Bastard kept avoiding the question.
So this was back in April. Not the best, but I’ve since spent another six months tailing people as they walk along the street, repeating their conversations under my breath and trying to nail the pronunciations. Weirdos walking uncomfortably close and muttering under their breath are not that uncommon in Glasgow, so it’s easy enough to blend in. Trying to speak in Scottish is stupidly, stupidly fun. Almost as fun as hearing it on a daily basis (and that’s pretty darned fun). And with that we come to the theme of this blog post: national identity. I’ve been over here for nine months now, and only recently have I come to really reflect on it. There are a number of reasons why it’s starting to hit me at this later stage:
- A sudden dearth of Australians with the departure of my former exchange crew.
- A realisation that I don’t say ‘G’day’ anymore.
- 8 bottles of single malt whisky sitting on my shelf.
- Spending increasing time with actual Scottish people.
- My exciting and embarrassing propensity to not only speak with a Scottish accent, but get away with it.
As you know (because you read http://philbetts.blogspot.com/2010/06/do-i-know-you.html) a large group of the home-slices I would frequently boogie with came from the daughter country: The Land Downunda. Or, as I call it, THE FUTURE! (AEST +10 GMT/AEDT +11 GMT). Jess and Jacqui were from Melbourne (aforementioned O’Lloydy, or just ‘Lloyd’ to the folks back home), Gowri was from Brisbane, and Niki was from NZ (which I’m including as part of Australia to confuse future anthropoligists, so when they look back they’re all like “what the hell? This was written in 2010, but Australia didn’t annex NZ until 2083 after the War of the Pav. WE SHOULD BUILD A SHRINE TO THIS SOOTHESAYING, SEMI-SCOTCH MYSTIC.”)*
As you also know (because you read http://philbetts.blogspot.com/2010/08/injection-of-class-awesomeness.html), they all departed around June, having been here for a wee six month exchange. My field of Aussie influence held out though, thanks to a stream of Aussie visitors and a six pack of Aussie Princesses (plus a fairy who apparently doesn’t count because she doesn’t get a crown). It all began with Vivien, an academic pal o’ mine who had managed quite brilliantly to line herself up on a funded European conference tour with a day stop in Glasgow to see the sights, visit me and hopefully not get stabbed (not by me of course but by one of the friendly locals. Although a stabbing’s the good option compared to some of the more creative attacks that have occurred recently, but more on that another time.) With Viv in town I started to develop a bit of a guided tour, which by now includes a pretty decent trip around the West End where I live (and is stabbing-free for  days now.)
Phil’s Phantabulous Tours of Glesga have included these exciting locations:The University of Glasgow, as demonstrated by K-Mul, a wonderful Gothic Revivalist university with a pretty darn nifty bell tower.
Nice ‘N Sleazy, starring Jamsy and Emelia, a bar which is exactly what it sounds like (not really – it’s like the premiere indie bar that’s always open and almost always lets you in.)
The Clockwork Orange, our absolutely hilarious three-carriage, 15 station, 6’ tall subway system with a single loop going clockwise around the city and another going anti-clockwise.
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens ft. an old abandoned train station, as frequented by Jennaface and occasionally eaten by me.
A giant stone vagina statue outside a University building, seen here rebirthing Brydie.
Not featured: Dean McLeod of Clan McLeod, Luke M and his lovely fiancé Em (who are going to let me wear a kilt to their wedding), Vivienne E (who knows her way around cheeses), and Sophie Brossard (an honorary French Aussie who did her PhD in AU and who I visited in Paris), all of whom have visited me here in this fair city.
Sandwiched somewhere in the middle of these hosting duties was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where aforementioned Princesses and Fairy had rented a couple of flats and brought over their show Princess Cabaret, under the productive wing of one A. Jessup.
Yeah, I don’t say G’Day anymore.
