“Your mum talks funny, is she Irish or summit?”
Growing up as a kid and being ‘different’ is not cool. You just want to fit in. You do not want to have 5 brothers and have people laugh and say ‘didn’t your parents have a telly?’ *, You do not want trainers from the shop that sells the school uniform, you do not want to be seen pulling your Mum’s shopping trolley on a Saturday, you do not want Warren Turner to think you fancy him and you do not want your mum to have a funny accent. Being an 8 year old kid is tough.
My first realisation that my Mum was ‘a bit different’ to other London families’ Mums, was about this age. I didn’t think there was anything different to my Mum from other Mums as they all looked the same to me, they talked at the school gates, they wore skirts, they were just Mums. they cooked the dinner, made you wash behind your ears and told your Dad if you were really naughty. I didn’t see any difference until it was pointed out to me by other children.
“Why does your mum talk funny?” one kid asked one day out of the blue, “she doesn’t” I shrugged. The kid wouldn’t let up, “yes she does, she talks funny”, I stared at him, “No.. she.. doesn’t” I glared at him, daring him to say it again. He didn’t, instead he did the worse thing any kid can do, he got more kids involved. “Doesn’t her mum talk funny?” he pointed at me. I was red in the face as they all looked at me. “Yeah she does” one said, “is she Irish or summit?” another said. So I did what any self respecting tomboy would have done, I punched the kid in the face. “Don’t talk about my mum again” I said and he didn’t. In fact as I remember he didn’t actually talk much to me after that either and no kid spoke about my Mum’s funny accent for a while. But then it reared it’s ugly head a few months later, this time with a tougher kid. “Oi, why does your Mum talk funny?” and I did what any self respecting kid would have done when faced with a tougher kid, I walked away, quickly.
It wouldn’t go away, now the kids knew it wound me up they asked more and more. I knew I had to do something but I didn’t understand it. Sure my Mum talked posher than the other kids Mum’s and smoked, maybe it was the cigarettes? I just didn’t know.
So anyway, eventually, I had to confront the issue and I asked my sister**, who, being a teenager, knew about everything.
“Does Mum talk funny?” I asked and she laughed at me, “No you idiot, she’s Scottish!”
I sat on her bed slowly, “what’s that?” I wondered if it was an illness, would it go away? Would she one day not talk funny? “It’s a country, she’s from Scotland” my sister said, she was brushing her hair and wasn’t really interested. Now, I knew that Mum was ‘from Scotland’ but at my age it was interpreted as, ‘fromscotland’, it was a grown up word I didn’t understand and was too busy playing to bother with. I hadn’t related it to my her voice and anyway I didn’t want her to be ‘fromscotland’. Why couldn’t she be from the Old Kent road or Jamaica like my friends parents, this was not fair. I was doomed. Why did I have to be any more different? Wasn’t the shame of having the largest family in the school the worse thing already? I felt pretty sorry for myself that day I can tell you. Then my sister delivered the ultimate blow, as only a big sister can, “You’re half Scottish you know” I immediately burst into tears. I felt that my life was over and as the only representation of Scotland in my world back then was Russ Abbot and Rab C Nesbit, I envisioned a life of being married to someone who wore a dirty vest, screamed at people, and that I would spend my days saying ‘see you Jimmy’ and head butting everyone.
Obviously as I grew up and educated myself about this wonderful heritage I have I grew to realise it as a blessing. And when I came to Scotland, aged 16, (despite my last minute panic that I hadn’t changed my money!) I loved this wonderful country instantly. When people in London ask me if we have certain shops here, (answer erm yes, we have girls- Dur!!) I smile and think back to my un-education of Scotland and my thoughts that people wore kilts everyday, played the Bagpipes and cycled through the Glens to work. When I go back to visit London, I love my time there but I love coming home to Edinburgh, pulling into Waverley Station, stepping out onto Princes Street and taking in a deep breath of Scottish air. Knowing I am home.
* They did, and I was embarrasingly old when I realised what this meant, it bugged me for years why people asked and sniggered.
** Yes, there’s a Sister too!