Nostalgia; it’s a thing of the past
When I was young, I hoped that one day I would discover that I wasn’t wholly Scottish. It wasn’t that I didn’t like being Scottish – my pale demeanour suggests that if anything, I am more than 100% Caledonian – but I hoped that I might uncover some exotic grandparent or distant cousin which would allow me to proudly claim that I was 1/32 Fijian or Republic of Chadian.
Part of my thinking was that my limited sporting prowess may be of tremendous value in a small exotic country allowing me to compete in the Olympics due to a dearth of real talent at home. In reality, a dearth of real talent in my home was the main factor in preventing me achieving my dream.
But the other driving force was more to do with where I grew up. We lived in Ruchazie, a housing estate in the east end of Glasgow. It wasn’t exotic unless you count being near Hogganfield Loch. Everyone around me was more or less Scottish. Some were very Scottish in a Rab C Nesbitt way. There was a rumour that someone near us had married a German and for a while, I thought German women were the epitome of exotic beauty. Turned out she came from Dumbarton but just had a very thick accent and a liking for drindls.
Knowing my penchant for German ladies, my sister once got her pal to pretend she was from Berlin basically to take the piss out of my efforts at German words during the 74 World Cup.
We didn’t have a school exchange programme so no French kids came to stay with us which is just as well as six of us were in a two bedroom flat and I didn’t fancy sleeping in the bath.
And then I went on a school trip abroad. Belgium. By bus! I drank in every moment of that journey, staring at the little farmhouses alongside the A1 in North Yorkshire, the trip through London in the very early hours of a bright summer day, the ferry across the Channel and finally the arrival in a far off foreign land. Blankenberge was exotic beyond belief to my young eyes. It’s actually the Belgian Blackpool but for a 12 year old, the buildings, the trams, bistros were like landing on another planet and one that had Coke in a different bottle!
I came home from that trip with a very different view of my world. I wouldn’t be bound by the limitations of a relatively poor working class upbringing. There was a world out there that was pretty cool and there were actual German women, though mainly in Germany.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to see a lot more of the world than I should. I’ve been on all five continents, met some incredible people and saw that what brings humans together is less about where you are from or where you live but what you have in common.
On a press trip to Bilbao, the senior guy in the energy firm we were dining with couldn’t speak English and my Spanish is crap but we somehow talked about football. At the end, his colleague came up to me to say his friend wished he knew more English because he thought we had a lot in common. We did. I have more in common with him than that hedge fund manager and part time racist Nigel Farage.
And as Britain voted for a small minded, insular, xenophobic future, my daughter messaged me asking what it all meant. Could she still study in Europe? Could she work in Paris? Would we all have jobs? I tried to reassure her because I’m her Dad but the truth is, I don’t know. The 17 million who voted Leave have placed a big question mark over everything and those behind Leave haven’t had the courtesy to suggest how we might handle this uncertainty.
She messaged me from the States where she’s on her own school trip, broadening her horizons. I was in France and it got me thinking about how our relationship with this fabulous country will change now we’re about to put a bunch of racist numpties in charge.
The irony is the people who voted us out come from the same world I did and were expressing anger, disgust and worry because they feel there’s little future for them. In a binary vote like a referendum there is a risk they’ll answer a similar question as a protest. That’s understandable but is no excuse for the path they’ve chosen for everyone. I wish they could look through my 12-year-old eyes at the world outside their own and feel the same excitement I did at being part of something bigger and who knows, they might even end up marrying Helga from Dumbarton