Letter from Denmark: Libraries, Liars, and Lucia

I’m fumbling to find my yellow health insurance card. All Danish citizens and residents have one. It doubles as a kind of multi-purpose ID. You need it at the dentist or doctor, but this little credit-card sized bit of plastic also lets you into the library. As it happens, there’s no need for its magnetic strip today. The door opens of itself, and the sign, which I hadn’t noticed, says, ‘The library is staffed’. Having librarians back really is a positive move by the local council.

The newspaper niche in Fredensborg ‘Bibliotek’

Yesterday’s Politiken is my reason for being here. There’s a couple of articles I want to catch up on. Settling down in the newspaper niche, the whole place looks brighter and friendlier than I remember. The new floor-to-ceiling window has certainly enhanced the lighting. It also frames the old town outside, which looks timeless in its winter coat.

The first article I locate is by Dennis Nørmark. “Denmark is without a government yet nothing has changed, everything is as it was,” he begins. He goes on to point out that no one really misses politicians, except journalists. He also confesses to a passing desire to live under a technokrat government, as long as it gives him more personal freedom. But Dennis quickly reminds us that this is not a sentiment you can utter in public without immediately “washing your mouth with soap” afterwards.

Article by Dennis Nørmark, ‘Måske vi helt kunne undvære politiker’

The op-ed is amusing but carries a serious message. I’ll admit I do sympathise with the author after watching the exit of Blackford and the arrival of Stephen Flynn on the Westminster stage. Flynn is the latest soundbite actor to emerge from the SNP’s vast pantheon of mediocrity at Westminster. Truth be told, the humble crofter should have resigned along with the FM on 31 January 2020. Instead, they continued from failure to farce. 

Their re-election slogans, ‘Vote SNP for Independence’, and the now toe-curling, ‘Scotland won’t be dragged out of the EU against its will’ – are destined to live long in the catalogue of self-serving, political lies.

Dennis Nørmark points out that other countries, such as Austria, Belgium, and Italy have, in the past, coped quite well without functioning governments. And since 1 November, competent, unpoliticised civil servants have had Denmark ticking over – quite nicely thank you – without any noticable drama.

Not that politicians have gone away. Several weeks of post-election negotiations appear to be heading in the direction of a centre coalition. Meanwhile, In the courts, prosecutors are demanding a six month jail term for the former Danish Folkeparti leader, Morten Messerschmidt. His ‘crime’ is using about €10k of EU subsidy for domestic party political purposes. He denies this, of course.

You know, when you think about it, €10,000 is a lot less than the missing £600,000 a Scottish political party insisted was resting in its rather empty account. The party leader and her husband are not concerned, though.  No court case, quite yet. 

In closing, Nørmark points to some stats that suggest the less we see of politicians the more their popularity increases. So, some good news for Blackford, McDonald and McLauglin, then.

The main street in Fredensborg

Catch-up done, I head down the snowy main street. If you visit this town at the moment you’ll see photos in every shop window. It’s a local history initiative. The photos are from the last century – a sort of ‘then and now’ thing. My barber shop has one, too. The photograph reveals that there’s been a ‘frisørsalon’ here for almost a century.

There are actually a remarkable number of ‘hair salons’ in this small town. The one I go to is staffed exclusively by men, well, one man mostly. He and the others are all exiles like me. You see, my barber is from Iraq. A really pleasant lad far from home. He’s a mine of information on the situation in the old country. Fortunately, it’s relatively peaceful, at least in his part of Iraqi Kurdistan. He informs me that these days some people have begun to miss Saddam. “Yes, he was a dictator but the country functioned,” he tells me. I suggest Kurdistan meets all of the criteria to be recognised by the UN as an independent nation. He merely laughs, ‘The UN is useless, it only does what the big powers say’.

I mention the BRICS countries grouping, it’s something he hasn’t heard of, but is interested to learn more about. After sorting out the world’s problems, as you do, we both agree that a multi-polar world is far preferable to the current uni-polar setup.

As things stand, the new SNP front bench looks as though it is quite content with uni-polar world rule from Washington. Now that’s something even Americans are questioning after Elon Musk’s dump of the Twitter files. Still, some politicians see no problem with the MSM and social media companies being run by former and current spooks. I wonder why that is?

Blackford’s replacement Stephen Flynn – an exercise in deckchair shuffling?

Although Stewart McDonald has moved to a better view on the terracing, Doogan and Alyn Smith have joined Flynn in the dugout. This probably means the SNP’s North Atlantic Treaty devotees will continue to influence foreign policy. Of course, no one really expected a radical approach from the latest set of apparatchiks. The NuSNP has fully embraced the British ‘special relationship’ with the United States. It is one of life’s mysteries that no one in the alleged party of Scottish independence looks at Ireland and thinks, ‘Aye, neutrality, now there’s a good idea!’

Our town’s single main street is decorated for Christmas. It has been since late November. It’s actually been a festive year all round as the town is celebrating its 300th anniversary. The main local landmark and tourist attraction is Fredensborg Palace and gardens. Completed in 1722, they are said to have been named (Fredensborg translates to the ‘Palace if Peace’) to mark the end of another European conflict.  It’s still used by Queen Margrethe from spring into early autumn. 

