Friday, April 21, 2017

Daffodils

21st April 2017

With bombs dropping in the Middle East, a crazy man in the Oval Office, and a Tory government trying to run England into the ground while it hangs on to its cash flow from Scotland, you have to do something to save your sanity. Here's what I do, and what writers across the millenia have done: I turn to nature.  Wordsworth found this holding centre in a host of golden daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze. A poet could not but be gay in such a jocund company.


I am reading a book on cosmology, specifically theories of what came before the Big Bang. Apparently before there was something, there was the Planck Era, in which there was no light, no atoms, not time, nothing that we might think of as this world in which we live. Apparently there was just Max Planck, and chaos. So when everything in your life seems to be dissolving into chaos, it helps to go to the most fine-tuned our cosmos has to offer: fluttering daffodils and fields of gold. We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky as we lie in fields of gold. 


The turning earth spins on, and once more we are in Spring. Life is erupting. Even though the Theory of Evolution goes a long way in explaining how our world has evolved, one thing it doesn't answer is why it does. What is this rabid urge? Why the flower breaking through concrete, why the birds on their vast migrations, why life at all? Perhaps we'll never know, but it surely relects itself in the human drive to create order out of chaos, in the poet's need to reach beyond the ordinary and create something out of nothing.
At our human best we follow the poet out of our causes, our tragedies, the inevitable catastrophes, and give ourselves over to an evening full of the linnets' wings. It's the life-urge. Cosmos out of chaos, and some writers just know how to make it sing.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
                     – W.B. Yeats




Friday, April 14, 2017

Veil Of Time Update

14th April 2017

My original intent in creating this blog was to keep readers up to speed on current and subsequent developments in the publishing of my book Veil Of Time. It has been three years since that book was published by Simon and Schuster in 2014 (the same year Scotland failed to vote for independence!) In the meantime, the world has fallen into mayhem, and so this blog has often veered into the state not only of this union but the one over the pond in the British Isles. Brexit has come to Britain, and Trump is running crazy in the halls of The White House.
The publishing industry, as we all know, creeps along at snail's pace. Since the time I first started sending my writing out to agents and publishers, I have gone from being a relatively young woman to middle age and then some. I have raised three children and seen them all take off into careers of their own. Here I am, still turning up at my desk in the mornings, still casting fleeting glances out the window as the seasons take me from snowscape to spring to sweltering summer and back again.


While I have been waiting, I have written a sequel to Veil Of Time, and then a sequel to the sequel, and now I have a trilogy. This venture started out as a simple tale of an iron age fort in Scotland called Dunadd, and became a kind of utopia about how this land would look if Christianity had never made the inroads it did, and had instead stayed local to Rome. Last autumn, after my agent had read the third part of the trilogy, Iona,  he sent me a page of notes, and I spent a good few months revising it. He gave that new version to a group of readers, and then sent me a smaller page of notes, "some tweaks."
So, I've tweaked it. Yesterday, I went through full blown panic when it looked as though my computer had saved none of the changes, but then I recovered (because it had), and now I'm ready to send the final version back to him. He has plans for the trilogy, which I am not at liberty to divulge here, but if his strategy works, then my star will be on the rise again.


Hopefully before I take to a wheel chair, my backlog of about eight other novels will also be published, and then I wonder if I will dust myself off and retreat from this soul-crushing dance of the artist. Probably not. I am already lying awake at night mulling over something new, such a great notion! But just that one, and then I'll retire my tap shoes for good. Ha!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Art and The Beast

7th April 2017

One of the areas of American culture that Donald The Chimp is frog marching to his guillotine is the arts. No surprise there. He would take the media there, too, if he could do it in the dark.  Thankfully, the Fourth Estate is somewhat protected by the tradition of free speech in this country. Okay, then, he says, watch this, and draws his scrawl of a signature across a bill defunding the arts.
But the arts are part of the Fourth Estate, part of the check and balance that a democracy is supposed to rest upon. Taking away Sesame Street is one thing, but squeezing artistic expression amounts to an impingement on free speech.  Unless, that is, it used as propaganda like we saw in fascist Italy or Hitler's Germany.


Hermann Hesse saw art as the "universalising mirror." It is for this reason that totalitarian leaders are scared of the arts. They notoriously lock up writers, send them off to freeze in Siberia like Solzhenitsyn. They ban them and burn them, because they see themselves reflected in their art and they don't like the unflattering image.

In America, you can't lock up artists, and thank God for it. But apparently you can starve them out. And that's what Trump is trying to do by defunding four central arts programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He wouldn't mind funding state news like Fox, but he doesn't want anyone pointing their finger at the emperor's clothes in which he struts.
You can't ultimately suppress art, though. You can't stop story-tellers telling it like it is. The truth will out, and that's the job of art in all its branches. Art speaks, is classless, and allows for the gates to the third estate, We the people, to open, as they did during the French Revolution, as they have done in every revolution.


It's what we're seeing in America now with the women's marches, airport protests, town hall meetings - the failure of the HealthCare Bill. And that's the threat to leaders like Trump or Putin who are pushing their own narrative.  You can't hold us back, though, Mr. President. The artists will hold up the mirror, and like Belle in the fairytale will show us the beast.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Another Year of the Tattoo

31st March 2017

While American politics implode, let's talk about Scottish politics, which is infinitely more enlightening. This week, Scotland has resumed its march towards independence and vowed to hold another referendum. This little corner of the world, this little David with its sling is marching out once more to conquer Goliath. This time the odds are better. It has Europe on its side, and this time the Goliath dragon is not even trying to hide the foam drooling from its mouth. The language of Brexit is mean and nasty, if not delusional. Empires rise and empires fall, but when they go down, it's an ugly spectacle. Theresa May struts around naked, her hand in the hand of the Donald, trying to make out her robes, like his, are of the finest manufacture.

Well, looks like another year of the tattoo is coming for me - where will I put this one? In the run-up to the last referendum I had a Pictish V-Rod and Crescent tattooed on my forearm. Perhaps this time I'll put a Celtic knot on my ankle.

Scotland, land of my birth, you had better go for it this time, before I start looking like a circus act.
But Scotland, above all, stay dignified. I know it's hard not to fling shite back at those who are determined to cover you in it, but hold fast. History is on our side. Barack Obama, America's number one class act, had the good sense to sit back while his opposition self-combusted (I think, on a beach somewhere, he's doing just that. "Donald who?")


I know Scots love to hate Braveheart, but there's a handy image in that film.


Whether you love or despise Mel Gibson's portrayal of your history, take this much from it: don't sink in the face of the force that is being unleashed against you in ProjectFear2.
Scotland, "Hold! Hold!"

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trumped Out

24th March 2017

I am weary of Donald Trump's face, aren't you? Every time you go to any social media forum, there he is, and the thought is never far away from my mind that Scotland spawned this face and the monstrous human being behind it. The McLeod cousins on the remote Isle of Lewis from which his mother hailed are surely weeping and wailing. I'm weeping and wailing and I have no genetic connection to the man. I hope. Mrs Trump, you surely did a bad job with this son of yours.


Mmm. Stornaway? Really?
I hope in the future, psychologists interested in the phenomenon that has come to  be the 45th president of the United States will take a closer look at Mary and Fred Trump, just as they study the environment that gave rise to a Mussolini or a Hitler. How did any individual get so far from basic human values?
I am also weary of the sound of Trump's voice. I am compelled to hit "Mute," not out of principal, but just because I literally can't take listening to him. But then I am stuck watching his hand gestures in silence, and I can't stand that even more.


I am well and trully trumped out.
Hopefully the citizens of this country are, too. Hopefully this federal investigation will uncover the source of the mess and they will realise that mere impeachment is not the answer. Handing the presidency to Hilary Clinton who was robbed of it in the first place, will be the only thing to serve justice here. Not only Trump should pay, but the Republican establishment so anxious to push their agenda and bury their collective head in the sand. You don't get to slither Mike Pence in, just as you don't get to instate Neil Gorsuch. This alone is basic and human and self-evident, and I still have this optimistic if not unrealistic belief that maybe it will carry the day.


