CBC Stuff

January was a big Scottish month for me, but it was for the CBC, too, and I found myself as “a prominent Canadian Scot” playing two unexpected roles.

First, on Michael Enright’s excellent CBC radio show The Sunday Edition on Jan. 22 I was part of a discussion involving me, a Canadian born in Scotland, and Luke Skipper, a Canadian raised in Alice Munro country (Kincardine) who now works in London for the Scottish Government as they try to arrange a referendum on Scottish Independence. On a recent visit to Scotland I roamed around doing an informal survey of opinion on the matter and found a wide range of responses.

Our discussion was interesting, but I was so busy answering Michael’s last question (if Scottish expatriates were allowed to vote on this, how would you vote) by explaining that I was an outsider and had no fixed opinion, that I failed to make the general point that I do not believe that Canadians should vote in any foreign election.

I’m glad to be able to state that now.

Second, an email on Saturday, January 21 from George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight said that they needed someone to do a funny stand-up talk about Scottish words that might baffle a Canadian visitor.

These Strombo guys work fast! By Monday at 1 p.m. I was standing outside the CBC studio (wearing a tartan shirt . . . the man has no shame) talking into a camera, beginning with the words “Hi, George,” though I never saw him at any point. The two guys running the shoot, Fraser and Andrew, did a great job of spinning straw into gold, producing a passable clip that was apparently seen by every living Canadian between the ages of 20 and 40. You can find it on this blog.



Since Rabbie Burns Day falls on January 25, this is a big Scottish month. And since I grew up in Burns Country (Ayrshire) in Scotland, speaking the language, I’m kept pretty busy going around making speeches at Burns Suppers in Toronto, Hamilton, and Montreal (even once being re-imported to Scotland to do so). My Translation of “The Address to the Haggis” into modern Canadian has made me thousands of dollars, and over the years has become semi-official, so that it is featured at the annual event staged at home by Margaret Atwood and Graeme (no relation) Gibson.

This year I did my stuff at a Scottish Studies fundraiser at The Granite Club (scandalizing the audience by revealing a Burns link with the slave trade). On the day itself I marched around the Burns statue in Allan Gardens with 20 other kilted eccentrics (at the pub afterwards, a “warm up event” in the fullest sense) I concluded the “Toast to the Lassies” with the story of the lovestruck John Kenneth Galbraith, the farm girl who was the object of his affections, and the cow. It’s in my chapter on Robertson Davies, who loved the story.