I admit, I'm indecisive. I can stand in front of the refrigerator for 15 minutes trying to figure out what to eat, then go to the pantry for another 10 minutes, then back to the fridge, and finally walk away still hungry.
So to ask me to choose one Favorite Thing about Scotland? How cruel! Who would do that?
Oh yeah, that was me.
So instead of choosing one thing about Scotland to prattle on and on about and give away, I've decided (yes, decided! I'm a decider!) to tell you about 26 things (and...still just give away one thing).
That was last night, and just before I went to bed at 3:30am, sort of finishing this post, minus the pics and videos, I tweeted this:
Not sure why I thought talking abt 26 things would be easier than talking about 1 thing. But it cleverly disguises my lack of deep thoughts.
So this brings me to my discomfort about discussing Scotland. Because though I don't think I have any Scottish blood (it's hard to tell with Smith--that could be anything, but most likely English, and on my mother's side I'm Irish and German), I do love Scotland something fierce. Fiercely fierce.
I first went during a short break while I was studying for a semester in London. (And when I say, "short break," I mean two of my friends and I skipped classes for three days to make a five-day weekend.) The experience can only be described as magical, and I was determined to get back one day, which I finally did last year. It felt like coming home. It's not the place of my blood (though Ireland was incredible, too), but maybe it's the place of my soul.
I don't want to be one of those Yanks who's all, "AFKJFDDFKFHSDKFHDGKDLHHHAAAAHHH, SCOTLAND!!!" It's got a million lovely qualities, but in the end it's a place with regular people living their regular lives, just like here. Folks in Scotland put their trousers on one leg at a time, just like we do (unless it's a kilt day). The last thing I want to do is fetishize an entire nation and its citizens.
I wrote a book with a Scottish hero, but Zachary'll probably be the only one. I don't write about Scots, I write about teens, whoever they may be or wherever they may come from. I write about personalities, not nationalities.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I feel I can move on and present...What I Adore about Scotland, A to Zed!
A is for the Accent. How do you not love it, what with all that...tongue? A few don't love it. My husband, thank goodness, doesn't find it an attractive accent for girls. I think he prefers French (he's an old-skool guy that way).
B is for Billy Boyd. You can have your fancy-prancey Legolas and your questionably-hygienic Aragorn. Give me a man who can sing and drink and dance...and has a fair fortune on the side (never hurts, right?). I'm talking about Peregrin Took, aka, Pippin. He may not be the strongest or the smartest or the bravest. In fact, he's kind of a screwup. But he knows how to have a good time.
And that voice...was at the center of what might be the most powerful moment in the entire trilogy, in Return of the King when the maniacal Steward of Gondor sent his soldiers (including his son Boromir) on a suicide mission:
I cry every time that piece comes up on the soundtrack. EVERY time! (Also, the part when Gandalf dies--another perfect bit of music by Howard Shore.)
C is for the word that shall never be said on this side of the Atlantic, but which is said approximately 50 times a day by most Scotsmen between the ages of 13 and 50.
D is for drinking. My personal favorite: Crabbie's Ginger Beer, which cannot be found in the United States and is as good an excuse as any for packing up and moving to Scotland.
E is for Edinburgh. Despite my preference for Glasgow, Edinburgh's really a beautiful city, and I'm looking forward to going back this year with my husband for a software conference if the schedule works out. *fingers crossed*
F is for Frightened Rabbit. How many more times do I have to tell you that they are the greatest band in the world? They kick ass in the studio, live, and on Twitter, where they actually answer fan tweets. (Last August, I asked: "Is it wrong that I'm thinking of you when I'm with another band?" (It was true, so true.) and they said, "Ha. No, it's not wrong. Just don't tell the other band.") If you want to win my favorite CD ever, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, go see Living Fictitiously's All Things Scottish post--they're giving away a copy today.
G is for Glesga itself. Sigh...I started feeling sad to leave Glasgow approximately 24 hours after I arrived. I thought perhaps I was sentimental about it because it was Zachary's hometown, but Shane from the WVMP series is my favorite of all my dudes, and I'm somehow not dying to pick up and move to Youngstown, Ohio.
I'll blog much more about Glasgow as we get closer to the release of Shine and Zachary's short story, "Shattered." Oh yes, eventually you won't get me to shut up about Glasgow.
H is for Haggis. Vegetarian, that is. Don't laugh, it's delicious, and sheep-free!
I is for the Isle of Mull, where I spent a lovely day when I was 20, with the cutest Texan I've ever met.
