Categories
Life

2014: Part 2

001_rev1.inddNew year, new start eh? Well, no; not really. 2015 has rolled over pretty much from where 2014 left off. 2014, Part 2 you might say.Which is to say deadlines, deadlines and assorted stresses and strains. Plus ça change and all that.

I break off from the word-mine only to apprise you of a couple of things of note. Of note, that is, to me but also, perhaps, to some of you fine folks out there in Readerville, too.

First up is this month’s most excellent issue of Bass Guitar Magazine. As well as the usual high-quality offerings from our team of crack writers there is my own humble contribution. I don’t usually make a song-and-dance about my BGM gig but this month is a little different. I recently had the pleasure – and it was indeed a pleasure – of talking to Squeeze bassist, John Bentley. An all round gent and top bloke, he had plenty to say about his latest solo offering plus sharing some great stories from his Squeeze days. One can become very bored, very quickly, talking to ego-tripping rock stars so John was a very refreshing change. Modest, cheerful and interesting he was a delight. Read all about it when the shelves are hit later this month.

Got my new book coming out on April 1st (a highly appropriate date, some might say, given the subject matter). For all sorts of reasons I can’t say too much about it at the moment but more info on this very soon.

I’m delighted to be published, once more, by Five Leaves Publications and if the new offering is only half as well-received as last year’s Look Back in Anger I shall be a very contented scribbler. I was truly thrilled by the response to and support for the book and I hope the new one hits the spot for you guys as well.

In other news I attended an exclusive invitation-only soirée this evening. The guest of honour was a very happy young lady who clearly had a blast. Security was understandably tight but I did manage to smuggle out a photograph of her beautiful self. From later on in the proceedings, when she was clearly in an advanced state of, ah, refreshment. Which I include here for your delectation.

Faecake

Which only leaves me needing to thank you all for your support and consistently-amusing correspondence, throughout last year, and to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year for 2015.

Categories
Culture Politics & Current Affairs

Favourite Books of 2014

I’d like to resist end-of-year best of lists but it’s a regular feature of the writing gig. I did, though, quite enjoy putting this one together for my publisher, Five Leaves, for their New Year newsletter.

They didn’t necessarily want the favourite five published in 2014 but the favourite five we writers read, or even re-read, during the year.

Here’s my unedited list, all of which are available from Five Leaves Bookshop.

The Lost Key – Robert Lomas, Coronet

Thanks to Dan Brown, Freemasonry has rarely ‘enjoyed’ such publicity as that of recent LOST keyyears.

The ancient secret society (or the ‘society with secrets’, as it’s English ruling body, the United Grand Lodge of England would prefer you have it) has historically been the subject of fevered hysteria and paranoid conspiracy theories.

Here long-standing Freemason, scientist and author Robert Lomas lifts the lid on the secret rituals and their purpose as he sees it. In so doing he has constructed a truly fascinating narrative. The Lost Key is where science and mysticism meet, where religion and facts collide and where the reader is taken on an esoteric journey from the Big Bang, via the temples of ancient Egypt, medieval Scotland and Renaissance Europe to the present day.

If you thought Freemasonry was a bastion of establishment reaction and an excuse for monied gentry and corrupt coppers to indulge in silly pantomime with fine wine and good food at the end of the evening read this and be prepared to re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about ‘The Craft.’Fascinating, challenging and gripping.

Anarchists Against the Wall – Uri Gordon and Ohal Grietzer (editors) AK Press

AATWAnd the best place for ’em some of my more tankie-inclined friends might suggest. But seriously… Anarchists Against the Wall are an anti-Zionist body of Israeli anarchists wedded fast to the Palestinian cause, Anarchists Against the Wall are a group of genuinely principled and courageous activists risking beatings, shootings and imprisonment on an almost daily basis operating, as they do, right at the sharp edge where the Zionist apartheid wall runs.

This small, independently-published edition collects a number of essays and observations by its members and offers an insight into the politics, activities and motivations of this heroic band of men and women.

Inspiring, uplifting and highly recommended.

