Saturday, 20 February 2016

15 Things People Think About Scotland That Aren't Really True

Being Scottish, I'm aware of the stereotypes often associated with me and my fellow country men and women. Some of these are quite accurate, but others make me laugh.    

I can't speak for all Scots, but I'm not opposed to the odd drink; I don't mind Irn Bru, and I often say 'wee' and 'aye'. I also swear…a LOT.   

I don’t, however, eat deep fried mars bars, wear tartan, have ginger hair, and shout: 'FREEEEEDOOOOOM', or say 'och aye the noo’. No one does that. Seriously.

Since moving to North Wales, I have found myself answering lots of questions about my home nation and can clarify the following 15 points about us Scots:

Scottish Stereotypes: Braveheart
William Wallace - we have his statue literally EVERYWHERE.   

* Yes, we sometimes speak really quickly. Tell us to slow down - we won't be offended.

* No, our weather isn't always wet. It's pretty much the same as it is in North Wales, tbh. With a little more snow, perhaps.

* Yes, lots of us celebrate Burns Day on Jan 25th. It gives us an added excuse to drink whisky on a school night. And you know what us Scots are like when it comes to alcohol... 

* No, we don't like the movie 'Braveheart'. Most of us hate it as it's historically inaccurate and Mel Gibson has the worst. Accent. Ever.

* Yes, a large percentage of Scottish men owns a kilt; particularly ones that are married or have ever been in a wedding party.  However, not all Scottish men get hitched in kilts – it’s not the law or anything.    
Scottish Stereotypes: Bagpipes and Kilts
You won't see people walking down the streets in kilts, playing the bagpipes.  Unless you're at the Edinburgh Festival, of course.  

* No, we're not tight. You're mistaking Scots from all corners of the country with Aberdonians.  I jest, of course, I don't know if people from Aberdeen are stingy, but I have heard the rumour.   

* Yes, we know our national teams aren't world beaters, but we have Davis Cup hero, Wimbledon Champ and Olympic Gold Medallist, Andy Murray, so he helps us cope with the football and rugby failures.   Also: Chris Hoy, Jamie Murray, and anyone who's ever played curling. 

* We have no idea why we produce such good football managers, but it amuses us that so many of them work in England because they're too good to work at home.

* When we say 'Up North' we, of course, mean Scotland. We don't understand why you mean Newcastle or Liverpool and we'd very much like you to clarify this for us.

* We don't know Glaswegians are so friendly, either - they just are.  And we bloody love them for it.

* Scotland isn’t as small as you think. Have you tried to drive from Edinburgh to Skye in less than 6 hours?  No, me either. You'd be surprised at how long it'll take you to travel coast to coast, never mind north to south. It takes a LOT longer if you get stuck behind a caravan on a narrow road in the summer. 

Scottish Stereotypes: Tiny Nation
We have much more space than you think... 

* No, we don't know Wee Mary from Whiteinch. We might be small, but there are still more than 5 million of us and we’re not all on first name terms.  

* No, we don't hate English people. I live with one, so I'm personally extremely partial to them. We all have family/friends/work colleagues who are English and we love them dearly.   We do love a bit of banter with them, though.     

* However, we DO get annoyed when we see ‘British’ reports that only include England and watch the weather only to realise the forecast doesn’t extend any further north than London.      We don’t care what the weather’s like in London, but it’d be great if you could tell us if we’re likely to be blown off the Forth Road Bridge by high winds on the way to our caber tossing class in Kirkcaldy.  

Scottish Stereotypes: Other Nations in the UK
The GB flag, Tower Bridge and Big Ben in London.    Don't forget about the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish - we're great too!

No, we don’t all have a specific tartan for our family name.   Don’t get me wrong LOTS of us do, but most of us don’t really concern ourselves with that kind of thing.    Many of us who choose to wear tartan may not even know which one it is.   Alternatively, we choose the tartan in our football club colours.    

Suz x

Things Not To Say To Me (Or Anyone Else, Really...)

