Rather miraculously, I managed to get myself up and into the day job before 8:30 this morning. Considering I had a belly full of beer and vodka last night, followed by 5 hours of broken sleep, I think I deserve some kind of prize for my efforts – a Blue Peter badge or such like, perhaps.
I got no writing done before I left, and none during lunch because today was pay day, and in keeping with tradition a few of us went out for lunch. We went to a Chinese restaurant on Inverleith Row. I had rubbery chicken noodle soup to start, tough and chewy sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice for my main, and skipped on the dessert. It really wasn’t the best Chinese meal I’ve ever had, and didn’t really help my already dodgy stomach after last night’s little drinking session. But then, for £10 what can one expect?
Reading the paper on the way home on the bus, I saw that Jeremy Paxman has offended the Scots again, this time for calling the work of Robert Burns “sentimental doggerel”, in a forthcoming edition of the Chambers Dictionary.
Paxman has written: “Although I am afraid I find the Scottish national poet no more than a king of sentimental doggerel (badly written poetry), one might as well have used his ramfeezled (tired or exhausted) to describe our state.” As a result, he has come in for criticism by a whole bunch of people, including Dr Gerard Carruthers, a Burns expert, who says Paxman is “ignorant about Burns’ work”, and that “Paxman could learn a lot from Burns because he was a great social satirist. He’s got tonnes of skills that Paxman could only dream of in terms of interrogating humanity.”
Why is it every time someone makes a comment on something Scottish, we all take it personally? Are we really that parochial and inward-looking, that whenever someone criticises something or someone within our culture, we feel the need to back-bite and lash out like pathetic schoolkids?
Jeremy Paxman is English, yes. So what? He’s also an intelligent man who’s entitled to his opinion, and if he doesn’t happen to like the work of Robert Burns then I have to say, he’s fully entitled to say so. As we all are. Personally, I think some of Burns’ work is great, and some of it I just don’t plain get. That’s just my opinion, and it’s my right to say something is poor if I think it is poor.
Mary O’Neill, the Scottish editor-in-chief of the dictionary got it right when she said: “Paxman’s comments are not an attack on Scotland,” and that “it’s not our place to censor him.” Hear, hear!
She also said: “I think we are strong enough as a nation to take it on the chin.”
I disagree. The Scots get hacked off with people calling us a bunch of whining gits, but it’s a reputation well deserved when things like this happen. All we ever do is let ourselves down time after time, and it’s a wonder we get away with it so often. We wouldn’t have a problem if Sean Connery turned round and said he disliked the work of Agatha Christie, or if Alex Salmond said he thought that William Shakespeare was a load of rubbish. What would we do then? Answer – we wouldn’t care!
Back home, I received a rejection for The English Teacher – yes, that story is still doing the rounds – which means I have to turn it around and get it back out.
However, the big news of the day is —– Hunting Jack is alive again and back out into the big bad world of publishing. Keep your fingers crossed because this story means so much to me, and after humming and hawing about what to do with it for the last four years I’ve finally decided to get it back out where it belongs – published in the real world.
PLEASE DONATE – For full details of my Abseil off the Forth Rail Bridge in October for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, please go here: