Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

Beware the Glory Hunter

So boots are quaking in constituencies all across the land as polls arrive suggesting a few upsets at the General Election in May.

The squirming anger of the entitled is painfully plain to see.

If it happens as predicted (but let’s be honest, the SNP gaining even thirty seats from the opposition would be an amazing success) I, for one, will be only too glad to see the back quite a few of this current generation of career politicians.

SNP constituency branches must be careful from hereon, however, as this success might make the party the prime target for the type of career and money-orientated wannabe politicians who blight the landscape of the current labour party.

It might be just what the Labour party needs, though. What sometimes happens when a traditionally high-flying Premier League football team unexpectedly finds itself relegated to the first division? The high earning players need to be shed and the team finds itself having to more or less start from scratch, with a bunch of young unknowns. The team rebuilt quite often gains the hunger lacking from the previous incarnation. Players playing “for the shirt” again, if you like.

Hopefully, if this apparent decimation was to happen to Labour’s branch office in Scotland, we’d see a party renewed with focus and vitality, ready to give the SNP a proper run for its money.

This has to happen.

Much as it would gladden my heart to see SNP domination, realistically we can’t become a single party state (not that that would happen in Westminster’s case, but thinking about Holyrood in 2016). That would be as, if not more, unhealthy than the current state of affairs.


I had a bairns’ weekend this week, so I finally got around to getting the much promised Swiss Army Knife for my son. The one I’d told him I’d get him when he left the cubs and joined the scouts. We went into Aberdeen to find one.

As usual, I parked in Union Square, because with a van like mine it’s the easiest and most convenient place to park in the city centre.

I’d done a wee search and found that Millets sold these knives, so it was there we headed (after the customary glance through the Apple Store… Mmmm, those new iMacs are beautiful…).

Coming out of the front doors of the mall, it barely registered that there weren’t quite as many of the Emo-Kids and skaters hanging around, smoking out there.

“Ah Dad, that sound!” said Arran, my ten-year-old, as we negotiated our way over to the pedestrian crossing at the other side of the square. “Really annoying!”

“Eh?” I said, not really taking in properly what he told me. We were at the lights by this time, so I had other things on my mind. “Right, that’s green… Cross now…”

We went and bought his knife, had our lunch at Subway (at their insistence), then headed back to Union Square and the van.

We crossed the same part as we had done earlier.

“Ah, there it is again!” said Arran, putting his hands up to his ears. This time I took more notice and wondered what he was hearing.

“I can’t hear anything,” I said.

“You’re probably too deaf,” Arran replied.

I thought about this for a second, then it all became apparent, what with the lack of Emos around the place.

They’d installed one of those “teenage scarers” I’d heard about. Something along these lines.

Once I realised, I did register what I thought was an increase in the volume of my tinnitus. In fact, once we’d left the place I noticed it was ringing more than usual.

Just not sure what to think about this. Teenagers always like to hang around in packs, they did so in the past, they will do in the future. I remember doing it myself. My friends and I were proud of an item in the local paper one week – “Beer youth scaring OAPs claim” – as I remember it. We hung around the square at the centre of our town, drinking lager and playing cassettes on an old, overdriven beat-box one of us had.

Thing is, if the OAPs had bothered to come over and talk to us (not shout at us), we would have been polite and courteous. We were trying to find our identity and to be honest, it felt like we were getting our alienated, angst-ridden feelings across to the general public easier as a gang. It all seems a bit daft, in hindsight.

It all seems a bit draconian to me. I wonder where the kids went?

A Drink for the Sewer Rats

Today I did something that, if I’d done it even a year or two back, I’d have considered sacrilegious to my own principles. Something that if I’d seen or heard of anyone else doing, would have outraged and saddened me to the core of my very being.

I poured twenty four cans of Tennent’s lager down the plughole of my kitchen sink.

Granted, it was out of date (I’d bought it in January when I moved to this house), but that didn’t make it seem any less weird when I did it.

I’ve been actively trying to knock the drink on the head recently, you see.

