2011

I won’t go further into the past. But if 2007 was a year of touching the emotional and moral bottom, then beginning to rise again; 2008 a year of rediscovering community life, then finding out the immense possibilities the Net offers to somebody as idiosyncratic as me; 2009 a year of being fully involved in the virtual Web life, then learning not to be overdoing it; and 2010 the year of revisiting my country and undergoing a change of perspective with regard to my future life; how shall I describe 2011?

Possibly as a year of tidying up after a lifelong existence in one land then moving into another. Only interested in keeping new jobs for long enough to ensure my financial situation remained more or less unchanged, I was for significant periods of time unemployed. Yet not idle. I finished editing my diaries up to the watershed summer of 2007, cleared a lot of the mess I had done even after that, largely put my laptop and Net matters in (better) order, in short mostly covered my affairs in the old country. And throughout all the time my determination to move was increasing, rather than diminishing. So that when an opportunity of moving presented itself earlier than expected, I was ready to grab it and go.

True, I still may have to return. But if that happens, it won’t be for long. I’ll be back – and I’ll be back for good. This is my country, the one I love above all the rest of the world, the one in which I mean to spend the rest of my life and die.

Particularities?

Friends: All the contacts with my former rehab fellows are broken, except for the therapists. That stage of my life too became a thing of the past, a matter of nostalgia only. Like the Tech: the reunion we had was marvellous, but these reunions no longer constitute the meaning of my life. As for Rob, after two months of living over 900 miles as the crow flies apart, our relationship doesn’t so far show any signs of weakening.

Languages: my English hasn’t improved much, even my knowledge of Scottish English has grown less than would befit a two-month stay; the more progress I have done sa Ghàidhlig. Am fuaimneachadh sa chiad àite, taing do Bhlas na Gàidhlig; ge-tà, taing do rudan eile chaidh am briathrachas (agus fèin-earbsa) agam a leasachadh cuideachd.

Books: I’ve read, both in print and on Kindle, several old ones (most notably the last favourite of mine I still hadn’t read in the original – Monte Walsh) and several new ones, some of them quite good as well, though none as oustanding as a few the year before. Or perhaps a part of my mind was too occupied by the move all the time.

The Web: remains an inseparable part of my life – but since I came here, I no longer spend almost all my leisure time online. I’m able to enjoy “real life” once again. For the first time since I became connected, there are more things I want and plan to do offline in a beginning year.

GLBT: nothing of much importance this year as far as I’m concerned, except the hen at the SNP conference who finally put the thing into the right perspective: there shouldn’t be a discussion of whether or not should gays be allowed to marry in a church. There should be a state marriage as the basic partnership, and a discussion on which churches’ marriages can be allowed to count as if they were state ones.

Global: well there was the Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Euro troubles, the Iraqi nuclear programme, the English riots, Kim Jong-il’s death and so forth and so forth, but from the Scottish point of view they were naturally all overshadowed by the SNP parliamentary victory in May. Although personally I do regret the adverse effect the Westminster coalition had on the Lib Dem vote.

Summary? It would have been a somewhat mediocre year – but the end made it an outstanding one. My only wish for the next one is that it will keep up what this one has begun. And I realize that what 2012 will look like depends a lot on me. But come to think of it, chan ann dìreach sa Ghàdhlig: tha mi a’ cumail a dh’fhàs nas fhèin-earbsaiche san fharsaingeachd.

 

Eagal ro Ghlaschu… seachad

Seo agaibh eisimpleir eile mar a tha gu tric eagal oirnn ro rudeigin dìreach oir nach eil sinn eòlach air.

Nuair a bha mi a’ sireadh companaidhean Teacach a bha a’ tairgsinn obair ann an Alba, cha do lorg mi tè le cothrom an àite sam bith ach a-mhàin Glaschu. Bha mi mì-thoilichte le sin, oir bha eagal mòr orm ro Ghlaschu: feumaidh gu bheil baile cho mòr làn eucorach, feumaidh gur ann glè chunnartach a bhith a’ coiseachd air sràid as dèidh dol fodha na grèine ann agus mar sin sìos.

