Friday, October 12, 2007

Draft Al Gore to run for President

He's a Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He could turn this country around. He could REALLY help solve climate change!!

PLEASE, AL

RUN for President in 2008 - we NEED you!!!

And please everyone who agrees with me go to draftgore.com and sign the petition - America needs you, the world needs you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Old Rab C Nesbitt Sketch - Hospital

This one's for Ashley - if you can understand this one I'll buy you a drink!!! ;)

Friday, September 21, 2007

And this is what Americans think a Scotsman looks like...?

I have just read this interesting post in the Guardian's blog Comment is Free. Apparently new research shows that most Americans associate Scotland with Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons (which is, of course, an American creation with a voice created by an American!). Sean Connery has lost out to this guy???

It doesn't come as a surprise to me as I have had way too many incidents with the American public where they reveal their unbelievable ignorance about Scotland.

I had an instance in Cleveland when I was working in a national bookstore chain as a cashier and a woman asked where I was from (they ALL do...) and proceeded to tell me to have a nice vacation!! - I was working for $6.25 an hour and I was in Cleveland Ohio!!!! I have also been told more times than I can count that my English is very good - to which, if I'm in a testy mood, I often reply "Thanks, so is yours!!". Darren's Grandma has told me (in a very thick Virginia accent) how my English is better than the Chinese girl that works at her old folks' home!!

The one that took the biscuit was lately when again I was working as a cashier. A woman asked where I was from (they still ALL ask) and she proceeded to tell me she was a high school teacher. I asked what she taught and she said English as a Second Language. She described her job and how challenging it is for her poor Mexican students to learn English - then she added - "of course, you'd know how difficult that it is" - I said "excuse me?" and she clarified - "you know how difficult it is to learn English from when you had to". My jaw slammed onto the floor and I picked it up informing her that I can't speak any other language - just English!! I guess my argument was too complex for her to grasp because she left the store still going on about how well I spoke English!!!!

From this vast mountain of experience I read the Guardian article a little puzzled. The subtitle is :
Americans don't know much about Scotland and what they do know is mainly bad. Should the Scots be worried?

The thoughts of the Scots being worried about this makes me roll around on the ground laughing. Americans still tell me (incessantly) how they want to visit Scotland (and often assume I'll plan their trip for them) and tell me (again incessantly) that they consider themselves Scottish. I have over time developed the guts to reply to this statement thus:

You are not Scottish, you are American!! To qualify as Scottish you have to be brought up there and have the prerequisite accent (or to Americans - bad English). The man who was born in India and his parents moved to Scotland when he was 1yr old is Scottish of Indian parentage. If you've endured the biting cold horizontal rain walking home from school in the dark of 3.30pm for your entire school career, then you are Scottish!! My kids will be American if they live here - American with a Scottish mother.

The classic example of all of this was when I was at the St Patrick's day parade here in New Orleans and I wore a sign saying "I'm Scottish throw me something". I had several "Irish" men shout "The Irish hate the Scots!" - and I'd laugh to myself - the Irish love the Scots - so all these men claiming to be Irish did was reveal how un-Irish they truly are!!

I take no responsibility for my grammar or spelling or vocabulary - I can't be held accountable I'm only ScAttish!!
(I'd also like to stress some Americans are very knowledgeable and treated me very well .... its just some ... well ... don't - so if you are one of the former please know I do not mean you - and if you are one of the latter ... you read my blog?? ... wow your English is better than I thought!!!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jena Six

I can't believe this and yet sadly I can believe this. A group of black students at a high school in Jena, Louisiana asked if they could meet under the tree in the school yard where white students normally congregated. The principal said yes and the next morning there were nooses hanging from the tree. What followed was ugly racial fighting of white students against black and black against white.

The criminal justice system stepped in and made everything worse. The white students were charged with assault or battery. The black students were charged with attempted murder!! The case includes one student who is a very successful student and athlete who is expected to win a major scholarship to college for football if he doesn't get found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail that is.

You can read more here. I am plain disgusted.

BILL MAHER ::SEPTEMBER 7 2007:: PART SIX

Wow - I can't believe I had to hear about the Jena Six from Bill Maher! There is also some brilliant stuff on Obama - I particularly like the theory that because the country is "f**ked up" then a black man will become president - because they always give departments/jobs that are "F**cked up" to the black man so he can fail....!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Parallel Universe

Woke this morning to a parallel universe: first Scotland beat FRANCE 1-0 at fitba!!!!!!

Then I find out that the Labour Scottish Prime Minister (of Britain) invited this old hag, bitch, evil monster, to tea at number 10!!! He invited HER!!!



Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pavarotti - Nessun Dorma

I cried

RIP Maestro

Pavorotti died this morning. He will be sorely missed. I shed more than a few tears today listening to him sing. He was truly gifted. We are lucky he shared that gift with the world. RIP

Monday, August 20, 2007

depressing state of the union

I read the Guardian mostly everyday. It is my way of keeping up with news at home (as well as the BBC) and of reading commentators that I like who keep my weary brain cells ticking over. One such is Gary Younge. His pieces are quite brilliant. His book "Stranger in a Strange Land" is a brilliant collection of his Guardian writings from America. I highly recommend everyone read it and I'm ever grateful to my dear friend who gave it to me as a gift.

I have just read another of Younge's posts in today's paper. He outlines the depressing failures of the Bush administration and highlights a most disturbing trend that has been fostered and developed by the same administration. The trend is for the administration to see itself as separate from the "reality-based" consciousness and as acting upon situation not assessing them. That this American Empire can act upon its own whim without any analytical thought of the consequences is quite petrifying! The fact that the administration appears quite proud of that fact is astounding!!

One commenter on Younge's article put it perfectly and left me thoroughly depressed:

America's decline is a result of structural, systemic and ideological factors beyond George W. Bush, but he (with a little help from Bin Ladin) has certainly accelerated the decline dramatically.

In the space of a generation it has gone from the nation that put a man on the moon to the nation that took 5 days to get water to the Superdome. It has gone from the nation that played a critical role in defeating Facism to the greatest threat to peace on the planet. It has gone from a being promoter of human rights to being a nation practices torture and 'rendition' and that clings to the archaic vengeance of the death penalty. It looks up more of its own people than any other nation in history. It's failing healthcare system has led to financial nightmare, reduced life expectancy and even shorter heights for its citizens. It must borrow or sell assets to the tune of $2.5 billion every day in order to get by. It is a pariah, albeit a powerful one, among the world community.

America will never recover from the Bush presidency.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Please will you be my president!

I live in America. I have been living in America for seven years. I am a permanent resident. That means I cannot vote (on how my taxes are spent, how the roads are maintained, the schools taught etc etc).

I have just had coffee with a friend and the topic turned to politics. This topic, right now, in this country is depressing. The US right now feels like the UK did during Thatcherism (although she was popular for some of her "reign"). It feels hopeless and helpless. The light at the end of this tunnel, we hope, is the 2008 election.

So my friend and I discussed our opinions of the candidates. Hilary Clinton is the democratic front runner. She is experienced, intelligent, and well equipped for the job. Barack Obama is dynamic, personable and an amazing speaker. John Edwards is passionate on the behalf of the poor with a smile to melt any heart. Mitt Romney is a Mormon and supports the Iraq war. John McCain is (in my opinion) a little unhinged. Giuliani is plain scary.

Any Republican would (and always will be) in my book be a very bad thing (this country is far enough to the right as is!). So I turn to the Democrats.

Clinton is the front runner. I would love to see a woman in the White House but I worry what that woman would have to do to get there. Just as Thatcher wasn't really viewed as a "woman" in the UK (she had more testosterone than Attila the Hun!!), I feel that Clinton is having to become harder all the time and prove that she does not have all those silly sentiments attributed to the weaker sex. Feminism has come a long long way in forty years but some of the American electorate are stuck back in the fifties. I fear that her gender alone may mean that she would not make it through the White House doors and it pains me to say it!!

