Thursday, 16 February 2012

Five miles south (1)

If I stepped out of my front door, strolled through next door's garden, (and the one beyond that), swam across the river (not recommended) and kept walking for about five miles, I'd be in England.

If I got in the car and went by a recommended route, it'd take about eight.  Or ten, if I went the long way round.

But either way,  it's not very far.  It doesn't have to be a very clear day for me to see it, either.

It's nearly two years (21 months actually) since we moved here.  And most days, living in Scotland, or at least this particular part of it, feels pretty much like living anywhere else in the UK (or at least those bits of it I have lived in).  And on those days I wonder what all the fuss is about Scotland and England being different (don't worry, that's as political as this particular post is going to get).

And then every now and then, something happens and I think:


And up until now, I've sat on those thoughts, because I've felt as though I haven't lived here long enough to comment, or that maybe it's not here, it's me.

But, you know what, I think it's ok.  I've come to the conclusion that I can point out the stuff that's different without people thinking it's patronising, or getting snippy (not that anyone has, of course, but that doesn't stop me worrying), or that I don't love those differences.  Because I do, they just surprise me.

Like today.  Because L came back from nursery full of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk*. And we all know what the Giant says, don't we?

That's right:

Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.

Only apparently he doesn't. Of course he doesn't.  Why would he, here?  That's not very scary if you're not English is it?

Apparently, he says

Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a boy.

Which, doesn't, to me, at least, have quite the same ring. Not to mention that it won't scan at all with the next line:

Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread.

but that apparently didn't feature either.

I didn't tell L that wasn't the version I knew, but it got me thinking. Is this just a sanitised version for the under 5's (that we'd also have got in Hammersmith) and do older Scots get the gruesome (but nationally inappropriate) version?  Or is this the one that's been handed down north of the Border since giants really did walk the earth?

And are there other fairy stories out there that are going to surprise me?  I've just about got used to calling Father Christmas Santa. Is there anything else I should know about?


*Actually it turns out that Jack and the Beanstalk is, according to Wikipedia (from which I've also taken the Arthur Rackham image) an English folk tale. Which explains the version I remember. But then if that's the case, why not just stick with that?

And a ps.  Apparently (thank you Wikipedia) there is a French rock musical called Jack et le haricot magique.  Unaccountably it hasn't yet had its British premiere, but click the link to find out what we're missing.


  1. surprised they are bothering to tell English fairy tales when there's ones like this to share 'Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm' ('and before you could say Doom'!!!). I went and had a hunt and found some corkers at you can even get them in French. French?! Didn't the Scottish stop speaking French about 1600?

    1. But then this is the school that made a much bigger deal of Chinese New Year then Burns' night....perhaps they decided drawing dragons was more fun than haggis (leg length issues aside).

    2. Chinese New Year is exotic! Burns Night is not. I seem to know far more English people who make a fuss over Burns Night than I do Scots.

      Oh, and the version we got at school was the 'Englishman' version. Something tells me it has been universally sanitised for the modern generation. I'm looking forward to reading those Scottish stories in the link above though!

    3. Who would've think it? Turns out Jack and the Beanstalk is an entire week's topic, and today we got onto grinding the bones of Englishmen....

      So I take it all back.

      Incidentally on the Burns vs Chinese thing, they did do Burns, just not calendarily (a new word) accurately. The Upper School however had a Burns reciting competition. My children currently have my accent - they don't stand a chance...

  2. I was surprised by Father Christmas being Santa north of the border.

    I also remember being brought up short by several expressions that made me realise that we south-of-the-border people use the word 'English' to mean 'British'. One example I can remember was when someone said that when she was pregnant she could have "slept for Scotland", and I remember thinking "why did she say Scotland, not England?... oh... duuuuh... I'm in Scotland now".

    I also found it odd when people said they were going on holiday to England. Of course there was nothing odd about it at all, but it felt odd.

    1. Being married to a Scot, I learned to bristle at the England = Britain thing some time before we moved here (my mother is a prime culprit and I can see B's hackles rise in anticipation), but you're right, the holiday thing does feel strange.

      How odd. I wouldn't find going in holiday to Scotland (or indeed Wales or Ireland) odd, so why England? Perhaps somewhere linguistically visceral (and hitherto unavknowledged) I still haven't accepted that that's not where I live...


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...