Gerry Farrell: Clean for Leith, not the Queen

Picture: supplied
Picture: supplied
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I CONFESS I’ve written the odd irritating slogan in my time as an adman. But you could put a hundred monkeys to work at their typewriters for a thousand years and they wouldn’t come up with anything quite as cringeworthy as “Clean For The Queen”.

Just in case you’ve been off hiking in the Sahara, it’s the brainchild of that rural geriatric’s bible, Country Life magazine. The idea is that this weekend, in honour of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, we should all go out with bin bags and litter pickers to “spruce up our streets, vacuum our villages and de-litter our land”.

The campaign was launched in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy and some big companies - whose crap litters our streets – have weighed in with donations: Greggs, McDonald’s, Wrigley, Costa and KFC. I mean, “Clean For The Queen” is catchy, I’ll give it that. So was “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”. As some wag wrote, “Scrub the streets, peasant!” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Ever eager to brown-nose the royals, Tory MPs have been quick to don hi-vis waistcoats and pose next to the posters with litter pickers. Have a gander at Michael Gove, pictured here. Just looking at him makes you want to kick over a wheelie bin. Environment Minister Rory Stewart added to the obsequiousness with: “Her Majesty The Queen is an inspiration to all of us. Her 90th birthday is a unique opportunity for people to come together in celebration of Her Majesty’s long service and dedication to this country”.

I wonder what Her Venerable Twinkliness thinks about all of this. She must be faintly embarrassed. Everywhere she goes, things are tidied within an inch of their lives. Railings are repainted, lawns re-turfed, school uniforms dry-cleaned and red carpets rubbed raw. Does any single human being actually enjoy this much sycophancy? Can you imagine how many people already “clean for the Queen”? David Cameron just put up the annual payment to the royal family from £36.1 million to £37.89m. That pays for a lot of cleaners. Maybe if we didn’t shell out those millions to an old, irrelevant German family, we could actually afford to clean our streets properly. Instead of cutting street cleaning budgets by 16 per cent, which is exactly what has happened during the last two Tory administrations.

When social media broke this story, the backlash wasn’t backwards about coming forwards. Twitter crackled with sarcasm: “That’s what we need in these hard times; to all do our bit for the most fortunate person in the country. For free.” And my own personal favourite: “Tidy up your garage for Nigel Farage.”

So what have Leithers Don’t Litter got to say about all of this? For fun, we put out a little poll to the Leith community. It gave seven options: Who do you want to clean up for on March 5? 1) Clean for Leith. 2) It doesn’t matter, I just want clean streets. 3) Clean for my mum, I don’t want her to think I live in a s***hole. 4) Clean for my friends who are coming over to visit from a much tidier country. 5) For nobody, I want to keep street cleaners in a job. 6) Clean for the Queen. 7) For nobody, that’s what Council Tax is for.

It goes without saying that out of the 37 who responded, nobody wanted to Clean for the Queen. Happily, our community wants to clean for Leith. Our Big Spring Clean-Up is at Yardheads Playpark on March 5 at 10.30am. We know who we’re cleaning for. Us.

Who gives a flying figurine about the Oscars?

On Monday night “the greatest show on earth” was broadcast: The Oscars. It used to be on the Beeb. But now you have to give money to Rupert Murdoch if you want to see how many pastel-blue, cubic zirconium crystals were sewn into Kate Winslet’s evening gown.

Don’t get me wrong, I love movies. I love talking about movies. But this glittering night for multi-millionaire moguls has nothing to do with the blood, sweat and tears it takes to write an original screenplay, persuade some guys in suits to like it, beg, borrow and steal a fortune to finance it then hope to God those same guys in suits don’t rip the original plot to shreds in their lust to create a box-office blockbuster.

Let’s take a little peek at the people who make up “The Academy”, the invisible VIPs who get to vote. 94 per cent of them are white. 77 per cent of them are male. And their average age is 62. Now check out the Academy’s 43-strong board. Only six of them are women. Only one of them is black. And boy, are their verdicts all-American. In the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down, where an average American guy loses the plot and starts shooting his fellow-Americans, there’s a scene where a glass jar full of little American flags falls to the ground and shatters in slow motion. The Academy deemed this “disrespectful to America” and what was one of the best movies of the decade, never mind that year, missed out on an Oscar.

This year, Spotlight, a fictional account of a newspaper’s investigation into the Catholic Church’s whitewashing of the paedophile priest scandal, won Best Picture. The subject matter is very worthy, if familiar. The Catholic hierarchy did their best to sweep the problem under the rug. It’s a great subject for a movie, meaty, controversial and up-to-date. But Best Picture? Doubt, Philomena and The Magdalene Sisters handled similar material in a far more suspenseful and emotional way. Spotlight had no central character, so the story lurched from person to person and the action was visually dull – journalists scurrying around offices with bundles of files.

Put a hundred billionaires in a ballroom and paint everything gold. Then watch them applaud as their mates win prizes. That’s the Oscars. About as in touch with reality as velvet ropes and red carpets.

Ooh not to be a Hibby

Last Wednesday Hibs were in the mood to entertain their fans. They had just bundled their bitter rivals the Jambos out of the Scottish Cup and thumped Alloa 3-0. Morton were visiting Easter Road. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.

The players’ heads must have been swimming as they trooped off the pitch after a 3-nil defeat. Saturday was a chance to put things right. I looked at my laptop screen through my fingers – something told me I wouldn’t like what I saw. I didn’t. Just 53 minutes in, Dumbarton were leading 3-0. “Football, bloody hell,” as Sir Alex Ferguson so ineloquently put it.