Slum Living In Glasgow: 1969-1971

More photos commissioned by the homeless charity, Shelter. This time they show life in the slums of the Scottish city of Glasgow, in relatively modern times. Once again, it is the total lack of hope in the faces of the people that affected me so much. They break my heart, and make me ashamed to be British.

This small boy is tough, and that can be seen in his face and his attitude. He is playing in the streets, unsupervised. 1969.

The view from a tenement window, 1970. Although this is a colour photograph, the surroundings are so drab, it appears to have been photoshopped.

A family living in one room, 1971.

A young mother and her baby living in awful conditions, 1971.

This young couple seem to have given up. 1970.

Another family in one room, 1971.

Tenement living in the Gorbals district, 1970.

This young schoolgirl appears to be in total despair. 1971.

Children playing in abandoned tenements, 1971.

This child was waiting for his parents to come home from work, 1971.

Two sisters share the only chair in their tenement flat. 1971.

This glum-looking family living in one room, 1971.

Unsupervised small children playing while their parents were at work, 1971.

What worries me most about these photos is that if our current right-wing government has its way, we will be seeing many similar images during 2023.

“Let them eat cake”.

Guest Post: Gavin Marriott On Scottish Independence

In 2014, Scotland was allowed to conduct a referendum to become an independent country. Over 55% of eligible voters chose to vote to stay in the United Kingdom. But the issue never went away, and the current leader of the devolved Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced another referendum, which will take place in October 2023. In this short guest post, Gavin considers the issues around the defence of both an independent Scotland, and the rest of Great Britain, should the vote be different next time.

Scottish independence and defence. Gavin Marriott

Due to an event during my time in the London Ambulance Service in the early 80s, I have a close association with a small part of the UK armed forces.
In 2014, I was their guest for the ceremonies for the beginning of the WW1 centenary in London and Belgium, and I did a trip around Scotland. I have Scottish blood in me. The bagpipes do something positive to my cardiovascular system.

But all this coincided with the Scottish independence vote, and I had to be careful raising discussion with arch rivals literally sitting either side of me. And there were times you could have cut the air above me with a blunt knife.

With Brexit and other events, the independence vote is on the agenda again. I will not discuss the pros nor cons or even contemplate a view. But in this discussion, I want to focus on an aspect ignored in the consequence of independence, and that is Defence.

It is more than a case of giving the Scots Guards to Scotland. Those guardsmen are mainly English or from the commonwealth anyway. Firstly, an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU & NATO. To not join either would be unthinkable. But joining would take years with criteria and hoops to meet – like having a 2% of GDP spend on its military.

The Scottish Parliament has made it abundantly clear, the Trident nuclear submarine base on the Clyde would leave Scotland. These are Britain’s major defence deterrent. There is nowhere else in Britain with the deep water to house theses subs and to shift them to America would have to be considered at a cost of multi billions and Scottish job losses.
The same with RAF Lossiemouth which has Britain’s entire maritime patrol and early warning aircraft stationed there. There are also British radar installations which would need moving.

So why are the subs, aircraft and radar based in Scotland? Because Scotland is closest to the threat of Russia (North Sea, Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic) and would be the first attacked. It is sparsely populated and would be easy pickings. Scotland is 32% of the UK landmass and has a coastline of over 10,000 miles. So its in Scotland’s favour for Britain to have these facilities in Scotland. It allows any threat to be spotted far away and intercepted in time (and Russia often tests this).
Scotland not having these assets would affect its NATO membership and Scotland not being part of NATO would leave it open to a Russian takeover. That would threaten England. So there could be more tension than football rivalry.

With major UK bases in Scotland and Scotland building warships, they gain a lot financially from UK’s combined military. Also what about the Scots that make up 15% of the UK military yet only have 8% of the UK population. What would there be for them in Scotland?

Look at a country with a similar population, New Zealand. We have no fighter aircraft, only 2 warships and only 2 regular infantry battalions. But we are in close cooperation with Australia and we do have 4 of the latest maritime patrol planes. Scotland would need more than 4 (The RAF have 9). Belgium and Netherlands now have a joint military squadron and the British and French aircraft carriers are compatible. Could Scotland be independent with an English or American military alliance. It would have to keep the subs for that.

So could Scotland go it alone??

