16 May 2011

Bloggus interruptus...

"And lo, the contagion spread across the land (though the hardy worpressers, the plague diminished not, nor troubled). Each by each, blogs were laid low. Paralysis, the affliction brought on, paralysis then attenuation. Comments and posts, all likewise were devoured by its ravening hunger. Great was their lamentation, sorrow their blogfellow. Those who were spared its wroth praised unknown powers for their final deliverance."

The Less-Venerable Bede, from his account of the Great Blogger Plague of 2011...

Last week's vexing blogger outage coincided with a certain creative listlessness on my part.  The Peat Worrier's ink is frozen, his mental fibres knotted under his bargain-basement goathair peruke - and his quill held immobile in a sclerotic fin. He has even lapsed into the third person. It is frankly, concerning.  After an election result that exploded through Scotland's synapses, leaving little birds singing and stars blinding Nationalist opinion and leaving the blinking Unionist parties staggering - there is plenty that is worth saying. Enjoying a post-election pint with a defeated Labour activist, he noted that broad good cheer despite, I appeared to be approaching the idea of an SNP majority in Holyrood with a discernible sense of trepidation.

The young man in question was, I think, highly perceptive. Triumph has a terrible edginess, bearing its promise and its risks, particularly for folk who feel thirled to the dominating political outfit in question. Philosophy might have told us that responsibility is often as not a predicament as it is a pleasure, but abstract lessons are not always so easily learned, I find.  I am reasonably reconciled to my ideosyncratic tendencies, but suspect I'm not alone in the broadly pro-SNP camp, who feels the sense of promising danger about the election result.  The phrase is infelicitous, but I'm struggling more clearly to articulate my dominant sensation. Fear not. I haven't been imbibing the dregs of Labour election literature, nor am I in any respect trying to imply that Alex Salmond's re-election is in any respect a "danger" to any cove, covess or covelet. The idea of a hazard perhaps captures the sensation best, with its mixter-maxter combination of opportunity and danger - an apt formulation for the Maximum Eck himself, you might think, who notoriously scrutinises the world with the calculating gambler's eye. For those who know it, the dappled bothness of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry captures in broad strokes the notion I'm fumbling for.

Having argued that the SNP (and other nationalists) ought to be the cartographers of a new Scotland - finally the party has made landfall, with a hearty, hardy crew of lively mates.  The jaunty craft has weathered the storm of the election not only undamaged, but finds its crew significantly reinforced. With unexpected electoral gains, and unanticipated tribunes taking office, you generally have to brace yourself for entering unhappily into the losing poker-faced game of I'll see your numpty and raise you a numpty. Certainly, there are signs that Labour may not have its numpties to seek. One peaty source described one of their newly elected list MSPs as "a turnip". Having reviewed the credentials of the Nationalist cadets, however, I'm thoroughly encouraged. Certainly, there will be patches of questionable articulacy, but there is much in the biographies of the SNP's new recruits to be buoyed by.

The collegial rubbing of rinds may be encouraging - but these new and eager parliamentary auxiliaries hop off the good ship SNP in an intellectually-challenging tight-spot.  A jungle of independence detail no longer ominously haunts our horizons; it erupts at our very feet, trimmed of its existentially reassuring distance. It is not surprising - indeed it is entirely proper - that dissent about which star the political movement ought to navigate by finds a voice. Such disagreement is considerable - and is potentially productive. While the press is desperate to discipline disagreement, implying that any deviance from the Cap'n's canon represents disaster - this is a contemptible prospectus for thinking men and women and perhaps worse - is laughably bereft of intellectual humility. As the Burd suggests, when unpicking knotty questions, we want little of the tyranny of the captain, and much more of the credible self-reflection that is able to concede the obvious point, that life is difficult, problematic and untidy.

I'm not sure if our public sphere is quite prepared for such a bracingly honest approach, but if we allow ourselves to be tethered by the impatient and unworthy thesis that disagreement, complexity and nuance is a problem, we're fucked.


  1. Lallands, you could write about an Under-12s girls' hockey team in Bhutan and it would be the best thing anyone would read for a week.

  2. The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting

    Alas, there is a union pack
    That lives upon the Scotsman
    They exude fear and are not shy
    To mock and be insulting

  3. Gerard Manly Hopkins and Alex Salmond "a dappled bothness"....

    You're a man of imagination, I'll give you that, LPW: the one a spiritual wraith on a still dark evening, the other a blustering bully boy. Some bothness...

