Category Archives: Trivia

Asking questions

The ramifications of a simple enquiry may turn out to be long and tortuous, whether it be a discussion of the famous Caledonian syzygy or Who wrote “Auld Lang Syne” (including maybe what tune it should go to). I’m thinking that my blogs might well be devoted (mostly) to such enquiries, taking the time and the space to examine the ins and outs and in-betweens of a few questions that have interested folks in the past, and may interest folks in the future. As to the syzygy, I’ll get onto Hugh Macdiarmid (he had, bless him, a Murray in his background) at some point, and even Burns eventually (all roads lead to Burns, I should think).

But for the nonce (I love that silly phrase, it makes me think of Chaucer somehow) it occurs to me that a wander through the thickets of the Sutherland Clearances and the Salic Law, involving rowing songs from Upper Canada and Edinburgh literati, would be somewhat entertaining.

So let’s see, we can start with the law of succession. Laws actually, for there are many and they vary from place to place, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and over time as well. In the Fifth Century the (legendary and apocryphal) king of the Franks, Pharamond, in a region of Europe probably settled by Germans (as opposed to French) brought out a set of laws assigning penalties for various crimes. Written in somewhat raw Latin, they contained one rule that was quite faithfully accepted, namely that succession to property or position in the “Salic lands” would only go through the male line: In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant. The story is set out at some length in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, Act I sc. 2, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who proceeds to assure the king that this has nothing to do with Edward III’s claim to France through his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV; and so Henry has every right to invade France to claim the throne.
[To be continued in our next.]


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The Year of Jubilo

I apologise to any who are out there panting to read more words of wisdom or diatribe – things have got in the way as things do, busyness combined of course with laziness and its handmaid procrastination. Not that there haven’t been a lot of things worth commenting on. In Canada here the evil Harper pursues his destructive course, British Columbia has its own economic and environmental disasters looming, and I sometimes think this tight little island I live on is a rare haven of more-or-less tranquil sanity. Let’s not think about the so-called United States; but what about the so-called United Kingdom?
It’s ironic maybe that furore about the Independence Referendum is becoming more strident at this period when Britain is set to celebrate the Olympics in London and the Queen’s sixtieth year on the throne. It’s a sort of bittersweet occasion when some are waving flags and others stifling yawns, while yet others are thumping tubs and calling for abolition of an outmoded and outrageous piece of mediaeval privilege imposed on a nation too meek to resist. Myself, I suppose I go along with the position (at present!) of the Scottish National Party, which says that an independent Scotland will retain the sovereign, at least until the people (who in Scotland are sovereign) decide otherwise, by a plebiscite I suppose.
I used to be an anarchist, and to be honest I still am, though I think I’ve mellowed with the years (like fine wine? or an aged cheese?). At one time I was even a member of the Scottish Labour League, a Trotskyite organisation that held little meetings where diehards lectured as many of an audience as could be mustered about the sins of capitalism and the glorious socialist future. Well, that future is still a long way off, and after fifty years the sins are even more blatant. It is true that laws have been enacted in the course of my cognitive life (I mean since I began to notice things) that have improved the lot of a good deal of humanity, but naturally there’s a lot of other things that have been forced on the people quite deliberately to lessen freedom and to improve the condition not of the poor old working class, or even the long-suffering middle classes, but the elite, the moneyed classes, the privileged two percent at the top. It’s very easy for legislators to make things comfortable for their friends, and it’s very easy (and expected) that friends in business and finance will reciprocate. So what else is new?
But can we salvage any pleasure out of contemplating the country right now? The Queen, God bless her royal socks, is celebrating a sexagesimal stamina, and we should treat the occasion with the the respect it deserves (no rude laughter at the back!), for Elizabeth really has tried hard and should be given due appreciation. She has been, naturally, tied down by her position, her upbringing, her court and advisers (I’m remembering Verdi’s bit in Rigoletto, “Cortigiani, vil razza dannata!”), so she can’t help herself too well. She is however in the same tradition as her predecessor Victoria, who also had a Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (just a couple of years before my father was born). The country at that time was in settled imperial mood, and so the occasion was marked with due loyal solemnity and popular enthusiasm.
They wrote songs about it: I collected one about 1957 from a grand old man, Mr Stopper of Aberdeen, then living in Bellshill in Lanarkshire. I have predictably mislaid my tape recording, which after all this time is probably rather unplayable anyway, and oddly enough I never did write it down, but as far as I remember it went like this:

A very good evening my Jubilee friends,
Please forgive me for being so rude,
But a Jubilee song in this Jubilee year
I will sing if you do not intrude.