Neolithic Europe And Beyond

The Neolithic period dates from 10,000 BC until 4,500 BC. It began 12,022 years ago, long before Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, or the Mayan and Aztec civilisations in the Americas. Given those dates, it is easy to imagine that you would find little trace of Neolithic settlements and buildings today. But nothing could be further from the truth, thanks to the work of archaeologists.

Stonehenge. One of the best-known examples of a stone temple, situated in the south-west of England.
It was built around 5,000 years ago, so is ‘Late Neolithic’.

A Dolmen, or burial tomb. This one is in Italy.

The oldest religious structure known so far. Built in 10,000 BC. It is in Anatolia, Turkey.

Temples on the Island of Malta. Over 6,000 years old, so older than the Pyramids in Egypt.

A farmstead on a Scottish Island. This is dated from 3,500 BC, so is 5,500 years old.

The entrance to a 5,000 year old burial tomb in Denmark. Forty bodies were found inside a huge mound.

Last but not least, the remains of the original walls of Jericho, in Palestine. They are estimated to be 12,000 years old.

MarySmith’sPlace ~ Writing under lockdown

Please read the full link, to see if this book is something you would like to buy. In years to come, it will be a fascinating history of a small part of Scotland during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. (Kindle version available too)

Mary Smith's Place

I’m excited to be a contributor in a new anthology which provides a unique record of life in my Galloway, my own wee part of Scotland, during the first 12 weeks of lockdown.

Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid brings together the work of 22 writers, each with a Galloway connection. It is a collection of prose and poetry, hopefulness, hopelessness, anger, humour and quiet endurance in which the writers tell the story of a community dealing with life in unprecedented times.

The idea behind the project came from author Margaret Elphinstone, when her writing classes could no longer meet. Inspired by the Mass Observation project which encouraged ordinary people to keep wartime diaries, she invited anyone interested to contribute – 22 of us did.

Margaret said: “In times of trouble people want to be together but with lockdown people had to isolate, sometimes…

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MarySmith’sPlace #Giant pylons will ruin iconic landscape

Please help Mary and the other campaigners, by sending an email of protest to the address shown in her post. You don’t have to live in Scotland to appreciate the scenery, or to want to visit as a tourist. Let’s try to stop another unnecessary blight on the landscape that makes bigger profits for electricity suppliers!

Mary Smith's Place

From time to time on this blog I have shared some of the glorious countryside we have here in Dumfries & Galloway in South West Scotland.

Unfortunately, a huge area of this is now at risk of being ruined by Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) which has put a planning application in to the Scottish Government to erect 118 giant pylons (up to 39 metres tall) from Glenlee, near New Galloway to Tongland in the south near Kirkcudbright.

Stroan Loch, courtesy PhilMcMenemy

The route goes over or close to iconic Galloway countryside including, the Queens Way (the road from New Galloway to Newton Stewart), Raiders Road, Stroan Loch and the Otter Pool. Laurieston Forest and the Kenick Burn will also be impacted, along with an avenue of beech trees by the burn’s picnic area. The route also goes over the C13 road from Laurieston to Gatehouse of Fleet, a road…

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The Kelpies – a grand day out

I am reblogging this post from Mary in my new series of ‘A Reblog Offer’

Mary Smith's Place

The DH and I enjoyed a grand day out last year when we decided to visit The Kelpies near Falkirk.

Created by sculptor Andy Scott, each one weighs over 300 tonnes and at 30 metres high, they are the world’s largest equine statues. They dominate the Helix, a fabulous park by the Forth and Clyde Canal. Apart from The Kelpies there is plenty to do with walks along the towpaths, play areas, a wetland boardwalk, eating places, visitor centre and shop – but it was the Kelpies we had come to see.

We were not disappointed. They are fabulous, absolutely stunning.

20170428_132416 Standing sentinel on the Forth & Clyde Canal

Kelpies are mythological water horses or spirits which can change their shape. They haunt rivers and streams. A kelpie can appear as a docile pony but as soon as anyone mounts it he or she is stuck and will be dragged…

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A Saturday Pandemic Report From Beetley

This is the first Saturday under the newly-relaxed rules. ‘Stay at home’ has been replaced by the confusing ‘Stay alert’.

We can now drive any distance for exercise.
Sit in a park, or on a beach, without moving.
Socialise with one person not from the same household.
Visit one family member we do not live with.
Go back to work if conditions are safe.
Golf clubs and tennis clubs are open again.
Some more shops, like garden centres, are open again.

