in the slightest.

They must have done some good for by the age of sever or eight, I could read fairly well and discovered my first love – books. I couldn’t get enough of them and boys’ magazines like the “Wizard”, “Hotspur” and “Rover”. Then I discovered the Public Library. It was like a treasure trove, “Grimms Fairy Tales”, Hans Christian Anderson, “A Thousand and One Nights”, and so many others. I was insatiable and some of my fondest hours were spent in the wonderland of Springburn Public Library graduating from the ore childish books of my early love to, (by the age of thirteen or fourteen), the horror of reading about the First World War and its grisly character and a growing interest, still vague, of hose these catastrophes occurred.

It may sound absurd but at no time did I connect the wonderful books I read in the library with the dull little textbooks we had at school.

School was a chore to be endured and survived as best one could. Even when I received a second prize in the eleven qualifying class, I thought I was being called out to be punished. The prize in any case meant nothing. Nobody in our house bothered about education other than the compulsory aspect of it, not because of disinterest in their children but rather that all energies were taken up by the elemental necessity of finding the means to feed and clothe us.

A terrible blow struck our family when I was ten. My father left us, never to return. He went off with another woman.

I’ll never forget that morning when I woke and found my mother dazedly reading a note and crying brokenly. He had left seventeen pounds, but no amount of money could compensate for the grief he left in his trail. My elder sister, Cissie, was particularly shattered for she had been his favourite. Apart from emotion, what it really meant was that my mother was left with the sole responsibility of bringing up four children, Cissie, Betty, me, and Duncan my young brother who was only four.

The fact that my mother coped during those dreadful days of the Thirties depression, is a tremendous tribute to her iron-strong determination and courage.

My father to some extent was a victim of those times. A great socialiser and singer, his work-life had consisted of a medley of odd jobs ranging from bookies’ ruiner, to showman to general labourer. Maybe somewhere along the line he decided to snatch whatever pleasure he found, in whatever manner he could.

To me he had always been indifferent and possibly the only real time I arrested his attention was when I woke up one night to find him and my mother quarrelling after one of his parties. Just out of sleep, I thought he was hitting my mother and threw a small vase at him. It struck him on his waistcoat pocket and shattered his pocket watch, his prized possession. The quarrelling abruptly stopped and he bitterly commented “What a bloody son.”

Not long after he left, he realised his mistake and wrote from Liverpool a letter pleading to be taken back. My mother never faltered. For her, he had burned his boats and would never be back. We learned later he sailed for Canada from Liverpool. He wrote some further letters to Cissie but these too ceased and the chapter was closed. We were without a father.

Life was not all grim and we used to look forward to those marvellous Saturday pictures, the “Penny Rush” in the old Wellfield Cinema. For a single penny of the old pound we could enjoy a two and a half hour programme of the main feature, a second “B” film of equal length, a cartoon and my favourite, the serial “The Mystery Rider” depicting courageous masked riders with great flowing capes. When everybody poured out after the show, the boys whooped up the road raucously singing “We are the Mystery Riders”.

The unemployed workers who used to congregate at the top of Croftbank Street at the corner were another source of interest and fun. It was great listening to their stories and jokes for although their lot was hard, they had a great sense of humour. The really great treat was when they allowed us to accompany them to an old quarry whose waters they used as a swimming pool. The unemployed were heroes to us. In any case there were so few men employed in the street as to be non-existent.

Great excitement reigned at the particular period of the hunger marches when, at the junction at Wellfield Street and Croftbank Street, unemployed men lined up under the leadership of a tall powerful looking man. This was Peter Kerrigan of the Communist Party.

The Communist Party was very much a part of the scene in the early Thirties. Many’s the time we kids raced after their flute band, enjoying their tunes and admiring their smart red-striped trousers and fluttering red flag. I first heard “Rowan Tree” from that band and have liked it ever since.

I didn’t understand what they stood for and was not too interested but they seemed a very vigorous lot. To a twelve year old that was excitement but it didn’t match the excitement I got from reading. Still, the early seeds of political awareness were nevertheless being sown mainly by my uncle Hugh and a friend of my mother, John Conway.

John Conway was quite a character and became the man I admired most in my young days. Over six feet in height, this handsome Irishman was like a God to me. He used to take me to the old Paramount (now the Odeon) in the centre of Renfield Street and when the show was finished and people stood for the National Anthem (which was the custom at the time) big Johnny would stride majestically out of the hall with me proudly following on. He helped our family as much as he could even to the extent, when I injured my leg at football, of taking me regularly to Yorkhill Hospital for treatment.

