Gaelic, we are told, is dying off in many communities but it still manages to pop up in the unlikeliest places. For instance, did you know that in the 1970s it was all set to be used as a nonsensical promotional tool for a chart-topping tartan-clad band keen to show off their Scottish credentials?
Les McKeown, the then lead singer with the Bay City Rollers, admits they concocted a story that Shang-a-Lang was a Gaelic battle cry favoured by Robert the Bruce.
In a recent interview, he said: “The rest of the song was about the hero’s battles and his eventual triumph at Bannockburn in 1314, where Bruce ‘ran with the gang’ (his army), who would ‘rip up’ and ‘lay down’ their foes.” No way.
It was the band’s fifth single and was being released on April Fools’ Day. It was a wind-up. It was never going to convince anyone.
For a start, Shang-a-Lang is a happy song. There is no way a Gaelic speaker would be rockin’ to the shang-a-lang sound of the music. Hey, hey, rockin’ to the music. Hey, hey, rocking to the music. Rocking every night and day, hey hey. Gaelic speakers just don’t do that. I know, because I used to be one.
Before lockdown, I used to meet people who often passed the time of day with a cheery “Seadh, a chlown. Ciamar a tha thu?”, which was “Hi, you clown. How are you?”
“De mun a tha a chaileach.” That was an innocent inquiry about how my old lady was. Of course, I never told Mrs X they referred to her as an old biddy. Now that we venture out, the older Gaelic speakers are still incarcerated and forced to listen to yet more radio reports of how Gaelic is dying. Gloominess all round. Just how we like it, apparently.
During lockdown, there was no one to practise my Gaelic with. It is slipping away. I am just like an SNP MEP. They campaigned to have Gaelic in the European Parliament then when they won that, realised none of them could speak it.
Gaels don’t laugh – particularly at ourselves. We are glum and dour and we sing longingly about places where we grew up, shores where our loves wait tearfully while we are sailing the high seas and of our mothers and … er, that’s it. Maybe if we sang shang-a-lang as we ran with the gang, doin’ doo-wop be-dooby doo-ay we would be perceived differently, but that’s not us.
It’s all gloom. Like when the mist came in off the Minch on Saturday. Coming back from Harris, suddenly parts of North Lochs disappeared from view. Not a bad thing, I hear you say, but there was Loch Erisort and then it wasn’t.
Mrs X lectured me for calling it mist. She insisted sea mist is haar. Listen madam, if Paul McCartney had sung about Mull of Kintyre and haar rolling in from the sea, you would have a point. Younger readers are now scratching their heads.
Talking of brats, the Daughter drove to Plasterfield-on-the-Hill from Gloucestershire the other day in her wee van which has a lot of hi-tech bleeping electronic stuff in it. You know – equipment like satnav, dashcam, a reversing camera, a cup-holder for make-up.
Seriously, she copes very well with long-distance driving, because she prepares really well. She did, however, have one alarming incident. As part of her preparations, she got ample snacks for a 600-mile road trip and plonked them on the seat beside her within easy reach.
She was stooring up the M5 motorway for about 15 minutes when an alarm sounded. It was persistent and lights began to flash on the dashboard. Oops, serious stuff. She pulled into a service area to figure it out.
Nothing seemed amiss. Tyres were fine, oil was fine, water was fine. Her make-up was perfect. Obviously.
Time to admit defeat and call Dad, maybe? Well, she does accuse me of helicopter parenting – you know, hovering and not letting her do her own thing.
She probably did think of calling but she wouldn’t have wanted to. So she sat back, scratched her head and reached for a snack as she began to ponder her situation. Suddenly the annoying beeping died and the warning lights went off.
How? Her large bag of Peppa Pig goodies was so heavy the seat sensor thought a person was on it.
The beeping and lights was a warning for the passenger to put on a seat belt – probably the first time a litter of pink pigs was told to put on a seat belt.
I struggle with seat belts myself. The doctor says it’s because I should be exercising more regularly.
I have an idea. The Americans have a name for the toilet. They call it the John. I will call our toilet the Jim.
It will sound so much better when I tell the doctor that I go to the Jim first thing every morning.