I’m out on a Jubilee spree,
I’m full up on Jubilee ale,
I was locked up last night in a Jubilee cell
And I’m out upon Jubilee bail.

* * *
All the things in our house have got Jubilee names;
These are my Jubilee clothes;
We’ve a cat that’s got Jubilee kittens – in fact
I’ve a Jubilee wart on my nose.

It’s a jolly song from the music hall of the time, and Mr Stopper sang it with panache. It shows maybe the way the ordinary folk looked at the occasion, with good-humoured affection. There is therefore a marked difference to notice in the way the populace is acting now. The number of events like street parties being planned in Scotland is about 200 I think, dwarfed by thousands in the rest of the country. England is going mad with concerts and specially written songs, a banquet or two and beacons up the length of the country – the last lit (by a button I assume) by Elizabeth herself, triggering a (surely enormous) firework display over Buckingham Palace. One item that might be quite watchable (if I had TV) is a procession down the Thames in a specially built royal barge, serenaded by many musical ensembles on other boats, and the whole thing should be quite a display.
Yet there is a quite remarkable groundswell of popular opinion that sees the monarchy as an anachronism in a modern age, and the Green Party in Scotland is in favour of a republic. They are not numerous, compared to the “mainline” parties, but they are by no means alone. The approaching referendum on independence in 2014 is a good excuse and a good opportunity to raise the question. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, has assured anxious royalists that the Queen will be kept after the great liberation, though there are many I’m sure within his party that would balk at continuing the institution after her death. William and Kate seem nice enough young folks, though Harry seems a night-clubbing joyrider; and immediately do we want Charles and his second wife on the throne, for all their well-meaning involvement in good causes?
We live in “interesting times”, right enough.

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Tak aff yer dram!

I see that the SNP idea of a minimum price for alcohol as a method of combating the scourge of “binge drinking” [a new phenomenon, evidently] has been endorsed by the Westminster government AND what is laughingly called Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Oddly enough though the Labour Party in Scotland [no such thing as a Scottish Labour Party] is set against the idea, probably because they have a visceral dislike of anything and everything the SNP come up with, and consistently vote against it. But it’s something that needed doing, albeit maybe not enough. Drinking of course has been a favourite hobby for Scots for a long time, going back to the Picts, if legend be trusted. I might as well pass on what dear old Robert Chambers tells us:

The Pechs were also a great people for ale, which they brewed frae heather; sae, ye ken, it bood (was bound) to be an extraornar cheap kind of drink; for heather, I’se warrant, was as plenty then as it’s now. This art o’ theirs was muckle sought after by the other folk that lived in the kintry; but they never would let out the secret, but handed it down frae father to son among themselves, wi’ strict injunctions frae ane to another never to let onybody ken about it.
At last the Pechs had great wars, and mony o’ them were killed, and indeed they soon came to be a mere handfu’ o’ people, and were like to perish aft’ the face o’ the earth. Still they held fast by their secret of the heather yill, determined that their enemies should never wring it frae them. Weel, it came at last to a great battle between them and the Scots, in which they clean lost the day, and were killed a’ to tway, a father and a son. And sae the king o’ the Scots had these men brought before him, that he might try to frighten them into telling him the secret. He plainly told them that, if they would not disclose it peaceably, he must torture them till they should confess, and therefore it would be better for them to yield in time. ‘Weel,’ says the auld man to the king, ‘I see it is of no use to resist. But there is ae condition ye maun agree to before ye learn the secret.’ ‘And what is that?’ said the king. ‘Will ye promise to fulfil it, if it be na anything against your ain interests?’ said the man. ‘Yes,’ said the king, ‘I will and do promise so.’ Then said the Pech ‘You must know that I wish for my son’s death, though I dinna like to take his life myself.
                                         My son ye maun kill,
                                         Before I will you tell
                                         How we brew the yill
                                         Frae the heather bell!’
The king was dootless greatly astonished at sic a request; but, as he had promised, he caused the lad to be immediately put to death. When the auld man saw his son was dead, he started up wi’ a great stend, and cried, ‘Now, do wi’ me as you like. My son ye might have forced, for he was but a weak youth; but me you never can force.
                                         And though you may me kill,
                                         I will not you tell
                                         How we brew the yill
                                         Frae the heather bell!’
The king was now mair astonished than before, but it was at his being sae far outwitted by a mere wild man. Hooever, he saw it was needless to kill the Pech, and that his greatest punishment might now be his being allowed to live. So he was taken away as a prisoner, and he lived for mony a year after that, till he became a very, very auld man, baith bedrid and blind. Maist folk had forgotten there was sic a man in life; but ae night, some young men being in the house where he was, and making great boasts about their feats o’ strength, he leaned owre the bed and said he would like to feel ane o’ their wrists, that he might compare it wi’ the arms of men wha had lived in former times. And they, for sport, held out a thick gaud o’ em’ to him to feel. He just snappit it in tway wi’ his fingers as ye wad do a pipe stapple. ‘It’s a bit gey gristle,’ he said; ‘but naething to the shackle-banes o’ my days.’ That was the last o’ the Pechs. [Robert Chambers, Popular Rhymes of Scotland (1870), 80-82.]

