IT was one of those weeks. I was in London, driving a borrowed car. The stereo was broken. The car was a mess. I was responsible for both. I couldn't mend the stereo so I decided to get the car washed and listen to the wireless. Luckily I love talk radio. But not this week. Every station was frustratingly fatuous, each a febrile free-for-all fixating on the same stale, stereotyped squabble. The country was Brexit-obsessed. Political colleague turned on political colleague; an egomaniacal Etonian was posturing for Prime position; the vox of the populi was sought and suitably edited to fulfil the stance of the programme. And in among it all, the ever evident undercurrent of restoring the beloved British border was bubbling and boiling to the surface.

A shopkeeper from somewhere in the most middle of middle England was solicited for an opinion. “You don’t hear an English voice walking down the high street. It's all Poles and the other Europeans. My wife doesn't like it. She’s voting to leave.”

The most infuriating, the most perplexing, the most disappointing fact was that the couple concerned were both Bangladeshi immigrants.That was it. There was no straw left for me to clutch. The radio went off. I stepped out onto the car wash forecourt to hear the Romanian car wash kid ask the owner of a massive Merc where he was from.

"Iran,” the man replied almost apologetically. You could see the confusion in the young Romanian’s eyes. He sought confirmation.


Yes, but a long time ago,” explained the Persian pensioner, by way of assuaging the questioner’s confusion.

Even the former prime minister, Fife’s finest, architect of the vow, saviour of the Union etc, has expressed deep disappointment to learn that his Scottish roots aren’t as deeply driven as he had thought. Having parted with some DNA, Gordon Brown found out that rather than being of the Pictish persuasion or the grandest son of Gael, he was in fact a Viking. I know. Explains everything…

The bombshell of his Scandinavian past, revealed in his new book, has had the big Broon reeling. “Everything I had assumed was now questioned by the findings,” he said last week.

He’s a migrant; an incomer; an interloper. This Viking-child is no Scot at all. No. He’s a bloody foreigner, coming over here, taking our jobs, marrying our women etc. It should be noted that Brown's Viking ancestors arrived about a thousand years ago ...)

Why are we so obsessed with where we come from? The growth in the now multi-billion pound genealogy business, spawning orchard after orchard of family trees, has people investigating their indigenousness. For some it's simple family fun; for others a more emotional journey to discover truths they never knew.

While the world reels over the refugee crises, the traffic of humans crossing continents already becoming the single biggest issue and challenge for the world, millions of people are poring over their own pasts, discovering similar crises and journeys.

Which of us doesn't have some element of the “other” in our ancestry? Yet today it seems a Gaelic-speaking child in the Highlands doesn't belong in Scotland. The rich nations of the Arab world have done not a single thing to help the cursed souls of their Syrian sisters and brothers. The Phoenix of the far right rises from the Aryan ashes in Austria.

The world is being conflicted into chaos: them and us; ours and theirs; civilised and developing. I'm not so naive to think that these complex issues of immigration can be simply solved. But I can't stop replaying the words of that Bangladeshi guy from the radio in my head.

I want to find him and tell him this. I am the child of a man of the Punjab, a woman born to Punjabi parents in Nairobi. I was born in London. I grew up in Glasgow. No-one thinks I am anything other than Scottish. I love my heritage, but my heart only quickens to the strains of Dougie MacLean, the sight of square sausage and Glasgow in the rain. I know what I need from my past and I want to get on with our future. And that future is currently about chasing doon those Vikings ...