The Fower Quarters: 04 - Disraeli for Me
Author(s): Sheena Blackhall
Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall
It began fin oor History teacher, Miss Moss, wis gaun ower the reign o Queen Victoria. A fey wee craitur, Miss Moss luikit some like Willie Pitt the Younger - a spurgie wi a pigtail, fu o spunk an virr, a rael cracker-jack o a wummin. She kent that the wye tae learn history wis tae play it oot.
"Neist wikk," she telt me ae day, "Ye're tae be Benjamin Disraeli fur a hale eftemeen. An Linda Thain is tae bi William Ewart Gladstone an quanter ye!"
We war tae debate the repeal o the Com Laws as if we war staunin on the fleer o the Hoose o Commons, the Mither o Parliaments, wi the Thames rowin by, as if we war twa o the heich heid yins in British parliamentary history - some heistie-up fur twa plooky schule quines scarce fifteen year auld. The verra day she telt us this, I wis aff like a futterat doon tae the library, tae borra ilkie buik I cud sniff oot aboot Disraeli.
I fand sax volumes o his Life, bi twa chiels caad Monypenny an Buckle, fa soundit like a firm o advocates raither nur a pair o scrievers, but they keepit me gaun fur the first twa-three days. Neist, I tuik oot a puckle novels bi the loon hissel: 'Vivian Gray', 'Coningsby', and 'Sybil'. Mebbe I sudna - fur they fair bladdit ma English essays yon wikk. Ma jotters cam back scoored an scrattit fiae Miss Rubislaw (Aiberdeen's answer tae Lucrezia Borgia) -
'I don't know what you've been reading lately! Your use of English is pretentious, precocious and at times wholly absurd.'
Oor English teacher tuik nae delicht ava in linguistic splores. Disraeli's prose, I grant ye, wis gey flooery noo an then. He'd bin booed aff the fleer eftir makkin his maiden speech, wi the kinno unco skirlin an doon-pittin confooters that oor Parliament daes richt weel, remindin ye mair o a fairmyaird. ("Aye," said ma hero tae hissel, "and though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me.")
I didna care fur yon English teacher, Miss Rubislaw, an plottit ma revenge. ("Aye," said I tae masel, "And though I doon ma pen the noo, the time will cam fin ye will read me!")
Ma readin reenged inbye mony a fremmit shore. I likit aa the fowk Miss Rubislaw didna. Fan we read 'Twelfth Night', I felt hairt-sorry fur Malvolio. I wisna supposed tae like Malvolio, bit I did. She said he wis a pompous wee nyaff, tho nae quite in sae mony wirds, an she telt me tae rewrite the hale essay tae peint the chiel's character aricht. Sae I gaed ram-stam aa the wye the tither airt, jist as she'd telt me. Syne I wis raged fur bein oor-clivver an aff-takkin. The neist fyew wikks, in ilka English class, I saa her in ma myn's ee as yon auld skellum, Fagan, trimmlin in the coortroom fyle wytin fur judgement tae be pronounced.
"Well, well, young lady, you've certainly improved your attitude of late. Much more tractable and compliant," said she, nae kennin the noose wis hingin ahin her neck, an the shadda o the gibbet loured ootbye the schuleroom windaes.
Onywye, I traipsed back an fore tae the library tae stalk ma hero Disraeli. Bi noo I wis richt hooked - obsessed, ye micht fairly pit it. As Bismark pits it somewye, "Der alte Jude, das ist ein Mann." I kent foo aften he cheenged his socks. I learnt that fin he grew auld he pit on corsets an dyed his hair. Yon chiel didna gie a snuff fur naebody. He wis an ootlinn, a Jew. An I wis an ootlinn as weel - a Scot. Till then it hid nivver cam tae me that aa the fowk aroon war Scots tae, jist makkin on affa sair that they warna!
Eence I wis socht hame tae tea bi a frien efter schule. Ootbye her hoose, she gied a wee hoast an hodged aboot, her bonnie face flamin reid. "Er ... Look, I really must tell you something before we go in," she habbered. "It's my Dad, you see..." (My thochts raced: a boozer? a flasher? a wife- beater?) "You see, he actually talks to everybody in Scots."
Weel, I'd covered ma ain tracks weel, sin I spakk Scots tae, bit nivver at the schule.
Sae I kent masel affa close in wi Disraeli. Ma hairt fair warmed tae him. Naebody nooadays likit his novels. Miss Rubislaw didna like my essays. Disraeli wis nae groupie: he likit tae breenge aheid o the lave an dae the thing hissel. Fin the Suez Canal wis sikkin backers, he didna rattle the tinnie roon Parliament or speir fit this or yon body thocht, like some puir weather-cock takkin a tirrivee. Na, he jist gaed oot an bocht it - or mebbe the hauf o't - syne booed laich tae Hir Majestie an cried: "Tis done, Ma'am. You have it."
