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Wednesday 31 July 2019

✉ Scotland and Aye - Sophia Butler Wasiak

Today author takes over our blog to tell us about "10 Things About Scotland".

Scotland and Aye (, Clink Street Publishing, 140 pages), a Biography / Memoir, is Sophia's debut.

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Top 10 things about Scotland

  1. The people without doubt.

    A combination of dry, gritty humour, an enviable stoicism and fierce loyalty make the Scots an incredible nation.  The first reception can be somewhat gruff, but once ‘you’re alright’, that’s it, they’ll have your back!  This raises the question of course, do the people make the place, or does the place make the people?

    I found in the Scots a quality akin to that of my Polish family, a people who live with passion, quick to laugh, to love and to anger, but when tempers simmer down, the binding quality of one’s word still has weight.
  2. The accent and dialect.

    I can lose myself in a good Scottish accent, as I commented in ‘Scotland and Aye’, “the richness of the ‘r’s and the ‘o’s swirl around my head and I no longer seek a sense in the words.  Quite forgetting where one ends and another begins I feel as though I am overhearing a conversation carried on the wind, between the hills, the mossy grass and the trees”.  I also adore turns of phrase such as ‘the now’, as if it were a concrete passage of time.

    Glenfinnan Monument at Loch Shiel
  3. Viridescence.

    There is nothing more beautiful than the dramatic nature of the landscapes, yellow beaches, lochs and more shades of green than I have ever seen before.  Explosions of wild daffodils, bluebells and also the hardy heather which populates many a clifftop are food for the soul.

    For me, the drive up to Glencoe, passing Loch Ness and up to the site of infamous bloodshed, is absolutely breathtaking and each bend in the road offers a new and spectacular view.  When you stand on the terrain where men fought with axes, a terrain on which you struggle to find a firm foothold, you can only but imagine the steely nerve and conviction necessary to go to battle here. 

    It is also here where you can find some last traces of the Roman road.  I don’t know how they abandoned their mission, but a bunch of screaming tartan-clad and axe-swinging celts descending from the hills must have put the ‘fear of god’ into them and they (sensibly) retreated!
  4. The whisky.

    It depends on who you talk to and there is discussion about the ‘finest’, but without doubt, some of the best whisky in the world is produced in Bonny Scotland.  Whether you take it with a dash of soda water, a cube of ice (although a heinous crime for some), or straight up, you are in for a treat. 

    I must admit to sometimes pulling an unavoidable grimace after drinking a straight spirit, but I have tasted such wonders as whiskies which are smooth and don’t bite the gullet!
  5. Roberts.

    First up, Robert Burns, for the finest poetry in an impenetrable tongue!  Anyone who has been to a ‘Rabbie Burns Night’ and has witnessed the reading of poetry and the ritual stabbing of the haggis, is well on their way to becoming a true fan.

    And the prophetic Robert Owen who is not nearly celebrated enough.  He created a version of the industrial revolution which was mutually advantageous: the first to have an infant school, a creche for working mothers, free medical care and comprehensive education.  The model village still stands in all it’s beauty and is well-worth a visit.  The identical houses are based on the river where ‘Braveheart’ himself hid from the English on the river Clyde and the village is dotted with quotes.  For example: “Every child of man should be, from his birth, as well trained and educated , as his original organs, faculties and powers , will admit”.
  6. Tablet, deep fried mars bars and tattie scones.

    Whilst all of these are pure artery-clogging material they do not cease to be devilishly tempting. 

    Tablet is a dentist’s wet-dream, consisting of a ridiculous amount of sugar and butter, it makes your teeth feel furry after just a tiny piece! 

    The deep-fried mars bar speaks for itself, although in many chippies it’s fried in the same oil as the cod, so it’s a meal in one!

    Tattie scones are the ‘healthiest’ option, delicious every which way, they are a champion’s breakfast. Smoked salmon has also been a classic delicacy, although, these days I do wonder about how wild all salmon sold really is.

  7. Highland cows, which are undoubtedly the most emblematic of their species.

    Caramel coloured and shaggy haired beasts with enormous horns, they are docile yet tough beyond belief.  These gentle giants are even more irresistible when they are babies.

  8. Frolicking spring lambs.

    These are the biggest hit of endorphins one could ever need!  Some farmers even kit them out in tiny fluorescent pink or blue jackets to protect them from the cold snaps, which clearly increase the cuteness value to an indecent level!

    As a London girl born and bred, my wonder and amazement never ceases to draw a deep, hearty chuckle from the farmers.  I will never forget going to visit a farmer in Dumfries and Galloway and being shown around by his 7 year-old daughter, who explained the concept of the lamb pen next to the house, for the lambs who were rejected or very sickly.  One of the lambs in the pen was blue, on it’s back with legs clearly set in rigor mortis, at which point she turned to me and said “Oh, that one’s a bit poorly”.

    In my book I explain a rather gruesome (but absolutely necessary) method of skinning a stillborn lamb to cover a rejected, but healthy lamb, for the other mother to accept it.  In the Dumfries and Galloway region, salt-marsh lamb is an acclaimed and much famed delicacy which is exported worldwide.  It’s the best lamb I’ve ever tasted.
  9. Tartan.

    This must be number one on the list for associations with Scotland.  Whilst each clan had its own tartan, the most classic colour combinations can be found everywhere from haute couture houses to High street shops, from scarves worn by delicate old ladies to Japanese punky youth.  Tartan is whatever you want it to be when you wear it.

    Also, let’s face it, who hasn’t been tempted to lift a kilt worn by a strapping Scotsman to see if they are wearing it as it should be… A useful piece of information is that their sporran, the bag worn at the front of the kilt weighs a lot, so if you plan to lift a kilt on an unsuspecting suspect at a wedding, what goes up must come down and you could be responsible for flooring the victim!
  10.  It of course has to be the bagpipes.
    A strange instrument which produces a sound that can chill you to your very spine, evoking fear and wonder at the same time.  It never ceases to amaze me that a small bag and some tubes can produce a force which is all consuming. 

    My favourite moment was hearing some pipes at a wedding and then realising that a little girl was playing them.
  11. I have had to add an extra for the wonder of the ceilidh.

    This, for the uncoordinated is basically a terribly quick explanation of how you will proceed to dance with your partner, and other couples, spinning and forming graceful formations whilst you interchange partners and then happily return to your original one.

    The reality is a manic flailing of arms and legs while you desperately look for your partner and receive some commentary over the microphone from the ceilidh master.  It is great fun, but just as you get the hang of one dance, the next one starts!  The traditional ceilidh is testament to the fact that the Scots are a romantic bunch at heart!

Scotland and Aye
Available NOW!

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