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  • Colin Burnett

Sheep Without a Shepherd

Updated: Dec 17, 2020




Ah wis born tae be nuttin maire than a footnote in someboady else’s memoir


Aw ma life, likes. Ah wis furever bein telt what tae hink, how tae feel. Persuaded tae be suttin ah wis never meant tae be. Ah come fae a corner ae Edinburgh cawed Leith. A place that wisnae known fur it’s vibrant art scene or welcomin personality, when ah wis wee. Insteed, it’s moment in the spotlight came fae the exploits ae it’s skagboays and high levels ae social deprivation. Ma name’s Steven Scott, by the wey. Ah’m thirty year auld and ah’ve hud maire dreams than opportunities. Maire kicks in the baws fae life than ah care tae remember, tae.


Ma minutes and hours oan this planet wur programmed tae be spent in some soul destroying callcentre fur a pittance oor minimum wage. Or brek ma back oan some miserable building site. Hopeless endeavours tae ensure that folk like me never git too far above oor station. Ma dad wisnae much ae a reader, eh? no unless yae coont the hoarse racing section in the daily record, that is. Although neither wis he a dafty. He could ryme oaff the Hibs title winning team fae ’52’ withoot pausin fur breath. And he also hud a detailed knowledge ae the gid auld days here in Leith. He wid often tell me stories aboot sailors descending oan the port fae the four corners ae the planet. Bringin wae thum apples fae New Zealand or timber fae auld uncle Sam. Ma mum wid jist brush oaff his tales and no pey thum much attention. But the yin hing aboot ma faither wis. He wis a right gid storyteller. And unlike ma mum ah foond massel itchin tae hear maire ae thum. Probably due tae the fact that the Leith he wis talkin aboot wis a far cry fae the hookers and druggies ah kent it fur.


When ma faither wis a young man. Back when he wis aboot ages wae me now. He worked doon at the world famous Henry Robb shipyaird. Suttin ah could tell he looked back oan wae fondness. By the wey his puss wid beam as he shared stories aboot the place. This wis a Leith institution back in the day, eh? and it gave folk fae here suttin ma generation never hud or wid even recognise within themselves. An identity. But then that hard nosed bitch Thatcher came along wae her crusade against the workin classes. And aw ae a sudden boays like ma faither. Who hud grafted aw ae their days withoot complaint. And who hud never taken a handoot fae the government in their puffs. Wur shamefully directed straight tae the back ae the dole que. The shipyaird closed in 84, likes. Efter ma dad and his mates marched fae the gates. Aw the wey acroass tae the auld state cinema in Great Junction street. A revolt which ultimately failed as a final stand against the establishment. Ah kin remember vividly, eh? As he showed me pictures ae his youngerself huddin up a sign which read ‘’Dinnae bring back the thirties’’.


The sad truth wis, the thirties hud awready arrived in the form ae Thatcher and her annoyin, smug puss. Along wae the explosion ae cheap smack fae Pakistan which gave birth tae the infamous Trainspotting generation. A bunch ae loast sheep waitin fur oor shepherd tae guide us fae the light and intae the darkness. As the drugs started tae set intae the communities. And began tae pollute the minds ae the youth ae the abandoned workin classes. Some ae ma mates chose a life ae furever chasin that first high. Becomin blinded by a world ae petty crime. Masit ae thum wur too busy chasin the dragon, eh? insteed ae a brighter tomorrow. And who could blame thum, likes. Efteraw bein high wis the only wey tae numb the bitter pain ae reality. Kennin that wur nuttin maire than an efterthoat ae a bygone era. Wae aw the wonders oan this planet. Fae the Great Pyramids ae Giza tae the Colosseum in Rome. Aw we git tae admire is the dreary lookin violated Lego sets the government pit up tae keep us contained in. So, when they spike up, ken? They do so wae the purpose ae furgettin that the system wants tae keep us humble.


