There’s Promises…

September 19, 2014

… and then there’s politicians’ promises.

I reported almost a year ago that our local councillor had promised the banishment of the tarmac fairy from our land. And yet, cycling back from an afternoon putting together a literary pamphlet and commiserating with an ardent Yes friend (one of his pals actually phoned him from Australia to check he was okay, having taken some of the ‘give us freedom or give us death’ Braveheart-type rhetoric a little literally), I discovered her distinctive spoor:

return of the tarmac fairy

(you’ve got to love living on a road with grass growing on it, though)

Of course, that was just a local politician’s promise – obviously, promises from proper Westminster politicians will prove a little more durable. I mean, Nick Clegg has signed it and everything. So that’s all right then.

Uh Oh

September 18, 2014

No, not the outcome of today’s vote (I made my mind up in the shower this morning, if you’re interested, and didn’t even waver as I made my cross. I did think referendum fever might have hit Nearest Village as there was a huge crowd outside the village hall where the polling station is but it turned out to be the Senior Citizens Club waiting for their coach to arrive to take them to England – a day trip, I think, rather than the first exodus of refugees), but the phone call I got from the hospital when I got back. Looks like I’ll be having my hernia operation next week. I can look forward to a few weeks of enforced non cycling, and you can look forward to an increasingly testy series of rants as a result. I’d say send chocolate, but once you stop cycling like a cyclist you have to stop eating like one too.

In other news, autumn. I wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t still warm enough to sit outside in bare feet.

autumn leaves

Absolutely Positively the Last Post on the Independence Referendum, I Promise

September 16, 2014

Apologies for those of you who check in here mainly for ford updates, cycling rants and incompetent veg growing, but I have realised that until I actually try and put down my thinking in writing I’m not really going to come to a decision before Thursday, and I have a feeling that going into the polling booth and tossing a coin will go down rather badly.

I’ll say one thing – I was rather dreading the months running up to the referendum. The initial debate was pretty testy and I did worry that as an obvious non-Scot making a decision on Scotland’s future I might get tangled up in some unpleasant arguments either in person or online. This hasn’t happened. The few discussions I have had have been largely thoughtful and respectful of the other person’s point of view (this may not have been everyone’s experience but it has been mine). I also thought I might just get bored of the whole thing, but instead I’ve found it increasingly fascinating. Compared with the utterly pathetic standard of debate that surrounded the last referendum on changing our voting method, the discussion around Scottish independence (as long as you stay away from any actual politicians) has been for the large part illuminating and compelling and has challenged me to examine my own assumptions about politics, economics and ethics and to think very hard about what I myself want of the country where I live. It’s so rare that we get a chance to vote in an election where every vote counts, on something of vital importance. It’s been, in fact, a privilege to be here right in the middle of it all and whatever the outcome on Thursday, Scotland has already done itself proud.

So, pats on the back all round – but that still doesn’t answer the question of how I should vote. It won’t be out of fear: while I have no doubt that the period after independence will feel at least as uncertain as the financial crash of 2008, given that the financial markets react to even the slightest uncertainty like a maiden aunt trapped in a cellar with a mouse, I think once the panic has settled down Scotland will prove perfectly able to run its own affairs. Nor am I starry eyed about it; and independent Scotland won’t be that much different from a devolved one; we’re not suddenly going to become Denmark but with haggis. Realistically, I expect it to be slightly poorer than it might have been, and slightly too dependent on oil for comfort, but also less unequal.

On the other hand, neither will I be deciding for nationalistic reasons one way or the other: I loathe nationalism in all its forms and I’ve never felt particularly patriotic either about England or the United Kingdom, let alone Scotland; flag waving of any kind brings me out in a rash. It’s to the credit of the Yes campaign that they have kept the worst excesses of nationalism at bay in these past 12 months.