As a foreigner on these shores, I am waiting to see if the American constitution is really as rigorous and wise as everyone has always told me it is. If it is, then maybe in good biblical fashion it will have to pluck out the eye that hath offended thee.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Scotland the Brave

17th March 2017

There's so much more to government and the powers-that-be than any of us scurrying around on the surface realise. Who is really operating and pulling the strings is something that is purposely hidden from our sight. Reading about the Deep State in America, and probably something equivalent in the UK, makes me in a cynical moment click "Delete" on all those citizen organisations that send messages asking for help. Donald Trump isn't the real problem in America, though he is certainly an annoying little gadfly. Theresa May likewise in Britain belongs only to the surface noise. The "establishment," that old boys' club fed into by England's system of boarding schools, that British Empire still living under the delusion that such an empire exists, is the iron hand behind the doings of the United Kingdom.


It is therefore with a little trepidation that I do my dance for the newly announced Scottish Independence referendum, Mark 2.  The iron hand has always put down such rebellions of the natives. After the Easter Rising in Ireland, it took the perpetrators out against the wall (even the ones too sick to stand) and shot them. It did the same thing to the Tartan Army in our own city of Paisley in 1820. More recently, during the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, it spread misinformation so fast and efficiently, that by the time of the vote, it had half the population of Scotland cowering. It has the added weapon of a Scottish media only Scottish in name and largely published out of London. So, the irony is, that even with all other European Union members behind us, even with independent economists everywhere stating that, without the Westminster drain, Scotland could be a wealthy little nation on a par with Norway, we will still have an uphill battle. Fear is a very powerful weapon, and if you have enough Grannies scared for their next week's pension, enough farmers worried for their subsidies, enough people downtrodden over the centuries by the colonialists, and you get a vote like last time: 55% of Scots against Scotland governing itself, the only colony to actually turn down an offer of independence.
I was on the island of St. Kitts recently and was talking to our native tour guide about how the island managed to ease itself out from under British rule. It took many tries, he said. The English government way out there in the Caribbean sea, two thousand miles from its own shores, wanted to hang on. And this is an island with very few resources, one of those West Indies that the British Empire built itself upon, on the sugar plantations and slave trade.  The slave trade was long gone, of course, but still the greedy fingers held on.


So, take Scotland with its vast oil fields (62% of EU reserves) and its wind power (now supplying  26% of its renewable energy to England), its wave and tidal power, its 5 billion pound whisky trade, its tourism and its very small population. The old boys club is not going to let go of that without a fight, for which lowly natives are really not equipped. They play dirty, those Empire boys and the proxies they put up in their pulpits. As was always the case, they have regard for the common people only insofar as they serve the club. Theresa May is nothing more than a barmaid, plying the old boys with (Scottish) whisky.
So, it's a bleak prospect, this quest for freedom, made even more so by the Downing Street dictate the other day that it will not permit Scotland to hold another referendum. And yet here I am again at the altar of the just and the good, with the almost ridiculous belief that Scotland shall persist and overcome.


I think somehow Scotland shall.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Handprints In The Sand

10th March 2017

In the Oscar nominated film "Lion," a little boy accidentally falls asleep on a parked train in the Hindi-speaking part of India and wakes up fourteen hours later in Bengali-speaking Calcutta. No one understands what he is saying, and so he ends up a street urchin with no way home. I have tried to stay off the Trump train, but against my better judgement, I keep climbing back on, only to find myself later in territory where I don't speak the language. It's not just Trump, either. A whole conglomerate put this bozo in the driver's cab, and that's who is doing the steering.


In the end the train will crash, because it was another power altogether that built the engine, just as, I suspect, it built the vehicle for Brexit.  I say that with some reservation, because Brexit can only help the Scottish Independence cause. If Brexit has to be walked back, Scotland will have less of a case for removing itself from all the craziness that has lately become the persistent drone of Britannia Rules the Waves. Or as someone wittily quipped last week, Britannia waves the Rules. Empire, whether Russian or British, is a law unto itself, an ugly beast with a barely veiled grimace.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The man's name is Empire, a dragon that our survival depends upon defeating. Though Margaret Thatcher was not a man, and neither is Theresa May, they are still doing the bidding of the drivers of this engine, denying their female heart and throwing on the masses as fuel.
My most hopeful self expects one day to feel the train slowing down and the drivers of the engine jumping off to the sides of the tracks. And then We the people, the plebs, those who stand to lose in every scenario in this man-made train race, will one by one lift the tracks and smooth over the ruts in the soil with our palms. It will be our handprints, not the train, that will be written into history. Into Herstory.