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The First Time She Saw A Ciabatta

by admin on July 10th, 2016

(Reflections on Brexit, in a Betjemanian style)


The first time she saw a Ciabatta

Was on one sunny springlike day

In a snack bar, by the meadows

Sometime round ‘92 I’d say.

She stopped and gasped, ‘A Ciabatta?

I never thought I’d see the day.

A ciabatta, here in Edinburgh.

And look – so casually displayed

Just tossed into a world of pies

Like some cosmopolitan grenade.’

And as she saw it something shifted

A feeling she can still recall

It opened her up, that Ciabatta,

Like knocking through an adjoining wall

She thought,

‘Maybe I’m not so far from Europe

Not so far away at all.’

She thought, ‘Perhaps I can be Scottish

In ways I have not previously been

Still Scots, yet firmly in the mainstream

Of European snack cuisine.’

And looking back that ciabatta

Did seem to herald Tony Blair

Her first espresso, Purple passports,

Easy-jet, mens’ facial hair

The fad for purple sprouting brocolli

Cafes playing Nouvelle Vague

Bulgarian country wine from Oddbinns

Scottish plays peformed in Prague

Belgian crash dance, Spanish Football

Surprising Czechoslovak beer.

The internet, the Bosman ruling

Dirty films by Lars Von Trier

Direct flights to Barcelona

Direct flights to anywhere.

One day a hole beside the castle

The next, a Traverse builded there.

It felt to her a time of blossom

And something else felt very clear

That just as she was going there

‘They’ were also coming here.

And each new voice, each new arrival

Seemed to enlarge, infinitesimally

The space she had to be herself in.

‘We’ no longer felt so wee.

She felt as if she’d been invited

To a party in the sun

But her name wasn’t on the invite

She was the UK’s plus one.

It’s very hard to explain how closed

That Scotland of the eighties felt

After a failed referendum

The awful feeling, we’d been telt.

It’s hard to explain the sense of being

A million miles away from hip

A rusting skiff attached to Britain

Tethered to a rotting ship

Scratchy jumpers, B.A. Robertson

Thatcher just wouldn’t go away

Selling rockets to Saddam and guns to

General pinochet.

You were amazed when something scottish

Appeared among the headlines list

Sitting pointing at the telly

‘Look, it’s Scotland, we exist!’

Usually it was for a murder

Or the derailment of a train

Or the closing of a factory.

Or Glen Michael’s Cavalcade again.

And always, always the assumption

If she’d had the least ambition

She would, of course, end up in London

And then one day a ciabatta…

And the thought perhaps she could be

Made up of more than one identity.

Not riven like a stick of rock

One slogan through it’s length imbued

But like a coastline, complicated

And containing multitudes.

And yes, it partly came from privelige

This sense of European-ness

No doubt it’s far away from many

Those with less, might feel it less.

But what a gift that she was given!

Looking back at what it meant,

The sense she was more than just one thing

The sense she was a continent.

But here we are now, party’s over,

Husband’s kicked the canapes

And punched the waiter, after pissing

On the silver service trays.

‘Fuck your vol au vents!’ He’s shouted

‘Fuck your wine, and fuck your books!

We don’t pay you all that money just to get your snooty looks!

When I first came you all laughed at me

Yes you Madame, yes you – Frau,

You said I uncouth and arrogant,

Well you’re not fucking laughing now!

So fuck the lot of you we’re leaving.

We don’t need you, we’ll survive

Get your coat your dear, stop fucking crying.

Here’s the car keys you can drive.’

And now the headlights cut the darkness.

As she drives the autoroute

Husband dribbles, drunk beside her

In his double breasted suit.

‘You don’t need that world my darling,

I am all the world you need.

Aren’t you glad we’re back in Britain

Aren’t you feeling very freed?’

And now the head-lights cut the darkness

As the Pas de Calais comes

Husband’s on his calculator

Working out the currency sums.

And now the headlights cut the darkness

As she drives away from Dover.

Husband humming Rule brittania

Now she knows it’s really over

‘Why’re you crying, silly darling’

Silly petal, what’s the matter?’

‘I’ll tell you why I’m crying Nigel

You shat on my fucking ciabatta.’