This started in earnest last Tuesday, and I had already noticed a 100% increase in traffic from the previous week. It still wasn’t ‘normal’ traffic, but noticeably heavier. Yesterday, far more people were exercising on Hoe Rough, having driven there to do so. One person who stopped and spoke to me had driven four miles to get there, and had never been there previously. The regional news reported a huge number of people had driven to the beaches and beauty spots on the north Norfolk coast. By ‘huge number’, they meant a lot more than last week, but nowhere near a ‘normal’ amount of visitors.

Wales and Scotland have their own separate governments, and have been quick to disassociate themselves with the relaxed rules handed out by Boris Johnson. They don’t want anyone crossing borders for tourism, and intend to keep the previous lockdown rules in place for now. As both of those countries are a six-hour drive from Beetley, there was no danger of me flouting their regulations.

As I sit here, there is not much difference to notice. A few cars are driving past, probably off to the supermarkets. Otherwise, it is ‘Beetley-peaceful’, with not even a dog barking.

But the weather is warming up. By next week, we should be seeing summer-value temperatures.

I’m guessing that wil provoke more radical changes around here.

Guest Post: An American in Scotland

My current blogging slump has been saved by the receipt of a guest post. My great blogging friend and occasional collaborator, Cindy Bruchman, has sent me this delightful story about her time in the far north of Scotland. At the time, she was serving in the US Navy, and this was her experience of one of the really remote parts of the British Isles.

“I once lived four years in Scotland back in the early1980s. The US NAVY had a communication station about seven miles outside of Thurso on the cliff’s edge of the North Sea. When I arrived in February, it was dark, and ropes tied to the base buildings allowed me to cross the compound without blowing away. Seriously. The slapping of the waves upon the ancient rocks and the roar of the wind made it impossible for anyone to talk outdoors. The wind was a constant companion. At its best, it was breezy. At its worst, the rage would scoot my Mini across the road. I gave up trying to comb my hair. The wet assault on my ear drums contributed to my partial loss of hearing. I was nineteen and naïve and excited to be stationed in the UK. For the first three years, I was a petty officer (E4), sending and receiving messages to and from sub tenders. In the last year, I was a “dependent wife”. I gave birth to my first son there.
thurso-scotland-map-2-enlarged

At one point, we lived in a farmhouse on top of a cliff the Navy rented with one of the finest views on the planet. It overlooked Scrabster Harbor. To get to it, one had to drive up a lane and open and shut the fence gates. The sheep would surround your car and wander up to the front door. Sometimes the big male would charge at you. One clear day, I went for a hike, and I explored out past the barn to have a look at the lighthouse which pointed toward the Orkney Islands. I stumbled upon a lamb which had died; the image of the corpse is tattooed in my mind. Coming home in the dark, standing on the plateau by the cliff’s edge with the lights of Thurso sparkling below and the moon dipping in and out of the clouds, and that wind nudging you like a burly big brother, I felt my life was formidable and awesome. During the summer months, the sun was reluctant to set; at two in the morning, you could still see it, lazy on the horizon. Like the weather, my personal experiences contrasted. I buckled and failed. I soared and grew. I was living my own coming-of-age story within a setting of darkness and light and an explosion to the senses.

One of the interesting aspects about Thurso is that it’s the happening place if you like to surf. The water is freezing, and I think they are mad, but every year tourists ferry across from Sweden or the Netherlands, bringing their bicycles and tents and boards to surf.
thurso_from_the_hill_at_mountpleasant_-_geograph-org-uk_-_8869

We used to barter with the locals. We could get them tax-free liquor in exchange for North Sea salmon. After a mid-watch, we’d catch a taxi and frequent the Pentland Hotel, The Upper Deck, or The Central to have toasties with tomato and pints of lager for breakfast. Yum. Scotland is where I learned how to shoot darts.

It took me about six months to understand what on earth they were saying. The locals had a fun time teasing the Yanks by speaking their Gaelic. You knew they liked you when they finally spoke English. But even when they enunciated, it took a time to understand their brogue.