Drinking the hard stuff is supposed to be a characteristic of the Scot, but in the 18th century they really did drink to excess. (And by ‘they’ I include the English.) Burns in this regard was like enough of his fellows; but he was, for his time, a rather temperate man. Some folks drank themselves stupid at any excuse, preferably at a wake – it was said by some visitors to Scotland that a Scottish wake was merrier than an English wedding! It is also no real surprise to find it on record as happening (it surely happened more than once) that at the funeral of the mother of Forbes of Culloden the long cortege was absolutely stoned as they wound their way to the kirkyard (which was miles away) only to discover when they got there that they had left the corpse behind.

By Burns’s time folk drank quite copiously, but no one had coined binge-drinking yet. People did complain of course, particularly the Kirk, though sometimes their homilies were ill expressed. We’re told of a certain worthy divine who took his flock to task for undue tippling, and he addressed them thus from the pulpit:

“My friends, the habit of tippling or nipping is a very pernicious one. If ye want a nip, tak a nip, but dinna be aye nip, nip, nipping. For example, when ye get up in the morning, and ye feel a-sinking like, and a bit downish, and ye want a nip, tak a nip, but dinna be aye nip, nip, nipping. And, say, when ye hae sat down and are partaking of the mercies provided, and in case that some of the victuals might not agree with you, and ye want a nip, tak a nip, but dinna be aye nip, nip, nipping. And then, perhaps, when ye gaun and delve in the yird, say, suld the wark be heavy, afore goin’ oot, and to keep up yer speerits like, should ye want a nip, tak a nip, but dinna be aye nip, nip, nipping”—and so on and so on, till the thirsty congregation had his express permission to take about twenty nips between breakfast and dinner.

Dean Ramsay [Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character, 1857] tells of a drinking bout he was told of by Duncan Mackenzie, writer of the early nineteenth century:

He had been invited to a regular drinking party. He was keeping as free from the usual excesses as he was able, and as he marked companions around him falling victims to the power of drink, he himself dropped off under the table amongst the slain, as a measure of precaution, and lying there, his attention was called to a small pair of hands working at his throat; on asking what it was, a voice replied, “Sir, I’m the lad that’s to lowse the neck-cloths” (i.e. to untie the cravats of the guests and prevent apoplexy or suffocation).

He also tells of a party at Castle Grant many years before, where toasts were drunk again and again as usual, the company getting more incapable by the minute, and as the evening advanced towards morning, two Highlanders were in attendance to carry the guests upstairs, it being understood that none could by any other means arrive at their sleeping apartments. One or two of the guests, whether from their abstinence or their superior strength of head, were walking upstairs, and declined the proffered assistance. The attendants were astonished, and indignantly exclaimed, “Ach, it’s sore cheenged times at Castle Grant, when gentlemen can gang to bed on their ain feet!”

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Colours of Embarassment

Reading the online newspapers can be amusing, generally in a dire way, I must admit. The current Daily Mail, which I have previously commended for its stalwart commitment to exposing the tawdry side of British life, has a story on the new uniforms for the volunteer helpers at the London Olympics. They feature a polo shirt with matching fleece, anorak and rucksack as well as a straw trilby with a pink ribbon. The material they’re made of seems to be polyester, and promises to be unbearably hot and sweaty when worn all day. The colours involved are pink and magenta. The remarks of the outraged Daily Mailers go the gamut from “Oh dear!” to “Vomit-making”, and include these:

Looks like they are members of a provincial Pub Skittles or Bowls team.
[They’d look okay] on a jockey at Cheltenham maybe.
Designed by M Integrated Solutions. I suppose the “M” is for muppets.
They look like the kind of “his & hers” matching anoraks that married hikers wear on some god-awful walking holiday in Scarborough…

-To which someone who’s up to date answered : You do know that you are making terrible assumptions that a married couple comprises a man and a woman – don’t want to go upsetting Lynne Featherstone, now do we?!!!! – Maybe I should explain that the lady is a Liberal Democrat Minister of Equality in the Westminster government, and a proponent of the controversial gay marriage proposal.

