Posted by Tania Kindersley.
So, poor Andy Murray lost at the tennis and suddenly he is Scottish again. Apparently, he is British when he is winning. I’m not sure if this is true, but it’s a trope the media adores.
One gentleman, splendid with indignation and mad to generalise, wrote on a message board on one of the nastier newspapers:
The Scots hate the English. They are so rude that my wife and I no longer take our holidays there, but go to Spain instead.
I think: the Spanish are welcome to him.
I’ve always been a bit wary of national generalisations. Can you really say what every one of the five million Scots are like? On the other hand, there do seem to be national cultures. I just read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, and he has a fascinating section on the South Korean tendency to deference and very formal manners. He also explains crime in the Appalachians by looking at the cult of honour that the original Scots Irish immigrants bought with them.
From spending a lot of time in Scotland and Ireland, I have noticed that there is a very long Celtic memory. History is remembered in a much more vivid way than in England; the Hunger and the Clearances might have happened yesterday. The English tend to forget their history, and why would they not? All that running round invading places and declaring themselves King of France for no particular reason. There is a wail in one of the papers today that there is to be no triumphalist celebration to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo when it comes in 2015. In a classic piece of ministerial speak, Baroness Rawlings told the House of Lord: ‘There is likely to be some commemorative activity at associated heritage sites.’ Where do they learn to speak like that? Is there a special government school?
On the other hand, it’s quite a British thing to do. A bit of commemorative activity, don’t make a song and dance out of it.
The other thing that interests me about this national generalisation lark is how it seems to apply to some nations and not others. Many people, it seems, have very firm opinions about the French. They are, as every fule no, intellectual, arrogant, elegant, and keen on le sexy sex. It’s also odd how stereotypes get spun in good and bad ways. So, some people consider the vaunted French attitude to mistresses and cinq à sept tremendously sophisticated and grown up, while others think it slightly tawdry.
Meanwhile, other nations get no strong feelings at all. While some English, like that cross fellow, might deride the Scots, have you ever heard anyone say: well, it’s the Uruguayans I can’t stick? Or: it’s the Indonesians who drive me nuts? I know what the generalisation for the Italians is: volubility, love of food and family, the Mafia. I have no idea what it is for the Portuguese.
Sometimes, I’m not sure what nationality even means. I am Welsh, English, Scottish, Irish, French, possibly American (one of my grandmothers was a slightly unreliable narrator, so we are not certain), and Danish. I am, like most Britons, a mutt.
This is where I should come up with my definitive final paragraph, where I draw all the strands together. That is what my lovely history teacher, Mr Woodhouse, taught me to do when I was fifteen. But it turns out I don’t have one. Sorry about that. This is, I suddenly realise, the first post I have written since my father died which is about something other than my emotional state and my own tiny little world. There is a reason, I see now, for that. It’s because my brain is still not quite firing on all cylinders. Still, the very fact that I wanted to talk about something other than my bashed heart must be a Good Sign, even if it’s not the most polished, articulate thing I ever wrote. Or, something like that.
Here is what lovely Scotland looks like, anyway:
More sheep, very Jane Austenish:
I adore this old metal fence. I imagine there are hardly any of these left now, but they are so elegant:
Up the avenue we go. The second dog is my sister’s poodle, who is staying while her humans are in the south:
The honeysuckle is in its vulgar phase:
I used to have many foxgloves in the wild part of my garden. Then, one year, they all disappeared. I found this one in the woods, dug it up, and planted it. I hope it will survive its transplant:
The philadelphus is suddenly flowering:
The dogs roses are wild this year:
Up close, these lovely long grasses are the colour of straw, but from a distance, they look like waves of purple:
Slightly wistful Pigeon:
Today’s hill, from a distance: