Monday, 20 July 2015

The Unstable Magic of Superstar Sturgeon

'How these curiosities would be quite forgot, did not such idle fellowes as I put them down.'

- John Aubrey

'Oh roads we used to tread,
Fra' Maryhill to Pollokshaws - fra' Govan to Parkhead!

- Kipling, 'McAndrew's Hymn'

'Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk like Alice, through a looking-glass, observe the puzzles in one’s head and find another kind of world with the camera.' - Tony Ray-Jones

Welcome to my wee photoblog on Glasgow, where we feature the  joys and unjoys of walking and cycling through a fascinating, beautiful and often badly run city. For the blog's origin and a  list of all posts see the  'Introduction' post  -

 Feel free to drop me an email with suggestions, offers of £20 notes etc. The address is I have had to start watermarking the pics as I have come across one big website using a pic without permission - I suppose there must be others.

If you are a private individual and want to use any of the pics for non-commercial purposes please get in  touch and I will usually be happy to say 'Aye' for free - just give the Album a credit. If you want to use a pic for commercial purposes a small mutually agreed fee and a credit will suffice. And you can follow me on Twitter if you wish: Edwin Moore@GlasgowAlbum.

A one-off this post - instead of a stroll arund  Glasgow, a stroll round Scotland's most popular politician.  To make  my position clear at the outset, my view is that Sturgeon  is a vast improvement for us all on Alex Salmond, but also that the Nicola Sturgeon episode  in our  history is like the 'Superstar' Buffy  episode,  in which the nerd occultist Jonathan casts a spell which makes almost everyone in  Sunnydale  believe he is possessed of superhuman powers.  Almost all are convinced of this illusion  except half-man,  half-demon Adam:

ADAM None of this is real. The world has been changed. It's intriguing,
but it's wrong. . .These magics are unstable, corrosive. They will inevitably
lead to chaos.

 - 'Superstar’, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The analogy between Scotland and the  Buffyverse is not exact of course: not all of the electorate danced in the Sturgeon pixie dust,  but just under 50% of those who voted did, which is quite a lot (and 50% of the votes acquired 96% of the seats)

First set of pics is from Thursday, 12 April, 2012 -
When Worlds Collide: Botham's Great Walk, the SNP Rally, Cricket and Glasgow, Bernard Ponsonby and the Monstrosity

In which we encounter Ms Sturgeon crossing into George Square for an SNP Glasgow Councillor photoshoot. She has just dropped some dosh into this charity bucket. Politicians need deep pockets as well as deep bladders

These are the SNP candidates  for the 2012 council elections with some MSPs, worthies and aides         

From the 'worlds collide' link above -

The woman with the scarf on the far right is my MSP, Sandra White,  elected for Glasgow Kelvin last May as victor on a 38% turnout.  I gather her triumph had the distinction of  rendering George Galloway (who used to be MP for Kelvin) almost speechless with indignation, so there is an upside to everything.

She is previously best known for (as a List MSP) lodging a motion in July 2009 condemning 'excessive' coverage of cricket on  Scottish television -

Said Ms White:  "I don't think that in Scotland cricket merits the same support that it does down south. I would certainly support the case for our own broadcasting company that would give priority to Scottish sport. Those who want to see the cricket can get Sky. I do think it gives more grist to the mill for our own broadcasting company."

In fact of course, cricket is one of the most popular team sports in Scotland, and the West of Scotland cricket club is a shining example of multicuturalism in action. See

The SNP, to its credit, swiftly distanced itself from Ms White's comment, which, if not meant as dog-whistle anti-English racism, is indistinguishable from it. Like much of nationalist racism anywhere, it has a whiff of the old 'not everyone in the neighbourhood likes the smell of curry' about it

Journalist and broadcaster  Bernard Ponsonby on the right, often a target for cybernat abuse as many fine (and even not fine) journalists are.  Ms Sturgeon - all credit to her - has in June/July 2015  stepped up her vigorous  defence of journalists who have been the target of  such abuse,  such as the BBC’s James Cook -

