Over the Pond
By Frank Hatton

This is one of a large number of Scottish related articles by Guest Writers which have been added to Rampant Scotland. The pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance" Web site and there are many more articles in this series being added over a period of months.

Changing Traditions (As Seen in 1998)

Do you know, back in 1870, the growth of horse drawn traffic was so fast, it was predicted, that in 100 years, the entire surface of the earth would be covered to a depth of 6 feet in horse manure. Which really demonstrates how easy it is to get things wrong, especially when you don't know which changes may be coming along, like in this particular example,.. the motor car being invented. If the car hadn't been invented, I hate to think what our lifestyle from 1970 onwards would have been like, especially if you were under six feet tall. (The illustration here is the horse-drawn omnibus "Ardrishaig Belle" which used to operate in in Argyll.)

On the same tack, our comparatively new Labour government has just made its first major 'booby'. As part of their election manifesto, they said they would abolish all forms of tobacco advertising, and within the last couple of weeks, they have said that the sponsorship of all sports by the tobacco industry was to be stopped. They made one exception, and that was formula one car racing. It now transpires that the guy who runs formula one racing had made a donation of $1.7million to the government. It is also claimed that the real reason for the exception was the fact that 50,000 jobs would be lost,...... if the ban on sponsorship was applied to formula one....... Like the prediction with the horse manure, it's very difficult to get everything right.

However, it must be said that when compared to their predecessors, (and I must confess to having always voted for the Conservatives) they seem to be getting more things right than wrong. Long may it continue to be so, but, to my mind, the only people who seem to have a really firm grasp of the correct policies and pitfalls of the political game, are taxi drivers and barbers. Whenever I come into contact with one of these good folk, they invariably put political discussion at the top of the conversational agenda, and without the slightest hint of doubt or reservation, they tell me exactly what is wrong with this country of ours, and furthermore, they also know precisely what needs to be done to rectify the situation. I suspect Utopia would be a government consisting solely of the members of these two professions.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a T.V. programme in which a bunch of young children were being asked questions about their lifestyle. As would be expected, their answers to questions on dress, and entertainment were greatly different to the standards of my younger years. Now, the thing which rather shattered my mental image of the British society, was when these kids were asked what they thought was the traditional food of this country...... In fact, what did come over quite strongly, was that in the minds of these children, we do not have a traditional food. The answers to the question ranged from 'Chicken Tikka Masala', through 'Big Mac and chips', to a number of Chinese dishes. Not once was there any mention of 'Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding', 'Steak and kidney pie' 'Sausage and mashed potatoes', 'Fish and chips' (pictured on the right), or any of the other dishes on which I and many of my generation were raised. Also, there are in London, a number of rapidly disappearing specialist shops, who sell the old traditional meals, such as 'Pie and Mash', 'Jellied eels' and a few other dishes which were popular years ago. Out of nostalgia, my wife and I go to these places for a meal whenever we are in the London area. The fact that strikes me whenever we make these visits, is that there are very few, if any, younger folk eating there. The continuity of passing on our traditional way of eating has stopped, and the fast food craze has taken it's place. Pizza's, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai, Japanese,Greek, and lots of others, all vie with each other in our High Streets, and, they are increasing in numbers, while the old style food shops have almost gone.

I feel it would be safe to bet, that most other countries in the world are going through the same sort of changes, and other than the Christmas dinner, or the Thanksgiving dinner and the equivalent, we are all moving to this cosmopolitan way of everyday eating. The saving grace in all this of course, is that the younger generation have never known any different way of living, and they accept things as they are, with no thoughts of how it used to be. Hence, all of our much cherished traditions will disappear with the advent of time, and there will be nobody around to mourn their passing.

While on this subject, there is yet another area where traditional aspects have nearly, or even already have, disappeared. By this I mean the ' Street games'. It is impossible to put a time on the disappearance, but, I would guess that until shortly after the WW11, they were still played. Since when they have been competing against movies, television, indoor games technology, and a host of other interests which kept kids off the street. Also, the emergence of increasing dangers from malevolent people and growing numbers of motor cars on the roads themselves discorages children from playing out in the street anyway. 'Street games' were played, as the name suggests, in the street, and there were so many different types. Some played with a ball, some with marbles, some with 'conkers', (horse chestnuts), some were purely physical and required no other additions. Hop Scotch (played on a pavement with a "peever") was also popular - see graphic by Paul Farmer via Wikimedia. Now, one can talk to anyone under thirty or forty years of age, and they know nothing, or very little about these old activities. Of course some of the 'Street games' were very old, some dated back hundreds of years, but, now, in the space of maybe forty years or so, they have been lost forever. The point of this bit of nostalgia, is that these street games, plus the traditional foods of this country have been around for goodness knows how many hundreds of years. Now, with the onslaught of modern technology and transportation, the whole sheebang has been wiped out in the space of thirty or forty years.

With the rapidity of changes which are going on, it makes you wonder just what this world of ours will look like in say another 100 years or so. However, irrespective of what it looks like, I do sincerely hope that the tradition of Christmas will not be lost or changed. The two most precious benefits of this tradition are to my mind, firstly, the bringing together of the family, and for some families I know, it is the one and only time each year that they actually get together. Secondly, it is the wondrous joy and excitement you see in the faces of small children, particularly on Christmas morning when the magic of opening the parcels takes place, and I particularly liked the story of the little kid who said to his parents, " Father Christmas doesn't have to bring me that bicycle for Christmas, I've just found one behind the wardrobe". On reflection, it is not only the small children who show the excitement. Often, the only difference between a man and a child, is the price of his toys.

Every grandparent likes to think that there is something special about the grandchildren of their family, and it isn't until you get to speaking with other grandparents, that you begin to realise that other kids are just as smart and wonderful as your own. Never the less, for the benefit of those of you who have not yet reached this wondrous stage of life, I promise you, that you will be amazed at the way a young child is able to absorb knowledge,..... facts and figures, alphabets, numbers, nursery rhymes, the details of stories, and the words of such a multitude of songs. Our little lad is coming up to his fourth birthday in April next, but, I have been truly astonished at his repertoire of Christmas carols. He seems to have surpassed my own knowledge of words and tunes by a long way.

Whenever he stays with us, I am elected to put him to bed each night, and this of course includes the telling of the bedtime story. (Graphic on the left is via Wikimedia) Now, by custom and practise, he and I have agreed that I do not read the stories from a book....... No, they have to be invented by me. The point I wanted to make here, was that he selects which of the invented stories I will tell him, and, if I forget one detail of a story I have told before, or accidentally change it in any way, he immediately and indignantly stops me, and corrects the mistake before I am allowed to continue. There are great gaps in the times we see this little chap, but his memory is so sharp, he never forgets a thing. Now,... I get the feeling I am boring the pants off you with this aspect, so I will close with the promise to try to do better next time.

'til then,

Frank Hatton

Return to Index of Over the Pond by Frank Hatton or Index of All Guest Writers

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line