Obama is dynamic. He began his campaign promising to be different, to be untainted by the normal Washington filth. But I feel he is becoming more and more mainstream as the game is played. He is against the Iraq war and that is a tremendous thing but he is incredibly naive in his foreign policy attitudes - as the Pakistanis can attest. His speech making has not been as electrifying as I had hoped. Maybe he has a grand finale planned, who knows. However just like with Clinton, I think it would be amazing to see a black man in the US presidency. It would be a visual realisation of MLK's dream. But this country has swung further to the right than during the civil rights movement. This country, though clothed in the vocabulary of political correctness, is so conservative in its outlook that I fear a black man would not be allowed to grace the living quarters of the White House and I would fear for his safety. And again it pains me to say so.

So Edwards. The southern, white man with the electric smile. I like him. People like him. He's a likable guy. He has all the qualities to get elected. That hometown southern drawl is so attractive to voters in the US and his passion for the everyman who is struggling in this rocky economy is tangible. But sadly, very sadly, his wife is ill with cancer. What if she dies whilst he is president? How could a grieving widower with two small children cope with the burden of high office? It is so sad and I hope everyday that she can announce that she is cancer free - it would be brilliant news for her, her family and this nation!!

So who is left. I cannot vote and wish I could. The person I wish I could vote for and who I feel this country needs desperately and the world needs desperately is Al Gore. He won in 2000! This country voted for him in 2000! He has the experience, the credentials for the job but so much more. He realises the biggest threat to the world is global warming (that's global warming not 'climate change')!! As president he would have the ability to change policies to affect how we address this vital issue. I feel he is the strong steady, intelligent hand that is needed to guide this country out of the mess it is in. And it would be poetic to allow the American people the opportunity to vote for the man they wanted to run their country in the first place, to right a wrong done by the Supreme Court (I read somewhere that Bush won the 2000 election by 5 votes - 5 Supreme Court votes!!).

I know Al Gore is not in the running. But I hope he is thinking about it. I would be ecstatic if he would run. I'd batter every door down in my neighbourhood and tell everyone to get out and vote. I'd drive anyone eligible to vote to the polling booth myself. So my appeal (not that Al Gore likely reads this wee wittering blog) is that everyone speak out and ask Gore to run. Tell him we need him. Tell him the world needs him.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ahm affay sorry ken

ah've jist been hayin' a geck at ma past posts on doric an ah found a comment fae a man that runs the scots wikipedia site an it turn oot that it's mastley in doric - ah must've nae been affay guid at readin' it ken. so ah jist winted tay pit the record straight an also to thank Dereck fir commenting and pitting me richt - ah wid love tay tak up his offer oh jinin 'em bit ah'm nae affay guid at figurin' oot the wiki thingy (there's een fir N'awlins thit ah cannay de either) so ahm hopin he'll forgive this daft quiney her misreadin' an he'll keep up the guid work!!

Here's his comment:

Maist o the fowk contreebutin tae the Scots Wikipedia are aether Doric spikkers, Borderers or Scots lairners. "Central Belters", eejits or itherwise, dinna seem tae be sae interestit in warkin on it, tho there are ane or twa. A'm ane o the foonders an contreebutors an, like yersel maist o ma faimlie on baith sides are Doric spikkers at hame, sae whan A pit onythin in the Wikipedia A've nae chyce but tae pit it in Doric syne A dinna ken onythin else. Whit micht be leadin ye astray is that aw the Wikipedia editors contreebute wi the ae staundard Scots spellin. Sae if ye didna ken the richt wey tae sey "wh" or "i" in Doric, ye micht think that A wis writing in Central Scots. I can assure ye, that if ye heard me reading the airticle oot lood, ye'd hae little doot that the maist o the Scots Wikipedia wis written in Doric. The lave o't is quasi-Scots written by Scots lairners and needs reddin up but nae apolgies. We're short o fowk that can contreebute at ony level and we're nae sae prood but that we'll tak wha we can get.

In fact we're aye aifter mair contreebutors that can actually spik Scots, (Doric spikkers by preference since Doric is the healthiest Scots dialect an it's far mair likely that Doric spikkers actually ken the richt wey tae spik Scots), sae if ye dinna like the wey that we're daein things ay noo, we'd be richt glad if ye'd jine us and help tae set things richt.

Cheers

Derek Ross

Gordon the Gopher and Curious George

Having just wasted five minutes of my life looking for photos of Brown and Bush, I find it rather telling that I can't find any the normal way I pillage for legal visuals for this 'ere blog. This shows how in the grand news circle of the USA, Brown meeting with Bush was a non-event. In many ways it is an accurate assessment.

Lets see. We had George spout off about what a funny guy Brown is and not a 'dour scot' at all (pronouncing dour to rhyme with sour instead of poor) and how they'll be fast friends. I have an image of Bush boring Brown silly with tales of 'my great great great great grandfather' was Scottish and 'oh I went there on holiday' (- oh well it was the G-8 summit but you get the picture).

[One of my favourite sports is informing Americans who claim to be Scottish too (yes they actually say this) that no they are not - they have Scottish heritage and you can't be called Scottish unless you've put up with horizontal rain pelting your frozen forehead as you walk home from school in February at age 10. If I'm particularly successful I follow it up with saying that someone who has Indian parents but has been born or brought up in Scotland with the accent and everything is Scottish!]

Back to GB meets GB. Brown on the other hand looked like he was about as pleased to share two meals and a dubious golf cart ride with George as a colonescapy! No friendly remarks made about the blithering dunderheid to his left. Just an agreement not to rock the Iraq boat for now and help get George focused on something actually humane and worthwhile like world poverty and Darfur (likely payment for no boat rocking antics).

Gordon is coming into his own by all appearances in the UK. Everyone seems relieved to have someone less concerned with holidays with the rich and famous and more meat and potatoes politics. It should not be surprising that after ten years of smoke and mirrors Blair governance, warts and all Gordon is a welcome relief. But I think Gordy's slippery salmon to the North may prove to be more of a challenge than he thinks (see here for a brilliant take on the recent flag debacle)

The funny aspect is that Cameron's emulation of Blair appears to be backfiring in a serious way!! Maybe he'll finally go back to admitting he's an aristocratic toff after all?

Monday, July 02, 2007

GlasGO or at least Glasgae

The attack, on Saturday, at the Glasgow Airport was disturbing to me. I have walked through those very doors several times in my life and when I look at the photographs of the charred remains I am amazed that no one was killed or even hurt. It is disturbing to me to face the reality that Scotland is a target in international terrorism. However considering the Lockerbie bombing this is not the first example. Luckily Scots are not prone to panic and we are more likely to 'just get on with things' and this certainly appears to be what is happening in Scotland right now, as much as I can judge from this distance.

Having said all that there is one fallout from all this that is really disturbing to me personally. That is, that I have had to endure hearing SO many American voices mispronounce Glasgow!!!! The most common is that they make it rhyme with 'cow'. Another is that they put the syllable emphasis on the 'as' and make the beginning sound as if is it "Glass go". Along with the common mispronunciation of Edinburgh as EdinburG, this is driving me BARMY!!!! I know it shouldn't and the many hours of phonetics I sat through in English Language at Edinburgh Uni should make me a very understanding person ..... but please, anyone American reading this spread the word for the sake of my sanity - its GLAsgo.

If you can't manage that then you can always go for a more local pronunciation:
"GLAsgae"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Here's the door - don't let it hit you on the way out!

At LAAAAAAAAAAAAssst!!! Tony Blair has left Downing Street and now has the grand title of EX-prime minister!!! Parliament gave him a standing ovation at question time ..... kinda odd...

