Mission accomplished

Carson nach ceannaich mi dà bhliadhna eile? Leis an fhìrinn innse, cha robh dùil agam idir gun cuirinn seachad uiread de thìde oirre. Aig toiseach-tòiseachaidh, bha mi dìreach ag iarraidh àite leis an iar-leasachan .co.uk far am bi duilleag “mu mo dheidhinn” (agus ceangal dhan duilleag seo a-mhàin air a h-uile “duilleag chleachdaiche” eile agam), seòladh puist-dealain anns nach biodh na litrichean .cz, agus ma dh’fhaoidte dhà no trì blogaichean gach mìos.

An àite sin, sgrìobh mi mu chòig ceud blogaichean anns an dà bhliadhna, agus ged a chòrd e rium glan, tha mi a’ faireachdainn gun tuirt mi cha mhòr ach gach rud cudromach. ‘S fheàrr leam blogaichean goirid agus gu math tearc mar am fear seo a sgrìobhadh a-nis; chan fheum mi làrach-lìn phearsanta air an son. Rè na h-ùine seo, fhuair mi a-mach gu bheil Gmail saor an-asgaidh, agus tha seòlaidhean .com agam an-dràsta. Co-dhiù, chan eil fhios ‘am dè cho tric a thèid agam air a bhith air an Eadar-lìon sna bliadhnaichean ri teachd.

Gu goirid, chan eil mi duilich idir gun do cheannaich mi an àrainn-lìn agus an òstaireachd-lìn, ach cha b’ fhiach dhomh dà bhliadhna eile a cheannach. Mheal mi an t-àm gu dearbh, ach chaidh an suidheachadh agam atharrachadh.

(Originally posted on Blogger, 9 Jul 11, titled ‘Deireadh na làraich agam’. Reposted as ‘Mission accomplished’, 4 Aug 11, as the very last post on my own website.)



Monty Python

To tell the truth, I’m not certain how I first became aware of them. I suspect it was by going to a cinema to see Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but I wouldn’t swear to it. (I would swear to not having known how cultish both Monty Python and the Life of Brian were though.) What is certain is the fact that when they began broadcasting their old TV programmes in this country, I was living in a gaff unequipped with a TV. For all I know, they may have broadcast the whole four series; I only saw two or three programmes when visiting my parents. But I loved them. It was exactly my kind of humour.

Later I have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Brian (one of the best films of all times as far as I’m concerned) for a second time, but oddly I had read the screenplay of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life before seeing it. (Amazing how Every Sperm is Sacred, which in the book seemed should be just embarrasing, turned out to be one of the best parts of the film itself.)

Similarly, I had read the screenplays of the TV series and even Monty Python speaks! before I saw more of the programmes. I fell in love with the famous phrase “And now for something completely different” through reading, rather than hearing it. I could appreciate the verbal humour of the dead parrot sketch but had no idea what the “silly walk” looked like. And so on.

And then I came online and discovered not only YouTube, where of course there are a lot of their sketches, including those at their official YT page, but also their own fansite. In fact, I created one of my first Web accounts, maybe the very first save for email addresses, at the latter. Anyway, I spent hours browsing their sketches.

Only trouble was, several years have passed since I had read the screenplays, in translation for that matter, and I pretty often didn’t understand their English. So last year I bought the book and read it again, in the original this time. I was especially glad to find the words of what I consider the funniest bit of all the TV series.

Cut to BBC World symbol.

Voice Over (MICHAEL): Well, it’s five past nine and nearly time for six past nine. On BBC 2 now it’ll shortly be six and a half minutes past nine. Later on this evening it’ll be ten o’clock and at 10.30 we’ll be joining BBC 2 in time for 10.33, and don’t forget tomorrow when it’ll be 9.20. Those of you who missed 8.45 on Friday will be able to see it again this Friday at a quarter to nine. Now here is a time check. It’s six and a half minutes to the big green thing.

Naturally, I also tried to find as much of each programme as I could and watch it with the “reference” in my hands. I spent several pleasant hours like that again. I even came across some uploads with subtitles, making it easier and thus even more enjoyable.

Let me finish with a link to an upload of the only one of the two or three programmes I saw all those years ago on TV I still remembered having seen – because of two things I have never forgotten: the final reading scene and one of my other favourite sketches, “rival documentaries”. Its beginning on the hill is one of the many priceless Monty Python sequences.



