Monday, 4 January 2010

Power to the People

Today I did something democratic, which made me feel good. No, I didn't vote for some neo-liberal politician who was allegedly saving us from an allegedly worse neo-liberal politician. I signed a petition to open a new Lidls in 'Tescotown'. Our local politicians always seem to find a taste for green belt aesthetics and reigning in business when anyone but Tesco wants to open a new concrete block in the Sneck.

Whilst I don't like hyperbole, I think it's fair to say that this petition is at least as important as the Treaty of Arbroath and would implore fellow Invernessians to sign it ASAP.

Interestingly enough, I was looking for a discount branch of Lidls that used to exist called 'Bargain Basement'. When I googled 'Lidls bargain basement', I found nothing about this sadly discontinued line of shops, but I found plenty of hilariously insecure Essex man snobbery.

This is a trend I've noticed increasing recently. It used to be that snobs would either be proud descendents of some bloke who killed dragons (though with ancestors who'd more verifiably slaughtered uppity local yokels who wanted some crusts of bread) or else they might be bourgeois snobs who'd criticise state school boys for their poor Greek declensions.

Now it seems to be where you buy your spuds from that defines your place on the social ladder. Not your achievements, or even the achievements of your ancestors, or even the invented achievements of your ancestors, but what type of celery you buy. This creates an intriguing paradox for me: by debasing snobbery are they making it less pleasant and therefore less 'consumable'? Or are they making it more accessible to a larger number of sad gimps and therefore making it more 'consumable'?

I don't know, but Lidls sell the best mechanical pencils of any supermarket, so I'm on their side, whatever negative epithets that earns me. I use their pencils, incidentally, to help me with my 'achievements' such as they are. I see no need to be falsely modest; I am no genius but I am proud at having a skilled job and that I can follow texts in several languages. How these 'achievements' measure against anyone else's doesn't interest me. But I am proud that I at least have greater aspirations than buying tomatoes from Waitrose.

So, whilst not a Germanophile, I'm with the Social Democratic fatherland when consumerism is involved. It's odd that it is so much more varied than our similarly priced free market 'success stories'?

PS: You can see by my photo that even their signs are designed by MC Escher. Can Tescos claim that?


  1. Lidl got done for spying on their own employees in their German stores.

    Misdemeanours included having tatoos and speaking Polish during breaks.

    I'm not getting on my high horse though, I shop at the bargain basement chain Biedronka which was accused of treating its workers terribly, leading to suicides in some cases.

    The moral maze of the weekly shop...

  2. Hi Ck
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I heard about that to: but no-one said the retail sector was pretty (and we lefties who want more emlpoyee rights are ignored in the MSM). Didn't know about 'speaking Polish' being an offense. I'd have thought the Germans would be a bit more sensitive towards the Poles.

    And seeing some insecure tits calling people who shop at Lidls 'pikeys' just makes me want to shop there all the more.

    Incidentally, I'm trying to learn some Spanish at the moment (again, courtesy of Lidls: does Tesco show such interest in nurturing the multilingualism of their customers?). Any translations you're working on at the moment?

  3. There sure are a heck of a lot of Tesco's in Inverness.

    Interesting I see you have joined the blogsite 'eastern european watch'. I am following that site too. It is very informative. Karl Naylor really knows his stuff.

    And you are Orthodox too. Not many of them in Inverness, I presume.

    I live in the Western Isles, in Stornoway. I see you like Dostoevsky, so do I. I have also been to Russia and I study the Russian language by myself. Orthodoxy is very beautiful. When I was there I went to a cathedral service and I appreciate the beauty. Also went to veliky Novgorod, the chuches in it's kreml and saw a monastery there.

    Anyway, hope you are ok. Just seems a strange/interesting coincidence we are both following a blog which has only a few followers yet we live very near to each other.

    And you obviously have an interest in Russian history and culture, something I have as well.
    Take care.

  4. Hi NK
    Recognise the name from CIF

    I had a flatmate from Lewis; a great guy called Kenny Murray. It still seems very devout and traditional in the Western Isles. Last year a Romanian Priest led a pilgrimage to Iona.

    Maybe we Scots feel a certain affinity to the Russians. But I think it is also the case that agreeing with Karl about the IMF/neoliberalism is just plain common sense. The Russian people have decisively rejected the neo-liberals.

    I’m deeply interested in Russian history, especially Tsarism and Dostoyevsky has probably had more influence on my life than any other writer.

    If you are interested in modern Russian politics, Anatoly and Leos both have excellent websites:

  5. Interesting, I have a Russian book about Celtic Christianity, speficially Saint Columba and the island of Iona . It is written by a Russian Orthodox priest called Alexander Shabanov who visited Scotland. I was given it as a gift by a the priest of a cathedral in St Petersburg.

    I don't know how good your Russian is (I presume you speak some of it), I just know the basics. If your language is reasonably proficient and you want to borrow this book you can. If you are comfortable with emailing me your address I can post it to you.
    Because it is special to me, I would rather have it back though, but you can have it for as long as it takes you to read it.

  6. Hi NK

    It's really kind of you to offer, but I've forgotten most of the little Russian I've learned. Though it is interesting to know that St Columba is known as far away as Moscow and I will try to find out about Fr Alexander Shabanov.

    Russian is a very beautiful language and it would be wonderful to read Dostoyevsky in the original. But I am focussing on Greek and Spanish for now, because I am thinking of migrating in the future.

  7. I would like to say that i've been too busy to do any translations but i've had quite a lot of time recently.

    The truth is a combination of laziness and a lot of book reading. I've hardly read other blogs in the last couple of months, let alone work on my own.

    Since you asked, I might just translate excerpts from 2 Polish pieces which might interest you-- one from my wife's Catholic rag and one from my Socialist rag-- about Europe's 'cultural suicide' and Jesus' socialist worldview. Maybe..