Darkness, Darkness – John Harvey, William Heinemann

Former DI Charlie Resnick’s final case. The Nottingham-based copper, now retired andJH working as a civilian support officer, takes on the case of a woman who disappeared during the miners’ strike of 1984/5.

The strike provides a strong backdrop to a typically adroitly-spun yarn by the supremely talented Harvey. Set, obviously, in Nottinghamshire where the working majority wrecked the strike and ensured Thatcher’s victory over the Tories’ traditional class enemy, Harvey skilfully treads a fine line between the two sides as does his fictional hero Resnick.

The Resnick series deserves to be ranked alongside Rankin’s Rebus books and here Harvey weaves a poignant, elegiac narrative which is no less than he and Resnick deserve.
As swan-songs go this takes some beating. Beautiful, aching and deeply satisfying.

Intifada: The Long Day of Rage – David Pratt, Sunday Herald Books

IntifadaSunday Herald journalist, David Pratt, has produced here nothing less than a masterpiece of observational journalism.
Based in Israel/Palestine at the start of the first Intifada, and for the succeeding eight years, he records his experiences, observations and thoughts in compelling style.

While there is a refreshingly honest admission of sympathy for the Palestinian cause Pratt is too good a journalist to allow his work to become mired by bias. While the man’s empathy and compassion shines through his professional objectivity and dispassionate eye remain intact.

No one can fail to be deeply moved by this book.

The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners – 30th Anniversary EditionSeumas Milne, Verso Books

The sub-title is a little confusing. It’s actually twenty-years since this book first appeared.EW The ‘30th anniversary’ refers to the three decades since the strike started.

With a wealth of new material and an extended introductory essay Milne’s classic account of state abuse and the dirty tricks deployed against former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers is as rage-inducing now as it ever was.

From a technical point of view this is truly superb investigative journalism. While Milne is far and away the best journalist currently writing for an English daily this must have taxed even him. A complex and bewildering saga is nevertheless rendered easily readable and the reader will be shocked, appalled and angered at the disgusting campaign of frame-ups, lies and corruption orchestrated by the three-headed monster of security services, press and government. Read it now.

Categories
Life

A Letter to My Granddaughter

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Dear Fae,

Well! That was a damn fine Christmas. My forty-seventh and your first.

Your granny and I were delighted and thrilled you had your first Christmas dinner with us. It was magical. Really. And an honour.

There were many wonderful moments but, for me, I’d pick two that stand out in particular. The first was the gift your Mum and Dad gave me on your behalf. I could say a lot about why and what it meant to me but I’ll tell you yourself when you’re older.

The other moment was dinner itself. There I was; the crusty auld patriarch (how did that happen?) at the head of my table. My eldest son, your Dad, was seated on my right, as is right and proper for the deputy head of the family (no need to tell yer granny I said that, by the way. It can be our secret ;-)), and you were sat between us in your chair, propped up on the stool.

You were only five-and-a-bit months old but, Christ lassie, you loved your grub! Your mum was carting you in and out of the kitchen an hour beforehand so your granny could feed you snippets of stuffing. You loved it and wolfed it down.

So anyway, there we were. Christmas day; me, you, your mum, dad, granny, uncle James and auntie Pod and her fella Daniel. Your auld man let me feed you your dinner and, sweetheart, it was pure magic. It really was. Having you there, part of the whole thing, scoffing your mash, stuffing, peas and gravy as I fed you spoonfuls at a time. I was as proud as punch.

I love you, Fae. Like you can’t imagine. It’s a granddad’s love and it’s very special indeed. You see, we granddads know stuff that non-granddads don’t. We’ve accumulated secrets and knowledge and special powers that others, who aren’t granddads, can only imagine.

As you know, your dad is the boss of you (at the moment ;-)) and as his dad I’m the boss of him. And because I’m his dad, as well as auntie Lorna’s and uncle James’s, I’ve accumulated special granddad knowledge. It’s not something I can go into here because we swear a special granddad oath not to divulge our secrets but, basically, we’re kinda like ninjas only waaay cooler and twice as effective (I’m currently training your dad in this special magic so that if you have little girls and boys of your own, he’ll have the granddad magic as well. When he and I disappear the second Friday of every month, that’s what we’re doing. We’re not really just having beers and a meal with Phil, Neil, Gav and Mick. That’s just our cover story. We have to keep the magic secret, you see).

Your poor parents have the worry, the heartache and the stress of keeping you safe and well, 24/7 365. They will have to be the bad cops when you need them to be – but most assuredly don’t want them to be – and there will be times when they do your nut in. But that’s their job. I’ve been there, as well. When your dad did my nut in!

But here’s the thing; your mum and dad love you and always will. They will cherish you and nurture you and protect you. Sometimes, though, maybe, you’ll find yourself in a place where it’s hard to call for your mum and dad. Maybe you’ll think you’ve done something bad. Perhaps you’ll think you’ll hurt them or disappoint them if you tell them what’s really going on in your life, at any particular moment. You won’t, you know. They love you more than they love anything in the whole world and you can always tell them anything you need to. But if you really feel you can’t…

Well, that’s where your granddad – and your granny – come in. Because of my special granddad ninja skills and magic – and your granny has these powers too – we can solve any problem you encounter. Really.  We can always make things better for you.

When you cross our threshold you will only ever find unconditional love. We are only there to help you, make you happy and make things better. Even if it might not always feel that way at the time.

You are a very special little girl and many people love you. None more than your besotted auld granddad. Just remember; as you grow up, wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you become, you are never ever alone.

Your granny and I are always here for you. Always. Don’t ever forget that. And thank you for making my Christmas pure and unadulterated magic.

Love, granddad xxx

Xmas 2014

Categories
Culture Politics & Current Affairs

Tunes of Glory

 

bodies

He didn’t see the poppies grow down in Flanders Field,
It was over in Afghanistan where they cheered a record yield.
A bumper crop of skag that would spread across the earth,
Compared to wealth and power, our lives have little worth.
Was he fighting for the Queen, America or Shell?
When the lines are blurred, all shades of grey, no way that he could tell.
The War on Terror, the War on Drugs, it’s all a filthy lie,
Because there is no honour in queuing up to die.
For nations, flags and worthless men,
One hundred years since world War One and here we are are again.
His search for pride and virtue, all ended with a blast,
He trod upon an IED and now his future is the past.
Although he’s three years older, he’s still just twenty-one,
His life already over before it had begun.
And now his mam weeps bitter tears as she empties out his pan,
Of the stinking shit that gurgles from her broken damaged man.
Still, he got a medal and a poppy that he could wear,
When they wheeled him to the cenotaph where all the children stare.
At the empty space where once he had two legs like you and me,
Exchanged in wilful  ignorance so profit might be free.
To carry on destroying lives for power and their greed,
A war upon their wars is the only war we need.
Kill the Other, kill him now and make your country proud,
Their token thanks is all you’ll get when they wrap you in your shroud.
Then you can join the ranks of the millions gone before,
Nameless, faceless forgotten dead; no one’s keeping score.
A dozen here a thousand there, they really just don’t care,
As long as you keep dying so they can get their share.
So stuff their poppies, stuff their wars and stuff their tunes of glory,
They’ll never care about you and me, it’s the same old dirty story.

Categories
Politics & Current Affairs

James McClean: Resisting the Poppy Fascists

james mcclean ireland photo

Wigan Athletic winger and Irish international, James McClean, has released a statement – in the form of an open letter to his club chairman – explaining why he won’t be wearing a poppy during this year’s 100th anniversary of WW1.

He writes:

Dear Mr Whelan

I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.

I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars – many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those.

I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

I want to make that 100% clear .You must understand this.

But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different. Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially – as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.

It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past. I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return. Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.

I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in.

I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.

As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.

Yours sincerely,

James McClean

The man should be commended. Not only for an action that is brave, principled and honest but for one that contains a degree of risk; both to himself and his career. Unthinking soldier worship and poppy fascism are now disturbing aspects of the collective British psyche; it’s a courageous or reckless individual who bucks the trend of this particular brand of what is now almost mass hysteria.

