Wednesday, June 04, 2008

ees a nice dog.

Now you don't have to be Scottish to read this, but it will help.

To get you in the mood, watch THIS, the latest advert for Irn Bru, Scotland's other National Drink which rather sets the tone.
(I'm not being paid* to run that by the way, it's just has essence-of-the-moment-Scottishness runing through it and anyway I only drink Irn Bru when I have a hangover, about once a year thankfully.) (Unless I drink beer). (Which I don't)
Now London is a cosmopolitan city so it's no surprise that Hyde Park is almost entirely populated by foreigners trying to find their way to the Princess Diana Water Feature Memorial so they can slip and graze their foreheads. Yesterday three Japanese Ladies, using their umbrellas for the rain for a change, were determined that I was pointing them in the wrong direction. I wasn't. But they insisted. Then there were the Poles, the French, the Americans, etc etc. You get the picture. They can't read the signposts so they ask a man with a dog.

Anyway, me and the dog continue on our way through the rain when a Middle Eastern gentleman approaches us. (Sorry, but I really do have to try the accent here, it's relevant to the story. Honest).
"Eees a naise dog" he says, with his little wife behind him, and their dog too as it happens.
"Yes, thankyou" I say.
"Eeees same. As mine"
"No it's not," I say, "It's just the same colour"
"No. eeessame."

It's clearly not the same, but I humour him anyway..
"What kind is it?"
"Oh," I say, "It is the same. Is he a pup?"
"Yesseessix months"

The dogs play in the puddles and the man, who is very nice, tells me that mine is the first one he's seen in London.
"Are you on holiday then?"
"No. I live ere. I bring dog from Scotland"

"Oh," I say, "That's nice. They're country dogs anyway. Did you go up specially to get him?"
"No. I bring im down when we move. I live there. Im Scottish"

"What?" **
"YessI'mScottish. I move here now"

I'm incredulous. (and obviously a little stupid)
"Where you from then?"
"Kirriemuir," he says, "Av you eard of it?"

Well everyone's HEARD of Kirriemuir. Here's the song...
"At the Ball, at the Ball,
at the Ball of Kirriemuir,
Four and twenty maidens
And everyone a whore...." ***

"You're joking, aren't you?" I say, smiling.
"No, live there long time."

There's a pause here while I look around for the Hidden Cameras, convinced I'm being wound up.
"How long?"
"All my life. My parents, they come from Iraq"
"From Baghdad to Kirriemuir?"
"Yes. They run restaurant in Dundee"
"What, an Iraqi restaurant?"
"No. Dundee people no like Iraq. Indian. Tandoori"

Yes, yes, I know, it's perfectly normal for people of foreign extraction to live wherever they want, especially refugees fleeing the late Saddam Hussein, or restauranteurs spying a gap in the market, but this man did not have a trace of Scottishness about him. And it's at this point we enter the realms of fantasy.

"What school did you go to then?"
He lists the schools he went to and then says, in that specifically Scottish way.
"Next you'll be asking what team I support!"

This is nothing to do with class, but sectarianism. Rangers (Protestant) and Celtic (Catholic) supporters can slyly identify the enemy with such a question. Anything sounding vaguely catholic (St Aloysius, St Matthews) will get you a biffing from the Rangers fans, and vica versa.

"Well, what team do you support?" I counter, testing him.

"Rangers" he says, momentarily bursting into song, and a small jig.
"Hello! Hello! We are the Billy Boys!
Hello! Hello! You can tell us by our noise...."

This is a traditional, and offensively sectarian, Rangers song, and I'm standing in the rain in Hyde Park, watching a small Iraqi man perform it perfectly. In a Middle Eastern accent. With his smiling wife standing beside him, nodding her head and tapping her foot along with him.

"I believe you, I believe you" I stutter out, glancing around to make sure there are no stray Celtic supporters lurking, about to attack us.
"Yes", he continues, "The Billy Boys. They celebrate the beating the Celtic every Saturday. With a curry. And a lot to drink"

I guessed that last part, and am suddenly transported to some curryshop in Dundee where Mohammed here has to serve a gaggle of pissed up teddy bears (colloquialism) shouting their way through the lager and the chicken bhuna. .

I change the subject.
"How'd you like London?"
"I don't. Too busy.
Too expensive......
Just like Glasgow"

And at that point I said goobye and walked off into the pissing rain. And you know what?
He was right.

