Monday, 13 December 2010

It's been a long time coming....

To quote the good Reverend I.M. Jolly, ""Ah've had a helluva year" Masters Degree completed and all. I had fully expected to enjoy the academic work, but hadn't realised that I would meet so many wonderful and lovely people, some of whom were even North American. Which shows me that I shouldn't be so quick to retort to lazy stereotypes. In fact if I've learned two things this years its that i utterly detest xenophobia... and the Dutch.

If anyone is nonplussed by the reference to the good Reverend, here is, as played by the late Rikki Fulton: It amazes me that I'd never heard of him or his work before I'd moved to Scotland, 'Scotch and Wry' the show from which it was taken, was only shown once South of the border and it tanked. I can't see why, it's really well scripted and the subject matter is sufficiently universal to raise a laugh, comic clergymen being a staple of sitcoms from 'All Gas and Gaiters' to 'Father Ted. '

'Still Game' was buried deep in the English TV schedules and never really made any impact . I'm not sure it can wholly be explained by the use of regional dialect, sitcoms with a strong sense of regional identity and reference points like 'Phoenix Nights' have been hugely popular. Indeed the one Scottish comedy show of recent years to have any real success was Rab C Nesbitt, which was hardly cut-glass Received Pronunciation (contrary to popular myth, it wasn't shown in England with subtitles.) I'd argue that the real difference is the tone of sitcoms, rather than the language barrier.

When I moved up here I found the majority of Scottish sitcoms, with the exception of Rab C. Nesbitt, hard to watch, they seemed very 'knockabout.' Things like Still Game, the 'Dear Green Place' or 'Gary Tank Commander,' tend to eschew attempts at realism and go for a broader comedy with the laughs coming from one-liners or overtly 'comic' characters or scenes. You don't tend to get the flawed, failed characters that form the backbone of English comedy or the element of bleakness, tragedy and isolation you get in the likes of 'the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, ' and 'Steptoe and Son,' or the naturalistic feel of the Royale family. Its not a complaint. It is not a criticism, (apart from Gary: Tank Commander, which is actually appalling) only an observation and a curiosity why this should be the case.

Anyway on that sweeping generalisation I shall go to bed! Good night and it is very nice to be back!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Its only words

Listening to: the banal conversation of self important undergraduates

Dialect word of the day: Swatch - to look at.

I have been absent for a long time I know, but this postgraduate gig is a tough one and I've been saving my best words for the essays.

There will be something more substantial(o'er missus) to sink your teeth into fairly soonish!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Into each life some rain much fall.

Listening to: The Avalanches - Since I left you

Dialect word of the day: Baltic - Very Cold

It has just stopped raining after nearly 40 hours. I never realised that Leith had its' own monsoon season. Today is blustry, but dry. I should really drag my sorry carcass outside at some stage.

Further to my previous posts, I received a visit from the Jehovah's witnesses this morning. Normally the visiting party consists of an elderly woman with a set in concrete perm and a small boy with a permanently snotty nose. The couple to whom I answered the door was most unexpected. Imagine if you can, a Morningside Terry-Thomas accompanied by a perky, well groomed woman in her 20s. Mr Suave and the glamour-puss looked more like they should have been presenting 'The Wheel of Fortune' rather than indulging in door to door evangelism. Sadly it is all change on the Watchtower front too, it has had a bit of a re-vamp, gone are the bad line drawings of men walking with dinosaurs and predictions of imminent Armageddon, it is also accompanied by a new lifestyle magazine called 'Awake!' which in some way compensated for the changes made to its' sister publication. 'Awake!' This provides handy hints for day to day living for the Jehovah about town. This issue gives helpful hint for the driver, including 'Drive slowly' and 'check your headlights are working' and the clinically depressed 'cheer up and read the bible more.' There are also some quite nice pictures of sloths mind you, I like sloths and their lovely smiley faces.

Whilst we're on the subject of older men with younger women, I spent most of yesterday playing my favourite game in the art gallery. It is entitled: 'Daughter/trophy wife/bit on the side.' The rules are simple: upon spying a middle aged man with a much younger and much more attractive woman (and believe me they are plenty of these couples about) one observes their body language and general behaviour and speculates idly on whether the woman in question is the man's daughter, far younger wife or is engaged in an adulterous relationship with him.

