Tag Archive for: Scotland

There are two guys I know called Thomas Rebel and Bill Child who are involved in a project to:

“permanently obliterate a racist monument on the shores
of the Clyde Estuary on the West coast of Scotland. “

The monument is a rock daubed with red, black and white
paint in the style of a ‘Golliwog’.  The
rock also bears the motto ’Jim Crow’.  The name ‘Jim Crow’ was the nickname given to
the racial segregation laws observed in the US at the beginning of the 20th
Century – the Jim Crow Laws. The name was also applied in the US to the grossly
exaggerated ‘minstrel’ caricature of a black person – that which was was popularly known
in Britain as a ‘Golliwog’.

For many years the racist Jim Crow rock has stood as a testament
to both blatant prejudice and profound ignorance. 

The rock sits on the foreshore of the small community of Dunoon.  In 2003
a letter was published raising the issue and objecting to the rock in the Dunoon
Observer and Argyllshire Standard (the local newspaper), but with little tangible
response. In the same year an email was also written to Trevor Phillips, the head of, the then Commission for
Racial Equality, but received no reply.

Feeling this was unacceptable, the two guys drove to Dunoon last June (2009), and in the dead of night used several tins of Drummond’s
International Grey (an almost perfect colour match for the rock!) and following
closely the instructions on the tins, painted out the motif.

This resulted in the local newspaper taking the issue more
seriously, publishing an article on the ‘vandalism’, and allocating space for
the debate in their letters section. There were several letters of support for the protest from members of the local community. 


Despite this, within weeks
of the efforts, the motif had been reinstated – most likely with the support of
certain local politicians.

The guys have now pledged to repeat their ‘vandalism’ in order to
achieve the original objective, and will do so again year on year until the
rock is allowed to exist in its’ natural state.

Most recently they have tried to get additional support and endorsement from any other quarters, now including me.  Support I am happy to lend, if it means this nasty afront to diversity might be removed. 

Please find below some interesting links for your perusal.

The following link demonstrates the strength of feeling of a
portion of the local community.

Another independent website outlining the story.

Information provided by the Jim Crow museum details the history and
significance of Jim Crow

If you want to assist in maintaining the rock in a neutral (non racist state) by periodically painting it with Drummonds International Grey or if you want to just share your thoughts about the issue, please do so here.

I have had a number of conversations over the past couple of months with British, mostly English people, who reside here in Lanzarote,  about their views of the UK.

Its quite interesting how sheltered I have been to the news from the UK without much time to watch TV or even read a paper in the morning.  I have found myself becoming increasingly out of touch. 

Imagine what happens when someone lives here for a year, five or even ten years.

News is brought by recently landed tourists, debates held in mini-buses or half-caught headlines glanced at as people on sun loungers have a paper by their side.

I remember learning that word fact derives from the Latin 'fac(ere)'- to make, to do.  Similarly words including factor and factory derive from the same source.  Although accepted, these days, as meaning something that has happened, the word fact can just as easily be used to describe something 'made' or 'tested' or 'proved'.  In each one of these cases, simply placing the word man in front of the word dilutes its authority.  ‘Man made’ in regard to a factual piece of information implies it is fiction.  The cynic hearing the term ‘man-tested’, might point out how fallible man is as an authority and anything 'proved' by one man is dimply something waiting to be disproved by another at a later date.

On this basis I have listened and participated in debates with people who have been armed with their facts which they have been fed by news agencies, who were in turn fed by PR companies, spin doctors, politicos and promoters; each with their own bias.  Propaganda therefore fuels the minibus conversations from town to the dive sites most mornings.

As I have listened to debates rage with knickers getting twisted, I have heard details of how in the UK Christmas was banned, the flying of the St George's flag is illegal, the playing of conkers is outlawed and an Englishman is not allowed to be English.

When I was in England, I don't remember it being so restrictive.  I remember Christmas last year and it did not appear to be banned.  I remember distinctly when I received my mail with ‘Merry Christmas’ greetings on it. 

Where I live in Faversham, there is a St George's Day parade.  Is that banned? 

How can conkers be outlawed?  Kids will always find a way of stringing a horse chestnut and trying to hit one against the other.   Won’t they or will the ridiculous ‘elf and safety’ brigade really win the day?

(As a little digression, I remember a chap in my school called Julian having a tiny baby conker in his pocket which he thought was a world record for the 'smallest' – bizarre). 

I suppose this kind of fear-mongering sells papers and plays on peoples deep seated insecurities which in turn divides people and creates prejudice, ultimately selling more newspapers, spreading more lies, half truths or omissions. 

I am left reflecting in how modern Britain is a diverse place with several flags representing not just the geographic identities of England, Wales, Scotland (Northern Ireland which is represented on the Union flag by way of the inclusion of the St Patricks Cross), but many more flags having the possibility of being flown alongside the nations flags, in order to represent the diverse people who live in these places.

