25 Jun From Galashiels to Geordiestan
Brian Holton is the only currently-publishing Chinese-Scots translator in the world (England)
1) Where did you grow up and when did you leave Scotland?
Born in Galashiels, lived in Lagos (Nigeria), then Edinburgh, Falkirk, Galashiels and Selkirk. I left Scotland in 1988 to spend a year in China, came home and taught in Edinburgh for a couple of years, then left for good in the summer of 1991. I now live by the sea in delightful Whitley Bay, in Geordiestan.
2) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?
I was a teacher of Chinese, and still translate from Chinese: I have lived in various parts of China, and spent ten years in Hong Kong.
3) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland?
4) What do people in your host country think of Scots and Scotland?
I get the impression that many Geordies see us as near cousins, and a surprising number would like, when independence comes, to be part of Scotland rather than England.
5) Should haggis be a protected species?
I have no opinion on that. Silly question.
6) Has living abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?
Of course. It couldn’t be otherwise: it’s only when you live abroad that you realise you can never go home again, in the sense that you will never again think of your home the way that you used to, because you have a standard of comparison, which those who have never left don’t have.
7) What do you miss most and least about the auld country?
In Hong Kong, I missed the long summer gloamings, and the sudden rush of delight in May time, when summer finally comes. And good pies.
8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?
I hope when we have voted for independence and become a nation again that we can normalise other nations’ views of us, by reminding them that we are not just the drunken oafs that London thinks we are, but the nation that made the modern world, the nation of the Enlightenment and the industrial and scientific revolutions. While much of the world does actually recognise this, once we get the claith owre the unionist parrot, we can project ourselves any way we wish to.
I have been waiting and working for independence all my adult life, spreading the word that Scotland is a nation with a big future, and trying to help others see how necessary it is to dissolve the antiquated constitutional arrangements we have had to live with for so long.
9) When are you coming home for good and do you have a message for Scots back home?
I’d come home tomorrow, if I could find a wee job for a year or two.
Message? See the world, but keep your faith in Scotland: ‘Haud up yir heids, ma gallant lads/We come frae naethin smaa’, asthe Selkirk Common Riding song puts it. Be proud of who you are, and as Alasdair Gray said so memorably, ‘Work as if you were living in the early days of a better nation’. I couldn’t put it better than that.