oh, well, whatever . . .

between gauntanamo and the grey corries

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Most of the day I’ve been trying to get things in order at the office before I go off on holiday. The truth is that this is a virtually impossible task. The most that can be done is to lift down or push back those things that are teetering on the brinks of the highest shelves so that they won’t fall while you’re away. This task was done with a mixture of hopeful determination and resentment.  But I was constantly prone to a lack of concentration. Already my heart was in the Grey Corries where space itself shrieks and sobs, whispers, breathes and yammers. Where shadows plunge into impossible, unimaginable abysses, where ridges and outcrops leap and glower among dark and ragged skies. The thought of those places made it hard for me to tidy my desk.

Gilmour rang me in a panic earlier in the week. The press had picked up on the discussions on Metro radio. The Journal and the Daily Mail had both been in touch asking what we knew about the Flinties and what we were doing about them.

‘These aren’t Moslem kids, are they?’ Gilmour asked, almost pleading.

‘No,’ I said. ‘It’s not clear that they have any religious affiliations at all, in fact. They’re just a bunch of kids running around in pillow cases.’

‘So what’s this throwing aeroplanes at people’s houses about?’

I told him the tale of Flinty’s return and how he’d become a sort of folk hero and spawned this daft craze. I told him about Batman and Bob Marley too.

‘Okay, so what are we doing about it?’ he said.

‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘What should we be doing, confiscating the pillowcases?’

‘Well, no. But we’ve got some scared people out there. We do need to do something. Or at least we need to seem to do something.’

‘Like what?’ I asked. ‘Incarcerate them in a pillowcase camp, set up a mini Gauntanamo behind the Woodhorn Museum? Get a bit of extraordinary rendition going and ship them off to Middlesbrough?’

‘What about getting some youth workers down there or setting up some activities and play schemes? Perhaps we need to put in some support for parents – educational input and parenting courses. And we need to think about the victims. I’ll speak to adult services. We need to see if we can get some counselling for anyone who’s been traumatized by these young people’s activities. I’ll speak to the police and see if we can get extra patrols in hot spots. We need more police presence in the community, some good old-fashioned Bobbies on the beat. We need to be talking about getting more CCTV on these estates. People need to feel secure. We need to take the lead here. We need to coordinate a full multi-agency response. We’ll see if we can get housing on board. Maybe they can do something about some of these families under the anti-social legislation. I wonder if we should be talking to church leaders too? What do you think?’

What I thought was that he might be over-reacting just a bit. What I thought was that kid will be kids.  What I thought was that Flinty was the only real risk to anyone here and it would be helpful if he was arrested. But I somehow doubted that this was what Gilmour wanted to tell the press. He had gone into full shock and awe mode. I wondered how long it would be before we considered the Guantanamo option.

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘What about the funding?’

‘Oh, I’m sure the money will be there for this one. Listen, this sounds good to me. I’ll get on to the press office. We’ll say we’re aware of this problem and we’re on to it, but that we’re sure these young people do not pose any threat to the general public. We’ll say we’re working with the community to find solutions and putting in specialist workers to help these children and their families. We’ll say there’s no evidence that these young people are in any way involved with Moslem groups.’ He paused for a moment. ‘No,’ he went on, ‘I’ll leave that bit out. But we’ll set up a help line. What about using your team to man it?’

‘No chance,’ I said. ‘We’re run off our feet. And anyway, what would we say to anyone who rang? And why do we want them to think we can do anything in any case?’

‘Hmmm,’ Gilmour said. ‘Okay, no help line. Okay. That’s fine. Anyhow, how you doing, my boy? How’s your dad?’

‘Oh, he’s fine. Still working in the boiler room, you know. Yours?’

‘He’s very well, thanks. Absolutely tickety boo. Did I tell you my lad’s driving the quad now?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I think you did. Your daughter’s got a dappled horse too, hasn’t she?’

‘She has, yes. Beautiful beast.’

‘And the horse isn’t bad either, eh?’

Gilmour chuckled.

‘Have you had your holidays yet?’ I asked.

‘Not yet, no. We’re off to Provence again in a couple of weeks. You?’

‘I’m off to Scotland next week to do some walking. I’m looking forward to it.’

Gilmour bid me farewell and went off to speak to Public Relations. Just after he hung up Michelle told me there had been another sighting of Captain Hook. He was walking along Pont Street eating a bag of chips. It’s said he has a slight limp, as if he’s hurt his left foot.

I’ll be leaving for Fort William tomorrow morning. After tea tonight I carried De Kooning out into the garden and we gazed together at the Citadel. They’re putting the concrete floors in now and the huge aluminium window frames.

‘Watch what you’re doing while I’m gone,’ I said to him. ‘Don’t you go wandering over there, okay?’

He laid his head against my arm for a moment. I’ll miss him while I’m away, I always do.

We went inside and I began to get together the things I’m taking with me. I like to take a small selection of CD’s and a book or two. I decided to take the latest albums by Eliza Carthy and Meg Baird, both of which are excellent, as well as The Essential Leonard Cohen. I’ll take my book on Scottish art to read, along with a couple of books of poems by Kathleen Jamie. Tomorrow I’ll travel north. On Sunday I hope I’ll walk the Grey Corries again.


Written by yammering

August 8, 2008 at 9:47 pm

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