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Why we Scots love a good cultural cringe

It might come as a surprise to some people, but Australians are quite a sensitive bunch really.  And one of the things they're especially touchy about is themselves. 

It's called cultural cringe, a condition which can best be described as an acute feeling of embarrassment, reticence and general discomfiture when it comes to the achievements, traditions and in particular, culture of the mother country.

Sound familiar?  I mean, let's face it, when it comes to cultural cringe, we Scots wrote the book.  Sure, there are lots of things we have to be proud of, but far more that utterly mortify us.

Casting aside for a second the easy targets – those all too predictable objects of hooting ridicule – The Krankies, Susan Boyle, Starvin Marvin and of course, Rangers FC – there are many other aspects of the old country that I'd say gives us a right showing up.

There's the deep fried Mars bar for starters.  And being crap at sport, except darts and snooker which, clearly, doesn't count.  Being top of the European League for heart disease and related illnesses.

Having a serious victim mentality where we blame everything bad on the English, the Highland clearances, Jimmy Hill and a Russian linesman. The Edinburgh Tattoo. Neds in Burberry hats and sovvy rings. Unemployment. Third generation unemployment.

Politicians.  The Old Firm.  Small minded bigotry.  Blind, ugly prejudice.  The People's Friend.  (And I don't mean Tam Sheridan.)  In fact, add Tam Sheridan to the list.

Cringe? And then some.

Now, take the People’s Friend.  I was in a chiropodist's surgery last week and found, there in the waiting room, a copy of the People's Friend.  I think when they build these places a copy of the People's Friend must be automatically supplied, along with the tubes of bunion and verrucca ointment.  It's what's called a fixture.

The "Friend" as we aficionados know it, is one of the lynchpins of the mighty DC Thomson Corporation, which includes such iconic titles as The Beano, The Jackie and of course, the mighty powerhouse which is – or at least used to be - the Sunday Post.

In the early 1990s I actually used to do a bit of work for The Post.  As a fearless, intrepid features drone, I invented (er, I mean, described) gripping local stooshies, such as the one which occurred at a provincial library, when Wee Betty tore a strip off Big Senga for noisily unwrapping a toffee, a state of affairs which led to a potentially disastrous but ultimately cheerily comical conclusion.

Furthermore – and for many years I was sworn to secrecy about this – on one auspicious occasion I was Francis Gay, when the real one – or at any rate the real imaginary one – swapped his seven days hard for seven days holiday.

Of course The Post then – and maybe even now – has always been in the vanguard of Caledonian cringe, given that it presented to the world (and 99% of Scots in its glory days), a scrubbed up, resolutely couthy but nonetheless entirely bogus representation of Scotland's traditions, outlook and way of life

Bogus, I hear you exclaim?  The Post?  The Hon Man?  Oor Wullie and the Broons?  Are you trying to say life wasn't like that?

No, of course it wasn't.  But on the other hand, it was entertaining.  The Post, and obviously I'm biased because I wrote some of it, was always an amusing read, especially if you kept your tongue firmly in your cheek.

As We See It, The Doc Replies, and especially Oor Wullie and The Broons – in the days of the legendary Dudley D. Watkins - were, quite simply, never anything less than brilliant fun.

Not like today.  I mean, have you read it recently?  It's been brought up to date.  Oor Wullie has a skateboard.  Hen Broon uses a mobile phone and Horace spends a lot his time accessing internet porn, though I might have made that last bit up.

And that's the problem I have with Caledonian cringe.  Sure, it's embarrassing and hopelessly squirm-worthy, but most of is also sheer comedy gold.

I used to love STV shows like Thingummyjig and What's Your Problem.  Yes, they were crap, but they were also funny. Who could ever forget Here and Now with the idiosyncratic Bill Tennant, when his guest, Fanny Craddock, was showing the viewers how to make doughnuts? 

All together now: "If you're trying that recipe at home, I hope your doughnuts turn out like...(Okay, maybe it didn't actually happen, but the point is, it could have.  It was that kind of show.  And Bill was that kind of guy).

When you see the funny side, all the bad stuff begins to become acceptable.  I mean, the deep fried Mars bar: doubtless every nibble hardens your arteries, but have you tried it? It's delicious.

So what if we're crap at sport, would you rather be Australian? Heart disease? We have some of the world's best heart surgeons almost certainly because they get so much practice.

And as for blaming the English? Well, if you have to blame someone, can you think of anyone more worthy?

And so on and so forth. We might be small minded and parochial. It's possible that we're quick to take offence, irritable and liable to fly off the handle now and again, but hey, it's better than bottling it up, isn't it?

And talking of bottling it up, if it's true that, as scientists predict, due to global warming,  in 100 years' time water will be as valuable as gold, then we’ll all be rolling in it, won’t we?

Money, that is.  Not mud, glaur, glabber and keech.  We’re already rolling in that.

Cultural cringe?  Ah, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
 

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