NORTH, SOUTH AND ME IN BETWEEN

GLASGOW is the young Scot’s cultural capital, home of Irn Bru, legendary football teams and that statue with the cone on its head.  The Highlands are home of Nessie, the few people who listen to Scottish Country music for enjoyment and, well, not much else. MEGAN DONALD

Despite these regions being the most violently stereotyped in Scotland, there is a certain level of truth behind the preconceptions. Being a fresher straight from the cozy comforts of Inverness (the capital “city” of Highlands), Glasgow is the hilarious antithesis of my hometown and the cultural differences have become obvious to me in my short time at uni so far. Before arriving, my impression of Glasgow was based on Still Game, Franz Ferdinand and a crazy auntie who added “hen” to the end of every sentence. It was a daunting and confusing prospect for someone from a parochial town up North and like everyone else I was thrown in the deep end of Glaswegian culture. This first thing i noticed was the famous language: I was bewildered by the speed of speech and the amount of words Glaswegians managed to fit into a sentence. And they do actually say “pure”. A perfect example was when I bought an ice-cream and asked for a nougat wafer. “Can I have a noo-gah please?” – “No, you can have a nugget,” replied the man. I had been put in my place and had been bitten by the sharp Glaswegian humour for the first time. Yet this was nothing when compared to night I unexpectedly ended up in a Rangers pub in Maryhill. I’d heard it was a bit “jakey” but not understanding the language down here, “jakey” didn’t help me. However, when I arrived, it was quite clear what it meant. It was Saturday night and as I reached the place, i heard the faint, painful mumblings of Islands in the Street on the karaoke (it was John, who I later learned was Maryhill’s karaoke extraordinaire) combined with wafts of spilt beer and fags. My friend warned me not to even joke about religion and to drink Tennents, “cos that’s all there is”. Jakey indeed.  Overall it was a night of complete embarrassment for me: my different accent and inability to drink Tennents and generally understand the conversation didn’t exactly endear me to my new mates. But John did take pity and bought me some gin. Let’s consider now Inverness, the furthest North evidence of civilization in Scotland (No, Wick doesn’t count). Don the tartan trews, eat some shortbread, dance the gay gordons and stab a haggis!  The “city” of Inverness is seen as the embodiment of all things Highland. The programme, “Monarch of the Glen” brought the Highlands to a mass audience and pulled in tourists wishing see the legendary Glenbogle. Exaggerated as this is, there are aspects which are verging on the truth. Many people do speak gaelic and we do like a ceilidh and a drink. This describes a particular type of staunch super- Highlander known as a “tcheuter” and the further into the Highlands you go the more fervently they cling to traditions. But this idealised version misses out the underlying character which differs so much from Glasgow. Whereas Glasgow is seen as friendly, open and honest, the Highlands are more secularized and unambitious. Highlanders are proud of being different and old-fashioned compared to the central belt; or maybe it’s just a combination of ignorance and unwillingness to change.

Attempts have been made to bring Inverness up to date by naming it a “city” when really it’s just a fairly large town. There have been half-baked redevelopments, new shopping centres and awful street art designed to define “what it means to be from the Highlands”. For example in the centre, blocks of Caithness stone have been placed in the middle of the road with “contemporary virtues the residents felt should guide the city” carved into them. Oddly enough the virtues chosen were, “Perseverance, Open-heartedness, and Insight”. (Personally, I think this is either ironic or very, very hopeful). It means the young Highlander like me is confused about their identity having being brought up with traditional values but is now being told to be thoughtful and have a modern, open view on life: Inverness is a city now! So when you ask a teenage Invernessian how they are, they are likely to respond, “Well, yur see-een it…” And what you are likely to see is a guy called Murdo wearing a pair of trendy jeans, edgy haircut and an iPod…but I bet they’re listening to Runrig. (Runrig is a fairly well known Scottish country band – they’re naff but a bit of a guilty pleasure!)  Sometimes I feel like the Invernessian who managed to escape and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in the big city. Eventually, I know I’ll adapt to the way of life in Glasgow after putting my foot in it a few times but I also know I’ll never completely betray my roots up in there in the Highlands.

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