Friday, September 25, 2009

Scotland: giving away our jewels

Dougie MacLean & Kathy Mattea - Turning Away

Progress marches on. Anything else is by nature 'conservative', i.e. backward and stuck in the past. But progress can also include a recognition and a will to retain that which is of value. Is it part of the 'Scots cringe' that sees us let that which is of immense value slip away? Gaelic is one example. It is at the heart of our identity as Scots. It is our oldest tongue - already producing classical poetry when the English language was barely an offshoot of Germanic Anglo-Saxon. Many foreigners cannot understand why most Scots don't speak it. Especially in today's age when the cognitive benefits of bi and multi-lingualism are evident - from Chomsky's 'innate grammar mechanism' in children's brains to the advantages of bilingualism as evidenced by Colin Baker in Bangor. Hey! Gaelic and other languages are GOOD for kids. Maybe we were WRONG to waste money and time beating it out of them in the first place?

"On Loch Etive they have worked with their Highland dreams
By Kilcrennan they have nourished in the mountain streams
And in searching for acceptance they had given it away
Only the children of their children know the price they have to pay"

It's also the wee treasures we let slip too - and often without a fight.

Alcohol is important to us apparently. But that doesn't stop multi-national companies like Diageo, who made some £2billion in profit last year, from destroying communities at a whim. They also hold many other fragile and rural distilleries in their hands and we have to be grateful for it. But, when the goodwill runs out...?

Even, our pubs and inns are routinely destroyed - either by voracious 'pub chains' who turn them into plastic, soulless shells or by arrogant incomers with no thought for local culture.

Some examples spring to mind.

The Tron Tavern in Edinburgh. Once a traditional 'Scottish' pub but one without a 'theme'. Different floors, wide selection of drinks, traditional musicians coming and going. Now, it's so shit, even students don't go there.

The latest which has been hitting headlines and forums is the demise of the Glenuig Inn in Moidart. Gleann Uige only got a road linking it to the rest of the mainland in the 60s and has remained a relatively traditional but still vibrant part of the Gaidhealtachd. From it came the three MacDonald brothers - excellent Gaelic-speaking world-renowned pipers in the traditional mold. The Inn too, until recently was oak-lined, warm and welcoming and a hub of the community. However, it's been bought over by a 'blow-in' from England who wants to turn it into a 'niche enterprise' and 'green' business. This translates as, getting rid off the good beers, ripping out the auld oak interior, turning into a cold and characterless shell, farting about with opening hours and literally telling locals and tourists alike to 'take a hike' around the nearby peninsula if they disagree. His latest 'green' venture, as reported in the Times, is to buy the anchorage and rent off the moorings to rich yacht owners and to make sure the local fishermen go the same way as the local inn he has destroyed.

And, our new 'eco-landlord' can't understand why the locals are resisting his Cromwellian attempt to civilise them. This guy was born in the wrong age. Colonial India would've been his very own 'niche'. Surely, it's time for us to take back control? Leave the Scots cringe in the past where it belongs.

"In darkness we do what we can
In daylight we’re oblivion
Our hearts so raw and clear
Are turning away, turning away from here"


Rhys Wynne said...

It's sad to hear about these pubs, a similar situation exists in parts of rural Wales where any pub that goes for sale/lease is up, it gets snapped up be someone from England. More often than not, they are less than sympathetic to local culture.

Although on the beer front, I'd argue that in a lot of cases, some middle-class incomers have more of an appreciation of real ales than the locals, so there's some compensation!

An Donas said...

Croeso Rhys. Yeah, i've heard about it in Wales too. In areas with fragile economies and sparse, often ageing, populations there should be support and preference for locals to take control. The 'right to buy' for crofting communities is a step forward and seems to be popular and successful in the Highlands and Islands.

Beer is a lottery! Continental lagers are usually good. I'd take a Heineken or Amstel over an 'Islay Ale' anyday. Though why anyone would choose a 'Tennents' over a bottle of Innis & Gunn is beyond me!

naldo said...

Tennents is keech but it's much cheaper than Innis & Gunn.

Whaddya reckon to Brew Dog? I like it.

Anonymous said...

Aye, true. But at 6.6% 2 or 3 bottles does the business fine. Especially if there's some drams to be had.

Drink BrewDog too on occasion - didn't like their 'Punk' but everything else they've done has been good.


naldo said...

I like the Punk. It's right hoppy with much more kick than a Deuchar's (which i drink when hungover). To be fair, the I&G is bottled barryness but if i drank that wi a few drams, i'd end up scrappin.

Whisky's fine in the safety of my own home but when some half cut gadgie suggests half and halfs in the boozer, it ay ends in tears.

OutLander said...

Great blog, An Dhonas. (?) (I'm still learning our wonderful language)

Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

An Donas - it's a 'devilish' name. Ho-ho.... good luck in your learning.