Saturday, October 31, 2009

Foulkes celebrates the Gaelic festival of Oidhche Shamhna

Rumours have it that Jambo peer George Foulkes has been seen traipsin the streets of Edinbugger with his auld pal Jack McConnell who in celebration of Oidhche Shamhna/ Halloween has dressed himself up as 'an ex Worst Minister'. Foulkes himself has been chappin doors, claiming to be a 'Socialist Lord', singing 'The Sash' and asking folk if he can have their nuts.

This comes on the same day that the Catholic Church has announced to the world that Halloween is 'Anti-Christian'. Foulkes and New Labour have responded with a press-release issued to them by their new Unionist allies, the Orange Order, in which they claim that the Pope himself is the 'Anti-Christ'. Elsewhere, ordinary people will ignore the nonsense of both the Vatican and Orange Order and celebrate this auld pagan Gaelic festival by having a laugh.

Oidhche Shamhna (Samhain's Eve) marked the end of summer and beginning of winter in the ancient Gaelic calendar. It was thought that at this time, the 'door' between our world and the world of the dead would be opened slightly, allowing for spirits and other creatures to sample the other side. This obviously was in pre-enlightenment days. However, science and reason have still to reach some quarters and i don't just mean the scaremongers, bigots and outright nutters of the Vatican and Orange Order who still peddle an altogether more sinister fantasy. We still have 'mystical Celts' who actually believe in sithichean, troichean, taibhsean, bocain, manaidhean, eich-uisge and other mythological supernatural beings from Gaelic tradition. These mystics and boolshitters are happy to use science in the form of the Internet to propagate their delusion and sales-pitches though funnily enough, few of them actually seem to be 'Celts' in the sense that they speak a Celtic tongue.

One such place is the 'Tir na nOg Holistic Centre' which despite being in Scotland, uses the Irish Gaelic for it's name. It is celebrating 'Samhain' (which simply means November to modern Gaels) with a firewalking session. Well-off mystics who possess more money than sense (and probably an accent that is more Cambridge than Carlabhagh) will have to part with £60 for the privilege though.

As they say... "A ceremonial fire will be lit and carefully tended as the group spends the evening in activities which will strengthen the sense of connection to ancestral lines, bring into focus the hopes and dreams waiting to be realised, and identify and break through fears or blocks standing in the way of those dreams. The evening’s main event, walking on red hot coals, will be a symbolic moment of incredible power - firewalking is a metaphor for all those moments in life when we have a choice..."

Curiously enough, traditional pagan sacrifice and blood-letting seems to have escaped transition into modern 'Celtic' celebrations.

Choice? Well, i certainly don't choose to be fleeced by charlatans whose idea of 'Celtic' is some mystical otherworld which probably never existed. And, if it did exist, there's probably a good reason why our ancestors stopped throwing rowan berries at water-horses - i.e. they eventually realised that such creatures don't fkn exist!

This all reminds me of Sharon MacDonald's excellent, 'Reimagining Culture', an academic study of a real Celtic community in Skye. In it, MacDonald talks of the White Settlers who came to northern Skye expecting to experience a Celtic paradise a la Tir nan Og. Instead, they found to their disgust crofters who drove tractors and shell-suited youths who spoke Gaelic amongst each other and laughed when the Settlers entered the local shop. Worse than that, the Celtic locals were so blinded by modern technology that they refused to share their knowledge of local fairies and keening at wakes.

So, this Oidhche Shamhna, the only spirits I'll be meeting will bear names like Ardbeg, Inchgower and Laphroaig.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Punk whisky tasting and loony politics

Oi Polloi's recent Autumnal jaunt to Deutschland on their 'Roctober' tour was a chance to indulge big time. However, the immersion into a life of loud punk rock, lots of good beer, irregular inputs of nutrition, daily autobahn travel and a lack of sleep left me a shadow of my former self. How can middle-aged men (well, 35 upwards) do this on a regular basis?

On the plus side, German beer is always an attraction. The trip through Edinburgh's duty-free is aye a chance to check out the whisky. Free samples were had of Balvenie Rum Cask - excellent stuff - and the Auchentoshan desk was surrounded by Polloi and their hangers-on. The Auch 18yo went down very well, and it wasn't even midday yet.

Once in Germany, talk turned to a bunch of loony anarchists who call themselves 'Anti-Deutsch' and who threaten to picket and disrupt any activities they deem to be 'anti-Semitic'. As this lot support Bush and Blair's war in Iraq, frown upon the speaking of German or Gaelic (even in their respective countries) as 'nationalist', and support Israeli phosphorous bombing of schools... they need a very wide net to catch all us 'anti-Semites'. Fortunately for us, this quasi-religious sect has very few hands with which to grab yon all-encompassing net and their activity was limited to grunts of dissaproval and calls for Anarcho-Semitic revolution from a colourless wee blog, written German. I guess their Hebrew aint up to much yet.

