The Angry Corrie 16: Dec 1993-Jan 1994
Glory holes get Beeb megaboost
Believe me, my file wasn't flagged for nothing when I joined Whitewash & Snowjob over in the Big Apple. I always figured that if some half-assed hypnotist can convince guys they're in love with broomsticks, there's just no limit to what a good PR man can achieve. And hell, I proved it.
When those ficulty creeps at Colombia objected to a nuclear dump a couple of blocks away in Central Park, I showed them that students working nights at the dump could pay their fees in advance - and if they died before die end of their courses, well, that'd be money in the bank. Drilling starts soon.
'I'hey made me company president after that one and now I'm on sabbatical in Scotland - sitting in my room at Gleneagles. I'm banging all four (Jesus, four!) TV buttons trying to find something to drown the sound of the pissing rain.
I hit (his show called Landward on BBC2. It turns out to be a revelation. Friends and neighbours, it's a PR job to end all PR jobs. And, dammit, they don't even seem to realise it.
It's about this guy lain Wilson and his idea to hack megaholes out of Argyll, Harris and Caithness for rock to pave freeways worldwide. A bunch of sandalled weirdos like we have at home are making waves.
I say to myself, this is a tough one. BAD WORDS will fall thick as shit from a flying steer. Environment, protest, dust, pay, conditions, culture, native people are all BAD WORDS (I once had a helluva job persuading the Utes it was OK for their kids to play in uranium mine tailings). Now, as every PR man who can put bacon in the grits knows, BAD WORDS have to be squelched right away by GOOD WORDS, like sensitive, future, hi-tec, spin-off. profit. And this is what happens before my very eyes! After a shaky start, tho.
First, this reporter says rocks will be hauled by the gloryhole method, like at Glensanda. The hole can only be seen from the air. This makes it environmentally sensitive, a GOOD WORD.
I think they've made a boo-boo. A couple of days back I tried to make a picture of your real quaint Castle Stalker in Argyll but a goddam mess of dust, dirt roads and erosion across the Firth of Lorn made shit of the backdrop. "What the hell's that," I asked my limo driver. "That's the Glensanda quarry," he said in his real quaint accent, "ye can see the bloody place at sea-level fae Luing tae Appin. It's seen mair'n Cruachan noo."
OK, anybody can make a mistake and if you're going to make one it's better to make it at the start cause folks will have forgotten it by the end of the promotion. And Landward is soon back cooking with gas, magically changing dust from a BAD WORD into something good.
At the first mention of the stuff we're transported to North Carolina faster'n Cromartie's McKenzies after the '45.
We see some sadsack rednecks throwing handfuls of God-knows-what on acres of dying trees (I told these hillbillies years ago they should cut down NC's last tulip poplars before acid rain killed them - and the valuable trees).
Landward infonns us the hicks are remineralising sour soil. Gee, I think, the BBC must be loaded to send a team to film a bunch of rednecks.
Here I'm going to have to use the word "seem" again, cause even an old PR hand like me can't be sure if Landward is seriously suggesting that sour soil can be remineralised by rock dust, or does it just seem to be making this claim?
I am sure that Harris ain't nothing like NC - not geologicallywise, not weatherwise, frontwise or backwise, and toiling in tunnels in the tough days before I took up PR I saw rock dust turn into something like liquid concrete. "Ze on'y ting zat verdamt stuff produces iss silicosis," said my straw boss, known around camp as Wheezy Helmut.
I get back to the action. They've just KO'd a couple of protesters. One is a sloppy writer guy who lives 30 miles from a possible site and looks like he wants to be 1000 miles away from the camera. The other is a homely dame in Harris who is instantly exposed as what the locals call a white settler. They come on like B-movie extras, make a bad impression, then are told to take a hike, more or less. Anyway, as far as I can see from the Caithness sequence folks up there don't give a shit about how the place looks. It's littered with military ruins going back to World War II for clirissakes and I'm told they already have a hole stuffed with all kinds of godawful waste that keeps bustin out in flames and nobody knows what it is.
But mostly native people are a pain in the ass. Nicaraguans, Vietnamese, even Mohawks regularly raise a ruckus over their goddam culture. The Scotch too, but they're just seven-stone weaklings who get dust kicked in their eyes, or so my Limey buddies tell me. But hey, here's Landward making the old tried and tested pitch I've used since Day 1 back at W & S - tell the mugs that if they don't take the deal somebody else will.
We're in Norway where this Limey outfit Tarmac has a deal to dig holes. I know this Tarmac has clout on account of the big pounds it gives the Tory Party.
I'm kinda disappointed with the clips, cause they show Norway is a whole lot different from Scotland, which may surprise many folks. The cliffs rise straight out of the sea with neat little inlets snuck in between. Hell, you could hide a battleship in there.
A couple of Norwegians with lumpy kissers convey the impression they would enjoy digging holes in mountains almost as much as harpooning whales.
I get to the edge of my chair. Here comes The Message' The Big Sell. What's in it for the Scotch locals? Time to haul out GOOD WORDS, future, and spin-off, and VERY GOOD WORD, profit.
Hold on a mite, says The Message and lo, sometime in the future spin-off profit from a passel of holes will pay for shelter belts - for sheep, I guess - provide brand new homes on remineralised land, build harbors and generally make the entire goddam coast look like Inverewe gardens that guy MacKenzie planted.
Everybody gets a share and everybody makes a profit, as my pop Milo Snr used to say when I was knee-high to a grasshopper.
All this time I'm wondering how they're gonna handle the last two BAD WORDS, pay and conditions. Well, they don't. No kidding, they just kinda disappear them, like the guys who made waves in that book Catch-22 my pop was in.
Now I remember my limo driver saying most of the 150 guys at Sanda work 11 days out of 14 and don't winter in Florida, for sure.
OK, that takes care of the locals. What's the future for worked-out quarries? They show us this lousy black hole at Sanda. Not even Landward can make it look anything other than a lousy black hole. So what happens? We're hustled over to Cruachan Power Station, a hi-tec wonder all bright and shiny and lit up like the Fourth of July. Why are we here? I know, it's that newfangled subliminal bullshit that tells me one day the lousy black hole will look like this when the rock's done.
I'm bustin with admiration. After all, how many dopes out there will ask themselves what the hell use is a power station on Harris or who needs another one at Sanda, only a spit's distance from Cruachan?
Here's how I see it. Smart guys from Yokahama to Yonkers know that any foreigner can buy as much of Scotland as he likes, it being a free country and all. They also know there's megabucks in landfill. And, hell, these holes could handle all the household garbage and industrial waste Europe cared to send. About ten locals would have jobs for life, just shovelling it around.
Soon as I get home I'll look up my old buddy Joe Tomatoes. Joe and his Family are Big in landfill. I've promoted their projects from Memphis to Maine. I hear they're already interested in Europe, in the Ardennes which is in France or Belgium or some other ticky-tacky country. You just got to hit at the right time. I mean, Wilson and these other straight guys in this deal can't live forever. Have a good day, don't take any wooden nickels and never give a sucker an even break.