The communities I have lived and worked in have been pretty diverse.  Sure, the majority of people in my community have been English, but when the odd flag gets flown, whether any one of the flags already mentioned or indeed Italian, Australian or Ghanaian, I don't internalise it as a threat to my national identity.  I suppose even that I quietly celebrate the fact that the people I am living amongst are not all alike.  Difference in my opinion is good, and instead of worrying about Englishness being 'diluted', I see Englishness adapting and changing as it always has over millennia. 

I am left asking myself "What is an Englishman?".  Since I am English, then my blood is probably a reflection of the language I speak. 

The English language is a cornucopia of words, passed on, stolen or made up over the last 2000 years. English is still evolving, changing and mutating. Our language is not English (whatever that means!) after all – it is a stew pot of diverse words that have travelled to our shores and across our border from all around the globe. So how do words come to be part and parcel of what we use?  The answer is new words come with invaders, migrants, tradesmen; in stories, artworks, technologies and scientific concepts; with those who hold power, and those who try to overthrow the powerful.

So what am I saying?  I suppose I am saying to all those people who probably feel more out of touch than I do, "Untwist your knickers".  Britain is still Britain, England is still England and both will forever be changing.  If your not on the merry-go-round, its hard to keep up. 

For nothing is surer, change or difference happens whatever you do to stop it and so it’s best to celebrate it.  But my point is not just an attempt to say "stop being a bigot".  It is also an attempt to say loud and proud that; I like St George's Day and Christmas and Conkers and anyone trying to ban any of these things are just stupid, and not worthy of any level of serious contemplation.

Now let’s talk about something else.

Having the idea to walk away is one thing; actually walking away is another "What about the dog for God sake?"

That is a good question.

love dogs and have lived all my life with them. Honey, Penny, Tess,
Pip, Fynn and Noggin have acted as hairy punctuation marks, defining
episodes both happy and sad. Noggin more so than any I have had before.
A little Lakeland Terrier, I took Noggin to work most days and she was
a great joy to have in the work environment.

Noggin is
a real sweet little thing, whose character is only marred by her
instinct to fight and or kill anything that moves. Rabbits, chickens
and rats have all been mortally wounded by this otherwise cute scruffy
little brown dog.

Well, laying in the bath on
Christmas Eve reflecting on misspent opportunity and a soul destroyed
future, I had not considered little Noggin. What to do with Noggin?

had not really thought about that question at all! In between Christmas
Eve (Thurs) and the Sunday, I had started to tell folk about my broad
plan. Getting out, going off and doing stuff…but nothing about what
happens to lives that depend on me. Maybe that is a clue why everything
went so wrong? Broad strokes fine! Detail – s**t!

it came to the detail of how I was to untangle myself from this life of
things and stuff, I had not really applied myself yet and this included
my responsibilities to Noggin.

Anyway there was time
to think about that after I got back from my sisters in the 'badlands
of the north' – or Scotland as it is also known. Early in the morning
in a slight sleet, Noggin and I set off North.

was a nightmare! A journey that normally takes nine hours, took 12,
through rain, sleet and snow. What was just above freezing down south
had turned into a constant -5°C! But it was all worth it.

I arrived long after the bed time of the average six year old, my
little nephew was awoken. With his eyes still shut and with a floppy
torso a coat was slipped over is pyjamas and wellington boots were
tugged on by his mum.

As is the family tradition,
out in the street twigs and sticks were placed in the shape of arrows
(to guide Santa) whilst 'magic' glitter was sprinkled across the top of
them. Little boy still asleep, he turned around and trudged back into
the house and went back to bed. The whole operation was conducted in

Suffice to say Santa found his way and as a result '2nd Christmas' was a success with all satisfied.

Brother in laws cooking was incredible again and I put on half a stone during the seven days I was there.

was the day after 2nd Christmas Day that a sporadic collection of the
neighbours six children started to pop in and play with the nephew and
Noggin. They're great kids and excellent fun to be with, for my nephew
it’s like have a readymade bunch of cousins or siblings on the
doorstep, both households living in each other’s pockets and sharing
stories, songs and jokes.

I popped next door to have a
chat with the parents (they having travelled and were good inspiring
examples of what happens when people go abroad) a couple of times and
as well as being made welcome with G&T, was entertained with
lively conversation and photo albums of time spent in far off lands

neighbours raised the conversation of the dog. Whether this was
contrived by my sister I do not know. In any event and without any
predetermined agenda, it turned out that they were investigating
getting a dog and were interested in providing a long fixed-term
placement for Noggin.

I consulted via text with my
lost love who confirmed that she was not allowed to take custody of

So the god's had decided Noggin was to stay in Scotland (at
least for 15 months).

The dog had kept me sane over
the last few months. When everything was at its worst and I was in a
dark place, having to look after Noggin, having to feed her and having
to take her out, kept me alive. But if I was no longer tied to my dog,
then I was not tied to anything anymore.

Even less reason to stay where I am.