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The Scottish Diaspora, good and bad, I salute you

No matter where you go in the world, regardless of which particular foreign corner you find yourself in, there will always be, I’ve found, a few constants.

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Firstly, as you stumble around, trying to find your bearings, it's only a matter of time before you're accosted by a shabby, shifty looking individual who'll ask whether you're interested in a) drugs, b) his sister, c) a guided tour of the old town or d) all of the above.

Meanwhile, on some pedestrian precinct or market square nearby, you'll hear the familiar sounds of a Peruvian pan pipe ensemble playing a seemingly endless version of El Condo Paso.

And finally, it's a racing cert that, before too long, you'll happen across that most ubiquitous of characters, the exiled Scot.

Once upon a time, back in the day, Scotland gave the world sea captains, engineers and missionaries.  These days it's more likely to be chefs, teachers and commercial business managers, but whatever it is we do when we infiltrate foreign climes from Delaware to Djibouti, there's absolutely no doubt that we make our mark.

Unlike a 3 quid bottle of Ukrainian Chardonnay, the Scots do travel well.
Since I wrote my last blog about coming back to Scotland to see my ailing Dad, two things have struck me.

First off, I'd like to say that I've been truly moved and humbled by the amount of people who've got in touch to offer their sympathy and good wishes.  Thanks to all of you.

I was also blown away by some of the folks who said my story had reflected their experiences growing up in 1960s Glasgow or travelling long distances home to loved ones' hospital bedsides.  I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and thanks again.

The other thing that hit me was the sheer spread of Scots across the globe. Comments came in from every continent on the planet (except for Antarctica, and even there I'm pretty sure there's some Tea Boy from Possil wandering about in a Burberry Hat and a fistful of sovvy rings, noising up penguins and saying thing like – "Cauld?  This is pure dingy, man!")

Scots being dotted around the globe shouldn't really have been a surprise to me, though. I can remember being on a dilapidated local bus in Morocco years ago, trying to get from Tangiers to Essaouira, when somebody playing spot-the-backpacker asked me where I was from.

On hearing "Glasgow", a wee grinning, toothless fella was summarily sent down from the back of the bus to see me, and to then pose the eternal question – "How's yer maw fur breed?"

Unfortunately, my Arabic being non-existent and my French of the "pen of my auntie is up my granny's jumper" variety, I was unable to ascertain exactly where he'd heard this classic bit of Scottish patois, but I don't think it was in any accredited language school (unless, of course, it was Stanley Baxter's brilliant Parliamo Glasgow).

However, I'd caution against being too misty eyed and sentimental about the impact of Jocks overseas, since the fact is, for every Scot who's made their mark, there happen to be quite a few who've made other things. 

Like, for instance, a right a**e of themselves.

I remember being in the Northern New South Wales town of Nimin, where I was the Probation Officer, watching the annual Mardi Grass celebration.  Not Mardi Gras, you'll note, but Mardi Grass, since this festival was well and truly dedicated to the eponymous weed which makes Nimbin somewhat famous, it not notorious  (and when I say weed, I'm not talking jaggy nettle).

One of the main attractions of the Mardi Grass is something called the Hemp Olympics featuring various events such as throwing the bong, and freestyle joint rolling (with extra marks awarded for speed, artistic impression and adverse conditions)

The winner in this category, I have to report, was a dude who went by the name of Big Ped and yes, of course, he was one of us. From Drumchapel, as a matter of fact: Ped himself told me later that he'd honed his skills on the Knightswood Pitch and Putt Course, rolling a doobie one-handed whilst sheltering from the rain under a golf umbrella.

Also in my Probation Officer days, I came across a real heid the ba' who, just on the off chance he might read this, we'll call Mad Dog McGlinchy, which even though it's entirely appropriate, isn't actually his real name.

Mad Dog was doing a 10-stretch in Grafton Jail for a violent, unsavoury incident involving himself, an entrenching tool and half a dozen polis from Manley Cop Shop and yes, I need hardly add that he was also one of Jock Tamson's bairns, being a Paisley buddy from Ferguslie Park.

My point here is that even though the vast majority of Scots abroad are fine upstanding citizens who accomplish only good things for their adopted countries, we do nevertheless, also have more than our fair share of assorted nutters, diddies and bams.

And, hey, would you ever expect it to be any different?

Maybe, as another correspondent has suggested, we Scots are like modern day Romans or Hebrews, forever exiled through circumstance from our homeland but nonetheless genetically programmed to yearn for an eventual return to our birthplace, not necessarily to spawn, but certainly to at least taste once again, a pint of McEwan's heavy and a decent curry.

Perhaps it's not entirely a coincidence that our de facto Prime Minister is a wee stout fella who knows his way around a good swally and a chicken bhoona.

Diaspora? No, just a touch of arthritis.

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