27 September 2012

"What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch?"

It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that I blog, but for cheerful diversion alone, for that alone, which no honest man gives up but for having other stuff to do. A sober year, the coming one for me. A doctorate to finish, and then adrift on the choppy waters of the economy, hoping to alight on an outcrop with sufficient supply of fodder and water to keep me going.

Although much knuckling down will be called for, I'm hoping to keep the blog going over the next twelve months in reasonably vital form. I'm also mooting another project while I'm still down south, shifting from the visual range of blog text, to the aural.  Recording the recent episode of the Scottish independence podcast with Michael Greenwell was a genuinely entertaining process, which I'm toying with extending.  

More concretely, I have it in mind to put together a series of England on Scotland podcasts, buttonholing interesting folk around Oxford, and exploring independence, devolution, and the reverberations which can be felt (however faintly), across the United Kingdom. Living in England, one of the more interesting features of day to day political conversation is how regularly you talk to folk, entertaining a whole gamut of perspectives - sympathetic and unsympathetic, more and less well-informed - towards Scottish independence and nationalism. 

I've previously documented, with anonymity preserved, some of the analysis I've been treated to at College dinner tables.  Although whether or not Scotland elects to become a sovereign state is a matter for those living in Scotland, it matters how people elsewhere in these islands see the process the country is going through, and which we are, to great extent, subjecting the often bewildered population elsewhere in the United Kingdom to. These thoughts and feelings matter if the referendum is carried, or defeated. They obtain if we're negotiating the end of our political union, or if we remain within the UK after a potentially bruising and divisive defeat for YesScotland. British identity, English identity, the people and places governing England, the promise and challenge which the jolt of an independent Scotland might have for the political unit which remains. These seem themes worth exploring.

It's a commonplace to suggest that the UK press has, to great extent, drifted away from an increasingly distinct, albeit still crude and sketchy Scottish public sphere. The ties are fraying, the concepts used to describe Scottish politics - and Scottish nationalism - are hackneyed, crude, romantic, and often basically misinformed.  Faced with such misinderstandings, a measure of Scottish nationalist snarkiness is understandable, but it isn't terrifically productive. I don't envisage the podcasts as a vast endeavour of documentation, but it could, I think, provide an interesting alternative voice to the debate, adhering to Michael Greenwell's worthy dictum of attempting "to discuss some of the real choices coming up for Scotland without the jingoism and, frankly, the silliness that surrounds much of the debate at the moment." I may not agree with many of the folk I hope to speak to, but the aspiration will always be towards the civilised, reflective, and hopefully informative. That's my idea anyway. Comments, observations, or wry notes of discouragement concerning the whole endeavour, gratefully received.  

In other news, as regular visitors will know, I don't host advertising or suchlike, but a couple of folk have recently asked me about making modest financial contributions to support the blog, having enjoyed my scribbling. Although initially a little leery about the idea, I've succumbed. If you'd like to buy me a glass of wine, and inch me closer to finishing my doctorate, beaker by industrious beaker, all contributions will be very gratefully received.


  1. Typical long haired hippy would be doctor.

    If I donate; when you are the President of the Republic of Scotland, will I get a pension?

  2. Of course! A brandy balloon ration, twice weekly.

  3. I'm heading down to the dreamy spires this weekend - I'd be up for blethering about This Sort Of Thing over a mic and an Irn Bru or two at some point.

    I'm not really an expert on or leading figure in anything, though.

  4. An Duine Gruamach,

    Apologies, I've been knocked flat by the plague this past weekend, and was in no fit or pleasant state to converse with anyone.