With the plethora of bank holidays recently it has been difficult to post contributions to my blog regularly as mail in & out of the prison has been restricted. For the same reason I apologise to those who have written but not yet received replies. They are on their way, I promise.
Some write regularly to me but don’t attach their address. In particular I want to thank Nan, Gordon, Liz, Sean, Fiona, Peter & big Bobby for welcome and warm correspondence that I can’t reply to as I don’t have their addresses. Your letters and cards are really appreciated.
Life in Barlinnie has been surprisingly varied and interesting. A week ago the gym staff organised a couple of question & answer sessions with former footballers Dixie Deans, Kevin Drinkell and John ‘cowboy’ McCormack. The evening has hilariously compered by the multi-talented comedian Pat Rolink. Pat is a solid supporter of good causes and regularly performs for free to promote charities and campaigns for justice. He is a larger than life character, literally and metaphorically. As he delights in informing his audience, he used to have his dinner money stolen from him at school. The thief’s bought a Mercedes sports car with their takings, such was Pat’s lust for food!
He is a funny guy with a huge heart, and if you ever get the chance to see him live, take it. You will laugh a lot and feel uplifted.
What can I say about Dixie Deans? My footballing hero as a young Celtic supporter. Sure, I was privileged to see Jinky Johnstone, Bobby Lennox, Kenny Dalglish, and George Connolly play live, but I was very young at the time. I couldn’t really appreciate them as much as I could Dixie.
The 1972 Scottish cup final was the last time a six figure crowd attended a game at Hampden. Over 105,000 fans, including me on my dad’s shoulders for much of the game, witnessed Celtic come from behind to crush a good Hibernian side 6-1, with Dixie scoring a super hat-trick and treating us to his unique forward roll celebration.
He was my idol and is a complete gem of a guy and a gentleman. It was an honor to listen to him. A real football legend.
To be fair to Kevin Drinkell he was also interesting and eloquent with a career I didn’t realise was so rich. Sadly, he scored some goals against Celtic in his time with Rangers, but he also notched winners against Liverpool at Anfield and Man Utd at Old Trafford during his time with Norwich. He also informed us that he knocked back a move to Fergie’s Man Utd, a decision which he sort of regrets now.
He also lifted the lid on the angry reaction within the Rangers team as Mo Johnston famously became Rangers first high-profile Catholic signing under the tenure of Graeme Souness. To get to a remote Italian training camp Kevin and his colleagues had to endure a long and arduous journey by coach, train and minibus that left them exhausted. When the bold Mo arrived on board a snazzy helicopter alongside Souness there was some resentment.
None of the resentment was of a sectarian nature, however, as the players recognised Mo as a good player and a useful addition to the team.
The only note of discord was sounded by the ever sharp Scott Nisbett, who asked after Johnston had been introduced: “does this mean we’re not a sectarian team anymore”?
Cowboy McCormack was also worth listening to as he talked of his dream come true for a wee guy fae Blackhill to become a professional footballer and play with St Mirren against the likes of St Etienne and players of the quality of Michel Platini.
He was a hard, but fair player which I can vouch for during my games with the legendary Dukla Pumpherston, which plays charity matches across Scotland. Most of us decline to play if we have a knock or strain, but not the iron cowboy.
In the last match we played together we were adjusting our shin pads whilst John was adjusting his metal leg-brace which was required to keep his knee in place. He’s now had to have that knee replaced and been ordered by his surgeon to play no more.
Many of the questions on the night concerned the previous Sunday’s old firm game and the much over-hyped ‘cupped ears’ incident involving Neil Lennon. What a load of cobblers! I couldn’t believe the reaction from the press.
The guy was subjected to a torrent of vile abuse during the 90 minutes of the match. That happens. It’s sad, but a reality of old firm games. Opposing managers get it in the neck from the fans. They pay their money and think they’re entitled to shout & sing what they want.
I love some of the enterprising banter. The ‘cheer up Walter Smith’ chants to the tune of Daydream Believer under Martin O’Neill’s reign were superb. The ‘bouncy, bouncy’ and ‘the bluebells are blue’ chants from the Gers fans are also annoyingly effective.
Wouldn’t it be great if both sets of fans could sign & chant in support of their team without recourse to sectarian, racist or hate-filled bile?
