Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Real Seven Wonders

Watch the hammer, skip! (and so forth)

Curling is a wierd sport that nobody seems to care much about (this from someone who used to play Ultimate Frisbee). Comedian Linda Smith (who sadly died recently) best summed it up, as 'housework on ice'. A few years ago at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the British women's team - all Scots - made it to the final and wound up winning the Gold medal, narrowly beating that notoriously icy nation, Switzerland. It was huge up here - millions of people stayed up to watch the final, me included. Ahem. The captain Rhona Martin won with the last toss, or whatever it's called, and they became national heroes. Until the recent Olympics when they were rubbish, and suddenly everyone has forgotten about curling. Scottish kids no longer stop stuffing their faces to pick up the slidey stone and brush-thing - and that can only be a sad thing.

In other countries there are plenty of fading war heroes rusting on stone plinths. Not in Scotland (well, there are a few), here we have things like the staggering Scott Monument on Princes Street, the architect of which unfortunately fell into a canal and drowned before it was finished. A similarly tragic story surrounds the famous Greyfriars Bobby statue of a small dog who pined for his master for many years after his death (the master's, that is). There are also the many statues of William Wallace at Stirling, the much-defaced one of Donald Dewar in Glasgow, and cartoon character Desperate Dan in Dundee. The most infamous, though, is a statue few Scots could name, but most recognise - that of the Duke of Wellington in central Glasgow. For years, drinkers have shimmied up to plonk a traffic cone on his head - and this has now become a major Glaswegian landmark. But is the statue more important than the tradition? Scots say yes, the police say no (or aye and naw).

I covered the unique Scottish diet in a previous post, so I won't add much here - other than the fact that it deserves to be one of the Wonders of Scotland. Scottish kids drink more soft drinks than anywhere else in Europe (soda to my American readers). In fact, here people don't call it that either, it's usually referred to as 'Juice' - as in a 'can of juice', so maybe that's why so many kids drink it - they're just confused. Now even Primary school pupils are weighed when they start, to keep an eye on any porky ones. But it's not just kids - even the dogs are dangerously overweight here.

Smoke free public places
Again, I was talking about this only the other day - you can go anywhere in Scotland and not have other people's smoke bother you. Great for non-smokers like me, less good for smokers. But who cares about them, eh? ;)

The weather
The middle of April and it was snowing the other day. Today is gloriously sunny, last weekend it was blowing a gale. Tomorrow it will be raining. On Tuesday I stood outside Haymarket waiting for a bus, watching wave after wave of city-bound commuters sweep out of the station and promptly have their umbrellas inverted by the mini-tornado that was whipping towards Princes Street. Scotland even has it's own type of weather - Haar - which true to form is a dank mist that rolls meanly off the sea to spoil sunny days. 'Four seasons in one day' is a widely-used weather cliché, but up here you can modify that to 'Four seasons at once, every day'.

Scotland has some of the best beaches in the world, it's just unfortunate that the weather here gives you about 3 viable beach days per year. I was on the beach last weekend, in fact, at Yellowcraigs on the way to North Berwick. It was brilliantly sunny, but blowing a gale - good news for kite flyers. Less good news for me, doing what I normally do on beaches - rooting about for shells and bits of dead animals to bore people to tears with. In my defence, winkles and suchlike are interesting, you just don't know it. It's been a tremendous week for the Scottish coast - not only did it cough up a decaying H5N1-ridden swan (now thought to have been washed here from Germany), but some beaches are slightly radioactive, others dangerously so. They also attract odd people (no jokes about winkles there).

Tunnocks Caramel Wafers
Enough said...