Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Scottish Journey and the Stone of Destiny

On Edinburgh's Royal Mile the tourist hordes swarm the gift shops buying tartans, shortbread, and Nessie dolls.

If I'd been here a few days earlier, I could have watched Prince Harry follow a pipe band down the street. Which is sooooo disappointing. Now I'll probably NEVER get to check out whether he's as humungously hung as they say he is. Or ask him to show me how to snort vodka without drowning....or going blind.

But I suppose you can't have EVERYTHING. And anyway I'm not interested in the monarchy or the invented Scotland.

I'm here to attend my parents big wedding anniversary, get away from the stench of Stephen Harper's Con Canada, and decide whether to take a leave of absence next year to help the cause of Scottish independence.

As you can see, the situation here is both depressing and encouraging.

Whether independence comes about in the short term may be considered doubtful, but what is certain is that the brisk air here is full of a brash new confidence. The past several decades have seen Scotland adjust well from the loss of its old heavy industrial base to an economic mix based on “silicon glens,” financial services, offshore oil, tourism and a strong university sector.

But even though the weather has been cold and wet, it has been an AMAZING journey. If a somewhat lonely one.

I begged Sébastien to join me.... if only for a while. But he said he couldn't ....and that besides this was one journey I should make by myself. So I did.

I travelled all over the place, I visited my old haunts like the Lake of Trouble and the Black Isle, stuffed myself with my favourite Scottish foods, went fishing a lot , attended political meetings. And even joined in the entertaining debate over the so-called Stone of Destiny.

Not that I really give a fig about that sort of stuff. Scottish history is not just the history of Kings and Queens. And any stone which is said to have been used by Jacob as a pillow, is obviously as fraudulent as religion itself.

And about as inspiring to me as Jesus in a French Fry.

But I just LOVE those kind of debates. They seem so noble and clean compared to the ones back in Canada.

Except that in my little Moray village ... many miles north of Edinburgh....NOBODY is talking about any of the above.

Here people are going on gloomily about rising gas prices, falling home values, the tabloid crime of the week, how hard it is to find a Polish plumber, and the Scottish government's decision to wage war on the country's bevvy culture.

That's part of the real Scotland...the one the tourists don't see. Where young people kill themselves or others because of alcohol and drugs at twice the rate of anybody else in the U.K. Where dozens and dozens of young children are admitted to hospital every year for binge drinking. And, where in places like Glasgow, there are way too many violent, self destructive, youths or Neds.(non educated delinquents.)

Who will attack you for nothing, and try to kick you in the head, or stab you or cut your face. I know. I've fought them enough. Achieving Scottish independence will be hard. Changing that legacy of despair and violence will be even harder.

One thing though is for sure. Scotland doesn't need a Stone of Destiny to be an independent country. Its history demands it. It needs to become one to restore the pride of its people and deal with its own demons. And sooner or later it will be one.

As for me...after weeks of agonizing over what to do, the decision came to to speak... in this ancient harbour where I spent so much time as a boy.

I was fishing by myself when somebody snuck up behind me....grabbed me with both arms so I couldn't move or fall off the pier... and said:

"Can I borrow your fishing rod....or do I have to fight for it?" In French.

It was Sébastien. At first I couldn't believe it. I was stunned. One moment I was lost in the past...and wondering where I really belonged. And the next moment I wasn't.

Then I saw my parents, and my sister and her family, and they were all laughing, and I realized that EVERYONE knew that he would be here just in time for the Big Party. Everyone except me. Aaaargh....

Which is when after deciding not to kill the guy, I suddenly realized that I don't want to live without him. Not even for just six months. Not even for such a noble cause. And while am at it ....I also don't want to live without my old dog Kerouac. Blame that one on the Bone of Destiny.

So what did I learn from my search for hope? Nothing really. Nothing that I didn't know before.

Just that I'm a hopeless idealist, you make your own hope, and home is where the heart is.

And of course, that if I hadn't moved to Canada in the nick of time, I might have been a Ned myself.

Like the Wee Man from Glasgow...

Isn't that a SCARY thought?

Lucky Canada. Lucky me. Scotland forever !!

See you all soon...


  1. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Sounds like your having a good time! You know, if you paid for my I would have joined you ;)

    I dont exactly see why everyone is so enticed by prince harry, although I did think the video dude was kinda cute! (although, I must admit I have no idea what he is saying).... well, maybe some idea.

  2. Hi Rashid...yeah I did have a good time, a refreshing change whatever. But now I'm back to reality...and the internet. I had a forced break from that too...even tho now I don't have the slightest idea of what has been going on.
    You know I think the idea of you going to Scotland is excellent. But why settle for I can get a Canada Council grant and turn it into a movie called: Rashid Queen of the know like Priscilla Queen of the Desert...and make us both MILLIONS!!! :)
    As for the ned he's actually a comedian making fun of the subculture. And don't worry about the Glasgow accent...nobody in the rest of Scotland understands it either... But if you understand "I'm gonna bump yi maw"
    that's all you need NOT to go there....

  3. Best trip report I have read in years Simon,

    Sébastien and Kerouac - wagging tails upon your return.

  4. Hi Sassy!!! I'm glad you liked it. I had so many other stories and adventures to describe but it would have been even longer :)
    It was good to get away, and get a little perspective.And the surprise ending made it even better. As for poor Kerouac he was really glad to see BOTH of us back although our friend Farm Boy probably spoiled him rotten. I wish I could have taken him along because on the beach near my parents I counted 14 dogs one day.
    And ALL of them were black labs.On the other hand they all looked really big and tough charging into the rough North Sea like it was a duck pond. So maybe it's just as well Kerouac wasn't there... :)