The colours, however, though based on those already selected as the official colours, don’t really go together; I agree on that. Another complainer asks
Why couldn’t we have red, white and blue for goodness sake??
– which brought out a reasonable answer to the effect that the colours of the Blessed Union Flag are shared with several nations, and to avoid confusion one should have (it seems) a colour combination few ordinary folk would care to be seen dead in. However, a writer from New Zealand comments
When I was a lively young lad, these colours would have been instantly recognisable as representing a well-known brand of condom – subliminal advertising, perhaps?

As for the hats, another enthusiast quipped,
Love the hats. The only thing missing is the sign stuck in the band reading “In This Style 10/6”.
Maybe I don’t need to remind readers that this is a reference to Tenniel’s great drawing of the Mad Hatter; the inference being that someone is mad, or all of them maybe, presenting Britain (and the giggling world) with
First the inane logo, second the childish mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, third the ticketing fiasco and now the uniforms.

When the Games logo itself was unveiled in 2007, there was widespread criticism of the design (by the Wolff Olins agency) and its cost (£400,000). Some could make nothing of it; others for some reason saw in it a couple (the Simpsons perhaps) engaged in an undesignated sexual act. So another fed-up critic opines
A sex act for a logo, two phallic mascots and now a parade of John Inman impersonators!
Again, to explain: the mascots are two drops of metal with a single eye, one supposes a resemblance to the membrum virile (though evidently they were designed with children in mind), and Inman was the campy character in the “Are You Being Served?” sitcom. It is true though that pink and purple are both associated with Gay Pride, and it’s unfortunate that this is liable to bring out snide remarks such as the design was the result of lobbying from Stonewall. I haven’t decided yet whether that’s a joke or a tenuous sort of homophobia. But anyway, one may sum up with
Yuk!!! It’s becoming increasingly embarrassing to admit to being British.
Which brings me once more to the naming game [English – British – Scottish], of which more perhaps in our next.

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Someone, contributing a comment to a recent story in The Scotsman, pointed out that it took a long while after 1707 for the English navy to become British (though he was quoting an 1812 date). What he was referring to was Nelson’s famous signal “England expects that every man this day will do his duty” – rightly extolled as a great and memorable phrase. It caught the imagination of the people, and features as the chorus, more or less, of Braham’s tuneful song “The Death of Nelson” (“’Twas in Trafalgar Bay”), his greatest hit, which held the stage for a hundred years. It first appeared in the opera written in collaboration with Matthew Peter King (1773-1823), The Americans, presented at the Lyceum Theatre in 1811. (We’re told that Lady Hamilton, who was in a private box for the performance, was so overcome that she suffered a fit of hysterics and had to leave the theatre). That song incidentally put the phrase “England, home and beauty” into the cliché pot. Braham himself, in 1803, sang in his own opera The English Fleet, which shows the (English) usage of the time. But the objection to “England” can be answered by an anecdote I picked up from somewhere some decades ago and used in an Immortal Memory I gave to the Los Angeles Scottish Country Dancers:
Anent the patriotism of the Scot, there’s a well-known story of the Scotsman who was twitted upon that famous signal of Lord Nelson’s before Trafalgar, “England expects that every man this day will do his duty” — and he replied, “Ye would say that Nelson reckoned that Scotland was of no account, and therefore did not address himself to Scotsmen. But it was like this: he only said expects to Englishmen, because he knew he could only expect them to do their duty. He did not mention Scotland because he knew perfectly well that every Scotsman might be relied upon to do his.”

