Wonder where the excitement of the past few days will take us? Naturally, Andy Murray’s marvellous win at Wimbledon gave everyone a great high. There’s even a competition to write a new pipe tune to mark his success. The Prime Minister, the First Minister and many others, managed to get kudos from his years of hard work and total dedication.
The sun, appearing in the sky for several consecutive days, is giving lots of folk a rosy hue if not a blistered skin.
The schools, stopping for summer holidays, colleges moving into mergers and the Universities solemnly conducting graduation ceremonies with Latin prayers, all highlight the state of flux and the wide gaps in education.
But, hey, lets be happy! Bring on another city festival – free family fun day in Toryglen’s Geoff Shaw Centre on Saturday 15 July, for example. A truly great local community gathering, not to be missed. Or the Merchant City Festival which starts on Wednesday 24 July and runs till Sunday 28 July. It’s a much posher affair: much bigger, better funded and has unique events such as a singalong bus tour, slavery and abolition walking tour and a Commonwealth family fun day to get us into the mood for next year’s Games.
The thread that runs through each occasion is : this is an opportunity for people to come together and be happy. That can’t be bad. It allows a few folk for a short time to unplug from their own introverted world, of course. And it enables others to meet their neighbours or old friends, get acquainted with passing strangers who could be potential new friends and laugh together.
Through such social gatherings and casual meetings many a new idea could develop. Who knows? someone might come up with a way to find potential Parliamentary candidates in Falkirk without major organisations tearing each other to shreds. It only needs 10 Falkirk residents with a vote and £500 to put up their own candidate. There’s a fun challenge on a long hot summer!
It’s Carnival time in Glasgow! The West End Festival is in full swing till Sunday 30 June. Refugee Week Scotland starts on Monday 17 June. The Merchant City showcase events are gearing up for July.
And – as with the Mela opening day on Saturday 15 June and the Southside Festival last month – rain, even heavy rain, does not spoil the fun.
Glaswegians certainly know how to have a good time. The opening Mardi Gras parade in the West End was a splendid, colourful and fascinating sight. Tribute has to be paid to those who walked and danced the distance from the Botanic Gardens down Byres Road, along in front of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and into the Kelvingrove Park – especially if they were wearing killer heels, pushing friends in wheelchairs or making music on some of the heavy drums.
But if you’ve missed that, don’t worry. There is a multitude of events still to enjoy. Everything from classical music to jazz and latest techno mix; theatrical performances to attract children or critical Thespians; and community shows and gatherings in abundance including sports events.
And not all occasions of interest are attached to formal festivals. Look out for a formal Druid ceremony at the Sighthill Stone Circle on Friday 21 June; or Govanhill Baths Community Trust’s annual general meeting on Wednesday 26 June; the Gambians in Scotland event on Saturday 29 June or the Crypt Ceilidh that same night with music from the world renowned John Carmichael ceilidh band.
But of course, don’t let such hedonistic delights deflect from the serious business of lodging protests against different planning issues!
Glasgow City Council needs to take a long hard look at itself. Each person elected to serve this great city is duty bound to honour its motto: Let Glasgow Flourish.
Flourish now means ‘What’s in it for me?’ There is no sign of the humanity or humbleness established by St Mungo, the City’s ancient Christian founder.
This lack of humanity was never more obvious than in the historic first ever hearing of a petition by the year-old petitions committee on Tuesday 7 May 2013.
A cogent and eloquent request was put forward by New Fossils Grandparents Support Group in Glasgow’s East quarter. These kinship carers – mostly grandparents looking after their own grandchildren – said that their children had exactly the same legal status as children taken into foster homes but were being treated very differently. They were asking for equality and justice for children and not for themselves.
Glasgow City Council’s Social Work department provides each foster child with a sizeable allowance to buy beds, clothes, food and treats or whatever that child needs. No similar supportive funding is provided for the children taken in by their own grandparents or other family members.
The situation was described by the Kinship Carers as ’apartheid’ One carer who has two of her own kin children in her household as well as two children placed with her as foster children, said it was ‘night and day’ the difference in what she was able to provide for each.
