WELL, here I am, at the topmost
tip of the moral high ground, a place buffeted by winds austere and pure
and as invigorating as a glass of tonic wine mixed with creosote.
people like myself, unsullied in thought, word and deed and with
"holier-than-thou" expressions on their faces, can view the climate of
opinion that buffets and batters Britain, especially Scotland, "a tiny
country that does not much matter", according to historian David Starkey,
a one-man area of polemical perturbation and now about as popular in
Caledonia stern and wild as was the English knight, De Bohun, toppled by
The Bruce at Bannockburn.
Below, as if on a scroll, is a
country surrounded by water and awash with alcohol. Over there, under a
nine-tenthsí cloud blanket and through the horizontal rain, is glimpsed
the land of mountain and flood, resembling, in postal terms, a ragged
selvage on the edge of the stamp of authority that is, as Starkey might
Under the blanket, the bedraggled, sodden Scots
emerge, beating their breasts - and sometimes each other - in their
meteorological frustrations and desire to lick England in every possible
field of activity, both spiritual and temporal.
Commendable ambition surely, but Scotlandís population is dropping like a
storm-forecasting barometer. According to heavy precipitation of facts
from the Office for National Statistics, life in Scotland can be bad for
Eight out of ten local authorities in Britain with
the lowest male life expectancy are north of the Border, and Glasgow is
the only place in Britain where the average man can expect to die before
he is 70.
FROM THAT, one would expect a large area of
depression over Scotland, especially Glasgow, but adjusting my steely,
Edinburgh scrutiny onto that average man, I find him cheerfully
unimpressed by the rain of statistical terror that has swept the country.
Indeed many in the land oí cakes, fried Mars bars and the knuckle
sandwich, apparently relish the hail of stinging facts in their faces that
brings the roses to their cheeks.
We Scots are a stout people,
and, considering our diet, getting stouter by the month.
enough of looking on the bright side, dirty weather lies ahead. Although
forecasters, drinking updraughts at the isobar of public opinion, believe
that a final deluge of government reasons for going to war in Iraq, summed
up in the phrase, "It seemed such a good idea at the time," is gathering
force from the direction of Downing Street, the political, social, moral
and industrial outlook remains uncertain.
There could be occluded fronts
from Westminster and Holyrood, bringing with them a series of national
crises ranging from an increase in binge-drinking among toddler playgroups
to soaring incidents of unprotected conker-playing in schools among
children of single mothers.
I PREDICT severe contrition
warnings as apologies, ranging from sporadic hand-wringing to a full-blown
frenzy of self-abasement, take the country by storm. Other, now regular,
phenomena are non-illuminating lightning flashes such as, "No-one is to
blame," "Lessons will be learned," "It is certainly not a resigning
matter," and "Donít let us dwell on the past; it is time to move on."
These flickers are usually observed playing around areas that include
political, social or medical disturbance relating to anything from bungled
surgery to zones of extreme tempest, commonly called a war.
local and national government weather horizon are scattered showers of
initiatives, perhaps causing occasional floods of mission statements,
sporadic outbreaks of calls for judicial and public inquiries and high
polemical pressure and hot air rising from Westminster and Holyrood.
So, not much change there; neither is there anything unusual in
jet-streams across autumnal skies - caused by planes carrying MPs and MSPs
on fact-finding forays, or, in demotic parlance, holiday "freebies".
Still causing interest in politico-meteorological circles is the "Blair
Effect", which appears as a fading halo moving about the Prime Ministerís
storm-tossed head. The phenomenon, not fully understood, once dazzled
onlookers in a shock-and- awe effect to induce feelings of trust in
government policies and pledges.
Look for it also on the moral
high ground as well as Labourís pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but
donít look for me; itís getting too crowded and Iím getting off.