Thursday, 31 July 2014

Not Bad Just Unfortunate.

In my dream I take a deep breath and the long-forgotten smell of the wooden floor and stairs in the hall of my grandmother's house fills my nose. Standing in front of the slightly open door to the lounge I tidy my hair, sort my jumper into a child's semblance of tidiness then pull my socks up from around my ankles and clean my shoes by rubbing my right shoe on the back of my left sock and my left shoe on the right before doing a final check of my pockets/hands/mouth for any incriminating evidence. I knock, as bravely or happily as circumstances or guilt allow and enter, trying not to seem out of breath. 

"Hello Gran, were you looking for me?" 

Don't get the wrong impression. I wasn't a bad kid. Just unfortunate - I usually got caught.

I’ve never been a good liar. Even 50 years later, as an adult with a lifetimes experience I choose honesty. Not that honesty is simply the right or adult thing to do, always the best policy or even my preferred option but my blush response is too well-developed and independently minded for me to get away with any hint of being economical with the truth. So, honesty is the best policy or normally anyway. I can do fibs - those little lies that people normally describe as "white", even when they’re not strictly speaking in the other person's best interest. Yes I can do fibs - most of the time. 

Back then my tactic was to try and look cool, calm and collected, as innocent as a new born babe and to say as little as possible in an attempt not to incriminate myself with any old story, excuse, explanation lie. The trick was keep schtuum for as long as possible to try and calm your mind and get the story straight in your head before the grilling began. 

Granny Robertson undoubtedly had one of the most penetrating glares I have ever come across – then or since. Her eyebrows would twitch together and her nose would wrinkle in disdain as if dishonesty was a bad smell she could detect at a thousand paces. Her head would slowly lower until she looked at you over the top of her glasses. That look could find darkness in the soul of an angel, or would have persuaded said angel to confess there was darkness in there. What chance did a mere boy have, especially when that look was accompanied by a voice that prompted truthfulness as the only option for she already knew your innermost secrets. Granny Robertson could have outdone every interrogator from the Spanish Inquisition to the Secret Service. She’d probably taught Obi-Wan Kenobi that old "these are not the droids you're looking for" Jedi mind trick. What chance did a mere boy have, especially if he was guilty?  

Not bad you understand.  

Just "unfortunate". 

But she was more than some extraordinary witch finder general. She was the glue that held my childhood together; she was babysitter, nurse, refuge, teacher, historian, storyteller, fount of all knowledge, maker of sense for all things perplexing, confidante, diffuser of worries and prodigious knitter of multitudes of embarrassing jumpers socks and other oddities. There was no situation that could not be made better by a visit to and a cup of tea with Granny Robertson. Even those – ahem -‘relatively’ rare situations where a young miscreant had to stand and confess his guilt to some nefarious deed or other was cathartic, no matter how uncomfortable reaching that confession had been or the consequences would be after. But a summons to ‘tea’ on your own with granny was a welcome occasion, except of course when something would best be kept hidden to avoid repercussions. It was her way of checking everything was okay and giving you the chance to talk of any worries that may be troubling you. She had, it seemed to a small boy, a bewilderingly innate sense of timing. 

In my dream I take a deep breath and the long-forgotten smell of the wooden floor and stairs in the hall of my grandmother's house fills my nose. I smile at the overwhelming familiarity and comfort it brings after all these years. , I know my clothes are tidy but still  raise my hands and run careful fingers through my hair. I look down at my shoes and even though they are clean I lift my right foot and rub it on my left calf and the left shoe on my right. My hands automatically move for my pockets but I stop them before they reach. I look down at my hands and find I am trembling and yet smiling. I knock gently on the slightly open door and step through.

“Hello Gran, I’ve been looking for you…..”

Listening to

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A man Of Independent Mind.