More often than not, I plump for 'trophy wife.' Whilst I have no way of knowing whether my guesses are correct, I suspect that one is unlikely to take someone you are in a clandestine relationship to such a public place or willingly spend time looking at 18th century art. I would imagine that such couples spend their few snatched hours engaging in frenzied bouts of guilt tinged intimacy, probably in a Travel lodge somewhere off a ring road . This is pure conjecture on my part, I am not by any stretch of the imagination, a crumpeteer and have struggled to get one woman to go to bed with me, the chances of getting two women to do so simultaneously, is not so much slim as positively anorexic.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Sleep the clock around

Listening to The Duckworth Lewis method - The Duckworth Lewis Method

Dialect phrase of the day: Face like a skelped arse - ruddy or rosy cheeks

Two consecutive days off! What a marvel! I have just spent about 15 hours asleep and I'm busily checking myself for evidence of bedsores. How do I feel after this epic bout of deep dreamless sleep? Curiously, absolutely bloody awful. Today I've gone into the National Library of Scotland to try and find some solace amongst the books.

There's not even a Test Match to listen to, nothing can put me into an almost comatose state of absolute bliss like a day spent listening to Test Match Special, it's like aural heroin. The mellifluous tones of TMS and cricket in general are inextricably linked to my childhood and my late Grandfather. It was with my Grandfather that I played my first games of cricket and who drilled me in the art of batting. Although a very lovely man and a wonderful Grandfather, he was extremely competitive when it came to cricket, having played the game to a high level in his 20s . He had been a wicket keeper and and remained pretty nimble behind the stumps well into old age. Aged eight I would stand to face tame underarm deliveries from whichever indulgent relative had agreed to play along, with my granddad taking the whole affair very seriously, crouched behind the stumps in our back garden he would ooh, ahh and tut at any delivery that was roughly on a line and a length. He was also not averse to whipping the bails off with a triumphant owazt if he deemed I had stepped too far out of the imaginary crease. There can be very few people who can claim to have been sledged by their own grandfather, especially when they were still a small boy, but then there can be very few people who have been drop kicked by their own grandmother (that however is a story for another day)

For the uninitiated sledging is the art of breaking a batsman's concentration by intimidating them verbally, in effect talking them out. Here is an excellent example by Sri Lankan wicket keeper Kumar Sangkkara.

I have now ceased my employment with the street punks. I found myself curiously emotional as I said my final farewells and it feels rather strange to think I won't be going back on Monday. A side effect of this is that I'll be getting rid of the Eliminator. That's my car rather than a nickname for any appendage. I thought I'd better clarify that as I once caused a former work colleague considerable disgust and alarm by failing to make this clear. This is probably a good thing, Edinburgh is eminently walkable, I have my bike and the bus service is much better than most British cities. Then of course there's the Tram system, something which most Edinburghers have militant views. Contrary sod that I am, I couldn't give a fig either way, although I am curious why the tram will run from Leith to the airport; none of us in Leith can afford a holiday.

There also appears to be a seemingly limitless supply of Taxis buzzing around the city, driven by the most erudite taxi drivers you could ever hope to meet. This a pleasing contrast to their London counterparts, who by and large, are ranting Essex Freemasons. Taxis have always held a particular fascination to me. When I was kid I saw travelling in a taxi as an unimaginable luxury and decadence and I used to imagine the joy of travelling in such a conveyance. Where I lived, the only time you ever saw anyone get out of one was when a woman come back from having a Hysterectomy. Imagine my disappointment when I first stepped into one as an adult, rather than looking like the interior of a better class of gentleman's club, it was Spartan, draughty and smelt of sick poorly masked by magic tree air freshener.

I began using taxis in Leeds, principally because using the the number 4 or 16 bus late at night without a stab vest could be classified as an extreme sport. These two buses ran between two of the roughest council estates in the city and were heavily patronised by drunks, heroin users, nutcases and some of the most foul mouthed pensioners one could ever meet, even in daylight hours it could be a bowel loosening experience.

One Saturday afternoon I met an acquittance who had travelled out of the city centre on a slightly earlier bus. What had occurred was surprising even for the number 4. Two drunks had got into an argument over the ownership of some booze and one had knocked the other one out. This in itself was not an unusual event, however the victorious drunk made the foolhardy error of yelling to the packed bus "now who else wants some?" Unfortunately for him the answer was, "nearly every single passenger on the bus." Within seconds, the whole bus had erupted into an orgy of indiscriminate violence, with women in their late 50s wading in. The driver, seeing the blood and snot flying, leapt from the bus locked the doors and let the waring parties get on with it. From the outside it must have looked like something out of a wild west saloon.

In future I shall stick to my trusty bicycle, although I imagine such occurrences on the number 5 bus to Stockbridge are unheard of. That way on they're probably knocking the shit out of each other over ownership of some sunblush tomatoes and organic humus.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

This maudlin career has come to an end.

Listening to - Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm jets

Dialect word of the day: Jakey - a hardened street drinker

I have now been living in Edinburgh a year today and in the words of the Reverend I.M. Jolly "It's been a helluva a year." What with the recession, banking crisis, recession or whatever you want to call it. All this carry on makes precious little difference to me; I was an abject failure in the boom years too. In fact if one accepts that poverty and wealth are relative, I am probably richer than I've ever been. This state of affairs won't last though as I have four -count 'em - days left and my work with social services is done, for good, hurrah! I am getting very demob happy and I'm doing rather less than the bare minimum. I will miss the riches it provided though.

Edinburgh in August is a funny time of year, with the University closed for the summer holidays, the city is appreciably quieter in June and July and then suddenly burst into life as the Military tattoo and the Fringe Festival start at roughly the same time. In the interests of anthropology and the fact I was given a free ticket, I went along to the Tattoo with Jess and some of her workmates. I have to say that it was amongst the most excruciating two hours of my life. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, the wail of the Bagpipes sounds to me like a live cat being thrown into a threshing machine and never fails to set my teeth on edge. So being trapped in an arena where 80 of the sodding things were being played in unison nearly tipped me over the edge, at one stage I was tempted to feign a fit just to escape the noise. The bagpipes were broken up with a lot of marching up and down in frankly daft uniforms, which seem to my uneducated eye quite impractical for doing killing in.

The festival is once again in full swing and the city has been taken over by floppy haired Oxbridge types, braying about their godawful shows and forcing leaflets into one's hands. I've been to see a few bits and pieces, mostly free or cheap stuff and it's been generally very enjoyable. Whilst in principle it is an amazing thing to see the city this busy and vibrant, it is also a colossal pain in the arse if you have the misfortune to want to get anywhere in a hurry. A walk up the Royal Mile with Sam and Dave (my old school friend and her boyfriend, rather than the Soul group from the 60s in case you thought I was name dropping) yielded about 35 flyers between us, by then end of it I was begining to hope for a Jehovah's Witness to thrust a copy of the Watchtower into my hands just for a bit of variety.

The Watchtower is a cracking read, I love the poorly rendered pictures of humans walking with dinosaurs and other assorted beasts in some Eden- like paradise. There's also usually a heart warming tale of how the agency of the Jehovah's witnesses have saved young people from a life of sin and depravity. I am certain these stories are largely fictitious, made up to gee up the faithful, as the Watchtower's vision of deviant youth also seems to be rooted in the 1950s and the errant young people are called things like Colin or Sandra, the sort of names young people haven't had since the sweets were still on the ration. Colin and Sandra's transgressions usually consist of smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, getting into the fictional knickers of the opposite sex. Having been 'saved' them from these frankly rather pleasurable activities poor fictional Sandra and poor fictional Colin will get to spend the rest of their natural lives being told to fuck off by hung over and crabby fictional householders who they've summonsed from their beds at some appallingly early hour on a fictional Saturday morning.

So it seems I've been wasting my time these past few years, attempting to undertake offence focused work, sorting out employment/education opportunities, encouraging positive leisure activities, counselling fraught and feckless parents and generally running around like a blue arsed fly after the street punks has been a waste of time. All I needed to do was give them a few Watchtowers to punt door to door and instil an abhorrence of blood transfusions and they'd have been as right as rain.

Just as well I'm leaving really.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

These sleepless nights will break my heart in two

Listening to: Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

Dialect Word of the Day: Plukey - Spotty

Does it ever go dark in summer in Scotland? This nigh on continuous day light plays havoc with a young man's sleeping patterns. Hence I'm writing this at ten to three in the morning.

