Scots Abroad

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

This past week I’ve been out in Barcelona.

The main purpose was for one of our work meetups, but as things worked out, a friend and colleague from the States suggested heading out a few days early to explore and make the most of the trip. We booked an Airbnb down near the beach with a terrace, and here we are.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

We’re still kicking around here for another few days, and I’m not quite sure I’ve formulated my thoughts on Barcelona as a city yet. This is something that has been compounded by the way we’ve spent our time: mostly either by sleeping or working most of the day, and staying up all night drinking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as one of the things I wish we’d done more of when we spent that few months in Athens was taking better advantage of the night life, but either way, I brought a few different cameras with me, so there’ll be more posts with photos to come later.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

The first day we arrived, we ate tapas, and drank cocktails by the beach. A 20 minute nap turned into a few hours, and before long we ended up eating ‘dinner’ after midnight. 

I had made some plans to meet my friend Lee from Yorkshire, who was apparently going on some insane trip around Europe in a tent, skinning roadkill to survive, and living off rainwater… or something. Sadly that fell through. However, by total chance, it turned out that there were some old pals out visiting from back home on a long weekend, and we said we should grab some drinks.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

This is Lauren, Emma, and Katie.

I’d met Emma and Katie years ago whilst working in the Cathouse, and they’d become some of the few people that I’d spend time with outwith the club. As happens in life, things changed, and we saw less of each other. Katie moved to London, and we didn’t keep in contact.

It’s a cruel irony that it can be extremely difficult to take steps to rekindle faded friendships when you live in the same city, yet much easier when you find yourself in a strange place by chance.

We all met up in some rock bar, which seemed like a strange nod back to the Catty… and after a few drinks it didn’t seem like it had been any longer than a week since we had last hung out.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

We ended up moving on to a tiny, quirky bar around the corner on the recommendation ofa mutual friend that had tiny ceilings and wee wooden tables. I’d been told we definitely had to try something called ‘panther milk’, and that this was the place to go, offering all sorts of different flavours. There was no tourists apart from us, and the staff even put up with our requests for a constant replenishment of the weird stuff with a knowing smile. 

“You don’t want to get drunk off this” they said.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

A bit like a white russian, it’s probably better that you don’t know exactly what’s in it the mysterious panther milk. It tastes damn good though.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

Too good apparently. A few hours later, it appeared that we had managed to break Watkis, and we were as sympathetic as you may expect.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

It could also have been something to do with the ridiculous amount of Jager bombs that we then downed in the next bar… a 90s themed place called ‘Never Mind’ (don’t judge us) that was a bit like a cross between Sleazy’s and Solid. The pours were so big that they got nicknamed ‘chernoblees’. No more needs to be said… except that we drank so much that they ran out. Oops. We did see a dog on a skateboard that night, but whether it was a figment of our imagination or not is something I’m still not convinced about.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

It turned out to be a great few days, with us meeting up at night to carry on the drinking after doing our own thing in the day time. In particular it was nice to have the work and non-work parts of my life overlap for a bit, something that doesn’t happen very often given that we are spread all over the world.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

We obviously slagged Watkis rotten that he was drunk into oblivion by a group of wee Scottish lassies, and took great pride in doing so. Adding insult to injury, the trio had gotten up at 7am the next day to go on a rowing boat, hike a mountain, etc. 

‘Should have known better than to drink with some Scots’.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

The whole thing made me think.

For many of us, being Scottish is something that is inexplicably intertwined with our personal identities. The shared cultural references bind us together, and as a people of stories they help define who we are and how we relate to the world… not to mention each other They’re important. For the last few years though I’ve often found myself the only Scot around. This is definitely not a bad thing at all, but it can lead to the feeling at times that you are peddling some sort of myth rather than something true when expressing your perspectives in that narrative. Having others around who had that in common meant I could feel more like myself, and I enjoyed it way more than I expected. I think it caught me off guard a bit.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

Not being on the only Wegie meant that when we met a guy at the bar who was travelling on his own and with nobody to talk to, there was never any real question that he wouldn’t be welcome to come and join us. No man left behind.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

Equally, it meant that when we were out elsewhere and people became overbearing or aggressive, we instinctively stuck up for each other in the way we would always expect to back home.

The manner in which guys acted towards girls when drunk in a couple of the clubs we were at was pretty shocking, but I’m also fairly certain that they didn’t expect the equally aggressive response – especially not from a wee girl like Lauren. The unspoken understanding at the time was that that sort of thing just would not be acceptable in Glasgow. Jog on.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

That’s just a taster of Lauren’s ‘come ahead pal’ face.

Barcelona - Leica M Typ 240

In some ways, this might seem like an over romanticism of what is really a pretty straightforward situation. After all, does it really take some sort of existential analysis to explain why drinking with friends in a beautiful city that you’ve never been to before was good fun?

I’m not sure where life will take Grace and I over the next few years. It seems hard to imagine how things could play out to let us settle in Scotland. Even if we both wanted to, the nature of the area I work in might mean that it will be impossible long term if I want to achieve anything. Those are big questions that remain unanswered.

More than anything I think I’ve realised that I can’t take the time we have in Glasgow for granted, and have to make the most of it – because who knows when it might come to an end. The more I realise how deep the shared cultural elements of being Scottish run with regards to my own identity, the more I am terrified of that connection being cut off.

Is it possible to be homesick whilst still at home? Answers on a postcard.

All shot on Leica M Typ 240 with Canon 50mm f0.95 or Jupiter 12 35mm f2.8

1 thought on “Scots Abroad

  1. > This is definitely not a bad thing at all, but it can lead to the feeling at times that you are peddling some sort of myth rather than something true when expressing your perspectives in that narrative. Having others around who had that in common meant I could feel more like myself, and I enjoyed it way more than I expected.

    This is a very interesting thought. I have always thought that people start to feel nostalgic when they can not adapt to the life abroad. And also I thought that it only happens to people that can not get assimilated properly due to the language barrier. But now a8c gave me a chance to have a taste of actually working with people from different cultures, and I can see that the cause is most probably the cultural difference. This must be the main reason why expatriates from the same culture tend to stick together in foreign countries.

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