In My Own Time

27th April 2012 at 01:00
Graeme Hyslop, Principal of Langside College in Glasgow


I think of myself as an enlightened Scot connected to Europe. My world of cultural interest is full of contradictions: hero and anti-hero blend; self-deprecating yet proud. The best Scottish novel of all time captures this "Caledonian antisyzygy". A Green Tree in Gedde by Alan Sharp is the perfect European novel. There was meant to be a trilogy, and the follow-on The Wind Shifts is another masterpiece. Sadly, Sharp chose Hollywood instead.


Sharp refers to the "wall of no choice" and this existentialism features in all my favourites: The Deer Hunter, The Way We Were (honestly) and Trainspotting. They have one recurring theme: external control. Two more recent films got to me, both about the victory of the human spirit over control. In Blame it on Fidel, directed by Julie Gavras, a wee girl takes on the powers-that-be (Catholic school, lefty parents) to shape a world in which good things can happen. Must be autobiographical, considering her father shaped much of the European Left's thinking with such films as Z, Missing and State of Siege. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others is set in 1980s East Berlin and shows a Stasi apparatchik becoming essentially human - my favourite kind of tchik-flick.


Fellow principals praise my self-deprecating approach to music - I call myself a "Fannie" and they nod in agreement. None know the name belongs to devotees of the Bhoys from Bellshill, Teenage Fanclub. Seen them live many times, always pitch-perfect. My latest favourite track, Into the City, will see me off (with two Blur songs) at my funeral. Another Scottish band, Secondskin, is a different matter: hard rock, but in Ian McCall they have a vocalist who makes you dream and gives you nightmares in the same track. Caledonian antisyzygy lives on.

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