Enter new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He's doing things a bit differently already - he's asking members of other parties if they would like to be in his cabinet, he's talking about getting rid of 'top down' style of governing. He's already surprising people. We'll see if that continues now he has the top job.

And he is a Scot. He has a growling Fife accent that no manner of polishing will erase. But this is no Scottish friendly prime minister. Like many before him and bred from the 'canni dee it attitude', he has to shun his Scottishness, prove his Britishness (ie Englishness) in order to take himself, and for others to take him seriously. He infamously told Scotland that we should support England in football - yeah that went down well....!!!

We will see how our new Prime Minister makes his mark on Britain. We shall see how he deals with the irritating little stone in the bottom of his shoe that is the Scottish Parliament and the SNP with Salmond at the head. To be continued......

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Cannae dee it" Attitude

I just read Gwen's comment on my last post:

"think you have hit the nail on the head with your comment on the "Cannae dae it" attitude. I have over the years in a variety of jobs, seen many a person with that attitude. No wonder we get nowhere. We have to, as a nation, get ourselves some confidence that we can work hard and build an efficient economy. How do we instill such an attitude? Maybe its down to teachers in schools and parents to start this off at an early age. If it doesn't happen we just won't get anywhere."

"How do we instill such an attitude?" is the question for Scotland right now. Having lived in the country where people believe they can do anything (even fly to the moon...!!) I think I have some suggestions.

Being brought up in Scotland means never "getting above yourself" and participating in self deprecation. To actually admit that you are good at something is seen as a negative personality trait. If you've got a talent you'd better hide it under a bushel.

This is present also in parenting. To tell your kids that they are brilliant is considered a faux paux. To brag in anyway about your offspring is looked down upon.

Things are changing with parenting these days. Children have gone from the Victorian "be seen and not heard" to the center of every family activity. I personally think its gone a little overboard.

I think that in order to instill confidence in Scotland, confidence needs to be instilled in individuals from the start. We need to be proud of our children, we need to be proud of ourselves. Scottish pride seems to only reveal itself when someone is dead. Anyone who gets too famous or "above themselves" is quickly cut down or derided.

Scotland needs to admit to its hopes and dreams and see them as achievable goals. Scotland needs to believe that it can do anything. Scotland needs to stop cowering in England's shadow.

The one difference in the report I talked about in my last post is that all the small countries that are better than Scotland are independent. They rule their own affairs within Europe. They have not crumbled and failed without a larger country to cling to like a limpet. They have flourished.

I don't believe that Scotland needs to adopt an American attitude. It would be insincere. I do however think that Scotland needs to adopt a Scandinavian one. They work hard and look after each member of their community. They are a practical people who get things done. They have similar population to Scotland and some even are very similar topographically (I once took a flight from Aberdeen to Stavanger and it looked like we'd just flown in a circle and landed back in Aberdeen!).

I think one of Scotland's problems is the fact that the central belt can't seem to remember that it is attached to the rest of Scotland. The Labour run country for the last 50 years has been forever trying to strain forward to Westminster. Hopefully Alex Salmond, representing a North East constituency, will change some of that. Scotland has always looked to England and Westminster for answers instead of seeing our potential within the country.

If Scotland is at the bottom of the league for small countries in western Europe then what is the big risk in going independent? We can only get better.

Of course I am saying this from 3,000 miles away and I can just hear my sister thinking "what is she wittering on about? she doesn't pay taxes here or live here day to day!". True. But I think I have a different perspective because I am looking at my homeland from outside. I have a perspective that puts Scotland into context in the world. Sometimes when you live in a place you can't see the woods for the trees. So I hope that my witterings may give some Scots some pause for thought.

I am not in Scotland right now so I do not know the answer to this (although I've noticed a buzz in the blogosphere about it) but I hope Scotland is nervously excited for the future. I feel the SNP slender win over Labour is a tentative step towards trying something new, maybe trying a little confidence in ourselves.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"worst wee country" in western Europe

Apparently and in contrast to Jack McConell's phrase "the best wee country", Scotland is the "worst small country" in western Europe.
Shock, horror!!
You mean Scotland isn't better than Norway? Sweden? Denmark? Holland? Austria?

Ehmm. I'm nae surprised!!

We have a love of fried food that makes New Orleanian's look health conscious and there is a pesky gene going about that insists on knocking us down with heart disease - although it is given a hand by the amount of salt, fat and sugar that the population devours. So Scotland is hardly healthy ... yet?

OK so we are not making loads of cash either. But with our moaning whinging, "we couldnae dee it" attitude I'm not surprised. Hopefully we'll slowly see that Ireland is the model for Scottish economic growth - Oh yeah didn't I mention that Ireland, the country most Irish were dying (literally) to get out of, is doing far better than Scotland.

Scotland has a great deal of untapped potential. It has culturally a lot in common with the other small countries in western Europe. Its yet to be seen but maybe one day Scotland will start to gain in confidence and the wee country will be a wee bit further up the line to the title of "best wee country in the world".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Scary Alex - does Blair think he'll get "Salmond"ella?

"He never writes, he never phones..."



So said Alex Salmond when asked about Tony Blair.

On Friday, Gordon Brown, the soon to be and sorta kinda really already is the next PM (Prime Minister) of the UK, phoned to congratulate Alex Salmond on becoming the First Minister of Scotland. Great, but a little tardy at 16 days after Alex got the job.

Tony? He's abroad, he's too busy, he's (in my opinion) really pissed off!!

Tony is swanning around Africa indulging his massive ego with a farewell tour of places he likes to think he did real swell in - Libya, Sierra Leone... etc.
["Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves."
- yeah right! ]
I personally think he missed out on the better tour - the US where the ability to speak in complete sentences is regarded as a miracle after so long with a monkey at the helm (sorry I'm likely insulting monkeys here). Everyone here can't get enough of Tony but then the majority of people wanted to go to war in Iraq. Oh and its easier to like someone you didn't vote for and doesn't actually have anything to do with running your country.

If Tony had a pair he'd be touring the UK apologising!!

But back to Alex. Alex Salmond has a tough job ahead of him. He will be the first person to actually test out the theory of devolution: the theory that the Scottish Parliament actually has control over a chunk of their own affairs. He has a minority government and will have to govern Scotland by doing things the way devolution was set up to do them - by cooperation between rival parties for the betterment of the common good of the country.

So far, Alex is doing a great job of trying to achieve this.

But, as Mark Douglas-Home writes in today's Observer, the issue for Alex will be communicating with the PM (Gordon). There has been little need for much coordination of such things before as all the First ministers of Scotland and Wales have until now been members of the Labour Party. They are all in the same club, singing from the same hymn sheet.

Uh oh! Alex is not in the club - he's not even allowed in the car park!! (although I don't think he wants to go anywhere near the sewer infested place...) He's likely to be pushed around by the members, be picked on as the odd one out. He really is the weakling considering he has to operate in a mode of cooperation or his governing days are over.

So what has happened? Tony disnae phone. Gordon has to have his arm twisted (press outcry) and 'sorta' phone but make sure and do it late. If this doesn't sound like bullying ....

Labour hate the SNP with vitriol. I'm sure Tony would rather walk naked through Baghdad before talking civilly with Alex Salmond - he may after all contract a case of "Salmond"ella.

Gordon is painting himself as more English than the English and wants to signal to England how much he cannot abide the man who will be governing the devolved Scottish Parliament - even though as MP for Kirkcauldy in Fife in Scotland that very man (Alex Salmond) will be making decisions that directly affect the people he (Gordon Brown) has been elected to serve.

All this is great. I love it. It shows blatantly how the Labour Party is a bastion of tradition which is out of date with the postmodern world. Tony and Gordon took to spinning till we all got dizzy but they can't hide the reality underneath. The SNP victory has slipped a knot in the carefully constructed fabric and the curtain is unravelling in front of the wizard of Oz.