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Re Verse

I notice that some other bloggers have the audacity, or rashness, to publish verse of their own making on their columns. While I hold no realistic expectation of kudos from the Scots literati, I thought it might be amusing for everyone to print a specimen or two of my own. I’ve been composing rhymes and blank verse [some very blank] for all my life, or at least since my teens, along with a good few tunes of various sorts. I’ll be uploading some of the latter fairly soon, but for now have a keek at this:

The mune tauld me the ither nicht
Endymion was deid,
And aa alang the droonin lift
The starns had bowed the heid;
But still the houlet caas on him,
And she is no dismayed,
For weel she kens he hears her still,
Altho he is a shade.

As waters flow in whirlpools
Sae turns the hert around,
And as the wun steers widdershins
The mind greets wi its wound.
I’ll rive sic disobedience out,
And kill my discontent;
For luve has come to ravish me –
Why suld I no consent?

That’s actually a Scotification of a thing I composed originally in English. On the other hand, in a deliberate attempt to write a poem in Scots from the word go, I came up with this:

The Dolmen

The eldritch skreich o gowlan winds
That souch awa within thir stanes
Wad rive the mind clean out o ye;
And the sterk dureness o the granes
Thro aa the dernit ingyne rins.

Granite, grim granite, aa aroun,
And near outby the greetin trees;
The drumlie yird alow the feet
Some caution to the spirit gies,
And gars the saul to courie doun.

Aye, as thir hard wancannie stanes
Staund stockstill here as they were laid,
The hert, nae movin, sees itsel
In the daurk chaumer it has made,
And liggs doun by forgotten banes.

It’s a far cry from such stuff to the likes of Hugh Macdiarmid or Sydney Goodsir Smith, or even, I hear you mutter it, dear old William Topaz McGonagall. But let me segue neatly into an encomium on those two former poets, particularly Smith. I came across his writing in my late teens and was captivated by the contrast with the run of the mill Scots verse I had been used to in the anthologies and old books on my mother’s shelf – which of course were somewhat kailyairdy, to say the least. But here was a new kind of writing that mirrored the modern productions of such as Ezra Pound & Co., while being evidently Scottish to the core. I naturally have grown a bit more sophisticated since then, but I still quote Under the Eildon Tree to myself, and reach for my first edition to leaf lovingly through the pages.

Bards hae sung o lesser loves
Than I o thee,
O my great folly and my granderie.


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Jokes about Jocks

Today, about Scottish Jokes, or rather jokes about Scotsmen – whether singularly, or in a twosome, or in the classic threesome “An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman…”, where the Scotsman will probably come off best. There was a reasonably amusing sitcom on British TV named after the opening of the joke, in the sixties I think, and it does or should lend itself to that treatment. This is a well-known kind of folklore, and can be called “The Three Nationalities Joke”. In countries outwith Britain, you get another trio, at least one of which is the butt, as in Poland, featuring a Pole, a German and a Russian. This is actually an ethnic variant of an anecdote about three of a kind, as for instance three religious – a Roman Catholic priest, a Protestant minister and a rabbi. For instance, about the only one that I can remember goes thus:

A priest, a minister and a rabbi are out fishing in a lake, and after a while the priest suggests some beer, which has been left on the shore. “I’ll get it”, says the rabbi, and off he goes across the water, reaches the shore, and returns trotting over the water to the boat. The minister looks at this with amazement but says nothing. After a while the priest volunteers to go, and off he sets over the water as before. The minister looks at this and realises it’ll soon be his turn. So after a while he gets his courage up and offers to get more beer. “Sure”, say the others. Over the side of the boat he goes, but his faith must be weak because he falls into the water and comes up spluttering. “Oh for God’s sake,” says the priest, “show him where the stepping stones are!”

This is of course based on the story of Jesus walking over the water on the Sea of Galilee ( Gospel of John 6:16–21), though the folklorist will tell you that miracle is often ascribed to religious leaders and heroes, or just people like Sariputta, the follower of Buddha, who have faith in them.
There can be some cross-pollination:

An Englishman, an Irishman, and a rabbi go into a bar.
“Oh,” says the rabbi, “I think I’m in the wrong joke!”

And then there’s:

An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a bar.
“What’s this,” says the barman, “some kind of joke?”

