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.