Thursday, 12 April 2012

In sure and certain hope

Tonight I watched the final episode of White Heat. You are kind of caught at this point in an introduction. Half your readership will have watched it and be annoyed at the plot being reprised, while the other half, being completely ignorant, can hardly be expected to appreciate six hours of television based on a single paragraph precis. (I never did work out how to type an e grave, or even an e acute. Bloody French).

Anyway, this was one of these "State of the Nation" dramas. Lots of students share one flat in the Seventies. Starting off as broadly, if unfocused, "progressives", as the years go by they are seduced by Thatcherism or resigned to Blairism, The only one who keeps the faith ends up prematurely dead. It is assumed but not expressed, in not entirely happy circumstance.

Everybody is truly genuinely sorry, and a bit guilty, but, even before the camera stops rolling, they are already working out how life might go on.

It was good "watching".

But for me it was just that little bit unfamiliar. For while some of the central characters were politically involved, not all of them were. That is not my own experience,

Now, in one sense I am not a nerd. I like watching the telly; I love football at any level; I quite enjoy music and I can even have a limited appreciation of high art. But politics has been my life.

I was never happier than in the great days of Scottish Labour Action, when, at least for a moment, we might have turned the Labour Party into an insurrectionist movement on the National Question. But, equally, my life was marked out in General Elections and the lessons to be learned (sometimes wrongly) from them. 1979; 1983; 1992...................actually it is twenty years since I concluded anything really significant from such a major political test, except that such major political tests were the only ones of any real importance. And that was the similar experience of almost all of my really close friends.

But, at the same time, my personal life went on. As did the personal life of those to whom I was close by virtue of politics but also to whom I became close by something more than political alignment.

So folk got into "serious" relationships; had weans; had improbable affairs; turned out to be gay (as we'd always suspected); left the Party in the huff (to be excused) and even on one singular and utterly inexcusable  occasion, joined the SNP. But, ordinary life also went on. Asked what they were doing in a particular school, there would become the casual response, "I'm the heedie"; or there would be the spousal assertion: "You know he/she is now a professor"; or even, in one the resentful observation "I still  can't believe he is the First Minister"

But friends are friends; so there were also weddings and christenings and even occasionally very drunken observations of divorces. "You were always too good for her"; "I know he's my pal but I should have also told you he was always a complete bastard"; "So, anyway, are you still going to be an Election Agent?"

And now, just occasionally, you start to run across the funerals. Bill Speirs, taken before his own time by virtue of his own demons; Dave Crosher, just taken; Campbell Christie, after a good innings but still not quite before the lifetime acclamation he deserved; and tomorrow, at the Partick Burgh Hall, Janey Buchan. A woman who looked down, beneficially, on all this manouvering, personal and political; all this shagging and stabbing; plotting and longing; hoping and losing and just, very rarely, winning and who nonetheless never doubted that, no matter how slowly, we were moving forward.

There was no proper funeral for Janey, That was her wish. Her mortal remains were returned, without fuss or circumstance to the earth from which they came. So it was left to others to insist that she could not simply pass like this. For she'd sowed the seeds of freedom in her daughters and her sons.

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