This and next few pics are from
Oswald St to Queens Park and back into town

We are on  the bus, passing Ms Sturgeon's office in Pollokshaws Rd

We shall not bother with phoenix metaphors

Glasgow is a small city, and Ms Sturgeon is often praised as a good constituency MSP

Now to May 2013, and the opening of the Pollokshields Gurdwara. From
Glasgow's Sikhs 3: the Pollokshields Gurdwara

Smiling at Ms Sturgeon from her left  is Glasgow City Council leader Gordon  Matheson, who at this time did not have troubles of his own to seek. See

Political leaders can have good relations with those in rival parties - after all, they are not lurking with daggers at one's back - but another mark in Ms Sturgeon's favour is that her few cross-party friendships seem real, affectionate even

Wee smile from Gordon. He knows all about party factionalism and internal rivalry. For Gordon being  chased out of George Square by indy loonies see
Scotland United Against Austerity: George Square

In this our last sequence, the rainbow signifies we are in April 2015 and -
Among the Indy Believers: Nicolytes and Tommyknockers
A rally has just been held on the Buchanan St Steps at which Nicola Sturgeon has launched the  SNP policy on gender equality

We have missed Elaine C Smith who has been standing beside Nicola Sturgeon on the Steps.  Ms Smith's 'Ah'm a wee working class wummin' shtick has possibly been infuential on Ms Sturgeon's own public persona, if only as a sign of a bar too far

Ms Sturgeon is of course not an ordinary person at all. She is one of the highest paid political leaders in the democratic world; she is married to the chief executive of the SNP; she sits at the apex of a large pinnacle of patronage and power.  Even her mum is a player, being Provost of North Ayrshire Counncil

Freedom and Unicorns

The Nicolytes press in

A parallel Scotland has supplanted the SNP launch - the Strathclyde Arts Festival. One of latter suggests to me that there has been a double booking

The Guardian photographer Murdo MacLeod - standing just to the right of us  has an almost identical  photograph. See

The adoration of Nicola

Nicola's Pledge

What do we know of Nicola Sturgeon’s  interior life?  Asking normal people what books they like is a fair guide, less so with politicians. Ms Sturgeon  told the Scotsman -

“I have lots of favourite authors, historical and current … Jane Austen, Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Louise Welsh to name just a few.”

She also said  Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song, was “fave book of all time”

The list was noted  by Ian Jack in the Guardian -

who pointed out that the previous  year he had asked NS about her favourite writers -

'She said simply that she was a “historical fiction geek” who as a teenager had enjoyed Nigel Tranter’s romances set in the Scotland of long ago. She was too busy to enjoy much else.'

As Jack goes on to say politicians routinely lie about their favourite books - David Cameron,  for example, claims that Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That is favourite book. No one believes this. Such claims and lists  are made up by aides  calculating the effect they will  have on voters -  does  anyone at all believe that the  Ed Milliband Desert Island Discs choice  was not a committee selection? -

Sturgeon is a politician like any other and  these days, the image of senior politicians is carefully crafted. It is not improbable that her advisors decided that Tranter gave an oldfashioned feel to her somewhat minimal tastes. It  is also the sort of answer a nationalist of an older era would give. Yesterday's choice. This packaging of Nicola Sturgeon as a Normal in taste (but with superpowers) is undoubtedly working;  the internet has much excruciatingly bad verse celebrating her and her expertise at hugging weans.

Ms Sturgeon is not an unqualified  defender of free speech. In 2012,  she spoke  at a meeting in George Square organised by the Muslim Council of Scotland.  Let her speak  for herself -

For the background to  the protest see

Ms Sturgeon's appearance at the rally and her wholehearted condemnation of the Iraq war was welcomed by the likes of Bashir Maan, one of the leading voices of so-called ‘moderate' Islam in Scotland. Alas for Mr Maan and other conservative religious leaders, Ms Sturgeon let them down by  backing gay marriage in Scotland, at which point Maan advised Muslims not to vote at all if they could not find  a candidate against gay marriage.

