What Have the Team Been up to?


My other cultural experiences of the month are frankly dwarfed by my recent trip. I am just back from a five-day visit with the Sardinian independence movement and spoke at their conference. It was Sa Die, wsinply Sicilian for ‘The Day’ and is the anniversary of a liberation revolution. Sometimes there are experiences you can’t buy from a travel agent. I spent five days in Cagliari and I was incredibly lucky to be immersed in a live debate about culture, language, food, colonialism, land and so much more. Perhaps I should pull out some highlights for you. The night of the celebration was amazing, a silent procession through the centre of the town, lit by the torches we were carrying. Throughout a speaker repeated lines from a national hymn for freedom which, though it doesn’t translate very well, was very moving. The close links between Sardinian culture and Catalan culture became obvious, not just in the fact that Catalonia was a colonial power in Sardinia for a number of centuries (though a fairly benign one largely seen positively by Sardinians). Their national dance is very similar to that of Catalonia and even the Sardinian flag is of Catalan origin. But Sardinians very much have a linguistically-driven sense of themselves. Many t-shirts were worn with the phrase which would be translated as ‘say chickpea’. This is purely because the word is the same in Italian and Sardinian but pronounced entirely differently. Part of their revolution was to ask colonisers in the street to say the word and their pronunciation would show that this wasn’t their home and that they were imposing their will against the wishes of the population. This is still a strong feeling on an island a fifth of which is Nato-aligned military bases used for experimental weapons testing. But inevitably what also stays with me was the food. I was taken for what turned out to be a six course traditional lunch which was full Christmas dinner stuff (I couldn’t eat at night at all I was so stuffed). Noticeably Italian in form, noticeably different in detail, I won’t torture you with all the details but will happily admit that I’m about to take a shot at traditional giant ravioli stuffed with potato, pecorino and mint, in a tomato sauce. Sardinia had never been on my radar before, but I have now found deep connection with them and I very much hope I’ll be back.


As spring is in the air, and the daylight returns, and every cool person is starting to go outside…I’ve been inside playing board games. Gloomhaven is our flavour of the month just now – a popular dungeon-crawling RPG distinguished by its use of cards instead of dice for its random elements. My character is a support for the team. A healer but also master manipulator, able to twist both allies and enemies to their will and is able to grant dark and terrible power…for a price. If my friends think that all I’m doing is recreating my day job in my off hours, well…that’s for them to judge.


I have had a busy old month of PhD literature review reading so can’t say it’s been that exciting. But my work in Parliament with Katy Clark MSP has given me the opportunity to travel through to Ayrshire on a few occasions, where I hadn’t visited before and see the true devastation of deindustrialisation in the West of Scotland. The depression in those communities is a case as good as any for a proper industrial strategy, and one that sees wealth redistributed rather than extracted. To accompany me on my travels I’ve very much been enjoying music by boygenius (the collaborative work of indie-melancholics Phoebe Bridgers, Julian Baker and Lucy Dacia), Marcus Mumford’s solo album, the soundtrack to the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (something of a wanderlust in me appears to have been stirred), and trad trio Project Smok’s new album The Outset. In my downtime I’ve continued that wanderlust by following the latest series of the BBC’s Race Across the World, where 5 teams are travelling from the top of Japan to the bottom of Indonesia without bullet trains or plane flights. I’ve also found time to catch a few films I’ve been meaning to watch:

– Bodies Bodies Bodies (a fresh take on the teen comedy horror genre, with a light skewering of the instagram generation thrown in there)

– Ready or Not (another comedy horror, but this time slightly darker and more ‘eat the rich’ coded)

– Bottoms (essentially Mean Girls meets Fight Club if it were written by and about lesbians)

– Palm Springs (a refreshing take on the time loop genre, and definitely a better concept than Groundhog Day)

I also had a wee solo cinema trip to see Dev Patel’s new film Monkey Man – highly recommend, everything from the writing to the casting, the acting, the cinematography, the soundtrack is great. It’s a fantastic very gritty, very violent, essentially left-wing action thriller which has a strong working class tale to it in the context of India’s current heightened politics.

Can’t say I have much to recommend in the way of books as most of it is academic, but I highly recommend reading Marxist geography David Harvey on The Right to the City, and while dense Ernsto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s seminal text Hegemony and Socialist Strategy is as prescient as ever.


A fairly quiet month for me, apart from the never-ending list of DIY in my flat. But with the better weather I have enjoyed long walks through Holyrood park at the weekends, and would recommend that if anyone is visiting Edinburgh not to just walk up Arthurs Seat but to walk along Queen’s Drive and enjoy Dunsapie Loch at the very top.

My book recommendation comes in the form of Never a Dull Moment 1971- Rock’s Golden year. For someone who has no real attachment to the music of today, the month by month explanation of a music era that I only can wish to have lived through has made for a good read. Am I fully convinced that 1971 was the best year- I’m not sure. But it was definitely the best decade.

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