Recently, I've realised that a LOT of strangers think nothing of asking very personal questions.   Well, I say recently, but that's actually not true; I've always known this.    A few months after I married, (we're talking 2004, here) an acquaintance asked me  if I was 'having children straight away'.   No, 'congratulations, that's great news!', or 'how's married life?', just straight into a totally personal question about my intentions towards starting a family.    Obviously, she assumed that this was what I wanted because, well, I'm a woman and women have kids, right?  

I've also been lucky enough to have someone say to me: 'Well, you're getting on a bit...', and 'You have a step son?  You'll feel differently when you have your own'.    Will I?  Will I, really? I'm so glad you know me well enough to make that judgement, strange person I've barely spoken to.  Thanks for the insight.   

Interestingly, these comments, plus the countless others I've had over the years, are ALWAYS from women and ALWAYS from ones I barely know.   It's 2015, ladies!  Give it a rest.  

These are the questions guaranteed to completely rub me up the wrong way and make me not want to speak to you:

You’re Not Married?:   No, no I’m not.   And that’s ok.   I was married…for 10 years, if that makes you feel better about my potential compatibility with the opposite sex.   These days I just live in sin.    And that’s also ok.     Note: I have no wedding ring on and that's often an indication of marriage.    The absence of one is also a sign.   

When I’m asked this question (and since moving to Wales, I’ve been asked it a LOT), I genuinely don’t understand why you need to know.  Does it change your perception of me?  Does it make me a better or worse person?   Does anyone actually care whether I wear a ring or not?   I didn’t think so.

Therefore, unless you know me fairly well (and by that I mean you’ve spoken to me more than a million times): Don’t enquire about my marital status – it’s irrelevant to anyone apart from me.    Also: if I want to tell you about why I’m no-one’s wife, why I got divorced, why I’m not married to someone else, I will.   

wedding flowers
When are you having kids?/You’re 37 and don’t have any children?:  Firstly, again, thanks for your comments, I am aware of my age and I’m fully aware that I have no children.   It’d be a bit odd if I didn’t, wouldn’t it?   Secondly, the reasons why I don’t have kids are absolutely none of your business.   Before you asked, did you consider that I may not be able to?  Or did you just assume that because I’m a woman, I’m not doing my job properly if I don’t?  Either way, it’s not really your place to ask: so don’t.

jelly babies
my favourite kind of babies

Your Partner Does THAT for a job…why do you need to work?:   I work for me.   It doesn’t matter how much money my partner might earn, my life does not revolve around what he does…it mainly revolves around what we do.    Not every woman wants to sit at home all day; cooking, cleaning and looking after children (please see earlier comments).   

Some of us want to out into the world and use the degree we worked studied so hard for.  We even think we actually have something to offer in the workplace that might be wasted if we were stuck in the house all day, like some 1920’s housewife.   Plus, surely my partner shouldn’t have to use his hard earned money to pay for me when I’m perfectly capable of earning my own?   Just a thought…

money, money,'s so funny

You don’t say much, do you?:  No, you’re right, I don’t always say much.  Thanks for pointing it out; I wasn’t aware of it until you said.   I’m an introvert and the thought of conversing with people I don’t know actually makes me panic.   I’m not being rude; I’m just being me.   I was recently referred to as ‘a stuck up diva’ by someone who has barely said two words to me in the last 3 years, but clearly thinks that my reluctance to get involved is some sort of confession that I might be better than her.

quiet time
if you don't have nothin; nice to say, don't say nothing at all... 

I hate it when people are so wrong about me.   Yes, I’m quiet.  Yes, I can be shy.  Yes, I know it can be difficult to get through to me.   But, no, I’m not being rude and no, I don’t think I’m better than you.   I’m just very reserved with people I don’t know and folk who terrify me by asking me why I’m not married and don’t have kids…

Am I alone in getting frustrated by relative strangers who think it’s acceptable to quiz me about my personal life?   I can’t be the only divorced woman with no children that gets asked these questions so often, can I??

Suzanne x 

(Tell Me Why) I Don't Like Sundays

I have a love-hate relationship with Sundays.   When I was younger and largely free of any responsibilities, I loved the final day of the weekend and would often spend the morning in bed watching TV before dragging myself out and padding around the house, drinking tea and generally doing nothing.    

These days, I can't keep still long enough to do that.    That, and I currently don't have a TV in my bedroom, so that makes that whole 'Netflix marathon' thing a little more challenging.    Besides, now that I'm a property grown up, I have Things To Do.   Really, uninteresting, boring washing.   And doing a weekly shop.   And trying not to think about the impending arrival of Monday.   

healthy food
This is what I SHOULD be eating on a Sunday.    Instead, I'm eating bagels and crisps.   
Mostly, I spoil my Sundays by worrying that I should be making more of them.   I get to thinking that I probably haven't done as much exercise as I should during the week; I've probably eaten too much and should cut back; I haven't really had a chance to read and should dedicate some time to that and I've likely not been speaking much Spanish (or than to The Travel Bug) and that I should probably be revising more.    THEN I get started on how much blogging I've neglected to do the previous week and how disorganised I am.  Really, what I do on a Sunday is beat myself up.    

Therefore, in my wisdom (!) I have decided to put things straight.   Or, you know, make a half assed attempt at it, anyway.    

I, Suzanne, do solenmly swear to:  

* Take time out to watch that Episode of Homeland for the second time because the first time I watched it I was blogging and have no idea what was going on.

* Lie in bed with a cup of tea and go through my to do list for the week

* Get out for a quick run, as I know all too well it’ll make me feel better.  For the love of God, woman, even 1 is better than nothing.  

* Take an hour with LT to head up to our favourite Café and spend time chatting and planning for the week ahead.

* Gather ideas for future blog posts and make a list.

* Update my iPhone with music because I’ve been listening to the same one album for WEEKS and I need something new to get me through my daily commute.

* Sort out my outfits for the following week to avoid looking like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards in the office on Monday. (and also Tuesday to Friday). 

It seems silly, as there’s nothing on my list that really takes up any great chunk of time, but I seem adept at managing to ignore forward planning and taking time out to relax in favour of worrying about stuff I can’t control.  
If I spend more time controlling the stuff that IS within my grasp, maybe my Sundays will be a little more ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’ and less ‘Sunday Morning Nightmare’.   It might just work.

Do you have any Sunday rituals that you always do, or any forward prep that helps organise your week?

Suz x

How NOT To Relocate

How NOT To Relocate

I recently moved Nation.  To be more specific:  I recently moved from Scotland to Wales.  To be even MORE specific, I moved from Central Scotland to North Wales and I am now 331 miles south west of where I used to be.  I am a 30-something woman who has never lived outside Scotland.  In fact, until I ventured through to live in Stirling in the autumn of 2014, I’d never lived outside the region I was born in.   I’ve always wanted to…I just hadn’t quite gotten around to it. 

When LT had finally had enough of his job, he went out in search of a new one and found that his skills were being sought in a small town on the North Wales coast.  It looked idyllic.  He was interviewed and offered the job in short space of time and, suddenly, we had to make the decision to move our entire lives. I knew this meant I’d have to give up my job, my car, my family and friends and all the things I was so familiar with, but we decided to take the chance and see how it went.  

After all, what did we have to lose? (apart from all those things I’ve just listed…).  I could find a job in Wales, surely?  I could buy another car (my other was a lease through work), and I would still HAVE my family and friends…they just wouldn’t be as close as they used to be.    Besides, LT had to give 6 months notice, so I had oodles of time to get everything organised.  Famous last words. 

How NOT To Relocate: shoe storage
and this is just for my shoes... 
Fast-forward five and a half months and picture the scene:  we have a house full of stuff we don’t need; nowhere to live; no transport; and no idea of what we were doing.  The time seemed to pass so quickly and, with us both working full time, it flew by.  With two weeks to go, we manically searched for an apartment to rent, I started scanning AutoTrader for suitable cars, and we ransacked the house, taking numerous trips to the dump in a bid to stop ourselves feeling like the people we see on episodes of Extreme Hoarders.   

