Reading the excellent 'The Venomous Bead,' I began to muse on the differences in 'culture' that have befallen my miserable existence. It was in 1969 that I first encountered London life. I had been in one or two norther English places, to visit or watch football, but London is a world apart from everywhere else. The buses were different, poor quality, noisy 'Routemasters,' rough but eminently suitable for the job. Edinburgh always prided itself on decent quality buses for the citizens. People stood outside pubs in London, something never done back home, although weather may play a part in this. The biggest shock was cricket! I left the Leadenhall Market one midweek day while wending my way around the City and as I crossed the road I noticed a crowd gathered outside an office window. In this window was a TV, set to face the road quite deliberately, and offering the Cricket Test Natch being played 'somewhere in England!' I was amazed! A crowd of 40 or more people were standing watching this event, with a City of London policeman ensuring a path was clear for passersby! Incredible! Some of the men were actually standing in the gutter to watch cricket at lunchtime! Goodness gracious! Never would this happen in Edinburgh, unless a football match was being shown obviously, but cricket? Don't be ridiculous. When I began to work in North Finchley in 1975 again I was surprised to hear working men getting excited over cricket. It would never happen among normal Scotsmen.
In '75 I settled after a rough month or so in Swiss Cottage, in a slum that I believe no longer exists, I think it may have fallen down. I would look to the newsagent for news of Scottish football and be disappointed. I could get papers from Egypt, France, Spain, even the USA but not from Scotland 400 miles up the road! The radio, a small very cheap radio, offered London and national news, and later what was then the excellent World Service of the BBC, but little concerning Scottish affairs. Had I learned several languages I could have been knowledgeable of world football everywhere but north of the border. It was as if Scotland did not exist! This has not changed.
Getting the Routemaster to work showed me a different culture, and one that would not work up north. There were two types of bus stop, a bus stop where buses stopped, and a 'request stop,' where you had to stick your hand out or they just passed by. Edinburgh drivers then, and most likely now, can tell if you want the bus and stop for you. The 6:09 bus, when driven and conducted by a regular able team, always came on time and did the job happily. However on many occasions a wee black fellow was the conductor. This driver would stop at all stops, irrespective of passengers or not, and wait until conductor pressed the bell. Conductor, who never collected fares, merely stood and stared out the door. Driver sat there awaiting the bell and refused to move until it rang. Incredible! I would be more 'assertive' today than I was then.
I had spent a year between 1971-72 in Notting Hill and after returning north I found Edinburgh old and boring. Shops opened at 9, closed at 12, reopened after lunch at 1 and closed at 5, in London I had a 24 hour shop around the corner! When the Indians were chased out of West Africa by the Idi Amin's ( a King of Scotland apparently) and arrived in the city they changed it overnight for the better. Shops opened at 8 am, and closed at 6! What a revelation! Some even stayed open later and more, they stocked exotic fruits like peppers and eggplants. Incredible to think so many things had only been found in the expensive shops if found at all.
One culture that destroys Scotland is the hangover from Northern Ireland. The sectarian divide between protestant and catholic, neither side seeking God of course, which lingers throughout the land but is very dominant in the west of Scotland. Both sides are at fault and for most it makes no difference to their lives as whatever and whoever you are the treatment offered is the same. However there are quite a few who relish the difference and would happily contribute to trouble if it arose. The vile history of Rangers and Celtic, the 'Old Firm,' encourages such attitudes and only by removing the sectarian bias from both clubs can this ever be eradicated. They decry this as that is the cause of their wealth, and anyway, isn't it all the other guys fault? In England it is difficult to explain this divide to those who cannot understand it, and no wonder.
The difference between two cities can be very wide, Six miles from here is a similar sized town full of 'London overspill,' where vast numbers commute regularly down to the big city. Their town has an 'London attitude,' while here we are all 'nice,' well usually. Further north and the town there is much more rural and the thought that most of the locals are related is difficult to remove from the head. That's country life for you I suppose. This blog encompasses the world, and the cultures vary enormously, imagine if you will towns full of Yorkshiremen! Just imagine that! On second thoughts......