O chionn trì mìosan, nuair a bha fios agam mu thràth gum b’ e gu dearbh Glaschu an t-àite dham biodh mi a’ dol fuireach, bha gach naidheachd BhBC mu dheidhinn eucoir ùr air choireigin ann gam dhèanamh na bu nearbhaiche. Bha mi a’ smaoineachadh, glè mhath, toiseach tòiseachaidh ann an Glaschu, ach teichidh mi cho luath ‘s a thèid agam.

Tha mi air a bhith cha mhòr dà mhìos an-seo a-nis, agus mar a sgrìobh mi mar-thà, ‘s toil leam a’ bhaile dha-rìribh, ged a b’ fheàrr leam fear na bu lugha ann an Siorrachd Pheairt. Tha e fada nas bòidhche na bha dùil agam, agus on a tha mi eòlach air grunnan àiteachan aige, dh’fhàs mi cleachdte riutha, agus mar sin, chan eil eagal orm ron bhaile tuilleadh. Chan eil eagal nas motha na ann am Budweis co-dhiù.

Co-dhiù no co-dheth, mar a sgrìobh mi an àite eile, ‘s e seo a’ chiad àm Nollaige a tha mi a’ cur seachad an-seo, agus tha mi an dòchas nach e àm mu dheireadh!

 

NHS

This doesn’t trouble me because of any urgency but because it proves that after more than three years of spending huge amounts of time on the Web I can still be unable to find there an information so basic that there’s no doubt it’s there.

I understand the system in the Czech Republic. Your employer deducts from your gross pay tax, social insurance and health insurance. The former two are managed by the state, the latest by individual health insurance companies. You’re obliged to be registered at one; when you visit a doctor, you tell him which one it is so he knows who to contact for remuneration for the care he’s given you.

Here in the UK you apparently only get the tax and the national insurance deducted. Tax is obvious, and apparently the UK national insurance fulfills the same role as the Czech social insurance. But despite all my efforts I was unable to find out whether it also covers the health insurance. I’ve no idea whether in need I’m insured for any medical care (and if so, which). After all, I’ve no idea whether I have contributed anything to the UK NHS.

So far I luckily hasn’t needed any doctor. Nevertheless, I’m pretty much annoyed by my inability to find this information, as it simply must be obtainable from several dozen websites.

 

Staying

Can finding out you’re a prize twat make you happy? Sometimes it can.

A couple of weeks ago we were told those who wanted to continue working for Amazon after Christmas would have to move to a different block. With no certainty Amazon would want us to continue I began looking for another accommodation – and from the day they did fire me, my efforts intensified every other day.

I answered many an advertisement, but either I got no reply, or the “viewing” disclosed the costs were actually higher than advertised, or the lessor decided to take somebody else… And twice there seemed to be something fishy about the lease to me, so I turned the offer down. But I was becoming desperate.

Until the night before yesterday’s. Smoking with some guys who’d already moved block I learned, to my great surprise, that only two of the hostel’s four blocks were reserved for students and I could move block and stay regardless of whether I was a student, an Amazon employee, or neither.

I may be a nitpicker, but I’m also a neurotic, and I had misinterpreted “if you go on with Amazon, you can stay but have to move block” as “if you don’t go on with Amazon, you can’t stay”.

That revelation happened two nights ago. Tonight, I’m already typing this in the other block – and in a room which I don’t share with another guy. (I got along with my roommate quite well; still, not having to share the desk, the bed, the toilet… the room is absolutely worth the higher price, which after all isn’t higher than what I was ready to accept elsewhere.)

So after all these nerve-racking days, the only anxiety which remains is getting a job. Yet in my tonight’s mood I’m finding it easy to trust I’ll succeed even in that department.

 

Trì bàsan

Chaochail trì fir ainmeil taobh a-staigh grunnan latha o chionn ghoirid: Christopher Hitchens, Václav Havel agus 김정일.

‘S e bàs Christopheir Hitcheins a bha na bu bhrònaiche dhomhsa. Feumaidh mi aideachadh nach do leugh mi càil a sgrìobh e. Ach chunnaic mi an deasbad telebhisein anns a bha e, còmhla ri Stephen Fry agus an aghaidh Ann Widdecombe is John Onaiyekan, a’ beachdachadh ma tha an Eaglais Chaitligeach “a force for good in the world”. Nam bheachd-sa, rinn an dithis a’ chùis le argamaidean làidir air agitprop de dhà Chaitligeach.

