1 April 2015


Contrary to the shamefully misleading impression given by this morning's blog: (1) Lallands Peat Worrier is not dead; (2) I have not been transformed into a by turns cold-eyed and by turns sentimental devotee of our present Union; (3) Ruth Davidson has not hired me to be her dogsbody, factotum or generic legal henchperson. I remain an occasionally off message but essentially devoted old separatist peat worrier still. 

My wee hiatus is part labour, part inclination. Term and teaching is roiling to its busy conclusion with exam papers and essays and dissertation drafts accumulating. It is lovely work, enjoyable, engaging, gladly tiring. But to be entirely candid with you, I have also never much enjoyed blogging general elections. Even ones which went well. As a partisan, you feel the impulse to make yourself somehow useful, either by keeping your great gob shut, laying into your opponents, cheering your own infantry into battle or taking pot shots at their senior officers from afar. This is all in good fun, to some extent, for a while. We are not short of ammunition. The headlines and manifestos contain plenty to vex and to animate and contest, but I feel gripped by a sort of post indyref stasis. 

Against the pitter-patter of spring rain, I can make out the background babble: the broadcasts and the interviews; the coalition arithmetic and its petty personalities; disciplined insincere speeches and honest indiscretions quickly disavowed; the relentless messaging and framing, the ghastly repetition, "a strong economy," "social justice," the ghastly repetition; "Vote SNP get Labour", "Vote SNP get the Tories"; the nonsense and the flesh pressing, wet handshakes, hollow laughter and terrified smiles; the relentless, daily polling and blethering about polling and speculation on the impact of polling on blethering, and the polling on the impact of the blethering about the polling on the polling. 

In response to all of this breath and ink, all of this opinion giving and criticising and speculating - I catch myself unlistening, decided, uninterested. I feel ratty, ungenerous, unprovoked and unstimulated. A sort of cantankerous stasis, somehow. And the talking heads witter on cluelessly. Twitter churns. Our broadcasters pretend that each day must be a bringer of great new things. Of tidings, new strategies, savvy interventions. And the concrete, trudging realities defy all efforts to bleach their greyness from them. 

The relentless polls burst little, like whizzpoppers, to keep you from nodding off. They sting, slightly, but their temporary victims soon forget the pleasures and the pains of momentarily being a few pips ahead of their chosen foes but within the margin of error. Nobody has a clue and is reduced to earnest, disconnected fakery and bubble talk. Today a stricken Mr Cameron reels from the pressure. Tomorrow Mr Miliband blunders, and is eaten alive over some trifle most folk will overlook. And the spring rain falls. And I have essays to mark. 


  1. Speaking as someone whose energy and vitalism for the cause dims in comparison to the newly converted these days, I think I get where you are coming from. Quite apart from my own post-indyref segueway into my scholarly pursuits - having devoted quite a few thwarted neurons over the previous few years on my longtime political ambition - I can genuinely appreciate why one such as yourself would be wrung dry by the cynicism of it all.

    It's hard also for me to contemplate the Scottish political landscape and feel much but revulsion. Where once I believed the forces of Unionism might be brought around by the stellar heat of the pro-independence arguments, so that we might actually strive to build a better nation based on dialogue and shared ideas, now I recoil from the retrenchment and essentialisation of much Unionist politicking. The craven, crusted, crooked face beneath the British Imperial Mask will not stop invading my political dreams, and while I regard it as as much an enemy worth slaying as it ever was, I reserve the right to be exhausted from years of fighting it.

    Perhaps I'm misreading you, but at the very least your loquaciousness here helped me clarify some of my own thoughts on the matter.

  2. "the relentless, daily polling and blethering about polling and speculation on the impact of polling on blethering, and the polling on the impact of the blethering about the polling on the polling."

    You obviously forgot about bloggers blogging about the relentless, daily polling and...

    Hic. Did I tell you I paid off my mortgage today? I think I may have wrote a poem about a poem I roted about it.

    And cricket and warm beer or something...

  3. Essays to mark - what nonsense! You surely have at least two weeks of extremely comfortable academic holiday over Easter. This is hardly in the proper revolutionary spirit.

    1. If you think academics truly have holidays you are dreaming. It is usually the very heaven to be free to read the literature such is the pressure of marking, and setting stuff to be marked hence and you are prevailed on to read dissertations or chapters thereof. I'm not even an academic any more but yesterday morning I read a dense, technical thesis chapter. On genome sequencing methods. I read it with attention, both text editor and with my science head fully engaged, weighing every statement for the unmet support citation, thought about the structure and the organisation, critiqued the data tables. Just one chapter of a Masters thesis, my youngest's in far New Zealand. But such is the wonder of modern communications that she can prevail on me to do duty. She will turn prevail on academics she has inveigled to read it. Then her thesis committee, in turn will read it. One of those committee read the last one while on holiday.

      There are many Diploma, Honours, Masters and PhD theses and chapters thereof to be read and marked and there are NEVER enough hours to do it in. There there are the grant applications to write, your colleagues to read and critique. The papers the journals send you to review, unasked, unpaid.

      Refereeing a paper is at least in your area of personal interest so can contain an element of pleasure. I assure you abstruse comparison of different genome assembly programs does not float my boat. Yet still I read.

  4. 'Prince, on their iron thrones they sit,
    Impassible to our despair,
    The dreadful Guardians of the Pit:
    And Mrs Roebeck will be there.'

    - Belloc

    NB - the reader may substitute politician/pundit of choice for 'Mrs Roebeck'. Nicola Sturgeon scans quite nicely for me, but of course others could be made to fit.

  5. I'm also bored stiff by this UK election. And I also have essays to mark. The real news is going unreported. GE must be times when the dark agents flutter.