Scottish Reading

With only four days left until the big independence vote in Scotland I can only watch it all unfold from afar. It seems that it is still too close to call and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Even though I am now a Canadian, I am still proud of the fact that I am also Scottish by birth. If I still lived there I know which way I would vote, but I’m not saying that here as I don’t want to lose any friendships over it.

Instead of dwelling on a vote I cannot take part in I started thinking about some of my favourite Scottish books. Scotland has produced a lot of great writers and some of my favourite reads are by Scottish writers or are at least Scottish themed. So here is a shortlist of some of my favourite Scottish reads to take our minds off of the divisiveness of the referendum:


  1. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  2. The Works of Robert Burns – Robert Burns
  3. Greenvoe – George Mackay Brown
  4. How the Scots Invented the Modern World – Arthur Herman
  5. Stenwick Days – R.T. Johnston
  6. How the Scots Invented Canada – Ken McGoogan

It could have been a different and bigger list, but these are some of the ones I’ve enjoyed the most that first came to mind. What are your favourite Scottish-themed reads? Share a comment or two if you feel like it.

Yes or No


September 15 marks the 20th anniversary of my move from Scotland to Canada. Three days after that one of the most important events in recent Scottish history takes place and, because of my choice of two decades ago, I won’t be able to be a part of it. Of course, I’m talking about the independence referendum taking place on September 18. Although I would like to have been able to vote in something like this, I realise that having left so long ago I really counted myself out of the vote.

Growing up in Orkney, the thought of an independent Scotland was almost a pipe dream. Nationalists were seen as dreamers at best, or a little disturbed at worst. But that was in the 1970’s! I was back in Scotland recently for the first time in five years and I was surprised to see how much momentum has grown in the independence movement. It’s really hard to predict which way the vote will go, which wouldn’t have been the case on my last visit, never mind when I left in 1994.

I have my own views on the question of Scottish independence, but they are mixed. My heart says one thing and my head says another. I have a number of family members and friends who are on opposite sides of the issue. I hope that once the vote is over and the dust has settled that the family ties and friendships are still intact. Such issues can be very divisive and can lead to splits that take a long time to be repaired, if ever fully.

With the news over here picking up more of the coverage of the referendum, people have started asking me more regularly what my own views are. I usually say that it could be a good or bad thing, but that I am so far removed now that I have lost touch a bit with what the real Scottish picture is now. It is honestly hard for me to come down on one side as opposed to the other, but then I don’t really have to.

When the votes are counted and the result is in I will still be a Canadian, but will I still be also a British citizen? Or will I have to apply for Scottish citizenship, if I am even still deemed eligible? One thing that is sure – the next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting and I look forward to watching on from afar.

Back again…

For a number of reasons, it has been almost two months since I posted something here. There has been a combination of things that have kept me from this, including, but not limited to, the fact that we recently spent almost a month out of the country. Also, I just didn’t seem to have the appetite or desire to sit down and put something together.

For part of July and August we were on an extended trip to Scotland and England, visiting family and friends, during which time I had the privilege and joy of performing the wedding ceremony for my niece/God-daughter, Ola (then Smith, now Thompson). The time away was much needed, although it has been hard getting fully back into the swing of things since our return. Most of my regular work was sitting waiting on my desk when I got back just over two weeks ago, but I think that I have taken care of most of it now and am getting slowly back to normal again, whatever that is!

At some point I’d like to share some thoughts and moments from our trip and I also have a ton of pictures to upload to my Flickr account. Although, I didn’t update my one-photo-a-day blog – 365-2014 (wcs53) – regularly whilst I was away, I did update it with a photo from each day of our holiday when I got back. Although I’m managing to keep up with this, I have let my Project 52-2014 at Flickr slide a bit, but am hoping to get this caught up in the not too distant future.

I wasn’t able to read too much whilst on holiday, but have managed to get  few books read in the short time I have been back. I have a few reviews to write and will start working on those very soon. Both our children will be back in school next week, which should help me get back to a more regular blogging schedule, including some of the memes that I normally post.

I hope that everyone has been having a great summer and I look forward to sharing and connecting with many of you soon.

Book Beginnings and Friday 56 – ’78: How a nation lost the World Cup (May 23)

'78With the World Cup just around the corner, I thought I’d choose a football book for this week’s meme combo. My choice is ’78: How a nation lost the World Cup by Graham McColl. This is the story of the train wreck that was Scotland’s campaign at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. I was only twelve at the time, but I still have vivid memories of the events of that summer. Goodreads has the following description:

In the summer of 1978, 30,000 delirious fans paid good money to wave off the Scotland team, fully expecting them to return home from Argentina with the World Cup. The whole country was behind the soon-to-be-crowned champions, but eight days later the team was back, having spectacularly failed.

Now for this week’s excerpts:

book beginningsBook Beginnings is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader, who invites anyone to join in, saying: ‘Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.  Please remember to include the title of the book and the author. Leave a link to your post.  If you don’t have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.’

The beginning of ’78:

There did not appear to be a lot in common between Ally MacLeod and Prince Charles during the late 1970’s. MacLeod, the Scotland manager, was a refined rabble-rouser whose infectious enthusiasm led thousands of people to follow in his wake; Charles, the heir to the British throne, had an uncertain, hesitant presence in public.

An interesting beginning to what turns out to be an interesting book. I read it a few years ago, but I may read it again soon.

Friday 56The Friday 56 is a book meme hosted by Freda’s Voice and the rules are as follows:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.

It’s that simple.

From page 56 of ’78:

Scotland’s slack performance had not been received warmly by the crowd at a packed Hampden but Ally remained upbeat in the only way he knew how. ‘I know the supporters want wins and not experiments,’ he said, ‘but if we come back from Argentina with that gold cup, everything will be forgotten.’

Needless to say, that gold cup didn’t come back to Scotland that summer, or any other time for that matter, but it was an interesting period of time, that’s for sure. I still remember the sense of numbness and unbelief following the defeat to Peru and the draw with Iran. The crazy thing is that we could still go forward if we beat Holland by 3 goals in the final group match. With a 3-1 lead at one point, it looked almost possible, especially with Archie Gemmill’s goal in the 68th minute coming with plenty of time left to get the result we needed. However, the Dutch scored another goal three minutes later and the dream slowly died.

I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Brazil in a few weeks time, despite the fact that once more neither of my countries – Scotland and Canada – will be playing there. I think that Spain will be hard to beat again, but there may be a few surprises as the tournament unfolds. It will be a great month of football anyway, regardless of who wins.

Wondrous Words Wednesday (Sept 18)

wondrous2Wondrous words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. It’s hosted at the BermudaOnion’s Weblog. so head over there to see how you can participate.

I didn’t find any interesting words in my reading this week, but my wife probably found a few as she was laughing her way through The Giddy Limit Fifth Anniversary Book by Alex Leonard. This is a compilation of very funny comic strips written in the Orkney dialect. I grew up in Orkney and usually recognize most of the words, but just in case I don’t I have a copy of The Orcadian Dictionary close at hand. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few Orcadian words with you this week.

DSCF1877Here are a few of my favourites:

hoodjiekaboogle (noun) – thingamabob

nitteran (adjective) – grumbling

peedie (adjective) – small

pernickety (adjective) – precise, fussy

snushan (adjective) – snorting, expelling air noisily through the nose

These are just the tip of the iceberg. I enjoy reading through the dictionary every now and again to see what words I may have forgotten or to discover ones I never really knew in the first place. Of the ones I shared, ‘peedie’ is probably the one I used the most and am sometimes still tempted to use. However, not many Canadians have any idea what it means, so I have to check myself.

Booking Through Thursday – Patriotism (July 4)

btt2This week Booking Through Thursday poses the following questions:

So, Fourth of July here in the USA … Do you ever read books that could be considered patriotic? Rousing stories of heroes? History? Brave countrymen & women doing bold things?

What would you recommend if somebody asked you for something patriotic–no matter what your country?

Be as specific or as general as you like?

I was born in Scotland and lived there for 28 years before moving to Canada in the mid-90’s. I now also hold Canadian citizenship, so have two countries I can be patriotic about. However, I’m not that patriotic, except when it comes to sports!

I enjoy historical books about both countries, trying to learn stuff about Scotland that I didn’t learn in school, or learning history about my adopted country that I never had the opportunity to learn. I also try to discover as many new (to me) Canadian authors, who I think often live in the shadow of some of the authors from our neighbours to the south.

I don’t really know what I’d recommend if someone asked me for something patriotic as I don’t really think in those terms anyway. My favourite Scottish writer is George Mackay Brown, whilst my favourite Canadian one is Ken McGoogan. I wouldn’t really describe what they write as patriotic, but I’d definitely recommend that people check their books out.