Saturday, 31 December 2016

Hogmanay and the knighthood of Ray Davies

It’s Hogmanay but I won’t be celebrating a great deal. These days I don’t rest easy with this particular Scottish ritual. On a few occasions, many years ago now, I joined in the whole carnival but found myself so exhausted and  distraught in the aftermath of my revels that I have since eschewed extended New Year jollification.

Nonetheless there is a good feeling in Scotland around the New Year. It is a time for wiping the slate clean, for forgiveness and renewal and so tonight my wife and I will be early to bed and tomorrow morning on New Year’s Day, car already packed with our luggage, we will drive north from Totnes, Devon with Scotland as our eventual destination where we will breathe in Edinburgh’s New Year cheerfulness and optimism.

Back garden with clothes pegs, Orchard Waye, Totnes

We won’t complete our journey in one long haul. We’ll stop off on the M6 at Hilton Park Services just north of Birmingham where I will buy enough shirts from the Cotton Traders’ stall to last me through the next year. 

Hilton Park Services - the place to buy shirts

From there we head up to the Castle Green Hotel at Kendal and enjoy a swim in the pool before dinner. 

View of sheep's rears from the Castle Green Hotel, Kendal

After a night’s rest we’ll drive north leaving the M74 at the couthy town of Moffat where Robert Burns allegedly scratched a verse on one of the windows of the Black Bull Inn. We'll probably stop for a coffee here at the very respectable Moffat House Hotel.

Moffat among the hills

Leaving Moffat we'll take the A701 and immediately we will be climbing and winding through the hills, and, after leaving behind us 'The Devil's Beef Tub',where border reivers once hid their stolen cattle, beyond the summit of the 1400 ft pass with the loftiest hills of the Southern Uplands on our right we'll reach the source of the River Tweed and the heart of John Buchan territory at Tweedsmuir. Motoring on towards Broughton we will cruise by the old coaching house, the Crook Inn (will it ever be re-opened ?), and beyond the village of Broughton with its brewery, we'll pass through agricultural and moorland country with exotically named places like Romanno Bridge and Lamancha before we descend to the town of Penicuik.

Opened to trade 1604, closed....?

 Leaving Penicuik we’ll wend our way to Edinburgh and park the car in Milton Street, Abbeyhill where we have a tenement flat.

It will be about midday and after the glory of our morning journey we'll quietly enjoy a bite to eat and spend a restful afternoon reading the newspapers. We’ll go out in the early evening and for a while I’ll enjoy a feeling of being where I belong but gradually I will be subsumed by a sense of being a stranger, a misfit, for this is not the Scotland I left in 1957 or indeed the Scotland I left again in 1976. It shouldn’t be. Scotland is not a museum piece, I am the museum piece, and I shouldn't be.

Home sweet home, Milton Street, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh

Speaking of newspapers and misfits, I read in today’s issue of The Guardian that Ray Davies of the Kinks, probably my greatest rock n' roll hero has been offered and has accepted a knighthood in the New Year honours. I feel ambivalent about this, pleased because his genius and his considerable contribution to music are being recognised but unhappy because there are aspects of the honours system that I think are related more to giving favours to those with power and high financial status, to those on the “inside”, rather than those who question the status quo.  Ray Davies has composed a number songs about those on the “outside", the misfits, and I guess this is what led me to think about living in England without being totally at home here, while, though I feel I belong in Scotland, I am no longer at one with myself when I am there either. Still, I console myself by remembering that I’m not like everybody else.

Happy New Year !



Misfits   The Kinks 1978 Arista

I'm not like everybody else The Kinks 1966  B side of Sunny Afternoon Pye Records

Among other songs that might be included in a Kinks "misfits" list are Dead End Street, 20th Century Man, See my Friends, David Watts and Sitting in my Hotel.

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