About Saraband

Portuguese turned Scot. Writer. Painter. Supporter of an Indy Scottish Republic. LGBTQ+. Feminist. Book lover. Gamer. MA in Medieval Islamic History. Owned by two cats. I live in Edinburgh with my handsome fiancé.

I was destined to become Scottish

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Me with a few of my own paintings

Okay, I must come clean – the title of this post may not be entirely honest, because I don’t believe in destiny. However, I can’t find any another word that quite captures what I want to tell you, so forgive me on this one occasion. I promise that everything else you’ll read here to be written with the utmost honesty.

Following the massively positive response my love letter to Scotland received, with hundreds upon hundreds of tweets, comments and messages that I got both here and over at Wings Over Scotland, where I was invited to share that blog post, I thought I’d expand a bit more about my relationship with Scotland, and how it started very early in my life, when I was just a wean back in Portugal.

My first novel was Scottish

I have an older brother, Tiago, who was born six years before me, in 1985. As a child of the mid-80’s, he started collecting comics from a very early age, and from as long as I can remember, I would take his comics into bed with me and look at the pictures, because I couldn’t yet read. I’m sure I made my own stories about what went on, as most children would’ve done. But the habit of going to bed at night, with a book, something which my I saw my dad doing every single day of his life, is a habit that has never abandoned me.

Transitioning from short comics to my first novel, however, was a huge deal. So huge, in fact, that I will forever remember the moment I first saw that novel, where I was, what I felt, and the excitement of wanting to get home so I could get started. I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I was with my dad at this shop in Vilamoura’s marina, where he used to get the newspapers, cigarettes and stuff. The shop also had a few books, and although I usually went to look at the magazines and comics, on this occasion, I went to the literature section, where I saw a bright blue spine sticking out. I pulled the book and looked at the most awesome cover I’d ever seen: two knights jousting, mounted on their horses, with a medieval castle standing in the background. That book was Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott.

Ivanhoe

The old Portuguese edition of Ivanhoe that I first read

I remember my dad asking if I was really going to read it, and me promising to do so. So he bought me the book without any resistance at all. I had no idea what it would be about, or who Walter Scott was. In fact, I read Ivanhoe and liked it so much, that I got my dad to buy me Rob Roy afterward. When I tried reading that one, I hated it. It took me until I was a teen to pick it up again and actually enjoy the book. And it was only then, when the internet was already thing, that I googled who Walter Scott was and learned more about this Scottish author who would forever be the person behind my first novel.

Ivanhoe may also be the seed for my love of history, and why I later graduated in this area at University. So this is a story whose ripples have far extended into my life.

I grew up with a “borrowed” Scottish auntie

One of my best friends while growing up was a boy named Luís, a year younger than me. His father is Portuguese, but his mother, Carol, is a Scottish lass born and raised in Edinburgh, who later moved to Portugal. In fact, Luís’s parents became best friends with my own parents, and so we were together all the time. I called him cousin, and his parents were like an aunt and an uncle.

As a young kid, you don’t think too much about these things, so I never took any notice of Carol’s peculiar accent in Portuguese, how she constantly messed up with the gender of the words, or paid any attention to what her being Scottish actually meant. But there were a few things which I markedly remember about her, aside from being a genuinely loving person and to this day and someone I regard very dearly as a family member. It was the way in which she pronounced the name of a brand of cereals: Golden Grahams. I had never quite heard anyone pronounce the name in that manner, with such music. Me and her son loved asking her to say it repeatedly, I assume, much to her despair – but she always indulged us.

Another thing about Carol is that she used to cook Shepherd’s Pie a lot when my parents went over for dinner, especially because my dad loved it. Again, I couldn’t imagine that a part of Scotland’s culture and heritage was literally nourishing me as I grew up. It was something I only realised later, looking back all these years, and which doesn’t fail to amaze me.

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My partner Roger, auntie Carol and I in Edinburgh, last year

A love of Celtic music, myth and history

Another weird thing about me growing up, was that I have always been drawn to Celtic music, for no reason in particular. It’s not something that my parents ever heard, it wasn’t something that I was introduced to. I don’t remember exactly how it started, but it was probably with something like Enya, moved on to Celtic Woman, and later Loreena McKennitt. These were mostly Irish songs that I heard, but then, as I matured and also grew out of Enya and Celtic Woman, which I no longer enjoy much. I discovered traditional bagpipes songs from Scotland, and the Runrig songs sung in Scottish Gaelic – An Toll Dubh being my favourite to this day. Braveheart’s soundtrack was also one of those that I went on listening to throughout the years.

Thank goodness for the internet, and how it allowed a young teenager in the south of Portugal to grow up with access to all of this. There were so many songs in Gaelic that I listened to, both Irish and Scottish, some of their lyrics imprinted eternally in my mind, even though I don’t speak the languages.

I guess this love of Celtic culture was borne out of my initial fascination of things like Neo-paganism and Wicca, which I discovered in my teens. As an atheist growing up in an atheist household, I’ve always been fascinated by the mythological and lore-rich aspects of certain religions, and I was deeply fascinanted by these New Age movements that drew influence from Celtic mythology. Alas, I never managed to actually become a believer – the concept of god, even if female, remained utterly bizarre and irrational to me – but I read a lot of books on Irish & Scottish mythology, which perhaps helped me better understand part of the Scottish soul which I now experience on a daily basis.

We must not forget, also, that the Celts migrated through the Iberian Peninsula, and indeed there is some heritage from that culture within Portuguese traditions, particularly in the North. Could that help explain any of this? Who knows.

Life has a way of being constantly fascinating

There are two things in my life, two loves, that grip my soul in profound ways. One, is the love I have for my partner, a love whose flame was ignited on the moment I first laid my eyes upon him, and which hasn’t flickered in the slightest in these almost seven years. I can never rationally explain how I feel like we were meant to be together, because I don’t believe in those things – but, all I can say is that Plato’s theory of the souls being divided by the gods, and us spending a life looking for our other half, is the one that best captures how I feel about Roger, my best friend and love of my life. The one who makes me whole.

The other thing I cannot rationally explain is why I felt like I had finally come home, almost in the same moment I first breathed Scotland’s air after arriving here. I don’t believe in a soul or anything of the sort, but the only way I can describe that feeling, is that it felt like my soul, who had never felt at home in Portugal, could finally breath, for it was now where it belonged. And since that first moment, back in November of 2015, that feeling has remained unchanged.

In fact, when I fly back to Portugal once a year, and although I love to visit the folks back there, I feel sad. Because I am going away from where I want to be, away from the one place where truly feel like myself.

Perhaps it is best that I cannot rationalise these feelings. That they are so deeply emotional may explain their overwhelming power. But the fact is that, in a way, something of Scotland’s spirit grabbed me from a very young age, thousands of kilometers away, and in my hear of hearts I know that this will never cease to be. I may have a Portuguese complexion, and my accent may never be like a native, but I have no doubts that these elements don’t make my soul any less Celtic. Any less Scottish.

BBC and Xenophobia: Why I Cancelled My TV Licence

nae BBC

When there’s sufficient distance between historians and the events taking place today, regarding Brexit, it will be interesting to read the analysis of the role played by the BBC during this time. As an immigrant, a category often used to score cheap political points during the political debates or used in newspaper headlines to push divisive agendas, my gut feeling is that the corporation has been instrumental in both heightening the xenophobia prevalent in Brexiteers’ obsession with people like me, and it has failed in any substantive way to offer an accurate representation of the actual facts, because it’s obsessed with this damaging notion of balance – that both sides of an argument have equal validity, even when one of them knowingly fills the airwaves with porkies.

A month ago, I decided to give up on my TV Licence. Why? Not because I want to live in an echo chamber and only listen to the stuff I agree with – I’m perfectly comfortable with Conservative voices. But I can’t stand lies, blatant propaganda, and the manipulation of the truth to convey a specific agenda – that’s what prompted me to say cheerio to the BBC and move on to brighter, less xenophobic pastures than anything on live TV / iPlayer / BBC radio.

Enough of talking about British expats, and everyone else being an immigrant. Enough of talking of EU citizens as tools that are either needed to “pick our strawberries”, or disposed of whenever they become inconvenient. Enough of the BBC putting nasty idiots like Boris hosting political shows, or failing to proper scrutinise the rhetoric coming out of some politicians.

BBC has played a major role in the negative rhetoric about immigration

One of the greatest examples of the corporation’s role in projecting the voices of hatred and division is its flagship political show, Question Time. Be it the propensity of right-wing voices with unpalatable views (the toad from UKIP), the shady lobbyists from obscurely-funded “Think Tanks” (Taxpayers’ Alliance), or xenophobic journalists manipulating the anxieties of their viewers/readers (that idiotic lass from the Daily Mail who is a pal of Arron Banks), the fact is that the show constantly puts on the panel people who have little of worthwhile substance to contribute.

And then there’s the audiences. Don’t get me started on the audiences. From the frothing at the mouth gammons that go on 1-minute rants about immigrants and this country needing to take back control, to the questionable plants purposefully given a microphone to convey the producers’ narrative. At first, I was skeptical of people going on about the show’s producers having an agenda, but after the Billy Mitchell scandal in Scotland (a failed UKIP candidate invited to the show several times and who later admitted in a Times interview that the producers had called him because they wanted his views), it became obvious that there was no amount of “Oops, we didn’t mean it!” that could disguise the agenda being played.

But the BBC doesn’t care. They have been called out on this several times, and yet they keep doing it. I have cancelled my TV Licence more than a month ago, but I still get the wee clips from Question Time shared by people on my social media, and, quelle surprise, last night there was a guy going on about the stupidity of having democratic referendums (that guy’s mind will be blown with the concept of having regular elections, by the way, because that’s the essence of Democracy – letting people change their minds). People were quick to point out that it wasn’t just an uninterested audience member who had casually happened to have been given a microphone.

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Another “random” audience member. Yeah, right.

I watched the first episode with Fiona Bruce, back in January, with the hopes that she would bring with her much needed change to the tone of the show. Yeah, fuck that. If anything, Fiona has heightened the most pervasive aspects of the show. The Daily Mail “journalist” and Arron Banks’ pal I mentioned earlier, in one the January shows, went on a rant about freedom of movement based on a hateful lies, and Fiona didn’t do her journalistic duty and contradict what was being said. That’s a disgrace. It also doesn’t help my sense of self-worth, as an immigrant in Scotland, that part of the audience cheered her xenophobic twattery (video below).

The problem extends beyond Question Time

Question Time is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with political coverage on the BBC, but it certainly isn’t the only culprit. From Politics Live constantly doing right-wing talking points and inviting people from shady think tanks, to Andrew Neil attacking journalists like Carole Cadwalladr on his own Twitter and the BBC refusing to chastise him, to actual actors being asked to play the role of a vicar as part of an audience Q&A in Newsnight.

The BBC has not created the right-wing monster taking over the public debate in this country – but they have fed it, contributed to its growth, and done nothing credible to acknowledge their own failings. From the times they would put a climate denier against a scientist to debate climate change, creating a false sense of equivalence, to them purposefully lowering Diane Abbott’s microphone volume on Question Time to make her look weak. It’s incredible what’s being done in plain sight.

No matter its cultural output, which I’ll happily admit has quite a substantial amount of high-quality content, like Killing Eve, Fleabag and Bodyguard, the role the BBC has played as the voice of the UK establishment, a particularly Tory/UKIP tinged voice (have you counted how many times Toad Farage has been on shows like Question Time?), has been detrimental to this country.

I could also go on about how Scotland is parochially treated within the BBC, including its elected representatives from the SNP. I could tell you how, despite me not being a fan of Corbyn in any way, the BBC repeatedly uses fake Tory talking points and smears to attack Corbyn’s leadership. I could go on about some of the individual journalists, broadcasters and radio hosts who peddle demagogue lies to their audiences. The sad thing is, there’s no short amount of things on which to criticise the BBC.

Enough of paying to be diminished as an immigrant

Me and my partner don’t watch much TV – gaming and reading have always been our main sources of entertainment. But we did watch the news, both on the BBC and Channel 4, every night, one followed by the other. Yet we decided to give that up, because we cannot bring ourselves to give our hard-earned money to the BBC, to legitimise the xenophobia they’re feeding.

There were times, after watching Question Time, where I went to bed genuinely distraught and disturbed, made to feel like a burden on this country, even though I know full well the facts, and they are quite clear that immigration makes a massive financial contribution to the UK, on top of the cultural gains we get from diversity.

So we have plugged the antenna cable out of our TV, and have been experimenting with trials of Netflix and Amazon to see if we like them. YouTube has got me covered in terms of following live proceedings in the House of Commons, as well as Channel 4 news clips which they upload regularly, and I continue to read the same newspapers as before, so I keep up on the latest without going through the BBC filter.

I have no time for those who don’t pay the TV Licence but still watch it. Armchair rebels – yeah, we have enough of that. You’re not putting your fist up to the BBC, you’re only showing the middle finger to the people who lawfully pay their TV Licence. And you’re still contributing to the BBC ratings. If you want to send them a message loud and clear, stop watching any live TV or Iplayer, and cancel your TV Licence – and tell them exactly why when you fill out the form.

That’s what we did, and let me tell you, the past month has been like a detox for the brain.

Twitter can bring out the worst in people

This is not one of the posts I usually write for this blog. But something so remarkably fun (and sad) happened on Twitter, tonight, that I couldn’t but feel the need of putting it up here, not least for my future reference.

You see, I’m an optimist, and so I look very positively at Twitter. Yeah, sure, it’s full of disgustingly vile people who will fight over anything. But I’ve also met many a fine people in whose lives I’ve grown genuinely interested, and who I care about to various extents. And, crucially, most people tend to be polite, funny and warm – like in the real world.

However, had a particular interaction tonight that encapsulates the pettiness of this social media bubble. I’ll let the below image speak for itself, but let me just end by saying this: if your immediate response, when confronted with your own smugness, is not to laugh at yourself and recognise your error, but instead to double down and lash out in a horribly xenophobic manner, you’re just a vile, nasty, ignorant little shit, and it will always be a pleasure to put in your place.

Especially when English is not even my native language.

 

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A lesson in smugness

If anyone is wondering, deprecating and denigrating are synonyms when used in this context:

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Dictionary reference

Nativism has no place in civic nationalism

Jock Tamson's Bairns

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns

Following a recent interview by the leader of the Labour branch office in Scotland, Richard ‘Dick’ Leonard, where he said he would oppose any movement towards a second referendum on Scottish Independence, there’s been some angry furore on the Yes social media circles.

Some of it raises quite reasonable and valid questions. Who is Dick Leonard to oppose a second Indyref, when the Scottish electorate put a pro-Indy majority in Holyrood at the last election? Why is Scottish Labour (which isn’t even a registered party), with only 7 MPs, standing in the way of 35 out of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster? There are also those simply asking: who the fuck is Dick Leonard? Believe me, I wish I was as blissfully ignorant, too. Just know that he’s a fully animated bobble-head doll with a *SNP BAD* voice message played on repeat. Oh, and that he’s the type of Labour “Socialist” who shafted the pay for women in Glasgow’s city council.

What concerns me, however, aren’t the above questions, but those who have chosen to focus on the fact that Dick Leonard was born in Yorkshire, and therefore has no right oppose Scottish independence. I wholeheartedly reject this, because I believe that anyone who lives & works in Scotland should have a say in our collective future. What kind of hypocrite would I be, were I to believe otherwise? After all, fate decreed that I was born elsewhere, but Scotland is my home, and I have a right to express any opinions about it – and everyone else has the right to reject any such opinions, without resorting to nativist arguments about my place of birth. Same should apply to Dick Leonard.

The poison we must suck out of the pro-Indy movement

I’ve picked three tweets that were born out of the this Dick Leonard miasma. None of these accounts is a bot / troll with a few dozen followers, but all have above a thousand people following them.

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What these three Tweets share in common, is the priority of nativism in order to establish a voting franchise. Much of the poison feeding into this idea seems to come from the fact that non-Native voters in 2014 opted for ‘No’, contributing to the loss of the first Indyref.

That is one way of looking at it. You can pick apart any demographic and try to ascribe different levels of guilt. If you’re going to pick up on foreigners, you might just be a xenophobe. I mean, if you want to get down to the numbers, a BBC study shows that 56.8% of people born outside of UK voted No. The exact same percentage of women also voted No. So why are you a xenophobe and not a misogynist? Well, my guess is that these people will probably be a bit (or a lot) of both.

If you want to be even more ridiculous, you can look at the religious breakdown. 60% of no voters were Protestant. Will we be burning them at the stake, now? It’s so stupid that I can’t even go on with these examples, even though there are many to choose from.

Nativism makes sense in very specific contexts – it justifies, for example, the fact that the vast majority of countries require their heads of state to have been born there, so that, theoretically, an agent of a different country doesn’t take over (Didn’t turn out so well with the Russian puppet in the White House, though, did it? And funnily enough the same guy behind the racist campaign chasing after Obama’s birth certificate).

But nativism is nasty. It’s often used against me by Unionists, who tell me that I have no right, as an immigrant, to hold an opinion on Scottish independence. Some tell me that I should be grateful for being in the UK. That I’m a guest. My answer remains the same, to all of these: fuck off. I’ve paid my due taxes from my work – I’m not your guest, I’m contributing to the financing of British society, you dumb numpties.

Such bigotry should hold no sway over the arguments made by pro-Indy folk. Not least because, given the Brexit clusterbourach, it’s very likely that the non-Native demographic will shift massively towards a Yes vote come the next Indyref. It is our job to win over 2014’s No voters, not antagonise and hold a grudge for the way they might’ve voted before.

I want an Indy Scotland built on hope and compassion, not grievances

During the Brexit referendum, Westminster excluded EU citizens from the voting franchise. Had we been included, the vote would’ve been a crushing victory for Remain instead. But that was a morally objectionable choice by David Cameron’s Government – like all choices of that clown’s tenure as PM, to be frank.

Scotland shouldn’t resort to dirty tricks to return to independence. We can expect those from Westminster and their propaganda mouthpieces, like the appalling bias demonstrated by the BBC in the run up to 2014. But rather than getting down in the dirt and ending up covered in the same shite, we should fight for independence while holding the moral high ground, making loud and clear that Scots, English, Europeans or people from anywhere else in the world, if they’re living in Scotland, they are Scottish.

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns. Harbouring grievances based on our differences would be the end of us.

The Clearances – why Scotland welcomes immigrants

 

The Emigrants

“The Emigrants”, Helmsdale (credit: Mary and Angus Hogg)

 

It was in the summer of 2016, when me and my partner went on our first car trip around the Scottish Highlands, that I first encountered the term “Clearances”. In fact, we did not encounter the term per se, but upon reaching Ullapool on one of the legs of this trip, we were asking ourselves: “How come the Highlands are so empty?”. As we settled into our B&B for the night, I googled that same question, and so I stumbled into a very grim and depressing period of Scottish history which had remained totally unbeknownst to me.

I love the rugged emptiness of the Highlands, their feeling of remoteness; it’s part of what makes them so beautiful. But since that first trip, I’ve done a lot of reading on the Clearances, and that sense of beauty will forever be entwined with sorrow. My heart despairs whenever I think of the suffering and hardship suffered by those who were ripped off their land and scattered along the coasts of Scotland, told to survive on impossibly small pieces of land, which inevitably resulted in thousands upon thousands of people risking their lives in the hopes of finding a better future elsewhere. Fortunately, many did, but many died on the way, or even before they could pay for the expensive transportation out of Scotland.

The horror of the Clearances shall not be forgotten

Despite the many attempts by certain people to erase the human horror of the Clearances, or portray those found dispossessed and forced into exile as “mere economic migrants” (Looking at you, Neil Oliver, and that utter mess of a documentary that you put together for the BBC. Perhaps you should leave history to actual historians, and focus on your archaeology, a very noble but very different science, next time?), the memory of the Clearances has never gone away.

How many Scots today have family around all four corners of the world? How many of those families are descended from Highland & Lowland exiles, those people who, as the historian James Hunter puts it in the title of his book on this subject, were simply set adrift upon the world? Many others, who might not remember the Clearances, will have family abroad descended from emigrants in the 20th century, many of them leaving in equally desperate circumstances, after the calamitous effects of two World Wars.

This reality, I think, explains why immigration is much less of a toxic debate in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Because many Scots will hopefully remember the hardship faced by those forced into exile, but also recognise the wonderful contribution those people have made around the world, and hope that immigrants coming into Scotland bring those same benefits into this wee part of the world.

 

Thomas_Faed_-_The_Last_of_the_Clan

“The Last of the Clan” (1865), by Thomas Faed

The Clearances are a uniquely horrible period

Let me make it clear that I don’t think there are many similarities between the reality that forced Scottish people into exile during the Clearances, and today’s reality of economic migrants like myself. Refugees from war-torn countries certainly have much more in common with those dispossessed Scots, but I’m lucky enough to never have experienced the utter desperation that leads to forced displacement. I’m privileged to have saved up money and prepare in advance before I moved to Scotland, I am privileged that it only took me a 3-hour flight to get here, and I am privileged that I had a safety net back in Portugal if everything fell apart with the move. Refugees today, and Scots fleeing the country back in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries, enjoy none of these privileges.

We look at places like Badbea, in Caithness, and how people cleared from the straths and glens were literally forced to live on a cliff-edge, stuck between a wall meant to keep in the sheep and a deadly precipice, and we get just a tiny glimpse that there was no choice when it came to emigrating for many of these people. All hope had been lost, their entire way of life shattered in order to feed the greed and vain desires of an aristocracy that couldn’t spare a moment’s thought for the victims of their calamitous pursuits. This was ethnic cleansing, pure and simple, a continued part of the British state’s attempt to destroy Scotland’s identity and culture. A project that went into full force right after the Battle of Culloden, and, we could argue, one that hasn’t fully stopped since then.

And today, although there are now memorials to many of these exiles, such as the one in Helmsdale, the statue to one of the architects and main actors of the Clearances still stands in Sutherland, overlooking the deserted landscape he created. (I’m not one for tearing down statues, but I’d rip that cunt right off that place and put one up to the victims of this horror instead, the ones whose strength and courage deserves to be immortalised and celebrated).

 

The consequences of this on Scottish attitudes today

I don’t want to keep going on about the historical side of the Clearances, as there are many brilliant books out there for you to read. James Hunter, who I mentioned above, depicts these horrors in his brilliant Set Adrift Upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances, so far my favourite book on the subject, although focused on the Sutherland region alone, so you may want to look out for others if you want a broader picture. Consider the Lilies is a novel recommended to me many times, and I finally bought it this week, so I can’t wait to read it. And there’s also the very recent The Scottish Clearances by T. M. Devine, recipient of much praise.

My point is that the waves of forced emigration have ensured a sense of empathy in Scotland about the plight faced by emigrants in today’s world, even if the circumstances may be very different. There is also a sense of the great things that these exiled Scots went on to achieve, and perhaps a hope that by welcoming immigrants into Scotland today, these New Scots will too go on to enrich and improve our country.

May we never forget the plight faced by those people, cleared from the Highlands, Islands and the Lowlands, and may we rejoice in the legacy they have left around the world. Equally, may we never forget the humanity and sacrifice of those migrants leaving their native countries behind and coming to Scotland in the hopes of having a better life.

I am such one of these New Scots, and I hope to prove myself worthy, in time, of the love and hospitality that I’ve been greeted with since the moment I set foot upon this land of ours.

A Celebratory Burns Night

rabbie burns

It’s Friday afternoon, the vegetarian Haggis is cooking in the oven, and I’m mildly tipsy from the spoonfuls of cream infused with whisky that I ate as I prepared the cranachan for tonight. It feels like the end of a crazy week, with many things happening in my life and all of them good. Rather than my usual political diatribes, this post is more of a reflection, so if you’re not into that, just scroll down to find my cranachan recipe with a Portuguese flair.

Having said that, it’s not been an easy few days for the pro-Indy movement. Stay strong. A man is a man is a man, but our cause stands above any one individual. Don’t squabble, don’t play into the hands of our political adversaries, and don’t undermine our judiciary. Uphold the presumed innocence of the accused, but respect the right of any accusers to come forward, no matter how interesting the timing appears. Our moral principles come first, and the truth will reveal itself – eventually.

Being published in The National

On Monday morning, I went through the masochistic process of applying for my pre-settled status as an EU citizen living in the UK. Having witnessed the shenanigans that the Home Office can get up to as part of its hostile environment policy, I did so with a lot of trepidation.

Somehow, though, thanks to the magic of social media, I was contacted by Callum Baird, editor of Scotland’s largest (and best) pro-Independence newspaper, The National. He asked me if I could write about my experience of going through the settled status application, which I did, and it was published in their website as well as in their physical newspaper on Tuesday. I was very proud when I saw it that morning, and so happy to receive so much lovely feedback from it.

Then, on Tuesday night, I happened to re-publish my love letter to Scotland on Twitter (the blog post I wrote back in December and that was the spark behind creating Brawblether.com). It had enjoyed some traction back in December, but because it was the holiday season many people weren’t as active on Twitter. This time around, however, it spread even wider, and on Wednesday morning I was approached by Wings Over Scotland, who wanted to have it published over on their website.

This put me in front of Wings’ very big audience and brought me hundreds (literally, hundreds) of messages, tweets, comments, emails, you name it – all filled with kind, supportive, welcoming words for me and my partner. I gained around 400 new followers just this week, and Brawblether also saw a spike in visits. On top of that, emails were exchanged, stories heard and told, and there was even an invitation to speak at a YES group in the future.

Overall, it felt like many pieces coming into place, and I’m very grateful for my luck and living among such fine folk. I am truly humbled.

Celebrating Scotland, the Scots, and Scots language with Burns Night

Tonight is meant to celebrate oor Rabbie and his poetry. Me and my partner have done it since our first 25th of January in Scotland, only two months after first moving here, back in November 2015. And although we also like to observe St. Andrews day, and celebrate Scotland then, I think tonight is the evening when I really feel like we celebrate some of the things I love the most about Scotland: its people, its food, and the poetry and music of its spirit.

As I said, the Haggis is cooking, the neeps n’ tatties are ready to be peeled and cooked too, and the cranachan is in the fridge, whipped up and ready to enjoy. As it will only be the two of us (and our two cats) at home, we don’t read poetry or anything during dinner, but we acknowledge Burns and do something related to him during the day, like reading in bed a biography or some of his work.

We would also love to be wearing kilts and all of that, but we just haven’t been able to afford them yet. We want to have some really good ones, that would last us a lifetime, and so we’re saving up for that (it’s also the only thing stopping us of getting married right now, as we want to do it in full Scottish clothing).

So, at the end of a week that felt really good and for which I am thankful of living in oor wee country, accompanied by such braw folk, and experiencing it all with the love of my life at my side, I shall be dining very happily tonight, and enjoying a wee dram in your honour. Slàinte mhath.

Thank you for all the love. Scots are the best cunts in the world, and I mean this as the highest compliment I can come up with!

‘Cranachan alla Saraband’ Recipe

Now, cranachan has to be one of the simplest and most delicious desserts in the world. My take on it is that I infuse the cream with the whisky, and the oats with just a hint of Port, letting the sweetness come through the honey. Also, I think I use a bit more raspberries than other recipes, but that’s because I love their flavour and colour.

As with any recipe, take it and make it your own!

Cranachan homemade

Ingredients:

  • 20g rolled oats
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 150g crowdie cheese (quark or cottage cheese will do too if needed)
  • 300g raspberries (250g to be mashed, 50g aside to decorate)
  • 4 tablespoons of honey (try to use some good heather honey, it’s worth it)
  • 2 tablespoons of red Port
  • 130ml of whisky (this will be strong – reduce if you like it less intense)

Preparation:

  • Toast the oats in a frying pan (no fat! just the oats!) over medium heat for 5 mins (7 mins if using electrical stove), shaking them regularly until they’re slightly brown and smelling nutty / popcornish. Set aside and leave them to cool down (I usually get this step done 1 hour before doing the cranachan);
  • Mash the 250g of raspberries with a fork, no need to be too fussy, until you get a puree-like substance. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and the 2 tablespoons of red Port, mix and set aside;
  • In a large bowl, add the double cream, the crowdie cheese, 3 tablespoons of honey (be more / less generous depending on how sweet you like your cranachan to be), and the whisky. Whip it until you get a soft peaks – no need to go for the very hard consistency, as the oats will suck some of the moisture and make your cranachan more solid when it is all assembled and refrigerated;
  • Now, simply assemble! I usually do a generous layer of cream, topped with the raspberry puree, followed by the oats. You can repeat until you fill up the glass (this recipe usually allows you to do two layers of each on 4 tumblers). Top the final layer with a couple of raspberries and a mint leaf, and just a thin drizzle of honey;
  • Enjoy!

Fiona Bruce on Question Time – a verdict

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Fiona Bruce, new host of BBC’s Question Time

When Fiona Bruce was first announced as the new host of the BBC’s Question Time programme, I was somewhat happy. I knew the corporation would never have gone with anyone too risky – this is a show tailored to draw and amplify the imaginary anxieties of Little Britain – and although I would have much preferred Victoria Derbyshire, as I have witnessed her properly questioning politicians in her morning programme, I was okay with Fiona Bruce.

Many a gammon immediately let out their oink oinks at the idea of a woman, and I have no patience for those insecure men who find a threat in a woman more intelligent than them – which is often the case for every women these men encounter. Some furore was also made of the fact that she was too posh, too Antiques Road Show – but for a show previously presented by David Dimbleby, one can only go down in the overall level of poshness. Unless they went with Jacob Rees-Mogg, which, in these mad time of Brexitlandia, I wouldn’t consider it an impossible consideration for the BBC’s execs.

As such, I tried to watch last night’s programme, especially because the panel counted with the rare participation of an SNP MP (the lovely Kirsty Blackman, in this case, one of the few voices of reason on that show). But I stopped after 29 minutes, because this was around the time that I lost the little bit of hope I had saved for Fiona Bruce as a professional journalist.

Around the 28 minute mark, Daily Mail’s sweet princess and Brexitannia rising star, Isabel Euphemia Oakeshott, came out with a lie that should have been immediately questioned by Fiona Bruce. This was the lie that freedom of movement had been a disaster for the UK. See the clip:

 

The implication of this assertion is that immigration has somehow ravaged the United Kingdom, brought on immense social and economic damage, and made the lives of everyone here worse – for what else could a disaster mean?

My hopes for a change in tone for #BBCQT have died

Such is the scale of the accusation, that any trainee journalist would immediately know that it was his or her duty to offer a contradictory, or to give the person making the ludicrous claim a chance for clarification. But Fiona Bruce, even though she is such an experienced professional, did none of this. Isabel Oakeshott spewed her bile on national television – to the roaring applause of her English audience – and by the hostess failing to do her journalistic duty, it gave the lie an illusion of substance.

Now, to be fair, would have David Dimbleby done any different? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. The problem may go deeper than the individuals here – there is much to be question about the BBC’s Question Time, from its production team’s possible associations with the Far Right, to the BBC’s own editorial guidelines which often make a mockery of reasonable discourse (like the idea that they have to have a climate change scientist debating a climate change denier almost all the time, creating a false perception of it being a 50/50 debate).

I wish Fiona Bruce all the best, and hope that this was only a journalistic faux pas. But, as an immigrant in the UK, I had long stopped watching BBC’s Question Time due to its constant dog-whistling of xenophobia towards migrants. I have no interest in intellectual sadism – I’d rather turn off the TV than go to bed irritated with the lies often spouted by the programme’s audience and panel members. I hoped that a change in host would change the tone of the show, but last night revealed to me that such hopes should be left for fools.

There is nothing much to be gained from Question Time, beyond disappointment and irritation, and the confirmation that Great Britain has now fully metamorphosed into the amalgamation of all the phobias and ignorance contained at the heart of Little England.