31 December 2014

Have a very peaty New Year!

Admissible tipples include: Benriach, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, a fag and a jeroboam of Glayva - or the Big Peat. Alternatively, pop your artisanal hand-shaped "durty" burger in a blender along with its charcoal mayonnaise, blackened gherkins and scorched molasses relish -- and quaff with just a tincture of pineappleade and a liberal dusting of bisto granules.

Guaranteed to evoke sense-memories of the effluent pipe and the savour of the nicotine-clouded howff. As ever when worrying peat, approach with caution, exercise sound judgement, and always have an exit strategy. Think, What Would Tom Weir do? Either that, or chuck the lot and have a gin and tonic instead. The quinine keeps the fever at bay. Hogmanay essentials.

Although I've been largely mute this December - I think I caught my statutory #indyref slump late after the activities and diversions of September and October - 2014 has been a stimulating and sometimes difficult year. It was also one marked by kindness, struggles, setbacks, successes and happy accidents. A year like any other, I suppose.  Like many folk of my generation, I spent a chunk of 2014 wrestling with the frustrations of unemployment, hopes raised and dashed. Again and again. And repeat, sometimes seemingly ad infinitum.

Nature's blessed me with an essentially cheery disposition - but the chance to scribble here was a nourishing outlet during these tricky months, and helped to keep me sane and lift any flagging spirits. Many of you dug into your pockets to support my wee crowdfunder at the lee end of the summer, and I'm eternally grateful for your generosity and your contributions. Happily, I've now secured a more permanent means of keeping myself in stockings and gin -- a great relief -- but for me, the referendum campaign was backlit and coloured by a these personal challenges.

Although saddened by the outcome on the 19th of September, I was not surprised. This poll was always - arguably - a premature confrontation between Scottish Nationalism and its ambitions. If it has achieved one thing, it has planted the formerly crankish-seeming case for independence firmly in the mainstream of Scottish life. That has never happened before. Its roots won't be easily pried loose.

Taking a longer, generational perspective is also a source of some comfort. As I blogged about at the tail end of the summer, both my grandmother, and her father, believed in Scottish independence, and both went to their graves with their aspiration unrealised. Since the result, those I've found most stricken by it were those newer converts who thought victory was assured. Tough leathery old Nats, by contrast, seem to have greater reserves of fortitude to draw upon. For many who lived through the difficult days of the 1980s and 1990s, defeat, and not triumph, is the old friend and familiar. 2014 is etched in beside a rich and varied catalogues of Nationalist setbacks and false dawns. And what does the future hold? Who the hell knows.

At the moment, I find myself feeling a bit saturated by politics. Mired in it. Energy sapped. I'm sure I'll bounce back. The referendum has left us with a series of bad-tempered binaries in our public debate which I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with. Barely a day seems to pass at the moment without serious issues being hijacked, and their kernel of their importance overlooked in a wild and whirling exchange of words.

When the sickness of ebola, and the sudden, unexpected descent of tragedy in Glasgow, is analysed ungenerously through the cracked prism of the referendum and the political antipathies it has generated - I don't know what folk think they are achieving. Hatred rots the soul, and often as not, the brain too. I don't really want Scotland to have a thundering, charmless, unreflexive, unempathetic, and cartoonish civil war politics. We deserve better.

So for 2015, let's aspire, all of us, to emit little less heat, and a little more light. Many thanks for your attention and consideration these last twelve months. Have a grand, well-peated Hogmanay, one and all. Lang may your lums reek.


  1. I remember a colleague of mine commenting on Bell's whisky back in the eighties;

    ''Supermarket vodka rinsed through the dottle o' a reekin pipe''.

    Have a guid yin Andrew.

  2. All the best for 2025.
    I'll be mostly drinking black rum and a Guinness or two.

  3. Heretic that I am, I have never been a fan of scotch - a drink whose flavour only goes back to the 1920s and yankee casks, after all.

    However, I am keen to try the even more recent Scottish potato vodka and the Shetland gin of which wondrous things are spoken.

    All best to you and your regulars Andrew - I may not agree with much but I always learn.

    Stands Scotland where it did? The strongest case for a Yes vote in my view came from that subtle fox James Robertson, the suggestion that with Yes we would at last face up to who and what we are, as opposed to who and what we think we are.

    I am sure we can still get there with a No. Certainly one aspect of the Auld Scotland - the openly sectarianism hiring policies, to which pillars of Scottish life such as the STUC and the Kirk turned a blind eye to - has gone, and good riddance.

    Here's to 2015 - as Billy Connolly said of the Referendum. we will get the Scotland we deserve in May.

    1. Heresy though it might be, save for the odd beaker of Islay malt a year, I'm more of a gin man. On which topic - assuming you're talking about Blackwoods in your reference to Udal gins - I can confirm that it is the good stuff. Opinion on potato vodka, reserved.

  4. Always enjoy your musings, and your choice of malts is bang on!
    My current tipple is a cast strength Laphraoig.
    Slainth and a Guid new year to all.

  5. ...or as the big yin said,there in the rusty howff high above winter's coagulent Clyde as we huddled near to the steady roar of the acetylene flame, the aroma of woodbine curling high to meet the crying gulls..."Pass the Eldorado wee man,and a good new year to you and yours"

  6. Am a wee bit late but the Husband got a bottle of Lagavulin for his Christmas. This was meant to be his celebration bottle on the 19th September and we know what happened then. I am the Gin and Tonic fan, I do like Whisky but it just doesn't care for me much any more. I unfortunately finished the Bols Genever just before Christmas which I prefer neat.
    Hope the New Year will bring us all we desire.

  7. To my surprise, I found Laphroaig altogether too "flavoursome" this Hogmanay - reminded me of school plasticene, for some reason. Clynelish 14 year-old 46%, sold at half-price by an uninformed English supermarket, was much more acceptable.
    Heartily agree with your observation about seeing everything in the whole wild world in the context of the Referendum. We can be more grown-up than that.