I was going to offer some thoughts on how I became such a cynical old grump so early in my life, but I actually know perfectly well why. I am faced with the daily spectacle of the sculptured lines of the thoroughbred racecar that is “the Utopian ideal” being dashed to a crumpled, fiery mess on the Armco of reality.
Most people seem to deal quiet happily with this, but, as a Champion of Freedom of Justice and wielding, as I do, the Twin Swords of Truth and Beauty (yes, I do have a permit), I cannot let this stuff slide.
The disturbing thing about today’s car crash is that it concerns my homeland. While it is, largely, a place of spectacular beauty, bursting at the tartan seams with tim’rous beasties and sonsie-faced chieftains, I, as something of a returning ex-pat, see bits of it with an outsiders eye. These are the bits that trouble me.
The thing that triggered this post nearly made me crash the Righteous Chariot. Not really, but it sounds better, plus it continues the car-crash plot device used so deftly above. As I piloted said Chariot along the jeweled highways of this bonnie land, I met a bus coming the other way. So far, so good. The bus, however, was not in service. OK, so? Aye, reader, here comes the rub.
Instead of simply reading “Not in Service”, the high heid-yins of First Bus (Scotland) have decided that the natives would feel less aggrieved at the lack of service if the message read “Ah’m no’ in service”.
I’m no doubt in somewhat of a minority among my fellow countrypersons (save The ‘Boy, who has already voiced his displeasure) but this use of “Scottish”, instead of the more widely relevant English, jars with me. I come from what I consider to be a well-spoken home and have been well educated at my parent’s expense. I therefore opt to converse in correct English, that having been what I was taught.
It is then, perhaps, no surprise that on hearing a broad Scots accent, I immediately assume that person to be educationally inferior, an assumption that has no basis in fact whatsoever. As with all accents, those that sport them range from the wealthiest tycoons and university fellows to the Burberry tracksuit-clad dropouts in the dole queue.2.
I have not been able to reconcile this at least partially correct position, that’s what bothers me. Being a man of words, it grates when those words are butchered. But the purpose of words is to communicate, so there is little point being all precious about the ways when the means are achieved.
And so to the opiate of the Central Belt masses: football3. The problem here really has very little to do with football, the game, and rather more to do with religion, the universal excuse. If your family indoctrinated you in the ways of the Vatican, you have to support the Green Team. If you don’t, you have to support the Blue Team (or the Dark Red Team).
Either way, you now have a socially-accepted reason for singing bigoted songs at each other, marching down the street and glassing people in pubs because they’re wearing the wrong colour jacket. Having been given the choice of imaginary friend, I chose a small dog called Gerald who never, in any circumstances, caused me to glass anyone in a pub and never complained when I left him on the train.
This nation has been ruled from afar for a great deal of its history, which has been a cause for complaint over the years. The fact that, when left to govern ourselves, we have traditionally fallen back to the tried and trusted political technique of glassing each other in pubs for wearing the wrong tartan is conveniently ignored.
Having been allowed a modicum of self reliance, I can understand that the nation feels the need to flex its historical muscles and shed its imperial skin in order to move forward. I would like to think that the country that invented pretty much everything4 could learn from its own divided history and move forward into the shortbread-tin sunset, without having to glass someone on the way.
I’m sure that all countries are the same, its just that this country is mine5.
! Oh, Robert [Burns], you’ll do for me yet! I’m referring to the poet’s use of Scots in his work, and how its use by Modern Scots people, for me at least, somewhat soils his work.
2 Wow, all the stereotypes are coming out today.
3 Other than actual opiates and drink. Oh, and claiming benefits.
4 Well, every good thing!
5 Which hopefully goes some way to explaining the tortured meanderings of this post.