Bracklinn Falls Bridge awarded

The new, 20-tonne, wood-and-copper bridge across the 20m Bracklin Falls gorge, which had to be hauled into place by hand last year to replace a steel one washed away in 2004 by floods, was awarded at the International Footbridge Awards.
BBC: Bracklinn Falls Bridge wins international award
I have often posted some news here because I wanted to let off the steam generated by something or other which annoyed me about the particular affair; yet it was more pleasure to now and then report something good has happpened. Like this time.


The word ‘homosexual’ banned for Scottish civil servants

A new guidance for civil servants from the Scottish Government says that they should not use the the word ‘homosexual’, claiming it is offensive to many people, and that they should use ‘straight’ instead of ‘heterosexual’, as the latter can allegedly cause confusion. The Campaign Against Political Correctness criticises the move as ‘mumbo-jumbo completely counterproductive to good community relations’, Stonewall Scotland supports it.
PinkNews: Scottish civil servants banned from saying ‘homosexual’
I’m somewhat torn on this. Personally I have no problem with the word ‘homosexual’, but I remember that around my coming-out time it had an unpleasant undertone (as if it implied some condition or disease) for me as well. Still, publishing such guidance seems to me a bit like saying it’s not acceptable to say ‘adolescent’ because it implies immaturity.
On the other hand, I’m not torn about ‘heterosexual’. How it can possibly cause more confusion than ‘straight’ is simply beyond my imagination. I don’t know what they’re talking about.
It might be interesting to find out what people say in their comments, but I made it a rule to only read comments in very exceptional cases when there are more than 8 of them. No case can be exceptional enough for me to even skim through (at the moment) 193.


Rudyard Kipling: If—

I’ve already mentioned and repeated it: despite being a lifelong bookworm I’m not much interested in poetry, although I do care about songs’ lyrics. Still, there are a few poems I find to my liking.

I discovered If— in high school: it was one of the texts in our English reader. Being sixteen or seventeen I was less cynical than now, which is possibly why I was also more impressionable when it came to poetry. Anyway, I fell for this one as much as to write it on an A4 sheet of blank paper (with a dip pen to make it look more ancient, if I remember correctly) and stuck it on a wardrobe over the head of my bed. In fact, this was the only decorating of my teenage room I ever did. (The others were done by my mother according to her ideas of how a room should look; I accepted it was she who paid the rent.) I even learned it by heart.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

In my second year at the Tech, waiting at the ‘terminal room’ for a file I had done as a school task to be saved by the cetral computer (which was only able to process one terminal at a time, so after giving the command ‘Save’ you usually went for a fag or two and then returned and if you were lucky you only waited another half-hour or so… remember the punched tape times?) time hung heavy on my hands. To kill it I typed the poem, printed it (for some reason this could be done without waiting) and back at the hostel stuck it on the wall above my bed. (I had already put several other items myself there.) And although I was allotted a different room each following year, this sheet of continuous paper was one those things I always hung up again.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

In all those digs I lived in after the Tech I usually only decorated my walls, if at all, with a 1:500,000 Ordnance Survey map of Scotland and about as large a Saltire flag. But I didn’t forget the poem. When I was given the task of reciting something as a sort of penalty three years ago, I took my revenge by using this longish (and in the situation foreign-language) text. It amazed me I could still recollect it whole. Reading it again last year in Wikisource I discovered I had a few words wrong and a quatrain or two in a wrong place, but then, I remember Paul McCartney disclosing in one interview that occasionally the audience knows the words of his own old songs better than him.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

Of course, the poem has no longer the same appeal to me as it had in my teens. It’s a wee bit too pompous for today’s cynical me. There are even a few lines I completely disagree with, like “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you” – the way I see it this can only be true when you have no friends. Even so, more than a half of it still speaks to my heart (like the two lines before or the one after that just quoted); a few lines have even gained new importance with some things which had happened in my thirties. So I guess I won’t forget it for quite a few years yet.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

(By the way, the 1968 film is, except perhaps for the boring ‘motorbike’ scene, among of my favourite ones as well.)


Three years on the Net

Funny how time flies. I can still remember my first timid and clumsy moments on the Net as if they have happened yesterday, while in reality a fortnight ago I have been online for three years. And been there a lot.

Not having as yet entirely discarded my first Net identity at the time, I wrote a rather longish detailed evaluation of the first year under its LiveJournal account. The second year I already tried to briefly evaluate here in this post.

Which important changes have happened during this third year? On the negative side, those once so frequent emails with Lùc and Dànaidh have all but stopped. On the positive side, I’ve got access to BBC Alba’s TV. And whether for good or for bad, my Wiki activity shifted from from en-wikt to the ‘pedia; my blogging one began to move from this site to Blogger; and just as Firefox replaced Explorer as my primary browser in the first year, Opera replaced Firefox in the third.

I also created a Flickr account; two websites which I should have already possibly mentioned the last time round are LibraryThing and Ordnance Survey.

My expectations concerning the fourth year? Well, I’d like to spend a wee bit more time reading books again, as opposed to sitting at my laptop, but unless I’m much mistaken, this has been my near-future intention ever since I had only been on the Net for a few months, and so far it never worked. The geese will tell in the autumn, as the Gaelic proverb has it… Anyway, a more important question is whether I’ll succeed in fulfilling the Dunkeld Vow next year: if I will, my situation Net-wise, whatever it will be, will certainly be dramatically different from the current one.


New York gay marriages

Almost two years after Vermont’s becoming the fifth US state to legalize gay marriages, the State of New York has become the sixth (and currently the most populous one), the law coming into effect on 24 June.
BBC: New York state approves gay marriage
PinkNews: New York register offices to open on a Sunday for gay weddings
Let’s hope some new Proposition 8 story won’t follow the one dragging on since November 2008 in California…


Edinburgh trams project to go on

Edinburgh council decided that the infamous over-budget and behind-schedule trams project will go on with the line funded as far as St Andrew Square with the cost rising to £770,000,000.
BBC: Edinburgh trams: Councillors vote to continue project
A funny moment happened when council leader Jenny Dawe described the ongoing problems with the project as ‘a small glitch‘. Now my first job, which lasted seven years, was related to a project which was also funded out of taxpayer’s money and I know only too well how rarely such projects don’t end up later and at a greater cost than initially promised. We are so used to this that when a project’s cost is first estimated at £177m, when awarding the contract at £445m, and four months later (contract safely signed) at £692, the investor doesn’t mind saying after completion that it has finished “between £15m and £20m under budget” – under the nearly seven, not the four and a half million of course. (I’m talking the newly opened M74 extension through Glasgow.) But these miracles do happen and some projects do finish before term and under budget, for example the renovation of Aberdeen’s Marischal College. But then, the Aberdeen works obviously were not executed by Bilfinger Berger/Siemens and CAF under the supervision of tie for an investor represented by Ms Dawe…


Two looks at modesty

Two Cal Merc articles in the recent months met with no response, possibly because they went against the tide, but not in an easily dismissable way. I liked them both.

The first one, by John McKie, describes his having lived for five days on five quid only, taking part in a fundraising campaign trying to make people in the ‘Global North’ understand what extreme poverty means. No, I’m not going to talk here about the campaign overlooking the fact that £1 has a different real value in the UK and in Nicaragua. I agree that even so we don’t know we’re born. I was interested in the author’s experience for a personal reason, having once had to live on about as little – but for a few months, because I simply didn’t have the money. We dealt with the details differently (for example, I wouldn’t consider wasting money on pepper), but the principles expressed did ring familiar to me. Including the paragraph which says “Then you remember you have your central heating, running water and secure accommodation to console you – and, in five days’ time, a slap-up meal waiting for you. That in itself presents plenty of choices, a luxury many others do not enjoy.” I lived on dry bread for a month (the second month I could already buy mustard to spread on it, and an instant noodle soup for a ‘festive’ Sunday dinner) – but that was after having paid most of my income for the rent and debt instalments.

The second one, by John Knox, argues that a lower rate of economic growth need not in itself be anything bad. India’s rate of 10% compared with Norway’s 0.4% doesn’t mean that India will soon be as good a place to live in. And he mentions that a high rate is bad for the environment and consequently unsustainable without ultimately destroying this planet. This is also something I can agree with. I never believed that the principle of transformation of quantity into quality can be applied to sociology, although both socialist and capitalist promoters of consumerism try their best to lead us that way. Once again, I’m convinced we’re better off than we’re ready to accept, and the constant whingeing about how hard these times are only shows we are blind to the bigger picture – and ready to succumb to the ‘après moi le déluge’ philosophy.