My Navy peers complained that the sun rarely came out, but I kept pinching myself to see if I were dreaming. When the sun shone, we flocked to the roofs and exposed our white-white skin. If you want the fizz of palm trees and lights and discos and urban variety, you would not like Thurso. But, if you appreciate ancient history, authentic people, the fizz that comes from the wind and waves of the coastline, you’d have a fine time. Don’t forget to bring your wellies and brollies. You’ll need them.”

My warmest thanks to Cindy for taking the time to write this, and to include her own images too. Her own site is an absolute treasure; full of great photos, literature, film reviews and articles, and her own interesting fiction too. Here’s a link. I suggest you scoot over and check it out now.
https://cindybruchman.com/

If anyone else would like to send me a guest post, they are always welcome. Please submit your idea to my email address, petejohnson50@yahoo.com

St George’s Day

Today is the 23rd April. That date may have little or no significance to most people, and will pass just like any other Saturday, with little or no fuss. But in England at least, it should count for something different. It is our National Day, though you would be forgiven for not knowing that fact.

Unlike Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, England does little to celebrate its patron saint, or the day named after him. More fuss is made of the fact that it is Shakespeare’s birthday, and the TV companies are pulling out all the stops to celebrate the works of the Bard of Avon. Nothing wrong with that of course, but how about poor old Saint George, and England as a separate nation?

If you were in Ireland (or almost anywhere else) on the 17th March, you could never be unaware that it is Saint Patrick’s Day. ‘The wearing of the green’, some crazy outfits, pubs and bars serving green beer, and many other celebrations, would all bring home the fact that Ireland’s saint’s Day is celebrated wherever the Irish have a connection.

On 1st March, if you were Welsh, you might well be wearing a leek, listening to the songs of Druids, or watching a male voice choir singing ‘Men of Harlech.’ One thing’s for sure, you would know that it was Saint David’s Day, and be proud of your Welsh heritage, and separate nationality within the UK. Later in the year, on the 30th of November, Scotland joins in, with Saint Andrew’s day. Scottish flags flying proudly, special meals, and kilts and bagpipes in evidence all over. And since 2006, it is a public holiday in Scotland too.

So what happened in England? Did we just stop caring, or has it all been forgotten? There are some parades, but they are small ones. Some buildings fly the red and white flag of Saint George, but most don’t bother. It is not a public holiday, and very few young people even know that it exists. There is a small website campaigning to get better recognition, but you would be hard pressed to find it mentioned in the mainstream media, let alone celebrated in style. In central London, Trafalgar Square hosts a gathering of Morris Dancers, and a promotion of English food, for the benefit of some bemused tourists to wonder what is going on. The Prime Minister has issued an official message from Downing Street, and a few people are wandering about dressed in the style of 12th century Crusaders.

But we are missing the opportunity to celebrate England as a country in its own right, long before the formation of the UK, or the current union with Scotland, and the six counties of Northern Ireland. I am not a nationalist by nature, but surely we owe it to future generations to make them aware of the culture and heritage of the country that makes up such a large part of the British Isles? Has this country become so diverse, or steeped in apathy, that such things no longer matter? I sincerely hope not.

Happy Saint George’s Day everyone, from good old England.

Significant Songs (85)

Say What You Want

In the late 1980s, I first became aware of a group from Scotland. They were called Texas, and had a soft-rock sound that I would not normally like at all. However, the lead vocalist had a voice that appealed to me a great deal, and I used to enjoy hearing them on the car radio. Not enough to buy any of their records perhaps, but pleasant enough for a few minutes.

I saw them appear on TV, and discovered that the singer was Sharleen Spiteri, a Glaswegian of Italian origin. The main force behind the band was Johnny McElhone, who had been in two bands I had previously liked very much, Altered Images, and Hipsway. Although I wasn’t over-keen on their output at the time, I could see a great deal of potential, and a good combination of talent. Over the next few years, they failed to make their mark, with occasional releases never setting the charts on fire, and receiving less and less airplay. I had more or less forgotten about them, until 1997.

Their fourth album was called ‘White On Blonde’. It went straight in at number one, and it was immediately obvious that the years of hard work had finally paid off for the group. No less than five hit singles were released off this album, and Texas became a household name overnight. The biggest hit, and still their largest seller to date, was the simple love song, ‘Say What You Want.’ I thought it was really good, with powerful vocals, and some very good guitar too. It has endured for me ever since, although the band went their separate ways, before recently re-forming. See what you think.