Bu toil leam Havel na bu mhotha mar dhràmaire na mar neach-poilitigs. Rinn e mòran airson deamocrasaidh ann am meadhan na h-Eòrpa ann an 1989, ach an dèidh sin ‘s na dhèidh, ‘s ann barrachd air fichead bliadhna bho na làithean sin. Seadh, bha e na cheann-shuidhe airson bhliadhnaichean as dèidh sin, ach chan eil ceann-suidhe na Teice fada nas cumhachdaiche na banrigh na Breatainne. ‘S e am prìomh-ministear an ceannard anns na dùthchannan le chèile.

Cha robh mi san Theic aig an àm sin, ach cò air bith a chuir post-dealain thugam mu dheidhinn, bha iad ag ràdh gun robh iad seachd searbh de mar a bha na meadhanan is na luchd-poilitigs “hysterical” air sgàth a’ bhàis is an tòrraidh. A dh’aindheoin sin, bha rudan fada na b’ os-fhìreaiche a’ tachairt ann an Àisia…

Tha fios gum bi e glè chudromach cò a bhios na cheannard Coirea a Tuath, leis na h-airm niuclasach aca, ach chan urrainn dhuinn càil a dhèanamh ach feitheamh. Air an làimh eile, bu mhath leam gum biodh fios agam dè cho fìor ‘s a bha na seallaidhean tuiridh air beulaibh nan camarathan. Bha mi fhìn a’ fuireach ann an stàit co-mhaoineach cuideachd…

 

The thumbs-up sign

When you move into a new region, you are confronted with new words, phrases, accent and even gestures. Some of them you like: you’d like to pick them up, possibly even consciously try to. Others you like less: you attempt to maintain your old ones.

Nevertheless, what you want to change or keep isn’t always what you end up with. In terms of language this means that having spent long periods of my life in three different regions, even when trying to speak the dialect of the particular area I’m currently in, I speak a hybrid language of my own instead, and people always know I’m not a “local guy” – anywhere.

(The silver lining is that I’m not frustrated by unsuccessful attemps to stick to a particular dialect of English. If people don’t mind my mixing several Czech and Moravian dialects within a single sentence, why should they mind my mixing BBC English, Lallans and Americanese, as long as they understand what I’m after?)

The same goes for gestures. I learned to show the number “two” using my thumb and my forefinger, learned to use the V-sign rather than the middle finger to communicate you know what, but for the life of me can’t learn to begin using the thumbs-up sign. As far as I can tell, I haven’t (unpremeditatedly) used it once so far.

Which is a pity because I really like it – not because, but the more so as it’s so British. (A friend of mine who works as a truck driver all over Western Europe once remarked, “As soon as a child is born in Britain they break its thumb…”)

 

Slàinte tha

Now it’s over I can write about it. (Although admittedly I sometimes considered writing a post titled “Is this the end?” while it lasted.)

The fact is I was ill. Not just a common cold; in addition to coughing fits and a running nose there were, at the climax (towards mid-December), two T-shirt sweated through each night, spasms in my legs in the morning and in my hands in the evening, hypotension throughout the day, constipation, that quasi loss of hearing I don’t know the English for… I don’t think I’m a hypochondriac, but this time I really often felt like giving in. In the old country I certainly would have gone on a sick leave.

Only I couldn’t. I didn’t want to lose the money and risk being told I needn’t care to come back once the illness was over. Not as long as I could go on. With the help of coffee, fags, Yorkies, some old personal clichés like “I’ve been through worse things and I’m still here” and reminding myself through how greater hardships many other people must have gone I persevered; gradually I began improving. Today I feel more or less my good old self again (touch wood).

