Sheena McDonald on the Mither'I‘ongue and how the attitudes towards it — on both sides of the Border—help
to foster complex complexes.
i andL’nglish'.’ What — apart
: fromthe factthat 1 Scotsare wee.
illiterate and intrinsically runty'.’ Not precisely my own view. no — but I've met it. Down 'I‘here. Shocking. I know —- but since most ofThem have never actually crossed Hadrian‘s Wall (although they have achieved a right-on grooving knowledge of New York. Sydney. Amsterdam. KI. and the Baltic Riviera). you have to blame the marketing.
It's no good pointing to the exported icons — the (‘onnerys and ('onnollys and .Iobsons and (irays. Once you’re out. it's accepted that you've seen the light. and assumed. along the way. the civilised habits of the host. with just a hint of that old ('eltic craziness to lend the essential dangerous frisson that makes Scots welcome around the globe (but not too many at once. please . . .).
It's the home-based native that spurs the confusion. I mean. try to characterize her — or him. Wee? Up to a point. I stippose. l remember. aeons ago. a Swiftian astonishment at the highness of the southern English. Not so surprising. obviously. when you‘re a child. but a little galling to achieve full proud womanhood. only to survey a
'2 lifelong prospect of chests and lapels
(yes. it‘s a matterofopinion. sir. . .). I would have been not a whit surprised to discover they had four
legs and a tail. I recall— ifanything.
‘Wee-ness‘. however. is not a consistent characteristic. any more than drunkenness or violence.
What then'.’ How about reticence and division‘.’
The first is ingrained. We learn hard and early not to speak until we‘re spoken to. and never to challenge the teacher. Sure. there are occasional dissidents and subversives who emerge unscathed by convention. and grow up to become emigrants — but the bulk of us move into adult life sitting on our hands and gazing at our laps.
Remember the tutorials? The grinding terror that opening your mouth would unleash a halting torrent of inarticulate naive hokum. coupled with the undiluted disgust at the inarticulate naive hokum that ﬂowed so confidently and easily from the lips of the incomers‘.’ And
2 The List I) — 22 December 1988
when you finally screwed courage to the sticking-point and said ‘Erm. I wonder ifon the other hand as it were I mean . . .' the keech-
1 for-brains Yank beside you
breenged in with exactly the same point. but without your acute sense of reference. context and universal wit which. in the end. remains untapped and untested throughout three or four wretched. crimson. tongue-tied. infuriated years.
The second is displayed as soon as the first is conquered. Picture the scene: whether by art or accident. you have the ﬂoor. All eyes are turned on you. all ears silkin tuned to your stuttering cadences. You speak — better. you finish the sentence. You sit back. the blood pumping in your ears. your vision double. your palms dissolved in salty trauma.
‘Womanl‘ explodes the tutor. ‘For Christ‘s sake. use the tongue you were born with! Don‘t try to gentrify your accent for my class. thank you very much! You can keep your pathetic pretensions to yourself when you come here! Speak Scots. for crying out loud!‘
All this delivered in the plummiest of bulldog English. before he switches to the dialect of his childhood. as if to prove that the greatest sin ofall is to duplicate the sins of your elders and betters. reminding them oftheir own inadequacies and compromises.
No point in protesting that this accent has as born and bred a Scottish pedigree as any that might safely find shelter under the Mither Tongue umbrella. ()utcast you are. by your ain folk. until you learn the unfamiliar sounds and locations if the strangers who are kin — and there derives a falseness and a hollowness more treacherous than any imposition of flattened imperialist vowels.
Ifstamping the character ofthe Scots more firmly on the globe excludes those who fail to pass some credibility standard of dialect rather than dialectic. then the race may indeed be to the rum. Less divide-and -rule than divide-and- disregard.
Or is this the Scot Paranoid talking? — or. at least. trying to screw up the grit to prise open the blanched and blubbering lips and stammer: ‘Erm. I wonder ifon the other hand — that is to say hootsmagandy. by the way. to let you understand. ken — what school did you go to’."
Surely not. . .
WARWICK DAVIS Film opportunities don‘t come in a rush when you are only 3ft din tall. andthe chance to star in a big budget adventure fantasy is even rarer. facts which Warwick Davis. who plays thetitle role in Willow. readily acknowledges. Davisfirst entered the film world seven years ago (age 11) as an Ewok in Return of the Jedi. prompted by his grandmother. who heard on the radio that the company were looking for short actors. If his entry was fortuitous. he has taken a highly sensible attitude to the whole business since. including studying film at College and setting up his own video production company.
‘Acting is greatfun. but realistically. there won't be that many roles I can play. certainly not enough to keep me going. and I am genuinely interested in the technical side. particularly in fantasy and special effects. Obviously. lwould eventually love to direct feature films. but thatwould be along way off— at the moment. I have set upa video company with a friend from college, and we are doing anything that comes ourway.‘
Warwick's behind the camera activities have been disrupted with the making and promotion of Willow. a lavish but very derivative adventure story in which he found himself in some rather fearsome situations. notably a storm on a lake. subsequently cut from the film. and a scene in which he slides down a mountain
side (‘they told me to tryto look scared. butldidn‘t haveto actatalII'). Animals. too. presented theirproblems: he hadto
spend considerable time on horseback. despite his quite pronounced dislike for horses. and deal withthe capricious nature of a pig called Rambo.
‘ltwould be nice.‘ he mused. 'to do a film in everyday clothes foronce. The schedule on Willow was verytough a lot ofthe time. butthe director. Ron Howard. kept us all going— he has an incredible amount of energy. and it‘s contagious. You keep
thinking. I‘ll have to do itfor him.‘ (Kenny Mathieson)
SCULPTURE ON THE STATION
Would I getthe bowler hat treatment? I had been told just before I went alongto Waverley Station that the Station Master's bowler hat came out for visitors on the guided tour. But down at Platform 7 George Barclay greeted me across his uncrowded desk sans jacket or hat and I knew my place. I learned later with some relief that the bowler hat is purelyforthe VIP visitor. Prince Charles would get it. and Mr Barclay hates wearing it anyway. The hat enquiryfirme closed. we talked aboutart.
lfirst noticed the art inthe station when delivering a Red Star parcel. Driving through the constant. comforting mayhem of the bowels oIWaverley.l noticed a wooden object on Platform 11 among the metal trollies and waiting passengers. Its quiet quirky mood in contrast to the busy life marked it asa tresspasser. Painted crates fallen off the back of a lorry? Dr art? I could hardlytellas lswerved by.
Curiosity led meto Platform 7 where Station Manager Barclay resides. From him. I discovered that the Scottish Sculpture Trust were responsible forthe wood on Platform 11 and thatthere was more. Transported to their venues (they have already been seen in London and Aberdeen) courtesy of lnterCity and Royal Mail. these travellers have been given an open ticket to wait on his platforms until mid-January. But he has
s I; ’i