I mean, we had make a little effort before the two-week freak out, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough.  I didn’t even start looking for removal vans until a week to go.   Well, if I didn’t know what was going and what was staying, I couldn’t really provide a proper list of Things To Be Moved, could I?   And, besides, we had no address to move it to…

Needless to say, with frayed nerves, way too much stress, and a 662-mile round trip in one day, we found somewhere to live.  I managed to find a car the weekend before we left by calling Mr. Random Bloke who was advertising a small second hand Yaris.  It was previously owned by two careful, older ladies from Shetland, and is now in the hands of a third, not so careful lady owner from Stirling.  We booked a last minute removal through someone we knew and, with a few days to spare, it seemed like everything was in place.   I could finally breathe again. 

How NOT To Relocate: apartment hunting
home sweet home...or something
I can see the funny side of this now that I’m sitting in my rented apartment, with the sun streaming through the window, safe in the knowledge that it’s largely all over.  Apart from all the stuff that now lives in my parents garage that we didn’t have room for.   

Oh, and the stuff we had to leave in our home in Stirling that we also didn’t have space for. And the third bedroom in the new apartment that you can’t get into because it’s full of boxes of stuff that we can’t unpack because we have way too much crap and way too little storage space.   Apart from all that, it’s largely over.   

I find closing the door to said bedroom and pretending it doesn’t exist is the easiest way to deal with that whole thing.    It’s certainly working, so far.    

I hope that, in years to come, LT and I will be able to sit back and laugh (oh, how we’ll laugh!) about that time we moved to Wales and didn’t bother doing anything until the last minute.  It might take a bit longer for us to forget how we stared suspiciously at each other's belongings; each secretly thinking that the other person could probably just chuck most of out it.   Alas, it was not to be.  Anyway, without further meaningless chat, this is my guide to how NOT to relocate:

How NOT To Relocate: relax

Don’t sit on your backside for the best part of six months thinking that you have plenty time to make arrangements.  You don’t.  Do the things you can do early on, such as clearing out your house.  This then gives you some time to decide what you need and you can arrange to give any furniture/clothes/shoes you won’t be taking to a local charity.  This will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside and save you many, many trips to your local civic amenity site.  

Don’t wait until two weeks before you move to call someone and ask if you can view his or her property. This will mean that you’ll feel pretty much compelled to take it, irrespective of the fact that your stuff won’t fit in it, so that you don’t end up living on the street.  Check out the area you’re moving to and make contact with local agents if you’re looking to rent. 

Do (and I can’t stress this enough) put your foot down when your other half insists that he absolutely must have 10 years' of old bank statements.  In fact, unless he’s self-employed and actually needs records, I fully encourage you to wait until he’s out and bin them.   When you get caught, don't tell them it was my idea, though.  

If you’re a bit useless and know little about removals and prices, don’t just assume you’ll find a Van Man last minute.   Go to a site, such as AnyVan, and ask for quotes.  I ended up with 11 quotes, ranging from £500 to £1,800, for the same job. Do some research and you could potentially save yourself lots of money.    

How NOT To Relocate: Organise your internet
Don't leave your new internet until the last minute, or you won't be able to look at photos of puppies online... 
Don’t contact your energy providers/local authority/internet provider/mobile phone network at the last minute.  Give them a fighting chance of helping you by giving them some workable notice.    Don’t sign up with a new Internet provider a few days before you move and then get upset when they can’t turn on your Wi-Fi until 10 days after you arrive.   Otherwise you will, like me, have no one to blame but yourself.

Don’t forget to redirect your mail until you have a chance to make all your calls and let everyone know about your exciting new change of address.  

Don’t rock up to your new area without doing some research.  If, like me, you’re used to living in a city and move to somewhere rural, you’ll need to know what you’re dealing with.  Where is the train/bus station?  If you’re a gym bunny, do you have facilities nearby? Is your nearest supermarket a half hour drive away? (Why, yes, it is….)  If you have a milk related shortage, is there a small local store that opens late?   More importantly, does this store also sell wine?  

If you’re all outgoing and friendly, join a local club/group/gym/wine tasting event and get out and meet new people.  If you’re like me and are horribly shy and awkward around people, stay home, keep taking your anti anxiety meds and proceed with caution...

