Musings on the byways of popular culture
29/12/2020 by Colin H 36 Comments
Colin H says
29/12/2020 at 15:16
People often ask me, ‘Colin, do you shrug your shoulders and wearily accept the culture of incompetence, bigotry, wastefulness, mediocrity, arrogance and gravy trains that characterises Northern Ireland politics… or do you feel the need to make periodic, almost certainly futile, gestures at waking people up to the matter?’
‘Let me have a think about it…’ I reply. 🤔
Ladies and gentlemen, the return of Bourgeois Fury – featuring punk legends Dave ‘The Beard’ McLarnon and Petesy Burns, cauldron of pure molten rock Norman Boyd (on guide bass at session #1 as well as lead guitar), burbling bass behemoth Ali MacKenzie, the Bourgeoisettes on backing vocals (Anna, Adele and Ellen) and me. Recorded at uttermost king of Belfast rock Brian Houston’s Stoney Road Studio down a dark country lane.
Smash the system, drain the swamp, tap your toes – and share it wherever you wish. Here’s to a happier new year for one and all! 🙏🙂
Lando Cakes says
29/12/2020 at 15:26
Splendid. Infuriating. But splendid.
Martin Hairnet says
29/12/2020 at 15:50
Great stuff Colin, and that studio looks dead cosy.
What’s the current public discourse about Brexit in NI? There seems to be a conspiracy of silence about it in the British press. The Conservative and Unionist Party seem to be washing their hands of the Unionist bit. I can’t get my head around it. What about all the terrible sacrifices of The Troubles? What was it all for?
My weak understanding of the situation is that NI – though semi-detached from the UK – should find itself in a much more favourable trading position with the EU than the rest of the UK. What is to stop English/Welsh/Scottish businesses relocating to NI to take advantage of any trading benefits?
29/12/2020 at 16:31
I think everyone’s pretty hazy about how Brexit will *actually* affect NI. Curiously, the DUP voted for it (because they’ll vote for anything with ‘No!’ in it) and are now seeing a kind of border down the Irish Sea vis a vis trade with GB (England, Wales, Scotland) – while NI remains with some slightly more attached/porous relationship to the EU because of the land border with the Republic of Ireland. It certainly makes life & business in NI MUCH easier… while irritating the Dup. So, every cloud… 🙂
A moron could have foreseen from day one that there would HAVE to be some ‘special arrangement’ involving NI because of that EU land border – a border that is also mired in complex and rancorous history, just about ‘defused’ with the 1998 agreement. Seemingly the DUP didn’t see that. The only possible choice was a hard border with EU/Rep of Ireland or some kind of internal UK trade border between GB & NI. The former was madness for all sorts of reasons. The administrative border down the sea matters to literally no one save the DUP (bar being a slight irritant, practically, to businesses – but it is felt that some mechanisms will be found to significantly lessen the paperwork angst.)
Interestingly, the Rep of Ireland govt has unilaterally offered to fund any NI students wanting to study in Europe with the Erasmus scheme (which the UK opted out of in the ‘deal’) to the tune of £100 million annually.
It may not be well-known that people in NI can have joint UK/Irish citizenship or just one of either. So if you are an NI person and want bother-free holidays in Europe, one just needs to get an Irish passport. If you’re a Northern Ireland politician and you want a bother-free luxury holiday in dodgy regimes around the Indian Ocean, well…
There just isn’t time (or will) to try and explain all the ups / downs of how the NI Assembly has handled Covid. There was one occasion when they had a ludicrous three-day/night meeting to try and make a decision on hairdressers & cafes while the virus raged. One occasion where such premises closed down for 2 weeks then opened up for a week then closed again for 2 weeks… while the local education minister kept telling people schools were fine (as school teachers and pupils were dropping like flies)…
29/12/2020 at 16:38
I think NI will be the biggest benefactor from this mediocre ‘deal’. They will have closer business links with the EU than mainland UK has and there will also be a flock of UK businesses relocate to Belfast and the surrounding area. This may well become their golden age while the rest of the UK slides into a gradual decline.
29/12/2020 at 16:42
It’s always possible. I’ve read / heard discussions about fishing boats in Scotland registering in NI – there’s some kind of advantage – and what that would look like in practice (how many days a boat would need to dock at an NI harbour etc.).
29/12/2020 at 16:53
The border became a problem once the UK backed out of the single market and customs union, something that many Leave advocates said would never happen around referendum time. I can’t understand how the Tories never anticipated this conflict with the GFA. All that BS about new customs technologies that didn’t exist. But the Tory press seem to be glossing over the loss of sovereignty for NI caused by Johnson’s Irish Sea border. To me it feels like NI has been abandoned by the British government.
I’ve got a friend from Portrush. He wasn’t born in NI, but he lived there for most of his childhood. He holds both UK and Irish passports. His mum is from NI. I assume you have to have a NI relative before you can claim an Irish passport? An English/Welsh/Scottish person who moves to NI to live/work/retire can’t claim one. Or can they?