But often enough the anecdote is about two Scotsmen, and the punch-line concerns the legendary thriftiness (to use a nice word) of the Scot, which is one of the universal attributes of the stereotype. This poking fun at such national foibles is called blason populaire, literally “folk heraldry” or such, which characterises a nation (seen as a homogeneous unity) as different or laughable or disgusting or just strange – different from us, that is, the users of the expression, who are obviously normal and nice. Scots may be expected to lampoon the stuffy English, who will themselves make remarks about the stingy whisky-swilling Scots. And their kilts of course (“Nae, madam, there’s naething worn aneath the kilt – it’s aa in fine workin order!”).
Sometimes jokes get near the knuckle in PC terms:

An Englishman, lecturing on his travels, was speaking disparagingly about the Scots in Canada and the mixing of the race with the Indians. “You’ll find,” he said, “a great number of Scots half breeds and French half breeds, but you cannot find any English half breeds.” “Not surprisingly,” shouted a Scot from the audience. “The squaws had to draw the line somewhere.”

But then again they are just intended to be humorous, with a Scots accent:

Jock’s wife Maggie went to the doctor complaining of pains in the stomach. The doctor told her it was ‘just wind’. “Just wind?” she screamed at him. “It was just wind that blew down the Tay Bridge!”

This will mean more to a Scot than others; the great railway bridge over the Tay River between Fife and Angus went down in a fearful storm chronicled by William Topaz McGonagall:

          Beautiful railway bridge of the silv’ry Tay!
          Alas! I am very sorry to say
          That ninety lives have been taken away
          On the last sabbath day of 1879
          Which shall be remembered for a very long time.

My grannie, Helen Rodger, was born in 1869, and she was ten years old when the disaster occurred. Sixty years later she recalled the strength of the wind that blew slates and chimney pots off roofs – her story about the event was one I always asked for. McGonagall wrote his lament shortly after the event, having previously saluted the fine new bridge, and he went on to write another salute to the second bridge, which still stands. He was probably sincere in his seriousness, but it is an unfortunate fact that his verses have been derided as about the worst poetry ever written – by a Scot at least. They are the Scottish joke in rhyme; wherefore many a piece of doggerel has been laid at his door:

          As I was goin doon the road
          I met a coo – a bull, begoad!

Which rivals

          Upon the road there stauns a coo –
          If it’s no there, it’s awa noo.

And what about

          Oh, Water o’ Leith! Oh, Water o’ Leith,
          Where the girls go down to wash their teeth;
          And o’er the stream there is a house right knackie,
          Of that grand old man, Professor Blackie.

This was evidently written by a student at Edinburgh, where Blackie was Professor of Greek, besides Professor of Humanity at Aberdeen. He travelled widely, and went to Egypt, which occasioned a translation into Scots of Emanuel Geibel’s Lob der edlen Musika (“Ein lustiger Musikante marschierte einst am Nil”), to be found in The Scottish Students’ Song Book. It’s a very good rendition into Scots of the German, changing the fiddle that’s played to divert the threatening crocodile into (of course) the bagpipe. We’ll go into that next time.

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Being a proud expatriate, I try to keep up with the ongoings in the Auld Country, which is a lot easier to do than it used to be. After all, as recently as twenty years ago one could only do this on a modest income by kibitzing on a neighbour’s copy of The Glasgow Herald, or so, unless of course the news included a scandal of international interest. Like the Profumo Affair, for instance, a titillating (and I do not choose that word lightly) story of bedrooms and Cabinet secrets that ultimately brought down the Government. At the time I had been away for three years and already missing the “dear green place”, but continued on and gradually found dear green places over here. Nowadays with the proliferation to absurd lengths of the electronic media, and I include emails and all the twittering in-your-Facebook clamour that gets louder or more rampant, not to say epidemic, every day, it’s all too easy to discover the latest scandal, and there’s always at least one. The online Daily Mail will let me know of shocking behaviour in rural England, as The News of the World used to. (Alas poor NOTW! Done in by its low journalistic methods. I must do a weblog on that sometime.) As for Scottish news, the Herald from Glasgow and the Scotsman from Edinburgh generally fill me in on what’s deemed important, or even scandalous, by the editors. There’s bias of course, and as long as I remind myself that the papers have nothing much to do with Scotland (to the extent of Scotophobic malice) I’m all right. But enough of this. There are other means of inquiry, thank the Lord, in this amazing age, and in the aggregate they fill each other in and correct each other, or at least temper their temper, so to speak. Oh, how wonderful  (I reflect for the umpteenth time)  to have lived so long till an out-of-print book can be downloaded from the ether to my desk at the push of a button!

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All right, here we are finally crawling on to the bandwagon and joining the myriad clamouring to be read, argued with, admired and disparaged. What I write about will be varied enough in its own regional way, mainly [but not necessarily] about Scotland in most of its aspects.

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