Beinn na Caillich from Ashaig Beach, IsIe of Skye,
Got up on Saturday morning and blundered about doing all the things that you do automatically in the morning – kettle on, TV on, computer on. The TV was to pacify the children and the laptop was to satisfy our social media addiction. While it booted up I made tea and forced the children to eat some breakfast in front of the appalling cartoon that was their addiction.
I took my tea to the table and settled down to see how Facebook and Twitter had fared without us overnight. There was a tweet from a friend telling us that we should look on BBC I-Player as Sue Perkins was slagging off Skye on the Matt Lucas Awards. Interesting. So I went to I-Player and brought up the programme. Oh boy…
Skye was up for the “Ghastliest Holiday Destination ” award. I could see where this was going. We are used to jokes about bad weather, midges, expensive fuel and locals who live decades in the past. Sue told of a terrible holiday on Skye in the nineties where the best tourist attraction was the new A-road and the alternative was the Serpentarium in Broadford which contained a corn snake in a bucket. Matt and Sue then went on to make fun of Scottish accents, Matt made a funny noise which he said was a west highland accent, Sue thought it was the sound a seal made. There were two other destinations up for the award but of course Skye won. It all felt cheap and forced, the jokes were tired and were more suited to a past age. Maybe on the Black and White Minstrel Show. Probably after something about how the Irish are thick and don’t the French sound funny when they try and talk English. Laugh? Joke? Not so much.
What initially got me all revved up was the ridiculing of the Serpentarium. It is a well run award winning charity that accepts unwanted exotic reptiles. It also receives animals confiscated by customs officials. It has a breeding programme for endangered species and the people who run it are well respected experts in their field. They work incredibly hard to try and keep the place going without any other funding other than what they receive from visitors. The last thing they need is it to be described in such a disparaging manner for a cheap and ignorant laugh.
I did what every good social media person would do. I vented my spleen on twitter. I may have said in the heat of my anger that Matt Lucas should “fling shite at himself” (you can take the boy out of Glasgow etc). This sparked a little Twitter frenzy as people leapt to Skye’s defence. On Facebook I posted about it and added a picture of our local bull’s very large and pendulous scrotum as a visual representation of our displeasure with Sue Perkins and Matt Lucas, I tagged them in the post, Matt and Sue, not the bull testicles. This was the most popular image that we posted on Facebook that day.
Back on Twitter many people were commenting and all were defending Skye, most also copied Matt and Sue into their Tweets. It was very sincere but a very small protest that fizzed away on Facebook and Twitter for an hour or two. We made new friends on Twitter amongst the people who professed their support for the island and we all tried to spread the word that it really is quite nice here actually. We all also used the “ghastly” tag to show some pictures of Skye and advertise some of the “horrible” things you can do here. The TV programme and our displeasure were used to try and draw attention to the island using the no publicity is bad publicity theory.
That was yesterday. By today we all had calmed down and the whole thing became a little anecdote to tell. Life went on. It was almost forgotten until my eldest daughter phoned. During the conversation I regaled her with the anecdote and she began to sound a little animated. She works on a Saturday on a farm park and a regular visitor had noticed that she hadn’t been at work the week before. My daughter explained that she had been visiting family in Skye. The visitor was a little concerned as she had heard on TV that it was a horrible place. This started an extended conversation with other regular visitors who agreed that yes, the telly had said Skye was ghastly. My daughter disagreed vociferously, it was a beautiful place, she said. The people are lovely and there so much to see and do. The visitors would not be swayed, they were polite but couldn’t be persuaded. The TV had spoken.
Now I am a little worried. Just a little. The Isle of Skye relies on tourism. Luckily, the sort of tourist who comes to Skye isn’t the sort who will act on the recommendation or otherwise of programmes like the Matt Lucas Awards. But, to go back to my earlier insult , fling shite and it sticks. A reputation can be created with a casual, cheap laugh. The sort of laugh you wouldn’t take home to meet your family. I’m sure this won’t be of any real harm but it was a salutary lesson to me that people should be a little careful what they say, that an ill considered word means other peoples’ livelihoods are at stake.