In just under two months the people of Scotland will vote Yes or No in a referendum asking if they want independence from the UK . As you would expect, it's dominating the political agenda here. Britain's three main political parties; Labour, Conservative and Lib – Dem  have united in an uneasy alliance for this one issue to campaign against separation despite vastly different  political positions.  The campaign to vote Yes  is led by the SNP,  the Scottish National Party, who control the devolved government in Scotland but it also includes voices from other political parties, including increasing numbers of renegades from the Scottish Labour Party acting with their conscience against the wish of their Westminster masters. 

The two different camps have vastly different ideas about what an independent Scotland would look like. In the No campaign’s independent Scotland nothing will work: we can’t use the pound, afford pensions, a welfare system or health service, we will lose investment and businesses will leave, there will be border controls and passport checks between Scotland and the South, we will be outside the EU and it will be difficult and expensive to rejoin, taxes will be higher and food more expensive. Every man and child will be £1400 a year worse off. In short everything will be worse. They've done everything but claim the oxygen will leave.

On the other hand, the Yes campaign takes a different view where we have plenty of money and resources to afford spending on pensions and health, on justice and welfare. We will have an oil fund to provide for a safer future, we will be rid of nuclear weapons, use the pound and be welcomed into the EU with open arms, we will have a wealthy, socially just society where there is equality, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit by the bucket load and we live in social, cultural and economic partnership with the rest of Britain.. Our national football team will win the World Cup. (Okay – that one’s just me)

 But these are pictures painted by politicians and you'd be a fool if you believed them completely.

The response by the media has been interesting. One Scottish broadsheet newspaper has come out wholly in favour of the yes campaign while the majority of the others espouse neutrality yet publish more stories supporting no than yes. The BBC in Scotland struggles to resist the establishment’s endorsement of the status quo and maintain objectivity while in the South the issue is largely ignored and underreported. Populist newspapers often see the referendum in bemused stereotyped terms of "Why do they hated us so much" or "those bloody jocks are it again", as if we all have on kilts and have freshly painted our faces with woad and are ready to charge southward waving our claymores as we scream "FREEDOM!"

In two months time I will vote yes to independence and to separate from the United Kingdom. To be more accurate perhaps, I will vote to separate from political union with the United Kingdom. I don't hate the English. I don't hate England, Wales or Northern Ireland. I am and always will be proud to be both Scottish and British but we are different. I am increasingly uncomfortable and unhappy with the direction in which our society is going led by Westminster. This direction doesn't represent the wish of the Scottish people and hasn't done for generations. The Scottish electorate has traditionally voted centre left politically while England, particularly the South of England has voted centre-right. In all of my adult life Scotland has never had the government it voted for. We’ve never determined our own future or the kind of society we can be.

 I want that. Pretty damned badly.

But I'm just one person and no matter what my point of view is or how strong my belief in our potential and our abilities, I live in a democracy and there are other options possible. No matter how we vote in two months time I hope that the debate we are having now helps bring us all to better understand our differences, our strengths and weaknesses and above all the opportunity and choices we have to make this country a better place to live for everybody in it.

If we have nothing more, surely we deserve nothing less


Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/ Madrigal

Dedicated with love to Leonard and Karen who were married on Saturday. About time guys!

When the dragons grow too mighty
To slay with pen or sword
I grow weary of the battle
And the storm I walk toward
When all around is madness
And there's no safe port in view
I long to turn my path homeward
To stop a while with you

When life becomes as barren
And as cold as winter skies
There's a beacon in the darkness
In a distant pair of eyes
In vain to search for order
In vain to search for truth
But these things can still be given
Your love has shown me proof

Words by Rush

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Sunday Posts 2014/If I should fall behind

We said we'd walk together baby come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we're walking a hand should slip free
I'll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

We swore we'd travel darlin' side by side
We'd help each other stay in stride
But each lover's steps fall so differently
But I'll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true
But you and I know what this world can do
So let's make our steps clear that the other may see
And I'll wait for you
If I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There 'neath the oak's bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I'll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me
Darlin' I'll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me

Bruce Springsteen.
Photo by Alistair

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...