Πάντα ῥεῖ – til Fyn fra Skotland

bogense photo
Photo by fugzu
Brexit kan virke meget underholdende, hvis man sidder trygt uden for Storbritannien og spiser popcorn, mens man følger galskaben i fjernsynet. Når man bor herovre, er det slet ikke sjovt, skal jeg hilse og sige. Der er slet ingen klarhed over, hvad fremtiden vil bringe, eller over, hvor hård eller blød Brexit mon bliver. Og den skotske førsteminister, Nicola Sturgeon, blev tydeligvis skræmt af catalanernes uautoriserede folkeafstemning, så det er meget usandsynligt, Skotland kommer til at stemme om uafhængighed igen inden for de næste fem år.

Vi har fået nok af usikkerheden. Vores lille firma kan nok ikke overleve en recession af den størrelse, der nok bliver en uundgåelig konsekvens af Brexit, og vi frygter også, hvad den dårlige økonomi vil betyde for uddannelsessektoren og sundhedsvæsnet m.m. Vi flytter derfor nu til Danmark.

Jeg har fået job som seniorkonsulent ved Dansk Sprognævn i Bogense med start den 1. april (hvilket også er den dag, Sprognævnet flytter til byen – 29. marts er sidste dag i København). Jeg flytter naturligvis nogle få dage før den dag, men Phyllis og børnene følger muligvis først efter en måned eller to senere (afhængigt af Brexit).

Marcel flytter i stedet fra Edinburgh til London, hvor han har fået job hos Lloyds pr. 1. september, og Charlotte er midt i sine studier ved University of Glasgow, så hun flytter på kollegium der, men Amaia, Anna og Léon flytter alle med os til Danmark.

Vi har fundet et midlertidigt sted at bo i Bogense, men vi skal naturligvis have fundet noget permanent så hurtigt som muligt. Vi pønser lidt på at bosætte os i Morud eller Veflinge (se kortet ovenfor), da vi godt kan li’ det område og der er en god skole. Det vil også gøre det lettere at pendle til Odense, hvis Phyllis nu finder et job dér.

I den forbindelse vil jeg da gerne bede om hjælp fra mit danske netværk. Er der nogen her, der kender nogen, der kender nogen i Odense eller på Nordfyn, der har brug for en skotte, der har en MA i fransk og tysk (og noget italiensk), kan forstå dansk (men ikke tale eller skrive det så godt endnu), og som har arbejdet som leksikograf og ordbogsredaktør i det meste af sin karriere? Hun har læst sproglig korrektur på engelske tekster for KU og SDU, og for år tilbage arbejdede hun et år som engelsklærer i Frankrig.

Tilbage til Skotland: Her er alt kaos – huset er fyldt til randen med flyttekasser, og vi har hundrede ting, vi skal nå at ordne på meget kort tid. Jeg håber, vi når det. I særdeleshed håber vi på en udsættelse af Brexit (eller på, at Mays aftale godkendes), da vi umuligt kan nå at sælge huset før den 29. marts.

Det bliver spændende at flytte til Danmark, men det bliver naturligvis også hårdt. Børnene og Phyllis skal meget hurtigt blive meget bedre til dansk, og vi flytter til et område, hvor vi ikke kender ret mange. Og det er ikke sjovt at skulle efterlade to voksne børn, Phyllis’ mor og øvrige familie i et andet land – og især ikke, når dette land snart rammes af Brexit.

Πάντα ῥεῖ (“alt flyder”), som Heraklit sagde. Da jeg flyttede til Skotland, regnede jeg ikke med, det var permanent, men da jeg blev gift med Phyllis, ændrede det sig, og vi gik begge ud fra, vi skulle blive i Skotland. Det virkede også så oplagt for få år siden, at Skotland ville vælge selvstændigheden og prøve på at blive et normalt, nordisk land inden for EU, og nu bliver skotterne i stedet smidt ud af EU mod deres vilje. Jeg aner ikke, hvad fremtiden vil bringe. Jeg håber blot, vores flytning til Fyn i fremtiden bliver noget, vi ser tilbage på som en god ændring. At forblive i “Brexit Britain” ville jo også være en ændring i sig selv, blot en dårlig én af slagsen.