Weel, the day afore we war tae debate the Corn Laws, I gaed doon tae the library fur a last fix, syne stytered hame wi twa cairrier-bags yarkin baith shooders like ower-ticht bra straps. In ae buik wis a wee pictur (och, twis naething ava - aboot an inch an a hauf squar jist) o Disraeli as a young chiel, Byronic an broodin, wi blaik ringlets an a richt kittlie moo.
Ye cud hae picturs o the Beatles at ilkie street comer bit ye didna hae Disraeli danglin frae ony key ring or luikin straucht at yersel frae a beer mat. Noo, the best wye tae owercam temptation is jist tae gie intilt. Fur the ae time in ma hale life, I connached a library buik wi ma wee nail shears. I cut my hero oot. Syne I sat afore yon buik an winnert fit wye I cud dern fit I'd daen. Sae I speired at masel fit Disraeli wad hae daen - an strippit oot the hale page - twis anely a screed aboot Sir Robert Peel, an he wisna near as braw as Disraeli. Naebody wad miss him ooto the pages o history.
The day o the gran debate cam roon. At yon time oor schule wis spleet richt in twa: the Affa Bricht Quines got studyin Latin an Greek; the Jist Bricht Quines got tae takk Latin; an aabody else did Cookin an French. As a Jist Bricht Quine, I did Latin; bit nae Greek like Linda Thain. Tae this verra day I canna as much as poach an egg wioot burnin it, bit I can conjugate amo, amos, amat wi the best o them. The debate sterted aff weel eneuch. I gied my speech in the heigh style o Disraeli, an Linda Thain, yon Affa Bricht Quine, cam back jist as Gladstone micht hae repondit. Efter yon, it wis doonhill aa the wye. Miss Moss, the History teacher, maun hae bin a bit o a puppet-maister fur I cud feel my hairt-strings fair yarked frae ma intimmers wi emotion. Linda didna argie frae the hairt like me; she spakk frae the heid, as Gladstone wad hae daen. An the hinnereyn, twis Gladstone fa cairried the vote. Bit I did learn frae thon ongaun that ye can tak a step ooto yer ain dour, granite-grey warld inno the growthie leys o yer imagination, an bide a fylie there in bliss - as lang's ye mind tae step back!
That same wikk, I hid taen masel aff tae the Art Schule tae speir if they wad train me up tae be anither Monet or Rembrandt. Like my hero, Disraeli, I hidna speired fit the Art Teacher, Miss Lees, micht think o this. Fin I gied her a sicht o the application form, she gaed dancin mad an tore it inno flitters afore ma een -
"Why ever should you, of all people, want to go to Art School? It's a dreadfully dangerous place. They'd have the skirt off a naive child like you in ten seconds flat. Apart from which, your colour sense is truly awful. I'm having you booked in for a test to see if you're colour blind."
She did, and I wis - bit jist a thochtie. Naethin ava. An naitrally she didna ken she wis spikkin tae a protégée o Benjamin Disraeli, First Earl of Beaconsfield. I gaed straucht doon tae yon Art Schule fur anither application form - bit this time I wis mair fly an gied it tae ma Da tae sign an takk tae schule. If I wis a young Disraeli, Da wis mair like William Wallace. Ding me on the snoot, an ye as guid as duntit him anna. 'Wha Daur Meddle wi ma Faimly?' wis his motto. He'd nivver gaen near the schule afore, bit aince his dander wis up, he chappit on the Heidie's door wi a forcie neive. Syne there war heich wirds atween the twa.
"Aye, weel, mebbe that's fit ye may think, Mistress Wolfson. Bit ye're nae aabody an ma quine's tae hae her chaunce i the warld like onybody else."
Game, set an match tae Faither. I dinna think the Heidie wis eesed wi bein spoken till like yon - onywye nae bi the mealie-moud, genteel Das an Mas that maistly cam chappin at hir door.
She lat ma application gyang forrit, bit it fair shook me she wis that laith tae dee't. Mebbe, thocht I, twid bi wyse tae hae anither string tae ma bow. Mebbe I sud be a Tory Prime Meenister like Disraeli. I wad hae tae luik farrer intae maitters poleetical; sae I speired at my Da fit wis the difference atween a Communist an a Conservative.
"A Conservative ains a coo," he cam back at me, "an a Communist disna."
Sae I gaed doon tae the nearest Employment Exchange tae speir foo tae set aboot this.
"Age?" speired the clerk ahin the coonter.
"Fifteen." I replied.
"An foo may I be o assistance, Miss?"
"I'd like fine tae be a Tory MP."
The clerk luikit at me closely an hodged in his seat. "Gang an study fur ten year. Takk first-class Honours in History an Politics. Smairm an chairm! Yon's the road tae bein Tory Prime Meenister. Oh, an learn tae lee!"
Weel, I niver got tae bein a British Prime Meenister like Benjamin Disraeli - nur even Gladstone. Bit noo that I've said ta-ta tae fifty, I dae fyles dye ma hair! An corsets? Weel, that's ma ain secret.
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The Fower Quarters: 04 - Disraeli for Me. 2022. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved August 2022, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=549.
"The Fower Quarters: 04 - Disraeli for Me." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2022. Web. August 2022. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=549.
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