Following ICANN’s vote to allow several more new website domain suffixes (or top-level domains, or TLDs), Dot Scot Registry stated they would apply for the creation of a .scot domain, a move supported by the Scottish government.
BBC: Scottish internet domain name bid launched
I naturally hope they’ll suceed; pity though they were beaten to a two-letter suffix by Seychelles, just like Scots was beaten to a two-letter ISO 639 by Sardinian.



With my sympathies torn between the Lib Dems and the SNP, I was naturally fairly disgusted by Michael Moore’s suggestion two weeks ago that if there was a successful independence referendum, there would have to follow a second, UK-wide one.

Not that the argument that a possible split would also affect the English, Welsh and Northern Irish, thus entitling them to also vote on the matter, seems ludicrous to me. I don’t hold that opinion, but accept it as a legitimate viewpoint. But if you want them to vote as well, let them vote immediately. (Mr Moore’s proposal resembles the Lisbon treaty affair: let the people vote until one day they vote the way we want them to, and then stick to that result. If the truth be told, I suspect Mr Moore doesn’t mean that proposal seriously and is just playing some political game here.)

That said, Stewart Kirkpatrick’s reaction in the Caledonian Mercury didn’t take me aback by how venomous it was, but by a question of vocabulary. At one moment he says ‘There’s been a lot of tosh from “constitutional experts” about this. As the UK constitution does not exist, I’m not quite sure what these people are experts in.’ Now, I always thought that the perception of a constitution as a single coherent document was particular to languages spoken in countries which had such a book, and that English allowed for a broader meaning. So I did some research.

Wikipedia states that ‘A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is. When these principles are written down into a single or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to comprise a written constitution.’ Wiktionary gets away with ‘The formal or informal system of primary principles and laws that regulates a government or other institutions.’ Dictionary of the Scots Language doesn’t mention the word in this sense at all, and some of the results in both the British National Corpus and the Scottish Corpus of Text and Speech seem to underline the possibility of a broader meaning.

Finally, the most renowned dictionary we have, the Oxford English Dictionary, has the following definition and explanation: ‘The system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed.This may be embodied in successive concessions on the part of the sovereign power, implied in long accepted statutes, or established gradually by precedent, as in the British Constitution; or it may be formally set forth in a document framed and adopted on a particular occasion by the various orders or members of the commonwealth, or their representatives, as in the Constitution of the United States, the various Constitutions of France after 1790, and those of other nations, framed in imitation of these. In the case of a written Constitution, the name is sometimes applied to the document embodying it. In either case it is assumed or specifically provided that the constitution is more fundamental than any particular law, and contains the principles with which all legislation must be in harmony.’

So please, Mr Kirkpatrick, if you want to claim that a UK constitution doesn’t exist, say so in Czech or some other such language in which it would hold true. There are enough English, Scots and Gaelic words whose precise usage possibilities I’m not entirely sure of as it is, I can do without your confusing me even more…


Everything flows

Allegedly, there are people whose mindsets were firmly established during childhood and adolescence and who never question, let alone alter their basic beliefs. Nevertheless, I suppose that most of us at least experience doubts sometimes, and occasionally even change our viewpoints. Willingness to reassess one’s opinions is a very cynical and therefore commendable quality. You don’t have to necessarily change your mind one iota; you shouldn’t rigidly stick to anything out of sheer laziness of thought or fear of being seen as unprincipled. After all, the circumstances of our lives are in flux as well.

This affects all parts of one’s life. One’s allegiances, even national ones: I’m one of those who changed theirs. One’s traits: whether for good or for bad, my attitudes and behaviour are growing firmer in some areas and more relaxed in others. One’s perception of one’s personal history: the way I evaluate the importance of particular people in my life keeps changing in time as well.

The day before yesterday, M.o.t.W. turned forty-three; yesterday, it was a quarter of a century since I have first met Falcon. For years I perceived them as two of the four most important guys I have met; recently I reflected upon this rather deeply and concluded that however important the former may have been in a certain period, later came a few like Jockie who were, although for different reasons, as important; while in the context of my whole life the other three became more so. Sure, I’m somewhat growing away from them as well: that’s a part of the ongoing growing away from this country. And, relatedly…

It seems that in late summer a reunion of our Tech year will take place again after a decade. While I still consider the five years I spent there as both the happiest and the most formative time of my life, I’m no longer so fixed on them as to hardly care about future. I look forward to seeing my former friends a lot; last year I looked forward to revisiting Scotland more. I no longer just wait what tomorrow may or may not bring, reminiscing about the good old days; without fooling myself into thinking that I can ever see their match, I spend more time planning my future.

