Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm watching a show about how chronic disease is way higher in deprived communities. A major study about Scotland shows that huge socioeconomic changes since the 1950s are responsible for Scotland having the highest rate of heart disease in Western Europe. It seems that hopelessness, stress and poverty are more important factors in bad health than beer, smoking and deep fried crap. This show is depressing me. Scotland depresses me. Speaking of colonial fallout, I'm feeling quite homesick, or maybe just sick of "Great" Britain.

Partially because of reading The English Stories by Cynthia Flood. It's a fantastic collection of linked stories about an 11-year-old Canadian named Amanda who is uprooted and sent to a girls' school in 1950s England. Though the book is not set in Canada, Flood evokes Canada in a beautiful yet unsentimental way.

Flood examines the devastation of colonialism in a complex manner, subtly and brilliantly creating links between England's subjugation of Canada, Ireland and Nigeria. Amanda's chosen connection with Canada's First Nations (despite her own parents' racism and indifference) adds another lush layer to this quiet yet persistent background music. Flood also avoids the potentially bad Canadian cliche of the coming-of-age story by switching the focus of several stories from the little girl to other characters in the narrative. This creates a depth and complexity that the story would otherwise lack. One of the most exquisite parts is when we switch to the point of view of an Irish man who sometimes teaches at the school; we see his struggle between English and Irish identity, and the racism he both experiences and inflicts. In places the book is heartbreaking; Flood creeps up on you in unexpected ways. Special thanks to the lovely Hungry Girl, who put this book into my hands. xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Yesterday, for the first time since moving to Scotland, I set foot in the evil empire of a Borders bookshop. It was raining, and I was curious. I'm sure most of you already understand the general yuck factor of corporate bookstores -- how they homogenize and censor our choice of books, how they use unfair practices to put small indie bookshops and publishers out of business, how they do nothing to promote local writers or writers who are not superstars, how they don't promote community events etc etc.

But.

I have to say I was stiill a little shocked that  they didn't have a single lesbian or gay magazine on their shelves. No Diva. (Note: I later found out they did stock Diva, it was just out of stock). No Curve. No nothing. The only thing I found was a copy of Bust feminist magazine. It's not that I think these magazines are fantastic, but if even mainstream expressions of gayness are banned from a GIGANTIC (and I mean gigantic) bookshop/music shop/film shop/Starbucks/stationery & gift shop smack in the middle of Scotland's biggest city, then what of the rest of the country? I'm constantly amazed by the shameless corporate homophobia here. I mean, Blockbuster in Canada sucks huge and offends me with their "Alternative Lifestyle" section, but at least the movies are still there. Here, there is nothing that might offend. Well, all those straight marriage magazines offend *me*...

Also surprising to me was that all Glasgow schools are banned from going to the Sh[OUT] exhibition at the GoMA, even high school students! Because of its gay content. There has been much broohaha specifically about a Robert Mapplethorpe photo FROM THE 70S of a guy urinating towards another man's mouth. It's actually an artistically gorgeous photo, whether or not you're into yellow...

Anyway, more on that later perhaps. But right now I'm on bookshops. So what is a poor queer and/or leftie to do in Scotland? Sadly, there are very few indie bookshops that aren't second-hand. But even sadder is the fact that I have yet to come across an indie bookshop here that is anywhere near as radical as they claim to be (except Biz'Art at The Forest which is nonprofit and only partially a bookshop). And according to a woman at Citizen's Advice, statistics show that as an employee you are more likely to get fair treatment from Borders. Sad, sad, sad.

A further note on fair treatment: For those of you out there who have disabilities and bad work situations, contact Access To Work, it's a Job Centre program that has been set up to assist people with disabilities (and their employers) by giving money towards making a workplace accessible.

Okay, my voice-activated software is being funny again, so I have to run.

xox

 

 

 


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Dear British Government,

I have just arrived from Canada,
do you remember Canada?
You see, my father moved there
from Scotland
and now I've moved back.

I was wondering if you could tell me
how to get my Scottish passport?

I have looked all over Edinburgh.
I looked on the internet.
I even went to the Gorbals
where my Da was born.
But I can't find the Home Office.

I know England is a separate
and busy nation,
but I figured being so close
and all,
you might know something.


 

 

 
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