On one occasion he showed me pictures of his relatives but these were not the usual benign domestic pictures. They were of men draped with cartridge belts and armed with Lee Enfield rifles. They were an early I.R.A. unit. Johnny regaled me with their exploits and their fight for a united Ireland and their memories of what the hated British “Black and Tans” had done to their forebears. Johnny finally left the area for somewhere in England and the connection was broken. To me, he was a fine man of principle and courage with a fervent passion to see a united Ireland, a view which I share to this day, though the way in which religion has bedevilled this issue does not make for easy solutions.

Religious dogmas, whether of the Roman Catholic or Protestant variety have always amazed me with their reprehensible bigotry. All claiming salvation from on high but mendaciously manoeuvring ceaselessly for the high ground for their ossified establishments. The only thing I ever knew them to be united on was their common hatred of Communists, Left Socialists or fort hat matter anybody with enlightened thoughts. Frankly I think The Carpenter would be horrified to observe the antics of those who say they act in His name.

The curse of my early days was the “Bill or a Dan” syndrome. Every now and again you would be accosted by a group of mindless young yobs who would demand to know your allegiance. It didn’t seem to matter what you said, you still got roughed up. Fortunately, I was a fairly strong lad and gave as good as I got but it left me with a permanent distaste for that kind of religious expression.

Not that I was irreligious for my mother had insisted that we should go to Sunday School and the Band of Hope and I did so faithfully and regularly until I was unable to attend because of a severe bout of bronchitis which lasted several weeks. Near the end of this illness, my heart jumped for joy when I was visited by my Sunday School teacher, but it was quickly calmed when I realised that the only reason for his visit was to see if I was playing truant!

I don’t suppose that man ever realised the faith and devotion he shattered. I lay there feeling numb that I had been regarded so lightly and stared at his heavily veined hands that seemed to symbolise somehow the insensitivity of his mind. My religious fervour petered away, though I was still seeking so many answers to life’s complexities. So it was with genuine delight I read, several years later, Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. Its careful scientific research and reasoning greatly appealed to me. A great milestone in my personal development.

In those days nearly every street had a gang of some sort or other and Croftbank Street was no exception. These gangs were comparatively harmless and consisted mainly of chasing rival street groups back to their own “territory”. It was very enjoyable and filled the need for some form of adventure in an otherwise boring existence. Little physical damage was ever inflicted but occasionally it became tense. Weapons were usually small street stones and our local rivals were mainly a group from Reidhouse Street which faced us across a piece of wasteland, in the middle of which, incongruously, was a small homestead. In the battle that swayed backwards and forwards, that homestead was a favourite mid-way refuge if you were chased by the rival gang. What elation was felt, what at odd times we managed to chase them up and down their own tenement closes!

It was more a question of chases than anything vicious, unlike some of their present day counterparts, with their use of lethal weapons.

The first time we ever saw a display of such weapons was when we encountered a gang know as the “Cowlair Swifts” who were located in Cowlairs Road, a fair distance from our street. That was a memorable day. One of our gang came racing up the street and gasped out “The Swifts are coming”. Except for their name, we knew nothing of their tactics and assumed they were a gang like ourselves, chasing each other with stones.

What a shock it was when they hove into view. They were flashing bayonets! Never did a gang of callow youths disperse so quickly. We left the field wide open to them. They did a swaggering, bravado parade in front of the houses and then departed.

These incidents were relatively few but nearly always the basic cause was the almost total lack of decent amenities and facilities of any imaginative type to accommodate the lust for adventure and excitement that most young people crave.

That situation has remained relatively unchanged in the intervening years.

In there adventures girls figured little, as most of the boys viewed them with some suspicion as nuisances and pushy people. It’s just as well for the procreation of the human race that biological urges overcome our early prejudices.

In observing children nowadays with, in general, their good clothing and plentiful supply of bikes and hi-tech toys, I often reflect on our lot in those distant day of the Thirties. The norm among the poor kids was parish clothes and barefoot summer days.

The parish clothes were abominable. Coarse heavy short trousers, blue pullover with a red stripe, scratchy socks, similarly striped, rounded off with a pair of heavy boots. I hated them. They shouted to the world the poverty of your family.

After my father left, my mother was forced to dress us in these gruesome clothes issued by the authorities to the impoverished and it was in these clothes I attended Albert Senior Secondary School and stood out like a sore thumb among the other children, most of whom wore the smart school uniform, and as is often the case with children, taunted the less fortunate like myself.

Physical assertiveness remedied most of these taunts but the sense of humiliation burnt deep and left me with a lifelong dislike for school uniforms.

