Tartan on tour
Do you wear the kilt? About the closest I get to Our National Dress is wearing tartan galluses.
For the purely practical purpose of keeping my breeks above the pavement.
I once tried on a kilt, with a view to purchase.
My elder son, who was acting as my fashion consultant, had to be helped from the shop, he was laughing so hard. Apparently, my resemblance to an early Spike Milligan sketch was marked.
Actually, come to think of it, I once donned a kilt as a three-year-old page boy. But, as Groucho said, there’s no need to bring the Civil War into this.
However, kilts aside, I take a passing interest in how Scotland projects herself to the wider world.
The First Minister, Alex Salmond, is in New York right now on just such a mission, following in the brogue footsteps of his predecessors.
Again today, he was asked about tartan. Was it not a bit “shortbread tin”? For any sake, what’s wrong with shortbread? A little shortie with your tea, splendid fare. What have people got against it?
OK, OK, I know, it’s shorthand for railing against kitsch, against the kailyard. I get the concept.
But I think you can go too far the other way. If you’re known for a tradition – especially a home-made one like tartan – then work with the weft.
I say “home-made” advisedly. I am perfectly well aware that Tartan, as presently marketed, is a relatively modern invention.
I am aware too of the glorious irony of Lowland Scots presenting their country to the world on the back of a distorted version of the once-suppressed Highland dress.
Me, I say: relax. Go with the flow. As the FM rightly said, most countries around the world are desperate to find a simple, straightforward image to project.
We’ve got one, ready made. Tartan, bagpipes, haggis, whisky. Perfect. You can wear it, you can play it, you can eat it and, above all, you can drink it.
What’s the alternative? Present our modern, high-tech image to the world? Hey, guys, we’ve got smart scientists and working computers? Join the queue.
Or perhaps tell it as it really is in parts of our cities? Less Princes Street, more Pilton?
Well, yes, we should ensure that the benefits of economic gain are widely spread.
But you don’t help the people in Pilton or Whitfield or Easterhouse by neglecting an opportunity to market Scotland internationally, thus attracting job-creating investment.
Let’s think of ourselves like old-style showfolk. They needed a gag to get people to come to their tent in the first place.
Then they could entice them to part with their cash.
So, it’s roll up, roll up, look at the guy in the plaid skirt. While you’re here, you’ll have a dram. Single malt? Oh, and by the way, did you know that we happen to run a world-beating company, with close links to a top-ranked university? You didn’t? Step this way.
PS: Off on leave for a spot. Abnormal service will resume after next week.