JOHN SMEATON IN AL-MEGRAHI ‘NEAR MISS’
Before the onset of winter, with its depressing short days and long nights, before the depressing realisation set in that 2010 would see yet another Worls Cup without Scotland, we all let our hair down with a festival or two. Edinburgh, in particular, welcomed visitors from throughout the Globe throughout August, and this year put on a most spectacular show for the tourists. By digging up all the streets, and have bags of shite piled high on the pavements. It does seem a strange set of priorities to be proud to host the World’s biggest festival and to be planning a rapid-transit system for the 21st Century but to refuse to pay your binmen a living wage.
This year also saw the promotion of a number of events as part of Homecoming 2009, a year-long festival aiming to tempt ex-pats back to Scotland. So they gave us the Gathering of the Clans, the World’s Biggest-Ever Highland Games and the World Pipe Band Championships. In other words, all the pish people left Scotland to get away from in the first place. The main purpose behind Homecoming was to get rich Americans to come over here and spend their cash. So Kenny McAskill decided to join in the spirit of the whole thing, by releasing the Lockerbie Bomber. It was pretty obvious that when al-Megrahi was led on to his plane at Glasgow Airport that John Smeaton wasn’t at work that day.
America was up in arms! Imagine any Government acting immorally in the pursuit of oil ! There are threats to boycott Scottish produce (Though I reckon they’re unlikely to boycott whisky. Have you drunk the piss they distill themselves?) Nonetheless, Americans tend not to know too much about Scotland. During Tartan Week earlier this year, when the Scottish Government throws a bunfight in New York City to encourage US investment in the Scottish economy (good luck with next year’s event, fellahs) an opinion poll was held on the streets of Manhattan to find out the Scot best known to the people of Manhattan. And the results were somewhat surprising. Scotland’s three best-known faces Stateside were Mel Gibson, Scotty from Star Trek and Groundkeeper Willie from the Simpsons. However, a similar poll amongst the people of Utah, to find out who they thought was the greatest American had a similarly surprising outcome, 50 per cent voting for Jesus.
This has been a year to commemorate heroic events and villainous deeds. September saw the seventieth anniversary of the start of World War II. The Scotsman ran a series of articles chronicling how the people of Edinburgh survived the Blitz. Quite easily, it turns out, because the Blitz never came to Edinburgh. German bombers were never able to disrupt the lives of its citizens, or bring life in the city to a total standstill.
How ironic that seventy years later, German engineering contractors have been able to disrupt the lives of the people of Edinburgh, and bring life in the city grinding to a total standstill. Fifty years ago, the city decided to get rid of its tram system in order to ease traffic congestion in the city centre. Now they’ve decided to build a new tram network. In order, it would appear, to maximise traffic congestion in the city centre.
Personally, I am in favour of the trams (although I would never say so to a taxi driver). Only last week, as I was sitting in a traffic jam at Haymarket on the Airport Express bus (yes, that really IS what they call it) I was consoled by the thought that in 2011 (or more likely 2013) the tedious trip out to the Airport is going to be a whole five minutes shorter.
The summer of 2009 may have seen the fortieth anniversary of man landing on the Moon. Yet we’ve still got to wait at least another two years before we get a rapid link to Edinburgh Airport. In all of the celebrations of the moon landing in the media little was made of its Scottish connections. In fact, the first man on the Moon himself, Neil Armstrong, had strong family links to the town of Langholm, in the Borders. After landing on the moon, Armstrong was awarded the Freedom of the Burgh of Langholm. And he later claimed that visiting the town in his youth had been ideal preparation for the lunar mission. Because, when he landed on the Moon, he found it actually had more atmosphere than Langholm.
When John F Kennedy announced the plans for the expedition to the Moon back in 1961, no-one ever thought that it would actually happen by the end of that decade. But that just goes to show how far we can push back the boundaries of human achievement. For who would have thought, in the summer of 1969, when man first set foot on the Moon that forty short years later Sunday ferry services would finally reach Stornoway.
Predictably, when the ferry did arrive in Stornoway, the Lord’s Day Observance Society held a protest on the quayside, complaining about this outrageous breach to the tranquility of the Sabbath. Watching the demonstration on Reporting Scotland, it seemed to me that the only people breaching the tranquility of the Sabbath were the Lord’s Day Observance Society.
Yet on that momentous day as the MV Isle of Lewis set sail for the mainland on a Sunday for the first-ever time, all that was lacking was a radio feed from the Captain proudly proclaiming:
“That’s one small step for Man, one massive leap for Archie McLeod, who can now get a pint, and a newspaper, in Ullapool on a Sunday!”