Mr primary school marks had been good enough to qualify for the senior echelon of the school and the learning of foreign languages but knowing no better, I opted for the practical manual classes at a lower level. Only in later years, in the army, did I find out that I had a flair for quickly understanding languages but the basic groundwork was sadly missing. Poverty and lack of skillful guidance in one’s early years can have seriously stunting results.

Not that that bothered me at the time. Our family circumstances were such that my over-riding ambition was to leave school as quickly as possible to try to augment the meagre income available to my mother.

When I finally left at fourteen, I did so without a single regret. School days for me were a painful experience both physically and mentally and ever since I have had a feeling of sympathy for troublesome pupils and exercised that sympathy in my time as a teacher. Such pupils are more often sinned against than sinners. In comparison, I was amazed when my wife Isabel, spoke of her schooldays in East and West Calder in the Lothians. Top of her class and a high flier, her experiences seemed almost idyllic and for her school days were a happy time. Perhaps the difference in experience was and is the grimness of life in Glasgow, particularly for people at the bottom of the social scale, compared with those who enjoy the more amenable lifestyle of the rural areas.

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One Great Vision: Introduction

In Lessons,Life on July 24, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , ,

THIS IS THE INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST PART OF MY UNCLE KENNY’s BOOK CALLED ONE GREAT VISION: See https://kiltforhire.com/2011/07/24/uncle-kenny/

Introduction

It is just over two years, at time of writing, March 1994, that the red flag was lowered over the Kremlin wall and replaced by the Russian national flag.

With the lowering of that flag, which represented, for decades, to tens of thousands of working class activists the world over, the hope of a better world, so also were lowered the hopes of a working class state of a new kind where capitalism would be wiped from the face of the earth and a new kind of order would take place and the mass of people would come into their own.

How did it happen and where was the searching analysis of the Communist Party to explain it? From that same Party which challenged everything and every event I n order to indicate “the line” to be followed, there has been nothing but a deafening silence and it is not good enough.

This book tries to tackle through the eyes of a worker, the developing signs of decay and degeneration of a great vision, through the ruinous subservience to “the hegemony of the Soviet Party.” It does not attempt to cover in minute detail all of the events referred to in the time span covered, but to give a flavour of the way in which these events affected my generation and myself.

We have nothing to be ashamed of. We tried and tried mightily and achieved much, through Trade Unions and social and political struggle, in so many fields.

It is customary today, to attempt to dismiss our efforts as misguided and simplistic as a result of the Soviet revelations of an appalling degenerate state, masquerading as socialist.

They are not the first nor will they be the last to use the word “socialist” while conducting entirely opposite policies. (There are plenty examples of that in Britain, never mind elsewhere); but as Russia and its neighbouring states descend into a morass of civil conflicts, Mafia-style rule, and capitalist “carpet-baggers”, does anyone seriously believe that this is the way forward?

Whatever the shortcomings of this book may prove to be, I hope, at least, it will find a small niche somewhere as an expression of those workers who fought such a good fight on behalf of their class, and perhaps they or their descendants will yet establish a more amenable society than that which we have at present.

Kenny McLachlan

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Uncle Kenny

In Friends,Lessons,Life on July 24, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Life just took hold of me and thanks to work and moving apartments and a whole bunch of other stuff I have been sadly missing from this blog.

Today though I felt like I really need to put some words down on screen.

I want to talk about my Uncle Kenny McLachlan. Along with my parents he is the person who has inspired me the most to be who I am.

He died a number of years ago not long after his wife. He died of a broken heart. Every time I saw him look at my Auntie Isabel it was as if he was seeing her for the first time. The pair of them were amazing and I know how much it hurt him when she got Alzheimer’s – seeing the brightest spark dull is something no one should ever see.

Add on top of that the death of his son, my cousin, Kenny from cancer, and you have a lot of heartache. He treated me like a second son always telling me stories, making me laugh and being simply awesome.

He helped instill a lot of values inside me. He taught me to be good to others and to always do the right thing. He taught me to stand up and fight for what you believe and to ‘never let them get you’.

He told me a million and one wonderful stories from his time in World War 2 as a paratrooper to his battle with the Unions against the tyranny of Margaret Thatcher in 80s Britain.

He beat cancer when his wife was still alive but when she passed away he had no one left to fight for and died. There were over 500 people at his funeral. Family, friends, comrades.

I read a poem at his funeral about how we never lose people as long as we remember them.

He went one better and wrote a book before his death. I have it and I want to share it with you so over the next few weeks I’m going to post the whole thing.

Oh and one last thing. He was a communist. Not an Animal Farm style communist but a real one. He believe that everyone was equal and that people should be good to each other, look out for one another and all work towards the common goal of a better planet.

It’s called One Great Vision: Memoirs of a Glasgow Worker