Let me count the ways…

Scotland, I don’t want you to go! I realise that I may not have expressed my love adequately in recent years (you have been unvisited since 2010 and for that I am sorry), but please, could we have a second chance?

How about if I listed all the reasons why I love you? Why I think, in the words of a political slogan writer, that we really are better together? Here goes…

  • We’ve officially been together for over three centuries, but go back even further than that. Three hundred years takes work! Are you really ready to throw that all away??
  • Without you, we’d never have reclaimed the Wimbledon men’s singles crown – and that day was one of the happiest in my entire life.
  • You make life so much more tasty! Where would we be without Tunnocks? [Incidentally, are there any plans to make teacakes as large as the ones featured in the Commonwealth Games? I may be interested…] Without potato cakes and oat biscuits; or porridge; or Dundee cake; or whisky; or, quite frankly, anything baked by the lovely Scottish James Morton.
  • You’re beautiful. Perhaps this isn’t mentioned enough. Ok, I was two when I made my only visit to the Highlands, but I totally intend to return one day and I’m proud to be a citizen of the same country as them. And the islands! And the lochs! And the mountains!
  • You produce great people! Not just the aforementioned wielder of a tennis racquet, but also people who have changed the world. For goodness sake, Scots enabled us to both recover from infection quickly and watch TV and chat to friends far away while doing so!
  • Where would Harry Potter be without you? Harry Potter who???
  • You make the rest of us better. Not just thanks to penicillin, but thanks to all those who have shaped what society and its infrastructure looks like today. What would Britain look like if all the Scots were removed from its history? What does our future hold if you’re absent?
  • You throw cracking New Years Eve parties – and that’s saying something, given my loathing for that particular festival!

There are plenty of other things I haven’t mentioned. Like tartan, because I know how you hate being stereotyped. And deep-fried Mars bars, because everyone makes mistakes at least once in their lives. We’ve had our issues in the past, but could we possibly agree to forgive and move on together?

Please Scotland, give us a second chance!

Highlands 1983Surveying the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, 1983


I’m currently sat on a bed in a rather lush hotel room in Keswick (a town up in the Lake District), where I’ve ended up for work. (I did some very skilled hotel booking, scoring an amazing deal on a 5* place, clearly my father’s rubbish hotel genes have not been inherited!) Anyway, right at this moment C and I are on our respective laptops recovering from a long focus group on climate change.

C’s just uttered this question: “Where exactly are we?”
Cue a visit to google maps to discover Keswick’s location. As I suspected from a comment made on the train up, C wasn’t even aware what side of the country we were on, just that we were rather far north.

C’s follow up comment: “I think this is the furthest north I’ve ever been…apart from Scotland.”

Bless. I’m so glad this research project is educating him in so many ways – next week we get to experience the wonders of Chester. (We’ll probably just pretend we’re in Hollyoaks.)

Oooh, and major excitement, we’ve just discovered Keswick’s home to The Cumberland Pencil Museum – that’s the first stop tomorrow morning for sure!

The influence of others

I’m sure that whilst I was at the office this morning I had three different blog inspirations to choose from. However, a 2 hour journey home (which should’ve taken 45mins) seems to have drained them away.

One was going to be a fabulous theological discourse on the amount of influence God is allowed to have on the President of the USA.

A blog that’s well worth keeping an eye on is Thank You Ma’am, which I’ve mentioned before in relation to the author’s grammatical pedantry. Yesterday’s post was on the subject of JFK’s address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and ended with this paragraph:

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

This quote preceded a statement which was intended to placate voters who had issues with JFK’s Catholicism:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minster would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.”

The question that Sharon (the blog author) rightly raises is: ‘Would a Protestant presidential candidate actually say, in a campaign speech, that he believes in an America where a church, church elders (or God) would not tell the President how to act?’

So, what I intended to do was waffle on about the relationship between church & state, especially in a legally secular, yet obsessively religious country like the US.

But instead, I’m going to just ask the question:
Would this even be an issue in the UK? Would people mind if we had a PM who publicly said that they listened for God’s guidance in matters?

Something to ponder…

Getting on my academic high horse

Finally, the people responsible for writing the National Curriculum have seen sense. As of this academic year, Key Stage 3 History (that’s 11-14’s) will include the British Empire.

I appreciate that I may be a bit biased when it comes to this particular bit of history as I happen to have an MA in Imperial & Commonwealth history, but in reality, how on earth could such a massive chunk of British history be ignored until now??

When my parents were at school their classrooms had a map of the world of which one-third was coloured pink. The empire was just beginning to be dismantled, but in the 50’s and early 60’s Britannia still ruled the waves. By the time I got to school, there was virtually no mention of it at all. In fact, I got through secondary school history (GCSE & A-level) without ever having learnt more than that there was some kind of link between slavery and the empire. History went from Romans to WW2 during primary school, then back to Romans again in year 7 with a miraculous teaching of the Victorian era which at no point mentioned the empire.

The thing is (and this seems to be what the government’s finally realised) that the empire affected everything – from our domestic culture to the development of vast swathes of the rest of the world and international relations.

Our vocabulary includes words like pyjamas or gymkhana because of the Raj in India.
Rugby, Cricket and football are played internationally because the colonialists exported it.
The US insists it’s not empire-building (despite the small matter of Puerto Rico and Hawaii) because of the negative connotations of European expansion.

It seems that in the past, the British Empire has simply been labelled as a bad patch in our history and thus ignored because it’s too complicated to teach and it makes the British look really bad. But in a society that is made up of immigrants from across the Commonwealth it really cannot be ignored. Don’t children deserve to be taught the history of how their ancestors came to be here? Besides, I personally think it’s totally fascinating to see how the empire grew & grew and then got taken apart country by country. But then I would, because I’m a little bit of geek like that.

I’ll spare you a discourse on why missionaries were not political agents for the empire, for now. But who knows, should work reach a suitable level of tedium in the next few weeks, you might be in for a real treat.

Geographical Happiness

According to research published today, the Welsh region of Powys is the happiest place in Britain, with Manchester and West Lothian coming in 2nd and 3rd. Conversely, the cultural mecca of Edinburgh is bottom of the list.

To be honest, it seems like a bit of a random piece of research, based on various socio-economic factors and people’s general sense of well-being. Even the researchers admit that “happiness is more a product of personal circumstances than physical location”.

What caught my attention was the fact that BBC Breakfast this morning highlighted the research by reporting from Hay-on-Wye in the happy region of Powys. Slowly coming to terms with waking up, my first thought was “of course you’d be happy if you lived in Hay, it’s got more second hand bookshops than anywhere else in the country!”.

It would make me very happy indeed to live there. Not only would my insatiable appetite for books be fed, but I’d have an international festival of literature on my doorstep every year, the gorgeous Welsh countryside to frolic in and, from what I remember of my last trip there, some pretty good bakeries too.

However, I also seem to remember that it takes ages to get there from any place of a decent size and the roads were distinctly bendy (I usually arrive in Hay feeling oh so slightly nauseous). On reflection, maybe I’ll just be happier staying in London with one pretty good second hand bookshop minutes from my office and a whole host of over-priced patisseries…