    PS: Don't forget St. Cuthbert who brought the Celtic Church to Northumberland and, according to some, introduced the first ever wildlife protection legislation.

  8. St.Cuthbert on Farne

    I am a duck
    A Cuddy duck.

    They call me that
    Because of him.

    The man
    In his small stone box.

    He is a strange type,
    Staring and mumbling.

    He serves a master
    Who he never sees.

    Talks to someone
    Who never answers.

    Yet he does not seem to mind,
    He seems happy enough.

    A friend to other men
    And to fish and fowl.

    Alone on these windswept specks
    Yet not really alone.

    I can see him now
    Old and frail.

    Not long now
    Before he leaves these rocks

    To the ducks like me
    And the puffins and seals.

    He contemplates
    Rock, sea and life

    His lips move,
    Eyes on the salt spray.

    I wonder if he is talking to his master
    Or the sea.

    I wonder if perhaps
    They are not the same thing.

  9. Hi Ck
    Sounds interesting articles if you have the time to translate them. Incidentally. Northumbria is one of my ancestral places and I was speaking to Tom May about it on his blog.

    A Kazhak girl in our community has long wanted us to visit Durham Cathedral… but we are very disorganised.

  10. I forgot to say:

    Given you love of photography and the beautiful Scottish Highlands, I can strongly recommend the latest issue of National Geographic, which has a photo piece about the Outer Hebrides.

    To be honest, panoramas of the Highlands are so familiar that they sometimes lose their power but these NG pics are truly breathtaking, I found it hard to believe that they were taken in Scotland, a country I usually associate with Polmont and the pub in Waverly station.

    They include photos of St. Kilda which have an extra poignancy.

  11. Czarny Kot


    I live in the Outer Hebrides.
    I presume you are talking about the US edition, but I suppose the NG is a worldwide publication. I'm guessing there are a fair few beaches photographed. We have some beautiful golden beaches with sea that is turquoise blue like the Caribbean (minus the heat unfortunately)

    Well, if it helps the tourist industry, that is good. Although there is more to these islands than tourism.
    However we are also quite famous for having exceptionally poor customer service. Don't ask why, that's just the local attitude. Something to do with the Psychology of living on an island maybe.

  12. @CK
    Thanks for the suggestion

    Have you ever read The Merry Men, by RObert Louis Stevenson? I can't remember which Western Isle it was set on. My favourite Scottish novel is Murdo by Iain Chrichton Smith (oddly published the year I was born) who lived on Lewis.

  13. @NK

    I think there is one picture of a beach but most of it is mist-shrouded, jagged rocks and stormy seas.

    If you don't mind me asking, how did someone of Russian origin end up in Lewis?


    I don't know why, but I had always assumed you lived in Edinburgh. I've always wanted to go to Inverness. As I've said before both my parents were born and bred in Scotland but the Highlands remain a foreign country to me. I once went on holiday to Aultbea, between Gairloch and Ullapool but I was still a bairn.

    They say that in Inverness you can find the clearest and purist English accent. Is that true? Funnily enough, the clearest Spanish accent does not come from the Castillian heartland cities of Buros, Segovia etc.. but from Bilbao, in the Basque Country. I wonder why?

  14. I've not read any of those books, culturally inept that I am.

    There is a book called 'The Stornoway Way' by a local writer called Kevin Macneil that is much more contemporary. It is sort of ok, but sometimes immature, bigoted, ranting on about the 'evil English'. This is one of those type of books where the author sets out to be 'alternative' and 'edgy' as a way of covering up poor quality in some adolescent kind of belief he is rebelling against society.

    Perhaps you could say it is Dosteovskian in character as it is basically the ramblings of an unemployed alcoholic. The only real positive is that he is actually portraying the islands realistically (especially the bigotry and bitching) compared with the tourist brochures (and national geographic magazines, hah)that show beautiful beaches etc, when te day to day existence is so different. There is a very dark aspect about these islands. I will probably leave for good soon, like most other youngsters.

    There are a few reviews floating around the internet. I can't copy and paste the links here, but just google it.

  15. Czarny Kot
    "If you don't mind me asking, how did someone of Russian origin end up in Lewis?"

    Ho Ho Ho.
    Not a drop of Russian blood, dear fellow. Not a drop of Scottish blood either, although I was born on Lewis and have lived over two thirds of my life here. My parents are mostly of English stock.

    I take it as a compliment that you assumed I have a Russian origin though.

    I've read a lot of Russian literature in translation, I study the language by myself in my spare time. My new year's resolution is to read Crime and Punishment in the original Russian, I have a copy I bought when I was there, it is sitting ominously on the shelf.

  16. @CK
    I spend a lot of time in Edinburgh and take a lot of photos there. I really like it for a city.

    As for your question about Invernessian English, I don't know. I'd say it is very complex because I see the Northumbrian languages (including Scots) as being pure English, whilst received pronunciation and East Anglian are fairly modern developments. Of course, maybe the Scots learnt a type of received pronunciation through the teachers (funded by the Bible Society) and there was an analogous process with the Basques.

    Interesting about Spanish. Having tried to study some, I notice it seems a very soft and precise language; does anyone really speak like the film Hispanics weeeth reedeeuulous stressed vooooweeeels?

  17. @NK
    I tried reading it, but didn't like it much, for reasons I might write about in another post. The Merry Men is quite a short story, and is available on Gutenberg and Wikipedia.

    You might like Murdo, it's about a very well-read bank clerk in a very conformist community in Lewis. He becomes increasingly weird and writes some amusing stories and winds up his neighbours. It's difficult to describe, but it is one of my all time favourite novels.

    Afraid I still haven't finished C&P in English.