I’ve never really done homesickness – probably due to my being dead inside and all – and wherever I end up I usually just accept the situation without fuss and get on with things. Lately, though, my lapsed Scottish gene has started to re-assert itself, mostly in the form of cravings for Highland Toffee and unnecessary conversational references to Sheena Easton.
So I’m going back, and I don’t mind telling you I’m a bit nervous. I haven’t set foot in Scotland in a little over two years, and rather like my unrealistically high expectations of the next Girls Aloud album, I worry that my prolonged absence has created a version of my homeland that never existed in the first place – all majestic stags and misty lochs and reasonably priced properties for the first time buyer. We shall see.
I am terribly excited though, because for the first time in a long time I will be in the majority. I will be amongst my brethren. Because, you see, more than any other nationality, Scottish people are tremendously good at being Scottish. Especially us expats – we take our Scottishness very, very seriously.
Consider this: you will never ever find two English people in a bar in Edinburgh thrilled that they’ve found a compatriot, much less going on to have a lengthy conversation about exactly where they’re from and why they’re not in England.
We do. It happens to me all the time. The exchange goes like this:
“Is that a Scottish accent I hear?”
“It is indeed. What brings you all the way down here?”
“Oh, ye know, just a wee holiday/visit/business trip.”
“And where are you from?”
“Dumfries, but I lived in Glasgow for sixteen years.”
“Oh, Dumfries! My mother lives there!”
“Out the Lockerbie road.”
“Oh, I know it well! What a small world, etc…”
“So what on earth made you move?”
“Oh you know, work. And the weather!”
“Aye, it’s a wee bit warmer! Fancy a shag?”
I made that last bit up (well, most of the time), but can you really imagine any other nationality making even half that amount of effort with a complete stranger? Of course not. It’s an insane thing to do, really. But it does give you a strange warm glow inside, the kind of glow that comes from meeting someone who doesn’t think it’s odd that a portion of the A83 is called the Rest and Be Thankful. Someone who doesn’t recoil at a menu board that includes something called a Macaroni Pie. And it happens everywhere – at work, in bars, in restaurants, on holiday. Scottish people can always find something in common and often won’t rest until they do. Eventually we part ways, smiles on our happy Scottish faces, promising to say hi to Jean next time we’re in Lochgilphead. It’s lovely. Really.
I need a top-up though. Two years is a long-time. Heaven only knows what I’ve missed on River City, and now I hear they have a Waitrose in Glasgow! Waitrose, of course, was one of the prime factors in my decision to move to England (love was the main one, but believe me when I say, Waitrose ran it a pretty close second.) So in my four day flying visit I shall be soaking up every ounce of Scottishness that I possibly can. Friends to see, old haunts to visit, old flames to avoid. I can’t wait.