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.


Madame DeFarge said...

Ah, the delights of the long summer nights and black out curtains. Takes me back.

I cringed at the sight of the Clan gathering. Quite why all these people imagine Scotland to be is beyond me. This is no Scotland I have ever known. God knows where Scotland is these days.

Loved the joke. May need to use it some time.

Jimmy Bastard said...

So many wannabe Scots in Edinburgh these days, thankfully the M8 seperates Heaven fae Hell.

rhinestonecatboy said...

For once Mr Bastard, I truly truly wish I was in Glasgow.

Pearl Previn said...

that's wonderful to hear. I feared i might not meet anyone with similar cultural interests, so you've given me a glimmer of hope.

I am indeed attending university there for a year. Purchasing my plan ticket was the most exciting, yet most frightening feeling I've had.

Scarlet-Blue said...

You put the joke in for me... knowing that I wouldn't have a clue about the rant!
Thank you, I liked the joke!

Scarlet-Blue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

As for Scottishness, (or Englishness, or whatever): I think it be be useful to distinguish two different things here. There is being Scottish in terms of being a Scottish citizen, or simply having lived a long time in Scotland. And there is Scottish in terms of feeling connected to a certain set of cultural traditions, something which I think can be highly positive and does not need to descend into shortbread-tin-ishness or right-wingery, even though it obviously can. Maybe two different words are needed, together with an explicitly recognition that being culturally Scottish does not necessarily make one more of a genuine Scottish citizen than anyone else.

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