2.a) On Missing Contractions Redux
I realised it as I was walking up University Avenue on the way to the student union. I used to say it a lot back home, particularly at work, now I don’t. It’s an immersion thing. It’s such a cliché, but when I came abroad I was all like “I’m not moving half way around the world to hang out with Australians. If I wanted to hang out with Australians I’d move to London. ” Or Edinburgh (see 1.) And yet... when everyone’s standing around and you head the slightly nasal accent, you just naturally gravitate towards each other. It’s inevitable. When you’re abroad, especially when you’re starting out in the same position as others, you have so ridiculously much in common, and are sharing all of the same experiences and revelations (I think every single Australian who has ever come to the UK ever - EVER - has at some point thought “wow, we don’t even drink Fosters back home.” I am standing by that unqualified ‘ever’.) And I’m very glad it happened. My home team I hung out with are a brilliant bunch of people who I remain in contact with and will continue to hang out with over the next 140 years in various parts of the globe (they’re going to be able to transfer intelligence to robots in the next 60, but then the Earth will be under threat from an asteroid and I’ll have to go and save the day by destroying it and a robot Liv Tyler will have farewell sex with me and my intelligence and robot chassis will explode as I detonate a nuke to try and stop the asteroid but that accidentally just makes it angrier and it ends up destroying the Earth anyway, which sadly includes my awesome SEMI-SCOTCH SOOTHESAYER STATUE.) And I also really loved hanging out with the fine ladies in Edinburgh, crashing their parties and private performers’ bars and getting massively, horrifically drunk, shouting at arts editors of The Scotsman, passive aggressively baiting comedians and generally making a dick of myself. Now though they’ve all moved on, meaning I am more likely than not on an average day to NOT hear someone who sounds like me. And I’ve stopped saying G’Day.
3. On being 91 Bottle Short of Having 99 Bottles of Single Malt Whisky on the Wall
This I’m going to save for another special feature on how I’m developing a habit that is going to financially ruin me if I choose to stay in Australia.
4. On Being a First Year in your Ninth Year
So the UK, from what I gather, has this thing called Fresher’s Week. For those unfamiliar with the term, Fresher’s Week is essentially O-Week (orientation week) at Uni with a couple of key differences:
- It’s the week before uni, so no-one has classes
- UK unis have really strong student rep bodies and unions
but I would suggest more importantly
- The vast majority of people move across the country to attend a uni not within travelling distance from home, and thus live in halls.
Now, couple this with:
- Insanely cheap alcohol prices at the Union (£1.80 for a pint, about $3.20, and that’s up from £1.50 last semester)
- No Responsible Service of Alcohol laws
You can kind of see where I’m going with this, no? At Glasgow Uni you pay £35 for a Fresher’s pass. It’s steep, but it gives you entry to loads of exclusive free events over the week which are basically massive, massive piss ups. Being technically a Fresher (in that it was my first Fresher’s Week, since I started at Glasgow in January) I thought I was entitled to join in the Fresher’s Week debauchery. In hindsight it perhaps wasn’t the wisest financial decision I’ve ever made, nor are my liver or kidneys speaking to me anymore. I did however have some rollicking good times with a bunch of Fresher’s helpers I knew before hand, met loads of new people, only half of whom never want to see me again, and generally learnt that drinking like an 18 year old and being an 18 year old are not the same thing. I feel it was a valuable life lesson. I spent most of my time hanging out with the Fresher’s Helpers rather than true Freshers, since I’m still unable to accept the fact that Justin Beiber’s hair is ‘in’.
5. On Speaking Like Other People (and Getting Away With It)
Accents. Friggin’ love ‘em. I used to not be able to do them at all. Everything, no matter what, would end up sounding Irish-Pakistani. I think legitimate Irish-Pakistanis must be constantly denying they’re trying to take the piss. I’ve also been told a number of times that I don’t really have an accent, that it’s not very strong. Back home people used to ask if I was British, either because I enunciated well, but more likely because I got lazy and clipped the ends off words (take that, 1/8th of a microsecond!) Recently that’s lead to working on all sorts of accents. Russian, South African, American, English – and of course my beloved Scottish-Weegie. The American is passable. It’s pretty generic and I can’t do regions, but I can get it close enough. I was (for some reason) speaking to someone in Scottish, when their friend who I’d met much earlier asked wasn’t I American, at which point I then switched to Yank, before switching to Aussie and having to show them my license to prove it. Dickish? Totally. But flippin’ fun. I get encouraged now. Nick, my partner in accent crime (that’s Dutch-Brisbanian Nick if anyone’s asking why his Aussie accent sounds weird) introduces me as Phil from Dumfries. Fraser and Ciaran kept it up for 15 minutes on a couple of Northern Irish Fresher lasses (“you don’t look like a Fresher... what are you, like, 22 or something.” “Aye.”) I think one of the consequences though is I haven’t really picked up an accent here. I do notice a difference when I saw ‘Scotland’ and ‘Glasgow’, but not much else. I’m not gonna lie, I was and am still planning on milking it when I go home, one of those losers who’s away for a year yet speaks like they moved when they were 12. Until then I’ve got 6-9 months to perfect my Scottish brogue, before I hopefully move to America where they can’t tell the difference anyway. Fook me.