The Other Way

the shelby boys

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I just finished watching Season 4 of Peaky Blinders, the Netflix original.  The Peaky Blinders were an actual gang in England in the 1890’s, named for the razors they sewed into the brims of their caps to blind their opponents when the razors slashed capillary-rich foreheads so the blood ran into their eyes.  They were also known for their stylish clothes.  They held power in the streets for close to 20 years.  The Peaky Blinders in the series is led by Tommy Shelby, backed up by his inpenetrable Gypsy family.  Whereas the actual Peaky Blinders stayed to small potatoes street crime, Netflix’ version has the Shelby Family, including his brothers, Arthur and John, his sister, Ana, and his stepmother, Polly, who are as ambitious as they are ruthless, dipping their fingers into all sorts of enterprises. 

Periodically the Shelby’s are ridiculed or thought of as brutes because of their Romany/Gypsy blood.  No matter how successful, there’s an invisible barrier to their acceptance into gentrified English culture.

A clip:  Tommy, being tempted to go back to the traveller life.

Earlier this evening I started thinking about how stereotypical both Gypsies and Irish people are portrayed here and there.  I understand the underpinnings of this kind of stereotypical brainwashing; it is institutionalized and purposefully designed to keep those in power in power.  I was thinking about how proud I was of how the Shelby family is portrayed in Peaky Blinders.  Vicious, but noble.  Dignified.  Loyal.  Loving their families with all of their hearts.  Street smart and business wise.  It’s a satisfying spin on the hackneyed stereotypes.

One clip of Tommy, a sick priest, and his trained dog:

Tonight there was a two-hour musical special on a local radio station, filled with Irish music; an introduction to the St. Paddy’s Day party coming up at a local venue.  Several of the musicians getting air time this evening have played locally for the St. Paddy Day and annual fall Irish Music Festival gatherings here. 

The music reminded me of a song I’d heard earlier today on Pandora, by one of my favorite songwriters and guitarists, Richard Thompson.  The song, “Beeswing”, is both mesmerizing and haunting.  It buzzed back into the frontal cortex when the music on special started.  Please take a listen and tell me why you think I describe the convergence as serendipity.

Richard Thompson, singing “Beeswing”



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