Friday, 25 February 2011

A foe to graphic art?

A few days ago we were in Scotland for a long weekend, principally to attend a family reunion and a belated celebration of my mother's 100th birthday, which heavy snow prevented most of the more widely scattered family members from attending in December.

Featuring in this view from our hotel room over the Moray Firth towards the Black Isle (not really an island) and the snow-covered hills of Easter Ross beyond are three Highland cattle. This has no connection whatever with anything that follows.

Our travels also took us to Ullapool, a lively community on the shores of Loch Broom on the remote north-west coast. We went there to prepare for a choir concert in May. In Ullapool - in fact all over the Highlands and Islands - all the signs are in English and Gaelic. We visited Ullapool High School, where every door has a sign in Gaelic. Ceann na h' sgoil (or something very like*), it said on the Head Teacher's door. Ceann I know means 'head'. It's pronounced something like 'kyen', with a very short 'y'.

'If I'm Ken,' said the Head Teacher (whose name is actually Pete), 'that makes my wife Barbie: better not tell her, she'll...'

But we never discovered what effect this might have.

Only one of the many people we spoke to in Ullapool had anything like a local accent. None of them spoke Gaelic. Although I have a great fondness for languages, I still wonder what purpose this bilingual signing serves.

Outstanding photographer at the reunion was The Blue Kitten, aged two and a half. The samples of her work below may give some flavour of the event as well as the colour of the carpet:

Maybe you can make out a shelf with cards on it in the Kitten's photo below? My mother invited us to look at them. On the extreme left is a red card, which some friends sent to her to congratulate her on reaching 100. It features an angel trumpeter, a detail from a painting from the Italian Renaissance. My mother is very deaf indeed and often things have to be written down for her. One of her retirement home staff, failing to make her hear, looked about for something to write on. Nearest to hand was this card.

In addition to a congratulatory message and her friends' signatures, we could also read 'Are you ready to go to the toilet?'

*If any of the myriad Scots Gaelic speakers who come here every day would like to correct this, please don't hesitate.


Dave said...

I once spent a week in Ullapool.

I do not speak Gaelic.

That is all.

Sarah said...

I've never been to Ullapool either. Nor do speak Gaelic. Stands next to Dave with the dunces hat on.

Rog said...

The card could have been more embarrassing:

"Are ye ready fer me to git shot of yon bunch of freeloaders the noo hen?"

I hitchhiked to Fort William a couple of times.

Cynthia said...

I was in Ullapool in June 1968 and again in July 1974. Plans are underway for a return visit in June 2012, so I am looking forward to hearing about your choir's experiences there.

I especially like The Blue Kitten's red photo -- imaginative framing -- through chair rails? --and an angle most of us are unlikely to take, given how difficult it is to get up from the floor.

letouttoplay said...

The unbridled talent of a two and a half year old photographer is a marvelous thing to see. I particularly like the one-eyed ghost.

It might be useful to have the gaelic for 'are you ready to go to the toilet'.

Christopher said...

Dave: Brief, short, laconic, succinct, to the point. There's a sermon there, somewhere.

Sah: So you think Dave was pretending to have been to Ullapool? And I thought he was a man free of vices. A man might sell his soul for many things, but for falsely claiming to have been to Ullapool, why, it's just tasking the first step on the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire.

Rog: 1) Aye. 2) Aye. 3) Did ye, noo?

Cynthia! Good to see you. Ullapool 2012? Perhaps I can put you in early touch with some Ullapudlian citizens of renown?

Not chair rails, little fingers over the lens!

Mig: One-eyed ghost! My daughter will enjoy that. And I'm working on the Gaelic. The problem is that there isn't what we would call a conventional present tense in Gaelic, so you have to twist the English first into something like 'Is there (not) a readiness at you for going to the toilet?' before attacking the translation, by which time it's probably too late to ask the question.

Dave said...

I think Sarah meant 'in addition to not eating garlic' rather than either.

I went there on a pony-treking holiday. It was very wet, I remember, with midges.

Z said...

I have a friend called Bobbie (Roberta), for which the Norfolk is Barbie. So her husband is known as Ken, in moments of whimsy.