Wednesday 6 June
The EIS, 'Scotland's largest teachers' union,' is meeting in Dundee, and the awful lot of its members is top of the agenda. Having studied their awful lot in this neck of the woods, I can only sympathise. On 29 March, the schools closed for more than a fortnight. They returned on 16 April, only to close again for the May Day holiday. A mere 18 days later, it was time for a long weekend. But relief from this unrelenting stress is at hand: soon, everyone will disappear for seven whole weeks. When they come back, the September weekend will be just around the corner, swiftly followed by the October week. Can the blessed Christmas break be far behind?
Between 29 March and 20 August, the schools could have been open for 101 days. In fact, by the end of this period, they will have been open for 51. It is indeed troubling that teachers have somehow had to stagger to work for as many as 51 days in almost five months. Could something be done to ease the burden on this uniquely disadvantaged workforce? Perhaps the abolition of children would help.
Thursday 7 June
The Sun (English edition) has a double-page spread on reasons to be proud to be English. There are 26 reasons, one for each letter of the alphabet. L is for 'Love Island', S is not for Shakespeare but for the Sun newspaper, X is for exiting the EU ('It's going to be great'), Y is for Y-fronts. You get the drift. In England myself this week, chairing a meeting, I ask English persons in the company if they are proud to be English. A few profess a hazy attachment to the concept of Britishness, but most are more locally aligned – to the county or city of their birth. No-one mentions England. If a similar group north of the border were asked if they were proud to be Scottish, the answer might be rather different. It seems that the hijacking of Englishness
by the far right has made many intelligent people embarrassed of their own national identity – that, and the patriotic tub-thumping of the tabloid press.
That enemy of the people, Paul Dacre, who uses the c-word so freely that his editorial conference is known as the vagina monologues, will not be much missed. Yet there is one reason – admittedly, just the one – to lament his imminent departure as editor of the Daily Mail. Alone in the trade, the Mail continued to pay handsomely. Under his successor, we can expect ferocious cost cutting (aka as 'sharing resources') and a tumbling of fees for the poor bloody freelances. Writing for the newspapers, or appearing on the BBC, is now essentially a personal vanity project. Writing for the Scottish Review, on the other hand, is an act of selfless philanthropy.
Friday 8 June
On the dual carriageway south of Glasgow, every road sign flashes a 'Yellow Warning' of heavy rain for south Ayrshire. What are we supposed to make of this information? First it is necessary to know what it means. I checked when I got home: a yellow warning is issued by the Met Office 'for a range of weather situations when it is likely that the weather will cause some low level impacts, including some disruption to travel...' Okay, but here we are on the M77 heading for the flood plains of south Ayrshire. What does the Met Office want us to do? What does Transport Scotland want us to do? The terrorists of the meteorological industry are simply up to their old trick of
spreading a generalised anxiety.
Despite the yellow warning, we didn't get heavy rain. We didn't get any rain. We haven't had rain for weeks. Very brown, Ayrshire.
Last week, dissenting from the fashionable view that the jury in the Thorpe trial was wrong to acquit, I suggested that it had no alternative after the main prosecution witness, Peter Bessell, admitted that he stood to profit from a lucrative deal with the Sunday Telegraph in the event of a conviction. What I didn't know when I wrote the paragraph was that, after the trial, one juror went public with his misgivings about the conduct of the case, making it clear that the Sunday Telegraph deal was indeed the reason for the jury's decision. The then Tory government was so appalled by this act of transparency that it rushed through a law making it a crime for jurors to lift the lid on their deliberations. There was, however, no suggestion that the then editor of the Sunday Telegraph should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Saturday 9 June
If you access the red button on your television, events unfold without the aid of commentary. It is a particularly soothing way of watching the snooker. At the moment, we have endless hours of live coverage of birds nesting in the Cotswolds, a surprisingly addictive spectacle enhanced by the absence of interviewers. There is no one around to ask the great tits how they are 'feeling' or if they are 'looking forward' to leaving the nest. Likewise, this morning, I am able to watch Trooping the Colour, its miscellaneous hilarity unspoiled by the usual obsequious voice-over. Sadly, I missed the old chap falling off his horse.
Another honours list, and everybody's 'humbled' or 'really humbled.'
Sunday 10 June
The underwhelming SNP conference is over. Deprived of excitement, the media chose to focus on two kilted caricatures in the front row. Endearing in their way: living proof that the Scottish music hall is not quite extinct. But what sort of message did this pair send to the outside world, assuming the outside world was remotely interested?
Prompted by an unusually candid death notice in an American newspaper, the features pages are full of stuff about the weirdness of many obituaries and eulogies. A personal favourite is the funeral of a famously curmudgeonly Scottish editor, Sandy Webster, at which the minister assured us that Webster would be remembered for his outstanding service to the Boys' Brigade.
Monday 11 June
Knowing of my obsessive interest in people who break the law by cycling on the pavement, Islay McLeod has just rushed into my office with the welcome news that someone in Haddington has been fined for cycling on the pavement. I was about to celebrate when Ms McLeod added that the case occurred in 1886. If only it had set a precedent.
Tuesday 12 June
A little rain overnight. They forgot to give us a yellow warning.