*(Oi! Leith Agency! Where do I send my invoice?!)
**(this is actually "whit??" meaning 'you are joking pal, aren't you? I'M Scottish. Not YOU!")
***(pronounced "Hoo-er")


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Oh Bother.

Apart from the fact that somebody is translating this blog into Italian the trouble with this anonimity malarkey is that one can vent one's spleen to one's heart's content so that come the weekend one is in such a benign state that all the niggling little things that used to irk the whole day, now seem to be nothing more than triflings, leaving one nothing to vent about. I can't seem to get tired of London now, I can't be bothered. I'm nice. I've even started saying "one" instead of "you".

Take yesterday. We gravitate towards Notting Hill on Saturdays for a whole variety of reasons - Portobello Market, lunch, drinks, er, more drinks etc - and while I'm on my way, walking through the park, Monty the sometime dog decides he's going for a swim in the pond, ignoring the "No Dogs" sign and also a new temporary sign which states - in the middle of a park no less - that dogs MUST be kept on a leash in that area. While I've got the mutt, I'm a dog person, and am suitably outraged by this, it's worth at least ten minutes at lunch moaning about silly bureaucracy etc, but while telling an Australin Tourist how to get to the Princess Diana Memorial, he informs me that in the desert outside Perth in Western Oz, they have signs like that because there are huge wild dogs which attack joggers. I ask him how long he's been in London and did he know that this was Hyde Park, where most dogs are six inches long and three inches high, and answer to the name Fifi.
Anyways, I laugh and I forgets all about it, and continues on me way.

Then, lordy lordy, we can't sit outside at our customary lunchtime haunt because the bloody council have been at it again and made our haunt take the bloody tables and chairs away - and being a temporary dog person we can't sit inside. The tables and chairs incident is the latest in a long fiasco of council wars here - the last one being utterly senseless. You can sit outside and drink after 5pm but you're not allowed to walk on the pavement to your seat carrying a drink!

Considering this used to be a skanky old drug den of a pub, which I refused to enter for fear of being knifed, our smart eaterie is, in my view, the wrong target for council hostility.
Anyway, we cross the road for a pizza and think no more of it.

Now. Pizza. You walk to your table, sit down, order pizza, eat it, pay and leave. Simple. But this is Notting Hill. And it's Saturday lunchtime. There are a million tourists here photographiung each other in front of the Travel Bookshop thinking this was the one actually IN the movie Notting Hill. (It isn't. It inspired it. The film one was a fake around the corner on Portobello Road).
Anyway, we have people up from the country and we have to queue for 45 minutes (I just don't do queuing!). We get the tables and then wait. And wait. We go inside to get the menus, order a pizza for the person returning to work in 20 minutes and then.....we wait.

Ordering takes an age (we're quite hungry by now, the pizzaness of the atmosphere stimulating the nosebuds quite considerably)
Finally the order is taken but half an hour later the rush pizza is still nowhere to be seen. (It's a margherita for God's sake, how simple is that?) Instead of an apology, we get the explanation that they're busy. Well, we could see that.

Anyway, the pizzas are rubbish, the wine is no good, the service is appalling, and the bread inedible. But we don't complain. I know not why. We pay up and go, relieved to be leaving but not feeling cheated or robbed. Just, erm, you know. Sort of. Well..

Then to celebrate a birthday, we return to our normal haunt, buy wine at £50 a bottle (this is not just unusual. It is unique, not to say utterly insane) and drink it outside with the dog at our feet on the pavement. We drink too much, spend too much, and market shopping is completed in a bit of a haze frankly, a not unpleasant one. But we all seem to buy an awful lot.

So dinner is a bit unplanned and I suggest we go out to my favourite little Japanese eaterie which is up a tiny wee lane and nobody knows about it so I'm not saying nuffink about where it is. But it's Saturday night. So it's shut. And that's not good. But instead of complaining we go to the Mandarin Oriental, go into the bar and find two stools among the East European prositutes (what is the term for really, really high class call girls who're terribly good looking, polite, and would impress your mum?) where we pay Twenty Quid for two glasses of wine. Then, being happy, we have another two and have a generally good time.

There's something wrong here, but I don't know what. And I can't be bothered to find out.