What caused it? A combination of several factors I suppose. Lack of sleep, early getting up, the weather, improper clothing, too big/sudden changes of temperature, chronic dehydration, maybe some virus passing by… Once ill, of course, my recovery wasn’t helped by the need to pretend as best I could “business as usual”: attending at work, doing my shoppings, checking up the news, replying emails…

I even somehow managed a ramble now and then, I even occasionally blogged; the fact remains that in retrospect I can only see the better part of this December through a haze not entirely dissimilar to the one following a booze-up.

Just as I was getting back to normal I got the sack – but by now I overcame even that. I’ve no idea what the future will bring; I’m ready, both physically and mentally, to face whatever it may have up its sleeve next.

 

A’ tugsinn fileantach

Lean mi sreath ceanglaichean aig toiseach a’ mhìosa seo – rud gu math àbhaisteach air loidhne. Bho phost FnaG gu post Guthan nan Eilean gu aiste A’ Phàipeir gu bhidio YouTube.

‘S e a’ bhidio a bha annasach dhomh. Chan ann oir bha e intinneach – ‘s àbhaist dha na bhidiothan anns a tha Gordon Wells an sàs a bhith mar seo. Chan ann air sgàth a’ chuspair fhèin a bharrachd, ged a bha e inntinneach gu leòr. Ach cho fad ‘s a tha fhios agam, bha seo a’ chiad bhidio nam bheatha (1) air a dèanamh le neach-aithris (Dòmhnall MacFhionghuin) aig a tha Gàidhlig mar a’ chiad chànan agus (2) aig nach robh fo-thiotalan no tar-sgrìobhadh ach (3) a bha mi a’ tuigsinn meadhanach math a dh’aindheoin sin!

 

Trafaig rathaid – Glaschu is Budweis

Chan eil mi airson bruidhinn mu dheidhinn draibheadh air an làimh chlì agus air an làimh cheart – ged as urrainn dhomh luaidh a dhèanamh gun do dh’fhàs mi cleachdte ris an dòigh chlì, ach gun do thug e na b’ fhaide na ann an ’90 – ‘s mathaid a chionn ‘s gun robh mi na b’ òige an uairsin?

Chan eil mi airson bruidhinn mu dheidhinn solais-trafaig airson coisichean a bharrachd – ged as urrainn dhomh luaidh a dhèanamh gus fheàrr leam an dòigh Bhreatannach far a bheil solas dearg a’ ciallachadh “tha cead an rathaid aig càr ma tha fear ann” seach an dòigh Theiceach far a bheil e ag òrdachadh “stad eadhon mura bheil càr sam bi ann”.

Bu mhath leam coimeas eile a dhèanamh: luaths is nàdar. Chan eil mi nam dhràibhear fhèin; chan eil fhios agam a bheil laghannan eadar-dhealaichte ann; ach tha e gu math follaiseach fiù ‘s dhomhsa gur ann nas slaodaiche a tha a’ gluasad na càraichean ann an Glaschu na iadsan ann an Budweis. Chan ann annasach a bhith a’ faicinn càr a’ dol sa Bhudweis cho luath mar a bhiodh e air mòr-rathad. Cha chreid mi nach biodh an sealladh sin beagan annasach an-seo.

A dh’aindheoin sin (no bheil sin as coireach?), tha na draibhearan an seo fada nas socraiche. Cha dhùraiginn ri dhol thar na rathaidean Bhudweis san dòigh a tha mi a’ dèanamh gun eagal an-seo – agus nan dùraiginn, o mo chreach, am biodh na dùdaichean a’ glaodhadh!

‘S dòcha nach eil sin dìreach na coisichean is na draibhearan ge-tà. Bha duine sam bith Teiceach ris a bha mi a’ bruidhinn an-seo ag aontachadh gu bheil na h-Albannaich san fharsaingeachd gu math nas socraiche na sluagh na Teice…

 

Taigh-solais Rubha na Cloiche

O chionn mìosan, bha mi a’ sireadh dealbh taigh-solais air choireigin airson pàipear-bhalla an laptop agam. Cha do lorg mi tè a bhiodh riaraichte gu leòr.

O chionn ghoirid, nuair a bhiodh mi a’ siubhal eadar àite-còmhnaidh (Glaschu) agus àite-obrach (Guireag), bhiodh sinn uaireannan a’ dol seachad air taigh-solais Rubha na Cloiche. Chòrd e rium glè mhath. Ach nuair a choimhead mi air dealbhan Ghoogle dheth, cha b’ ann tè ann cho bòidheach ri dè a chunnaic mi bhon bhus.

