State of the Nation

It doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that Dundee voted a decisive ‘yes’ in the Scottish independence referendum. Fife was where my ex-husband’s family lived, and I lived through their profound sense of nationalism.

On family visits, we could only watch Scottish TV programmes with Scottish presenters, talking about Scottish things. We were only allowed to laugh at Scottish comedians, eat Scottish food and converse about how much better Scotland is at everything. Anything in the UK outside Scotland was referred to as ‘down south’ – they couldn’t even say the word ‘England’ (I’ve just heard a Scot refer to ‘down south’ on BBC Breakfast as I write).

We often ended up holidaying in countries with a huge Scottish diaspora population – Canada, New Zealand – and even flew a Saltire off the back of our motorhome in the latter (cringe – not my choice). We’d inevitably bump into someone Scottish, who would inevitably be connected to someone back home, or went to the same school as a friend of a friend. I’d resist the temptation to roll my eyes.

I was asked on one family occasion, how I felt about most of the government being Scottish – I hadn’t noticed, I replied. To me (and to every non-Scot) they’re British. As I was being asked the question, I noticed that the newspaper one family member was reading was ‘Scotland’s’ Daily Mail. Silly me had thought that the Daily Mail was the same across the UK. Of course not. I wondered if there was a Welsh one.

However, seeing how much of Scotland voted ‘no’ yesterday, makes me think I was unwittingly in the epicentre of nationalism at the time. I had a lot of Scottish friends – university friends of my husband – who didn’t force Scottishness down my throat. I still have good Scottish friends now who don’t, although of course they remain proud of their country, just as I am proud of being from Wales.

But it always amazes me how much more strongly Scots feel about their country than Welsh people. And it amazes me how many of them have left their beloved nation to set up camp in other countries, looking back with neverending nostalgia at their Brigadoon. I can see why they do, though – one of the best holidays I’ve been on was in the Hebrides – Islay and Jura are paradises on earth, especially during the Whisky Festival in May…

I love the East Neuk of Fife, with its beautiful fishing villages (Crail is my favourite) and bleak beaches. And Findhorn – like St David’s in Wales – has a magical, otherworldly feel about it. On holiday there a few years ago, I ran each morning among the sand dunes and felt so happy looking out over the Moray Firth. Similarly, I loved running between Strathkinness and St Andrews, and walking on Kinshaldy beach with a sprightly West Highland terrier named Shuna.

And the majestic Highlands. We got stuck in the snow one year between Christmas and Hogmanay and happily snuggled in a hotel until we could get out. I particularly loved walking at Lochnagar early on Midsummers Day, from Loch Muick, encountering high winds and rain at the top, sunshine on the way down, and then having a hearty lunch at Ballater. Soup and a sandwich, obviously.

I celebrated the new millennium at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, cheering at the fireworks bursting over the Castle. I got married in Scotland, in a small castle hotel in Letham. It was a magical day, filled with friends from all over the United Kingdom, and guys (Scot and non-Scot) made to wear kilts and dance to a ceilidh band.

So, I love you Scotland, I really do, but I’ve never quite got used to the fact that you love yourself so much. In my experience, no other nation I know talks about how great it is to such a degree.

I don’t need to be told how great you are over and over again.

I know already.

Sixth Date Syndrome

One of the things I did in the first couple of years after my marriage broke up was date men my age, looking to see if there was a potential new partner out there for me. One would assume that there might be, no?

I sallied forth and met some really great fortysomethings, either online dating, through friends or via social media.

But what I didn’t know when I started dating them was that each and every one of them would run away screaming after the sixth date.

I met ‘Simon’ through two mutual friends in a pub. Quiet, dryly funny, smart and a bit of a silver fox. I thought I’d take the initiative (I usually have to) and ask him if he’d like to go out. I gave him a business card and I think he texted me at some point and we started dating.

We did the usual fortysomething thing of nice bars, good wine, lovely restaurants. We chatted about travel, our jobs, previous relationships and I really enjoyed his company. He seemed ‘sorted’ – a good guy.

One weekend, after the sixth great date, I was in my kitchen making coffee, while he was sitting in another room. I thought I’d suggest we go for a walk ‘sometime’ on Hampstead Heath.

I heard an audible groan.

I stuck my head round the door and shouted, “Hey – don’t sound TOO excited!” expecting him to say, “Sorry, I just stubbed my toe on your coffee table”, but what I got was complete silence.

Tumbleweed.

Then later that week, when I texted him to ask what was going on, I got two huge ‘text essays’ explaining (mansplaining) that I was clearly ‘looking for something serious’ and he wasn’t.

“Unbelievable.” I texted back.

It was like an episode out of Sex and the City, but minus the Post-It Notes.

I met ‘Daniel’ through social media. A louder version of Simon and an uber ‘foodie’. We had six really great dates featuring great restaurants, cocktail bars and movies. On the sixth date, I decided to tell him I liked him. Just that. “I like you,” with a winning smile.

Not, “I’d like to marry you”, or “I’d like to have your babies” or “I’d like to share your financial gains”.

Just “I like you.”

I didn’t hear from him for two weeks, after which point I started getting ‘nighttime’ texts from him, trying to recalibrate the dating back to a more ‘casual’ setting. He’d told me before that he enjoyed dating because it meant he got to try new bars and restaurants. I think I was just the ‘caddy’ to the foodie.

Nah. Think I’ll leave it there, thanks.

So when I met ‘Paul’ I thought I’d test my theory again. Three strikes and I’m out.

Paul had recently split from his wife, which was bound to be tricky, but we got on incredibly well, especially intellectually. Funny, smart, worked in media – lots to talk and laugh about. Until I told him I liked him on the sixth date.

I’ve never seen anyone row away so fast. And again, the ensuing text essay ‘mansplaining’ how he couldn’t commit to anything.

I wasn’t asking him to.

Sigh.

I would lay money on that scenario happening again, but I haven’t dated any fortysomethings for a while so haven’t had a chance to test my theory again recently.

They’re not a demographic that are particularly interested in me and I’ve blogged before about them wanting younger women so that they can a) fuel their midlife ego and b) possibly have children.

Well, having encounted Sixth Date Syndrome I’m not particularly keen on them either, and really, I’m too busy fuelling my own midlife ego crisis.

What really irks me is the assumption that I want something out of them, that I’m trying to lay a commitment trap of some kind. That just by saying I like them, they translate it as “…and I want to marry you and have your babies.”

Way to think too much of yourselves, guys.

I’ve done the commitment thing and come out the other side. I’m very clear about not wanting children, and really, way past that childbearing age.

What if I actually do like hanging out with you and want to do it on a regular basis without raiding your bank account? Ooh, SCARY.

Am I really that intimidating, with my good job, own flat, ability to hold a conversation, tell a joke and initiate sex?

Apparently so.

Anyway, fortysomething men, see you when we’re all in our sixties and still out there.

At least we will be able to share our stories of how much fun it was to date younger men and women, eh? Looking forward to it.