Ushering them out the door: don’t tell a Scot what to do

IMG_0722.JPG

Have been chatting with the Scots in my circle of friends, and it looks like they’re going to go with Independence. This has been building for a while…apparently the whole ‘We’d rather govern ourselves‘ thing isn’t a new concept up north.

The curious thing is that not so long ago I agreed with the pundits who seemed to believe that at the last minute those more inclined to tradition would scurry back over to the side of staying in the UK. It seemed only practical.

What happened exactly? Between then and now?

Well, it seems the folk responsible for convincing the Scottish to vote to stay in the UK have chosen a rather curious tactic. The Better Together campaign are employing a mix of scare tactics and condescending rhetoric that’s supposed to freak out Scottish voters.

Just in the last few days, the news has been a mix of:

Well, if you vote for Independence, you can’t continue using the Pound Sterling as your currency.

Oh, and joining the EU isn’t going to be as easy as you think.

And anyway, hasn’t it always been better when we’ve all stayed together.

Behave now and vote for the security that we’ve been providing you all along.

With just the right amount of fear mongering and condescension, it seems the people who wanted to keep Scotland in the fold have instead ushered them out the door.

Elaine’s Cuppa Cake

Elaine’s already gotta place to land when she gets to Scotland!

Our favourite Tottenham Riviera blogger elaine4queen has been threatening to move to Scotland, so I happened upon the perfect place for her. Her own café. Where we can all go and be sweary and inappropriate. As we are wont to do.

This isn’t easy – all this blogging. To be honest, I’ve never been a daily blogger. Well, there was a time I wrote a post everyday on my teablog, and that was enjoyable. Was even travelling a lot at the time, and wrote about tea drinking in Vienna and Hamburg and whatnot. I’m not against daily blogging in theory, but it’s really difficult to be out there living and documenting it simultaneously.

Lately, when faced with the choice, I’ve gone with the ‘focus on the life swirling round you‘ approach, and have taken sporadic notes along the way. At some point, I’ll get round to actually making those into blogposts.

There’s a great place where we stayed right outside of Durham, and I’d like to finally write a bit about the Lambton Hounds Inn, which is in the curiously named neighbourhood of ‘Pity Me‘. I mentioned in my last blogpost, and I assure you I’ve not forgotten it.

And then Fafa, which is my mother’s childhood nickname, and I went on to Lindisfarne in Northumbria. That’s worthy of at least three blogposts right there. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And if you know me even a little, you know I’ve been a lot of places.

Here’s a taste of what’s ahead:

Everybody goin’ to the castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne…

Then we went to another castle that someone told us was involved in the filming of all of that Harry Potter nonsense, but when we got there, they were having a wedding and the place was closed off to visitors.

Turns out Bamburgh Castle has no connection whatsoever to the filming of those books that I’ve not yet read, but I suppose I will at some point. *sigh*

Mother claiming Bamburgh Castle for her own!

So, that’s a taste of what’s to come…aren’t you excited? Here’s your not-quite-humble-enough blogger at the same castle:

One of the few times you’ll see ol’ Lahikmajoe in less than formal attire.

maybe I’ll retire to Scotland…

20121031-154658.jpg

Well, this is exactly what I was afraid of. ‘MIGRANTS RUSH TO GET OUR JOBS’, indeed.

Had a very odd experience on the train from York to Durham yesterday, and it’s had me thinking ever since. There was a young man sat opposite my mother and me, and he had a series of long conversations with both his girlfriend and his mother on his mobile telephone.

To the latter he insisted that he hadn’t broken up with his love interest, but that she had decided that they needed to ‘…take a small break‘ from the relationship. When he spoke with the former, he pleaded with her that although he’d been a scoundrel, she was the best thing that ever happened to him and really ending things would be a setback he couldn’t fully accept.

His answer to the whole predicament was that they take that little break from the relationship that he’d mentioned to his mother. At least that’d buy him a bit of time until he figured out what might come next. To his way of thinking, this was the only rational solution.

Despite the fact that we could only hear half of the conversation, my mother and I decided afterwards that the young lady was having none of it and had finally wised up. He wasn’t handling defeat well, at all.

What does any of this have to do with those MIGRANTS taking our jobs? Well, at some point in the conversation, we indicated that we might be going to Scotland. He insisted that he loved it there, and that he’d always thought he might move to Scotland when he retires.

Afterwards, my mother was perplexed at what he thought retirement was going to look like. He was in his early 30s and quite freely admitted that he hadn’t been able to hold a job for more than a decade.

I suppose he’d be angry about those pesky MIGRANTS and their job stealing, but I guess he might need a job first before he can get bent out of shape about it having been stolen from him.

Bagpipes with a side of Salsa

20120618-211722.jpg

While I was travelling, I had times when I was regularly posting things here (lots of family and galavanting) and on the teablog (tea shops in southern Spain) and on tumblr (when I really didn’t have time to write much), but there were also times when there was just ‘too much living goin’ on around.’ I had to see what I could see. That’s a direct reference to a Lyle Lovett song, so I’ll incude that here:

And there were so many things going on….I’d regularly stumble over to twitter, make oblique references to noteworthy adventures, and then promptly move on to something else. That means I’m planning to periodically return to stories about the trip. If there are photos, I’ll be sure to include them.

For example, the photo at the top of this post demands some sort of explanation. I wish I had one. Those are bagpipes. Real bagpipes. No photoshopping here. And that man is not a Scotsman. He could be Hispanic. Or an American Indian. Or I suppose he could be a Pacific Islander or a number of other possibilities, but I’m going to stop before I dig myself a hole.

He’s not Scottish. That’s my point. He also looks as if he’s been working all day in a blue-collar job still in his work shirt. After a long day in the factory, what else are you going to do but go play your bagpipes on the streets of downtown?

My mother had had a wonderful evening on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and we went up to street level to make our way back to the hotel. As we turned a corner, there was this guy playing his bagpipes. Like we were at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

But we weren’t. We were in Texas. Now, I should say that I saw bagpipes when I was a kid. It’s not like they don’t let any bagpipes out of Scotland. There are Canadian pipers. And Aussie pipers, as well as Kiwi pipers. There are very serious pipers all over the world.

However, I still think of them as having some sort of connection to Scotland. Your parents are from Aberdeen, or something. This guy’s parents were most likely not from Aberdeen.

Incidentally, bagpipes are called a Dudelsack in German. I know some of you who will almost certainly appreciate that little tidbit.

good at heart

Wilco
Wilco

One of my clients had an extra ticket to see Wilco at the Circus Krone here in Munich, and invited me along. Although I had to work rather late that night, he waited outside for me and the place was packed when we finally got inside. The only seats available were way up in the stands near the rafters. It was ok. Actually, it was more than ok. He’s a longtime fan of the band, and although I don’t know everything they’ve done, I like them a lot.

My client is German. They rarely do anything halfway, and when you like a band, you really like a band. In his case, he owned everything they’d released. He’d waited years to be able to see them live. I could tell he was really excited and maybe even a little anxious. If he was angry at how late I’d been, he did a good job of hiding it.

Almost as soon as we found our seats, I could tell the people behind us were rowdy. A bit drunk and even a little louder. They were American and were very vocal in their displeasure at how long the opening band was playing. Rather than clap after a song, they’d chant, ‘Wilco! Wilco!‘ That the opening band (Jonathan Wilson) was really quite good didn’t seem to phase these guys. They were there to see Wilco and began to chant during the songs. ‘We want to see Wilco,’ they droned on. Soon enough, their demand was met.

You’d think they’d be happy about it, and I guess they were. Yet their way of showing it was to sing along with every song. Badly and out of tune. It was one of those situations that was uncomfortable to begin with and just dragged on and on. For the first half of the show, they made fools of themselves and mainly only irritated our section of seats. As the night progressed, you could feel their idiocy increase proportionally to their increasing drunkenness. As much as it was like watching an accident approaching, it was somehow weirder because it was behind us. We could only listen as they got louder and more brazen in their miserable howling and hollering.

The other people sitting near us started to turn and give these young, rude folk the dirtiest looks they could muster. It only seemed to fuel the flames. This was getting uglier by the minute. Like I say, this was a train wreck in the making. The band began to chat a little between the songs, but we couldn’t hear what was said. We were treated to screams of ‘Wilco‘ and ‘Chicago‘. By now it wasn’t only our near surroundings that were affected. It was so distracting that the band even felt they had to say something from the stage.

Again, I’m not entirely sure I caught all of it, but it was something like–why is it always the Americans in the audience who act like that when they travel around Europe? Jeff Tweedy even made a comment that could’ve been a veiled threat of violence when he said that in Scotland, such fans would most probably be physically assaulted. For a brief moment, I thought the poorly-behaved Wilco fanatics would take a hint and settle down. Nothing could be further from the truth. The attention seemed to give them a second wind.

They were so loud that the normally polite Germans sitting around us started to get up and yell for them to ‘Shut the hell up!‘ This was the first overt response to the awful behaviour, but now I knew that I hadn’t been the only one stewing about these guys. The people in our section were losing their patience.

I could go into more detail about how they insulted the woman who was accompanying one of the more vocal Germans, and then that the woman was so offended that she went and got security. For the rest of the show, we had our own personal security guard assuring that the trouble makers were at least moderately quieter. Once they realised how unwelcome they were, they started making very pointed and inappropriate comments about the indignities of living in Germany. Like I say, I could get much more specific about what they said, but it’s really not worth repeating. As they left a bit before the end, I saw the culprits for the first time. They were young. Shockingly, I couldn’t believe how unassuming they looked. If I didn’t know that they’d just spent the last few hours ruining my evening, I’d look at these young men and think they were normal, respectable blokes.

But why am I writing about this here? Why go to all the trouble? A few malcontents that you could run into any evening. Not even necessary that they were Americans, right? You can have jerks in any culture. Well, I suppose that’s true. Yes, of course. But then something occurred that has had me thinking about for weeks since it happened. If I hadn’t glimpsed his face right at the end, I wouldn’t even have known it was him.

One of the miserable guys who’d left fifteen minutes earlier, hadn’t gone straight to his train. I suspect he stood around outside the Circus Krone continuing to complain about his experiences living in this strange land. As I was walking out of the venue after the show, I saw him frantically running up to some people entering a taxi and begging them to let him take their place. He breathlessly told them he’d miss his train if he didn’t get the train station AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

And here’s what I thought in that moment: he has no idea how his actions that evening affected the people around him, and he probably think of himself as a pretty decent guy. I’m not saying I stopped being angry. That’d be too easy a resolution and I wouldn’t still be turning it over again and again in my mind.

I’ve been thinking about times in my life when I was also thoughtless and cruel. After a situation like that, it’s the easiest thing to rationalise that my actions weren’t that bad. What is it about a person in that position that they assure themselves that they’re a good person at heart?

I felt for this guy when he madly pleaded for his cab. That he was in danger of missing his train-possibly the last one of the night-and might even be forced to get a hotel room. This guy was so clearly unhappy living here in this country where he could barely speak the language. It was cold and he was far, far away from home.

Although I felt bad for this guy that only a short time earlier I’d been dreaming of murdering, I completely understood that the whole evening had been a sort of fuck you to his helplessness. Little frustrations had been building up, he was out with his American buddies and they were just having a good time. Again, he was a good person at heart.

None of this excuses his actions. It doesn’t absolve him of what a jerk he’d been. I was still furious. And embarrassed about the horrible things he and his friends had said to the angry and frustrated people. I’m sure he thought it wasn’t a big deal how he’d acted. And again, that he was genuinely a good guy. I’m absolutely positive he still believed that as his taxi rushed to make sure he caught his train.