Sure, the lads and lassies fae ma wey could see places further than the number thirty yin bus could take us tae. But only if yae wur willin tae die fur Queen and capitalism ‘’Here’s a rifle, son. Go oot and shoot cunts’’ Some ae us wants maire than tae be a soldier ae fortune in someboady else’s war. Or, tae spend oor miserable existence sittin behind a desk punchin in someboady else’s cloack. Aw until oor time comes tae an end and wur left wonderin how it aw went sae wrong. Ma parents though? Well, they kept faith in the system, likes. They did exactly as they wur telt. Peyed their taxes and obeyed the laws. Rules which wur designed tae keep thum doon. And at the end ae it aw ah hud tae watch ma dad slip awey wae lung cancer. And then ah hud tae sit and watch ma mum go cap in hand tae the social. Only tae be presented wae twinty quid as if it wis the golden ticket fae Wily Wonka himself. And it wisnae long efter that ah hud ma hert broken again. When ma mum passed awey wae cardiac arrest. Least, that’s what the doactur telt us. But ah knew the real diagnosis wis that it she died ae a broken hert.


There wis nae grand monuments wae there names oan it. Or even a park bench tae remember thum by, there wis only me. In the end though. What defined their years oan this planet wis a piece ae paper tae say when they arrived and when they departed. That’s the workin class autobiography. Realisin this changed ma outlook oan life. And now that the blinkers wur removed ah could finally see the hazy road aheid clearly, fur the first time. And ah wis now ready tae become a someboady. See, ah figured oot what gave the elite their power, eh? it wisnae their lands or titles. It wis their education. Ma weapon ae choice wisnae a rifle or a chisel, it wis a library caird. It suddenly dawned oan me that education is indeed power. And there’s nuttin maire dangerous in this country than a workin man wae a library caird who isnae afraid tae use it. So, that’s the adventure ah embraked oan. Ah began spendin maire and maire time in the library wae ma heid sutck inside books. And the maire ah wid read. The maire ah started tae become a reflection ae ma oppressor. An imitator, if yae will. And aw the new words ah learnt wur fast becomin a foreign language tae ma mates. Goat tae the point where ma ambitons started tae be recognised as an act ae class treason.


Those who sit oan the throne ae power dinnae want the likes ae us hinkin aboot or questionin the world aroond us. Insteed, they want mindless drones sittin aboot scratchin their baws in the hope the lotto will gee us a wey oot ae poverty. The last hing they want is us creatin oor ain pathwey acroass the minefields ae life. But that’s exactly what ah planned tae dae. Through the rather contagious power which is education. Cos simply sittin back and idling oor breaths awey in the hope hings might git better merely confirms the establishments perception ae us.


Yae jist need tae look at the land ah come fae tae tell yae there’s nae future withoot action. A land so beautiful that it looks as if it’s been conceived by the mind ae Michaelangelo. Yit there’s five million voices and naecunt kin hear us. Someboady yince said it’s shite bein Scottish but ah honestly dinnae hink that. It’s no shite, it’s jist oaffy fuckin depressin.

But the gid news is that here ah um wae ma very ain piece ae paer. But it’s no jist yin that states ma time oan this planet. Or that ah died an honourable death fighting fur a square foot ae sand in name of Queen or country. Insteed, it’s yin that announces ah’m oan ma wey tae finally becomin a somebaody


‘’Mr Fraser’’ it says ‘’We are delighted to inform you, that you have an unconditional offer to study BSc (Hons) Public Sociology at Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh’’.


Jist imagine some dafy cawed Rupert wae aw his private education and personal tutors hinkin he’s the smartest cunt in the room. Only tae find a humble boay fae Leith waitin tae show him the truth. That yae dinnae need tae descend fae the spunk ae some lord in order tae possess an intellect. And that aw yae need is a library caird and a relentless thirst fur knowledge. But, listen, who the fuck kens, eh? Ah might end bein an advisor tae Nicola Sturgeon. Come tae hink ae it ah might even yin day run the hale show masel. What ah do ken fur sure though, eh? The world really is ma oyster.






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