29/12/2020 at 17:08
I’ve no idea, I’m afraid. If you live here, it’s not something you ever think about. I think if you have a grandparent from NI you can play in the NI soccer team…
I don’t hold any views on the sovereignty matter – I really don’t care one way or the other. But extremists who do care and shout loudly about it have been bought off since 1998 with colossal sums of public cash and ego-massaging access to regional power (an arrangement most people consider just about tolerable, for a finite time, in real-politick bigger-picture terms) while normal people just feel a kind of weariness that nothing will change in terms of this embarrassing, hectoring, trough-nosing shower.
The tipping point, I feel, is not the gravy train that this crew are on but the fact that, given access to SPENDING public money, they are clueless and dangerous. RHI was a scandal and a disgrace – either monumental corruption or monumental stupidity. Either way, the party and individuals responsible would have been chucked out of office in any other part of the UK or in any other democracy. They’re still there.
29/12/2020 at 19:33
re RHI, a year ago I would’ve agreed with you, but seeing the amount of money spent by the Westminster government, and with who, during the Covid pandemic has given me pause for thought. Who would’ve though the DUP would be trailblazers in any sphere of public life!
30/12/2020 at 12:10
As a Northern Ireland resident I share Colin’s views on the political shower we are blessed with.
Utter disgrace that the DUP got away with the RHI shambles.
We voted to remain, because most could see the benefits of remaining as well as foreseeing the problems of getting a suitable Brexit aligning with the GFA.
As for the response to Covid over here, you have seen the drawbacks of a coalition government, where it has been difficult to get any consensus.
Amongst the dross however, as Colin mentions, there should be a special award for the Education Minister Peter Weir. The Department have taken to issuing guidance to schools in the late evening, but the best example is probably this. At just after 9 on the morning that schools returned after the Halloween break we received an email dictating that all PE lessons should now take place outside with a maximum of 15 pupils. Once schools pointed out that this was largely impractical the order was quickly rescinded, but serves to illustrate the utter ineptitude of the man. The latest is that all schools must return this Monday, but 3 year groups (8-10) will revert to remote learning from w/s 25th Jan. I would love to know how that decision was arrived at.
30/12/2020 at 12:23
It’s hard to conceive of a problem to which Peter Weir is the solution… or Edwin Poots… or Sammy Wilson… or [insert your own name here]…
I know several teachers in NI. They’re not happy. Some have had Covid, and all have had colleagues who’ve had it. One recently widowed friend, a teacher with an underlying health condition and four grown up children, told me she was bloody well going to have all four round for Christmas (whatever the rules) – because the government had been throwing her health to the wolves for weeks by keeping schools going.
30/12/2020 at 12:55
Where I’ve work we’ve had at least 15 official cases, not to mention the ones that don’t get counted as a school case (pupil who has symptoms but doesn’t get tested – his parents test positive – so that doesn’t count, or those that get symptoms whilst already self isolating). I’ve had two bouts of self-isolating owing to cases in my classroom and I’ve had two staff members who have been seriously ill. Weir just parrots out “schools must stay open” citing the mental health of the pupils. Of course it’s nothing to do with the upcoming transfer tests!
29/12/2020 at 19:00
This page on the Irish Government website lists who is eligible to apply for an Irish passport.
29/12/2020 at 19:58
31/12/2020 at 00:17
I’m glad that question was asked. I thought the Unionists must be livid. I’m totally pissed off that only Scotland didn’t get the Brexit it voted for. But that subject will be returned to in ’21. Cannae wait.
31/12/2020 at 11:45
I sense your powder drying even as we speak! 😀
In my view, Brexit has made the break up of the ‘union’ inevitable – not if, but when.
01/01/2021 at 16:50
I disagree – I think it’s made it even more unlikely. I’m speaking of GB, rather than NI though.
01/01/2021 at 18:04
Interesting. It’s all speculation, of course, but I would have thought that, on balance, Brexit and the disgraceful, chaotic way that the process has been handled at Westminster over 4+ years (regardless of which way one voted) have given the SNP very evocative cards to play in Scotland.
Remaining in the EU by remaining in the UK was one powerful argument last time around (the IndyRef), when it was clear that Scotland could not simply rejoin the EU without a painful period outside it, but that landscape has very much changed now.
Not only is there now no disadvantage on that score in terms of leaving the UK, but I suspect the EU’s treatment of a newly independent Scotland would be a great deal friendlier – because it would not be sending out signals to other EU regions like Catalonia that seceding is fine. It would be welcoming BACK a region whose parent country had given the EU a kicking.
01/01/2021 at 23:05
Scexit would be an order of magnitude worse than Brexit. It would create a hard customs and immigration border between Scotland and what is, buy some distance, its biggest trading partner and only land border. The very things that draw NI and the republic together make scexit unlikely.
And that’s before we even get to the economic criteria for EU membership that would entail eye-watering cuts in public spending – over and above the deficit in the current Scottish govt. income and expenditure – a deficit dealt with through the happy circumstance of being part of the UK.