But what happened at the petitions committee, was simply party political posturing – especially from the Labour side. Five SNP councillors were heavily outnumbered by the Labour Group councillors – one of whom was out of the meeting room for most of the meeting- but returned in time to vote.
The kinship carers campaign is only one of several groups of people so concerned about the issues affecting them that they have taken to the streets to highlight the problems they face.
It is clear in Glasgow that more groups are having to take direct action to get attention paid to important inequalities. But even with that, where answers might lie in the hands of Glasgow City Council’s elected representatives, these campaigners are fighting a losing battle because of the party political imbalances within the council chambers.
Voters of this troubled city need to recognise that nothing will change for them until the people elected by them are truly of the mind to ‘Let Glasgow Flourish,’ by working together for the good of EVERY citizen, not just the partisan few.
Love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher has left a big legacy.
Trade Unions no longer hold the power they once had. Which means several generations of citizens have not had the chance to find out how to organise a campaign, how to conduct a meeting or the importance of taking accurate minutes.
But what does that matter? What’s the point of taking minutes when you can tweet?
In a different way the legacy has allowed hundreds of thousands of families to get onto the housing ladder by enabling them to buy their council house. That has depleted the housing stock, of course.
But what does that matter? A mortgage was relatively easy to obtain – until recently – so the essential of a roof over one’s head was a matter of two people working flat out for 40 or more years.
And we can’t blame the unscrupulous bankers on Mrs T – they happened well past her term of office.
But it leaves the unhappy thought that the ethos of ’no such thing as community’ has taken root. Bankers, like trade unionists of past times, have allowed power to corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.
One suspects she would never have allowed that to happen in her day.
It will be interesting to hear what is said to the 2000 official mourners. And even more interesting to see what might happen around the country on the day of the funeral by way of paying respect.
The children of Thatcher are now grandparents who may take a more mellow view of the legacy. Or they might realise how little a legacy they can leave for their grandchildren.
With clocks going forward, spring is officially here. And with it is the start of the marching season – marching for justice!
When people actually see much their benefits are reduced by the iniquitous ‘bedroom’ tax, they will be shocked. Already thousands realise what the implication is for them. Some fear they’ll face eviction. Others are determined to resist to the end.
The march from Glasgow Green to George Square on Saturday 30 March 2013 showed that Easter is a time of passion. With more than 3000 taking to the streets to protest at the tax – and loudly – it indicates the strength of feeling the issue has raised.
Speaker after speaker spoke about the tax affecting lives dramatically.
But there is sure to be more drama to come as thousands more are likely to take to the streets to make their protest.
Well it’s happened! The date for the Referendum is set – Thursday 18 September 2014. Glasgow City Council has entered a Social Partnership with Enable to chart the future of day centres now that it has been decided three of the seven will be closed. And spring is on its way with hosts of groups and organisations launching new programmes and events.
So everything is ok? OK?
No. Not really. With a date set, can we get on with proper DISCUSSION and considered arguments about the details instead of the shouting matches we’re witnessing. What is best for the people of Scotland is what is at stake – not the public persona of any one politician or political party.
With the die cast for closure of the day centres which are currently used by more than 500 people with complex learning disabilities – Glasgow as a city needs to decide what it is doing. Are our elected representatives really working for the benefit for all their constituents and the well being of the entire community? Or maybe they are blindly following party policy and stoking up the vested interests of organisations.
Those volunteer groups and organisations which are addressing the needs and the interests of real people and fostering a spirit of true community are still alive, thankfully!
When groups such as the South Glasgow Heritage and Environmental Trust (SGHET) can run an all -day conference on Saturday 23 March in Gorbals on the Music, mirth and magic of the Southside; when the campaigners of the Kelvin Meadow can organise an Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday 24 March with Anna Lehr reading Peter Rabbit stories too. Then something is working the way it should.
As a spring-like March begins, the rumblings of a winter of discontent get louder.
Glasgow City Council’s planned closure of three day care centres used by people with complex learning and physical needs, is generating great anxiety among users and their families. A major meeting is fixed for Sunday 17 March at 2pm in the Radisson Bleu hotel on Argyle Street at Oswald Street.
