Friday, September 19, 2014

Oh, to be in Scotland

Oh to be in Scotland, now the vote is here.

I used to live there.

Oddly enough, I was first female taken on as a general reporter by The Evening News in Edinburgh. The paper was in its North Bridge offices back in those days, with Fleshmarket Close beside and Jinglin Georgies the place where all the journos hung out. I was a bit of a hippie but the gruff News Editor, Max McAuslane, called me "hen" and took me on without hesitation. I soon learned that he had a special claim to fame as the young journalist who had the international scoop on the discovery of Rudolph Hess's parachute landing in Scotland in 1941.

I worked among some wonderful journos, Jim Gilheany I recall and the jovial Jimmy Scott. As a footloose Australian, I was always fascinated that so many journalists had never left Scotland.

I loved Scotland and the Scots - as well I may, carrying my family name of Scott as a middle name.

In those days working on the Evening News, I could walk to work from our little 10/- a week top floor digs on The Pleasance and its view of the Salisbury Crags out the window made up for the fact that the loo was down on the stair and there was no bathroom.

Winter days in Edinburgh meant one walked to and from work in the dark, cobblestone streets often glistening in the rain and shops glowing yellow light. Summer days were long and softly bright - presenting dusk skies of the most magical orange and amethyst hues.

The Evening News was a good way to get to know a city. Having admired Edinburgh from afar as a really important historical big city, the surprise was to find that it was also a very provincial city. The stories I was assigned on the paper seemed very parochial and lightweight compared to what I had been doing in Australia, let alone on AAP/Reuter in Fleet Street. Once I was sent out to report on a burst water pipe.

Then again, as a newbie in Scotland, I had a bad start. On one of my first days I suffered the great embarrassment of coming back from the law courts with no story. Not yet tuned in to the dense Scots brogue, I simply could not understand what the protagonists were saying. "N'argh branergh, ach ey'n nicht bleet..." My pencil poised over my notepad, a sense of panic descending...

A few weeks later, this would not have happened. I soon spoke the language.

When I did present with a big exclusive I had lucked upon due to my association with the Royal Medical Society, the aforementioned News Editor announced that it was too important for a woman and he brought in his senior male reporter. As much as I argued that, according to the rules as I knew them, the journalist who gets the scoop also writes the scoop, sexism ruled the day and the times. As the first woman, I was decidedly token. My ire ran deep. When my working visa ran out, I did not try to stay. I went travelling again and, on return to Edinburgh, wrote for underground arts magazines, moved to the New Town, married my young doctor, gave birth to my first son and then, heaven forfend, moved to Aberdeen.

Five years of my life belonged to Scotland all told. I loved it deeply. I loved the Scots. Back then, they were talking devolution. It was a deep-rooted yearning I thought a bit impractical.

But their history was long and violent.

They had the tribal memory of Culloden. They saw "the borders" very strongly as just that. They spoke dismissively of Sassenachs. They had a strong sense of their feisty independent Highlander identity.

And, once in their midst, sharing stairs and sometimes poached eggs with them, I could only love them.

As passionate, sweet patriots, their place is secure in my heart - and, let's not forget, in my genes.

I tips me cap to their quest for independence and imagine that, despite the no of now, they will not give up.