Eric Sturgeon Allison RIP

dad

My dad died in the early hours of Friday 19th February 2016, and while I’m glad to be able to say that his last moments were peaceful, nothing can fill the absence he leaves in the world. Having been delirious last weekend, he snapped back into focus on Tuesday and seemed to be recovering well by Wednesday evening. While this means that this morning has come as a brutal shock to the family, I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to speak to the man properly this week, to experience the weirdness of his brain one last time, to discover fresh examples of its dark humours (“I’m on the bottle, your mother’s shooting up – some parents”), and to let him know that we had been there for him throughout it all.

He told us that he would never tire of having us there to visit. I only hope that he knew how much he was loved in return, not just by his family but by everyone he met.

Let’s not fuck about: multiple sclerosis made the last couple of decades of my father’s life a constant struggle. It’s been hard on him, and on my mum, and on everyone who’s watched him lose his strength and once ample capability. He never lost his charm or determination though, never stopped trying to do things, whether that meant working from home or washing the dishes or latterly just feeding himself. My dad’s been more in demand at parties than me for a while now, and rightly so – given the choice, I’d definitely rather speak to him than myself.  I know he was frustrated by his inability to keep up with computer technology as everything moved to a touch screen format that was no use to him, but my weekly battles with this desktop computer have been a testament to his determination to keep learning how to do new things.  We should all be so tenacious.

My dad made new friends everywhere he went.  You can count how many people in any social gathering have met my dad by how many of them are asking after him at every opportunity.  He will be missed.

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To be selfish for a moment: this man made me, not just literally but spiritually.  He read me Lord of the Rings when I was a baby and inflicted Richard Thompson and King Crimson on me throughout my childhood, thus dooming me to a life of baroque, grumpy fantasy and reactions against the same.  I can’t think of a better upbringing, even if I did cringe that time he blasted ‘Yankee Go Home’ as we drove a rental car down International Drive. (This memory of his over-enthusiasm comes bound up in another one, of his creative kindness, of him comforting me as my ears popped on the return journey by putting on a sketch about a drunken ET as we landed. I hope I never forget this; I doubt I ever will.) He also made time to learn how to play Magic the Gathering with his awkward lump of a teenage son – no easy task for a busy adult! – and to challenge me when I was taking ridiculous pride in some petty victory, or allowing the opinions of idiots to define me, or being a total fanny about filling in job applications (I had principles, maaaaan).

To be less selfish: I do not think that I have ever seen anything as beautiful as the attempts he made to comfort my mum this week while he was clearly in a lot of pain.  Those of you who know my family will know that my mother’s health isn’t exactly sparkling, and there are stories of my dad looking out for her that are plainly heroic.  Once, when he realised my mum was dangerously far along a diabetic hypo in the middle of the night, he rolled out of his side of the bed and pulled himself round to the phone on her side of the bed using his one working arm.  They subsequently moved the phone beside him, a choice that removed some of the potential for high drama from their lives, but made life a hell of a lot easier for him if he had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night.

young eric

My words can’t conjure my dad as he was, and as I wish he still could be.  I don’t know enough about his life as a tax inspector or as a guy you’d play football with or as a son or a brother to do him justice.  I helped him print off a booklet full of in-jokes for his pals’ golf outing but I wasn’t there to see him earn the booby prize. All I know is that I love him, and that his memory will burn bright in the mind of all those who knew him, rendering all of the above unnecessary.

“Women are the only future in rock and roll” part #3

There was a moment halfway through Noveller’s excellent set at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow where the spell was broken. I’d looked around the room and realised that the trippy backdrop Sarah Lipstate was playing against wasn’t being projected in the traditional sense.

It was the men, you see. They were standing there, staring at the girl with the guitar, beaming the light out of their eyes. And I was one of them.

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My pal Jess was the first to raise it when the show was over. I’d brought her along as cover, I joked, transforming one women into a prop in the hope of escaping accusations of having done the same to another.

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King Crimson – ‘Dinosaur’

A mess of sounds dominated the living rooms and car journeys of my childhood. From my mother, there was Motown, Phil Spector, Stock Aitken Waterman, “production line pop” that I disdained at the time, unable or unwilling to see the glory of some of these manufactured dreams, and apparently disinterested in listening closely enough to discern the differences between one type of industry and another.

The gender distinctions are rather clichéd here, I know, but from my father there was a great billowing cloud of English folk rock that I took in with the nightly readings of Lord of the Rings and eventually grew to love – an alt modernity, tortured and poised and occasionally ridiculous, but with obvious cracks in it to attract an increasingly self-serious young man to fixate on, and enough gravity to keep him there.