Πάντα ῥεῖ – from Scotland to Funen

bogense photo
Photo by fugzu
As an EU citizen, Brexit has always been a personal worry. I’ve never considered it particularly likely that they’d frogmarch us all out of the country on the 30th of March, but the UK Home Office would just love to extend their hostile environment to EU citizens here, making it difficult to rent or buy property, get a job or access the health service. It’s also clear that Scotland won’t gain control over the powers necessary to prevent this anytime soon.

Brexit will be disastrous in so many other ways, though. The country is already losing large numbers of companies and individuals (including lots of NHS employees), and this will cause a huge recession even if Brexit gets cancelled tomorrow. The NHS will get worse. Universities will get much more insular without access to Erasmus (the programme that allows EU students to study here and Scottish students to study abroad for free). Products in shops will get dearer, less plentiful and less interesting. Politically, Brexit and its consequences will dominate everything for at least a decade, no matter how it ends, and this will prevent the country from solving all the very real problems facing people here.

Phyllis (my wife) and I cannot see how we can keep our company afloat under these circumstances. And we worry a lot about what it’ll mean for the three wee kids (aged 9, 11 and 13). Will they get a worse education than their older siblings? Will they have to pay university fees? Will they be unable to study abroad? And if they all emigrate after graduation because the economic prospects are dire here, will we be unable to visit them abroad because we lost everything in the Brexit recession?

For a long time we hoped that Scotland would launch an independence lifeboat, but it sadly doesn’t seem to be happening soon enough.

So we decided to find a lifeboat of our own. The result is that I’m starting a new job as a senior consultant at the Danish Language Council (the organisation defining the orthography of Danish) on the 1st of April. The Council used to be based in Copenhagen, but they’re relocating on the same day to Bogense, a small town on the north coast of Funen:

It’s quite a nice area (although it’s too flat for our liking) – the schools are good, the houses are cheap, and it’s dominated by tourism. We’ll be within commuting distance of Odense (Denmark’s third city, similar in size to Aberdeen), and it’s only an hour’s drive from Billund (Legoland) Airport.

It means leaving behind the two big kids – Marcel is about to finish university and is moving to London, and Charlotte is currently finishing her first year at Glasgow University, so she wants to stay and finish her degree. Phyllis’s mum and her brother and his family are also remaining in Scotland, and it feels really strange to have to leave them all here. At least salaries are quite a bit better in Denmark than here, so we should be able to come back often. Hopefully we’ll get a house with at least one spare bedroom, because we’re also hoping to get plenty of visitors from Scotland.

Πάντα ῥεῖ (“everything flows”), as Heraclitus used to say. When I moved to Scotland, I thought it was only for a few years, but I then ended up marrying a Scottish lassie, and I then expected to spend the rest of my life here. Now things will be very different, and we can only hope we’ll be happy about this change afterwards. I know for sure I’ll miss Scotland a lot – I’ll always feel partly Scottish. It will be good to escape the Brexit madness, though.

The pound since I moved to Scotland

I always find it hard to remember the £/€ exchange rate because it’s always about stuff after the decimal point (my brain is a bit funny in that way), so I tend to prefer to keep track of the state of the Pound Sterling in terms of Danish crowns instead (the exchange rate of the latter is tied to within 2.25% of the euro through the ERM-II mechanism).

When I moved to Scotland, I could buy slightly more than 12 crowns for a pound, but it’s now been closer to 8 for a long time:

I wonder whether I would have accepted my first job in Scotland if the exchange rate had been 8 instead of 12 – a monthly salary of DKK 18k sounds a lot less attractive than DKK 27k, and I think my employer would have found it much harder to justify paying me a salary of £40,500 rather than £27k. To be honest, I probably would have ended up somewhere else instead.

Mull of the future?

(Also published on Arc of Prosperity.)

highland village photo
Photo by kingary
I woke up to the crowing of the rooster and the smell of freshly baked croissants.

My butler minion gently opened the door to my bedroom. “Would you like your breakfast in bed, master?” “That’d be great, Bob.”

Bob buzzed in on his wheels and served the croissants together with a gorgeous cup of cappuccino. I’ve spent years searching for the perfect recipe, and I finally found it on a website somewhere in Italy. It was worth the hassle, though. People keep asking me for it, but I’ll not share it for any less than 1kg of scrap copper.