After what Lennon endured at Ibrox I thought his cupped-ear response was entirely reasonable and appropriate. Where is the offence in cupping your ears? I couldn’t stop laughing at the Strathclyde police response. They are to take no further action.
Really? Why not caution and charge Neil with cupping his ears? What a court case that would make!
Was it accidental, Mr Lennon? Or did you deliberately frighten the hordes of Rangers fans by cupping your ears and facing a section of them in the main stand, thus causing offence, fear and alarm?
How bloody ridiculous! Well done Lenny. You have faced up to the intolerable stresses and strains of threats on your life with real courage and dignity. I hope the double is your reward.
On the issue of on field gestures, when will the football chiefs lighten up and allow some fun back into the game? Who can forget Gazza’s flute-playing mime and his mock booking of the referee who had dropped his yellow card? They were antics in jest, yet he was punished. Rubbish.
The game needs characters. Entertainers. Jokers with skill. And the booking of players for goal celebrations is just plain crazy.
Coisty used to hold his belly after scoring in response to the ‘who ate all the pies’ jibes directed towards him. It was a fitting response, and entirely appropriate and fun. Nowadays it would likely lead to a yellow card caution.
Football should be fun as well as competitive.
By the time you read this contribution the Holyrood election will likely be over. Hopefully George Galloway will have won a seat in Glasgow. He is a politician of considerable talent who will be an excellent shop steward for ordinary folk across the city and a leader of the anti-cuts campaigns which will be necessary in the face of savage cuts ordered by the ConDem millionaires in cabinet. George can light up the dull Parliament in Edinburgh and be a conductor for socialist, anti-war and public ownership policies.
I also hope that Solidarity does well in the other seven electoral regions we are standing in and maintain our position as the leading socialist party in Scotland.
It will probably be too difficult this time around with such a polarised election and without any significant media exposure to actually win a seat, but it was important to make a stand across Scotland under our spotless socialist banner whilst showing the maturity and left unity credentials to unite with George in Glasgow.
Whilst the other left groups continue to spiral into self-destruction and sectarian inspired oblivion Solidarity continues to recognise the need for left unity and displays the honesty and courage to turn words into action as in Glasgow.
I also hope the rat-infested SSP get the electoral humiliation their coalition with the reactionary Murdoch press befits them. The leadership of that decaying carcass are a disgraceful bunch of liars, clypes and hypocrites whose support for the scum of the world and daily scum campaign against socialists like me and many others will condemn them to be forever cast as political scabs, grasses and Murdoch allies.
An SNP outright majority would be the best outcome from a difficult situation. Such a majority would remove the fig-leaf excuses deployed cleverly to justify the SNP failing to even publish their council tax abolition bill let alone get rid of it as they promised to do four years ago. It will also remove any obstacle to an independence referendum and force them to positively campaign for such a change in the UK constitution which could prove progressive is handled properly.
If an outright majority is secured it would also be a mandate to oppose Westminster-imposed cuts in public services instead of meekly implementing them. Such a determined stand led by an SNP Government could force the ConDems onto the back foot and unite Scotland and the trade union movement behind them.
Let’s hope they have the bottle for such a fight.
Back in the Bar-L I will be taking part in a series of comedy workshops over the next 5 weeks. They are designed to improve prisoner communication skills, confidence, discipline and writing capabilities. At the end of the course we will all be expected to perform in a comedy show in front of the other prisoners.
It will be a daunting challenge, but surely worthwhile.
Working alongside excellent comedians like Stu Who? and Stuart Little and being involved in workshops with Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges can only be a fun experience. These guys are oozing talent and hopefully the skills learned by fellow prisoners will help in preventing any further offending behaviour.
The course is effectively a life-skills course that will hopefully equip those who take part with the capacity to avoid future law-breaking. The prison deserves credit for rolling our courses like this alongside the fork-lift driving, joinery, plumbing,anger management, drug and alcohol awareness, anti-sectarian and family bonding courses.
Prison should not just be about detention. It should also be about rehabilitation. And courses like this can help in that aim.
If such efforts are not made then prisons will continue to be no more than expensive revolving door institutions with diminishing societal benefits.
Until next time, take care.