Fredensborg Palace

By the way, the year 1722 is another of those parallel history moments.  Across the North Sea, ‘The Atterbury Plot’ of that same year was apparently the most significant Jacobite rebellion between 1715 and 1745. Its purpose was to restore the exiled James III (James VIII of Scotland).

“Regiments in the service of the French and Spanish armies, which would catalyse general uprising, led by Jacobite sympathisers within the Tory aristocracy. Key buildings in London – the Bank of England, the Tower of London and the adjacent Royal Mint – would be assaulted and captured.” 

Bishop Francis Atterbury (1663-1732) High Church Tory and English Jacobite

It all came to nothing, and its foiling is described as one of the “British Secret Service’s most celebrated achievements”. Though some might contend that 2014 was an even greater triumph. 

In 1722, the British state even went as far as planting fake news reports in the papers of the day. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Perfidious Albion, indeed. 

On the 13th of December it was ‘Lucia’. A ceremony traditionally celebrated in Sweden, it’s now hugely popular in Denmark. The lights go off and a candle-carrying procession in white robes walks slowly, singing the words to ‘Santa Lucia’. The procession is led by the Lucia princess who wears a garland of candles. Okay, it all probably sounds a bit odd, but it is incredibly atmospheric.

Lucia is never more moving or meaningful than when yer ain bairns are part of it. In schools, it’s usually the younger classes who perform the Lucia Procession. My son has been one of the ‘star boys’ and my ‘daughter’ a Lucia maiden. Lucia herself is the ‘bearer of light’. 

‘Luciamorgon’ was broadcast at 7am on 13 December

Apparently, 13 December was, in the historic Julian calendar, the shortest day. These processions are now a feature in Danish nurseries, schools and on television. It’s just as well the lights are dimmed during Lucia, as I expect there’s not a dry eye in the house among the doting parents. 

For op-ed writer, Dennis Nørmark, Lucia 2022 signalled the end of his serene six weeks without politicians. The expected coalition of the middle was agreed late on the 13th. The political ménage à trois involves Social Democrats, the new party – ‘Moderaterne’ – and the more right-wing ‘Venstre’. Strange bedfellows indeed.

The Danish political ménage à trois includes (from left to right) Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Mette Frederiksen, and Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Don’t know about you, but Christmas has always been a time of mixed emotions for me. Christmas trees appearing in the street-facing windows of the soot black tenements made Duke Street a bit magical. But the 25th of December in East End tenements wasn’t always a happy time of the year. Many parents on low incomes, stressed by the added expectations, simply couldn’t cope. Mine were no different. The youngest of the litter, I was often around when my parents were bickering. Christmas arguments were the worst. I recall, quite vividly, a Christmas Eve, I guess around 1964, when my mother asked my dad, during one heated exchange, if he’d got ‘the boy anything for his Christmas’. The answer was, ‘No’. Awkward, as I was sitting in the kitchen as a witness to all this. Anyway, aff wee traipsed, ma da and me, doon Bluevale Street and alang the Gallowgate tae the Barras. I got to choose a gift for £1. Children understand far more than grown-ups think. They fully comprehend the value placed on them. That there’s an economic limit on their happiness. 

George Square Christmas decorations ca. 1962

There were enough of these memories that, as a young adult, I usually preferred to work through Christmas. But a fresh start, in an independent country, has meant that my children have never experienced anything remotely like some of my East End tenement Christmases. But I do wonder about today’s Duke Street wee yins at this time of the year. I’d like to think that things have changed, but I’m not so sure. Child poverty hasn’t gone away. The wealth from our nation’s resources is funnelled south of the border, as Scots m, to whom these resources belong, are left without the means to heat their homes and care for their bairns. Even our pro-indy politicians are loathe to admit it, but this is colonial exploitation.

On my returns to Glasgow, I see the same drinking dens, run-down housing, litter-strewn streets and those tell-tale haunted faces. It really doesn’t have to be like this.

I doubt very much any of those among the remaining 45 SNP MPs at Westminster have faced the poverty many Scots experience, daily. If they had, they wouldn’t be as disengaged from the independence cause as they are. After eight years of self-enrichment they stand condemned by their own expenses claims.

The best Christmas present the Westminster SNP could give the people of Scotland is a statement declaring a withdrawal of MPs from the structures of the British state. At home, an announcement of resignation by the First Minister, the collapsing of Holyrood, followed by a plebiscite election in early 2023 – that could be a game changer in the current climate.

To be honest though, I’m not sure the concept of giving Scots a fresh start in an independent country is a high priority for anyone in the NuSNP. Swinney’s re-alocation of the £20m and the FM fleeing from a soundbite and selfie opportunity tell their own story. 

Yet there’s so little accountability in the SNP, and Scottish colonial administration, that the nepotism of the Murrells will probably continue.

To misquote Dennis Noermark, 

‘Scotland has had a government promising independence for eight years, yet nothing has changed, everything is as it was.’ 

As Dr Alf Baird reminds us time and again, politicians who are part of a colonial administration in a country, are rarely those who go on to free the nation from foreign oppression. 

That, is usually only achieved by a liberation movement of the people.

If you’re interested in Swedish Television’s ‘Lucia Morning’, it is not geo-blocked and is available for global viewing at: https://www.svtplay.se/video/e4z6BgJ/luciamorgon-fran-grafsnas%3Fid=e3vGxaR?id=e3vGxaR

Cold weather for cyclists but the main bicycle paths are cleared and salted

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