It’s the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth. As Scotland rightly comes to grips with its part in this terrible chapter of humanity’s collective history, it is important to remember that even in a time where slavery was legal and state-supported, there was defiance against inequity and compassion for our fellow humans.
Scotland wouldn’t be what it is today without England. That much is obvious: England is our neighbour on the largest of these islands; we’re more or less the same age; a northern branch of their ancestors, the Angles, are among the four peoples who founded Scotland.
It’s nigh impossible to live in Scotland and not have some sort of regular encounter with England. Our public broadcaster is primarily focused on England, with English opinions and interests and accents on the main news, the continuity announcements, all the way to the soap operas and property shows; we elect MPs to a Parliament in Westminster which controls a great number of our laws, frequently against our own representatives’ wishes; the vast majority of newspapers are owned outside Scotland, and regularly headquartered in England. While most folk in England can live their lives largely untroubled by Scottish opinions and interests and accents, we in Scotland cannot avoid England and the English even if we wanted to.
That’s our lot as part of a United Kingdom of England Plus Three.
One of my most cherished memories of London was visiting the Natural History Museum to see my favourite dinosaur – or, rather, the famous cast of it – Diplodocus carnegii. I’ve been twice: once as a wee guy, and once as a not-so-wee guy. Both occasions filled me with the same sense of wonder, history, and awe regardless of the gulf in space and time. And soon, many wee Scots who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Dippy will have their chance!
Jings, it’s been a year, hasn’t it?
It’s been a quiet year in the Wilderness, but there were still some fond memories and popular enough posts. I aim to do better next year, as always. For now, I’ll take a look back on the most popular blog posts of each month from the year that was.
Merry Christmas! Or Happy Holidays! Or Gledelig Jul! Or Secular Solstice! Or happy Hannukah, lovely Lohri, kwazy Kwanzaa, swinging Saturnalia, dandy Dōngzhì, or whatever dedication to that prehistoric practise of warding away the darkest winter nights with warmth, fire, food, and cheer. Such observations transcend tradition, region, nationality, even continents, as the Longest Night is something that affects every creature on earth, and has done for hundreds of millions of years.
Christmas is the most visible iteration of this primordial thing, and most Christian countries observe it. Some, such as Orthodox countries, celebrate it slightly later, in January, but the general idea was still there. Generally speaking, if a nation’s primary faith was Christianity, then you celebrated Christmas.
Except, there was one country where every winter was without Christmas…
“Irrevocably and Forever” is a curiously emphatic phrase which turns up in otherwise dry legalese. United States law not only waives “the performance and discharge of any and all obligations and restrictions” in the cases of amendments to bylaws, but does so “irrevocably and forever.” On 25th November 1802, Count Ferenc Széchényi donated his collections “for the use and benefit of my dear homeland and people, irrevocably and forever.” The phrase crops up in all sorts of discussions, from secession to forbearance agreements to international treaties.
Forever is a long time for something to be considered irrevocable, and according to the European Union Court of Justice, Article 50 is not something which can be issued “irrevocably and forever.” It is, it seems, something which can be withdrawn by the United Kingdom, should it wish to do so between now and the 29th of March next year.
So the question becomes not if the UK can do it, but if the UK will do it.
Do you think Paris is still standing?
– Anna, being particularly timely despite being filmed years ago
I feel like Anna and the Apocalypse personally set out to antagonise me. It’s an apocalyptic film that assaults the eyes & ears with Glee-esque musical numbers; it’s a film shot in Scotland (several places in my home area of Inverclyde, even!) with posh English folk and a Yank in the lead roles; all the characters I actually liked die before the final act while the ones I actively disliked survived to the end; it’s set largely in a school. I’m certain this is actually part of the film’s appeal, as well as its strength – to blend genres (the Intolerably Twee High School Full of Melodramatic Desperados Musical with the Interminable Zombie Apocalypse That Will Never Die Just Like The Titular Monsters Movie along with the Permanently Hamstrung By The Nature of Western Calenders Christmas Film) which are seemingly completely at odds with one another, and shine a light up to them all.