I cheerfully admit to a bias here; I have a visceral dislike of the politics of othering. The nationalists’ obsessive flag-waving, denial of the inconvenient expenditure and revenue figures (yes, the ones published by the SNP government) and enthusiasm for conspiracy theories, are redolent of Trump supporters in the US. It’s not going to end well …
02/01/2021 at 00:11
I agree entirely – it would be madness economically. I was trying to say – as a dispassionate observer – that the SNP now have further cards to play in terms of Scots’ emotional triggers.
02/01/2021 at 14:23
I suspect you’re right – their ability to turn absolutely anything into a grievance is quite a talent. I’m not sure that it all amounts to a moral argument in favour of scexit though.
What they do have in their favour, over and above all that, is a deep-seated national dislike of Johnson and his works.
02/01/2021 at 15:16
Maybe I used the term ‘moral argument’ too loosely. I was trying to reference the fact that Scotland had a long history as an independent nation before 1707 – the early modern era – something that NI and Wales don’t have.
NI is basically the remnant of a colony while Wales was absorbed into Britain in the 13th century. I’m not very familiar with Welsh history, but whatever proud nationalism there may be, it draws on antiquity and mythology rather than centuries as a viable independent state into the near modern era.
29/12/2020 at 16:25
Bourgeois you are right enough, with a couple more bob coming your way, if to be shared with your mucker Trevor Hodgett, seemingly long departed these pages: I was delighted to find your 2004 book amongst my presents, Irish Folk, Trad and Blues. Looks rather jolly to me.
29/12/2020 at 16:37
Ha! Well, do enjoy it. I don’t seem to get any royalties for that one – a few hundred quid in 2004/5 and then nowt. I think there was one run in Ireland (Collins Press) and 500 copies or maybe 1000 in the UK via a Collins P arrangement with Cherry Red. I wasn’t bothered about cash at the time – I just felt a need to get the knowledge ‘out there’.
29/12/2020 at 18:16
Yup, it’s the Cherry Red. My wife, who bought it on the books title, was astonished when I said I “knew” you! (Well, I do, sort of…)
29/12/2020 at 18:19
😀 I think you’ll enjoy it.
31/12/2020 at 00:31
I have that and your Bert Jansch book. I’m far from a Bert fan but your early years stuff was just outstanding.
31/12/2020 at 11:43
Thank you Jorrox. Aren’t you a Glasgow man, though? Surely there must be a tinge of pride for BJ in that aspect? 🙂
31/12/2020 at 13:49
Did a quick gulp there, forgetting that you might mean the BJ under discussion rather than another BJ much in our thoughts these days….
31/12/2020 at 14:04
Ah yes… 😀
29/12/2020 at 17:28
Great stuff. And very exciting to see a Westone Thunder out in the wild.
29/12/2020 at 17:34
Ha! Indeed 🙂 I bought it in the mid 80s but was given a Telecaster copy in the late 90s by a pal who was moving to the US – and sort of fell into preferring that one on the odd occasions I needed an electric guitar (mostly for recording) thereafter. But just a couple of years back a guitar-buff pal heard I had one in the loft, fallen into disrepair, and asked me if he could fix it up as a bit of a project. He did an amazing job… and it’s been in my kitchen/lounge ever since with a practice amp, being played for a few minutes every day 🙂 In fact, I’ve barely picked up my acoustic all year.
Here’s a clip with the Westone at an open mic last Christmas. A bit of fun 🙂
29/12/2020 at 18:20
If you weren’t happy and smiling, talking and engaging, you could be the spit of that fella, wossname, when he was a young(er) man. British fella (sic) like you, and all.
30/12/2020 at 12:30
An interesting (well… be kind 😀 ) aside about Norman Boyd’s sensational solo in ‘NI Politicians’ is that my filming pal Mark Case (a legendary graphic designer by trade) somehow missed getting a complete take of it, on the three or four occasions that Norm played it – in the big room on day one and then again on day two in the control room (same solo, but Norm just felt he could play it better… and he did). So… there were two or three video drafts where Mark had to try and fudge this gap using whatever bits of Norm playing he had. Hence, the images don’t match the actual notes – which guitar buffs here will of course spot (I’m looking at you, Twang 😀 ). But as others have told me, most people won’t notice.
The irony to this is that I happened to get the solo (the take that was used) on a borrowed phone camera! With film maestro Mark taking a breather on the sofa beside Norm! 😀
30/12/2020 at 13:00
Another aside… this version of Bourgeois Fury has its roots in Dave McLarnon’s Hat Band – a one-off local supergroup assembled for a charity show back in March (the last gig all the members played before the apocalypse): Dave McL (vocals), Norman Boyd (guitar), Billy Shovel (guitar), Ali MacKenzie (burbling bass), Petesy Burns (drums). Only Billy didn’t make it to the Bourgeois Fury session – which had me and Lonseome Chris Todd on extra guitars – and absolutely nothing should be read into that!
Here they are in action at that show. I’ve posted it before on the AW, but it already feels like a classic performance to me 🙂
30/12/2020 at 23:29
The obscure origins of ‘Northern Ireland Politicians’ discovered – a rare Ulster-Scots folk song, ‘Yon Shyster Boyos o’ thon Hill’. I had it translated and attempted a rendition earlier today. For historical interest, of course. 😀
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