PLODDIN alang in the sploongin rain. The sky’s black as pitch, but it’s no quite nicht – the toon haw clock’s twa meenits short o five, yet naethin’s open on the empty street but Wetherspoons an Ladbrokes. It’s lashin doon; rain that maks ye think o Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro shoutin the odds aboot washin clean the scummy streets… But the dug keech’s stramped that hard intae the pavement’s cracks, an the bins that lippin-fou wi polystyrene cairtons that ye cannae help but think tae yersel, the hell wi this – let’s jist lea it for the cockroaches tae deal wi when they’re the anely wans that are left.

Throu the stoor o the newsagent’s windae, Technicolor photies o the Common Riding leam oot, relics fae a bygaun age. At the street’s dowp, a wee bauchle’s staunin mair in the pub than oot it, wan-eighth o a roll-up clamped atween his chitterin teeth. He luiks at me as ah shidder doon the wynd, rain rollin aff me, greasy takeawa hingin fae twa frozen fingirs. Nods ower the brig at the heavin watter, the frame o a buggy stickin oot like banes.

“This toon’s gettin worse,” he says.

“Aye,” ah murmur. An there we are. Twa auld, auld men on Drumlanrig Brig, shakkin oor fists at the lourin cloods.

But he’s no wrang. Hawick, this toon, IS gettin worse, an sae are aw the ither toons like it – Bellshill tae Bonnyrigg, Pittenweem tae Peterheid. The real rain that Travis Bickle prayed for is bucketin doon, an it isnae jist the jakes an junkies it’s washin oot, but the saints an strivers tae – if there’s ony great difference, which a kinder age than oors would say there isnae. We’re in ower oor heids, the hale jingbang o us, an the last thing we’re aboot tae see as we gang unner is Jacob Rees-Mogg in the dinghy’s stern, smilin a sad smile at the droont rats that hadnae the guid sense tae get aff the sinkin ship… We’re no dividit aboot the truth o this. We’re jist at odds aboot how it aw happened. Some o us date it tae the Union o the Croons; some o us tae the census coontin demiromantics as people. But ah’ve taen the liberty o daein a wee bit diggin, an we can trace the hale thing back tae jist wan day – the 6th o May, 2010. A guid day for shippers o Cameron/Clegg, a bad day for, weel, humanity.

Devotees o the British Pairliament Expanded Universe will jist aboot remember Nick Clegg fae ten years ago, in the same wey that ither fandoms mind o Jar-Jar Binks, Wesley Crusher an Scrappy-Doo – wrang turns for a franchise that never really recovered. Sir Nick’s on the efter-dínner circuit noo, puntin his centrist gospel o blawin wi the wind for thoosands o poonds a heid, but his legacy is written in stane. Like maist graves.

Cause austerity nooadays has the ineluctable nature o historical fact. We’ve makkit freends wi it, like we’d dae wi ony ither pain. It’d be as weird tae girn aboot austerity these days as it would be tae blaw the whistle on slavery or the atomic bomb. Anely its extremes still shock us noo – the puir, the deein, the desperate.

But the problem wi focussin on the maist acute consequences o austerity is that it maks the rest o us feel like we’re daein awricht for oorsels when we arenae. The notion permeates that as lang as ye’re no Daniel Blake, ye’ve nae richt tae complain. It taks a brass neck, an usually a face like a weel-skelped airse, tae staun up in the midst o awthin that’s gawin on an say “Never mind aw that, whit aboot ME?!”

But we’re aw víctims o austerity. Awthin that’s happened has happened tae us aw. We’re aw left bidin in a puirer warld, this Tesco Value society, aw ploddin taewards the same dour oasis that never gets ony closer. For ten years noo, wan Eton-bred Boy Scout leader efter anither has pullt up next tae us in a fancy jeep an telt us we’re nearly there, jist wan mair ben tae climb. An for ten hale years we’ve hirpled awa, thankin the Laird for the sand in oor shoes whaur maist fowk hiv got stanes.

Ten years! In the acceleratit culture o oor technocratic times, a decade isnae a generation; it’s a lifetime. Every summer noo, schuils are spewin oot thoosands o bairns that hae spent their lives kennin naethin but this. Fae clessrooms ripe tae tummle roond their lugs, wi teachers clingin on for whit’s left o their pension in whit’s left o their retirement, in toons that are shattered in every possible wey; we fling them heid-first oot the tredsman’s door tae the wap-wap-waaaaa o a comical trombone, oot intae a warld whase scanty haun-hauds hae been worn awa tae nubs, an tell them that the anely límits are the wans tae their ain imaginations. Ba-doom TISH.

Austerity, like maist things that stairt wi a middle-aged man at a podium clearin his throat, disnae wirk. This isnae a wee bit o moral heedrum-hodrum – it’s a stane cauld economic fact. Ye dinnae even hiv tae read a buik tae find that oot. Jist tak a wee daunder doon the high street, coont the shops that are still open. The youth clubs. The auld fowk’s hames. The libraries.

Wha the hell votit for ony o this? Me. Ah did. 6th o May, 2010. Crossed the box for oor local LibDem, the anely fella wha could keep the Tories oot. He won, tae. At least somebody did.

The primary schuil ah votit in that day is shut noo. Oor wee toon is hoachin wi sic omens; empty buildins, empty promises. Empty lives. The safe pair o hauns we pit oor faith in snatched oor wallets forby, an bunged the hale lot on a Tory bait-an-switch. Still. Watter unner the brig, ma freends, watter unner the brig. Wha kens whit ye’ll pey for a private education nooadays, but here’s a wee freebie for ye that cost me ten years an the warld. Never get bit bi the same dug twice.