‘S dòcha nach eil an dearbh mhaise dhe taighean-solais ri fhaicinn ach ma tha duine a’ gluasad mun timcheall, gam faicinn bho bharrachd taoibh na dìreach a h-aon. No an dèanadh dealbh air a togail bhon adhair a’ chùis?

 

Anxiety

Breaking news, as they say. What I had feared has happened. The online Xmas shopping fever had culminated, orders kept growing scarcer, some shifts had been shortened or cancelled, some people made redundant – and at ten o’clock this morning I was told I was among another bunch of these. No continuing after the New Year; I even finished two and a half days before the end of the contract.

I certainly didn’t break down, as this was half-expected. But it did make me depressed. Because here I am once again with some savings but no income. Moreover, living in a hostel room provided as a part of the contract just terminated. Once again my future is just one big question mark.

There are several possibilities, but basically they could be all cut down to two. Either I manage to stay here, or have to return, sooner or later, to Czech fucking Republic.

I’m anxious as the latter might easily happen. I keep repeating to myself that after all I had only meant to come here next year to begin with, that this trip was a welcome but unexpectedly early beginning of the attempt to fulfill my dream. That I could (would) try again next year, with a somewhat better starting position, already having things like a National Insurance Number, a bank account, a mobile number…

Still, going back is the last resort if everything else fails.

 

Cookbooks

My current job can be with some simplification described as finding the items people order in the store and bringing them for others to pack. This means you get some idea about which authors, films, albums &c sell better, which worse.

There are surprises too. I don’t mean the many best-selling people and things I’d never heard of before – after all, not having a TV and only listening to radio for the news, what would you expect? But I’d never believe books and films about vampires to be that popular or expect so many footballers feeling the need to publish an “autobiography”.

The biggest surprise for me though is the amount of cookbooks we sell. I’d read a lot about Britons being among the most obese nations. This is contrary to my own observations. In fact, having lived for the last two decades among South Bohemians, the average Strathclyder seems rather slim to me in comparison. (Okay, except for all those adolescent heavy-buttocked lasses.) But the number of cookbook authors and titles and the speed with which the latter are sold… anybody said anything about an economic crisis?

I know that when times get rough, people tend to spend their money mostly on things like booze, fags and food. But most of these books are no fantasy-novel paperbacks – they’re usually large, impressive-looking tomes, and I daresay they’re not being sold for peanuts either.

Or do people just like to look at the pictures of meals they’ll never be actually preparing?

 

Dath dol fodha na grèine

’S àbhaist dhomh a bhith a’ coimhead air dealbhan ùra le leughadairean BhBC gach deireadh seachdain airson na bliadhnaichean. Bhiodh e neònach dhomh dè cho tric ’s a bha dol fodha na grèine orains anns na dealbhan sin. An robh na daoine a bha a’ togail na dealbhan air rudeigin a dhèanamh leis na camarathan aca?

Bhon a thàinig mi seo, fhuair mi a-mach nach robh aca rud sam bi a dhèanamh. Eu-coltach ri far an robh mi a’ fuireach roimhe, tha dol fodha na grèine a tha orains gu math tric an-seo. Chuir e iongnadh mòr orm, ach a rèir coltais tha e fada nas trice na fear a tha dearg no ruadh!

 

A strangest kind of a tap

Needless to say, I generally prefer British alternatives to Czechoslovak ones. From the most important, “big” matters, like the ways (all) the languages sound, to details like which way the words are printed on the spine of a book.

Occasionally I found the Czechoslovak way the better of the two. Like using mixer-taps instead of one tap for cold water and one for hot. As far as I can tell, mixer-taps are already prevalent even here, but you still see the two-tap variation every now and then. In the 21st century I suspect this might be, in public places at least, an ingenious scheme of making people use less water.

But something completely beyond my comprehension is one of the taps in my current flat’s kitchen. At first sight it looks like a common mixer-tap. Only it isn’t, because it doesn’t mix. At the outlet, the hot and cold water are still separated. And chosen the right strength of flows…

I mean, what’s the point? It can’t be easier or cheaper to produce, it’s less convenient for the user – is there something I’m missing perhaps?

 

Speirs or Spiers?

I know that many, if not most, Scots words have more than one possible spelling. But my mind still revolts against the idea of this being the case even with placenames.

Also, as an outsider you are more concerned about “having it right”, knowing and using the “correct” form – which after all doesn’t apply only to language.

What troubled me recently was Speirs/Spiers Wharf. I always thought I finally got it right and then saw the other spelling. It took some time before I realized it was actually written either way.

I took the trouble of documenting it. National Cycle Network uses Spiers. Google Earth uses Speirs. Ordnance Survey, usually more reliable than Google in these things (it’s British after all) uses Spiers. Streetmap.co.uk funnily uses the OS map with Spiers for map scale 1:2500, but Speirs for 1:5000. There are also Speirs Locks Studios claiming so in large letters on Garscube Road and a plaque at the wharf itself again has Speirs.

Possibly neither of the forms is more “correct” than the other, however strange this might seem to somebody who spent most of his life where once had been the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Anyway, I found more instances of the -ei- spelling, thus henceforth I intend to use that. Still, if anyone could shed more light on the matter – well, I’m all ears.

(Btw the common usage of both variants seems to me to implicate that it’s pronounced /spi:rz/, rather than /speɪrz/ or /spaɪərz/).

 

Weegie so far

During my first month here I have come across the whole range of native speakers. There were those whom I understood just about every single word, even though some of them had a distinct Scottish accent (or what I think is one). More usually I only understood a word or two but could get the gist (or at least topic) of the sentence from these.

Most usually, however, I only understand a word or two full stop. Although it seems to me this is slowly changing to “two words or three” and at least seeing what the topic is. (Of course, at the end of the day we do get to the gist if we need to; I’m talking here also about situations when I just listen to somebody, as opposed to having a direct conversation with them.)

I’m learning. For example, I already know that [ʍɔʔ] is what. I’m getting used to hearing, say, [o:] instead of [əu] (as in [to:t] for tote). I had been using “hiya” and “cheers” myself since last year’s visit; today “nae bother” and “are you okay?” are at least a part of my passive vocabulary. And so forth.

But some folk remain simply incomprehensible to me. Like a guy the other day who seemingly used ten vowels for each consonant – and ten glottal stops for each vowel…

 

Snow

One and a half weeks ago I have in Gourock for the first time seen a snow-cap on a distant Scotland’s mountain with my own eyes, rather than on a photograph. Last week’s floods meant I only got to my afternoon shift when it was already half gone. I eventually fully realized that the BBC weather news are directly relevant to me. That I’m no longer reading about something happening far away, but about something I can sometimes see from my very window.

Yesternight the Firhill Road was frozen – returning from my pre-bed outdoors fag I saw a taxi skid about-face and into the opposite lane. And waking up today, the snow was here. My first Scottish snow. From the central European point of view, a mediocre winter snowfall. Here it meant amber warning from the Met Office and my bus from work taking half an hour longer journey.

Still, I enjoy it, as one enjoys every such new experience when it eventually happens somewhere he likes. It may become a bother later on; so far I enjoy it as a child or a teenager would.

The snow even looks whiter than where I come from, but that’s no doubt just my state of mind.

 

Naidheachdan na Samhna ’11

Ged nach urrainn dhomh àm cho fada ’s a b’ àbhaist dhomh a chur seachad air an Eadar-lìon, bidh mi a’ tadhal air na h-àiteachan naidheachd fàbharach agam gach latha airson greis. Mar sin, mhothaich mi:

– gun deach an duais “Dalm-bheachdaiche na bliadhna” aig Stonewall UK gu Melanie Phillips (chì sibh, ma leughas sibh an “leisgeul” airson na h-aiste aice, nach tuig i dè tha “double standards” a’ ciallachadh. ’S dòcha ge-tà gum bu chòir an duais a dhol ri Alan “Gaystapo” Craig, duine eile a tha ag ràdh gum bu chòir dha Crìostaidhean a bhith os cionn laghannan airson nan saoranaich eile)

– gun tug an Àrd-Chùirt breith gu bheil buinteanas eadar an Eaglais Caitligeach agus a sagartan coltach ris an fhear eadar fastaiche is cosnaiche (tha gun teagamh – nach eil an Eaglais gam pàigheadh airson na h-òrduighean aice a choileanadh?)