I daresay not all change is for the worse.


Possible Kirk split over gay clergy

After its General Assembly’s vote to accept gay clergy ordained before 2009 and allow possible future selection of gay and lesbian ministers, a Highland minister and an Aberdeen church are expected to be the first to leave the Kirk in reaction.
BBC: Church of Scotland votes on gay ministers / PinkNews: Church of Scotland ends moratorium on gay ministers
BBC: Glenelg and Kintail minister to quit over gay issue / PinkNews: Scottish minister resigns over gay clergy
BBC: Aberdeen church could ‘break away’ over gay ministers / PinkNews: Scottish church may break away over gay ministers
Of course, as the final decision on the issue of gay ordination will not be reached before 2013, these acts should be seen as preparatory warnings, like the 20% Kirk members claiming to leave if it was agreed that gay ministers can be ordained and the 10% stating they would leave if the Kirk ruled they could not. We will not know what happens until that final decision is actually taken.

ETA, 6/7/11: Up till now we know that the Stornoway High Church took a vote in which 74% supported parting from the Kirk, but as the Session had set a minimum of 80% to be decisive for leaving, this particular congregation stays in, with its moderator claiming that they don’t intend to look into the matter again.
BBC: Chan fhàg Àrd Eaglais Steòrnabhaigh Eaglais na h-Alba


June snow in Wales

Despite the approaching summer solstice and the drought conditions in some parts of the UK, there was sleet, hail and even snow at the Snowdon Mountain Railway’s terminus last Friday.
BBC: Summer snow falls on summit of Snowdon
I have to admit, however, that although the news is interesting, I might not have posted about it if I didn’t have a strange feeling from still not having published, more than one and a half years since having launched this website, a single Wales-related post.
To make up for this I also looked up the Welsh word for snow, which is eira, apparently pronounced [əira], and the Welsh name of Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, pronounced [əɾ ˈwɪðva].


New Town Bar, Edinburgh

Rob, Fraser, you won’t believe this. But it actually happened.

After strolling Edinburgh for several hours of a hot August day last year I was naturally somewhat thirsty. Seeing an attractive-looking beer garden I didn’t hesitate much. Incidentally, what I mean by attractive-looking is this: already in the afternoon shade; located in a rather quiet street (especially for the festival season); with two tables only, and only one guy at one of these, reading a newspaper; with ashtrays on the table signifying smoking was not frowned upon there; and the Scottish flag flying at the entrance.

I entered and ordered a pint of Tennent’s. While waiting for it to be drawn I had a slightly unpleasant feeling of something in the mood of the place, something that I had once been well acquainted with but couldn’t put my finger on now, which moreover felt as being somehow connected with me. Anyway, I got my pint, took it to the other outside table, opened my Guardian copy and began browsing it; however, half of my mind was still trying to pin down the feeling.

Something was very slowly emerging from my subconscious: the fact that I was probably still inside the so-called Edinburgh ‘pink triangle’. Hey, the way one of the barmen touched the other one to let him pass did seem a bit… could it be that they were a couple? could it even be that…? And then something caught the corner of my eye. I raised my head and the bomshell exploded, for what I saw was this.

Can you imagine somebody who’s gay, out for some two decades, but who’s never been to any ‘gay’ pub or bar or club or anything, and who eventually strays into one unwittingly, despite the place’s being adorned with several rainbow flags? Still, I assure you that prior to that I had only noticed this one, although the others were certainly at least as prominent.

(I then also realized what the feeling was: it was the sensation you get when you walk inside some pub whose clientele consists to a great degree of regulars that immediately begin to assess who this stranger might be.)

Anyway, amazed at my blindness, poor observation ability or just stupidity, call it what you like, I drank my pint, smoked a fag or two and continued my Edinburgh stroll, invigorated both in body and mind. Pondering that intentionally or not, it’s quite fitting that I should have made my first visit to this kind of place in Scotland…


Quote: Bob Dylan

Some people – you’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.