Modern day Britain, modern day Scotland, modern day England, Wales, Northern Ireland are awash with multicultural aspects that no longer mold to traditional politics. The world is becoming more individualistic, more autonomous. Politics needs to catch up. I am excited at a political environment in Scotland where people have to debate, discuss and resolve issues for the common good. The system at Westminister has demonstrated how easy it is for a government with a big majority to allow an egotistical PM to do what he wishes - take the country to war against the wishes of its people.

The UK is one of the oldest democracies in the world. Before we make claims about exporting it, I think it would be good to address whether our system should be changed to fit with our changing world and country.

If Tony ever gets round to phoning Alex I'd love to hear Tony's excuse for being so late in calling....

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Totally pointless and unimportant

Gwen has tagged me to reveal 8 interesting facts about myself. I apologise firstly - this may turn out to be highly dull and uninteresting as the subject is ME.

1. I was born with a third ear. My Dad flipped out because I, as his eldest, had to be perfect. As he was a doctor at the same hospital he organised a team of surgeon to remove said ear. The "ear" I must explain was more like a skin tag - it may have developed into an ear, I don't know but my Mum wasn't going to let me stay in the womb for another few months to find out (although by all accounts I was happy staying in there). So the surgeon tied a piece of string around my third ear and got ready with scalpel and bloop, it fell off of its own accord. So that's how I lost my perfect pitch at birth.

2. I have a fear of birds. Flapping birds throws me into a fit of squealing and rushing to escape. Dazza made me watch Hitchcock's "The Birds" - not one of his most romantic gestures....

3. Before I came to America, I had zero desire to ever visit America. I now live here and am even married to one. Never say never...

4. I once tugged the Queen Mother's skirt. I was five at the time and at Balmoral Castle. Prince Charles was coming home from the Falklands and the royals and the staff at the castle were all milling around. I as the granddaughter of one of the staff was milling around with the royals too. I saw a bright pink skirt and tugged it saying "Granny granny", looked up and saw the Queen Mum and screamed and ran for cover......

5. Sean Connery gave me $3,000 and I didn't even have to sleep with him (sadly). He has a Trust called the Scottish Education Trust that gives one off grants to Scots embarked on furthering their education in the Arts. So to come and do my masters he gave me $3,000!! Nice man.

6. I hate heavy metal. I mean the really heavy stuff. I hate Iron Maiden, Metallica and most of Guns and Roses. My sad admission is that I spent several of my teenage years pretending that I did like them. Dazza will attest that now every time he tries to get all nostalgic and play heavy metal I start bitchin'. So when he is at home alone I guarantee you the house is shakin' from him playing air guitar to Iron Maiden.

7. I used to suck my thumb ..... and sometimes in the middle of the night when I can't help myself because I'm asleep I still occasionally do....

8. Phew last one (I'm boring myself I think)... I love ab sailing. I have only done it once and I was about ten but I loved it. I can still remember the joy of letting go and jumping back off the cliff into nothing. One of my ambitions is to do it again.

I'm not going to tag anyone (gaaaasp - blogging fo pah....) because most of the non-Nola types have done this already and most of the Nola types don't participate in this tom foolery.
So paperback writer, Travelling Mermaid, Guilty With an Explanation, Longayelander, I Dream of Haggis, Sara B...... or anyone else
If you feel in the mood please reveal 8 facts about yourselves - if you don't, then have a good day and then blog about it - oh and please make it funny!!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

What is Doric?/Fit is Doric?

This een is gang tay be a dual post - een in Doric (this een) an an ither in English. Am going tay hay a go at tryin tay explane fit this weird dialect ahm tryin tay write in is. First aff Ah'd like tay tell ahbody thit Ahm dyslexic so dinnae get in a stooshie aboot ma spellins cos there's nay onny spell checker fir fit Ahm tryin tay de OK?

Doric is the dialect o Scots thats spoken in the Nor Aest o Scotlan. It varies a lot depindin on far aboot ye are in the region. Ah grew up in Keith half wiy atween Aiberdeen an Inverness. My Granparents lived in Ballater, an oor awa, an they iwise telt me that Ah soonded like Ah wis fae Keith. So if yer fae Huntlee or Towie or Inverurie or Stonehaven, yer Doric is aye gan tay be a wee bitty different fae other places. Fir example I wis aye telt aff by my Mum (ah wid say "mither" but she hates at an she'll nae like it if ah use at wird) fir sayin' "windee" for "window" 'cus in Crathie in Deeside they niver say "windee". Ma Granda fay time tay time wid say I soonded like a Keith kyard or a tink. The "Tinks" were travellin folk that selt stuff naebody wanted an their kids wid come tae skweel fae time tae time an they wir nivir excepted by onny oh us fa lived in the toon. Ah dinna think folk on Deeside thoucht that much oh folk fae Keith.

Keith is an odd toon. Its nae completely country an its nae a fishin toon either. There used tay be a big textile mill there ca'id "Kynochs" but they went oot oh business afore I even went tay school. So fan I wis growin up it wis a toon that wis tryn tay stay alive but wis really dyin. Culturally is wis a backwater wi nae idea oh whit wis oot in the world. But I learnt the value oh folk fae growin up there. Ah went tae skweel wi kids that didnae ken far their next meal wis comin from. Ah wis aye aware ah wis different but ah learnt foo tay get on wi as mony folk as ah could.

Ye see this doric dialect is nae easy tay pick up, especially if ye'iv nae growin up in it. Fan Ah went tay school Ah wis ca'id a snob cos Ah didnae spick doric, Ah didnae spick like abody else (we maestly spoke English at hame 'cos oh my Dad). But ma granparents did. So fan Ah wis Four an went to the skweel fir the first time Ah picked up the Keith version quick. Nae that it made muckle difference as they Ah kent Ah wis oor muckle different fae them ah tay iver be accepted.

Fir reference my Dad wis fae Inverness far they dinna spick doric (Ah've heard folk say that the best English in the hale oh Britain is spoken in Inverness) an fan my Dad first went tay my Mum's hame tay meet my granparents he didnae unnerstan a wird. Ah wis affa impressed wi ma American man bein able to decipher fit wis ga-in on aroon him fan he first went tay Deeside - he must've deen sometin richt 'cos my Grannie winted tay adopt him fae the start!!

The innerestin thing aboot Doric fir me is that it is definitely my mither tongue. Fan Ah meet a baby, even in America, Ah ayewis fine mysel spickin doric tay them an Ah divnae evin realise fit Ahm dee-in. Folk here gee me an affa queer look!!!

This one is going to be a dual post - one in Doric and one in English. I am going to have a go at explaning the weird dialect of North Eats Scots that I am writing in. First off I'd like to explain that I am dyslexic and there is no such thing as a doric spell checker so don't judge me on my spelling.

Doric is the dialect of Scots spocken in the North Eats region of Scotland. It varies depending on where you are in the region. I grew up in Keith halfway between Aberdeen and Inverness. My grandparents lived in Ballater, an hour away, and they always told me that I sounded like I was from Keith. If you are from Huntly or Towie or Inverurie or Stonehaven the Doric you speak is going to be slightly different. For example I was always told off by my Mum for saying "windee" for "window" becuase in Deeside, where she grew up, no one ever said "windee". My Granda from time to time would say I sounded like a Keith Kyard or "tink". The "tinks" were travelling people who would sell things people didn't want or need and their kids would come to school from time to time and never be accepted by those of us who lived in the town. I always thought that people on Deeside never thought much of people from Keith.

Keith is an odd town. Its not completely a country town nor is it a fishing town. There used to be a large textile mill there called "Kynochs" but it went out of business before I went to school. So when I was growing up, Keith was a town trying to stay alive when it was really dying. Culturally it was a backwater, with no idea of what was out in the world. But I learnt the value of people growing up there. I went to school with kids that didn't know where their next meal was coming from. I was always aware I was different but I learnt how to get on with as many people as possible.

