Monday, July 04, 2011

A Summer Day on the High Street in Edinburgh

The High Street in Edinburgh was packed this afternoon with tourists. I took a break from my desk and walked for about three blocks and heard English precisely once. We've had an abysmal Spring with enormous quantities of rain and cold weather but that seems to have relented now. Most of us spent at least a full day this weekend cutting grass which had grown long and had been chronically too wet to cut. No more - the good times are here.

While I happened to hit a large foreign-language crowd this afternoon, there are plenty of North Americans who come here in the summer. The Americans and Canadians who come over here trying to reacquaint themselves with their Scottish roots are not always treated kindly. Let me rephrase that: they *are* treated kindly in situ but there is always a certain amount of muttering and rolling of eyes afterwards - as if they're only ersatz Scots, after all, who have no business pretending that they don't really come from Edmonton or Gary, Indiana.

I fail to understand the lack of pride on the part of Scots - that people from around the world have crossed oceans in order to identify with this place and to locate some aspect of their character in the streets and closes of Edinburgh and the hills outside. For some of these folks, in their cotton trousers and pastel golf shirts, a trip to Scotland is the culmination of many years' anticipation and a crowning part of their retirement. They say foolish things about tartans in High Street shops and tell at least ten people a day that their "grandmothers were Scotch", that they've always "felt Scottish" but surely the desire itself to come here and the iconic status that the place has had which helped to define people in the midst of a melting pot like the U.S.A or a mosaic like Canada ought to be worth something.

It ought to be respected more. Not every country can claim such abiding loyalty across generations.