Sandie Craigie, 1963…2005
Throughout the many years of our friendship and working relationship, I heard Sandie performing in public on numerous occasions. She was always electrifying. I once saw her perform at a Yellow Cafe event in an Edinburgh nightclub. The young audience wanted music and dancing, not poetry, and talked and laughed during the readings by other poets. Then Sandie entered the stage and told them all to ’shut the fuck up, and listen’. They did. And for ten minutes she held them enthralled, you could have heard a pin drop. And when she had finished, they gave her a standing ovation.
Before a reading Sandie would be in the toilet throwing up, and then she’d perform with such passion the hairs on the back of your neck tingled, or your sides ached with laughter, or she would bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. Invariably she gave audiences something to talk about, and remember, for a very long time. She was an amazing artist, performer and friend. Her absence is all our loss.
Glasgow anecdote 1
A rare, gloriously hot day and I’m at the Trongate bus stop waiting for transport to work. Lots of people are waiting alongside me, including two, quite large, older women. The street is crowded with shoppers in summer gear.
Two young girls walk by, gabbing: both are small, exceedingly slim and scantily dressed. The wee blonde is saying to her pal, “Ah don’t take efter ma maw at aw, ah’ve got a really big backside.”
Everyone at the bus stop looks at her as she passes by, assessing the size of said backside, then exchange glances and wry smiles.
“Ah wish ma backside was as big as hers” says one of the older women, and we all laugh.
Glasgow anecdote 2
As usual, the late Saturday afternoon bus from the Trongate to Shettleston, was mobbed. I found a seat on the upper deck. A man and his wee girl were seated in front of me. They were both eating rolls and chips, the wean, no more than seven years old, struggled to hold the roll in her tiny hands. A few chips fell out of her roll, ‘look at the fuckin mess ye’r making’ her father snarled, ‘hawd it right’. The wean looked nervous and tightened her grip of the roll, another chip fell. ‘Fuckin dae whit ye’r telt’ he shouted at her, the wean was trembling now. I wanted to say something to him but didn’t. I was astute enough to know that any interference from me would set him off, and contrary to helping the child, would only make matters worse for her and, potentially, her mother, when they got home. I watched anxiously, other people were also shifting uncomfortably in their seats, and glancing over at them. The wee girl was on the verge of tears and shaking, more chips fell out of her roll. ‘For fuck’s sake’, he growled, ‘ye’r eating that like a fuckin hun, look at the state ae ye’. A tear rolled down the wean’s face. ‘Don’t fuckin start greeting’. A man in front of them looked round. ‘Whit are you looking at, eh, mind yer ain fuckin business’. The man looked away. Everyone held their breath. When the pair disembarked along at Dennistoun, their was a collective sigh of relief. I felt like shit. I was heading to an overnight shift in a project full of young women who had been emotionally, physically and sexually abused. Several of them by their own fathers. What that wean would go through, had already been through in her short life, didn’t bear thinking about. I wanted to weep.
Glasgow anecdote 3
On yet another Saturday bus to Shettleston I was seated upstairs. Two teenage girls were directly in front of me. They talked incessantly and, though I and the other passengers could not help but overhear their chatter about clothes and boys, I was paying little attention to what was being said. The bus approached Parkhead and stopped at traffic lights. On my right hand side was Parkhead cemetery which butted against the back of Celtic football stadium, nicknamed Paradise. There was clearly a game on, lots of parked cars and street vendors with Celtic flags and other paraphernalia. One of the girls said to her pal, ‘My granny’s in there’. Sounding very surprised her friend asked which one, ‘Yer granny Paterson?’ ‘Naw, well no ma granny, ma ma’s granny, ma great-granny McBride.’ The friend was now flabbergasted. ‘Yer great-granny’s at Parkheid, watching the Celtic?’ ‘Naw, ya daft cunt, she’s no at Parkheid, she’s in the cemetery, she’s fuckin deid.’ They both fell about laughing. I could see that the people in front of them were also shaking with mirth. I could scarcely contain myself as it occurred to me that her great granny McBride might indeed be in in paradise.
In the airport lounge, exhausted after more than 16 hours of hard driving, I see an attractive young woman, pregnant, looking good in her expensive, glamorous, maternity wear.
By chance we are seated together on the flight. I’m feeling drawn and drained, old and plain, whilst she glows and is that ‘perfect picture’ of health.
A few hours later she is asleep, her head lolling in ungainly fashion, mouth hanging open, breathing loud and deep. I smile, remembering that in repose, we are all changelings.
What lessons might be learned from the rules of behaviour that apply during Ramadan?
There are many individuals and cultures that would advocate fasting for the benefit of one’s physical and mental health. Periodically resting and cleansing the internal organs over a period of time, days or weeks, may well be beneficial. However, abstaining from food and drink between certain hours of the day and then guzzling all that one can during the remaining hours, is illogical and of no obvious benefit.
Perhaps the act of denying oneself food and drink during certain hours of the day is intended to concentrate the mind on prayer and meditation. But prudent amounts of food and water would better equip one for contemplation: a hungry, thirsty individual will be more inclined to distraction. The hours of prayer, between sunrise and sunset, are a man-made construct rendering abstinence, especially in the hot climes of many Muslim countries, an experience more akin to penance than devotion.
And if there is a lesson to be learned from abstaining from sexual intercourse during the month of Ramadan, it is obscure indeed. If there is a God that created humans as beings who thrive on mutual affection and require sexual coupling to reproduce, how can sexual intimacy be unclean? What can possibly be considered impure about two people who love each other sharing such intimacy? As with fasting, celibacy voluntarily embarked upon is quite different from following a set of arbitrary regulations.
All religions use ritual to focus the mind. Meditation and contemplation may be enhanced by deliberate preparation: emptying the mind of hubris through ritual. And yet, here is the rub, it must surely be up to each individual to ascertain what most suits themselves. It does no harm to acquaint oneself with communally held ideas and practices. But when the method of communing with the divine is proscribed, and unreasonable demands are made of the individual to follow certain rules of behaviour at arbitrarily set times of the day or year, it becomes dogma.
If religious practice is intended to uplift the individual and thus society, and to extol such virtues as compassion and respect for others, the failing of most religions is their descent into dogmatic, social control.