The Grand National

I`ve been living in Britain for almost 16 years now and am generally having a really good time over here. However, there are still things about this culture, which are alien to me – horse racing being one of them.

I now accept it as a given, but still find it impossible how much of an event they make about what takes about 15 minutes – everybody has to inform themselves weeks (or at least days) in advance about who is hot and who is not. Placing a bet is almost non-optional (unless you`re a hater!), even if, like us, you never bet on horses all year and know nothing about them. (We just pick what names we like.)

I`ve seen men watching the race inside the betting shop (who provide free nibbles!) and been invited to barbecues with race-themed dress codes – never mind the red carpets, Royals, celebrities and paparazzi seen in Liverpool.

There`s a racecourse in my home town, and I have been once – it was fun and we won some money, but it failed to get me excited. My sister, who was with me, and is very much into horses, was watching out for mistreatment all the time. And of course, horses fall, get injured and sometimes die, all for our entertainment and making money.

As said, we always placed a couple of bets for the Grand National, but not any longer. A few months ago, my husband has been to the races with a few colleagues and came back upset and downbeat. He had watched a horse going on with what was very obviously an already broken leg, then it fell, and although a screen was put on, everybody heard the gunshot that put it out of its misery. People were leaving, there were children… It was awful, and my husband vowed never again to bet on horses.

I never even watched it this year but couldn`t resist Twitter. Although they were boasting (!) about there being no fatalities for 5 years running (I remember this poor creature well – my colleague had placed a bet on it and felt so guilty for shouting at it in front of her telly!) about half of all horses fell, and did so quickly. Twitter was exploding with hate posts, concern and excitement alike – a rather interesting mixture. The Grand National excites and divides, but ignoring it is not an option.

Almost concluding the matter, I must say that can name at least two guys who appear to be making quite a handsome amount of money on the side just by betting on horses (and football), which is not a thing to be underrated. Everybody likes earning money for themselves, and it probably helps to accept or ignore the downsides of this sport. Brits love betting, and winning alongside your horse or team, of course, will attach them to the sport.

P.S.:

The names are interesting. Eric Berne and others have already written about how names can determine the fate of humans (particularly if named after other people), and what on Earth were they thinking calling a racehorse “Dropout Joe” and “Wounded Warrior”? They both fell – of course. Pardon the pun.

About Salary Transparency in Britain

I`m from Germany, so for the first 26 years of my life, I`ve been living in a country where one`s salary is one`s best kept secret only to be disclosed to one`s bank and spouse (no, probably not even fiancee).

I used to negotiate my pay every time I started a new job (and then again when I felt I deserved a rise) and remember finding out by pure chance that I was earning significantly less, and then more (same woman, few years later – I got rises, because I asked, but she obviously hadn`t) than a colleague who almost did the same job.

It felt weird coming to Britain and seeing the salary already stated in the advert. My Scottish husband advised me not to question it – if it was written in the advert, it was non negotiable.

I fiercely disliked it, and I had loads of questions. So, did this mean that anybody could look up anybody`s earnings, and will this not inevitably lead to jealousy, comparison, stigma and “assessments” in work and in personal life, e.g. when looking for a prospective husband? Indeed I`m still finding the question “What do you do?” (for a living), and then “What does your husband do?” (I hate this question!! People ask this before they even ask his name or how long I`ve been with him), is posed far too quickly when meeting new people, and it is obvious what this is aiming at.

The longer I live here, though, the more I grew to like this transparency, for several reasons:

  • I don`t need to waste my or anyone else`s time applying for jobs who won`t pay as much as I want to earn.
  • Where adverts are brief, the salary gives a good indication on what level of skills they are looking for.
  • I`m reassured that my salary will not depend on my negotiation skills or gender, and that the male colleague doing the same work as me will earn exactly the same as me.
  • If a mistake is made with people`s pay, the member of staff will become aware of this, because colleagues openly speak about their wage slips, and can then be rectified.
  • Pressure on employers to pay a good, or at least not extremely low, wage, if they want to attract good people (and press)
  • People are more accountable, particularly those with a higher salary, because others know what they earn and expect them to really “earn”** this.

** Note: in German language, the word for “to deserve” and “to earn” is the same – could this be why we are more private about the matter, because there`s more emotional meaning just to the word?

  • The issue of women who only want to marry rich men seems a bit tricky. Instinctively, I dislike like the thought of sussing out each other`s finances at dating stage, but what if this is really important to someone (and I know people to whom it is)? It seems rude to reject someone based on their finances, but if this was me, and you would substitute “lack of wealth” with “strong desire for children”, I would like to know early and say that I may not be the one, rather than splitting over it later on. Or am I wrong here?

Brexit – The clock is ticking

I never really considered myself qualified to write about politics, but blogging from Scotland, for an international audience, I cannot possibly omit Brexit.

For me personally, this means that I`m now a EU citizen living in a non EU country, and noone has yet been able to say exactly what this will mean for me and millions like me. Because, even though this referendum affected us a bit more than most others, we were not allowed to cast a vote, I decided to cross this bridge when it comes, and, right to the end, I really did not believe that it would come to this.

But the unimaginable did happen – with a majority that`s so close it almost physically hurts, the British people voted to leave the European Union. ALL constituencies within Scotland voted to remain, but there weren`t enough of us who actually voted. Although I was never one who considered voting as a duty, the low turnout disappointed indeed.

One cannot help but think about the Scottish Independence Referendum less than two years ago. One of my big concerns was EU membership of an independent Scotland, but although people seemed generally confident, noone could confirm for definite that we would remain a member. Now we are out, because we stayed in. One very passionate YES voter said at the time he didn`t want to be governed by the English any more – they vote totally differently from us (e.g. Conservatives and Brexit), but as part of the UK, Scotland has to follow suit. Another passionate YES voter hoped that today` s result may trigger another Scottish Independence Referendum ending up in a YES vote after all.

I`d vote YES without any hesitation now.

To be continued.

I`ll end this entry by forwarding an excellent post of a Glasgow Independence campaigner, the Wee Ginger Dug.

*

So that’s it then. The sun has risen but the darkness falls. The nightmare has happened. The nightmare is here. Two Unions lie broken. Last night England broke the Unions, and chose for us. C…

Source: The clock is ticking

Independence of mind

on the anniversary of the Scottish Independence Referendum…

Wee Ginger Dug

It’s a year on from the big vote, and everything has changed and nothing has changed. Scotland has changed forever, Westminster hasn’t changed at all. Scotland buzzed with energy, with hope, and found a new self-confidence and inner strength. It wasn’t enough to win the vote, but it was enough to win independence of spirit and mind. Scotland is already independent in its imagination and in its dreams. This is not the same country that it was a few short years ago. Once the box of hope was opened, things could never go back to the way they were before.

The knowledge that that profound change is irreversible is why the Unionists remain angry and bitter, afraid and uncertain as they inch gingerly along, never knowing when the Union will plunge to its doom. They know that their old certainties are gone, they’re afraid of what might replace them, so…

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