Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Long Way Up

Listening to: Trenchtown Rock (Bob Marley)
Up to my ears in: wrapping paper and sellotape
It's: nearly Christmas
Done: all my shopping

I was talking to an old friend yesterday, lamenting that we didn't see each other more often when she said: "Tell you what, I'm going to Glasgow early next year, why don't I pop up to see you and Sal while I'm there."

"Err. . . OK," I replied, "but have you looked a map recently. There's no popping to Orkney from anywhere. It's a two-day expedition. It'd be great to see you though and it's definitely worth the effort."

That's the thing. English people tend to think of Scotland as a small country stuck on top of the Lake District. It isn't. It's bloody enormous.

(Pause to allow American, Canadian and Australian readers to stop laughing, dry eyes and so on).

Look at a map. Not the stupid weather map the London-based "British" Broadcasting Corporation put on the telly (don't get me started)*, but a proper map like the one I'm looking at on the wall of my brother-in-law's study.

If I put my elbow on Wolverhampton, my wrist is at Carlisle. If I put my elbow on Carlisle, my wrist is at Inverness - 130 miles shy of the north coast of Scotland where you catch the ferry to Orkney. Wolverhampton to Thurso is ten-and-a-half hours driving, seven of which are spent in Scotland.

So "popping in" for a cup of tea isn't really on the agenda, although flying makes things easier, but from most places in the UK you still have to get three planes to reach us.

That's all a long-winded way of saying that home is a long way off, but I'm setting out the day after tomorrow and there'll be a little whoop as I cross the border into Scotland, a cheer as I cruise past the Central Belt, songs and general happiness through the Highlands, flags out at Thurso and when I get to Westray. . . well, that's nobody's business but mine and Sal's.

* Actually, do get me started. For those who don't know, the BBC map of Britain is seen at a slant, as if viewed from the Director General's holiday home in Brittany. Orkney is a tiny speck in the far distance, while the Isle of Wight (half the size of Orkney in reality) sits in the foreground, as large as Jonathan Ross's ego (another don't get me started).

The weather "forecast", presented either by a moderately attractive woman or a small man (why no big blokes on the BBC?) and uses the effect of a camera panning over the UK. It begins with Scotland where they wave dismissively and say "wind and rain" before trundling quite briskly over the north-east and Yorkshire, slowing as they pass East Anglia, building up to the detailed rundown for the South East (where everyone important lives).

They then stroll along the south coast before lovingly lingering over Devon and Cornwall (where everyone in the South East goes on holiday) which by now are about the size of the Soviet Union (I swear I spotted my mum's house near Dartmoor the other morning). Tearing the camera reluctantly away, the forecaster hurries past Wales before cutting out just before anyone has to admit Northern Ireland is still part of the UK.

A petty point, you may think, but it illustrates the BBC's dismissive attitude towards the regions. The cutbacks announced recently mean the quality of news coverage can only diminish. Hard-working journalists on as little as £15,000-a-year will lose their jobs while the BBC continues to pay millions for that arrogant arse Ross to interrupt his guests and laugh at his own jokes on his painful TV show.

Thank you for listening. I feel better now.


I, like the view said...

so, does that mean that the weather forecast for "Scotland" the other day didn't quite reach Mrs TPF? cos I shuddered when I heard about the cold and the snow and felt quite sorry for her stuck up there on her own. . .

. . .maybe the bad waeather escaped her and she was in fact basking in a little bit of winter sunshine and enjoying the view

I'd like to think that


Malc said...

Yep. While I've been suffering the grey murk (although it's quite bright in Shropshire today), Sally has been bragging about the wonderful sunshine on Westray.

She's gone to Kirkwall today with two mates for a ladies' shopping/extended lunch trip. Oh lordy!

Dave said...

East Angular feels out on a limb at times, so I have a very faint idea what you must feel.

FirstNations said...

hey, the only way we here know there's such a place as 'Idaho' is that a couple of people seem to blog from there. vast swathes of the midwest go completely unreported in our national news. because if it didn't happen in a major city on a major coast, why bother, right?

which i actually agree with, but there ya go.
do a post about your pigs. im interested to know about them. no, really, i am. livestock is cool.

The Birdwatcher said...

Spot on post Malc. I have stopped watching it as it used to get me very irritated. I am sick of the London / South East Centric attitude so your post cheered me up alittle bit. Have a safe journey home.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting reading your perspective from the enormous Scotland and its treatment by the BBC. (I didn't guffaw at your use of "enormous", but definitely smiled at the pause you gave us to dry our eyes) But do you think they could have been more descriptive of your weather? Isn't it just wind and rain, anyhow?

Cherrypie said...

It's little more than an arm's length away? That makes you almost in touching distance.

Anonymous said...

OOOO, so close to being home. Um...errr....I mean in time not miles. NOT miles, OKAY!? ;)

lettuce said...

glad you're feeling better now.

and you've gone all green since i was here! (you weren't green before were you? if you were don't tell me please i'll be embarrassed)

we used to hve wonderful family holidays in scotland when i was a little seedling - and lots of sunshine. But no one ever believes me.

ziggi said...

looks a bit like Italy - any other similarities??
hope you've arrived home safely.

Merry Christmas Malc and co!

Reg Pither said...

You have explained succinctly why the Orkneys are frequently likened to Ann Widdecombe's tits - everyone knows they're up there but no-one wants to go!
Anyway, what's all this "English" this and "English" that? You haven't gone fucking native already have you? You are more English than a sperm-soaked biscuit in the dorms at Eton!

Daphne said...

Oh, I cheered when I read this. Even Leeds, where I live, is somewhere near the Arctic Circle on the BBC map.
I work for an actors' agency and many London casting directors simply CANNOT believe that any actors live outside London. But they do!
This South-East-centric view of the British Isles seems remarkably common.

Malc said...


East Anglia always makes me feel faint.


I've got my own private Idaho. Pig post coming up shortly.


Cheers matey, glad to know it's not just me.


We all know that size doesn't matter. I've been telling Mrs TPF that for years.


Only if you have very long arms.


I made it. Hurrah.


Started green, gone a bit greener recently. The sun shines a lot here. It rains a lot. It blows a lot. We have more than our fair share of weather.


I make a very fine pizza, though I say so myself. Happy Christmas to your tribe as well.


Is this the five minute argument or the full half-hour?


I know, it must be so inconvenient for the poor loves. Remember the squeals of indignation when it was suggested the BBC moved most of it's operations to Manchester?