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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Catch Me on a Day That I'm Falling

Catch me on a day that I'm falling,
When the tears flow freely and for no reason
Catch me on a dark day,
When the mood is dampened and down
Catch me on a still day,
When the feeling is numb and all is quiet
Catch me on a hazy day,
When all seems odd and confused
Catch me on a hard day,
when the pain is cruel and unforgiving

Catch me on an off day; a bad day; a sad day
Any day
Catch me then

Catch  me then, and let the sunshine dry my tears,
Catch me then, and let the sun light lift my spirit,
Catch me then, and let the sun warm my heart and soul,
Catch me then, and let the sunlight clear my head,
Catch me then and let the sun rays sooth my pain,

Catch me then, and make today a fine day; a good day; a happy day
Any day
Catch me then

Caledonia Green

Caledonia Green

You can dream about a place and make it spectacular -
Even if you know that place like the back of your hand –
its good points and bad –
its still very easy to gloss over the truth and make it shine like no other. 
Everyone has a pull to their birth place –
Everyone feels that special tug to their heartstrings when their homeland is mentioned and everyone – yes everyone -
likes to think of their land as a land above all others.
But Scotland truly is.
To my Scots eyes anyway.

To my heart Scotland is special in so many ways. 
It has a deep rooted history that makes its capital thrilling and eerie by night  and an academic culture that makes it intelligent and interesting by day. 
It’s Loch’s and Ben’s give a stunning backdrop to any painting or photograph,
but to be there –
to stand at the Lochside or the foot of the Ben has its own special imprint that will stay with you forever.
I would dream of Scotland night and day. 
I would dream of the highlands and islands, the sunsets and the aurora borealis.
I would dream of cold frosty mornings when the sun is still low enough that it gives off just the mildest hint of the warmth to come by noon.
To stand and stare across from Skye to Lochalsh and hear nothing but the birds and see nothing but the water and the seals, the sky and the hills.

I would think of my family back home – gathering around the table on Sundays and holidays to eat together, laugh together and share stories together.

And neighbours – Scottish neighbours, a mix of friends who are practically family and with whom you share good times and bad - births, deaths and marriages.
Neighbours who shared the first television in the street and gathered with us to watch Scotland play. Neighbours who popped in and out to use the telephone, have a cuppa, borrow some milk, have a chat, share a burden, solve a problem. 
Neighbours.

And the food – the Scottish Food. 
Worst diet in the world – the west of Scotland diet. 
Greasy chips, fried breakfasts, tottie scones and sausages. Irn bru and a curry. Rhubarb and a pokey hat. Piece ‘n’ jam. Cup of tea and shortbread.  Supper.

Traditions  - things you take for granted if you have lived there all your life, but that you miss so much when you move away as I did.
Scottish traditions – Burns night – the gathering of the family to have haggis, neeps and totties in celebration of Rabbie Burns. 
Hogmanay  – New Year’s eve.  Not the same as it used to be when it was tradition for the first person to cross the threshold after the ‘bells’ of New year, to be a tall dark handsome stranger bearing a lump of coal and a black bun, but who in reality was more than likely to be a neighbour who was neither tall nor handsome and who would be carrying a bottle rather than a lump of coal. 
Either that or it was yourself returning from a neighbours house. 
First footing. 
Neighbours spent the night going from house to house into the wee small hours of the morning, first footing each other and 'drinking in' the new year.
Drinking it in. 
Binge drinking.

Glasgow fair fortnight – another tradition.
A holiday in Scotland – the first two weeks of July when all Scottish families headed to Blackpool and Scarborough for two weeks holiday – coming home red as a beetroot, peeling and skint.

And the rain – I would think of the rain – I would dream of the rain!  I never thought I would day dream about rain – but there you are. 
Drizzle.
Drizzle and Driech.
Everyone knows that Scotland is a rainy country and everyone knows that if you want to visit – the best time to go is May – when the weather is fine.  Any other month is rainy and will require a brolly and a rainmac.  To stand in the garden and feel the rain on my face and breathe in the Scottish air.  Oh it rains here too – but not like it rains in Scotland – it feels different, it smells different.  Don't ask me how or why – but ask any Scot and they will say the same – it just does.

I would think on winter afternoons in the streets of Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh with crowds of shoppers bustling about in the cold – laughing and chatting and preparing for the festivities to come. Sauchiehall street and Princes Street awash with people creating a buzz that you could easily find in any city at the same time of year but special only to Scotland and its people.  With cobbled streets and a castle looming over you the shops take a back seat in Stirling and Edinburgh.

And Scotland’s people – to be feared and loved at the same time. 
They are honest and true – warm and kind, harsh and unforgiving, yet all the world loves a Scotsman. They are mean and stingy – so they say.
They would sell their granny for a pound they say.
And yet all the world loves a Scotsman.
They have a heart of gold, they have a sense of humour and they have a sexy Scottish accent – so they say. 
Aye right.

“You can take the woman out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the woman”.  They say that about every gender and every age, every city and every country – boy, man, girl, woman, young and old, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Scotland, Ireland, Wales.
They even say it about England. 
But it is true of Scotland, true of its people and it's true of me.

I moved away from Scotland five and a half years ago now – happy to be rid of it – excited to start a new life – practically ran to the airport, I did.  Couldn't understand why I hadn't moved away sooner – so many beautiful places in the world and I lived in Scotland.  I moved over to the continent. To the heat and the laid back ways of the Europeans. To a completley different way of life, to a new language and a different kind of people, different traditions and different food.
Finding your feet in new surroundings is never easy, making adjustments to your life, making exceptions, making compromises, learning new skills, and learning to live a different style.
To sit on a tram and not understand a word anyone is saying.
To go to the supermarket and not understand what your buying for dinner.
To come home without talking to a soul and to feel confused when a letter lands on the doorstep and you don't know what it says.

But things get easier as you learn to communicate, and things become clearer as you begin to understand the traditions.  Things become fun when you take part in the life style, when you cycle to the shops and try something new for dinner.  And of course the weather is a bonus – sometimes it can be just too hot to do anything but you know the summer will be more or less warm and sunny.  More so than in Scotland anyway.

Getting used to a new set of traditions is not easy. You learn that Christmas is not such a big deal in Holland – that they celebrate it on  the 5th December for the children and that on the 25th they have a family dinner but no Santa Claus.
They have no halloween and of course they don't celebrate Guy Fawkes night.
But they do celebrate New Year – but it's all about the fireworks display and not about the parties and first footing.

No first footing with the neighbours.

And then the homesickness sets in and you dream.
You know that back home everyone is celebrating New Year in George Square or Edinburgh and you know, you can see how spectacular it looks and you can understand the people and the places and why and how they celebrate it.
And you can see your family back home and your neighbours back home and your not with them.
And the sadness sets in.

Five long years ago.

And you dream of going home. Not just for the odd weekend or fortnights holiday, but you dream of once more setting up home in the land you know you belong to.
To the land you understand.
To the land that calls you back time and time again.
To Scotland.
And the dreams become more vivid and more frequent until it consumes you and all you can think about is Scotland and how you miss the day to day life.
Five long years of dreaming and here I am.  I am standing at Glasgow Airport with a huge smile on my face. 
I know that I am home.
I know that this time starting a new life will be like regaining the old one.  This time it will be easy – this time it will be a pleasure.

This time it will be forever.

And I take a moment – just to stand there - to look and to listen.  I see kids running amok with parents about to have a coronary whilst waiting in line to board.
I see people like me – people who understand what it means to be Scottish.  They might not appreciate it the way I do now but they will.  That two weeks holiday abroad will guarantee it.

And I know as I stand there that Scotland is not all Lochs and Ben’s – it’s not all sunsets and castles. It's about real life and hard working people and bad diets and poverty, drinking problems and violence on the streets. 
Its not all rosey and its not all perfect. 
Nowhere is perfect and everywhere has its problems.
But this is where I was born, it’s where I grew up and it's what I know best – and I love it and I want to be part of it – good times and bad.

And as I leave the airport, I hear that broad sexy Scottish  accent and I smile “ Right hen – where ur ye aff tae?  Back  home is it – after a wee holiday in the sun?  Aye ye cannae beat a bit o sun.”
Oh I think you can – I tell myself as I step into the taxi that is bringing me home. In the rain.