I now have a mere four weeks left of employment with Social Services. Whilst I actually don't mind the job, the end is in sight and I am struggling to stay motivated for this last run in. If I were a footballer and this was a tabloid newspaper (which I'm not and this isn't) I would be described as 'Wantaway.' It's strange how football journalism has adopted a vocabulary which one never hears in everyday speech, players are always getting 'Slammed' 'Shammed' or 'Branded' by their managers or Supremo in tabloidese. It assume this is to make utterly mundane stories seem dramatic, but imagine if people actually talked like that in real life.

"My shoddy timekeeping was slammed today by the Social Services supremo. I hit back, branding their obsession with punctuality as a pain in the arse. I then rocked the East Lothian based outfit by handing in my resignation, throwing their tea making rota into chaos. "

Anyway I appear to have gone off on a tangent, much like Ryan Giggs on a bad day. It seems odd that after a few weeks I may never work in the field of Youth Justice again, I won't pretend this isn't a relief, but after nearly 6 years all told, it's provided its' highs as well as its' inevitable lows and provided a huge treasury of anecdotes. Mind you I said 'never again' when I left Leeds, but got sucked back into it. I'm beginning to think Youth Justice is a bit like the Freemasons or the Dennis the Menace fanclub, once you're in you're in for life.

Today, apparently was the Clan Gathering, which explained why I saw so many be-kilted Americans wandering about the place. When I first heard the term Clan Gathering I was utterly unaware of what it was, it all sounded rather sinister to me; I was thinking more Klu Klux than Highland. Thankfully it was all part of the Homecoming celebrations and was an exercise in kitsch and an excuse to extract money from gullible tourists with dubious claims to Scottish ancestry.

I confess it sent me a bit Gok Wan and I was inwardly cringing at some of the Highland dress on display, a full Bonnie Prince Charlie outfit teamed with white trainers was the worst, but by no means sole offender. I also noted that a number of the more portly gentlemen were sporting kilts that were so short they could only described as buttock skimming.

I have profound problems with the whole Homecoming celebrations, firstly it panders to the whole shortbread tin cliche of Scotland; Whisky, Tartan, Highland Games and Golf courses. Needless to say this isn't the Scotland I have experienced and isn't the reason I fell in love with Edinburgh. My love affair is in no small part due due to the array of Scottish writers, starting with Alaisdair Gray in the 70s who have attempted to capture the rhythms of everyday speech have portray modern Scotland as it is.

Alongside promoting Scotland as a backward looking nation, stuck in some imaginary past, I have profound problems linking Scottishness and belonging so closely to blood ties. To my mind belonging is rooted in the present and comes from citizenry and participation rather than being based on ancestry. Basing the whole notion of Homecoming on this reductive notion of Scottishness seems very divisive and to a hand-wringing bleeding heart lefty, such as myself exclusionary. The unspoken and probably unintended message of Homecoming is: "you're Scottish if you're a wealthy American who can find some claim, however tenuous, to Scottish ancestors who left centuries ago and are prepared to spend plenty of money to spend on Whisky, golf courses and tartan tat, but if you belong to a minority community who have lived in Scotland for generations , sorry pal you're not Scottish, it's not in your blood." A retired Scottish academic of African-Caribbean heritage pointed out in superb article in the Evening News -(can't find the link!) that there are plenty of people in the Caribbean who have Scottish heritage and blood (there are more Campbells in the Bridgetown phone book than the Edinburgh one) and their links with Scotland were forged not by choice, but by the unspeakable brutalities of the Slave trade. He, quite rightly in my opinion, called for this experience to be chronicled as part of the Homecoming.

But hey... such uncomfortable truths, amongst this orgy of tweeness, might make the tourists put their wallets away.

Anyway, lefty rant over, my spleen is well and truly vented. I would hate to leave you on such a cynical note. I will leave you with my favourite joke, first told to me by my mother on the day of my grandfather's funeral, minutes before we were due to head to the service. It popped into my head earlier today and had me smirking to myself all afternoon.

Three great Danes were sitting in the Vets' waiting room.

The first great Dane turned to the second and says "What you here for mate?"

"Well" replied the second Great Dane, "I live with very house proud couple and as I've got older I've lost control of my bowels and I keep on making a mess of the carpet, so my number's up, I'm here to be put down."

The first Great Dane sighed "If it's any consolation to you mate, I'm here for the needle as well. I live with a family with small children and as I've got older I've got a bit crochety and the kids were pulling my ears and tormenting me something awful and I snapped at one of them."