– gun canar do dh’oileanaich ghèidh ann an Sheffield Hallam University gum bu chòir dhaibh aodaich atharrachadh ro leasanan foghlam corporra ann an àiteachan eadar-dhealaichte ri oileanaich dhìreach (carson nach canar? fhad ‘s nach eil aca sin a dhèanamh còmhla ri ban-oileanaich…)

– gun robh am Pàpa anabarrach feargach nuair a dh’fhoillseachadh Benetton sanas-reic le dealbh air a tha esan agus imam air choireigin a’ pògadh a chèile (chan e iongnadh a tha ann – nach eil pòg samhla gràidh agus an duine sin samhla gràine?)

– deagh aiste le Michael Lucas mu dheidhinn buaidh rèabhlaidean Arabach agus an “Earraich Arabaich” am bliadhna air gèidhean (a rèir coltais, tha an aon eagal airsan a tha agamsa; gu neònach, tha daoine ann dha nach urrainn faicinn gun robh saighdearan an Iar a’ sabaid ann an Libya a’ cuideachadh an aon feallsanachd an aghaidh a bha iad a’ sabaid ann an Afghanistan)

– aiste a rèir coltais fàbharach dha òigrigh. A rèir coltais, oir dhìochuimhnich an t-ùghdar gum biodh toradh air cuid dhe na tha e a’ tairgsinn bàrrachd dhaoine nas sine na còigead bliadhna gun obair. Rud a thig leis a’ ghaoith, falbhaidh e leis an uisge – no bheil, aig aois ceathrad ‘s a trì, claon-bhreith agam?

– gun do cheannaich Comhairle Shruighlea fichead crann-sneachda airson tuathanaich gus cuideachadh le glanadh rathaidean a gheamhradh (eisimpleir glè mhath cho-obrachaidh eadar ùghdarras ionadail agus daoine an àite nam bheachd-sa)

– gu bheil companaidhean ann a bhios a’ pàigheadh dhaoine airson tòrr luaidhean math a dhèanamh mun deidhinn aig fòraman an Eadar-lìn (agus “a’ bleith earbsa an Lìn” – uill, chan eil mi cinnteach, ‘s ann cho follaiseach gur e spama a tha anns na h-eisimpleirean a thog an aiste…)

– gun do bhuannaich am Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta Shealainn Nuadh taghadh a-rithist (“gu ìre oir bhuannaich na h-All Blacks Cuach na Cruinne Rugbaidh” – cò a tha craicte, taghadairean Shealainn Nuadh no ùghdar na h-aiste?)

– gu bheil an Riaghaltas ag iarraidh gum biodh an A9 dùbailte eadar Inbhir Nis is Peart ro 2025 (ged a tha M8 nas chudromaiche dhomhsa an-diugh, bha A9 a’ chiad rathad na h-Alba a b’ urrainn dhomh ainmeachadh)

Ach cha b’ fheum agam air naidheachdan airson mothachadh gun robh tuiltean ann aig deireadh a’ mhìosa – chaidh am bus dhan obair agam ceithir uairean na b’ anmoiche Dimàirt. Seo a’ chiad àm a b’ urrainn dhomh a’ cheist aig a’ BhBC “Have you been affected by …?” fhreagairt le “Tha gu dearbh”…

 

Three Scottish books

My love for the Anglophone world is to a great deal based on the fact that I spent a huge amount of my childhood time reading, and that a great proportion of the books I read were translations from English.

Oddly though, not by Scottish authors. As far as I remember, the only book written by a Scot whose translation I read before coming of age was Kidnapped, to be followed by A Scots Quair when I was already in my mid-twenties. (In the meantime I tried Waverley but was only able to finish it at a third attempt several years later.)

