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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

The Man who Liked to Talk in the Cab, by Graham Fulton

11th April 2016

nay problum pal
Christ will yi look ut thi state uh that
ah canny staun drunk wimmin staggerin aboot
thi streets thurz nay dignity ah yewsti like
a drink masel but thur ur too many bampots
in thi world so ah jist huv wan ur two an
then ah go home
how lang
huv yi been married ah wiz married
fur twenty year
ah met ma wife in thi Savoy its
funny how thingz work oot if
ah hudni gaun inti thi Savoy that night
weed niveruv met
an weed niveruv goat divorced
but at least ma kids still talk ti me an
ma grandkids still talk ti me so ah must
be dayin something right ha ha yi jist huvti
git on wi thingz yi jist huvti
bounce back thurz nuthin else fur it
sheez livin
wi ur sisters noo
talk aboot thi two ugly sisters mair like thi three
ugly sisters ha ha when ah went ti thi lawyer he wuntit ti
charge me wan hunnert an twenty five pound an hour
fur Christ sake ah telt him whur ti go
so whiddyi day
poetry ah canny staun aw that Robert Burns stuff
ah canny be bothert wi aw that langwij ah prefer
ti spen ma spare time fishin thi rivers ah saw
something thi other night aboot lighthooses
an they were aw built by Robert Looee Stevenson
ur sumdy relayted tay im
ah widnae mind gon ti live in a lighthouse
ah suppose yi jist huvti git on wi thingz
yi jist hiv ti bounce back ah suppose thatull
be twenty wan pound please cheers pal see yi later

Graham Fulton is a well published and increasingly well-known poet who writes mainly in a simple, modern, factual style of English, but he also has a great ear for Scots. It is always good to have one or two poems in Scots in any English collection published in Scotland, because this helps both to familiarize general readers with the Scots language and to prevent the language being ghettoised.

Fulton sometimes uses Scots in his own voice, but sometimes puts a persona in the poem to use it appropriately, as in this poem which is a complete tour de force of the taxi driver chatting. It is sometimes suggested that Scots is a working class language, but isn’t it more the case that working class speakers are often the ones who still have the language most fluently.  One thing’s for sure, there is no shortage of poetry in Scots doing the rounds. 

The spelling in this poem is extremely aural, and the poem neither punctuated nor capitalized. The ratio of words not spelt like English words (e.g. thi, hunnert) to those which are (e.g. night, world, divorced) is very high – it would be interesting to score various Scots writers on this scale.  

The conversation is both predictable and fascinating, and its inevitable ending leaves the taxi man totally in control all the way. A lovely piece.

The poem comes from Graham Fulton’s new book Brian Wilson in Swansea Bus Station, published by Red Squirrel Press (ISBN 978 1 910437 09 4).