The poppy and Remembrance commemorations – along with the hideously mawkish Help for Heroes – have been hi-jacked by politicians intent on equating the imperial bloodbath of WW1 with a noble sense of patriotism and duty; all the better to justify current and future wars. As with so much of British history, or rather establishment propaganda, these things are really about the present and the future; not the past.

The cynical usurping of the poppy’s original symbolism – peace, end to imperialist killing etc – for purposes of justifying the government’s appalling murder-fests elsewhere around the globe is truly repellent.

It is now utterly tainted and beyond redemption as any kind of worthwhile symbol.

Just try explaining to someone why you don’t wear one to find out exactly what that means. Try being a TV presenter who refuses to wear one. Try even wearing a white poppy and explaining why…

Sadly, it is rarely worn by its supporters to commemorate working-class canon fodder who died in an ugly and immoral dust-up between capitalist powers, scrapping over markets and territory. No, it’s an expression of militarist jingoism. They’ll tell you they’re honouring the ‘fallen’ who died so that we might be free. In reality, armed forces are usually the enemies of freedom. As James McClean clearly understands; as did the invaded and subjugated millions who suffered under the jackboots of the British Empire. The same British Army went into Tonypandy ready to shoot striking miners on Churchill’s orders. They rolled their tanks down the streets of Glasgow, prepared to crush the resistance of their own people. In reality we owe our freedom to those who opposed the state’s armed might – the suffragettes, the Chartists and the Tolpudlle Martyrs, to name but three.

It’s a depressing truth that we can’t wear a poppy and have people immediately know that we feel WW1 was futile and that every single dead soldier was a wasted life. Their deaths meant nothing, achieved nothing and changed nothing.

Remembrance Sunday is offensive not least because it paints an entirely false and dishonest picture; that those who died did so for ‘their country’ and that that’s somehow noble. It isn’t. It’s the Big Lie.

If we wore poppies and held Remembrance Day parades to apologise to those slaughtered, if such events were collective acts of penance and regret for the sheer pointless waste of human life, for industrial-scale mass-sacrifice on the alter of selfish economic gain, then they would be truly worthy.

But they aren’t. The whole sickening jamboree is a carnival of dishonesty, hypocrisy and reaction. We should play no part in legitimising that. We should not be complicit in brainwashing future generations. We should reject absolutely that invading and then perishing in foreign lands, purely to further US-Brit geopolitical interests and control of other’s resources, is a worthwhile and moral objective.

harry patch

Categories
Culture Life

The Art and Science of Single Malt Whisky

pdx_whisky_4-06-12
I’m sure you – like me – were appalled on reading whisky ‘expert’ Jim Murphy’s verdict that some upstart Japanese single malt is now, officially, the world’s finest single malt whisky. The idea that such a thing could ever originate from outwith the shores of Scotland is, like time-travel and invisibility cloaks, scientifically impossible.

Possibly even more appalling was the degree of presumption displayed by the Japanese distillers, Yamazaki, in labelling their potion ‘whisky.’ As all right-thinking people know, if it isn’t distilled among the bonny banks and braes of God’s Own Country then it’s bloody well ‘whiskey’ thank you very much. And I don’t give a tinker’s cuss what Wikipedia says to the contrary.

Apart from anything else, how can you take seriously something purporting to be single malt yet calling itself Yamazaki? It sounds like it should come with a 500cc engine and handlebars.

Sadly, while discussing with friends on Facebook this ridiculous and nonsensical development, it became apparent that genuine appreciation of the sacred uisge beatha is hampered by reverse snobbery, unsophisticated palettes and unforgivable ignorance. Here then, is a simply entry-level guide to the noble art of whisky and the etiquette required for its correct consumption and, thus, enjoyment.

 1. Scotland has four whisky regions (five, really, to true connoisseurs). Each with its own distinctive and highly individual character. They are the Islands; comprising Islay and Skye (although Islay should be considered the fifth region in its own right; such is the glory and towering majesty of its offerings), Highland, Speyside and Lowland.

