It seems that we have got used to defining ourselves in short, pithy sound-bites. They are useful for giving a taste of what we are, and we all-too-easily fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to be defined and compartmentalised, because it is so much easier to do. I’ve heard some people blaming this on the rapid growth of virtual social networks such as MySpace, Bebo and–dare I say it–tudiabetes. While there may be some truth in this, I think that it can be overplayed by a lazy media and an apathetic society. Take a for instance, my father was a telephone engineer, and that was how he was known, ‘Les Jones the phones’; my uncle used to drive a bread delivery lorry for a well known west of Scotland bakery back in the 1960s and 1970s, and although his name was Willie Harvey, he was always called ‘Willie Milanda’–for Milanda was the name painted on the side of the van he drove.
Well, about me. Let’s get the nationality thing out of the way first. I am a Scot. I had no say in my nationality, but I love this country that I call my home. My passport says that I am British (well, actually, it says that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but it is a bit of a mouthfull to have to say to people that I am ‘Unitedkingdomofgreatbritainandnorternirelandish’, so we use British as a shorthand). I am most certainly not English. I have nothing against England or the English–I just am not one of them. I am also European, and very much in favour of the European Union. I wish my government would stop trying to pretend that it can remain half-in the EU–our best hope for the future lies on this side of the Atlantic, with the other European nations. So there you have that part of me: Scottish and European with a British passport.
Professionally I am many things. I am a scholar, a historian, a researcher, a translator, a writer, an editor and a publisher. All these things I do and, to varying extents (depending largely on mood) enjoy. I am also a sub-editor on a major regional newspaper; however, since I only started a few days ago, I hesitate to allow the job to define me.
Politically I place myself firmly on the left of the political spectrum, although I am moving steadily more towards the centre the older I get. I don’t know why, but I seem to be losing my youthful innocence and belief in principles over pragmatism. Perhaps I’m becoming more cynical. I was once a member of an anarchist organisation–and I was too young and naive at the time to appreciate the irony. As a teenager–too young to vote–I blindly followed my favourite uncle’s passion for the Scottish National Party and actively campaigned for them in a couple of elections during the 1980s, without giving any real thought to their policies beyond independence for Scotland. I was a member of the Labour Party from 1986 to 1992. I tore up my membership card in protest at their support for the then Tory government’s decision to go to war against Iraq. I was hopeful when Tony Blair became prime minister, because I thought that it would mean an end to Conservative policies. I think that man duped a lot of us with his lies. I voted for the Scottish Socialist Party a couple of times before becoming completely disillusioned with the whole thing and let my then 12-year-old son cast my votes for me at the 2005 elections. This year I voted SNP–mainly because I hate what Tony Blair and his sycophants have done to the Labour Party. So anyway, after all that, I call myself a socialist (with certain anarchist tendencies).
I am a husband to Linda and a father to Liam. I am master to Mizzie, our cat–or am I slave to her? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I am confidante, adviser, lover, bad 'diy’er, sage, accountant, very bad cook, paymaster to said son, taxi-driver (again to said son) and so many other things, some of which are too rude to be mentioned here. I am also diabetic; but then, so are a great number of us.
I wear glasses, am slightly overweight (although the doctor said that I am actually obese), am drop-dead gorgeous, witty, intelligent and wise. I am told that I have a bitingly dry sense of humour and that I can be very sarcastic at times. I tend not to suffer fools, although I am easy to get along with if you respect my boundaries: I suppose that makes me a bit selfish. I actually enjoy my own company, and don’t mind being left to do my own thing. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. I have also given up all the sweet things that I once enjoyed, such as chocolate, cheesecake, banana fudge-cake, caramel, ice cream and tablet.
I follow football (or soccer, as some people know the sport), and am very passionate about Glasgow Celtic and the Scottish national team. So, not only am I a football supporter, I am also a Celtic supporter and a Scotland supporter.
I am a reader. I read voraciously. I read classics, modern and factual. My favourite authors are Jose Saramago, Philip Roth, Albert Camus and Jon McGregor. I read and write history, contemporary European history in general, and inter-war Portuguese history in particular. I read newspapers and magazines, my favourites being The Herald (Scotland), The Guardian (Britain), Expresso (Portugal), Publico (Portugal) and El Pais (Spain).
I volunteer at an adult literacy class, where I try in my own small way to help those whom society has failed, learn to read and write. I know that I don’t do a great deal, and that there are many who do much, much more. I’m not looking for praise; I’m merely defining my compartments.
Last, but not least, I am a photographer. I try to be the best that I can be, and I like to think that I’m not too bad–I have won prizes. However, I leave that to you to decide if you choose to have a look at what I produce.
So there you have it. A complex middle-aged man (hey, there’s another two compartments!) in easy sound-bites. I am a Scottish, European, British, academic, historian, translator, researcher, editor, publisher, socialist (who is also a bit of a Scottish nationalist), husband and father, pet owner (who is owned by the pet), cat-loving, short-sighted and slightly overweight extremely handsome and intelligent, non-smoking and non-drinking adult-literacy volunteering, Celtic and Scotland supporting football fan and photographer. I am all that, and much, much more.