You see, this Doric dialet is not easy to pick up, especially if you've not grown up with it. When I first went to school I was called a "snob" because I din't speak doric (we mainly spoke English at home because of my Dad). But my grandparents did. So when I was four and went to school for the first time I picked up the Keith version of doric quick. Not that it made much difference as they all knew that I was much too different from them to ever really be accepted.

For reference my Dad was from Inverness where they don't speak doric (I've heard people comment that the best English spoken in the whole of Britain is in Inverness) and when he first went with my Mum to meet my grandparents he didn't understand a word that was spoken. I was terrible impressed with my American man being able to understand what was going on around him when he first went to Deeside - he must have done someting right because my Granny wanted to adopt him from the start!!

The interesting thing for me is that Doric is definitely my mother tongue. When I meet a baby, even in America, I always find myself speaking Doric to them and I don't even realise what I am doing. People here give me a very queer look!!

For those English speakers - Doric is often referred to as the "Fit, Far, Fan" language becuase of the preponderance of those words. "Fit" means "what; "Fan" means "when"; and "Far" means"where". So the sentence "Fit fit does 'is shoe fit?" means "Which foot does this shoe fit?". There is a whole "Scotland the What" skit on this - "breeks" spelt T_R_O_U_S_E_R_S, "breeks". Doric is traditionally an oral dialect and rarely written down. So it demonstrates the clear division between the hierarchy of written and oral language and the hierarchy of English over Scots. Interestingly writing this post, when I swapped to translate into English the voice in my head suddenly sounded very posh and not all that unlike HRH Queen Liz II !!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bit fit aboot Doric? Ken?























I'm nay affa happy i day. I wis hayin' a geck at a quine's blog fae Utah an she hid an interestin post tellin ye ah aboot a new Wikipedia in Scots. That'll be just gran ah thoucht an so ah clicked on her link tay see it.

Oh its affay fine and bonny. Its just grand. Bit its nay. Can somebody tell me fit wye they wid hay a hale wikipedia site on Scots an in Scots weeoot ony mention o Doric?? There's even a post on Aiberdeen weeoot onythin on Doric. Bit they gang an and an aboot Scots Lied and Lawlands Scots. I'm likely aboot tay offend some peer crater but ... fa spicks Lawlands ony mair? It smacks o central beltism - they dinna realise foo mony folk there are that dinna live atween Edinburgh and Glasgow!!

Doric is the dialect spoken in the North East of Scotland. I grew up speaking it, my maternal side of my family speaks it and it is still very much in existence. It has long been a neglected form of Scots - relegated to the stereo-types of North East Choochters - or "farmers". There is a lot of North East culture that has been overlooked or never leaves the small enclave of the Grampian mountains. I am appalled that there should be a "Scots" wikipedia without Doric.

If only I was computer savvy - I'd get onto the site and post an article on Doric ....

So if there is anyone out there computer savvy from the North East please rectify the situation for me!! Thanks

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

on yersell big man!!!!!

It's very interesting to read the views that have been posted on the BBC website on Alex Salmond's appointment as First Minister.

My favourite is

On yersell big man!!!!

Shuggie, Glasgow

More here.

A New Tartan Government

Alex Salmond has been voted in as First Minister of Scotland. The vote was 46 for Jack McConnell ('the best wee numpty in the world') and 49 for Alex Salmond. The Greens and SNP voted Salmond in with the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Margo MacDonald (independent) abstaining.

Alex Salmond will now form a minority government. Every decision of this new government will have to be made in a spirit of cooperation. MSPs will have to negotiate and debate in a mature fashion in the interests of the Scottish people. In his acceptance speech (I've included it at the bottom of this post) Alex Salmond described the parliament as a tartan of diversity, highlighting the first Scottish Asian MSP.

If he governs in the model of this speech I have hope for Scotland. Even though they are called the Scottish Nationalists I have always been glad that this has nothing to do with race. Salmond's vision seems to be of an inclusive Scotland where anyone is welcome. Given the state of immigration in Europe right now and the UK, I believe this is a mature, positive approach.

As an aside though, its interesting to me, the last time I went home (October 2006) I saw little difference in the people in the North East but I heard a lot of difference. There are a lot of Eastern Europeans emigrating to Scotland and they all generally look very similar to Scots. But sitting on a bus you realise they are speaking Polish, Latvian, Estonian.

And as a final aside I find this appointment personally interesting. I've know Alex Salmond since I was a child. My parents got interested in the SNP and canvassed for them in elections a bit. The late Margaret Ewing was a friend of my Mum's. I vaguely recall Alex Salmond coming to our house. It's interesting that at that time the prospect of him being First Minister of a Scottish Parliament was a total pipe dream.

Here is his acceptance speech:
This parliament, created by the people of Scotland in a referendum, is bigger than any of its members or any one party.

I believe that Scotland is ready for change and for reform. This is a small nation with a big future. But it is also a small nation with big challenges.

"It was said the other day that Scotland is a divided nation. Given the closeness of the election result, I can understand that in some ways.

However, it's not the case.

Certainly, the gap between rich and poor is too great. We need to grow faster. We need to heal the scars of the past. We need to be greener. We need to be still smarter. But we are not divided.

We have a sense of ourselves. a sense of community and, above all, a sense of the 'common weal' of Scotland.

In some ways we're not even a divided parliament. Of course, in this part of the chamber we seek independence and equality for Scotland - not everyone agrees.

But there is a broad consensus on the need for this parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland.

There is an understanding that we are engaged in a process of self government - and an awareness of the distance we have already travelled.

In 1961, Bashir Ahmad came to Glasgow to drive buses. In 1961, the very idea of a Scottish Parliament was unimaginable. In 1961, the very idea of a Scots Asian sitting in a Scots Parliament was doubly unimaginable.

But Bashir is here and we are here, and that part of the community of Scotland is woven into the very tartan of our parliament.

And we are stronger - so much stronger - as a result. We are diverse - not divided.

The nature and composition of this third Scottish Parliament makes it imperative that this government will rely on the strength of its argument in parliament and not the argument of parliamentary strength.

Despite all the challenges we will face together, I welcome that as a chance to develop a new and fundamentally more reflective model of democracy.

The days since the 3rd of May have been understandably dominated by questions over the structure of government - will there be a coalition or will we have minority government?

Let me say to parliament that what matters more to the people we all represent is less the structure of government and more what we, all of us, achieve of the people's behalf.

Presiding officer, all of us in this parliament have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way which respects the parliament the people have chosen to elect.

That will take patience, maturity and leadership on all sides of the chamber. My pledge to parliament today is that any Scottish government led by me will respect and include this parliament in the governance of Scotland over the next four years.

In this century, there are limits to what governments can achieve. But one thing any government I lead will never lack is ambition for Scotland.

Today I commit myself to leadership wholly and exclusively in the Scottish national interest. We will appeal for support policy by policy across this chamber.

That is the parliament the people of Scotland have elected, and that is the government that I will be proud to lead.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Farewell my slippery friend!!

I would like to start off by stating a fact. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He is not the head of state. He is not a president.

I am starting thus, not to enlighten my American readers (I flatter myself but my American readers are way too intelligent not to already be totally aware of this fact!) but rather to ground what I am to write in that fact. The press in the UK and the world are acting as if Blair is a president who is resigning. The level and degree of attention are completely in line with a presidential farewell.

The UK has no president. We have the Queen as our head of state. She is a figure head who firmly stays out of politics. We have a prime minister who is the leader of the ruling party of government. For the past ten years that has been New Labour and their leader has been Tony Blair. I have always thought this system to be a good one in theory. Good because no prime minister could get infected by a God complex and would always be kept in check by their party.

