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The Plastic Dictators

My Utopian dream for the New Scotland is to be liberated from the tyranny of stuff. If you have ever had to crawl around the floor and contort yourself to reach into the gunk-filled areas of your home and investigate murky folding sofa beds to retrieve the item known as the ‘Polly pocket’, then you will begin to know what I mean. I sit amid a claustrophobic accumulation of stuff and wonder how this nylon and fake velvet coup happened. I can just remember the far off days when each room of the house, bought with the innocence of those days as a 20 year home not a financial investment, echoed with uncarpeted emptiness. I am to blame for the second hand kitch that began the clutter, but that came from an obsession with getting bargains and rescuing ‘must have’ flying duck sets from such emporia as the cancer shop in Stockbridge. I confess to losing the plot when I insisted in shipping, like so much emotional baggage, a deadweight of an enormous second hand piano from the Area 7 warehouse…

Donkey jackets, cuban cigars and the night of Halley's Comet

I never thought student politics mattered much although I had a nominal position of ‘welfare officer’ at Edinburgh College of Art which enabled me to stand up in front of all the new first years from the lofty position of second year and sport my latest arty outfit, which I recall on that day included green rope-wedged espadrilles worn over coloured socks. The Students’ Association as it was called, was so moribund that there was no danger of having to face an election, so filling the roles was more a case of who you could drag into them rather than anything else. An early lesson in the sorry state of participative politics perhaps but other than an early flirtation with the Lauriston Place fire station (now a museum) when we made the student common room available to the striking firemen, like most I didn’t understand what politics was about despite my tribal family loyalty to the labour party, till it affected me. That came in 1980 when I emerged from the red sandstone ECA clutching a…

Fish theft and vodka

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My father used to say the EEC was nothing more than a Tory club. In 1973 I was coveting suede mini- skirts, denim Wrangler jackets and trying to work up the courage to ask him to let me go the ‘Harray’ dance. Harray is the only landlocked parish in Orkney and natives of Harray got the nickname’ Harray Crabs’ as they had no shoreline. (No I don’t know the logic behind it, I suggest you google it). The Harray dance was symbolic of everything that was terrifying to a parent emerging blinking into the 60s and then hurtled into pre-punk 70s. The iniquity of the hall’s reputation encompassed legendary copulations at the ‘back of the hall’, imbibing of vodka behind broken toilet doors with secondary spewing in the same location, and a floor running in spilt beer which was de rigeur. Unregulated, even socially condoned underage binging in the macho rural society that was Orkney then, created the perfect storm of authoritarian parenting for someone like my dad –…

mince and tatties politics and fish

It isn’t quite a year, but it’s long enough to now be able to put my head above the parapet and tentatively say, ’I think I’m starting to get my head round this.’ Last year my only true credentials for the post of Secretary to Orkney Fisheries Association were as the wife of a former fisherman. Another slight inaccuracy, Neil still fishes, but since 1995 we have been unable to rely on fishing for our total income. This is part of the story of this blog and will I hope help to map the dramatic decline in fishing in Orkney since that time.
My background was heavily reliant on family associations with the crab and lobster fishing in Stromness in particular. As kids we were brought up with the vague knowledge of all the extraneous things our father did which meant he was out most nights at meetings of one kind or another. One of the things he was involved with was the OFS or the Orkney Fisherman’s Society, a co-operative set up in Stromness in the fifties to provide the fishermen with a f…