by Colin Campbell
FOR a good part of last week I was in the company of a group of golfers, around a dozen, from Manchester who were up here for the week playing every course they could pack into their Sunday to Friday schedule.
Staying at an Inverness hotel, their daily routine was an early breakfast and then loading up their clubs to head to their choice of golf course for the day, north, south, east and west, and once or twice they played two courses in the same day.
Ranging in age from 40ish to their early 60s, they were ordinary working class guys. For most it was the first time they’d been in the Highlands.
Apart from our world famous golfing appeal, probably the main reason they were here was because of, inevitably, this damn virus. There was no prospect of going abroad so their wives had generously let them off the leash to head for the Highlands together for a week’s break, and they made the most of it.
It isn’t cheap to play a Highland golf course these days, in fact whacking, slicing and putting your way around 18 holes can set you back anything from £50 to 100 in some cases. And when you’re out there every day, as they were, the costs mount up.
It isn’t at all cheap to stay in a city centre hotel either, even though prices are well down compared with what they would normally be in late summer/ early autumn.
And it certainly isn’t cheap to go the pubs after the golf is over, particularly if you have a penchant for sampling malt whiskies, as some of them did.
In the course of the week the total cost of their week here would obviously have run into the thousands, much-needed money poured into the local economy. I have a feeling that when they got back home to Manchester a few of them might have thought it better if they were somehow able to spirit away their next credit card statement before their better halves saw it.
The only blight on their week was an incident when, while enjoying a drink in one establishment in quite loud Mancunian, one large man from somewhere around these parts made a remark deliberately loud enough for them to hear which was a very offensive reference to the fact that they were English.
This inevitably led to an altercation which could easily have got out of hand and might well have done so but for the restraint of most of the Englishmen present and their restraining influence on one or two of their number who were of a mind to take a tee shot at the very large aggressor’s nose.
He was ushered away before anything serious came of it.
It was unpleasant, disconcerting and, from my point of view, shamefully embarrassing.
This subsequently and inevitably led to the one animated political discussion of the week, on the theme: “What is it with some Scots, what do they have against us?”
It would be good to think that what seems to be the ever spiralling hostility to “the English” from some nationalists is contained north of the border and down south they aren’t aware of it. But it’s not contained within our increasingly divided Scottish bubble and English people are aware of it.
The simmering resentment of the English exhibited by too many too often in different ways, with the virus now merely being used as a convenient excuse to try and give it some bogus legitimacy; the endlessly divisive grievance mongering on anything and everything do with England; the “close the border” demands; the “stay away” border protests, fuelled, disgracefully, by some politicians.
The rising tone of anti-English feeling is being noticed in England, unmistakably so.
It’s not something that would have kept these keen golfers away from our superb golf courses and it might not even have been mentioned if that particular nasty incident hadn’t happened. But it did happen, and it led to these ordinary working class Mancunians making their feelings clear.
They’re aware of what they perceive as growing anti-English feeling in Scotland, they don’t dwell on it, but they don’t like it and in fact don’t even understand it.
This I found out at first hand. There’s no avoiding it and no matter how indifferent a minority of nationalists may be towards that it’s a slur on Scotland and a detestable one at that.
I’m glad to say this didn’t in any way spoil their week here. They left saying they’d had a great time and would be back (if their wives let them, which after seeing those credit card statements may be in some doubt) and I’m sure they also left with appreciation of the general welcome they got from the people here. Maybe they also left with a realisation that the anti-English feeling they referred to is being fomented only by a small number of people who make more noise than they’re worth, and bears little relation to reality.
I certainly hope so. Because I enjoyed the time I spent with these visitors from south of the border. And at the end of the day whether you’re Scots, English or Welsh doesn’t matter compared with your outlook on life and how you respond to other people.
And for my part, after what I consider a learning experience, I’d be a thousand times more inclined to make common cause with good folk from Manchester, Birmingham, London or anywhere else – whether they played golf or not – than I would with any puerile minded and pathetic Scots bigot harbouring a general dislike of “the English”.