"Bad luck" said the second Great Dane. He then turned to the third Great Dane and asked "what about you?"

"I live alone with an attractive young woman and one day she was getting ready to go out. She had just come out of the shower, and by gum did she look and smell lovely. It was then that she took off her dressing gown and bent over to pick something up from on the floor. Well it was all too much for me and I couldn't help myself and... you two can guess the rest."

"Blimey" said the first Great Dane, "After that, I suppose you're here to be put down too."

"Not at all" replied the third Great Dane with a grin "I'm here to have my front claws clipped."

Thank you and goodnight.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Raining in my heart

Listening to: Booker t and the MGs - Melting Pot

Dialect world of the day: Chib noun: a knife verb: to stab

What has happened to the wildlife of Edinburgh and East Lothian? Have they taken collective leave of their senses and decided to throw themselves en masse under the wheels of passing cars? Every day there seems to be more and more roadkill and my drive to work seems to resemble a half an hour tour of an ever more grizzly animal mausoleum. Mind you it's been a cracking year for Swifts (I can never tell the difference) and watching them fly in and out of the swift hole on the building, opposite my office window which is a rare treat.

I have been enjoying the Ashes tremendously and tend to spend most of my working day listening to Test match special, scheduling appointments around meal breaks I find 20Twenty and One day cricket a bit naff, but I really relish the ebbs, flows and the ongoing narrative of the five day game. I am largely ambivalently about Scottish politics, Scottish independence and the SNP. However Sandra White annoyed me with her ignorance, carping on about 'Saturation' coverage of the Ashes in the broadcast media, which is remarkably petty and small minded given that the only way to follow the cricket without a Sky subscription (and I for one refuse to line Rupert Murdoch's pockets, unless it is to buy one of his quality news papers such as the Sun or the Daily Star) is via, radio 4 long wave or an obscure digital radio channel, hardly constitutes saturation coverage. Admittedly there is an hour long highlights show on channel 5, depriving Scots of the chance to watch the documentaries on the Nazis, 50 stone teenagers or the Conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana, that usually constitute Channel 5's evening schedule. She also went on to compare the "over the top" Cricket coverage to the lack of coverage of the Curling World Championship , Curling!!!! For chrissakes! , a combination of overgrown marbles and housework, played by three people in the Highlands. I was surprised how popular Cricket was when I moved up here, there's numerous flourishing leagues and Cricket constitutes an important part of the culture of many Scots of Asian heritage, something Ms White overlooks when she tries to cast it as a piece of English cultural imperialism forced on an unwilling Scottish public.

Jolly glad to see normal service has been resumed on the weather front, I certainly did NOT move to Scotland for weeks of unbroken sunshine., my cadaverously wan complexion won't stand for it. I take the Victorian view that tanned skin is the surefire sign of a working class oik forced to labour in the out of doors, this view is at least partially attributable to the fact that I blister and turn lobster red at the merest hint of the sun. Today I luxuriated in the thin drizzle of the morning and rejoiced in the afternoon downpour. Somehow Edinburgh didn't look right in the sunshine, its' natural state is one of overcast, grey and foreboding. A sunny Edinburgh reminds me of PE teachers on parents' evenings when they are forced to put a suit on, it looks plain wrong. Having said that there have been no unsubstantiated yet, persistent rumours about the City of Edinburgh interfering with kids in the showers after cross-country, so my simile probably isn't that apt.

More and more pieces of Scottish slang and dialect words are creeping subconsciously into my speech, I think i went too far when I caught myself using the word heid (that's head sasanachs) at work the other day. It must have sounded absurd to Scottish ears. There's a woman at work who sits at the opposite desk to me who seems to take this to Nth degree. Thankfully she's not in the same team as me, but she is very posh and very English , yet whilst talking to clients and their parents peppers her conversation with Scottish vernacular, yet delivers in flutey BBC English. On one hand I find it hilarious yet on the other desperately patronising as she doesn't do it with colleagues or other professionals, which speaks volumes about what she thinks of the people we work with. I am waiting for the day when she says something along the lines of "Square go, then, ya crappin doss basturd" in her cut glass nasal RP tones.

Anyway, that's all, I shall crawl back to bed for another few hours of sleep. Good night all.