Friday, 30 November 2012

An F.E.B. on St. Andrew’s Day

Twelve years ago, I fulfilled a life-long dream to live in the country to which I feel most akin. Edinburgh, where the Posh English Accent is common, was a canny move – there were professional reasons too. But is my Scottishness, like my life, just a big act?

My surname is perhaps most associated with the Highland Clearances; something which I find slightly problematic. I can’t imagine, if I traced my family tree, I’d have a claim to even a pebble of Golspie Castle, so I won’t let this ruffle my socialist leanings.

More of a problem is my true heritage, whatever that means. Born in England to a Glaswegian father (which makes him Scottish) and a mother of Welsh descent (which makes her verbose, unlike my dad); yet, despite my mixed blood and birth I have chosen Scotland as my home.

This week I attended a discussion/debate on Scottish Cultural Identity. I think I ruffled some feathers by saying that the Tattoo – a celebration of military might – was not what I call ‘culture.’ For me, the multitude of Festivals, including history, the arts, science; celebrations of our social, ethnic and sexual identity: that is culture. Bagpipes-and-guns, fireworks-and-fly-pasts are not.

But throughout the Museum of Scotland, it is clear that there are as many shades of opinion of what makes up our cultural identity as there are types of whisky or varieties of tartan. And yet, the tartan-for-tourism was given a hard time in this discussion. Horses for courses, I say. Let the tourists buy their tartan tat, attend the tattoo, and take pictures of some wee dug on a plinth.

The rest of us can share, enjoy, and contribute to all the richness that Scottish Culture has to celebrate. (Unless, of course, one is a Fucking English Bastard.)

Philosophical Beads

Am I Scottish?
How do I measure up?
By birth, blood, or inclination
If I speak in Received Pronunciation
(Edinburgh-English or Pure Glaswegian)
Do I contribute to the Wealth of the Nation
Will I uphold the right (ie, left-wing) persuasion
Is a quart of me thicker than water after distillation
Inventor, philosopher, pioneer, champion of innovation

Well, am I a Scot?


Boxed set of Philosophical Beads; a set of hollow glass beads of slightly differing specific gravity. The heaviest bead to float gives a measure of the strength of spirits.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Chaos Reigns

Recently, on the way home from visiting a friend in Leith, I had a Lars von Trier-moment. Cycling up Lochend Road, where at night the cars and vans are packed all along the pavement, I saw a fox in the distance, trotting casually down the middle of the road. Sensible fox, I thought: walk where you can see and be seen. Then I glanced to my left and, behind a parked van, a reindeer was puking in a doorway.

Sensible reindeer, I thought: don’t draw attention to yourself.  As I slowed down on my wobbly bike (for I was not altogether sober) I realised something.  This was not a real reindeer: rather, the drunken residue of the extended Hallowe’en celebrations, whose costume choice had confused Saints with Santas.  The fox, however, remained convincingly vulpine, yet looked at me as if to say: Either he’s pissed, or I’m on drugs.

In case you don’t get the Lars von Trier-reference, the point at which a fox utters the words ‘Chaos reigns,’ in Antichrist, the film’s mood turns from pathos to farce.  Even so, it’s not a film I’d advise watching with your parents; it was uncomfortable enough at Edinburgh’s wonderful Filmhouse where on a Friday afternoon the dominant sound-effect is of Werther’s Originals being un-crinkled.

And yet I hesitate... to mention the Werther-effect regarding Michael Haneke’s new film, Amour. Not the most celebratory depictions of ‘amour’ in the pictures at the moment; I’d advise a stiff drink or two in the bar afterwards:  But don’t go as far as this chap, whose carving is on the bottom floor of the National Museum of Scotland: my 22nd sestude of the year (of 26: nearly there!)