St. Andrew’s Day

andrew1Today is the feast day of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.  It’s a day when Scotsmen (and women) all over the world …do nothing by way of celebration!  Of course, in Scotland, it’s a Bank Holiday, except the Scots, being a pragmatic people, have said the banks don’t have to close if they don’t want to and employers don’t have to give you the day off.  (“Ya’ll no waste an honest da’s work fer the likes a tha’ muck!”)  St. Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Prussia, the Ukraine and parts of Italy and Malta.  Busy boy, our Andrew!  He is also the brother of St. Peter the keeper of the Gates of Heaven.  My great uncles used to say that just as St. Peter greets the dead at the Pearly Gates, his brother is right there beside him, collecting the pennies.  (“Ya’ll no be needin’ tha’ where yar goin’ laddie.”) And if you don’t get that joke, you’re not a true Scotsman (or woman.)

We Scots have always been proud of our heritage, and unlike the Irish with their overblown St. Paddy’s Day (more booze and less brag, say I) keep a low profile.  It took an American Swede, Arthur L. Herman, to tell everybody that the Scots actually invented the modern world – which we did.  In that same vein, here are a list of prominent Scots and their contribution to civilization.

John Dunlop – who invented the rubber tire, although for years he spelled it with a y, as in “tyre.”

Sir Walter Scott – who invented chivalry with his novel Ivanhoe.  Before that, knights were just smelly old men with swords — who dressed up in tin cans.

James Dewar (not Jimmy Dewar, the bass player) – who invented the thermosandrew to keep hot things hot and cold things cold long before those interlopers the McDonalds, ever thought about it.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell – who invented Stockholm Syndrome when he kidnapped Mary Queen of Scots (see below) who eventually got to like the idea and married him.

Alexander Graham Bell – who invented the telephone, although wouldn’t you know it, every time a Scotsman gets something,  there’s a Englishman hiding in the bushes waiting to take it away from him.  (I’m looking at you, Elisha Gray.)

Robert Louis Stevenson –who invented adventure stories which were great for kids until the Baby Boomers came along with their stupid “Awareness” and spoiled everybody’s fun.

James Watt – who invented “spin doctors” when he didn’t actually invent the steam engine but made it look like he did.

andrew2John Knox – who invented the Puritans and religious intolerance.

Adam Smith – who invented “Every man for himself” economics.

Sean Connery – who invented the derogatory cinematic comparison.  After he played James Bond, no other actor has ever been able to measure up.

John Baird – who invented television and is currently burning in Hell.

Arthur Conan Doyle – who invented the smug know-it-all detective.

Mary Queen of Scots – who invented the stupid political leader by continually getting out-manoeuvred by Scotland’s aristocracy and Elizabeth I.

Bonnie Prince Charlie – who continued the incompetent tradition of his great-great, great grandmother by sending his Highland followers charging into Lord Cumberland’s cannons with nothing to protect them but their tartans.

Rob Roy MacGregor – who invented the heroic outlaw and did it way betterandrew3 than that flighty Englishman, Robin Hood.  Here’s proof.  Kevin Costner, who portrayed Robin Hood in the movies, was also a baseball player, a corn farmer, a postal worker and a fish: Liam Neeson, who played Rob Roy was Zeus, Aslan and Michael Collins, all gods in their respective kingdoms.  He trained Batman, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.  He also single-handedly wiped out an international gang of kidnappers and kicked the crap out of a pack of wolves. (You do the math.)

Joseph Lister – who didn’t invent Listerine but was so psychotically clean the guy who did named it after him.

David Livingstone – who invented converting the heathen — whether they liked it or not — but is most famous for getting lost.

Alan Pinkerton – who invented the private detective which accounts for over half of America’s cultural legacy.

Robbie Burns – who invented the New Year ’s Eve party, but otherwise wrote nothing but gibberish.

James Barrie – who invented Peter Pan the prototypical “non-threatening” boy, whom fathers have wished their daughters would lust after ever since.

William McGonagall – who invented bad poetry and is still considered the worst poet ever to touch pen to paper.  Don’t believe me?  Read “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

And finally

Billy Connolly – who invent Scottish humour and gave every Scotsman (and woman) the inherent ability to laugh at themselves.

St. Andrew’s Day

Today is St. Andrew’s Day.  For those of you who suffer under the handicap of not being Scottish this is Scotland’s national day.  Basically, it’s St. Patrick’s Day with more booze and less brag.  The Scots are a hardy northern people known for thrift and ingenuity.  Whereas it can be said that the Irish built America, it’s not as widely known that the Scots already owned the place when Paddy and Liam got off the boat.  That’s the gist of it, really.  Although the Scots basically shaped our modern world, they don’t get much credit for it – simply because they are who they are.  So just who are these Scottish people?

The Scots obviously come from Scotland, a windy, cold, rainy pile of rocks, stuck out in the North Sea.  Since nothing grows in that harsh environment, the economy, from the dawn of time, has been based on theft.  Any agriculture that ever did exist is an odd combination of barley, oats, sheep and large stones.  The barley was grown for whiskey, a number one Scottish priority.  The oats was for porridge, which in Scotland, even today, is eaten with a knife and fork.  The sheep were raised for wool, woven into the Scottish national dress (which actually is one) and the stones were provided by God to throw at the English.  That’s about it for agriculture except for Scottish cattle — which are strange, squat, hairy and orange.

Geographically, Scotland is divided into the Highlands and the Lowlands.  The only noticeable difference between the two is the Lowlands have less wind and the Highlands have more rocks.

Politically, the Scots, since the time of the Picts, have separated themselves into clans.  In other words, they are a clannish people, wary and suspicious.  For most of Scotland’s history, individual clans fought each other in ruthless battles for possession of their worthless stony soil.  However, on occasion, the clans would forget their petty squabbling, join together and rise as one man to get beaten up by the English.  This happened with such frequency that finally in 1603, the Scottish King James VI reluctantly agreed to be England’s king, as well — probably just to keep peace on the island.

For recreation, the Scots enjoy all sports that allow time for smoking and drinking.  These include golf (a good walk spoiled) curling, darts and snooker.  However, when pressed, the Scots play rugby, a primitive form of American football where the object of the game seems to be murder.  They also play soccer, that dull game that yuppies watch every four years, and something called hurling (which is nothing like it sounds.)  The strangest of the Scottish sports, however, is the caber toss, which can only be described as bulky men throwing telephone poles at each other.  Curiously enough, this game has nothing to do with Alexander Graham Bell, the Scotsman who invented the telephone.

Over the years, the Scots have made major contributions to the evolution of Western society.  In prêt a porter fashion, they’ve given us plaid — a severe, regimented, itchy woollen, best suited to private girls’ school uniforms and ugly sofas.  In the world of cuisine, they are the masters of the haggis, a sheep’s stomach stuffed with oats and an assortment of other evil ingredients that normal people throw away.  This mess is boiled until everybody loses interest, securely stored until it rots, and served on high holidays.  Musically, their instrument of choice is the bagpipes (which have been called the missing link between sound and noise.)  The pipes, as they are affectionately called, are normally played outside because their cacophony can fill an auditorium and people have been known to leave just to make room for them.  Unfortunately, in the realm of the arts, Scotland’s greatest poet, Robbie Burns, has never been translated into English.  Even his best known work, Auld Lang Syne, is only trotted out on New Year’s Eve because nobody has a clue what it means.  Of course, the Scots’ greatest contribution to the modern world is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  This long-winded dissertation is said to be the first modern work of tedious prose.  Although it is referred to with stunning regularity, no living human being has read it cover to cover, and most contemporary economists would just as soon read the Glasgow phone book.  In essence, Smith’s message can be summed up in two heavily accented sentences (Try it!) “It’s every man for himself, pal.  You’re on your own.”

These days, the Scots are easily overlooked in the family of nations because they speak a language only they understand.  Linguistically, it is related to English, Scots Gaelic and gibberish and has a close sliding scale connect with Scotch whiskey: more whiskey, less English.  As contemporary philosopher, Robin Williams observed, the Scots are the only people in the world who answer questions with the intonation of another question.

Despite all these disadvantages, the Scots have a lot to be proud of.  This is embodied in their national symbol, the thistle, a tenacious prickly weed that can survive anywhere on the planet.  And there is no place on this planet where Scotsmen and women haven’t gone.  They left their country in droves.  Who wouldn’t?

So today, St Andrew’s Day, as you go about your business (just like you didn’t on St. Patrick’s Day) remember the Scots have a day, too, and a fine tradition.  It stretches across time from James Watt, James Chalmers and James Dewar, to John Shepard Barron, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson.  And above all else, remember: Sean Connery, a Scotsman, is still the best James Bond.

Oh! And, by the way, I’m first generation Scots.  You can knock your own gang!