2. Broadly speaking, whiskys from each region, while varying greatly from each other, will share strong core characteristics. Thus we can say Island malts are maritime and peaty. Highlands are smooth and floral, Speysides are sweet and delicate and Lowlands are light and fresh.

3. Of course that’s the general consensus. In reality, Islay single malts are the finest drinks ever created in the history of humanity. Laphroaig is the most complex and richly-favoured of them all. It is the undisputed King of single malts. Any who hold otherwise will be people of flexible morality, dubious virtue and questionable integrity. Ignore them.

4. Similarly, while Speyside produces the inarguably impressive The Glenlivet (it should always have ‘The’ to give it both its correct appellation and the respect it deserves) its produce tends toward the bland and sickly. The wearily ubiquitous Glenmorangie, for example, is commercialised nonsense. Adequate for grandmothers and the English but unfit to be taken in the company of men.

5. Ice in single malt whisky is not a matter of personal taste. It is wrong. Always. Its extreme temperature wrecks the balance of the whisky and chemically alters its taste. It numbs the palette, too, leading to an inability to actually taste, in all its complex magnificence, that which the Great Architect has seen fit to gift us. Single malt whisky should always be kept and taken at room temperature. Don’t be a peasant. Leave the ice in the freezer.

6. Water. Nowhere is there greater ignorance and reverse snobbery than on the question of water with one’s whisky. In many cases water can actually unlock the bouquet and release hitherto unknown wonders. As a very crude general rule, the higher ABV% of the whisky should dictate the ratio of water to whisky. I once had a superb Cadenhead’s bottling of a 12 year old Bowmore that clocked in at an eye-watering 74% ABV. Drinking it without water would have been utterly stupid and entirely pointless. Such high alcohol content serves only to numb and freeze the taste buds and palette and all that you will taste or smell will be the alcohol. A note of caution: water taken with single malt whisky should be of the lowest possible mineral content. Water with a high mineral content will act in much the same way as ice; it will ruin the balance and, again, chemically alter the whisky’s taste.

7. Our Celtic brothers and sisters from the Emerald Isle try their best, bless ’em, but that non-peaty, triple-distilled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life juice they peddle is but a sorry apology for the mighty kings and queens of Alba. If you must drink whiskey then their blends are actually better. Jameson’s being particularly fine.

8. Another fallacy; the older a whisky is does not automatically mean it will be better. Some single malts mature very early. The Bowmore Legend, for example, carrying no age statement but widely understood to be only eight-years old, is a particularly apposite case here. The same point in reverse, I once had a 31 year-old Black Bowmore. It was, literally, black. As a result of stewing in oloroso sherry casks for three decades. I bought it for £175.00 and sold it a year or two later for £1050.00. It currently retails for circa £7,500.00 per bottle (yes, you read that correctly). Its rarity value is what commands such a price tag; not the quality of the whisky. Those who’ve tasted it tell me it’s virtually undrinkable.

9. There is such a thing as truly bad whisky. But remember; no whisky is even worse. Always.

10. Finally, few have so adequately captured the compelling power and eternal mystery of single malt whisky as the late great Campbell Armstrong. He deserves the last word here.

“The perfume, distilled perfection, bottled wonderment, magnetised him. He’d never seen liquid so golden and pure as that distilled from the cold clear waters of Speyside by Alchemists. Grapes made plump by the sun only gave you wine and what was that but a polite lubricant during a meal? A fine malt was something else. A triumph of nature; its drinkers were disciples, druids. Even the bloody names on the bottles were mystical incantations. Tamdhu. Tullibardine. Lagavulin. Strong Scots names that made Chateau This and Cabernet That decidedly unimpressive; effete little drinks for dilettantes.”

