Creative Commons License

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In blogs past: Scottish with a small s

I wrote this sometime in 2007-2008, perhaps even earlier, I can only guess at the date because I mention being in Lampeter, which I left in mid-2008. [I've now dated this to September 2007, thanks to the mention of Scotland's second victory over France.]

I’ve been living now in Scotland again for the last couple of years (since September 2014 indeed) and with all the recent talk of independence and nationality, I’ve begun questioning my own ‘Scottishness’ again. Especially as my partner has been made to feel ‘not of the place’ more than once, due to her being from England. I’d hesitate to say, made to feel ‘not welcome’ but I think, for the most part, this was never the problem. Indeed, as an adult returning to the haunts of my childhood and early adulthood, but now with a partner, with experience and (hopefully) with some insight. I realise how small those ‘problems’ really were. Still, those problems were the basis for feelings that developed my world-sense, for my feeling of longing for acceptance and ‘home’. I have found and lost that home several times now, but have now come to an understanding that it stays within you, indeed, it comes from within you to begin with, thus, we never really find or lose anything. Only grow a little more each encounter.

Myself at Falcondale Lake sometime ago

Original Post:
There are times when my 'identity' as a Scotsman comes under threat, but my tie to Scotland is more (?) than mere politics. Indeed the recent boom in Scottish patriotism, helped along the way by the SNP and a 1-0 home and away victory against France, has done little to pull me 'home', but home it still is. Even here in Celtic rural Wales. It sometimes feels like a step along (up?) the ladder of Plato as described in symposium, in which the love of a person leads eventually to the love of wisdom. So, my love of a land leads me to a love of all (land, the world). Perhaps, perhaps. Although, I am not a Platonist. This is not my intention. The real question therefore may be, what makes you 'of a nation’? The mere fact of being born in a particular country? Being accepted? My ties with Scotland, as I have said, are with the land itself and not the people, with whom I have never felt completely accepted (English parentage on my part permanently marks my sheet for most). The land we may presently call Scotland.

I wonder about this — about feeling connected to a place (along with language/languages, ways of living, &c. that might — ? — be associated with it). I wonder particularly about being self-consciously tied to a land. Hardly seems possible to establish, or be established in, such a sense of connection in the climate of diffuseness of language & interest I've grown up & spent most of my life in. I don't suppose this sort of blunted experience is special to my part of the world — though maybe others could usefully contradict that impression. 'The land' & its associations, anyway, can have a terrible vagueness in one's awareness. One might be transplanted a few thousand miles away and not be much affected by the change, as long as the weather & the availability of retail goods are more or less on par with those of the situation previous.

My Reply:
Paul, I think there is a definite separation between the connection one simply 'has' with somewhere and that which we make for ourselves or are given (a difference between culture and identity). Indeed, I am culturally British and do not deny this, but there is also here in the UK, perhaps more than in the US (where you have a general patriotic feeling of being an American), a definite sense of a more local identity. Whether this be England, Wales or Scotland and again this separates quite strongly with other divides (northern English and London and so on).

However, this doesn't quite touch on the point I was making (or indeed yours). I agree that we have allowed ourselves to become separated from the land we live amongst, but I do not feel it is something impossible to overcome.

As I have moved to somewhere with similar weather, people's attitudes, and retail goods (for in Britain we have a generally similar experience where ever we may live) I can still say, this is not 'my land' in such the same way I could say about the north east of Scotland and yet I am not fully accepted there (or rather it is me who does not allow myself to feel accepted, which is different). So, really what I am trying (and failing) to say is that although I feel a special connection with the unique landscape of Scotland this is only a small thing (hence a small s) in terms of a recognition of one's nationhood but still, perhaps it is something that is far too often overlooked or ignored (as you have suggested because of our culture). I think we, here in Britain, have more problems with immigration because of these localised identities, but this for another day...

Really to save time I could have just said, I feel homesick but I’m not sure exactly what (or where) this longing is for.

I feel that quite regularly - there isn’t really a place outside of music and a few peaceful places where we cannot dwell for any length of time, like the stream outside Tynycornel, that really feel right, a proper home. Sometimes for me there seems like a second skin to the world, a true shape, of which this place of the 21st century is just the dream from which I can never really wake. I promised myself to Dartmoor on the solar eclipse, but it is a rare occurrence that I actually encounter the land I made that promise to. And here in Wales, no amount of Welsh classes and time spent in the pub could make me really part of this community and this place of reality. It feels like I have lost the sacred land into which I should have been born, my ancestors aren’t in its bones, and I am not far enough into this Now to forget them. This world is so temporary it has ceased to have solid depth, only a ghost behind the modern dream. Bristol was burnt stumps, Wales and Dartmoor are the ghosts of trees, the ghost remnants of belonging.