“Master, what would you like for lunch?” asked Bob. “Perhaps a mushroom omelette? Tim found some lovely wild mushrooms in the forest this morning.” I grunted my approval. Tim is my foraging minion, and he always finds the best stuff. At least it sounded a bit more filling that the salads Bob has been feeding me for the past week – I guess my weight is back to where it should be. Not that Bob ever tells me.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” I asked. “You’ve got dairy farm duty from 10 to 12, you’ve got a work meeting at 14.30, and finally you’ve invited your girlfriend for dinner at 19.00.”

I spent the next hour inspecting my home farm. The minions were zooming around me at the same time, collecting eggs, weeding the lettuce and cleaning out the pigsty. I love my home farm.

At 9.50 a car stopped outside the gate, and I strolled out and got in. Yukiko and Pierre, two of my neighbours, were already sitting in it – we do farm duty together. They greeted me with a cheery “Madainn mhath! Ciamar a tha sibh?” and we started chatting in Gaelic. It’s not our native language, and to be honest it probably would be easier to speak English together, but when the founders of our village decided to resurrect the village of Crackaig on the Isle of Mull, they decided that it should be Gaelic-speaking, so it’s now a requirement for moving to the village that you learn the language and use it when interacting with people. Fortunately language-learning is so easy these days – the linguist minions are just sublime language teachers.

At 10 o’clock the car stopped at the dairy farm, and we got out. The car zoomed away, either to park or to drive somebody else somewhere. My grandparents keep telling me that they used to drive cars themselves when they were young. It sounds like a really dangerous and wasteful way of going about it. Computers are obviously much better at driving than humans, and in those days every household had one or more cars, which meant that they spent most of the time being parked. Crazy.

Dairy farm duty is generally pretty easy. The minions do practically all the work, and all we need to do is basically to walk around and talk to the cows – humans can sometimes use their intuition to spot a problem that the minions have overlooked.

This was not one of the easiest days, however. It was time to say goodbye to two of the bulls and hand them over to the butcher minions. I walked with them up the hill, and then the minions led them away into a shed and did their stuff. The minions have perfected bovine psychology, so the bulls didn’t seem to feel any anxiety.

I’ve read that lots of people were going vegetarian or even vegan towards the end of the capitalist era. It was mainly a reaction against factory farming, however, so once people started repopulating the villages and producing almost all their food locally, they started eating meat again. This was reinforced by the realisation that microplastics were destroying the environment, and this led to a complete ban on the use of synthetic materials in clothing and footwear, and having access to leather thus became more important again.

The late capitalist society must have been pretty mad. Instead of feeding your food waste to your animals and letting your cows graze on unproductive stretches of grass, they threw the food waste into landfills and then grew cereals for the sole purpose of feeding animals which they kept in huge factory-like farms. Apparently they even killed many male calves at birth because it would be too expensive to raise them.

In our village most of our clothes are made out of wool, hemp or flax, and we mainly use leather shoes. That’s fairly typical for Scotland, but of course different materials get used in other countries.

I walked home after farm duty and then sat down to enjoy Bob’s delicious mushroom omelette.

Afterwards I stepped into the VR room to commence the work meeting. I’m part of a small team working on carbon capture technology to roll back global warming. We have created a virtual Greek olive grove as our work environment, based on Plato’s Academy. Lots of other people keep telling us that you want walls, chairs and blackboards in order to work efficiently, but we disagree. Sitting on blocks of marble dressed in a toga while munching on olives is great. To make it even more realistic, we’ve decided to adopt Ancient Greek as our working language. Yes, it’s mad, but we need a lot of creativity to come up with better ways to capture carbon, and creativity and madness are of course closely related.

It’s strange to think that schools for so long were mainly places to learn facts and techniques, when today they’re places to bring out everybody’s innate creativity. Of course you need a certain amount of knowledge and skills for your creativity to kick in, but at the end of the day computers are much better at every known task than humans – however, they’re still pretty bad at coming up with the new and surprising answers, and at dealing with new situations. So of course that’s what we humans have to focus on now.

After work I started getting ready for dinner with my girlfriend, Salome. I was going to bring her some flowers from my greenhouse, but in the end I quickly 3D-printed a pair of golden earrings for her using a traditional pattern from Guatemala.