(CBS interview with Ed Bradley)

As far as I can tell, the vast majority of people use Internet nicks, rather than real-life names. Reasons for this might be various, with anonymity possibly the primary one. For me, there’s one even more important: I hate my real-life name. The forename has no cognate in any other language and features a phone which occurs neither in English, Scots, nor Gaelic. The surname has sound combinations unknown in these languages – and a letter you can only type on an English keyboard using HTML or Unicode. So in addition to my Thrissel nick I also use the ‘substitute’ full name of Keith Robertson.

Why don’t I change my real-life name? Would that I could. This is not the land of the free. You’re only allowed to do that if you convince a registrar that your current one poses a great problem to you, for example if it strongly resembles a taboo word. But even then the decision isn’t up to you, it’s up to the official.


Blas na Gàidhlig

I have to admit that for some time I hesitated before buying this book. £35 did seem fairly expensive for me, especially as at the time when it came out I was unemployed. Nevertheless, knowing the author both through some of his previous work like this website and from some conversations we had in Fòram na Gàidhlig and in Wikipedias, I eventually decided to go for it – and I’m mighty glad I did.

The book is divided into four parts and appendices. Part 1 is basically a brief treatise on the importance of acquiring good pronunciation for a learner of a language in general and for a learner of Scottish Gaelic in particular. After all, when talking about Jock in Gaelic you should talk about Seoc, not about a shock. Thus, Part 2 decribes all Gaelic vowels and consonants – that is to say, the sounds, as opposed to the letters. When these appear in English and/or Scots as well, you are told in which words; when they don’t, there are usually given two or three ways of how to achieve them. To make this part more digestible, there are a few pieces of trivia scattered around, all of them related to the main text. More importantly, the words also appear in some 450MB of sound files, freely downloadable here – as do the words from the following two parts.

Part 3 explains how these sound interact with each other. This includes both phenomenons known in English as well, for example diphthongs, intonation, word stress, stress in a sentence or sounds disappearing in fast speech, and those particular to Gaelic like single and jumping lenition, slenderization/palatalization, preaspiration or final devoicing. Part 4 then looks at how these sound are put into the Gaelic spelling system and gives some general rules and hints.

The two most important appendices are the Wordlist, a sixty-three-page dictionary of the most usual words with pronunciation given not only for the basic forms, but also for genitives and plurals, comparatives, verbal nouns &c, including more detailed tables for irregular verbs. The other is a Guide to Reading Gaelic, about 250 rules following which you can, going letter by letter, ‘reconstruct’ the pronunciation of any Gaelic word from the way it’s written (apart from exceptions proving the rules, but the most common of the few are listed before the Wordlist).

The book isn’t larded with specialist terms, while explaining and making good use of those which are unextricably associated with Gaelic. Thanks to the sound files you are left in no doubt about how should a particular phonetic transcription really sound. Enjoyable without losing anything of its informativeness, I should especially recommend it to everybody who studies Gaelic without the possibility of being in a regular contact with a native speaker always at the ready to point out the mistakes a learner will inevitably do.

One warning, though: if your native language isn’t English, brace yourself for finding out about a thing or two you’re doing bad in that language as well.


Gleann na h-ioma-chomhairle – fhathast

Air an ochdamh latha dhen Chèitean sgrìobh mi an-seo nach robh fhios agam an robh mi airson m’ obair ùr a chumail.

Air an fhicheadamh latha – eadar dà sgeul, co-là breith Sheòrais, am fear mu dheireadh air an do ghabh mi gaol – thachair sin còrr is trì bliadhna air ais, agus cha chuala mi bhuaithe còrr is a dhà – ach tha mi a’ dol a thaobh. Air an fhicheadamh latha dhen Chèitean, cho-dhùin mi gum fanainn airson dà sheachdain eile (nan tòisichinn mìos ùr ann, bhiodh aca air m’ àrachas slàinte a’ mhìosa a phàigheadh) agus dh’fhàgainn. Bu bheag orm dòigh na h-obrach na bu mhotha a h-uile latha.

Ge-tà, bha mi ag obair cuide ri daoine eile an seachdain seo – daoine as fheàrr (coltach riumsa) a bhith ag obair gu slaodach ach gu cunbhalach. Agus fhuair mi pàiper a chur iongnadh mòr orm. Tha e coltach gun do thòisich a’ chompanaidh cuid math de dh’airgid a bharrachd air pàigheadh do iad sin a tha a’ fuireach aig àiteachan cèine. On a tha an seòladh oifigeil agam 165 mìle à seo (aig comhairle a’ bhaile anns an àite anns an rugadh mi – gu h-oifigeach ‘s e duine gun dachaigh a tha annamsa, ach tha mi a’ dol a thaobh a-rithist), tha mi nam measg. Mar sin, chan eil mi cinnteach an ceartuair nach b’ fhiach dhomh fantainn, co-dhiù fantainn greis na b’ fhaide.

Ach tha eagal orm gum bi mi ag obair còmhla ris na daoine ris a bha mi ag obair bho thùs a-rithist an-ath-sheachdain, agus tha amharas a’ fàs orm cuideach gu bheil an obair fhèin ro dhona do mo shùilean. ‘S dòcha gum fàg mi mar a bha mi air cho-dhùnadh cheana…


New Government and new Lib Dem leader

Alex Salmond has named his new cabinet and junior ministers team (each with more members than its predecessor); Scottish Liberal Democrats have appointed Willie Rennie as their new leader and he announced his shadow team.
BBC: At-a-glance: Scottish government cabinet
BBC: Salmond completes SNP majority government
WP: Government of the 4th Scottish Parliament
BBC: Willie Rennie named new Scottish Lib Dem leader
BBC: Scottish Liberal Democrat portfolios announced

No sweeping changes in the cabinet as Sturgeon, Swinney, Russell, MacAskill and Lochhead keep their posts (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?); the most interesting innovation for me is the announcement of Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) as the minister for learning and skills ‘with responsibility for Gaelic and Scots’.*

Having seen Rennie on Newsnight the other day and read some of his statements in BBC articles I was far from impressed; I liked Tavish Scott much better. (Tavish Scott before the UK coalition government anyway.) But I daresay that after the Clegg-induced Holyrood outcome he had no choice but to step down. And distributing ‘portfolios’ among a team of five seems fairly funny, though perhaps it’s just about politicians and/or newspapermen unable to shed their lingo.

* ETA – it’s amusing to see the Scots Language Centre website consequently style him ‘the Minister for Scots’.



Noise is one of my pet hates. Nay, the top of my list of pet hates. Nay, it passes even that.

I have already referred to it in passing in connection with midges, being a townee and cover versions or reporting on whales. Sooner or later I naturally intended to write a proper blog about it, pouring out the frustration from the strain it puts on my life. I really can’t fall asleep when I hear a TV playing unless I’m quite knackered, fully concentrate on a pub conversation when a jukebox plays and so forth and so forth. (Funny thing, it’s not the volume but the kind of noise that decides how much unbearable it is. I definitely can fall asleep in a room overlooking a street with high traffic; turn on a radio, ever so low, and I’m in trouble.)

Incidentally, this is also the reason why this blog about the counter-productivity of using genuine telephone recordings, street noise and similar things for learning a foreign language had little appeal to me. Nìall Beag states: ‘In a real-life situation, we can filter out street noise quite effectively.‘ Well, I’m afraid I usually can’t. In whatever language, my input into a street conversation consists largely of repeating the word ‘Pardon?’

The other day I saw somebody else write the blog for me. Julian Treasure published in the Caledonian Mercury an article named Turn it down a bit: sodcasting and the annoyance of noise which more or less describes all my grievances. The despicable custom of pop music being continuously broadcast in shops and such-like places, people shouting into their mobiles in public transport, car stereo systems at full blast, TV on so loud as to make sure all neighbours hear it – it’s hard to say whether either Mr Treasure or myself could make an exhaustive list, but he names the main perpetrators and gives you the general idea.

He also mentions an organization called Pipedown, which ‘has been formed to counter one of the under-recognised scourges of contemporary life: music piped or relayed around a building or room which people have not chosen and which they may not be able to escape – involuntary music, forced on listeners’. Now these are my people. I wish them every success, for my own sake and for the sake of others like me. They won’t let you smoke in an enclosed place so you couldn’t do damage to other people’s lungs &c; why do they let them damage your nervous system &c making noise?

I have mentioned in one of those earlier posts that I don’t understand the noise-makers’ motives and offered an attempt to drown out their thoughts or their lack of thoughts. The author comes up with a different two: lack of listening and lack of empathy. Both ring true to me. Sadly though, I don’t put much faith in the solution he proposes: to ‘teach our children how to listen properly to the world, and especially to each other’. How do you teach your children a quality you have lost yourself?