Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A nation of 'fash-ists'

A woman tried to use a lottery ticket to get on the bus yesterday, which you might say re-defines the whole concept of luck.  I thought the bus driver was brave to enter into debate with her (with commendable delicacy) as she looked as if she might be monumental--at the very least-- in her displeasure (and she did have a tattoo on the back of her neck saying:  ‘get tae f..k’).   She was an altogether awe-inspiring figure, moving with space-eroding, ponderous dignity.  An Easter Island statue, she wore a pink scrunchie in her hair, a pair of lilac leggings (which should be used in the future to build all suspension bridges given their apparent ability to take an impossible amount of strain without giving way) and completed her 'Jordan meets Vicki Pollard' look with a white t-shirt in which her bosoms fought like two spaniels in a hammock.  
She was understandably cast down that her lottery ticket would not buy her a place on a Lothian Transport bus.  But she did not rage--only seemed, as they occasionally say in these parts, a little fashed about it.  I could not help but sympathise—if a lottery ticket has not brought you your fortune, the least it can do is get you a seat on a bus.    But she found some change and eventually took her seat, reconciled it would seem, to the situation...or perhaps she was still hoping it would turn out in some way to be a winning ticket.  Her face settled into monolithic repose and she tucked both tickets carefully away in her change purse.
Hope is not a word I necessarily equate with Edinburgh; it sounds too chancy for a city built on reek and reason.   But I would like to believe that the word  fash originated in Edinburgh  (it appears to come from the verb facher -- we Scots do like our French words, putting our gigots of lamb on ashets). In Edinburgh when things go wrong (or gang agley), more often than not we say, dinnae fash yoursel, which means--essentially--‘don’t have a cow’.  
Our lady on the bus might well have reacted rather more strongly to the bad news that her ticket was no good, rather than being merely fashed.  But I think this is part of the fundamental pessimism that is ingrained in the Scottish character (think of Private Frazer in Dad’s Army with his constant refrain - ‘We’re doomed, we’re doomed’).   It might be something to do with the weather, or having a national hero who talked to spiders, or having to raise  an army for a Prince who was named (according to Billy Connelly) after three dogs:  Bonnie, Prince and Charlie.  At any rate, it is all about hedging your bets (which is no doubt why Edinburgh prospered for so long as a financial centre).
Do not misunderstand me--I think pessimism is a good thing.  Recent research shows that pessimists are happier than optimists, which makes perfect sense to me.  If you are always prepared for the worst, anything short of disaster or despair is a bonus.  A pessimist is never disappointed--or at least not for long. Manage your expectations and you will almost always be pleasantly surprised. 
 Your lottery ticket may not win you a fortune, it may not even get you on the bus, but dinnae fash yoursel, at least you didn’t miss the bus.  Things could always be worse--that could be the SNP's campaign slogan; it's what it should say on the Scott monument (with a pink scrunchie on top, of course). 
(with thanks to Stefan and Sheila, who reminded me about the history of 'fash-ism')

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