Salome and I were going for sushi in a neighbouring village modelled on a traditional one from Hokkaidō. A lot of people said at the time that a traditional Japanese village doesn’t really belong on the Isle of Mull, but I must admit that it’s really nice to see something completely different without travelling more than 10 km. In fact, the idea is spreading. More and more villages get the builder minions to rebuild everything in some exotic style – just on Mull we’ve now got places that look like they belong in Bavaria, Viking Scandinavia, Māori New Zealand, and the Shire (from The Lord of the Rings books).

Over dinner we discussed whether we should go on holiday to Paris at some point. The old centre is supposed to be stunning, but like all other former cities it’s surrounded by enormous areas of crumbling ruins that still haven’t been converted back to villages and farmland.

At least the former cities aren’t dangerous in Europe. However, in many other parts of the world they never nationalised the land like they did here, so people who didn’t own any land were left practically destitute when the value of labour dropped to nearly zero after capitalism collapsed. They’re now typically living in the skyscraper ruins and trying to make a living selling personal services (mainly sex) to everybody else. It’s horrible, and we’re so lucky in Europe where we introduced a universal basic income early on and then nationalised the land and gave everybody the right to borrow a plot for the rest of their lives.

Of course it would take a while to get to Paris – flying is completely prohibited for holiday purposes – but we could sail there or take a sleeper car, and that’s good fun in its own right.

We took a boat back to Salome’s village. Life on Mull is pretty good.

Hans Arndt in memoriam

Jakob Steensig havde flg. triste notits i det seneste nyhedsbrev fra det fhv. Institut for Lingvistik:

Hans Arndt døde i onsdags på Djursland Hospice. Hans Arndt var lektor på lingvistik fra midten af 1980’erne til han holdt op for en del år siden. Hans var den som genstartede lingvistik efter at det næsten var forsvundet. Gennem en utrættelig indsats og en helt usædvanlig åben og dialogisk stil lykkedes det ham i løbet af ti til femten år at få lingvistikfaget, hvor der nogle år i firserne var to eller nul studerende som startede hvert år, og næsten kun ham der underviste, til at blive en succes, med nu seks faste undervisere og langt flere studerende som søger, end der er plads til.

Hans var lingvistik i lang tid. Og han var en utroligt vigtig inspiration for mig og mange andre. Jeg håber at jeg og andre der kendte ham, får lejlighed til at fortælle nye studerende og andre ved lingvistik mere om ham og hans inspiration, men lige nu ville jeg bare sikre mig at alle som kendte Hans, får de sørgelige nyheder.

Jakob har helt ret. Da jeg begyndte på lingvistik i 1990, var Hans Arndt reelt hele den lingvistiske del af instituttet. (Der var naturligvis også en ungarsk og en finsk lektor, da det jo dengang hed Institut for Lingvistik, Finsk og Ungarsk – eller Institut for Lingvistik og Underlige Sprog, som det blev kaldt i folkemunde.) På papiret var der en lingvistiklektor til, men han var udlånt til Jydsk Telefon, så i praksis skulle Hans trække hele læsset selv, kun hjulpet af undervisningsassistenter af svingende kvalitet. Det tog en del år, før bemandingen endelig kom op på et fornuftigt niveau, og det var fantastisk flot, at han klarede at holde det kørende i alle årene.

Hans Arndt var en særdeles dygtig underviser, og han var god til at få det bedste ud af en vanskelig situation – fx fik mange af de studerende mulighed for at være undervisningsassistenter i løbet af uddannelsen (jeg underviste fx i Lingvistiske Teorier før 1920 i forårssemesteret 1996), og det lærte vi meget af.

I sine sidste arbejdsår udvidede han sine undervisningsnoter i Sproglig Analyse til en glimrende populærvidenskabelig bog, Sproget: hverdagens mirakel, og det er en bog, som bør stå i ethvert hjem.

Hvad mindes jeg ellers? Hans fine russiskudtale (han var tidligere sprogofficer og havde i 1968 siddet klar i et jagerfly, da de sovjetiske tankvogne rullede ind i Prag). Lejrbål på plænen på hans nedlagte gård. Og hans fine sangstemme, som han gerne brugte til at synge Poul Henningsens sprogsang med:

For mig er sprogets klang
min mors stemme
kort og klart som hammerslag
med venligt sving.
Hver glose blank og rund
og go’ at ta’ på
alle skarpe kanter slidt
ved hverdagsbrug.

