, along with many others in the Scottish commentariat, indulges in selective condemnation of Rangers fans when it comes to deploring racist and sectarian behaviour. In recent months, Rangers players such as Alfredo Morelos and Glen Kamara have been subjected to racist abuse by Celtic fans on social media – the word 'monkey' among other vile terms, has featured heavily. Back in January, anti-semitic abuse was heaped by some Celtic fans upon their own player, Nir Bitton. Last Sunday, following the match, there was considerable disorder caused by Celtic fans outside a city centre pub.
None of this – and I could itemise many other such incidents dating back years – receives the level of attention that focuses on the behaviour of some Rangers fans. Indeed, there appears to be those in public life in Scotland who have been so uncomfortable with the narrative of a Rangers player being the victim of racism – as happened with Kamara back in March – that they have taken every opportunity since to flip that narrative. And let's also drop the pretence that terms like 'Orange' and 'Hun' are not sectarian when used in this context: of course they are.
Hassan refers to Conservative politicians and what he seems to see as their failure to join in the 'pile on' over last Sunday's singing and chanting. It is a pity that he neglects to note the opportunistic interventions on Rangers, dating back years, of other political figures, particularly in the SNP, whose political agenda would seem to be served in attacking exclusively a club with Unionist associations.
If Hassan and others who spout similarly pious sentiments were serious about 'escaping this prison of thinking', then they would push for the matter of addressing sectarian and racist behaviour to be taken out of the realm of cheap party political point-scoring, and ensure that it is viewed comprehensively and not selectively. Those who know the debate is skewed in their favour are quick to dismiss opposing arguments as exercises in 'whataboutery'. The so-called Famine Song
should not be tolerated in any decent society. Pretending that the problem simply boils down to those individuals who sang it is, on the other hand, an escape from an inconvenient reality.
Walking through Bruntsfield Links at the weekend, I came across something that made me feel a wee bit better about my own actions and activities. I suppose it could be defined as an act of deliverance – a sign that there are like-minded people out there. And there was that distinct, if still remote, possibility that l might have the option of joining a new gang.
We have chances and options to join new gangs or groups at various stages of our lives. This one was a bit niche though and my heart skipped a beat as I saw them approaching. I had not noticed anything untoward at first. I was too busy keeping my eyes on Daisy and really it was she who kind of introduced me to 'my people'. My dog is inquisitive, especially when she sees something new and interesting, then she goes into full mission mode, with nothing or no-one able to retrieve her once she sets out on an investigation. And boy, did she have reason to be intrigued.
She and I had happened upon a middle-aged couple presently at rest, though obviously in the process of relocating a 10 foot by 10 foot art installation. The installation was absorbing in itself. I particularly admired the multitude of activities and expressions going on within the confines of canvas. However, that was a secondary consideration, for I had come across kindred spirits – the kind of people like myself who take on ridiculous ventures, particularly conveying large, bulky or awkward, or all three, objects of interest around the capital and its environs.
We chatted for a few minutes, no great analysis of the painting, nor apparent deep connection betwixt each party, but I knew and secretly I think they did too. Next time my wife Karen petitions me with a vague rendition of an article she has procured and wishes me to collect on her behalf, I will call on all my resolve and the memory of my meeting with 'the others' to aid me in undertaking and achieving my mission.
Gangs are a feature of all of our lives, should we recognise it or not. For me, it started with the pals in the street and then at primary. It was the different schools we attended. It was St Mary's for some, for the others it was Parkhead PS. There, other gangs awaited us and being at St Mary's there were a multitude of gangs within gangs as we navigated our way through the discipline of a denominational school. However, we were versatile and out of school the street gang still took precedence over others.
Many more gangs have then formed and sometimes just as promptly been disbanded within my lifetime since. Others have withstood the pressures of time. It's just we didn't and don't really call them gangs now. We call them clubs, associations, societies, cliques, crews (one for our young readers)... but they are all the same thing, affording us a sense of belonging and commonality. Gangs are not so bad really.
The biggest disappointment I have encountered around gangs, though in this case it was termed a society, was when I joined the Astronomical Society. I left in disgust when I realised they actually only had two other members.
This year's holiday is going to be what is being called a staycation – horrible word. That is if I don't weaken. People I know seem to be going places in spite of all the kerfuffle of getting tests before going and before returning, a carry-on which I find daunting, possibly as a result of Covid incarceration. A distinctly unabled friend has just departed for Bermuda and another is heading shortly for Madeira, a trip I refused to join as the place is practically vertical and my role was to help her round as she has MS. Nowadays, I have enough trouble keeping myself upright. The result is, as summer wanes and one cannot help thinking of all those places one wants to revisit and now probably never will, I am feeling a little undecided as to what to do.
Both friends are going on package trips, as was a Facebook friend Albania-bound who got the sniffles, had that obligatory test and is now staying home for obvious reasons. The problem is that I like independent travel, which means should something go wrong, one is on one's own. Once in the depths of Argentina, I stumbled in the dark on a paving stone while walking into my hotel and fell sideways onto a parked car bashing my shoulder. I spent a night in agony wondering just what I had done, but next morning managed to shove my kit together and get a taxi to the bus terminal – the driver coped with the bag. The shoulder was not broken, simply badly bruised. But I had all the worries about how to contact my holiday insurers for help and whether to head for the nearest hospital A&E – all while not speaking the language.
Add Covid to the dangers and a staycation it is, although as I keep being bombarded by easyJet and British Airways with holiday suggestions, I may weaken.
In a sense, I am going to foreign parts anyway as it is a trip to Scotland which seems to be turning into somewhere foreign with every passing day. The destination is Grantown-on-Spey – a town I have never been to and until my brother suggested it had never heard of. But an impressive holiday apartment, a good museum, places to eat in and some lovely surrounding scenery apparently awaits. Google also says it is 'much more charming than Aviemore', a town that is burnt into my memory. Way back, when I was doing National Service, I spent a weekend skiing there. Feeling in need of something suitably apres ski, I went into the hotel bar and chose what I believed to be an appropriately sophisticated drink. For the first and only time, I ordered a Babycham.
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