Ms Sturgeon will pay court to minority opinion, but when it comes to her core values,  the core values come first, an uncommon virtue in a politician

This guy has pinched Ms Sturgeon's head

It's like The Robe - but instead of trying to clutch at a hem, the Nicolytes grab selfies

A chap senses my outsider/newcomer status and tells me he has known Sturgeon for years. Thus speak the old disciples to the new ones. 'See Jesus? Ah fished wi' 'im'

And the band in the parallel world played on. SNP politics is often curiously infantile, lacking in responsibility. Words are commonlly used which have no bearing on reality.  As I type (19 July 2015), Jeremy Corbyn is being widely criticised for being  Bennite - yet the SNP MP Mhari Black is widely praised  - often by the same people - for being Bennite in her maiden Westminster speech. This is  despite the fact that the SNP is as Bennite as a People’s Friend knitting pattern.

Further,  few seem to have spotted that Ms Black fails to see that Benn was very much an upper class English socialist, with a strong dislike of both Scottish nationalism and the EU (few also seem to have spotted the Jimmy Reid allusion in Ms Black’s speech, another depressing matter - time  eats us all).

What would Donald say?  The morning after Donald Dewar died, I listened to an ex-moderator of the Church of Scotland say on BBC Radio Scotland of Donald that 'we were blessed that he walked among us'.  I wrote a letter to the  Herald pointing out that this was ridiculous, and someone wrote  back to say No,  it wasn't at all ridiculous.  Of course all countries have their political  heroes exalted beyond reality; remember Clinton, Obama, remember Bloody Blair. But I wonder if we Scots are not worse at times - maybe it's something to do with the self-fiction of us all being Jock Tamson's Bairns.

On 19 July 2015 (last night as I type), the Guardian journalist  Owen Jones sent a tweet to both Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison on behalf of his father in which he said

'My dad has advanced prostate cancer. He can't have chemo because of lack of resources. But Scot Gov is underspending'

 Ms Sturgeon replied

'hi - pls email me re ur dad. Point about underspending not entirely true - but that aside, please email as keen to look into'

One hopes Mr Owen’s father and all other sufferers get the treatment they need and deserve, but Ms Sturgeon’s response raises large and obvious issues - should the most powerful politician  in Scotland really be intervening in an NHS process - on demand - to anyone who asks out of the blue? Should Ms Sturgeon really be behaving like Lady Bountiful, or an old-style Chicago mayor? 

Who is Nicola Sturgeon?

One useful answer is that she is not Alex Salmond.  Salmond recently waxed enthusiastically  about all the things Scotland has in common with Qatar, an ethusiasm he does not display when talking about what Scotland has in common with England. Which is strange. Scotland and England, after all, do not imprison gays for being gay, as the dark-age regime in Qatar does.

Salmond often talks nonsense, manifest and dangerous nonsense - Sturgeon, even when you do not agree with her, usually talks sense. She is on the planet of reasonable human beings.

Our Scots Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, expressed her indignation - the indignation most of us felt - when the  UK’s flags were flown at half mast to mourn the death of the Saudi king  in January. Ms Sturgeon, of course,  is not in a position where she could say such things, but one be reasonably sure about what she thinks in strategic terms: she wants an independent Scotland and she wants it to  be a land of equal rights. We can assume she nodded when she saw Ms Davidson's comment.

As Bashir Maan discovered (see above) the lady has  principles and is not afraid to use them.

Tactically, however, she can be surprising. I recently had a Twitter argument (as one does ) with a Scottish nationalist, who assured me that no SNP person would read the Daily Mail,  never mind write for it. In one of those happy accidents that so rarely occurs,  the very next day this happened -

The aggressive posters of whom she speaks here (and yes there are aggressive posters on the unionist side) believe they talk for Scotland. They talked for Alex Salmond to some extent, and undoubtedly still talk for some senior nationalist politicians,  but it is likely that Ms Sturgeon sees (a) whatever tactical usefulness as attack geeks the cybernats once may have had is surely gone, (b) though a few of them are women, all too many display a misogyny that cuts against the grain of her core values.