Since before it was legal for me to do so, one my main ambitions in early life was to go to the pub and get drunk. All the cool people did that. Everyone at our academy knew someone that had managed to get served in a bar and had ended up pissed, having the time of their life. Sexy girls went to bars and got served easily it seemed. Sexy girls got drunk and did sexy things with boys. Boys like me, if only I could get in the door and convince the people behind the bar that I was eighteen or over. Why hadn’t that bloody moustache grown yet?

After what seemed like an age of trying and failing, my friends and I eventually started getting served in the local hostelries and we took full advantage of that fact. Every night possible we’d spend every penny earned on the noble pursuit of drunkenness. This was our golden age.

Getting drunk opened quite a few avenues for me. Being naturally shy, I found that the confidence I gained while under the influence was the key I needed to express “the real me”, especially to the opposite sex.

So we did our fair share of getting pissed, having parties, getting shagged and dealing with the (surprisingly mild, in hindsight) hangovers.

Ah, those were the days.

Not these days, however.

When I split up with my wife, I foresaw myself, in a pit of despair, drowning in alcohol to numb the depression and loneliness. Alcohol and meaningless sex. That was how I’d deal with this latest trauma in my life. But it wasn’t to be.

The easy, meaningless sex had all but dried up. The loneliness only became apparent when I went by myself to the pub. The hangovers that lasted a few hours at most now inexplicably lasted for a day or more. Three days, on some occasions. Nah, it was time to let that part of my life go.

I moved further away from Aberdeen in a somewhat subconscious effort to keep myself away from the bar. But I wasn’t going to give up drinking, just do a little less of it. Well, I’m doing a little less than even I thought I would.

Now I seem to be actively trying to avoid instances where I might be tempted by the demon drink. I’ve more or less stopped going to gigs, apart from the ones I organise myself. I can’t remember the last time I went into Aberdeen, to go to the pub, just for the sake of it. I haven’t even seen the new set-up at the Moorings, for fuck’s sake.

So the lager I bought when I moved out here sat in a corner of the kitchen acting as a platform for the trainers I use when cutting the grass. The two twelve-packs were a part of the furniture until I thought to check the sell-by date. Three months out.

Things are definitely different now and you know what? I don’t even miss it.

I’d love to tell you that I’m more productive these days, but I’m not. I’d love to tell you that I feel fitter than I’ve ever been, but I don’t. I’d love to say that my mind feels sharper for the lack of alcohol in my bloodstream, but it doesn’t.

Will it last? Probably not. Have I finally grown up? Not a chance.

All I’m aware of is that (near) abstinence feels right to me just now. And I’m going to continue with it until it doesn’t.

So bye-bye lager. The rats in the sewer can have a pint on me. There’s plenty more where that came from, I know.

Just don’t know when I can be arsed to get any.

RSS Habit

During the referendum campaign, my Twitter feed became unmanageable, to say the least. I’ve ended up following over a thousand accounts and the “noise” created from that is bananas.

I put up with it, intending to have a cull once the referendum was over. I really thought that everything would go “back to normal”, but it just hasn’t (not that I really mind; it’s great that most are staying politically engaged with the continuing debate).

The worst thing for me is the constant retweeting of tweets and articles that I’ve already seen some time ago. My twitter client already takes care of “repeat retweets” if they’re already in my current timeline, but those that pop up from a few days ago are still there and still annoying.

I’ve also found myself using Facebook a lot more in the last few months (fighting against the hatred of myself in doing so), chiefly because most of my YES campaign pals are only on there (apparently they don’t “understand” Twitter. If only I’d been given a pound for every time I’d heard that one. I’d probably have about £18-23 by now).

I decided the time was right to go back to using a plain old RSS feed. To those who don’t know, it’s an aggregator. You enter some websites you want to be kept up to date with and each time there’s a new article, it automatically finds its way onto your feed.

I’m using Feedly at the moment. It’s pretty good, but it requires a log-in using another service. I’m using my Google+ log-in (the first time I’ve really found a use for that service!) because when I first downloaded Feedly it only worked with Google (if my mind serves me correctly), although I notice now that you can use Twitter, Facebook and others.