This theory worked to a degree. It worked until Margaret Thatcher. She changed things. She ruled by crushing her opposition. She was elected on the promise to put the "Great" back into Great Britain. So she attended international meetings as if Britain still ruled the waves and the world and bullied other leaders into place with her infamous handbag. Thatcher showed that given the right circumstances and leader, a God complex was indeed a possibility for a British Prime Minister.

This was the political culture that Tony Blair inherited. It is the form that he so quickly took. He quickly forgot that one of the main reasons for the 1997 landslide victory for New Labour (N.B. New Labour not Tony Blair) was that the country wished to be delivered from the ruling hegemony of Thatcherism. The UK was asking for deliverance from a political policy dictated by one prominent ruling figure (John Major was a last gasp demonstrating how corrupt, embittered and pathetic the Tory party had become).

I voted for New Labour in 1997. I celebrated all night with my fellow students. I went to so many flats in Edinburgh where everyone was on a complete high. The clouds had parted and the sun was finally shining.

I remember discussing Tony. He seemed like a family man, a Christian - one of those who see their religious beliefs driving them to do good for the less fortunate in this world. We discussed all the wonderful people who would be forming the new government - John Prescott, Robin Cook, Jack Straw, and the wonderful gusty, leftist, Clare Short. Yes, we saw all the spin doctors following Blair at every step but we put that down to "whatever you have to do to get elected" and after the hell the country had been through, the hell that was my only experience of political life in the UK, we were OK with the concept of "whatever it takes". Everything looked rosy and possible.

2007. The UK is a better place to live for a great many than it was in 1997. The NHS is better funded, education is better funded, the poor are better taken care of and the economy has been strong as an ox for ten years. New Labour have under Blair managed a great deal of success.

So why all the cheering for Blair's departure? Should this post be about how the UK will go to the dogs without Blair and everything is doomed?

Blair over ten years has embodied the much quoted saying "Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely". He took his inheritance from Thatcher and wore the presidential pretender badge with pride.

He charmed the world. He and Clinton were great buddies. Both can charm the socks off a centipede and they know how to play the game of media spin. But they both had a certain grounding. I do believe they both saw it as their responsibility to improve people's lives - but only on the "down low". Neither wanted to offend anyone with a large bank balance. Instead they courted them. But while the rich weren't looking they quietly improved the situation for the poor around the world (Africa for example) and fought for injustices where they found them (Kosovo).

I believe that Blair with Clinton by his side had a degree of sincerity and maturity which enabled the two of them to use the "special" relationship between the US and UK to better ends. Northern Ireland is now a country at peace because of the brave steps they took. Collecting debt repayments from poor African countries became something to be ashamed of and concern that we may be harming our own environment became something that was accepted.

Until 2001 I believe Tony Blair was doing a good job. Perfect? No. But good. I didn't like the media hype and spin that followed him around like a bad smell but I felt proud of my little country.

I think the point of Blair's undoing, the seed of his unpopularity in the UK, the moment he changed from Blair to BLIAR was when the supreme court gave the US presidential election to George W Bush. Bush and his cronies have poisoned America. So many people are angry with him. So many people are so sad at what the American nation has become. He slipped into the presidency like a snake. His residence at the White House has felt like a bad dream.

When I witnessed Blair befriending Bush I thought it a bit odd. I presumed, along with others, that Blair, being from a center-left party, would have little in common with Bush and that there may likely be some conflict between the two men.

Then September 11th happened and everyone in America "rallied around the President for the sake of the country" (I didn't see the need to rally round him, more ask questions of how this could happen on his watch - but that's another post). Blair said some eloquent things. He sounded like the serious leader speaking with reason and judgement. He wasn't going to shout about 'smoking anyone out of a hole'.

Ah ha, I thought this is why Blair had befriended Bush. He would be the voice of reason guiding this snake away from creating harm in the world. He would appear the lapdog but really be the sheepdog guiding things from behind the scenes.

I forgot, we all forgot in Britain about Tony's religion. It wasn't reason, or the political guidance of the world's superpower that steered Blair to Bush but rather their religious convictions. I believe that one major reason that the US and UK are in Iraq right now if because of the shared belief that these two men have that rescuing this country from Saddam is the just and right thing to do in the eyes of God. Whether it is conscious or not the whole thing smacks of the crusades. Bush also had God put in a word for him to make a huge amount of cash out of the project - Tony on the other hand was just happy being right.

This is the point when Blair went off the boil in the UK. I was in Scotland for the first part of 2003 and I remember watching the BBC news reports that showed that they were considering taking action against Saddam. I remember thinking they've got to be crazy, what does Saddam have to do with Al Qaeda? I remember rubbing my eyes in disbelief as they started trotting out "evidence" of why we should invade Iraq.

I wasn't the only one rubbing my eyes. The whole of the UK was in jaw dropping disbelief. Where was the Blair we elected? Where was the Labour Party, all be it "New" and shiny? I naively believed that the leftist MPs in the Labour party would keep this kind of thing in check. I was wrong.

Blair has created a structure of power within the New Labour Party where he governs in the mold of the politburo of Stalin's Soviet Union. There are circles of power with him at the center controlling everything. My friends and I have always been amazed that every cabinet reshuffle changes the names of the cabinet ministers but everything remains exactly the same.

Blair has taken the God complex from Thatcher to a whole new level. He had the nerve to take a country to war kicking and screaming. He ignored mass protest by the electorate who voted him in. He was no longer representing the people. He was representing himself. The whole Iraq fiasco has felt like a deep betrayal to the UK people. Instead of listening to the country, Blair decided to 'do what was good for us' as if we were an incapable child.

It does not feel good that the Iraq war has been such a disaster. It does not feel good to know that my gut instinct watching the BBC news in 2003 was correct. It does not feel good to know that Blair and Bush were wrong.

This is why Blair is deeply unpopular in the UK. It makes me angry that after what he has dragged us through in Iraq he can give a sugar coated, slick press conference full of emotion to announce the date of his resignation (the date - not his actual resigning like Harold Wilson did). All his pomp and circumstance being drawn out over his long farewell are sickening. There has been no apology over Iraq only carefully drafted spin that hints at it. Blair said in his "farewell" speech

"Removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was over with relative ease. But the blowback since, from Global Terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly."

This is no apology and his careful referencing of the Taliban and Saddam together shows his continuing adherence to the Bush doctrine of invading Iraq under the auspices of his "War on Terror". Blair shows that he does not believe him to have been wrong only those pesky terrorists who keep popping up like a hydra.

I am glad Blair is going. It has taken him a long time to go. He claims he is going for the good of the country. He is going because his party is forcing him to. He is going out like a victor in blaze of glory but behind all the fireworks and staged crowds the UK knows this charmer for who he really is. He is a snake in the same mold as George W Bush.

Friday, May 11, 2007

SNP turns green

The SNP have signed a deal with the two Green MSPs. Its not a great pact for power but at least it is movement. Scottish Labour seem poised to pounce if Alec Salmond wavers even slightly.

I think the most telling thing that has come out of the Scottish Election is that fact that the Scottish Labour, Lib Dems and Tories are all still very much ruled from London. It has shown that devolution is a sham when the ruling government (be it one of the three just mentioned) will do the bidding of their party in London.

So the SNP are facing being a minority government with the Greens. Shaky? Yes. But at least it will be a truly Scottish government concerned only with Scotland and Scottish interests.

It is going to be very interesting to watch and see what happens. I'm hoping for a breath of fresh air!!

Update: there is also now a SNP and Lib Dem coalition agreement - not for Holyrood - but for Edinburgh City Council (this is a big deal as Labour have been a monopoly there for way too long). Read this post for more info!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going going going going going......

Blair is to stand down on June 27th. The longest farewell in UK politics. The presidential pretender announced his decision amidst his faithful supporters in his home constituency.

The UK media have finally been able to take their carefully crafted pieces on Blair down off the shelf and use them (after blowing off the dust). The Guardian has a big section (and I don't know if it is just coincidence but they've a new look website too - the UK is changing already?), the BBC too but I particularly like Nick Robinson's post on his blog and the multitude of comments.

I know its difficult for Americans to comprehend (with W and cronies in power) but Tony Blair is deeply unpopular in the UK. He is not our president so we voted in the New Labour party back into government not "Tony Blair" - he just happens to be the leader of the party. Yes, he has a brain and yes, he knows big words and how to use them but his arrogance, self importance and spin spin spin have left most in the UK glad to see him gone.

Oh and there's IRAQ.

It takes a real brass neck to go to war without the support of your country behind you.

I am going to read and ponder further before ranting fully on the man who says he will leave soon ..................

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The French have Lost Their Heads!!!

This guy is now the president of France. President Sarkozy.

He and Angela Merkle will make a pretty couple and no doubt seek to steer Europe towards the right. With all the problems with immigrants and racism in Europe right now this is very bad news. This man is a slippery customer and will no doubt be serving up some tasty treats for the village idiot in the White House.

The left is still alive with 47% of the vote but licking its wounds. I hope that the left that was born out of 1968 keeps a close eye on this guy and they learn some lessons. Le Pen would have been much much worse but I am heartily depressed at the French. Maybe when he dissolves the 35 hour work week they will wake up to themselves. I cannot actually believe that part of the message he ran on was that he wanted to enable people to live to work!!!!!!!!!! I hope when the French realise how opposite this concept is to their lifestyle and culture they may remember where they lost their heads and resume thinking!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Historic Knife Edge Victory

They've done it. The SNP have won the Scottish Election. The results are as follows:
SNP 47
Labour 46
Conservative 17
Liberal Democrats 16
Others 3

This is the first time Labour have been voted out in Scotland since 1955!!! This is a historic event. This sends a message to Scottish Labour that being Tony's lapdog is unacceptable.
Alec Salmond (pictured) as the leader of the SNP said:

"There may well be Labour Governments and Labour first ministers in the decades to come but never again will we see the Labour Party assume that it has a divine right to rule Scotland.
"


I for one hope he is correct.

There is also the problem of the chaos of the election itself with 100,000 spoiled ballots. In a country of five million 100,000 is a sizable chunk. The SNP, if they hold power, have promised an inquiry into the fiasco. I did read that Alec Salmond commented thus:

"The inquiry will have the fullest powers and the most searching remit. It will be charged with laying bare the outrage of why over 100,000 Scots were denied their democratic voice."

Now before anyone in England starts making plans to emigrate to an Independent Scotland this victory means we are still a long ways off such a thing happening. The Scottish Parliament is set up in such a way that the only way to govern is through a coalition. So the SNP need to partner with another party. The stumbling block in this process is likely to be the SNP's wish for a referendum on an Independent Scotland. The Liberal Democrats have their instructions from the UK party not to buddy up with the nationalists if they insist on a referendum. I think Labour would rather jump off a cliff than share power with their sworn separatist enemy. That leaves the wee Greens and the "others". One of the "others" is Margo Macdonald who used to be in the SNP but due to some "issues" between herself and Alec Salmond, she stood and won as an independent candidate. So Alec might have to grovel on bended knee to quite a few old foes ... we'll see.

The behind the scenes bargaining must be chaotic right now but at least there is change afoot. Which way that leads us we can't know. I still hold out the hope that one day we'll quite simply grow up!!

One Hundred Thousand Disenfranchised Scots

Wow, I thought election ballot controversy was something only America did so spectacularly but no, Scotland is fast on their heels. According to the Beeb -
"The counts in Aberdeen, Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, Eastwood, Perth and Tayside North and Strathkelvin and Bearsden were suspended until later on Friday due to technical problems."
And
"The polls have been hit by major problems with seven counts suspended and up to 100,000 ballot papers spoilt."
I have been bemoaning the fact that I am not classed as a Scottish citizen and therefore unable to vote in this election but if I was in Scotland, allowed to vote, and faced with this kind of fiasco I'd be really really pissed off!!

The Scotland Office said in a statement
"The independent Electoral Commission will undertake a statutory review into the conduct of this election. It is important that they look as a matter of urgency into delays in postal ballots, the high number of spoiled ballot papers, and the performance of the electronic counting machines."
And there was this from the commission:
"A commission spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether the election would have to be re-run."

OK, can we have more bungling please? When will people realise there is something authentic about a pencil, a piece of paper, a box to cross, and people at tables into the night counting by hand whilst supervised by officials. Computers crash, programs malfunction - is speed and convenience more important than democracy - ask the 100,000 really pissed off Scots who were disenfranchised by bungling politicians and their new toys.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Scotland & England: its been a wonderful three hundred year marriage but perhaps its time for divorce?!

Today is the 300 year anniversary of the Act of Union in 1707. It is the Act that created Great Britain and her United Kingdom. On Thursday the Scottish people go to the polls to vote for their representatives for the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. The near synchronicity of these dates is nicely significant. This is an election where the Scottish National Party (the SNP) look like they may steal Labour's thunder and actually form a devolved government in Scotland.

The SNP stand for Scotland's Independence from the UK. Since the seventies they have been a growing force in Scottish politics. During the days of Thatcherite Britain when the poll tax was introduced to Scotland first to test the system, Scotland was a bleak place full of a disheartened and disenfranchised populous. The almost total rejection of the Tory government by the Scottish electorate meant that there was a political schism between England and Scotland. When Labour were finally elected in 1997, Blair held true to his promise to let the people of Scotland decide if they wanted their own parliament, devolved not separated, from Westminster. And we most certainly did. The referendum was an over whelming resounding yes.

We got a parliament and our very own building built with plenty of political corruption, cronyism and cost. The parliament building was a financial fiasco but if you are ever in Edinburgh it is well worth walking to the bottom of the High Street to go on a tour, it is a gorgeous building that deserves the high praise and accolades that were bestowed on the late architect, Enric Miralles.

The parliament has been a hot button issue ever since its arrival. It adds another level of government to a country which already has local, national (Westminster), and European governments. It therefore also provides another level of cost to the Scottish people.

However to a country with our own education system, banking system (the Scottish pound is the same legal tender as the English but its still Scottish), and legal system, it seemed preposterous not to have our own government to identify us as a separate nation. Well, separate but with the kitchen apron strings still firmly attached.

Since its inception the parliament in Scotland has been run by a coalition of the New Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. And in my opinion it has not been overly successful. The cronyism, and small mindedness of the Scottish Labour party has been transferred into government. The question always seemed to be, would there or could there be any power in a parliament run by the same party as Westminster? Could there be a major disagreement and how would it be resolved?

It is my opinion that Tony and his cronies have run the UK parliament akin to the old power structure of the communist block. He is only prime minister but he acts presidential. It has filled me and my friends with despair that with every cabinet reshuffle the only difference is in name. Policies and decisions remain unchanged. It is also my opinion that the Scottish Labour party is run very much in the same mold.

So whats the alternative. Well the big one would be Independence. The SNP have always stood for the policy of a referendum on Scottish Independence within the European Union. When I was in my teenage years their policy was very much based on the utilisation of the oil in the North Sea in Scottish waters to enable the country to become financially solvent and prosper along the lines of Norway and Sweden. The arguments against this perception or claim were that establishing rights over waters in the North Sea would be difficult and removing such a cash flow to Westminster could do serious damage to England, which as our nearest trading partner, would be a foolish move.

I now find the argument of oil for Independence redundant. With global warming a reality, building a country on oil seems extremely foolish and irresponsible. I do however, see a bigger argument for Scotland going it alone by looking across the water to Ireland. Ireland is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Where immigrants used to leave the Emerald Isle in search of better things the Emerald Isle is now attracting immigrants for the self same reason. If the Irish could do it why not the Scots?