As the old Chinese curse has it, we live in interesting times. And as Ms Sturgeon seems to recognise, we don’t need to love each other or agree with each other or embrace each other’s visions,  we just need to talk to each other as rational beings. It would be a start.

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Reviews of Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know


'I love it - I'm giving this copy to a friend and buying another for myself' - Darren Adam, Presenter, Radio Forth, 17 November 2008

‘It’s a great wee book’ – Stephen Jardine, introducing Edwin Moore on Scottish Television’s Five-Thirty Show

'A fantastic book' - Scott Wilson , talk 107 Breakfast Show host

'A great read' - Dougie Jackson, Drivetime host, Smooth Radio 105.2


'Despite its apparently humorous format, this is a serious and extensive dictionary on all things Scottish; from Jean Redpath to Lorne sausage, from Flodden to the Corries. Is particularly good on history and minutiae. There's a useful chapter on famous Scottish legal cases and another on literature. Excellent' - Royal Scottish Legion, Feb 2009

'This is the ultimate Scottish reference book' - Waterstones Christmas catalogue, 2008

'This is a fascinating look at the history of Scotland: its languages, politics and great achievements, from its origins in the ancient landmass of Laurentia 400 million years ago, to devolution and Billy Connolly. Edwin Moore has collected a thousand important facts about this beautiful country, covering Scottish history and culture, correcting misconceptions, and examining the mysteries of haggis and bagpipes with insight, warmth and impressive attention to detail' - The Good Book Guide, November 2008

'This is a recipe for revealing how horribly ill informed you are about your country. Although, if you are skillful, you can nod sagely as you read some new fact and mutter 'Ah, yes!' as if recalling the information from your excellent schooling. Where else will you find a real recipe for making haggis from scratch side by side with a potted biography of David Hume; a section of the Declaration of Arbroath and the curiously touching fact that Lulu was only 15 when she had a hit with 'Shout'? The whole thing is of course, silly - but oh so addictive.' - Matthew Perren, i-on Glasgow, December 2008

'. . . well crafted and witty' - Bill Howatson, Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 October 2008

‘While most of Edwin’s entries are entertaining and scholarly – he writes like a Scottish Bill Bryson – it is when he takes an interest in the backwaters of history, the details lost down the back of the sofa, that he is at his best’ – Jack McKeown, The Courier, 27 October 2008

'History, it is said, is written by the victors. Trivia, meanwhile, is written by the guys with the smeared spectacles and the breathable rainwear. The first discipline is linear and causal; to quote from Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, history is “just one f****** thing after another”. Things look different, though, when viewed through the prism of trivia. The past is reduced to one big coleslaw of fascinating facts that in their randomness tell a more mixed-up tale entirely.
The first approach leads to big, frowning books by the likes of Tom Devine and Michael Fry. The latter results in small, cheerful books such as Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin Moore’s valiant attempt to navigate the more trivial contours of enlightenment and clearances, crown and parliament, dirt and deity.
Moore proceeds from a sincere and controversial first principle: Scotland is really a rather pleasant and interesting place. . .As a work of popular scholarship, though, it’s in a different league to the Scottish novelty titles that get stocked next to the bookstore tills as potential impulse purchases, those little handbooks of parliamo Caledonia and regional braggadocio, such as Weegies vs Edinbuggers.' - Allan Brown The Sunday Times, 21 September 2008

'In his book, Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, Edwin celebrates all that sets us Scots as a race apart - our language, law, flora, food, and of course, our people. From our poets, architects and inventors, to our artists, entertainers and fighters. But he doesn't shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of our history. . .' - Robert Wight, Sunday Post, 14 September 2008

‘We think we know all about William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and the Union of the Crowms. However, according to Edwin Moore, author of , Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know, we’re still in the dark about many aspects of our history and culture. . . The Big Issue looks at 20 of the most astonishing examples of secret Scotland.’ – The Big Issue, 18-24 September 2008

'What's the connection between Homer Simpson and Larbert, and why are generations of lawyers grateful to a Paisley snail? Need to know more? Author Edwin Moore has gathered 1000 facts like these about Scotland in a quirky new book. Brian Swanson selects a few favourites. . .' -  Scottish Daily Express, 13 September 2008