Suz x 

Slate, Steam Trains, Sand and Signs: My First Week in Wales

As the front door closed behind LT on Monday morning and he nervously made his way to his first day in a new job, I was wide awake, wondering what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.   A bit dramatic, I know, but I had just left behind my comfortable Scottish world and was on the brink of starting a new, decidedly Welsh one.  

I opted to take the dragon by the horns and take a trip to see what North Wales had to offer.   I spent much of that week in Porthmadog looking for work, but also took some time out to explore my local town of Harlech.  These are the things I picked up during my first few days:

Slate in North wales

It’s everywhere.  And it’s fabulous. Seriously, wherever I went, it was there in all its smoky grey glory.  Having spent years assessing important things, such as table appointment in guest houses, I was used to seeing a bit of slate in the higher end ones, where it was used as placemats.  Its weight and potential damage causing properties always made me extra careful about how I discreetly lifted it up to check it the second an owner left the room to fetch me some toast.  Brown, not white.  

I hadn’t, however, seen quite so much slate randomly lying at the side of the road and being used to decorate the top of dry stone dykes.  As further investigation revealed, North Wales is famous for its slate mining. There are several visitor attractions dedicated to it and even more slate quarries and caverns. I have already made a mental note to visit them all.    

Train sculpture in Blaenau
Steam Trains:
Ok, so they’re not quite as widely used as slate seems to be, but there do seem to be quite a few puffing around. They’re also quite spectacular to watch. During my seemingly endless trips back and forth to Porthmadog that first week, I was regularly stopped at the rail crossing lights to allow the Welsh Highland train to cross over the road and start its scenic journey through Snowdonia National Park.  

As I soon discovered, it was not a lone train.  Just in my own region alone, I’ve counted at least another three. While driving past an area of higher ground with LT at the end of the week, he pointed out of the car window and mused that there was a fire in the ditch below.  Smoke was billowing out and it looked quite nasty.  It took me a few seconds to realise that it wasn’t a fire at all; it was another train, with its tracks winding along the side of the road.  

I do hope that if there really is a fire at some point, I don’t just laugh and shake my head knowingly, dismissing the whole thing as yet another train sighting while my house slowly burns to the ground.  

Harlech beach
Harlech Beach, or Traeth, if you will... 
I live near the beach.  Never thought I’d say that, to be honest.  I don’t really like the beach. Or rather, I like the idea of the beach, but I’m not so much a fan of sand.  It gets everywhere and you’ll find it expertly hidden away for weeks after a visit.  Anyway, my aversion to sand doesn’t change the fact that I live near some.  

On my first foray around my town, I came across a sign for ‘Traeth Beach’.  With it being a little less than a mile from home, I wandered over for a look.  It was a cold but sunny day and the area was busy with holidaymakers and dog walkers who clearly knew nothing about the sandy horror that awaited them on returning home that evening.    

As it turns out, living on the North Wales coast means that there's sand pretty much everywhere. Who knew?? Not me.   I can't go anywhere without a seeing sand at some point and I'm sure I'll gradually get used to being around sand without trying to avoid it, because, obviously, that would be futile.   

Just to highlight my stupidity
Since I’ve moved from Scotland, I’ve been uploading photos to fb so that my family can see what I’m getting up to. I posted up a couple of shots of the beach under the heading “Traeth Beach,' and they all marvelled at how beautiful it was. 

I received a pm the following day from a cousin of mine, who also lives in North Wales, informing me that traeth is, in fact, the Welsh word for beach and *not* the name of the beach itself.  The fact that I’d uploaded my photos under the title “Beach Beach’ greatly amused my Welsh speaking family members.  Luckily for me, the Scottish ones had no idea what I’d done. Until I told them. 

A few days later, while driving south, I glanced upon another traeth sign around ten miles from home.  Had I not been armed with this new information, there’s every chance I’d have spent the next few days wondering just how bloody long Traeth Beach actually was…  

It’s official: I’m stupid in two languages.    

P.S - I also saw about a million sheep, but I'm from Scotland, so it wasn't anything new.   

Suz x