Friday, 24 April 2015

Not everyone who went to Eton College and Westminster School got it wrong

Not everyone who went to Eton College and Westminster School got things so disastrously wrong in the way that our prime minister, David Cameron, who attended the former, and our deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, who attended the latter, have done. In the field of political thought and public action there have been a few notable exceptions. Eton had George Orwell and has Justin Welby. Westminster had Tony Benn.

These institutions have fostered exceptionally creative figures in other fields, including from Westminster, Ben Jonson, John Locke, Henry Purcell, Charles Wesley, Henry Tizard and Peter Brook, and from Eton, Henry Fielding, John Strachey and Humphrey Lyttelton. However apart from those exceptional exemplars and the others mentioned earlier it is accurate to suggest that over centuries both these ancient institutions have produced rather seedy public and political figures. This is not to condemn the children who are sent to these places. Children attending such schools are not volunteers. They are put there to meet and fulfil the needs and desires of their parents, not their own.

What is being censured here is that schools like Eton and Westminster exist to perpetuate, generation to generation, the undue wealth and power of a small minority. If this is the case, the cruel paradox is that Cameron and Clegg can be understood - if only by this self-privileging few  -  to be getting it right.



Monday, 20 April 2015

Eh, that'll be right, hing aboot.




As I move inexorably towards my departure date I worry more and more about my growing intolerance. My hope was that I would become wise and therefore serene. As it turns out both have eluded me. On the contrary there seems to be nothing left that does not have the potential to get on my goat. Among these are words and phrases which when first bandied around are, to an extent, novel, but become used with such profligacy that hearing them makes me wish I was on a desert island free from the noisy world of social intercourse. Well..er...I guess I would for the most part exclude my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my other relatives, friends, the people I work with, Dundee FC football players and the Beast of Bolsover from the sanction of banishment from my desert island but I doubt any of them would be attracted to its vituperative verbal climate. Nonetheless, I would like to assure them that on the whole I like their noise.

Returning to the noise of phrases and words that over time have tested my limited tolerance and ignited my primal scream, I would include among many, many more   :

1. "It's all gone pear shaped." Fortunately this has almost faded from the general scene.

2." I love him/her to bits.." These words are usually followed by the word "but" and  some derogatory statement about the him/her under consideration.

3 ."As I said at Top of the show" used by people on the wireless trying to seem radio savvy when they should actually be saying, "At the beginning of the programme."

4. "Back in the day." This has come upon the scene in the last year or so. What does it mean ?  It seems to imply that I have grown from boy to man since this morning when in fact I was last a boy in the late 1950s.  OK, OK, I hear you, that last statement is deserving of further scrutiny.

5a.  "The truth hurts."
5b  "I had to be cruel to be kind."  These last two are attempts to rationalise being downright rude to someone.

6. I am consumed with guilt and self-loathing every time I hear of the virtuous " hard working British family" so favoured by our politicians these days. I have been witness to the hard work of all the other members of my family but I fear that I have let them down for I have on a number of occasions been known to slack and my absence from the fields of labour has been noticed. I suspect many of my family are upset that I have denied them the right to be included in this new appellation controlée sanctioned by our political masters.

7. "Cool."  The ubiquity of this word is driving me up the wall. Everything is not "cool".  I would ask whoever it is I'm trying to get at here to use some imagination and find a new word, or if need be, use old ones like "good", "nice","fine" or best of all "fine and dandy."

8. "Buddy" I cringe when someone calls me "Buddy." It's what some Americans call each other but I'm not American. I am not anybuddy's "buddy." You can call me "mate" if you like or if we meet in a Scottish city you may call me "pal," but not Buddy.  Buddy Holly is the only "Buddy" who has real significance for me.




Pals, mates, or buddies ?

The title of one of Buddy Holly's songs That'll be the Day  tells of something to be wished for that is never going to happen. It reminds me of a couple of phrases that the Teddy Boys standing outside of Frankie Davie's Cafe in Lochee would use in the mid-1950s when they were rebutting an unlikely boast from one of their convocation.  Such a declaration might be "Meh uncle kens the manager doon at the Palais and he's getting' me free entry tae the dancin' there fir a year." The response to this would be one or both of the following. "Eh, That'll be right" or "Hing aboot".

As a wee primary school laddie I was in awe of all the oft repeated philosophic patter of these demi-gods in their velvet collared drape jackets, drainpipe breeks, crepe soled suede brogues and DA haircuts.  Oh! please maybe I will be like them one day.

Och ! but that was back in the day buddy.