Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis'd, new fashions are devis'd.
Old Christmas is kicked out of Town
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
What’s known as the English Civil War produced, like all wars, many odd and unexpected results. Wars are often the mothers of strange children: we hardly associate Hitler and his motley collection of unimaginative halfwits with Neil Armstrong and ‘one small step for man’, but without the V2 technology, which went to the States with Nazi scientist Werner Von Braun, it would certainly have taken the USA longer to get to the moon. Few would link the Falklands War to Scottish independence, but without that conflict Mrs Thatcher may not have gained her second victory, and the excesses of monetarist economics which pushed so many to vote ‘Yes’ could have been avoided.
One aspect of the English Civil War – which was fought in all corners of the soon-to-be-Union, but let that pass – which seems a little quaint today is the struggle over whether Christmas should be celebrated in a sombre, ‘respectful’ fashion, as was suggested by Parliament, or in the traditional, carousing, festive spirit familiar for centuries.
Parliament’s position was mocked in a folk ballad of the times, ‘The World Turn’d Upside Down’, which noted that what was good enough for the Magi – ‘The wise men did rejoyce to see our Saviour’ – ought to be good enough for the people of England, and that if celebrating wars – ‘Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise’ – was acceptable, so to was celebrating Christ.
The song’s mix of sardonic satire and brilliant title have seen it remembered, even if the rationale behind it is increasingly lost in the mists of time. In Scotland, the echoes have been heard until recently, with workers right up until the 1950’s working on Christmas morning – here the day was not that far removed from Parliament’s idea. Only recently has Christmas taken a place alongside Hogmanay, the traditional Bacchanalia of the North, although since nowadays so many people are slaughtered on a regular basis the one-off appeal of a blow out at Ne’er Day is somewhat diminished.
Diminished, too, is another icon of that Presbyterian settlement which obtained over Scotland for so long. The Rangers are a pale shadow of what they once were, on the pitch, in the boardroom and in the stands. Replace the word ‘Christmas’ in that quote above with ‘Rangers’ and you get the picture: the convulsions which have racked the club since they entered into dispute with HMRC are reaching ridiculous proportions. Many organisations come into conflict with HMRC over one thing or another, but surely few can have reacted to it with quite such incompetence and drawn out sickness.
Maybe it’s the shock at being kicked in the balls by bodies which, perhaps, Rangers fondly imagined were on the same side as them; maybe it’s surprise at finding themselves quite so isolated when the chips were down; maybe it’s merely impotence as the entrepreneur culture which so many lauded comes home to roost with a vengeance. Whatever the reason, there are people in West Africa who have shaken off Ebola quicker than Rangers have gotten over their fever: their world turn’d upside down, right enough.
Some, it is true, are taking the fight to the club, with what they would doubtless be horrified to read as an enthusiasm comparable to the activism of the ‘Yes’ campaign in Scotland’s recent referendum. When online fans who are also shareholders email board members to innocently enquire about standard procedures, the replies (or lack thereof) have revealed quite a lot about those wearing the blazers.
Only this week, internet poster ‘Govan Derriere’ revealed that, after several weeks of trying, he had finally obtained a response as to when the AGM would be held this year. Hardly the most explosive of questions, you might feel. Before 31st December, in line with the law, came the terse response from Mr David Somers, apparently Chairman of Rangers. One wonders if he treats shareholders in his other companies with quite such disdain and one concludes that, no, he probably doesn’t but considers football fans so much dirt on his shoes. An odd attitude for a Chairman of a football club, you might think. However that may be, ‘Govan Derriere’s’ questioning landed quite a few blows on Mr Somers’ credibility, a rare case of a fan hitting the shit.
What strange days these are, indeed. As a lapsed Rangers fan with more to worry about than a football club falling to bits I should really be getting on with other things, but the fascinating freak show which unfolds almost daily on Edmiston Drive is hideously addictive. Adding yet another group to the notoriously splintered Rangers fan base – that of pissed off former attendee who can’t quite seem to shake off the habit of 30 years and who keeps returning to pick over the bones – is probably not helpful, but then again I can’t see how it can makes things any worse.
I suppose Rangers fans can only hope that their club will still be around in 300 years, and that someone will have come up with songs which reflect this period, to be sung in the stands of Ibrox. Maybe this civil war will result in unforeseen results, one of which at present would be the sight of a healthy Rangers. The titles and the music are unlikely to be very uplifting, though. Perhaps they could nick this old one off Jim Morrison: it seems very apt.
Strange days have found us / Strange days have tracked us down / They're going to destroy
Our casual joys / We shall go on playing / Or find a new town