Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gaelic in Galloway

Hello and welcome back to another of chriswasanon's views of life. This morning I was caught out by the end of British Summer time, rather stupidly thinking that the clocks fell back tonight, not last night. Oops. Now I read that the councils are in talks to consider dumping the whole thing - yet again. We've been here before. We will now merge with Central European Time on the continent. Scotland will have it's own timezone if it wants one. Fact is Britain is a narrow country and not a great big wide open space like the US. eg. That's enough time zones or messing about with clocks.

On to other seasonal matters, it will not have escaped your attention that Hallow'een is fast approaching. Myspace profiles are profiterole pumpkintastic. I'm always reminded of the "Great Pumpkin, " routine in Charles Schulz classic strip, "Peanuts," when I think of pumpkins. Linus first and then the pie. Lets cast oor minds back. Do any of you remember Steve's jukebox show last Hallow'een, he was wearing a really scary costume which is odd, cos this is radio, so how would we know. Ah pics were posted on the Indie website. Back way back IrishScots, Jewell, Shloemoe, AC, JR way back in the good old days of the Captain's blog, it may just be a legend I have heard tell that the posting was fast, and the posting was furious. Perhaps there never was a Captain's blog? I was in Spain at the time I think and have to say that of all the play lists I remember best, the long piece by Screaming Lord Sutch, "The hands of Jack the Ripper" rise from their unholy grave. It is one of the insanest most deranged piece of music it has ever been my misfortune to listen to. Think he'll play it again? Probly...

The last four days have been taken up with intensive Scottish Gaelic conversation classes. I can't remember when last I was so utterly immersed in Canan nan Gaidheal. Such a diverse range of tutors present. One from Islay, one from Harris, one from Barra, one from Lewis and one from North Uist I think. The "Gaelic in the home," course is a radical new method of teaching Gaelic that dispenses with grammar, declension and translation. All the nastiest bits. We were there to act as guinea pigs, I felt sorry for some people. I mean I would consider myself at an intermediate stage with the language. There were many beginners there, and those that were familiar with Gaelic when it is written. Speaking it is another matter. Remember, no translation was allowed. None. No explanation of Grammar either, none. Sink or swim time. I think I swam pretty well as it goes.

Now Gaelic being a Celtic language like all of it's family mutates constantly. It has no single word for either yes or no. Saying Tha (Yes) and Chan eil (No) is just not good enough for anything but an Am bheil? type question. That's enough Gaelic grammar. The first rule of Gaelic is identify the question form and then use the appropiate answer. An do rinn thu an leabaidh? (Did you make the bed) Rinn (Yes) Cha do Rinn (No). Lets not even get into irregular verbs or lenition.

So what did we do? Well I was trying my damndest not to translate for starters and to think in Gaelic. Think in Gaelic? Well it's Gaelic in the home. So how to set a table? Well first you need the names of things, knives, forks, spoons, plates, the table itself and then take it from there. Cheese, bread, butter, etc. Probably 90% of the communication when using this grammarless method of learning is through the tutors sign language, it is surprising how much can be conveyed by movement, eye contact, facial gesture and posture. I mean you might as well be speaking Etruscan, or Gothic, or nonsense but if the gestures are there, then the meaning of what is required is there too. Harder to convey du and sie or abstract concepts of time, philosophy etc. Such an approach to language demands a deal of imagination. All very exciting IMHO.

Gaelic here in Galloway died out about 200 years ago, though the place-name evidence on the ground attests to the presence of Gaels here. You may be familiar with Gavin Maxwell, who wrote a famous book called "Ring of Bright Water" about his personal relationship with an otter called Midge. Maxwell was brought up at Port William down the coast, wiki here He lived at Eilrig. Eilrig is a good example of a Gaelic topographical place-name, it comes from the word "Eileirg." Deer trap. An Eilerig was a defile through which the deer were driven prior to being hunted down. CwA started to learn Gaelic in 1987 and though he is still not fluent, got to say that 200 hours of Gaelic in the home would bring me very quickly to that state. I have a very good memory of meeting a 94 year old women from Lewis in Greyfriars kirk in Edinburgh. She complimented me on my Gaelic and then leaning towards me said in a thick Leodhas accent,

"Once the Gaelic gets a hold of you, it will never let go."

What do you want to speak that Gaylick for?

Seems a bit weird I suppose. Simplest answer, I was born in the Isle of Man, just 22 miles over the water.

Prior to this Gaelic stuff, my other and better half took part in the Faslane 365 action, "an audacious attempt to blockade the Royal Navy Submarine Base Faslane in the Clyde, where our Trident nuclear missiles are kept. Faslane 365 started at the beginning of October and the intention behind the organisers, "Trident ploughshares," was to get 100 groups of 100 people to blockade the gates for a whole year. So on with the story...Actually no I shall save the story for another day. I think I've written quite enough for one day, thank you very much.

Tina will be back soon and I too with our Faslane tale.

Till then.

May your baked beans never be soggy, or dry. Look out for the Great pumpkin at Hallow'een!


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