'The palm for Christmas-stocking books seems to have passed recently to popular science, with best selling titles every year such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? This year there has been a gallant attempt at a historical fight back. Scotland: 1,000 Things You Need to Know(Atlantic Books, £12.99) asks (and answers) such post-turkey questions as ‘How many kings of Scotland died in their beds?’, ‘Who on earth decided that the Declaration of Arbroath was the cornerstone of modern democracy?’ or ‘Why is iron brew spelled Irn-Bru?’ Mark Mazower, History Today; The Best of History in 2008, December 2008

'A real treat for the serendipitous Scotophile' - Reginald Hill

FROM THE INTERWEB (on the new paperback edition)
Book of the Month, May 2010
'Whether it's Scottish lochs or Enlightenment philosophers, the facts of the devolution referendums or the mysteries of Irn-Bru, myths will be debunked and truths revealed in this light-hearted but rigorous overview of Scottish history and culture.'

Also available for download on Amazon's e-book store is my 100 Brief Encounters

Here are some reviews of the print edition (published by  Chambers in 2007) -

Edwin Moore's quirky collection of a hundred encounters between (mostly) important historical figures is a gem of a book. Where else could you get concise enlightening accounts of Henry VIII wrestling with Francis I, Geronimo surrendering to General Miles, Ernest Hemingway presenting Fidle Castro with a fishing trophy or (as seen on the books cover) a baby faced Bill Clinton shaking hands with John F Kennedy. A marvelous 'little window on human history. ' - Dominic Kennerk, Waterstone's Product Planning and Promotions Co-ordinator (From the Waterstone's 'We Recommend' list for 2008)

Witty, light and packed with information -- The Sunday Herald

In 1936, in the wake of winning a clutch of gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, the great athlete Jesse Owens was snubbed by an imperious leader, on racial grounds. Popular belief would have it that the leader was Hitler, who is said to have stormed off, furious to see a black man beating European athletes. In fact the man in question was President Roosevelt, who worried that paying attention to Owens' triumphs might be a vote loser. Although Owens and the German Chancellor never talked, Owens claimed that Hitler greeted him with an enthusiastic wave. Such near-misses, shakings of hands and ships-in-the-night meetings are the subject of Brief Encounters – Meetings between mostly remarkable people, a likeable new book by Edwin Moore (Chambers £7.99). Flicking through the index, you will find some expected encounters (Dante stares at Beatrice, Corday stabs Marat, The Beatles strum along to a Charlie Rich record round at Elvis's house), and the book's intriguing and memorable cover shows a baby-faced Bill Clinton manfully gripping the hand of JFK. But Moore has navigated past some of the more obvious collisions, collusions and confrontations of history (there is no Dr Livingstone, I presume) and much of the book's pleasure derives from lesser known incidents.

Inevitably, some of the accounts of earlier meetings are somewhat sketchy but Moore offers some piquant speculation, laced with humour (the book is tagged Reference / Humour, rather than History and this feels right, but the book, though wry and opinionated, never stoops to wackiness). I was intrigued to discover that, though Attila the Hun did die on his wedding night, it was not in drunken and lecherous debauchery, as his enemies maintained, but supposedly because he was generally a simple and clean-living man who had a few too many which brought on a particularly bad nosebleed.

Moore's book is full of such tales – it would be wrong of me to steal the tastiest morsels of his research and pepper this article with them, but look out for a subsidiary reason for the Gunpowder Plot (too many dour and powerful Scots in Parliament); a great meeting of great beards, as Castro wins the Hemingway prize for sea-fishing; Dali bringing a skeptical Freud round to the art of the surrealists; Buffalo Bill's wife claiming an aged Queen Victoria had propositioned him; Oscar Wilde getting a kiss from Walt Whitman, while Walter Scott was more taken with Burns's charismatic eyes. This is an enjoyable and vigorous rattle through some fascinating and believable yarns. My only quibble is that it's a little on the short side – let's have Volume 2 please Chambers! - Roddy Lumsden, www.Books from