    Anyweys, you are right to be trepidatious. So many difficult decisions to be taken and nowhere to hide and no-one to blame.

    And a referendum not to be dodged this time....

    It's cauld oot there.....

  4. Hi Lallands,

    I concur with much of what you write. I was so tired after the efforts up to and including polling day that I had to go to bed before the first result was in. (Co-incidentally it was that of this very ancient and Royal Burgh and was disappointing in that despite our best efforts to unseat the incumbent he remains stubbornly in place all-be-it with a much reduced majority). When I wakened in the morning to meet projections of a "majority", my first reaction was "Oh f**k what have we done." and the fear that the very experience of having an overall majority might in itself be our undoing. (Remember the latter Major years.)

    Once the shock had been overcome, elation set in, which has still not subsided completely and I am now sure that we will approach the future with a sense of modesty and not with trepidation. We have a grave responsibility to our people whose interests have been so badly let down by those who preceded us and I am convinced we have the will and the talent to succeed. (You mentioned the quality of the new intake - not I think a PPE amongst them - real solid stock and that in addition to those already there.)

    Our greatest strength is that while we (mainly) work for the good of our people, our opponents (mainly) work for themselves and the Scots have come to see that.

    If I have any fear left at all, it is that we do not have any control of the media, but console myself with the thought that my fellow Scots seem increasingly able to ignore the lies and scares emanating from therein. That is not to ignore the great work done by people such as yourself and of course newsnetscotland.com.

    There is now everything to play for and the fact that we have been the underdogs for so long does not mean that we have to remain so. Such is also true of our nation.


  5. "Our greatest strength is that while we (mainly) work for the good of our people, our opponents (mainly) work for themselves "

    Is that we they call positive campaigning...???

  6. LPW
    Dinnae fret. What can go wrong?
    Hope your latest post doesn't suggest permanent hanging up of your blogging boots? Intellectual rigour plus low cunning and tactics is a heady mix.

  7. Everyone feels a bit of trepidation about what is to come. I don't think it is fear, it's more a realisation that this is it. It's the way tennis players must feel when they walk out onto the court for the Wimbledon final. It is daunting, of course it is. (And there's also the realisation for us activists that we may as well forget about having a life for the next four years cos it is just going to be non-stop campaigning).

    But I don't think you're going to have time to worry about whether all of our backench MSPs are top drawer quality you know, and neither are they! It will all start to happen very quickly after the FM is elected and the Scottish Government is in place.

  8. @Rob That there isn't a PPE amongst the new intake is because they tend to ignore the philosophy and economics parts and just do politics before becoming a researcher, perhaps a councillor perhaps not, and then an MSP.

    Not that there is anything wrong with PPE, but you appear to be under a misapprehension that the SNP is immune to the professionalisation of politics. It's not.

  9. The SNP despite the head and shoulderyness of its leader always emphasised their national broadside as a team effort. The 'opposition' will be Westminster based (was it ever not?)more than before with potential dissolution and reduced representation - never mind the prospective division of goods and services - so plenty there to concentrate minds and actions. It is the double-barrelled broadside of daily governance and Independence that will focus SNP minds - and there are more than before.

    I well recall arriving home with our first eagerly expected child without an instruction book and the dawning realisation that as parents we were on our own. We weren't absolved of our parental "disagreement, complexity and nuance" which over the years actually strengthened our family.

    I wont be alone by expecting "Bloggus Interruptus" returning to Bloggus Continuus ...

  10. Obliged for all the comments. Firstly...


    Kind sentiments! You may be relieved to hear, however, that I've no intention of turning my hand to sports reporting. Not my bag.


    I always thought you had a certain skald-like bearing.


    I admit, that sentence has more than a touch of Pseuds Corner about it.

    Rab, Aidan,

    We stayed up in the peaty household through the night, towards dawn. Sustained only by the odd sausage roll and a keg of small beer. For my part, I've nothing against PPE ("puttering and polite erudition").
    Nor indeed, do I object to "juveniles" either, particularly in a party with 69 members of parliament.

    Cruachan, Clarinda,

    Just a temporary blip! Plenty to sink one's gums into.