SNP Spring Conference 2019

 

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I first joined the Scottish National Party back in early 2016 (as the Brexit rhetoric was ramping up towards the referendum, and it became increasingly clear that the SNP was one of the few parties ready to reject the scapegoating of immigration for the damages of Tory austerity). However, I’ve never been a party-politically engaged member. No branch meetings or anything of that sort – I’ve always been a lone-wolf, sometimes to my detriment, often against my best instincts of wanting to do more. Unfortunately, it’s a case of allowing stupid social anxiety to get in the way of the stuff I want to do, although I’m working on that.

However, with this year’s Spring Conference taking place in my home turf of Edinburgh, and my political engagement at its most energetic, it proved itself to be a great opportunity to take a step outside my comfort zone and see for myself how these things work. And so I did.

The highlights

Now, I don’t want to bore with you all the details, so I’ll try to be succinct.

The greatest pleasure of it all was meeting so many familiar names that I only knew from social media. And boy, did I realise the power of this medium – I was so overwhelmed with people popping up wanting to say hi, full of complimentary words about my social media antics or my blog. Some people brought up my first ever article for this blog, my love letter to Scotland, or even some of my non-political ramblings that resonated with them. Seriously, it was just lovely to be stopped every once in a while by someone starting a phrase with “Mr. Saraband, I just want to say hi…” (still feeling very pretentious about being addressed by a pseudonym, but hey).

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Me (left), my fiancĂŠ Roger (centre), and Steven Campell (right) – also, that’s Ian Blackford behind us

A big shout out to the lovely Steven Campell, recently elected Vice-Convener of YSI Lothian, who was an absolute star during the karaoke party on Saturday night (excellently hosted by the MP Hannah Bardell) and made sure I met loads of the people involved. On top of it all, I had one of our front-bench MSPs actually tapping me on my shoulder because he wanted to say he loved my tweets (I screamed inside, whilst trying to remain very cool), and had the honour of witnessing a rendition of “Sunshine on Leith” by the one and only, Mr. Ian Blackford MP.

Witnessing the motions being put before Conference was also an obvious highlight, particularly the discussion around the Growth Commission. Even with fundamental disagreements between some of the participants, it was delightful to see debate conducted with mutual respect (notable exception for the guy who threw a tantrum on the second day, because he was the only person in the room against a Citizens’ Assembly, misreading the atmosphere to such a degree that he thought it wise to denigrate Joanna Cherry, who had minutes before rightfully received a standing ovation. It was a pleasure to boo him).

Needless to say, though, that Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was the perfect finale. Some stuff in there that I wasn’t expecting, like further help with a deposit for first-time buyers, which is much welcome. The reiteration that every Scot, new and old, should know that Scotland is our home and that we don’t need to leave, ever. The declaration of state of ecological emergency was interesting, but I’m curious to see how that’s followed up with some practical action before I say much more about it. And it was, of course, a joyful political punching session for both Tories and Labour, with Nicola delivering some much needed uppercuts to the empty rhetoric of the two biggest parties at Westminster.

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FM Nicola Sturgeon’s closing speech

On top of it all, I heard an overwhelming amount of inclusive speeches, the contribution to Scottish society by European citizens like myself was regularly celebrated, and almost everyone seemed to be absolutely buzzing at the prospect of our second, and finally successful, Indyref. The two fringe events I attended – one on EU Citizens’ rights, where I intervened at the Q&A, and another on Euthanasia – compounded the experience of a phenomenal event. There was also none of the gender debate hysteria that seems to engulf social media – everyone I spoke to about this, including women with perfectly valid questions, was perfectly reasonable and humane when talking about Trans issues. I’m so glad that extremism around this question is much less prevalent in real people, rather than the often two-dimensional characters of social media that peddle profoundly ignorant rhetoric against one group or another.

The lows – what lows?

The coffee was terrible. Seriously, that’s my biggest complaint about the whole event. I even mentioned it to one of the lovely venue workers’ on the second day, who nodded to me apologetically and simply whispered “We know.”

Of course, I was also really excited to put in a card on the motion for a Citizens’ Assembly, as I wanted to speak for it whilst making a passionate case that it should represent all sections of Scottish society, including immigrants. Alas, it’s always frustrating to not have a chance to say something you think it’s important, but others ended up conveying similar sentiments and I will look forward to other opportunities to make that case. Nonetheless, a big thank you goes out to the SNP European Parliamentary candidate, Christian Allard, who was the one who came up to me on the first day and convinced me that I should put in a speaking card, going through the trouble of explaining how it was done to a complete newbie like myself. A charming gentleman who will represent Scotland, and its values of openness and European solidarity, with utmost excellence, when he gets elected next month.

Finally, after getting a reply from Nicola Sturgeon on Friday, that resulted in my most popular tweet ever, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t able to get a picture with her. My mother would certainly have appreciated it – but we will have to wait for another opportunity.

I have a lot more I could say. For a political junkie like myself, a passionate believer in Scottish independence and in building a fairer society that is big enough for everyone, I was the happiest fish in the sea. I’m filled with hope and optimism, and, above all, a desperate desire to grab my coat and start doing the work on the ground needed to get a Yes result as big as we can. I will also be looking at participating in my local SNP & YES groups due to the encouragement of some of the folks at Conference.

And, Aberdeen, get ready – because I don’t think I can miss the October Conference now.

The first step towards IndyRef2

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Since the morning of the Brexit result, I’ve been feart of two things above all others: to imagine my life in a post-Brexit United Kingdom, as an immigrant, and to conceive of the idea that Scotland would never see itself unfettered from the asphyxiating grip of this Union. Since June 2016, I’ve had very few uplifting moments that did anything to assuage these two overwhelming fears.

Today, however, was the day that changed.

Building Independence, one block at a time

Brexit has brought a lot of flamboyance to these islands’ politics. It has ushered in an era of cheap rhetoric, malignant scapegoating of minorities, and the worst cutthroat politics imaginable, perhaps second only to something seen on Game of Thrones.

Nicola Sturgeon’s statement to the Scottish Parliament, today, was entirely different. In a calm, measured, and well-reasoned way, the First Minister and leader of the SNP presented a series of successive steps that will be taken in order to set the ground for a new referendum on Scottish independence. She outlined the sovereignty of the Scottish people, and emphasised their right to choose a better future than what the current status quo is delivering.

The first meaty announcement was that of setting up a Citizens’ Assembly, a body that can help reach consensus across society on dividing issues. The second, was the announcement that primary legislation will now be moving forward to ensure a second independence referendum, to take place between now and 2021, so that such legislation is in place by the time the Scottish Government negotiates a Section 30 order with the UK Government.

A lot of people in the Indy movement are taking issue with the latter part, rightly pointing out that sovereignty on this issue already lies with the Scottish people, and therefore our Holyrood Parliament, thus excluding any need “to ask permission” for IndyRef2.

In many regards, I would agree with the sentiment of this. But I think the SNP’s leadership is going for a politically astute plan that plays well in the eyes of the international community. We certainly don’t want things to reach a point like Catalonia, where local and central governments are severely at odds, and peaceful democrats are facing imprisonment. By acting in this way, Nicola Sturgeon is also showing the Scottish electorate that she is trying to reach a consensus on every step of the way, so no one can’t say she hasn’t tried.

She has also forced the Unionist parties to come up with better alternatives to independence, or to defend the current Brexit status quo, both of them nearly impossible tasks. At best, they will come up with b-rate plans that fail to deliver the full benefits of independence – at worst, they will fall on their own federalist/status quo swords. I can only imagine the myriad of ways in which Tories, Labour and Lib Dems will leave me absolutely scunnered by their arguments, but then again, I’ve come to expect very little else from them since I first moved to Scotland.

Independence isn’t guaranteed – there’s much work to do

Although Brexit Britain looks like a nightmarish scenario to most reasonable people, the facts remain that no significant shift has yet happened towards Scottish independence. There’s much work to be done on the ground, and rather than a firing gun, today’s announcement feels like a nod from the SNP to the grassroots movement, a way of saying “get ready folks – start planning”.

As I said at the beginning, today has been the first time I’ve felt truly hopeful about Scotland’s future since the 2016 Brexit result. It is a small, fleeting light, but at least I can see something now, something I can look forward to. That has been enough to ignite my energy and ensure that I will do everything I can to help Nicola Sturgeon succeed, to see that Scotland normalises its status as an independent nation, as it was for most of her history.

The future has been politically bleak, but I’m an optimist, and I can finally see something that looks braw.

We can’t let division win

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Painting with the Arabic word for love, “Al-Hubb”, written in calligraphy. 23x31cm, oil on canvas. ŠSaraband

Twitter can be mental. I love it. I guess most of you who use it also share this love/hate relationship with it, because we all know we’ve made some wonderful connections, but also seen a lot of crap. I guess that social media has all the problems of our modern society but they become amplified with the added layer of echo chambers, and the inability to provide some much needed nuance around complicated issues, a difficult thing to do with a 280-character limit (can’t believe we survived the 140-character era).

Today, in one of Twitter’s typical abilities to catch us unaware, a bitter little straight man popped up on my timeline, taking issue with the fact that I describe myself as a feminist on my Twitter bio (and, indeed, in life), and also support the Trans community as part of the LGBTQ+ family. The man assumed I was some radical activist wanting to erode women’s rights, which I’m not, and I absolutely don’t want to. So a discussion ensued, he ended up admitting that he had jumped in too quickly (although offering a backhanded apology, so fuck him), but I was left shaking because the whole thing caught me by surprise. Admittedly, I deal very badly with people making false assumptions about me, I have to work on that.

Whilst still reeling from that exchange (I took screenshots of it all before blocking him, by the way), I decided to do a wee spontaneous vlog on Twitter about my views on the subjects of male feminism, self-id laws, and the need for compassion in a debate that is becoming a mud-flinging mess on all sides. You can watch it here:

Keep in mind that it is a two-minutes long, unscripted video, so of course there’s a lot more to be said. It does not offer solutions to the questions around self-ID and women’s rights: to be frank, as a gay man perfectly at home in the body I was born with, it’s not my place to offer those solutions. I should listen to what women have to say, and how we can protect the Trans community without infringing on anyone else’s rights.

I will always stand by my sisters fighting for the right to be protected from male violence, and I will always fight for the right of my Trans friends to live dignified lives. These two things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Don’t let the patriarchy divide & conquer us, when we should be fighting it together.

Diversity is not about saying that we’re all the same. We aren’t. Trans people are unique, as are women, gay men, straight men, etc., and there’s uniqueness within every single one of those groups as well. Diversity is about acknowledging that those differences exist, but respect them, and ensure that we are all able to live dignified lives. I know I owe the rights I enjoy today, as a gay man, to both the Trans community that has always fought for me, but also to my Lesbian and Straight sisters, who fought for the LGBTQ+ community at large. Let’s bring that compassion back, and keep the slurs and the dogmas out of the debate, for everyone’s sake.

Oh, and cheerio to anyone saying I’m not, or can’t be a feminist. I can feel the heel of the patriarchy on my neck, every day of my life as a gay man. I know the challenges I face are different from those of my sisters, and I know I still benefit from white male privilege every day of my life. But we are in this together, in a movement with women at the front.

I’ll not let any straight man dictate if I’m a feminist or not. The approval I need has been given to me in the knowing look of my female friends, and they will let me know when I step on the wrong foot, as we all occasionally do, because we’re all human – that’s the point.

Brexit: a lobster allegory

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Picture the following: Theresa May, a chef with no previous cooking experience, has been tasked with humanely disposing of a lobster, before boiling it to perfection, in order to present her gourmand voters with the perfect Brexit feast.

Now, being humane doesn’t come naturally to Theresa, so she tries to kill the lobster with a wooden spoon, ignoring the perfectly sharpened set of knives that could have delivered a quick kill. Fuck that, murmurs Theresa, as she bashes the poor lobster repeatedly, whilst daydreaming about the days where running through fields of wheat was spine-tinglingly exciting. After a while, so convinced of her brilliance that she fails to notice the lobster is still alive, she just chucks the numbed creature into the cooking pot.

However, rather than having the water boiling and at the ready, Theresa May thinks she should, once again, ignore everyone else’s better judgement and go for a very, very slow cook, leaving the flame at minimum heat. The lobster, at this point, is just trying to perform harakiri – or seppuku for the pedants among you – with its own claws, rather than suffering through this existential purgatory at the hands of an incompetent fool, but its claws are tightly shut with an elastic band. The creature is stuck in a red, white and blue pot, not quite cooking because the water is not boiling, but certain that, with enough time, it will die of exhaustion.

As all of this goes on, and Theresa leaves the kitchen for a bit, a few parliamentarian chefs come in and start playing with the pot. Some turn up the flame to the max, while others rapidly pull the pot away. They all laugh and throw witty jibes at each other, before the chef speaker patronisingly asks them all to behave, before he too has a bit of fun with the pot and the poor lobster. The creature looks up in hope, but is met only with eyes exuding sadistic glee.

Theresa pops back into the kitchen and the other chefs clear their throats, complimenting her excellent skills before leaving – they take the sharpened knives with them and look knowingly at each other. Theresa looks into the pot, and is surprised that the lobster is still quite lively. So she leaves everything exactly as it is, because, why change something that isn’t working, right? Instead, she gazes at the wooden spoon in her hand, daydreaming once more. This time, she’s imagining a blue-clad fairy appearing and turning her into wood, just like the spoon, because she’s exhausted of unsuccessfully pretending to be human. A reverse Pinocchio, that’s Theresa May’s greatest wish.

Of course, if you think Theresa’s lobster is bad, imagine how would a lobster alla Gove taste. Or, heaven forbid, lobster with Boris on the side, served with a Rees-Mogg reduction. No, Theresa May, masterful cognoscente of all thinks democratic, and agent of the people’s supposed and outdated wishes, will make sure that we all eat her disgustingly cooked lobster. It’s her buffet or no one else’s – just the tyrannical seasoning that British democracy has been asking for.

Hours go by before sheer exhaustion finally claims the lobster’s life, but not without it having one last epiphany. I’m fucked, the lobster thinks. But not as fucked as those who are about to eat me. Theresa May rings a bell, tells that Brexit is ready to be served, and evaporates out of existence, her satanic purpose fulfilled: a country’s population sacrificed to keep the Conservative Party… conserved.

Theresa May is roadkill – someone drag her out of the road

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Today, on what has been dubbed Brexit Day (even though we’re already into our first short extension), Theresa May brought her deal to Parliament for a third time. Again, it was overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Commons, not in the least thanks to her own backbenchers, as 34 Tories voted against their leader.

Theresa May’s political capital is now so exhausted it has run into the negatives. She’s roadkill. She’s a carcass run over by a mix of her own lack of leadership, and of the cutthroat civil war raging within the Tory Party. Show no hint of pity for her – she has shown none for the innocent victims of her hostile environment. What’s left to us now, is for someone in Theresa May’s own party to step out of their car, and remove the carcass blocking the way, so that normal traffic may resume – we can’t continue this insane ping pong over a deal now thrice defeated.

Theresa May has failed as a party leader. She has failed as the leader of the United Kingdom. She has even failed in her bribe to the DUP, who couldn’t wait to stab a political knife on her back. She’s a failure, and that’s how she’ll be referred to in the brief footnotes of history.

What creature will the Tory party spawn next?

Getting rid of Theresa May will ameliorate none of our problems. For those of us who see the Tory party for the nasty, greedy, self-centred institution that it is, there’s no hope that they will ever produce a leader remotely agreeable to our palate. But there’s no way that we can move on with Brexit while Theresa May stays.

Gove? Rees-Mogg? Leadsom? Johnson? Cunt? Oh, Hunt, I mean. Sorry. They’re all different facets of the same nasty party, no doubts about it. Different flavours and shapes to the same vapid, poisonous stool water that comprises the political expedience of their illustrious politicians. But it will allow the UK government to move ahead with a different plan, and allows us all to organise the opposition to it in a different way. Theresa May’s deal is done and dusted – enough.

I still think these are all pointless delays to the inevitable People’s Vote. But one thing at a time. For now, there’s one thing we should all say to Theresa, at least those of us in Scotland absolutely scunnered with this whole process: away an’ shite, hun. Cheerio.

Brexit: The Last Chapter Of This Union

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“Life is a Theatre”, 42x30cm, acrylic on canvas, by Saraband

 

For two and a half years, what were supposed to be calm and constructive discussions on the nature of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, have instead been comprised of a Tory party slowly lining up a series of metaphorical barrels under these isles. Explosive barrels filled with lies and populism, mixed in with the uniquely flammable nature of English exceptionalism, ready to blow up once the Brexit No Deal match is struck.

This has been a national meltdown, due to the complete ineptitude of the Westminster’s system, and the tethering constraints of its archaic procedures. Everyone says that we must find a sensible approach, but everyone’s sensible approach looks like complete lunacy to the people sitting on either side of them. And if the smaller parties in the UK Parliament have managed to stay united, the shock-waves produced by the earthquakes of Tory and Labour division haven’t been without effect.

These are the worst of times, and these are the worst of times – Dickens was wrong

There’s a lot of irony, to Brexit. Not least the fact that it is a creature spawned from the arcane rituals of British Nationalism. What we are hearing is one last scream of a dying Empire, wanting to celebrate its supposed superiority with defying arrogance and lack of self-awareness. But that is the creature that exists in the dark, for when we look at it under the glaring light of rational thought, what we see is a pathetic little critter, crawling on its last days, gasping for attention. Brexit is a pitiful bogeyman at best, and now the world is pointing and laughing – when it’s not throwing its hands in the air, despairing at the stupidity of a neighbour tearing itself apart, risking the destruction of the entire suburb in the process.

In a way, Brexiteers wanted to make Britain Great Again, like the special edition of Irn Bru bottle that America elected for President. And they did. The United Kingdom has become the centre of the world once more – but now it is no longer the one poking fun at everyone else’s supposed inferiority. No, far from that. The world has become a reality show, and Brexit Britain fills the prime time spot. This is a show meant to be bad, filled with incredibly stupid people, so that everyone else watching can feel a bit better about themselves. Britain has become The Great Joke.

What does the future hold?

At this point, fortune-tellers would be better trusted at predicting the future than any British journalist. Some pretend like they know exactly what is happening, but the truth is that no one really does. The only thing clear, right now, is that there’s no clarity whatsoever.

By the time you end up reading this post, the first paragraph might have been made obsolete. You may go back to your Twitter feed to discover that Brexit has been cancelled, or open a trusted news website and find out that the EU has rolled out emergency plans and No Deal is imminent.

Whatever happens, Brexit has been like a fire, bringing with it panic, fear, and much sweating. But, after the smoke has cleared, and we see the wreck of what’s been left behind, we can rest assured that the putrid skeleton of the institutions in this country will be exposed for all to see. Westminster is not fit for England’s purpose, much less any of the other three nations. May Brexit euthanise it, and replace it with a democratic system fit for the twenty-first century.

So, let the fire of Brexit purge away the toxicity of this Union, and let England set out to fill whatever destiny its people democratically demand. Let Scotland retake its rightful place as a sovereign, outward-looking, European nation. Let Ireland heal the last of its open wounds and accept that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Protestant, or a Catholic: you’re Irish. And may Wales realise that a country’s size should have no bearing on the boundless possibilities of a future where its people have the first and last say, not their next-door tenants.

Maybe we’ve been looking at Brexit all wrong. Maybe, this was just a ceremonial celebration of the 312 years of Union, and a way of putting it out of its misery with a last show of political fireworks. Boom. Flash. Rejoice!

Maybe. Maybe everything will turn out fine. Because, the alternative, in which we all sink together in a mutually destructive Union where every nation’s aspiration is smashed under the heel of Westminster’s inequality, is one which I can’t even dread to contemplate.

 

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.

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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 LuĂ­s, 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, LuĂ­s’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.