An Englishman, a Scotsman and a Viking lurch out of a bar

Jedburgh 01

Jedburgh Abbey is a seriously impressive ruin; it’s a skeleton with all the soft parts dissected away. No distracting stained glass, no inappropriate Victorian pews or 1950s wooden chairs, no organ loft, no banners or hangings, just the raw engineering of the stone.

Jedburgh 02I was chatting to one of the blokes who sells you tickets and said how impressive it was, he said “until you English destroyed it”. Now, there is so much more to the Scots than you’d ever think from the whingeing victim status some of them adopt in relation to the English that I get mightily irritated whenever one of them comes over all Braveheart and Bonnie Prince Charlie and Highland Clearances on me. I smiled very sweetly and said “oh, it wasn’t personal you know, we English are just a bunch of football hooligans, we’ve trashed all sorts of things all over the world not just here in Scotland”.

Personally I blame the Danes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Danes immensely: I enjoy their ironic sense of humour, I am awestruck that they have vending machines selling pornography in the street, I admire their elegant visual style, and I love their company.

Some years ago I worked for one who warned me that I should never pick a fight with a Dane because the Danes are descended from Vikings. I pointed out a flaw in his logic: England’s where all the roughtiest toughtiest Vikings went raping and pillaging and Denmark was where the stay-at-home ones stayed at home. (It amazes me sometimes that I’ve never been a victim of ABH. My Grandma used to warn me that I was so sharp I’d cut myself.)

Jedburgh 03

You see, it’s always seemed to me that if you strip away all the padding and propaganda from the English character, we boil down to a bunch of drunken football hooligans falling out of the pub and picking pointless fights and suddenly all sorts of things fall into place from the treatment of the Celtic Nations to Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs to the British Empire.

Personally, I think that “I predict a riot” should replace the Godsave as the English National Anthem. In the words of the Kaiser Chiefs:

Watching the people get lairy
It’s not very pretty I tell thee
Walking through town is quite scary

11 responses to “An Englishman, a Scotsman and a Viking lurch out of a bar

  1. Battle Abbey is a lovely old ruin to bang around in, and I was amazed how casually one can bang around in it. But that whole Norman thing is annoying. And don’t get me started on the Romans!

    The big fish eat the little fish, dearie. Always have and always will…

  2. Well, the Normans were Vikings themselves of course, and William the Conquerer’s Normans were just a bunch of mercenaries anyway, who he paid after the event in land.

    It’s not a bad way to conquer a country; get a bunch of landless thugs with nothing to lose – point them at the place you want to conquer – and give them great chunks of it when the job’s done. Thinking about it, it’s exactly how the Brits got to occupy so much of Africa, isn’t it?

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. I must put Battle Abbey on my List of Places to see.


  3. I enjoy Scotland. My wife is Scottish. I spend a lot of time in Scotland, over many many locations.

    The same thing irks me. There’s a persistent slanderous undercurrent that it’s those damn English who have made (and continue to ensure) that life in Scotland’s not as peachy as it should be. Then they eye me warily since I’m one of them.

    We thought of moving to Scotland, I love the landscape, love the cosmoplitan and Continental cafe culture feel of Edinburgh, love the tempestuous weather. But I can’t settle when I’m always feeling goaded with (albeit from a minority) an undercurrent of animosity.

    My brother in law’s Canadian. He lived in Scotland with his Scottish wife and their kids but they’ve all moved to Canada now. He felt that Scotland is also a gorgeous country but that a touch too many of the Scottish are frankly xenophobic and “mean angry people” which after 6 years and time in 5 towns and cities became intolerable.

    A national identity is sometimes a good thing, bitter resentment over events I had no association with what so ever is just mean.

  4. >Personally I blame the Danes
    Hrmpf 😉

    One of the things about Vikings that I quite often take the time to point out is that most (if not far most) of their time abroad was spent trading rather than pillaging. Maybe the Brits just didn’t accept the right prices…?

    And obviously, the real bad Vikings must have been the Norwegian ones!

    Nice pictures, by the way – such places are impressive.

  5. I miss a lot of things about Scotland – but not that whining/blaming/victim stuff.

    Having said that, bear in mind that some people do the Blame-The-Sassenachs thing just for pure mischief. Okay it’s a tired old joke and not terribly funny but we don’t get out much – it’s that Hadrian’s Wall.
    I blame the Romans.

    Wish I had your eye for photography angles.

  6. “It’s not a bad way to conquer a country; get a bunch of landless thugs with nothing to lose – point them at the place you want to conquer – and give them great chunks of it when the job’s done.”

    Nowadays, we call them ‘asylum seekers’.

  7. Danes All Over!!!
    I live in Scania, an ancient cultural region in the very south of Scandinavia. Originally an integral and central part of Denmark, today of the four Scanian provinces only Bornholm remains Danish, while Blekinge, Halland and Skåne (Scania) are part of Sweden.
    The world are changing all the time. Who knows, we might be Danish again 🙂

  8. My ex was Scottish too, Shrink, and I must admit I was wary of living there till I spent 6 months or so working in Glasgow. I’ve always found the people on the West Coast much more accepting than the people on the East Coast. I have no idea why. What I find odd is that most Scots I’ve met who have a chip don’t seem to have it about the one thing which would make sense – the English really did steal their oil. I felt very comfortable in Glasgow, and would go back and work there again like a shot. Edinburgh was just too douce for me.

    Ah, SG V, are you sure the Danes weren’t making offers the English couldn’t refuse? 😉 It always astonishes me how the English claim Cnut was king of England, oh and Denmark. They claim the Plantagenates were Kings of England, with bits of France thrown in on the side. In fact we’ve been the vassal state far more often than any of us care to admit.

    Teuchter, you are right, a lot of it is just put on for the tourists. And I’d do the same myself to be honest, and the English would irritate the hell out of me if I was Scottish. Devolution is the only way. If only the English could devolve from Westminster too.

    That’s an interesting twist on it anticant. Of course we used to ship our drunkards, wastrels and loosers overseas and call them tea planters. By the way, the book about reincarnation and the book about Talleyrand arrived the same day. It felt like getting presents from you!

    Blackout, I’ve worked down in Skåne, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I always forget how flexible European boundaries have been and how one territory can belong to just about any neighbouring nation depending on what century it is.

    Thanks all for reading and commenting.


  9. Careful! my grandfather had a Victorian uncle who was a merchant to the tea and coffee planters in what was then Ceylon. Far from being any of the things you mention, he was a highly intelligent and amusing man who wrote some wonderfully illustrated letters home which I still possess. All of a sudden he disappeared and was never heard of again – an unsolved mystery. I blogged about him in the Burrow.

  10. Hope you enjoy the books. The Talleyrand could be better. The author is a bit slapdash about easily checkable facts, such as relationships within the French royal family. I see another new biography of ‘Old Talley’ has just come out, and wonder whether that is more scholarly.

  11. Thinking about it, I remember that blog of yours Anticant.

    My grandfather, father and uncle were all in the Indian Army, so I absolutely do know that not all colonials were remittance men.

    My sister lives in Trinidad and my brother in Australia, and I feel very conflicted about the whole Imperial Legacy – I cannot work out if it was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. I suspect that it varied from place to place. India could not be the burgeoning IT power that she is without the legacy of the English Language. And I doubt that she would have had any form of democracy in the 20th Century without Britain having been there. On the other hand, I cannot look at South Africa and Zimbabwe and say that we improved things there.

    So I absolutely do know first hand that many of those involved in Empire were intelligent people of great integrity. The planters in fact maybe more so than the army, since the planters had no plans to come back.

    On the other hand, there is no doubt that upper middle class wastrels were shipped out to stop them making scandals at home. One friend of mine has just such a son, but there isn’t an Empire to send him to. She did get him off to Australia for a while, where he disappeared for a bit, but they deported him as soon as they found him.

    I’m reading the Reincarnation book at the moment with interest and enjoyment. I’m saving the Talleyrand for next.


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