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Bad Poetry: Two From the Archives!

The fact that it’s National Poetry Day seems like a good an excuse as any to annoy you all with a couple of my old Bad Poetry routines.

Here’s the first, which is called “Sex Diary of a Tetley Fiend”:

I make love like I make tea

Not too strong

But not too weak

I always know how long to leave the bag in

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Here’s another, which has a couple of names, but my favourite is “Journey Into Mystery”:

No matter how bad it gets

I hang on in there

Like Stallone

In that movie.

What was it called again?

Oh yeah!

 

 

Cliffhanger.

stallone

I thank you! There’s plenty more where that came from but I won’t bother you with it here today – next year maybe!

Tough/Love

Like I said in my last post, if I was in Labour I wouldn’t be feeling too hopeful about their chances of talking the Scottish electorate round any time soon, but even from my position outside of the party it’s hard not to feel a little bit soft and gooey any time I hear the Artist Taxi Driver get all worked up about Jeremy Corbyn:

I love the way that the Artist is driven to tell you that Corbyn’s bulletproof, he’s also weirdly protective of him – “the SNP turned up like a firm… Jeremy Corbyn, he’s there like on his own”. It reminds me of Ghostface Killah bigging up Sun God while also making him seem so small as to need his father’s shadow for protection: “This is my son… nigga came out my dick!”

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t come out The Artist Taxi Driver’s dick, but would that rant be any more boastful and tender if there was such a non-metaphorical relationship between them? Could his videos make Corbyn seem any more like an extension of the Taxi Driver’s routines than they already do?  I doubt it.

I’m not built for optimism, so I spend more time at the bottom of this wave than at the top, but sometimes it’s good to see someone else riding out the highs, even if none of us can ever quite ignore the possibility of another dip back through the earth, down towards what lies underneath…

Scottish Politics: Five Questions for the Future

sage advise in malcolm tuckerThe campaign for Holyrood 2016 is looming in front of me right now, and the Tory apocalypse is making measured thought harder every day, so this post represents a hurried attempt to think about a couple of questions that might become important over the next few years before I get swamped by more pressing questions – a bit of a peak round the corner of Scottish politics, if you will.

Anyway, here are my questions…

  1. Will the SNP commit to using Smith powers to make a public bid for Scotland’s rail franchises? New Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s line on this was was off-key, but while there were many stinging, X-Factor style critiques of his performance doing the rounds (this was my favourite, heavy as it is on technical detail) there was little indication that the SNP would have done things differently if they could have. Will any such promises be gained under continuing pressure from Corbyn’s Labour and the Scottish Greens
  2. Is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party capable of finding an angle on Scotland that works?  Related to the above. So far signs aren’t good, with Corbyn and his main man John McDonnell recycling the same lines that Scottish Labour have been failing to convince the electorate with for the past five years.  Is there any chance of a radical commitment to devolution arising from the part’s current open policy debate? Is there a position they can take here that doesn’t look like surrender? It’s easy to talk about “winning back Scotland”, but the reality seems far more difficult for principled socialists and canny Kendalistas alike.
  3. Will RISE run a left wing anti-EU campaign? The TTIP debate and the ongoing imposition of brutal austerity conditions on Greece has re-energised anti-EU sentiment on the left (and no I don’t just mean Owen Jones). With the SNP and the Scottish Greens certain to argue for EU membership, there’s space for someone to work up a left-of-centre, pro-Scottish independence pitch against the EU.  I’ve no idea which side of this issue RISE will fall on, but some recent noises from the Scottish Left Project and discussions with some of their supporters suggest that they might find support for such a campaign.
  4. Will support of the promised interconnector between Scotland and Norway be enough to keep Greens on the pro-EU side of that campaign? The completion of this project seems like it should be central to any vision of Scotland’s future that involves achieving prosperity through renewable energy, and while the official line on winning the EU’s capacity to positively influence trade inequality and combat climate change country by country is more noble, the benefits of this project are a lot more tangible. This isn’t to suggest that my fellow Greens need buying off, it just seems easier to argue for something when you’ve can point to what you’re arguing for.
  5. Is the SNP’s position on fracking likely to solidify next year? The party line involves repeated deployment of the words “evidence-based”, “cautious” , and “considered”, but while a motion to extend the current moratorium on fracking is on the agenda for the SNP conference, banning it outright is still off the table for Scotland’s dominant political party.  Ineos and co are currently working their arses off trying to sell the idea that fracking is a great business opportunity for an increasingly independent Scotland. Whether this is enough to overpower anti-fracking sentiment within the SNP remains to be seen.