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Life as a Scot in California

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Archive for the ‘Oormargit’ Category

My Scottish Audio Blog

Posted by berkeleyscot on April 16, 2012

I’ve not been keeping up this blog because I’ve been doing audio blogs for the Scots Language Centre.  If you are interested in what the Doric sounds like, the link is:


Posted in Oormargit, Scotland | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Early Catbow Memories

Posted by berkeleyscot on June 26, 2009

For the first four years of my life in the Catbow I knew only Mam, Dad, Granny and Granda the neighbours and relatives who lived close by. I did not know they were not my relatives and added ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ to their names.

I was aware of my surroundings, from a very early age and understood much more than I could articulate.

I knew that Dad and Granda went to sea during the week and sometimes were away for longer.  Mam and Granny each had their ‘own ends’ of the house, but Mam did most of the work in the house. They didn’t have an easy relationship and I know that Mam wanted a house of her own.

I was aware of the tension between them. Dad seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it and just tried, ineffectually, to keep the peace.  Granda didn’t get involved at all. First World War guns had rendered him completely deaf and communication was difficult.

I spent a lot of time with adults and didn’t play with children of the neighbourhood very often. I couldn’t keep up with their active games and I fell a lot. I didn’t know I had cerebral palsy and figured that out for myself later. Dad used to say I had ‘a weakness.’

They did their best for me, but they had limited resources.

So this was how ‘OorMargit’ began, sitting on a creepie by the fireside, in the evenings, listening to the neighbours’ gossip and stories.

I absorbed everything they said and learned to speak the Doric before I learned to speak English.

On the left is me in 1953 in the Catbow before the road was made in 1963. On the right I’m posing for a professional photographer who came to the house.

Catbow 1953Posing in 1954

Posted in Buckie, Disability, Oormargit | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Halloween Part 2

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 26, 2007

When I was a child in Scotland it seemed that Halloween and Bonfire Night were two celebrations in one. Bonfire Night, on November 5, celebrated the discovery of, and the foiling of, the plot by Guy Fawkes, and others, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
A classmate did once invite me to a Halloween party and we played the traditional games: dooking (bobbing) for apples, eating treacly scones tied on strings and pinning the tail on the donkey, blindfolded.
But that was not the usual way we celebrated the season.
Preparations for Bonfire Night started in late October. There was indeed a bonfire to be built. This was long before these events were regulated and the local children scoured the neighbourhood for bonfire material; old tyres, tables, bits of wood, old rugs and rolls of unused wallpaper were collected for the funeral pyre of Guy Fawkes.
We made a Guy out of scarecrow material; old clothes stuffed with straw. He came with us as we foraged for the bonfire and we pulled him along in a hurlie (a wee cart.) “Penny for the Guy!” we shouted.
The pennies bought fireworks. On Bonfire Night, with little adult supervision we lit Roman candles, Catherine wheels, bangers, rockets and waved sparklers about with no care of personal injury or property damage.
The safest place for a bonfire is on the beach, but when I was wee, the bonfire was built on top of the brae, the communal drying green and so very close to our houses.
The Guy sat on the top and once the bonfire was burning, neighbours gathered and kept it blazing, tossing more rubbish on to it.
We cheered when the flames got to the Guy and devoured him.
Then we children started our ‘guising’ and knocked on neighbours’ doors. We were expected and welcomed.
We didn’t shout ‘Trick or Treat.’ We simply knocked and were invited to come in and perform for the treat.
We earned our treat. Those who could dance or sing did so and the reward was a few coins, a toffee apple or a piece of homemade tablet (fudge.)
We didn’t have fancy costumes and I wore my mother’s wrap-around-apron as my outfit. I had a false-face, which was a sixpenny piece of cardboard, secured behind my head with an elastic band.
It usually rained and the false-face was mushy on my cheeks.
Most children had a talent for dancing or singing, but I didn’t dance or sing or entertain.
My talent was to recite and bore.
My favourite poem has always been, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” By Sir Walter Scott.
I‘d launch into:

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray,
Seem'd to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy

I’d start weeping when I got to “carried by an orphan boy…” The poor wee laddie carrying the heavy harp in the cold wind. I got my sixpence and went weeping to recite at the next house.

But on October 31 I will turn on the porch light and I will have a basket of candy.
I don’t want the wee ones to trip over their costumes climbing up my steps.
I’m not really so grumpy.

Posted in Buckie, Halloween, Living, Oormargit, Scotland | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scots Language Society

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 15, 2007

I have always enjoyed writing in my native dialect, The Doric. I heard it before I learned to speak English and I could call it my ‘comfort language.’
An article I wrote a few years ago explains this in more detail; “Speak Bonnie Noo.”
I’ve written a number of articles and stories in The Doric which have been published in the Banffshire Advertiser (The Buckie Paper, AKA, ‘The Squeak,’ and in the newsletter of the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Museum.
A few years ago I joined the Scots Language Society. I think the Society has very few members outside of Scotland.
I’m chuffed tae bits that last year the Society published a story I wrote.
I’d been telling the story for 40 years and wrote it as a piece for Susan Ito’s writing class at UC extension. But it just didn’t work in English.
The story was about a visit from Canadian relatives and despite our sincere efforts to make them feel welcome and comfortable, it was a laughable disaster!
I heard the Doric voices in contrast to the Canadian voices and realised that was what the story was about. There were two extremely different cultures and expectations.
Scottish Hospitality” was published in The Doric, in the winter edition, 2006, of ‘Lallans,’ the journal of the Scots Language Society.

Here’s a short excerpt of me reading this story.

Posted in Buckie, Oormargit, Scotland, Writing | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

I’m Margaret and this is my intro blog: A Scot living in the Bay Area

Posted by berkeleyscot on September 12, 2007

Thanks to Susan Ito’s encouragement, I am starting a new blog.

A few years ago I was a student in Susan’s writing class at the UC Berkeley extension and recently found her online blog. I’m happy to have reconnected with Susan and to enjoy her writing in all it forms.

I started to write one at the end of 2003. A few people did respond, but I think I stopped because I wasn’t too clear in my mind that I wanted to write about my life as a person with a disability.

I was born in Scotland and have lived in the East Bay for almost 30 years. Both places are equally ‘home’ and I do not prefer one over the other. Thanks to the Internet, I’m always ‘in’ Scotland.

My new blog is not about how “awful” my life is because I was born with cerebral palsy, because it definitely is NOT! Neither is it intended to “inspire.” That is YUCK!

It‘s about whatever I’m thinking about, memories and current concerns.

But I do blog with my left hand only and my right hand has a mind of it’s own.

The link to those early entries.

Posted in Living, Oormargit | 4 Comments »