It's the little things that matter most.
The other day I sat down to a nice plate of pea and ham soup. Very tasty it was too, but every time I considered what I was eating, a certain phrase kept running through my head. 'Pea and ham? From a chicken?'
Naturally enough, this means precisely zilch to an Australian. In actual fact, being a bit of a non-sequitur, it means absolutely nothing to anyone really.
Except to a Scottish person. It means something to us, being a throwaway line from a 1980s TV advert for - I think - Knorr stock cubes.
Remember? - 'Big Morag has gone to a Hen's night...' Ah, happy days.
It's these small cultural reference points that serve to remind you that, despite the language being more or less the same, there are certain things Australians just don't get.
'Pea and ham soup? From a chicken?' I politely and semi-expectantly inquired. Cue bemused faces all round. (And possibly some inward contemplation as to what drugs I'm currently on).
This unwavering lack of understanding is most obvious when it comes to jokes. Scottish jokes. Wee grabs of comedy which immediately strike home with us, but fly over the heads of everyone else as out of reach as a cruising 747.
For example, on the subject of soup, there's the classic (i.e. very old) Francie and Josie Arbroath gag.
'Is your Granny in?', it goes. 'Well, she's at Arbroath', is the reply. 'All right then, I'll just come in and wait till she's finished'.
Laugh? Even all these years later, I nearly bust a gut.
No one else here, however, has the slightest clue what I'm talking about. Nothing. Not a jot.
You won't be surprised to know that this demonstrative non-reaction replicates itself with 'Is that a doughnut or a meringue'; 'Who was the last man to box Benny Lynch? (the undertaker) and 'See those antler, they're awfy dear' - although, in the case of the latter in particular, not getting it is probably a small mercy.
There's no purpose in explaining any of these jokes (jokes, you've got to be kidding), clarification being the undoubted death sentence on any gag. And anyway, an attempt at enlightenment only further muddies the waters, making people think that you - and by extension all Scottish people - are irredeemably weird.
This was brought home to me one time when I tried to describe the comedy legends that are The Krankies: 'Well, she's a woman in her 60s who dresses like a wee naughty schoolboy and he's her husband but he pretends he's her daddy and…'
I often add the detail that, in real life, they've admitted attending swingers' parties but somehow or other that just adds to the general nuttiness of it all whilst doing hee-haw towards any form of mutual empathy or understanding.
And when it comes to Glasgow rhyming slang - forget it.
Joe Baxi (even I don't know who he is or was), Nat King Cole (at least two meanings but only really one good one), Mick Jagger and Davy Nish: they generally get you nothing but blank looks which is frustrating since, after you've had a few pints of Mick, you're usually in dire need of an outlet for a good Davy Nish. Or, come to that, a Lillian Gish.
That's why moments like last week, when I met Andy, a bloke who works in a Melbourne shop but comes originally from Knightswood, are to be treasured.
Andy got it. All of it, despite having lived in Australia since 1987. Instant bonding over the various available cases of Mick Jagger and an opportunity to explain to my girlfriend why, in my more romantic moments, I've complimented her on her fine Particks.
Andy agreed by the way. Well, you would too.
I've often thought that being fully cognisant of West of Scotland patter should be an instant test of citizenship to be employed by immigration officials and the like. And if a newly arrived émigré was found to be lacking some of the necessary skills, free education classes could be provided, bringing some much needed work to the unemployed but nonetheless talented, au fait lieges.
As it is, I often use such a test to appraise the genuine Scottish credentials of people I meet in Oz who claim a Caledonian back story.
People who say 'I have Scottish forebears' - (to which the only possible riposte is 'forebears - that's interesting, one more than Goldilocks') - usually perceive Auld Scotia as being the land of hills, heather, the Loch Ness Monster, castles and Bonny Prince Charlie than they do in any true, genuine way.
Kilts worn without y's always gets an honourable mention which is fair enough I suppose though the interest usually starts to fade when I invariably add by way of explanation - 'kilty kilty cauld bum, couldnae play the drums…'
Ah well, such is the price to be paid for being an alien and really I wouldn't want it any other way. Anyhow, given the length of time I've been away from Scotland, the number of natives who still get the cultural references is probably diminishing by the day.
I mean, does anyone get called 'Jimmy' anymore? Do people now say 'awesome' when they really mean 'pure, dead brilliant' and is a baw hair still used as a de minimis form of measurement?
Are renowned booze hounds still supposed to 'like a good bucket' or is said container now only referred to as another word for a 'Pete Tong'?
Do the bears even talk about 'the patter' any longer, or do they prefer shtick, verbiage, argot or some other wholly homogenous term?
Quite frankly Big Man, I huv'ney goat a scooby.
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