Anyway, just thought I’d let you know, in case you’re in a similar predicament.

As you were.

My Guerilla Canvassing Experience

I mentioned the other day in the last rambling podcast (jings, I fairly go on when given the chance!) the places I’d been canvassing and leafleting during the referendum. I thought about it since and there’s actually quite a few. Here, for my own interests mainly, is a list of the places I’ve been:

  • Newburgh
  • Pitmedden
  • Oldmeldrum
  • Newmachar
  • Udny Station
  • Udny Green
  • Ellon
  • Methlick
  • Inverurie
  • Rothienorman
  • Daviot(leafleting)
  • Turriff
  • Fraserburgh
  • Peterhead
  • Hatton
  • Banchory
  • Kintore
  • Kemnay
  • Alford
  • Balmedie(leafleting)
  • Aberdeen City (Seaton)

Wow, I got around a bit in those few months.

It was great getting to visit all these places and meet all the people I did. I loved every minute of it.

What’s in a Name?

There have been quite a few posts and pages appearing recently on social media sites and blogs suggesting and proclaiming a new name for the (formerly known as) YES Campaign.

I think the first suggestion was #the45, based on the 45% that voted YES on the eighteenth of September, but that was rejected by quite a few people on the grounds that it wasn’t inclusive enough (the point being that we need to attract people from the 55% that voted NO, not form our own club from which they are excluded). There were also connotations with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion of 1745, which some objected to.

In response to that rather tribalistic name, the #the45Plus was used. The ‘plus’ signalled a more inclusive movement, but those objecting to the Jacobite connection seem to have failed to endorse this suggestion and it looks to be fading away as well.

Of course, as a result of this, everyone is chipping in with their own personal name for the thing, which defeats the “under one umbrella” idea in the first place (my favourite of these being #ScotVision, which invokes the future aspirations for our society, but unfortunately sounds like a television channel). Nothing seems to be properly sticking just yet.

Do we really need an all-encompassing name for the movement? When the SNP more or less suspended the normal party lines and became YES Scotland for the last six months or so of the campaign, it provided a welcome unity to the different movements involved. The SNP, The Green Party, The SSP, Radical Independence, Women for Independence, National Collective et al were able to come together under one banner which cemented the direction and focus of the cause. A rallying of the troops, as it were. More importantly, it allowed the people who weren’t affiliated to any organisation to get involved. You could just be a YES campaigner, doing your bit for the cause of Scottish independence and a lot of people on the doorsteps reacted well to those with no obvious political agenda.

It was exactly what was needed at that stage in the campaign, but is it imperative that we have that now?

The people on the losing side of the debate went through a state of grievance after the eighteenth. The natural urge to come together at times like these is only too apparent. It’s like we all need a virtual bosie (as we in the North East would say) and our parent figure has suddenly disappeared.

We’re looking for a substitute parent, or a common place we can all have a huddle and reconcile each other.

This is a time of re-grouping, where everyone involved in the campaign are going back to their respective drawing boards to plan what comes next. A surprising amount of those who campaigned under no politcal banner are now turning to the many organisations available to them, to “find one that fits”, now their eyes have been opened and they realise that they, too, can understand and get involved in politics. It’s a beautiful thing, so it is.

The ability to capture breaking news in one easily accessible hashtag (especially on Twitter) during the campaign proved to be an invaluable tool for “online activists”, allowing them to quickly share and retweet events far and wide as they happened.

Something will suddenly appear and click with everyone involved. I don’t think it’s really worth losing sleep over. Whether it’s #YESPlus, #OneScotland, #IndyScot or something unheard of yet that strikes a chord with the grassroots, we’re all still here, with the ultimate goal of independence for our wonderful country in common.

Just keep talking to each other. Keep commenting on the terrible things happening in Westminster, but not in a “told you so” fashion.

We need as much of the 55% on board with us as we can get. Alienating them at this time will do nobody any good.

We’ve come this far, let’s finish the job.

Here are some of the YES-supporting organisations you can join:

And here are some non-party organisations you can get involved with: