Friday, January 25, 2008

Playing Through

SlĂ inte Mhath! Happy Burns Day!
Give the Scots in your life a polite nod of acknowledgement today (or perhaps a firm handshake if you know them really well. But please, none of that "kiss me I'm Irish" nonsense!). There probably is a Scot in your life as there are about 5 million Canadians with Scottish ancestry oot and aboot. Some Scottish Canadians are quite fiercely attached to their Scottish heritage, along the lines of Mike Myers' infamous Scottish storekeeper on Saturday Night Live: "It it's not Scottish, it's craaaapp".

Vancouver band Spirit of the West put it best in their classic song, "The Old Sod":

From the old sod to the new land we came over by the score
We cut the ties said goodbye & closed the old world door
We settled on your prairies, in your cities and your towns
There's another oatmeal savage, every time you turn around

There's none more Scots than the Scots abroad.
There's a place in our hearts for the old sod.
There's none more Scots than the Scots abroad.
There's a place in our hearts for the old sod.

We soon found our own kind, formed clubs & social nights
We practised on each other just to keep our accents right
For there's more tartan here than in all the motherland
We came 5000 miles to the gathering of the clans


There's a bar in the rec room in the basement of our house
A little shrine to Ballantynes, Haig & Famous Grouse
There's a sprig of purple heather from the land that once was mine
And Robbie's on the tea towel with the words to Auld Lang Syne


Canada's been good to us, we've a living and a home.
We've all got central heating and most are on the phone.
I'm a citizen of both countries and very proud to be,
For the thistle and the maple leaf, are the emblems of the free.

Many "oatmeal savages" make the trek back to the old sod from time to time - Edmonton author Curtis Gillespie among them. He wrote a beautiful, moving memoir of a year he spent with his young family living in the small town of Gullane, Scotland: Playing Through: A Year of Life and Links Along the Scottish Coast. On the surface a golf book, with sufficient talk of Gullane Golf Club to satisfy golfers, it is really about Gillespie and his father, his family and the fragility of life. It paints an affectionate picture of Scottish village life including ceilidhs and Burns Night dinners.

Curtis is here in person at the Library this Sunday, along with author Todd Babiak, to talk about his most recent book, a novel from last fall, Crown Shyness. Their event, Sunday Salon, takes place Sunday January 27th at 2:00pm. Hope you can make it!


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