Interestingly, 'Semite' refers to the family of languages of the Palestinian region and included Arabic and Hebrew and gave birth to the subset of myths known as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. One language says 'shalom' and the other 'salaam'. How different can they be? Not much. But why let logic get in the way of good divisive blood-spilling mumbo-jumbo?

Meanwhile, England's very own bunch of loony politicos, the BNP, are apparently in turmoil after fat toff Griffin's pretty crap performance on Question Time. Griffin, despite being a twisted Tory bastard, is apparently the 'nice' face of this bunch of nazis. However, it seems that the 'not so nice' other face is gurning big time about their 'weak' leader. Is there a split on the horizon? Could be, especially when this hugely homophobic party start finding out that their overwhelmingly male membership aint actually that straight.

Worse than this though, at least on a personal level, was the earth-shaking and techno-esque (think of Joey Beltram and NJoi) snoring of Norman Silver. Worse even than the distribution - 'according to anarchist principles' - of a bottle of Queen Margot in Hamburg. It has to be said though that the punters enjoyed their Scottish windae-cleaner. Let's hope they get the chance to try the good stuff.

And, the 'good stuff' has to include Bunnahabhain's Darach Ur.

Slàinte mhath to a good night's sleep.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Old Etonian expense fiddlers aim for the bad auld days

Deja vu or what? Watching the parade of portly white Old Etonian multi-millionaires at the Tory conference took me back a few years though this time, things are a wee bit different. This time, the posh boys have been caught with their hands in the till. Yet, despite the expenses fiddle, the heirs to hereditary fortunes are telling us to tighten our belts and prepare for wage-freezes should they take power next year.

Anyone who can remember the unrest of the Miners' Strike and Poll Tax defiance knows what's in store.

Take one wee trip through Conservative blog world and through the likes of the Tax Payers' Alliance et al and you'll find numerous rabid Brit-Nat right-wingers, English nationalists, anti-Europe xenophobes and Tory libertarians frothing at the mouth about the need to end the NHS, smash the BBC, promote tax-cuts for the rich etc...

(Strangely though for 'Conservatives' who are anxious to defend 'traditional' Britain, they seem only too keen to stop support for indigenous British languages such as Gaelic and Welsh.)

Yet, as reported today, Tory MP Eleanor Laing has yet to repay £25k as trumpeted by rotund toff David Cameron. Several Tory and Labour MPs have agreed to 'step down' at the next election - however, this means that they will still be able to pocket their very generous pensions. It's worth remembering that many of these scroungers are also on the payrolls of various companies who reward them well for their 'work' as 'consultants' and directors. Compare this to the whinging of both Tory and Labour about dole scroungers.

The Tories too seem set to continue Labour's fashion for promoting unelected friends to positions of power via the House of Lords. It is amazing that this lot are anywhere near power in the year 2009. Ok, so they may have one or two token blecks popping up amongst the jowelly white fizzogs and one or two horse-faced ladies given a temporary reprieve from maintaining family values in the home but it's a sad reflection on Labour rule that a bunch of Victorian-value junkies are within a bawhair of power.

The only fear is that the English will turn to neo-fascist heidbangers like UKIP and the BNP in protest instead of more reasonable alternatives such as the Greens. Fortunately, Scotland still shows every sign of putting a more progressive foot forward by increasing the vote of the SNP. But, will it be enough to sever the ties between us and the backward, corrupt and increasingly unnecessary Westminster parliament?

Credit: the above photo was kindly donated to Tocasaid by the Daily Mail (still reeling from the Twitter campaign to subvert their racist poll), who also pointed out that David Cameron and Boris Johnson are nowhere to be seen in it. The names are as follows:
1. Arrogant Wank 2. Arrogant Wank 3. Arrogant Wank 4. Arrogant Wank 5. Arrogant Wank 6. Arrogant Wank 7. Arrogant Wank 8. Arrogant Wank 9. Arrogant Wank

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No smoke but strong whisky aye - Christy Moore on the road

Our lungs may be glad for the absence of smoke and many of us still glad for the presence of strong whisky. Though i understand that the Irish legend Christy Moore has had to cut back on that too in recent years. Fortunately, he's still visiting his usual haunts with his passionate and political ballads and singalongs. Scotland is doing reasonably well with gigs in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow coming up very soon.

Will be looking forward to the crowd-pleaser Viva la Quince Brigada - the account of Irish volunteers who stood against church and fascism in Spain. Worth remembering the Scottish sacrifice too, as detailed in the excellent Homage to Caledonia. With the attempts of certain neo-fascist parties to gain representation in our parliaments - it's worth remembering that fascism will use democracy if possible, before snuffing it out. No freedom for the scum who would deny it to others. So, raise a glass to those fought and still fight against fascism.

Clach air an càrn.