The arrest of two people making a peaceful protest against Atos – a sponsor company for Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games – is of great concern to those who believe in freedom to speak in a public place.
The problems forseen with the imposition of a ‘bedroom’ tax has flooded every Citizens’ Advice Bureaux offices in the city with people sick with worry at the outcome for them. Some have said they are suicidal.
Is this really Glasgow, the Caring City, many residents believe we live in?
Hardened campaigners are concerned at the downward spiral towards great hardship expected by many and designed by the few.
Will action speak louder than words? Will unions, community groups and campaigns mobilise to defend the weak and the vulnerable? Time will tell.
But no bright sun is expected this summer.
This year St Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year almost coincided. So it’s a good time to start afresh and say ‘I love you.’
Sometimes you have to say that to yourself. After all, if you don’t love YOU, who can you love?
Not being afraid or shy to show you care is a good trait to cultivate. Doing a little every day to make the world a lovelier place is something to be proud of. If it is so difficult, sometimes, to give love and respect to someone within your family or friendship circles, how much more difficult is it to love someone who has done you a bad turn?
That’s maybe where we need to concentrate more effort – by turning the other cheek and looking at someone through the eyes of love – we might avoid a lot of the conflict raging around us.
It’s Burns Supper time again. Head for the haggis! But if you’ve a good imagination, you can make the Chinese dumplings with haggis filling or drum out haggis pakora. Both versions are tasty and allow fusion from different cuisines.
But it isn’t just the mixture of cooking styles that make the difference. It is the recognition that the wants and needs, failings and fancies as observed by genius poet Robert Burns, are common to all humanity.
A person of any nationality who has had to leave loved ones, can relate to ‘Ae fond kiss and then we sever.’ Every one who has loved another can understand the depth of feeling in ‘I will love thee, still – till a’ the seas gang dry.’ And when misfortune has calls, an individual of any background can relate to the field mouse’s plight when it is thrown out of its little nest by the cruel cutting edge of Burns’ plough.
So it is useful to remember Burns in whatever fashion suits us. And it is important to instil in future generations the same generosity of spirit and ‘pride of worth’ that the honest man – even if poor – can still hold to. In today’s freewheeling, anything goes, take what you can society – the simple thought that a principled person can hold their head up and challenge corruption, greed and pomposity is worth remembering. It just takes courage to action that thought.
Christmas is coming so fast some of us will blink and miss it! But the man in red is busy, busy, busy. Traditionally he’s been the friend of little children – if they’ve been good. If they’ve been bad, then across Europe there are tales of him carrying off the offending little ones.
In Britain, the United Kingdom Borders Agency, (UKBA) has taken on the role of carrying off the children AND their parents. Entire families are locked up in detention centres such as Dungavel. Some people have been in Dungavel for more than a year.
They have committed no crime, received no trial but been judged to have no good reason to be in the UK. Therefore they are waiting to be sent back to their country of origin. One man now living in Glasgow said he spent longer in detention in the UK than he did in prison in his own country. He was tortured physically in his own country. The torture in the UK was mental and, in his instance, lasted for seven years of cat and mouse tactics.
Fortunately, he had some friends who fought long and hard to ensure his safety. Other people are not so fortunate.
When the Unity Centre in Govan knows of asylum seekers they invite them to register with them before going into the reporting centre at Brand Street and again when coming out of the grime place. If a person doesn’t come out, the Unity volunteers can raise the alarm. But many people don’t find their way to Unity and some of them have certainly been transported back without any fuss.
Santa Claus comes silently in the night. UKBA personnel come in the cold light of dawn and break down doors, enter bedrooms of sleeping adults and children and take them out of their beds. Sometimes they do not even allow people to dress properly before forcing them into a van and transporting them for hours to a detention centre.
The old fables of Santa taking away children are still told. The 21st century twist is that it is the United Kingdom Borders Agency that is spiriting away people today.
That’s why a man in a red robe spent nine hours up a pole blockading the Brand Street headquarters of the United Kingdom Borders Agency.