Scotland is a foreign country…

IN case you missed this quirky, quixotic tour of Scotland by Englishman Jonathan Meades in Off Kilter, the wonders of the internet and digital TV mean it is still available to see. This is a passionately dispassionate, unsentimentally engaged journey, where neither Calvinism, caber nor kilt is celebrated, but other things – the abstract beauty of heavy machinery, ‘football pools’ town and the social cohesion brought about by old industry.

It is hard to watch this beautifully shot, engagingly narrated programme and not see ourselves – whether the product of Irish experts in victimhood or Ulster-Scots religious freaks – occasionally reflected in Scotland’s cultural facets. Billy Connolly this ain’t; dry and deadpan, humanist Meades is just as acerbic and incisive. A trilogy well worth a watch, even if it never will be appreciated north of Berwick.

You can see it here until Wednesday, or download it for a bit longer. Or else record the repeats in early October. Here’s a sample from the granite city’s port which seems curiously appropriate to this former north Antrim resident:

“Aberdeen is a Presbyterian city. Presbyterianism is not fun. It is proscriptive, though it doesn’t share the quaint affection of certain Muslim regimes for gruesomely barbaric punishments that are far from condign.

“In a Presbyterian city a zone of tolerance is a necessity – a place to escape to, a place which has the key to probity’s shackles. A zone of tolerance.

“The expression is both euphemism and lie; such areas were not tolerated. But they recurred because humanity’s base needs are stronger than piffling religion.”

Amen.You can sample the show below – quick, before the BBC internet police find out – and read a decent review of it here.