It’s not a real problem, at least not anymore. But when I first arrived in England, it was like I was some exotic species of fish, never encountered before. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that the English people I encountered had never heard of Scotland, or that they didn’t know its precise geographical location, it was more that they had never met someone from Scotland. And that in itself is a strange thing, because the Scots are renowned for their ability to up-sticks and settle in a foreign land.So I had to ask myself why I provoked this reaction. I thought about it for a while and the answer I came up with, was that perhaps I don’t look Scottish. Now that, if true, would certainly not be a surprise, as my ancestry is mostly Italian and Spanish with a smidgen of Irish and Scottish blood thrown in for good measure.
But maybe it’s not my dialect or my features that give me away after all. Having spent my formative years feeling like an outsider in Scotland, I still feel like one now in England, even after twenty-seven years of living here. Just like in the old Shirley Bassey song, I feel like I stand outside the window, watching the revelry within but never daring to enter.Is it my demeanour then which marks me out as different from the crowd? I think maybe it is. Social interaction was never my forte. Perhaps because dodging the thrown brick was more likely where I grew up, than the possibility of a meaningful conversation.
But there are deprived areas everywhere. Glasgow does not have the monopoly on poverty. What it may well have the monopoly on though, is the dourness of spirit it provokes in its inhabitants. That ability to state rawly what one wants to say, without any of the social niceties which may otherwise be expected, is, I believe, uniquely Scottish. And overlaying all this is a self-deprecating humour. Yes, we Scottish people can laugh at ourselves alright.
But none of this really answers the question of why I don’t fit in. Maybe if I think long and hard enough, I’ll get the answer to that too. In the meantime, there are plenty of windows to look through.