Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekend in Pictures

To celebrate our one-year anniversary, Paul took me to the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of the mainland. It is so beautiful that words (and my pictures) do not do it justice.

Arran is often described as "Scotland the miniature" as it is divided into the highlands of the north and the lowlands of the south. To the north are rolling munros (hills) that are peppered with wee rivers. To the south are gorgeous views of Holy Island, which is home to a Buddhist retreat and community.

We saw all kinds of various sights: a huge stag with antlers, countless amounts of sheep (of course), an eagle or some bird of prey, and on the ferry ride over to Arran, we saw Former First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell. I wanted to tell him that I was inspired by his initiatives to encourage Canadians with Scottish ancestry to move to Scotland. Paul, however, told me not to and to leave poor Jack alone. It was weird seeing him amongst the throngs of punters and hill walkers.

Unfortunately when we arrived Saturday morning, it was windy, cold and raining on and off. Sunday, however, was absolutely gorgeous and sunny and we managed to see most of the island in the two days - mainly thanks to Paul's expert handling of his ancient BMW on the old windy roads. I shot some videos as we drove about the island.

At Whitting Bay, with a view of Holy Island in the background.

One of the many many sheep populating Arran.

Ruins of Lochranza castle.

One of the many many piles of sheep poop. You either need to wear rubber boots (wellys) or watch EVERY STEP YOU TAKE.

Brodrick castle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Labour is the New Tory

The United "Kingdom": home of the British and now, soon to be home to migrants that can afford it.

In the news today, apparently the government, down in England, want to get rid of the current immigration system, which allows people to apply for naturalisation on the basis of how long they have lived in the UK, and replace it with a system that appears to be cooked-up by the Conservative party. Bear in mind that Labour - yes, Labour: that once left-leaning party - are in power.

According to the new process, wishful migrants will have to pass more tests, pay more fees, prove their integration into communities, and have to wait longer to become a citizen. Some migrants may also have to pay into a fund towards public services and have a period of "probationary citizenship". Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said future migrants would need to "earn" citizenship.

Yes, no longer is it acceptable to be a decent person, pass criminal background checks, and pay taxes; now you gotta work for that passport, baby! Unless of course you're rich enough and then you can just bypass all of these steps.

It’s interesting to note that these new requirements will not be mandatory for EU citizens. Europeans are apparently warmly-welcomed but we dirty migrants from Asia, Africa, and North America got to "prove" our worth.

Frankly, this proposed new system is a big pile of shit because it will exploit those migrants that are already struggling to afford the £1000+ it costs for citizenship documents. Also, how the hell do you prove "integration" into a community? I mean, I'm a honky from Canada with British ancestry but damn, sometimes even I struggle to navigate through British society. Like, it's ok to ask someone how much they pay in mortgage/rent but you can't ask them what class they are?! I can't tell you folks how many times I've made cultural faux-pas over here; like that time I was looking for loose vegetarian "beef" and was informed by the shop assistant that British people called it, "mince" - to which I replied, "that sounds an awful like minge. Better not get confused!"

Anyway, if I wanted this kind of hostility and suspicion of immigrants, I would have voted for the fucking Conservatives!

Ah, the irony - as a commonwealth citizen and resident of Scotland, I can vote, pay taxes (yet have no right to public funds), live in a "democratic" society, and yet I get screwed over and above British citizens.

THANKS A LOT, LABOUR! "If you value it, vote for it" and all that fucking bullshit, eh? I'll keep that in mind next time I vote.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Interesting article in The Independent today; the leader of the Church of Scotland (Rt Rev Sheilagh Kesting), claims that "anti-English" sentiment in Scotland is just as big a threat to the well-being of Scottish society as sectarianism.

She (yes, a woman!) also said that the anti-English feeling is not conducive to a "healthy society" and that "banter" between the Scots and the English during sporting events could be harmful and lead to more sinister behaviour.

Now, normally I don't listen to religious leaders at all, specifically ones that refer to things as "sinister" and wish to oppress all the fun things in life, but I wondered if Miss Kesting had a point. Then I read this bit:

"Miss Kesting, 53, also revealed she had experienced anti-Englishness as she was growing up in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. She added: 'I grew up in the north-west, in a part of Scotland where English people tended to settle and there was an antipathy towards them. They weren't altogether welcomed.'"

Might this just be a case of wounded pride after all these years?

Being a Canadian in Scotland, I always just assumed that the Scottish and English relationship was similiar to that of Canada and America. Canadians have a charming inferiority complex, love to bitch about America, make vast generalisations about American people, and would sooner go through life without Tim Hortons coffee than have ANYONE assume they're American. And yeah, I'm one of those kinds of Canadians. This dynamic, however, is generally all one-sided as America is too busy policing the world and making movies and what-not to notice our passive-aggressive attention-seeking ways.

And so I just assumed that the Scottish viewed the English in the same way as Canadians to our cultural colonizers, America? Except that the Scottish were sorta part of the same country as the English? And except Scotland had oil and not England?

Needless to say, I sympathise with the Scots because well, I live in Scotland and I'm Canadian so really it's just natural that I empathise with the underdog. Who knew I was up to something "sinister"!?

The article continues:

"[Miss Keating was] echoed by the Rev Elisabeth Spence, an anti-sectarianism campaigner and Glasgow minister, who said: 'If you say something which is sectarian, people will spot it and challenge. It will no longer be tolerated. People still laugh off anti-English remarks as just a bit of fun, but they are nothing of the sort. They are racist and offensive.'"
Offensive? Ok, maybe but racist? SINCE WHEN ARE THE ENGLISH A RACE?! Fuck's sake, lady!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Weekend Round Up

First of all, I can't believe the weather lately! It's been sunny for three days in a row now with nary a cloud in sight. In addition, it's actually been somewhat warm too. Photographic evidence from this morning: And in true Scottish fashion, the locals have taken to leaving their respectable homes without a jacket. I'm not sure why, but with the first hint of spring/summer, Scots tend to wander the streets without any protection of a coat.

It was even lovely - albeit a bit colder - this past weekend in Dundee. I'm not sure if it's the difference in coasts or what (Glasgow is on the west coast, Dundee on the east; see map below) but as soon as my friend, Kate, and I stepped off the train, we noticed a drop in the temperature. Kate and I were met at the station by our friend, Lauren (who once lived in Toronto for a year), with whom we were staying. Some people refer to Dundee as "Scumdee" but honestly, it's not that bad. In fact, it's kinda cute. It's also a lovely train ride through rolling hills and wee lochs. At least I wasn't as hung over as I was last year when I went to visit Lauren in Dundee.

Lauren made a gorgeous vegetarian lasagna - complete with homemade cheese sauce too (British people make lasagna with this strange "cheese" - or sometimes referred to as "white"- sauce instead of cottage cheese)! Look at the golden crispy cheese topping! Perfection!

We then proceeded to drink copious amounts of wine before heading out to sample the nightlife of Dundee. After three gin and tonics and a lightening speed marathon session of "Truth or Dare" at three different pubs, Lauren and I somehow managed to end up at a nightclub. Kate - perhaps wisely - bowed out early and left for Lauren's flat. I don't get out much these days so when I do, I like to get TORE UP FROM THE FLOOR UP AND HIT THE TILES! And so on and so forth...

drunken video taken with my phone in da club

Friday, February 08, 2008

I Survived Toronto SARS Flu or Photos From My Holiday in Baltic Canada

So there aren't too many pictures from my two weeks in Canada - mainly because I spent the second half of my holiday sweating in Bob's bed and having delusional dreams due to a fever. Anyway, here is Bob and I heading to the airport after wasting an entire week sweating in his plush bed. At least I managed to eat a burrito or two at Mitzi's Sister in Toronto and picked up a jug of maple syrup.

Isn't this SUCH a cute picture of my Bombo?

This one: not so much. This is Bombo showing me his bulldog pj's with the butt-flap hanging open (and unintentionally showing me his hairy ball bag too). I laughed so hard at this picture. This photo is almost as funny as this one from last Christmas.

Seymour and I.
When I first met Seymour in August, I thought he resembled a cocktail sausage wrapped in fur - and had the personality of one. I was like, "is thing alive?" Anyway, I got to know Seymour very well during my SARS stay in Toronto, and I totally fell in love with him. He no longer resembles a fur-coated cocktail sausage to me but rather, Slimer from Ghostbusters. He even eats like him too. Behold: See? Totally!

One day Bombo and I tried to eat a waffle joint in Kensington Market only to discover that it was ONLY open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. What the fuck?! If I wanted to try and eat at a restaurant with limited hours, I would have stayed in Europe! So, instead Bombo and I ate at one his favourite joints: King's Cafe - a totally vegetarian/ vegan restaurant. You know, for being a greasy Cypriot/ Greek - Canadian who loves his meat, Bombo sure does love this vegan place.

Now, being a vegetarian who currently eats fish (whatever, please don't leave me comments berating me for not being a "proper" vegetarian), I don't mind vegetarian food. Vegan food however: fuuuuuck. I can't believe that once upon a time, I was a strict vegan. It didn't last long because how could I NOT eat delicious yummy cheese? Besides, vegan food (see: egg-free mayonnaise and soy cheese) is fucking gross.


Kensington Market: home to white dudes with dreadlocks, smelly punk rockers, upper-middle-class students slumming it, and your average Toronto crackhead. Yeah, I love this place. No, seriously! I wish I had more time in August when I was in Toronto with Paul so I could have taken him there.
Just your average pot cafe in Kensington Market.
One of the many many many South American/ Latino joints.

Random dried bean stalls.

Dudes - I ate a BIG FAT BURRITO in "Big Fat Burrito" and it was soooooo fucking good. When is someone going to cash in in Glasgow, and open a burrito joint? Or, at the very least, a somewhat decent Mexican restaurant. After eating at THE WORST Mexican place EVER in Glasgow, I joked to Paul, "If I were Mexican, and came to eat at this restaurant, I would have killed myself by hurling my body into the Clyde, thinking that THIS disgusting place is what passes as great Mexican cuisine and what my culture has departed to Scotland!!!"

I thought it was funny. Paul did not.

And that was my trip back home to Toronto. Hopefully see you in the spring/summer, Toronto, and thanks again for the SARS flu!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Another News Day; Another Report About the Epidemic State of Glasgow

It's a wonder I made it to work alive this morning! According to a report released today, Glasgow's gang levels are on par with London's.

The report warned that there were 170 teenage gangs in Glasgow - the same number as in London, despite it having just a sixth of the population of the English capital. Nevermind that the report does not define what a "gang" exactly is. And where does that number of 170 come from? An indepth study on poverty perhaps? No. Rather, this new report cites this article from 4 June 2006 of The Independent. And where does the journalist get those numbers from? Who knows because there is no footnote or citation?!

It should also be noted that the "think tank" that released this report is the right-leaning Centre for Social Justice - an organisation that was set up by the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. In his introduction, Iain Duncan Smith even name drops David Cameron. Sorry but I don't trust politicians - especially Conservative ones. Nor do I trust that this report is especially non-partisan.

I'm not denying that Glasgow has its fair share of social problems - obviously it does, like any major city - but sometimes folks need to read beyond the bold print headlines. Frankly, this new report from the Centre for Social Justice sounds dodgy.

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, said, more tactfully: "It's well-documented that Glasgow still has a major challenge in terms of our long-standing and deep-rooted social problems. It's almost every six months that we get another one of these reports that highlights the challenge that we face."

"Ten years ago when Labour came to power, 40% of school leavers in this city went straight into unemployment - that has now halved - and in some schools in the east end it's been reduced to 10%."

Bet the Centre for Social Justice didn't put that in their report.