J is for the Jags, the nickname for Partick Thistle Football Club. Technically, they're Zachary's favorite team, not mine, but I agree that fans of the two Scottish Premier League teams, Celtic and Rangers, aka the Old Firm, have a violent, sectarian rivalry that makes the Yankees-Red Sox games look like Woodstock. Plus, one of those two teams wins the whole shebang every year. How is that fun? It's bad enough we have a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl coming up. (Not that I'm a bitter, heartbroken Ravens fan or anything.)
K is for, well, come on...
L is for Limmy, aka Brian Limond, an extremely inappropriate Scottish comedian. While we're on the subject, if I could truly choose only one favorite Scottish thing, it would be the comedy. Shows like Burnistoun, or guys like Frankie Boyle, Billy Connolly, and Craig Ferguson (who's also a fabulous novelist)--they represent Scotland to me more than any romancey kilted Highlander. But their material is not only unsuitable for a young-adult audience, it's unsuitable for about 80% of adults in North America.
*checks Limmy's Twitter feed*
Hmm, make that 90%.
M is for Fraser McFarlane, our Glasgow tour guide and Team Kilt Burns Night participant!
N is for neeps, aka turnips. As in neeps 'n' tatties, which is basically turnips and mashed potatoes. Yum!
O is for Òran Mór, the church-turned-pub (how's that for a path to heaven?) less than a block from our B&B in Glasgow. It makes a significant appearance in Shine.
R is for Robert Burns. It's his day! And though I'm not an immense fan of poetry, I do love music, and many of his songs are Scottish classics, like this one:
S is for sweets like Tunnock's Tea Cakes. They're chocolate with marshmallow inside, which made me skeptical, as I'm not a fan of marshmallow treats like Peeps. But the marshmallow in a Tunnock's Tea Cake is like spun sugar, and melts in your mouth. More, please!
T is for The Twilight Sad, a fantastic shoe gaze-y band from Glasgow. I've talked here on the blog (and in SHADE and SHIFT) about bands like the Raveonettes and A Place to Bury Strangers. I love me some distortion and fuzzy guitars, like a mad thing. Give me a wall of noise, and I can take the volume to 11.
Anyway, The Twilight Sad's got all that, plus the gorgeous accent and poetic lyrics.
And now after mentioning their wall of noise, here's an acoustic performance of a song off their new release, No One Can Ever Know, which comes out February 6.
The singer, James Graham, just might be the dead ringer for Zachary I've been looking for. Or Zach in five or six years. Then again, with all he goes through in Shine, he might age a bit faster than most lads.
U is for uisge beatha (pronounced ISH-keh BA-ha, roughly), which is Scottish Gaelic for whisky (Scotch whisky is spelled without the E). I used to love me some single malt Scotch, but then I tried Irish whiskey (Paddy's FTW) and was lured away. So now I'm pickier about my Scotch. Which is not a bad thing.
W is for William Wallace. Braveheart. Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. He's a mentor to a writer friend of mine, and she told me a hilarious story of him going to a Chicago Fire soccer game and shouting the typical Scottish epithets at the players and officials, teaching the soccer moms and their kids some brand-new words.
X is for X-Men: First Class, which I haven't actually seen, but I have seen its star, James McAvoy in other brilliant films like The Last King of Scotland. I have never been so scared as I was at the end of that movie. My blood pressure was through the roof!
Oh, I just happened to have this pic of him:
Y is for Ya [expletive deleted] mad wee [expletive deleted], [expletive deleted]!
Glaswegian insults. Pure gold.
Z is, of course, for Zachary. By this point, he really is my favorite Scottish thing, but the reasons have more to do with his humanity than his nationality. I love his courageous, honest, stubborn, patient, pure heart that is absolutely nothing like mine. The people around me would be much happier if I could be more like him.
So out of all these things, which should I give away? Since I can't decide, I'll draw a random number between 1 and 26, and then whichever letter that number corresponds to, I'll give away something to do with that.
The number is....
Which corresponds to B--Billy Boyd! Yay! So the prize for my giveaway will be the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy on your choice of DVD or Blu Ray. These are the director's cut versions, so you'll get a good heaping dose of Billy and all those lesser lads.
To enter, tell me which of the 26 (okay, 25, since I left out Q) favorite Scottish things above you'd like to learn more about. I'll see what I can do.
Deadline: 24 hours from now: 1:01pm Thursday, January 26. I'll draw a name at random and contact the winner, who will have until Sunday to get back to me with their address or I'll draw another name. International entries welcome.