12 December 2010

♫ Its Beaker's midwinter ♫

In the latest in my ongoing series of sepulchral poems, today this delightfully festive icicle-evoking hymn, composed by Christina Rossetti on the occasion of former SNP Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson's disappearance in a political snowdrift. Happily, Jack Frost seems to have been kindly to me this Friday and I successfully navigated my way north back up to Scotland without delay or incident. Above, (left) you can see an artist's impression of my great traipse from the balmy English lowlands to the parched-drowned white-capped girning landscape of fair Scotia, mounted atop my faithful bovine retainer, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. After gulping down a peaty slurp of Laphroaig and flinging a warming clod on the fire, I turned my attention to affairs of the day and the frozen oblivion to which Stevenson has been consigned. Conjured up from a cloud of smoke like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the good dame Rossetti began to sing the following verse. As luck would have it, I had a pencil to hand and managed to scribble her words down before she exploded in a shower of ectoplasmic shards. If you are keen to sing along, do play the melodic-melancholic version included below, which I think captures Stevenson's undoubted sense of professional bereavement and the lasting paranoia which this Winter's Tale will leave him with. As a certain English playwright once put it, "A sad tale's best for winter. I have one of sprites and goblins..." 

Its Beaker's Midwinter
~ Christina Rossetti

♫ “Its Beaker's midwinter,” frosty Gray made moan,
“Weather Himalayan!” cried Bella like a crone;
“Snow has fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
Its Beaker's midwinter,” said I had to go. ♫

♫ Oor Eck, they cannot gub Him, my career sustains;
Tavish he shall flee away, no Snow Court arraign.
"Its a freak midwinter”, that stable place sufficed.
The Maximum Eck Almighty, save me from the ice! ♫

♫ Not enough for Gray bonce and his wintr'y mass.
Stevenson's a donkey, an incomp'tent ass
Striving some hay to make, hoot "turn him into glue";
"Its Beaker's midwinter! We blame the snaw on you".♫

♫ Lorries and commuters may have gathered there,
Snowflakes and blizzards may have thronged the air;
But I tried my hardest, slipped arse o'er tit,
Live in fear of snowmen, dread their frozen kiss.♫

♫ What can I give Eck, poor as I am?
If I was a muppet, t'was just a little jam!
If voters were much wiser, they'd travel just by yak;
But I'll send my resignation, before I get the sack.♫


  1. Laphroaig?

    Did you tipple on TCP in you youth?

    At least is not Buckie; that caffeine is deadly, ye ken?

  2. I am a peat worrier after all, Bugger, and thus predictably enough a friend to iodine-soaked Islay single malts. I've never even sipped the thirst-quencher that is Buckfast Abbey's tonic whatnot. I very much look forward to yours Newsnet "tasting notes" on the stuff!

  3. I used to have a connection with Buckfast and Eldorado, a long time ago and know quite a wee but about them.

    I then, when Buckie was confined to Coatbridge etc, and Eldorado was in the province of the Tail of the Bank, used to think that the religious connection was very important but the taste was equally so. The taste I would as being Coca Cola'ish and a perfect harmonious evolutionary step from pimply adolescence to exploratory obliteration.

    We called it Coatbrig open air central heating.

    Incidentally the Islay and Sky malts are very highly prized in Japan, just because they are so unique and very expensive.

    You seem to like you swally sensorially challenging.

    Try a Highland Park this N'erday

  4. Bugger.
    I was tempted this afternoon to disregard my allegiance to The Macallan and drink Highland Park as it was the "Malt of the Month" offer in my local.

    And it wiz Guid.

    I think Laphroaig is like chilli, your tastebuds say WTF? but then after a while, they then say "more".

  5. Conan, in my humble opinion Highland Park is equally as good as Macallan, but different.

    If you like Laphroaig, your wife, or girlfriend, must be a nurse or a mortician.

    Own up, which is it?

  6. Unfortunately my local down in the drear South boasts no monthly malt, Conan.

    I'll be sure to look out for Highland Park while I'm in the Hyperborean north.

    As Bugger puts it, I do like being slapped about the face by turps, seaweed, saltiness and a vast explosive puff of peatsmoke. Unusual, but palatable.

  7. I am not happy about this, as I rate Stewart Stevenson as a Transport Minister - I used to see him on the train, on his lonesome, no flunkeys, doing his papers - and as a human being. Today, at least he can comfort himself with the thought that he is still a decent human being whereas his detractors, who were so palpably eager for someone actually to die for them to pin it on him, are not. Still, it cannot be denied that our transport network let us down rather badly last week. I hope the Government now applies the boot as firmly to the providers' fat backsides as the contracts allow! Oh, and I'm partial to Laphroaig masel. And my wife isn't a nurse or a mortician, but the daughter of a Gaelic-speaking Ileach, so that's all right!

  8. Am Firrin, as you may know I do not live in Scotland but have strong connections with Scandinavia and France where I live.

    The weather across Europe was like that in Scotland and many major cities suffered the same fate as Glasgow / Edinburgh.

    Helsinki for one, with all their preparedness and Paris. People were stranded on the Paris autoroutes for 24 hours and many abandoned their cars.

    I think SS's problems were presentational and lack of being seen to do something.

    He should have been pro-active and at the centre of things, especially for the MSM. Not only would that have defused the situation afterwards but would have earned him and the SNP lots of Brownie Points. I would have had the MSM TV crews and reporters with me during this period.

    I am not a politician but, if I had been in charge of a large distillery I would have set up a camp bed in my office and worked away controlling the situation. That way I would never have been accused of being lost. It might have made no difference but, it would have made more believable my statements made afterwards

    Lessons were learned
    We WILL do better next time

    Heck The Tartan Overlord would have had to give a gong, the Scottish Order of the Takeaway Curry or something.

    In case you think I was being wide after the event I have commissioned plant, equipment and whole distilleries having had to live in the places for up to 5 days at a time.

    SS had just not mastered his brief.

    He was out of his depthe

  9. The Grand Order of the Popadom Rampant...

    Its fluttering pennants an inspiring, mouth-watering sight.

  10. Bugger I think you are making a fundamental mistake in thinking that Stewart Stevenson had not mastered his brief. His brief did not include whether or not to open or close motorways. That is a police decision - the transport minister has no powers to influence that because it is an operational matter.

    Labour know this perfectly well.

    I saw SS on Newsnicht and he was indeed rubbish and had not been briefed particularly well - but that is because it is not actually his job to micro-manage the M8. He was probably too busy doing his actual job to take a couple of hours out to get briefed on a particular situation.

    As for the idea of setting up a camp bed - SS was certainly wearing the same clothes on Tuesday that he had worn on Monday so that would tend to indicate that he had not been home at any point.

    The lesson from this for me is how Americanised our politics has become - presentation is almost becoming more important than practice. It is a piece of nonsense that SS should have been hounded in the way that he was when the Arctic weather caused havoc all over Northern Europe, not just in Scotland. But let's face it he resigned because of a poor show on Newsnicht not because of any failing on his part as a minister.

    The SNP has two choices here as I see it - either they refuse to send ministers onto Newsnicht (which would be my preferred option) or they prioritise news management before governance.

  11. Ideologically, I find apologies and contrition of this sort deeply problematic. I've written about it a wee bit here. On your point Indy, no doubt institutional majorities and confidence issues played their part here - and a mitigation of injury inflicted on the Government by forcing a minister from office a serious consideration.

    "Its beyond my control..."