Sunday, 6 March 2011

Back in Basel after an early morning yesterday. Having only brought along a scholarly article for which I had no brain whatsoever, the plane ride promised to be excruciatingly boring until I found a little red book with the words "Don't Panic" written across the cover in the seat pocket in front of me. I have now crossed the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy off my reading list, where it's been sitting (possibly even reclining) for over half my life.

Now, if you're a loyal follower of my blog, you'll remember that back in the summer exactly the same thing happened to me and I proclaimed that I'd learned my lesson to bring along light reading and not just scholarly articles when I travel. Erratum: No, I haven't learned it yet. Indeed, on the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh I read up all about acedia in early christian monastic communities. Many monks considered it not to be a natural illness, that is, due to the imbalance of humours, but rather to the presence of a demon which could be shrugged off by various mental gymnastics. Reminds me quite a lot of the debate over antidepressant drugs versus cognitive behavioural therapy as therapies for modern-day listlessness.

Last night I had the cheering thought that whereas the Swiss fascination with Scotland (and there is one) seems to me to be a detached fascination, like how I think of Japan, in Canada there are lots and lots of people who are absolutely pining for the lochs, and in quite a similar way to which I might also were I to move back there. Humm. Then I had another cheering thought, that a lot of Scottish traditional music isn't actually any older than the settling of Canada and what's now New England, meaning that its traditions are much more firmly rooted there than I'd previously reckoned. A quick web search turned up that in Ottawa and Montreal, one can continue one's canntaireachd lessons (perhaps also buy a chanter and learn some pibroch), attend Burns suppers and whisky tastings, and get one's fill of country dancing. Growing up in Ottawa, which was settled predominantly by the Irish, traditional music and dancing seemed to weave its way into all sorts of celebrations in my youth, but having moved away before I was allowed into a pub, I reckon I missed a lot of it.

One promising looking pub-based club, the Montreal Scottish and Celtic Culture Meetup Group, adds "Curling for Dummies" to the above-mentioned list, but I am turned off by their homepage, on which is posted the following:

"Q. Who can join?
A. Anyone Scottish or with Scottish ancestry. Celts (Welsh, Irish, Manx and Bretons) are also more than welcome welcome to come along and add to the craic."

Well, there you go. How about people who simply like it there? It's not that I don't qualify, I'm very likely 1/64th on my Mother's Father's Father's Father's Father's Father's side. As shown in this copy of the 1891 Ontario census, while my great-great-great-grandfather, Hugh Wilson, was born in Ontario (that's what the O is for), he identified himself with an ethnic origin that makes me think perhaps his father came from Scotland:

1881 Census for Cornwall Ontario
(click to enlarge)

Or, perhaps, like his son George, who named his son Leslie Campbell Wilson, Hugh's father simply identified with being Scottish and still wasn't born there - Canada didn't exist until 1867 after all - making me at the most Quasihemidemisemiscottish. Nevertheless, I fit their criterion, so why am I complaining? It's because having a blood requirement reminds me too much of Third Reich Fascism and therefore gives me the heebeejeebees. Also because it's bogus. Nice to know where to go for haggis in Montreal though.

Then I moved onto the question of kayaking: while I knew that in Canada, for a mere few weeks' pay, it's easy to sign up for a kayak tour somewhere interesting, it seems that there are indeed also kayak clubs where one can go to pool sessions and on trips without completely breaking the bank. Apparently the Lachine rapids just by Montreal are a haven for whitewater enthusiasts...oooh....

Discovering online all these things I'd never known about does make me wonder, as I weigh Glasgow versus Montreal as a place to begin (and hopefully finish) a Ph.D., if having lived away for seven years might make me see Canada with very different eyes indeed.

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