Although the Scottish independence movement is one of the few issues I have constantly supported, I passed up the chance to go to Edinburgh for the latest march because of a long-standing commitment to a dear elderly friend who sadly thinks the Conservatives are 'the gentry who are born to rule'. Strange, because even at the age of 86 she is more IT savvy than I am and takes an active role in the local community. I can only imagine that, coming from a poor and dysfunctional background and having provided catering services to the said gentry (which they frequently omitted to pay for), she and others like her possibly feel that they experience the fairy dust by association.
Even my hero John Buchan was guilty of this attitude by his tendency to be awestruck by the aristocratic twerps he met at Oxford. Their descendants were still there when I went but as I wasn't brilliant like JB they mostly ignored me. Also, Buchan was in a slightly more elevated social position, being 'son of the manse' and already a published author. But he never appeared to realise that many of these scions of aristocratic families hadn't half his intellect or ability.
Maybe it was an early manifestation of the Scottish cringe which several of my Scots friends assure me still exists. 'We were never taught Scottish history at school,' one told me, 'only stuff like how many wives Henry VIII had'. This is odd because as a child growing up in 1950s England, Scots were always presented to me as better educated, better behaved and more talented than their English cousins, dominating professions like medicine, dentistry and teaching. But then much of my information was gleaned from my aunt's copy of The People's Friend
I don't know why she subscribed to this periodical except that there was a family legend that an ancestor on my paternal grandmother's side had been a young woman from the Borders who had been the nanny of an Episcopal minister's children and who had gone with the family when they removed to England. So maybe I have some Scots DNA in my make-up.
Without going into the political material that is the domain of Gerry Hassan et al
, my own journey to Scottish independence has been a long one. In the main a Labour voter (although I briefly joined the then Social Democrats, who missed several tricks in my opinion, and should never have amalgamated with the Liberals), I must have latterly been the only Scottish Socialist voter in Beautiful Downtown Banchory (apart from Mr B who always voted as I advised him). I was rather disappointed in Tommy Sheridan who portrayed himself as teetotal yet subsequently was observed knocking back champagne from a lady's shoe. Really, Tommy! No wonder I joined the better behaved SNP.
Even when living in England, though, I was always surprised that the Scots didn't want their autonomy back, and aim to develop a relationship with rUK something like the Scandinavian/Baltic states have. And at the time of the last referendum I was actively campaigning for independence with a lifelong Labour friend, as at that point many sensible Labour voters realised that 'Scottish Labour' would be far more popular with voters than from its current position as a 'branch office' of England. Sadly, there is no far-sighted and imaginative Unionist figure who can see that amicable negotiation now would be more sensible and positive than the current bullying by Westminster.
Licensed to be killed?
Having nothing better to do I began vaguely watching on TV the (I think) last but one James Bond film, Spectre
. Thankfully it appears the last one is just that. Surely we have had 'peak Bond'. I have always been of the view that the only real James Bond was Sean Connery (who was a proper actor – he was brilliant in The Name of the Rose
, one of the few examples of a film that was better than the book). Roger Moore was definitely not
Bond. He was good as The Saint
, but he was too urbane for someone who was supposed to be a sociopath. Connery had the right blend of humour and psychopathy.
I suppose Daniel Craig did quite well for someone who sort of resembled 'King' Charles in the ear department, but the story was quite dark, literally in many scenes, and (spoiler alert) they could have made more of the fact that the chief villain was Bond's stepbrother. And for a villain who wanted to take over the world he was rather 'mardy' – a word from my Nottingham childhood used to describe someone who was a bit of a whinger. Maybe the current crop of Bond movies has to show that the villains are not just baddies but are misunderstood victims who have 'unresolved issues'.
What was interesting (more spoilers) was that the newly appointed Head of MI5, or 6, whatever the intelligence services are currently called, was a typical conceited career civil servant who turned out to be a henchman of the chief villain (and to be honest, you could see that plot twist coming from a mile off).
I sort of wondered whether the current crop of way over to the right Tory politicians might also be agents of Spectre and that those supporting them were sleepwalking into a world run by totalitarian power-mad psychopaths. Or are we there already?
Mess = stress
Regardless of any plot complexities, one of the things I have always disliked about the Bond series is the mess he makes when fighting the villains. In this case, several buildings were exploded and a million-pound car written off. The oddest scene was where Bond was just about to begin a slap-up meal in the restaurant car of a very posh train, accompanied by the usual female interest – she was a doctor something or other, presumably to indicate that she wasn't really an airhead – when one of the villains popped up and started fighting him. Several minutes later, he met his comeuppance but only after the two had completely trashed the train. The next shot showed the train speeding away to its destination. But what had happened to all the other diners in the restaurant coach? And what happened to Bond's dinner? We need to be told these things!
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant