BY ROGER WATSON
I was born in rural Scotland where people from the next village, about three miles away, were considered foreigners. The Black gangstas of South London had nothing on our territoriality. In North East Scotland, anyone from a smaller town was referred to as a ‘teuchter’. Thus, people from Aberdeen referred to us as teuchters and we—who lived in Banchory—referred in turn to people from Aboyne with the same epithet. This was the mentality of rural Scotland. I look back fondly.
But the attitude towards people from south of the border veered from sarcasm and disdain to something akin to racism. English tourists were mocked for having ‘la de da’ accents and any English pupils arriving at our school went through hell although most ended up being accepted, usually after they had left school about ten years later. This was the atmosphere in which I was raised and when I announced that I was going to England to university, it was the teuchters’ equivalent of being sent to Coventry. As if anybody had a clue where Coventry was.
‘England? Did I hear you right? England?’ I was exhorted to remain as Scottish as I could and warned against drinking ‘bitter’ which, apparently, was a drink for ‘southern poofters’. Real Scots drank McEwan’s ‘heavy’ and Tennant’s lager. ‘Don’t come back with one o’ thae fancy accents’ and ‘Don’t forget your roots laddie’. I headed south of the border with all this nonsense swimming in my head, ready to steel myself and gird my loins against the advances of English culture.
I was determined that never a sip of bitter would pass my lips. But I soon crumbled. Try everything once, they say, except incest and watching News at Ten. I weakened and gave in to the lure of a pint of Tetley’s bitter; a few sips and I was hooked. Little did I know that this was the gateway drug to other styles of bitter and soon I was experimenting with Stones bitter, London Pride and no end of concoctions. It’s all a blur. Before I knew it, I had become a different person, I spoke to English people, made friends with some of them and had soon taken to the ‘English lifestyle’ like a haggis takes to the hills.
But when I returned home to Scotland, I became a different person. I hid my ‘English ways’, showed disdain for my southern friends and forced myself to drink Tennant’s lager. After several visits home, I realised that I was living a double life. But it is hard to tell people you have changed. You drop hints like ‘they’re not all bad’, ‘I have got to know a few of them’ and so forth but going the ‘full English’ was something for which I could not pluck up the courage. Even my father passed away under the impression that I held the English in contempt but, from time to time, I wondered if he did not have his suspicions. It is hard to avoid the give away signs such as taking an interest in the English Premier League, not giving a damn if Berwick-upon-Tweed is actually in England or knowing that modern Highland dress is a concoction from the imagination of Sir Walter Scott and bears no resemblance to what Bonnie Prince Charlie would have worn when he turned up—albeit briefly—on the battlefield at Culloden.
The years have rolled by, and I have now lived longer in England than I lived in Scotland. For decades I have been making several visits annually to Scotland, feeling that this is what I had to do. I visited my parents, took holidays and went to the Edinburgh Festival. But over the years, the small mindedness I experienced in my youth which was simply the parochial prattling of country folk seems to have been replaced by full scale Anglophobia. People, including some relatives, treat me with great suspicion probably because I don’t run about with a ‘see you Jimmy hat’ proclaiming that the ‘nicht’ is ‘braw, bricht and moolit’. I was lucky to escape from a pub with my life when England were playing Germany and I cheered for England.
Scotland is in the grip of national socialist insanity. The glorious leader, Nicola Vladimir Sturgeon, is a person so caustic and ideologically driven that had she the firepower I am sure that she would invade England and force everyone to wear the kilt and learn Gaelic. But, of course, she doesn’t have the firepower as the army stubbornly remains British and even if she wanted to raise an army in either offence or defence, she has no money. She gets it all from England. But do those of us who have migrated to England get a word of thanks for paying our taxes here to support Scotland? Of course not. We ‘left’ and that is all that matters. I could go on expounding on the stupidity of Scottish independence, but Nicola does a perfectly good job of that herself.
And so, I come to the point. I am remaining in the tartan closet no longer. I am coming out and have decided to identify as English. No longer will I lead a double life. If it involves burning my kilt, then so be it. Not a drop of Tennant’s lager will pass my lips north or south of the border, I will openly refer to my English acquaintances as ‘friends’ and I will cheer for the England football team as loudly as I want. True to the form of those who come out of the closet, I will feign new ways, mannerisms, and effect extreme offence if anyone refers to me as Scottish (just because I sound Scottish). Who knows, in time, I may even take an interest in cricket. All the signs have been there like knowing who is winning in the test matches. It is only a matter of time. So, that’s it. I am out and proud.
Roger Watson is a Registered Nurse and Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Education in Practice.