Later on I read more from Stevenson and Scott and added to the authors I had read James Hogg, Compton Mackenzie, Robert Burns, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin, and after getting online also John Galt, George Douglas Brown and Lisa Storey. Not such a big deal. (At least I gradually began reading the originals.)

So it surprised me when I realized, shortly before moving to Scotland, that among the books I had been reading during the latest two moths in Bohemia, one was a Gaelic anthology, two were Scottish novels and one a Scotsman’s autobiography.

Norman Maclean: The Leper’s Bell: The Autobiography of a Changeling

Maclean’s autobiography was naturally quite interesting for me: memoirs of a booze addict can hardly be uninteresting to another, who constantly finds himself comparing the author’s experience with his own. It’s fascinating how similar to your life some of those things you read about are – and how unsimilar are others. I have to admit though that as a more or less celibate gay I was rather bored by the passages where Maclean describes his (straight, needless to say) sexual exploits. All the same, there are more really good quotations than the three I wrote down:

What was I looking for? Happiness? I knew that rarely lasted. Diversion, maybe – diversion from the ineluctable depressing facts: there is death, disease, impotence and dementia ahead.

I have a certain level of self-awareness, and I am now candid about my chances of ever growing up and behaving in an assertive manner. If there’s an easy way of dealing with a problem, that’s the one I’ll take.

When drinking I always wanted to get to the line without going across, and then, some hours later, I’d look back and see that the line was a mile behind me.

James Kelman: Kieron Smith, boy

I also have to admit that I was unable to even finish Kelman’s book. I could possibly withstand the fact that the main character is totally unlikeable – in fact, I found him in many respects quite similar to myself in that age. I could possibly even withstand the fact that the author paints Glasgow as the most bigoted city in the world, inhabited exlusively by two-figure-IQ folk. But I couldn’t stand the fact that although there were some indications that the anti-hero is growing older during his narrative, his mentality seemed to stagnate at the same point and keep revolving on the same spot. Talk about repetitiveness! (I’ve no idea what Widsith liked about it.)

Iain Banks: The Crow Road

And finally there was Banks. After Kelman I was a bit anxious about this one (the main character’s name Prentice wrongly suggested to me he would be about as old as Kieron Smith), but I did enjoy it – in fact it was one of the books I have read through in the shortest time during the last few years. Banks even managed to avoid letting the relationship between the hero and his female friend slip into that kind of cloying romantic finale by which Charles Dickens spoiled his David Copperfield. Anyway, let me finish by the quotation I wrote down from Banks:

People can be teachers and idiots; they can be philosophers and idiots; they can be politicians and idiots . . . in fact I think they have to be . . . a genius can be an idiot. The world is largely run for and by idiots; it is no great handicap in life and in certain areas is actually a distinct advantage and even a prerequisite for advancement.
 

(First published on Blogger in November or December ’11.)

 

As dèidh a’ chiad mhìos

B’ e Là Naomh Anndra an-diugh, agus tha mi air a bhith an-seo ceithir seachdainean a-nochd. Nas motha na rè nan trì tursan roimhe seo uile gu lèir.

The initial tourist-like phase is over and I’m beginning to try and settle down. Tha mi ag obair, tha Àireamh Àrachais Nàiseanta agam, agus criomagan mar cairtean leabhar-linn is Tesco. Cuideachd, tha mi airson SIM (i.e. àireamh fòn Breatannach) a cheannach a-màireach agus tha coinneamh agam ann am banca mu dheidhinn current account Diluain. Agus mar sin sìos.

True, I’m still having less chance to talk in English than in Czech, hardly understand Scots so far agus cha robh còmhradh sam bith agam sa Ghàidhlig fhathast. But that’s how I expected the beginning would be. True, I’m constantly in arrears with things I want to see/check/read/do on the Net, will have to cut on adding new bookmarks/tasks/ideas even more. But I didn’t come here to be spending all my life between work, bed and the Net, as I was doing in the old country. And I am gradually getting accustomed to the life here. The real one, not the one for tourists – and that’s what I was after.

Anyway, ceum air ceum, tha mi a’ faighinn nas fhaisge air an amas agam. Mar as àbhaist dhomh a ràdh, le foighdinn, misneach agus fortan…