Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Mother and Child

All this year, I have wandered around, stood still, listened-in, watched, observed and taken note of the many comings-and-goings-and-stayings-still in the Museum of Scotland. Over the months, I have chosen twenty-six objects on which to write a ‘sestude.’ 62 words, 26 Treasures, 12 months, 52 weeks: all meaningless numbers, really, but 1,612 words of poetry is no mean feat!

Naturally, I chose more than 26 objects – it was a hard task sticking to the number – and in all cases wrote many drafts before whittling each piece down to the requisite number of words.  But my eventual choice was by no means arbitrary.  I wanted to write about what it means to be Scottish when one is not.  And yet I don’t know if I can. Because? I don’t know if I am, or not.

Scotland’s incomings and outgoings have long been part of its history, and make up its tartan tapestry: diverse, unique, and disputatious to a tee.  If you watch the video on the Sixth floor of the museum, bit.ly/WfhG5M  a collage of alarming, charming and sometimes disarming contradictions, you will see how everything anyone says is cancelled out by another’s opinion, attitude or belief. 

At 6:25, the actor, Gary Lewis, says, “I don’t like the fact that we are a, em – a subjugated nation;” followed by one Kiran Singh: “I don’t think Scotland has really got to grips with tackling its problems of sectarianism, of racism and high levels of social apartheid, including poverty.” This, it seems to me, is the heart of the matter; something which Independence is unlikely to change.  In fact, I think these issues may increase.  But I’ll leave that argument to another day.

Sometimes I wonder if Scotland has worked out what it is yet.  I came to Scotland to pursue what I saw as my ‘heritage.’  I’ve been here nearly twelve years.  If I stay, according to a controversial essay by Alasdair Gray, I’ll be a ‘settler.’ But if I leave, I’ll have been a ‘temporary colonist’ – and that makes me quite uncomfortable. So I guess I’ll stick around then, Mr Gray, if that’s okay?

Gathering her…

She sent them out
Shifted or shipped
To the far-flung corners
They sent letters from
London or Corby
Africa, the Americas
The Antipodes
Opportunists found fortune
Prodigals their fate
All sought advancement
Enterprise, Adventure
Diluting their accent
But not their nomenclature
Woven to a weave
They never wore
Sutherland no more
A land that once rejected them
Became again what fettered them

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