We're not good enough. We couldn't possibly. We need looking after. Scotland is a proud nation with a distinctive culture of its own. A big part of that culture is what is called in literature, the doppelganger: Scottish identity is always double; it is always Jekyll and Hyde. On one hand we pray with all our might that we thrash any English sports team into next week, we bemoan England for neglecting to remember that Britain also includes Scotland and we take great pains to point out that we are not like England. But on the other hand we are quite content to sit back and be led from Westminster, to be a part of Britain. There is the pride, the strength that whimpers at the prospect of actually really running our own affairs.

I don't know if it is because of the connection between the Scottish Labour Party and the national Labour Party, but it always feels to me like a whispering campaign - "you couldn't do it", "you're not capable". Blair would have had a real political fight on his hands at every election without the steady stream of Labour loyalists in Scotland dutifully going to the polls for him come election day. It really is not in New Labour's political interests to have an Independent Scotland.

My gut instinct is that Scotland will never grow up until we take care of our own country. I don't make this statement out of brimming nationalist fervour but rather out of a fed up exasperation at my kin and country being so pathetic. Am I overwhelmed by Alec Salmond? No. Do I especially like the SNP or trust them? No. [as a side note I have always hated the fact that they are called the Scottish National Party - there are too many parallels with the fascist nationalist pasts of other countries - I really don't know why they are not called the Scottish Independence Party] But I don't see why we feel incapable of balancing our own budget, of running our own affairs. Scottish independance from the UK would not be a complete leap in the dark we would still be in the European Union and have a seat at the main table of that same Union instead of peering over another's shoulder.

I don't know what will happen on May 3rd. I have no way of affecting the outcome as I cannot vote (as a British citizen I can vote in the British election as an expat but there is no such thing as a Scottish citizen so I am disenfranchised). I am pretty sure the Scots who read my blog will have already turned in their postal votes by this time - so I am perhaps just meaninglessly wittering here. I know that the issue of Iraq is front an center in a lot of minds. How can a party be trusted that tows the line behind their leader in spite of public outrage? What is the alternative? Two very dear friends of mine commented that their hope for an alternative to a Blair (or Brown) government is an Independent Scotland - and they are English! I hope that one day my country will grow up and see all the great things we are so proud of, all the Scots who achieved so much, are all signs that we should take the risk.

300 years ago today the Act of Union was signed by the Scottish Parliament. It was signed by the Scottish elite who had lost hope in Scotland's prospects after the country was practically bankrupted in the Darien affair. The Union was signed against the wishes of the Scottish people for economic reasons by Scottish Nobles eager to win favour with the King who was so much more an English King than Scottish. The Union was an alliance that enabled the building of an Empire, it was an economic force to be reckoned with. That Empire is now dead and gone. The new economic force to be reckoned with is Europe and I think it is in Scotland's best interests to have a front row seat in building that prosperity because the last 300 years have proven we make one hell of a team mate.

P. S.
For a most brilliant analysis which says everything better than I can and if you're curious about Scottish humour go HERE to watch a video which had me in stitches!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Scottish Election Warm up

I am going to do a long post on this subject (hell, I can't vote in this election , so at the least I can voice my opinion in the blogosphere). In the meantime here is a small podcast with photos from the Guardian. It is an interesting starting point - and has some beautiful pics of Edinburgh - although it is only focused on the capital. (there is a tendency in Scotland for some only to ever see the central belt - Edinburgh & Glasgow and the area in between - and forget there is a whole rest of the country).

For political ranting and disenfranchised expat raving, watch this space.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Class Structure in the 'Land of the Free'

My last post, and particularly the comments from it, got me thinking about American class politics and structure. The Romantic image that we are brought up with in Britain is that the USA is the 'Land of the Free' - the land free from class barriers, free from artificial restraints of birth, the land free with every possibility. This Romantic ideal haunts the history of the American pioneers, the pilgrims and the cowboy. The Declaration of Independence sounds like this ideal is sealed into law:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It is a most attractive proposition. It sounds like Utopia. It sounds too good to be true. It is.

America has a class structure. But it is different from the long established aristocratic familial one in Britain. At the time of the Declaration, most white affluent men owned slaves who were never accredited the title of "Man" written by their masters. Women were disenfranchised and powerless. The poor immigrants from Ireland were kept one step away from slavery by the nature of their skin. Thomas Paine's idealism bore little relation to the class structure of the New States of America of his day and the acknowledgement of every man being created 'equal' came also with an equally large blind spot. Its a stirring message in theory, full of hope and value but in practice it has never been fully applied.

In America there are still the upper class that [pay to?] go to the vaulted Ivy Leagues of Harvard and Yale. There they find there is a commonly accepted and even encouraged means of solidifying such class structure - the Greek System of Fraternities and Sororities. When I first came to this country I was dumbstruck by such institutions. Here were these students voluntarily joining "houses" where they lived like they were at a private boarding school in Britain - only with alcohol thrown in for good (or bad) measure.

They have "rush" week where freshmen attend parties where they are tempted by the lure of each house and then vetted by each house until they are finally accepted or rejected. The general means used for vetting? Who they are! What does their father do? How much does he earn? Which school did they go to? What is their major and how much are they likely to make after graduating? And is she still a virgin or at least has she been faithful and pure towards her high school sweetheart?

Acceptance then means the ushering of a degree of hazing. All Frats and Sororities claim they have outlawed such behaviour but it persists. New members are made to perform demeaning and degrading tasks for senior members. Their desire to be part of this exclusive club is tested to the very limit. After all this is how to win friends and influence people. This will be the social network that will guarantee your career. This will solidify your place in the class structure. This will even help you find a perfect mate for a future perfect family. This is clear because this is what your father and/or mother did so before you.

Amongst this upper class are the WASPs. This stands for White Anglo Saxon Protestants. They are a group at the high end of American society that have held onto power and privilege since they arrived by boat in the 18th or 19th centuries. This breed can mostly be found in such states as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Delaware.

Then there are the family dynasties. The oil rich Bushes. The bootlegging Kennedys.

For all the talk of freedom that abounds in this country everyone knows their place and generally stays there.

But there are the exceptions. This is where I perceive America as different. Only in this country could a poor peanut farmer from Georgia become the 39th President of the wealthiest nation on earth. Only in this country can a poor black girl from the ghetto rise to the top to become her own brand of "O". Only in this country can new money be spent as old resulting in the perpetual fantasy of the lower classes: the American Dream.

I believe it is this dream that keeps America's class structure in check. Why would you revolt against the rich when you hold onto the dream that you too can join their ranks? The upper classes let the occasional Donald or Martha into their exclusive club in order to let the others see from below the glass ceiling that they should tow the line, behave, because they never know when they may be given the key to the golden elevator of upward social mobility.

I think that the American class structure is so very sad for this very fact. The belief that riches are but a dream away placates so many from taking issue with a system that shuts them out.

But as with everything in this country there is also another side and its what I love about this country. For all the people adhering to the system there are others who do not. The Amish, the Mennonite, the Mormons all step outside the mainstream culture that slices society into class. There are people who pioneer outside the boundaries in a progressive activism of thinking and living outside of class. There are the vibrant and varied Gay communities in every American city with San Fransisco and New York leading the way. There are right wing and left wing anti-government types who hanker after the days when not every state was under the federal United States government. And then there are always the crazies. The ugly men dressed as women in South Beach, the freewheeling eternal backpackers and hitchhikers and those who provide fodder for shows on crazy lifestyles or crazy homes for a sleek coffee table book.

America has a class structure that can and does determine a great deal in regards to upward mobility and professional success. But America still retains that glow of the Romantic ideal, the image I was fed growing up, where some individuals step outside that structure and operate in their own way be it for religious, political, ethical, environmental or crazy reasons.
I can never pin this place down.