Categories
Politics & Current Affairs

Never Again

Poppies_by_Benoit_Aubry_of_Ottawa

You parade those poppies with unthinking zeal,
Knowing nothing of how we feel.
We, the unseen and now untouched,
Who bought their lies and paid so much.
We, the dead, are always here
And we awake this time every year.
To watch with sadness and dismay
The flowers placed where we lay.
And still their lies are bought and sold
And still you keep doing what you’re told.
“Support our boys,” They say you must,
But They are unworthy of your trust.
Their poppy fascism seeks to make
A noble case for all they take.
The Afghan bleeds when he’s shot
And never asked for what he got.
The Iraqi, too, bleeds when cut
And her child’s blood spills from his gut.
Commemorate us not by lies and hate,
Make a stand; it’s not too late.
Do not kill or die for the boss,
Their profits are not worth the loss,
Of a single life for a blood-stained Crown,
Instead, burn their palaces to the ground.
Repay us best, erase our stain,
Say and mean ‘Never Again.’

 

Categories
Culture Politics & Current Affairs

All That is Solid

All That is Solid is one of the left’s most widely-read blogs. It’s the baby of Dr. Phil Burton-Cartledge, former aid to Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt.

As well as managing the aforementioned blog, the good Doctor also lectures at Derby University.

In recent weeks he’s penned a very positive review of my book, which you can read here and last night he published an interview I did for his site, which was a lot of fun. You can read that here.

I’d recommend Phil’s blog to anyone interested in politics, current affairs and related matters with a sociological twist.

Categories
Culture Politics & Current Affairs

Way Beyond (The Sea)

clacton pic

Nursing home piss and jerking knees
Retired colonels feeling pleased
Johnny Foreigner just got told
Essex masses’ fool’s gold
Flocking, flooding over ‘ere
Send the message loud and clear
Carswell’s smug he just won
Him wot won it not The Sun
Xenophobic Eurosceptic
Noxious creed long turned septic
“Bongo bongo land” was such a laugh
Howler, clanger followed gaffe
But it’s not funny anymore
For non-white faces or the poor
Or the working toiling class
Turkeys queuing up for Christmas
Ed, you and yours can take the blame
You ought to die from burning shame
Oh what a lovely place to be
Welcome to toxic Clacton-on-Sea

Categories
Life

A Love Supreme: Alloa Athletic and Me

Alloa 1There was never a time in my life when I decided to support Alloa Athletic. It certainly wasn’t a matter of familial tradition, given my auld man loathed ‘fitbaw’ and all my uncles – all of them – are Huns (don’t judge me). No, the mighty Wasps have been a part of my life for so long they may as well be part of my DNA. I simply can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Alloa Athletic.

After a spell in Alloa’s infamous ‘Bottom End’ my auld man got us a flit to the Hawkhill scheme and our house on Thistle Street was a scant few hundred yards from the hallowed ‘Recs’ (now horribly renamed the Indodrill Stadium). For as long as I can remember the Saturday afternoon roar of the crowd excited me to a degree that compared to nothing else in my pre-pubescent life. The hordes of black-and-gold-scarf-wearing men streaming down Thistle Street and along the Clackmannan Road thrilled me to bits. The fact that these ‘hordes’  totalled an average gate of around 450 in the mid-70s and the ‘roar of the crowd’ was little more than a semi-excited murmur was something I wouldn’t learn for a number of years.

My gran knitted me the traditional Alloa bar scarf of back-and-gold and on match days I’d wear it hanging around at the end of our path, soaking up the atmosphere, vainly trying to be all nonchalant, as the local hard-men and their equally hard kids, similarly bedecked, would saunter by and cry out “awright there, wee man? Ye no’ comin’ doon the game then?” I’d casually explain I was waiting for a pal. It was easier than the derision which would inevitably have accompanied the truth; that my folks wouldn’t let my nine year-old self anywhere near a football ground in the hooligan-infested seventies.

At age ten, Kenneth Greenhill and I pulled the time-honoured childhood blag – I’m at his and he’s at mine – on our respective parents. The pre-internet age, no mobile ‘phones and with only about three landlines on my scheme and a similar number on the Mar Policies – Kenny’s scheme – meant we were pretty safe. So off we went. Handing over our forty pence and clicking through the turnstiles, trembling with excitement. The noise, the colour, the spectacle; the experience was enormous. All of which I’d many years later realise, after visits to Parkhead and Ibrox, was nothing of the sort. But then, my love was requited. We were joined.

