So far today no burning issues have got my adrenalin pump going and I will seize the opportunity to ramble inconsequentially.
The ugly and inaccurate usage obsessing over continues, including from respected Scottish journalists who should know better. Obsessing over makes as much sense as fascinating over, i.e. none whatsoever. Usage trumps all, so if this continues, the OED will eventually capitulate and offer it as an alternative usage, and an important word will be lost in its real sense to the language. It equally bad twin is bored of, a usage beloved of youthful chavs everywhere, and a few not so youthful.
A few email correspondents have taken me to task for describing Rory Stewart MP as a ‘half Scot’. For the record, on the Newsnight debate, Rory Stewart said “I’m half-Scottish, half-English, like many people in this country …” so half-Scot is genealogically accurate. In the interests of perspective, let me say that I am a half-Scot by birth (my mother was Scottish, my father Irish) and since all my grandparents were Irish, I am a quarter-Scot. If I have an ethnic identity, it is Celtic. (My wife is a half-Scot - her mother was English.)
But I used the term for Rory Stewart, and for others of his class and background, not as an ethnic or genealogical description, but in terms of allegiance. I owe 100% allegiance to Scotland and the Scottish nation, not to the hybrid state of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Rory Stewart, in contrast, owes 100% allegiance to that hybrid state, whatever his vaguely nostalgic ethnic Scottish leanings.
(Despite my Irish ancestry, I owe no political allegiance whatsoever to The Republic of Ireland nor to the province of Northern Ireland.)
I have contacts who are entirely English by birth and ancestry, but who have made their lives in Scotland, owe allegiance to Scotland, vote Scottish nationalist and eagerly await Scottish independence. These are political, social and economic loyalties, not misty, nostalgic ones. I am absolutely certain that is true among the many ethnic minority groups in Scotland.
For the moment, however, we must accommodate ourselves as best we can to the ugly realities of our unwilling membership of the British state and subservience to the British Establishment, and the legal and constitutional demands of that failing state, as must the English and Welsh peoples.
(The people of Northern Ireland have their own complex problems and relationships to deal with, and nothing I have to say can contribute anything useful to that debate.)
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
I recognised GBS from early childhood as a wise old man with a long, grey beard and a twinkle in his eye: he popped up in the newspapers and on the newsreels. He died, age 94, just as I left school. My teachers at St. Mungo’s Academy, Marist Brothers in the main, thoroughly disapproved of him - he was Irish, but an atheist and a radical Socialist!
As far as I know, he was the only person ever to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and a Hollywood Oscar, for his adaptation of his own play, Pygmalion for the cinema. It of course later achieved even greater fame as on Broadway as My Fair Lady. I knew the film, as a compulsive filmgoer in the fleapits of Dennistoun and Calton, and also the film (1945) from his play Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) which a member of the Wranglers debating society in Newcastle told me proudly in 1976 had first been staged in the city in 1899.
This film, together with Pygmalion, which I had seen much earlier, led me to borrow Three Plays for Puritans from Dennistoun library and read Shaw for the first time. I recognised his socialism and his deep feeling for the ordinary man, but was riveted by his accessible style. I then read a fair amount of his work, but it was not until my mid-twenties that I came across his collected Prefaces in a very bulky volume from Clydebank Public Library, a work that I read and re-read, borrowed and re-borrowed. (I now have my own copy.)
Then somehow I forgot Shaw for a long, long time, until a few months age I wandered into a charity shop in Corstorphine, glanced briefly across the rows of rubbish books that now form their main stock. But in a corner, quietly and inconspicuously waiting for me on the shelf were a number of volumes in the 1937 Constable edition (1950 reprint) of some of Shaw’s works.
After the briefest glance at the titles, I grabbed the lot and bought them for £2 apiece. When I began to put them on my shelf next to my other Shaw books, noticing ruefully the duplicates, one caught my eye, because of its odd title. - London Music in 1888-89 as heard by Corno Di Bassetto. I had never heard of this work by Shaw, but as a musician of sorts, I recognised corno di bassetto as the basset horn, and a vague memory came to mind that Shaw had briefly been a music critic for a London newspaper, The Star.
Up till that moment, I regarded the funniest prose works in the English language as being P.G. Wodehouse and the Irish RM stories of Somerville and Ross. But now they had a rival, and I have succeeded since in annoying my family by laughing out loud at regular intervals, and boring all and sundry with the words of Corno Di Bassetto, which are about as contemporary as one can get in style, and terrifyingly knowledgeable about music in all its aspects, with savage and hysterically funny criticism of the operatic and concert performers of the day.
More to come …