Friday, 12 March 2010

Glasgow Patter and Yiddish

This morning, I enjoyed a soothing swim in a near empty lane at Greens, followed by my neck stretches and deep breathing exercises in the steam room and a quick chat with a couple of regulars in the sauna.

Since I was heading almost directly for the hairdressers afterwards for a bit of shaping, I missed out a couple of stages in my strict routine and just blow dried my hair, without first shampooing and conditioning it. Looking in the mirror at the unnaturally blonde bush the phrase, straw hingin' oot a midden', came to mind.

Being both Scottish and Jewish, I realise that I enjoy the benefit of two highly expressive forms of language - Glasgow patter and Yiddish. Admittedly, my knowledge of Yiddish is fairly limited, but it's enough to know that there's a real richness to be found in both.

For instance:

heid banger - meshugenner
eejit - shlemiel
mingin' - farshtunken
heid bummer - gantseh macher

Another advantage of being both Scottish and Jewish, is that I have no difficulty pronouncing words with 'ch' in them, unlike many English folk.

How often have you heard strangers talk about 'Lock Lomond' or 'Auckenshuggle'?

As Jews, the 'ch' sound is part of our daily lives - we say, l'chaim, celebrate Chanukah and eat our chopped fried fish balls with chrein (horseradish sauce).

All part of a nice rich blend.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Scottish Associations of Writers' Annual Conference 2010

Another year, another Conference at the Erskine Bridge Hotel for around 150 writers. It was my 8th consecutive Scottish Association of Writers' Conf,but for me it was a little different this year, as I was a 'virgin' adjudicator and also ran a workshop.

My task was to Adjudicate the Article Competition, and I recieved 40 entries varied in both length (maximum 1,500 words), subject and quality. It was great reading about the wide range of topics covered, including the Aswan Dam, truffles, ecology, an analysis of the song, 'Pretty Woman', graveyards, travel venues and the meaning of love.

It was a great deal of work, and I felt a real sense of responsibility to the writers, but it was ultimately an enjoyable and rewarding task.

The novel catergory adjudications were announced on the Friday evening, and then we heard for the keynote speaker, R J Ellory , who was highly interesting and inspiring and really showed how crucial it is to be persistent and retain self-belief as a writer.

On the Saturday morning, mine was the 2nd adjudication of the morning and I sat reasonably relaxed on the platform, with the SAW president and three fellow judges. I was less relaxed when I suddenly noticed water appearing in front of me and discoved that one of my platform colleagues had accidentally knocked over a plastic cup of water in my directions.

With much frantic dabbing, I managed to get my speech and the winning manuscript reasonably dry, but it was a somewhat hair-raising moment. The winning article I'd selected, was a lovely nostalic look back at the Glasgow tramcars. In my adjudication speech, one of the things I'd praised it for, was the way the writer had shown what the trams had meant to children. As the winner read out her article to the gathered assembly, I became aware that some of the lovely descriptive writing had been missed out. Unfortunately, the water hazard must have stuck some of the pages together.

In the afternoon, I ran a 50-minute workshop - which stretched to an hour, as much due to the enthusiasm of the participants as anything. It seemed to go reasonably well.

In the evening, all the certificates and trophies (for the 14 categories of writing included this year) were handed out and then we had a highly entertaining talk from our second keynote speaker, journalist, Alan Taylor, who told us about some of the famous writers he had interviewed and got to know.

Next up, was the drawing of the raffle. I'd bought a few extra tickets this year because, although there must have been around 100 prizes donated, there was one I really wanted the chance to select to take home. It was the bear (Bertram) I'd donated in the first place and had felt very guilty about separating from his best friend, Dudley Dog. Fortunately, my ticket was drawn fairly early in the draw and as no one else had snaffled him, I ran down to the table and grabbed him for myself. Bertram is now back home and blissfully reunited with his canine best mate.

Once the raffle was over, it was a case of dashing upstairs to change into appropriate gear for the Cowboys and Indians Disco, and then a good time was had by all.

Unfortunately, work and other committments meant that I had to leave this morning, and miss the final few hours of the Conference - which certainly seems to have been a great success.

Roll on SAW 2011!