Connections, Culture and Scotland
It has been one of those weeks when out of the blue (or at least the computer) people from different parts of the world have contacted me for reasons revolving around Gaelic or culture in one form or another.
Some because of my previous waged job as a Gaelic Development Officer. Almost all these memories are filled with good thoughts. The parents, leaders and children were mostly lively and bubbling with life, they were generally fun to be around.
The journeying around I loved. Clear roads and spectacular scenery filled a lot of my working days. The manic deer that would jump out on the single-track roads were not so enjoyable. Stress, came with the job but travelling the Highlands allowed much of that to seep away.
Today, it would be different. Many of these roads have improved, leading to more traffic. As yet I still have to check out the new Berridale Braes. I wonder if my knuckles will still go white. And what of that straight wide road outside Helmsdale? Roll on July, when I hope to take a few day trips north.
Since adding the name ‘The North Coast 500’, to Sutherland and Caithness (my well-travelled old route) it might take more than one day. Cars, caravans and campers clog up the wee narrow roads. It is amazing the difference an addition of a new name can make.
I’ve also made contact with Canada. It still takes me by surprise in certain parts how strong the Gaelic culture is there. Many refer to Scotland only as an t-seann dùthaich (the old country). Seeing places like Iona, Dingwall and Inverness, firm up the connections that Scotland has with Nova Scotia in particular.
Unlike the first instance, this connection came about as a result of my writing and not, in particular, my Gaelic writing either. Mainly, as I am the secretary of the Society of Authors in Scotland.
It is always interesting to hear what inspires other writers. Some through family connections or feelings, linked to an area or indeed nature. For others, it can be the situations they find themselves in or perhaps events that prod that initial creative vibe.
I was asked, ‘Can I use a Gaelic name if I don’t speak Gaelic?’ and ‘Can I use UK English if I am writing for an American audience?’ Both interesting questions with more than one answer.
Personally, I see no problem using a Gaelic name or term. After all, my fictional village of Blàs is a Gaelic word. As a grandparent of Gaelic speakers, the more Gaelic that they can see and hear in everyday life is a bonus. Gaelic can be supported in many ways. On saying that the more speakers the better.
So how about this question of UK and USA English? Well, what I say here? I wrote Blàs in UK or rather Scottish English, with the addition of some Scots and some Gaelic for good measure, sprinkled though out. Of course, this meant a glossary was needed.
Blàs; Roots in the Soil, due to Old Tam playing a slightly bigger role in the story, has meant Scots and in particular, Dundonian, plays a larger part than before. Old Tam has been blessed with English, Scots and Gaelic. Although I have to be honest, he tends to use his Dundonian more.
As to the Gaelic side in Blàs, Roots in the Soil, the odd phrase or two are there. I have let the culture flavour it throughout as in the first book. It is difficult not to, living and working where I do.
None of these conversations or contacts were expected this week. Chatting away to people either by text or face to face through technology has made for a more interesting week than I had imagined.
I wonder what next week will bring. I’m hoping for the finished version of the chocolates but who knows. It has been nice though, to speak of our culture with people who are enthusiastic and proud of it. So here is a little all intermixed.
Eh telt ye, ta bruidhinn Gàidhlig, if you can.
And the photograph, well I reckon it could pass for somewhere in Scotland or Canada.