De grønne marker,
det krappe sund,
blå solskinstimer
og månens segl.
Alt det har osse ret.
Hver ting til sin tid.
ord skal være redskab først –
og så musik.

Hør jydens seje stød.
Hør øernes syngen
Hør Køvnenhavnerdrengens ‘a’
når har si’r Far.
Det’ livets tumleplads
det’ sprogets havstok.
Her blir tiden skuret til
og vasket ren.

Det fine menneske,
det sjældne digt
La’ dem beholde,
det skrevne ord.
Men det er brugsværdien
i din og min mund.
Sproget står og falder på:
Det talte ord.

Mindet om ham vil leve længe.

PS: Jeg tror desværre ikke, jeg har noget billede af Hans, som jeg kan bruge til at illustrere denne nekrolog med. Hvis du har et, jeg må bruge, må du meget gerne sende mig det!

Emil fra Lønneberg og Julemanden

Emil og Julemanden.
Anna (som lige er fyldt ti) læser hver aften lidt op for mig for at blive bedre til dansk (og jeg læser også højt for hende). For tiden læser hun Emil fra Lønneberg, og det går da også ganske godt.

Nogle gange går det dog galt, som for eksempel, da hun glad og fro sagde flg.:

Emil spejdede op i skorstenen, og da så han noget sjovt. I hullet lige over hans hoved hang en rød julemand og kiggede ned til ham.

„Hej med dig,“ sagde Emil. „Nu skal du se en, der kan klatre!“

I originalen står der „julimåne“, men det er nu ikke nær så sjovt!

På samme måde læste hun flg. et par sider senere, men det var nu måske nok med vilje, for hun gjorde det med et skælmsk smil:

Men i Katholtsøen mellem hvide åkander svømmede Emil og Alfred rundt i det kølige vand, og på himlen hang julemanden, rød som en lygte og lyste for dem.

„Dig og mig, Alfred,“ sagde Emil.

„Ja, dig og mig, Emil,“ sagde Alfred, „Det skulle jeg mene!“

Phyllis bestemte sig i øvrigt for at teste Léon på den første passage, og han begik den selvsamme fejl som Anna, så det må være en oplagt fejl for dansk-skotter.

Scots on Smartphones

Writin Scots uisin SwiftKey’s preditive keyboard.
A’ve been fasht for a lang time at predictive keyboards wadna recognise Scots ava – ilka time ye uised a perfecklie normal wird, it wad get chynged tae a completelie different Inglis wird at juist happent tae leuk similar.

Sae A wis weel chuft whan ane o ma clients, Scottish Language Dictionaries, gat a email fae Julien Baley fae SwiftKey (a Lunnon-based companie awnt bi Microsoft) twa-three months syne anent addin Scots tae thair predictive keyboard for Android an iOS. A dae aw the data stuff for SLD, sae o coorse A wis chosen tae wirk wi Julien on this.

A extractit the relevant bits fae the new edition o the Concise Scots Dicionary an sent this tae Julien. Forby, A gied him a earlie version o a corpus (a collection o texts) o modren Scots. He separatelie contactit Andy Eagle and gat the heidwirds fae his Online Scots Dictionary.

Suin efter this, Julien sent me the first version o the keyboard. At this pynt, it daedna ken the Scots inflections, an it wis makkin some unco substitutions (e.g., aA oweraw), sae A advised him on the grammar o Scots an on the substitutions. The final bit wis tae leuk at wirds he fund in the corpus at wisna in the dictionars, an the keyboard wis redd.

Ye can doonlaid SwiftKey on yer Android smartphone the day, but gin ye hae a iPhone, ye maun wait few mair days (technical issues pat it aff).

SwiftKey will lair fae the wey fowks uise it, sae it’ll get better and better.

A howp this will see monie mair fowks writin Scots wi confidence, an ultimatelie tae better support for Scots in programs an on wabsteids. Wad it no be great gin Scots wis supportit in yer spellchecker, in Google Translate, and as Facebook interface leid?

PS: A wis chuft tae sae stories aboot this in The National, The Herald an Bella Caledonia.