The following season the old boy over the road, ‘Mr. Mac’ had a son signed to the Wasps and he kindly offered to take me to the home games. My folks grudgingly agreed to see how that went. It just couldn’t get better than that. And it didn’t…

Then came the second broken heart of my young life. The first being Eleanor McGill kissing Gary McPhail at the primary seven Christmas party. It was 1978 and we were on the march with Ally’s Army. The entire nation had gone mental. Scotland had already won the world cup before we even set foot on Argentinean soil. If you weren’t there, you simply can’t imagine. It was insane. You’ll recall how it ended though and as I sat there, after Archie scored that goal and it simply not being enough, tears streaming down my eleven year-old cheeks, the auld yin cheerily remarked, “you think that’s bad? Next week we’re flitting to England!” He wasn’t joking.

If life hitherto had contained challenges, they were as nothing to the tribulation of those first three years in Nottingham. A stranger in a strange land, the odd kid with the weird accent, with no fresh rolls from Williamson’s bakers next to the Recs of a Sunday morning, no square slice from Aitken’s, no Ochil Hills, no cousins, no pals, no tablet and, even more devastatingly, no Alloa Athletic. The 5.00pm results on the BBC and no match report in England-oriented Sunday papers were as good as it got. And that wasn’t any good at all. Relief efforts from family came in the form of the Alloa Advertiser posted down every now and then, so some connection to my own true love could be maintained. But the fag-end of the seventies and the early eighties were our wilderness years; the period when our star-crossed relationship was defined by the estrangement enforced by insurmountable distance. When love threatened to tear us apart.

Grimly, I hung on, spurning the would-be temptresses of Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Notts County. By then I’d made a few pals. They urged me to move on. To get over it and find a new love. But I couldn’t. While my brother would eagerly lap up any game on TV, English football meant nothing to me then. Without a dog in the fight, it seemed remote. Disconnected. Forest in those days, under Brian Clough, were on the cusp of their golden years with European glory winking sexily just over the horizon. I remained unmoved. We love who we love, right? We don’t choose that love. It just is.

Adulthood, money and, crucially, a driving license meant our relationship finally moved seriously to the next level. The ups and downs that followed were easily absorbed, given the previous challenges we’d met and conquered together. 620-mile round-trips via plane train and automobile were taken in my stride.

Like the time my best pal – or ‘ma big neebur’ as we used to say in Alloa – Stiobhan and I made a weeknight roundtrip visit to Ibrox for a cup tie. Stiobhan, a hulking Welshman, committed republican and equally committed Celtic fan, considered several hundred miles behind the wheel of his Mini small beer for the remote chance of seeing his pal’s wee diddy team inflict a humiliating blow on the Evil Empire.

I was working in a dyehouse at the time and my shift finished at 2.00pm. He picked me up and we drove the 320 miles there, saw the game, had a curry and a couple of drinks and then drove straight home. Arriving back at work in Nottingham at 5.30am, just in time for my next shift. We figured we’d sleep when we were dead.

Looking for parking in Glasgow’s south side, it became apparent we’d need to ask for directions. Stiobhan, worried his obviously Welsh accent might still be mistaken for English, instructed me to do the talking. Which I did. Slipping instinctively into the patois of my youth. He needn’t have worried. After all, at Ibrox, only an orange sash, a bowler hat or a Union Jack would receive a warmer reception than an English accent.

The highs and lows have been many. The nail-biting ’98 league-winning season, for example. When my wife had given birth to our youngest son just two days before the last game of the season. Which my eldest son and I still attended. Obviously. Then the time our goal machine, Willie Irvine, a prison officer in his day job, threw crucial fixtures into doubt when he was taken hostage by a prisoner at Glenochil jail. Or when Martin Cameron – butcher’s boy by weekdays, the black and gold Ronaldo on Saturdays – was out for three games because a frozen cow had fallen on his toe. Or something. And who can forget the glory of gubbing the hated Stirling Albion 7 – 0?

And so all the way up to this season where already relegation is a distinct possibility but has provided a win against Hibs and the hated Huns pushed to a draw. We sail those storm-tossed seas of fate, smiling together and will continue to do so. Till death do us part. Ours is a love supreme.