Patriotic or not, however, I do want to live in a country that I’m not ashamed of. The current Westminster government have filled me with growing despair: a government, elected on a wafer thin mandate that has proved massively ideological, that promised to be the greenest ever yet is letting fracking rip while rolling back support for renewable energy, one which promised to save the NHS while running it down at every opportunity and dismantled half the structures that made it work, openly denigrates the most vulnerable in society, and is even dismantling legal aid so that justice will soon be something only for the rich. The UK appears to be sleepwalking out of the EU just for short term electoral gain. I have a lot of beefs with the current Scottish government – particularly their goal of ‘modernising’ the Scottish transport system into the 1970s by tarmacking over most of Scotland – and I would never vote SNP, but they don’t make me want to bury my head in my hands every time I open the paper.* Of course that’s just one government, but some of the same mood music on benefits and immigration is coming from the Labour party too. While I do know that the Scottish electorate aren’t as egalitarian and as liberal as the propagandists would have us believe, at least the Scottish parties aren’t in a race to the bottom when it comes to the tabloid agenda. Add in the fact that Holyrood is elected on proportional representation, which means there’s more chance of the Green party – whose politics more or less chime with my own – will have some influence over a future government.

I have to say right now, that I don’t believe that all the hasty promises of extra devolution being dangled in front of us if we vote no will come to much. If Devo Max had been on the ballot, I’d have voted for it like a shot, but whatever the Westminster politicians are saying now, there’s no guarantees that any of it will come to pass. The UK does not do constitutional reform, not unless it’s forced to and even then in the most half-arsed manner imaginable. You only have to look at the House of Lords – where the only people actually elected to it are the remaining hereditary peers – to know that. There is no ‘best of both worlds’ on offer.

So the choice before me seems to be: run while we still can, or stay and fight for a better UK. My lefty English friends are uniformly begging me to stay and fight the good fight with them, not to abandon them to an uncertain future with Nigel Farage calling the shots. My lefty Scottish friends paint a picture of Scotland as a beacon of fairness, leading England by example into the light. I have sympathy with both perspectives. I am genuinely torn.

So has all this brought me any closer to a decision? Not really, if I’m honest. I’ve tried imagining how I’ll feel on Friday morning to one result or the other, but my gut feeling is that whatever Scotland decides, it won’t be a disaster for either Scotland or the UK. Yes would be exciting but a little scary, with a long roller-coaster ride ahead and no clear picture of where we might end up. No would be perhaps a bit of a relief but also a disappointment, as all those tantalising possibilities evaporate in favour of more of the same. Either way, it’s unlikely that separatists will blow up Balamory – tantalising as that prospect is.

In lieu of any actual decision, then, I shall let Twitter have the final word:

*cynics may point out that as I read the Guardian – home of the headless UK map – that’s because I never hear anything about what the Scottish Government is up to, which is a fair point.

Cock and Bull

September 15, 2014

I promise I’ll do a proper serious final independence referendum post as soon as I work up the energy but meanwhile I swear to God, the minute before this picture was taken these two were getting pretty frisky, except that SHE had decided she wanted to be on top. It’s for moments like these that I wish I wore a headcam.

cow and bull

Sure, they look all innocence now

In other news, the sun disappeared and the rain began again. I have discovered that my new greenhouse makes an excellent space to hide from the rain, listen to the radio, and pot up tiny seedlings. Even if I never grow anything in it properly, it’s worth it for that alone.


101 Uses for a Brompton continued…

September 13, 2014
The Poet is IN

The Poet is IN

No room at your popup bookstall for your live poetry-happening type thing? A Brompton makes a handy stand…

A word of warning though: a Brompton can and will fall over whenever it’s least convenient for it to do so. I can caution against attempting to catch it while wielding a pair of open and, as it turns out, surprisingly sharp, scissors.

Our cycling group had eight incident-free family bike rides over the summer – and I end up having to raid the first-aid kit after a pop-up bookshop.

(and no, I wasn’t wearing a helmet)

Scotland Agrees …

September 12, 2014

… regardless of the current debate raging over Scotland’s future, everyone I have spoken to recently is unanimous: this fine, dry, warm September weather can continue just as long as it likes. If it wasn’t for the chilly starts, we might actually be in July.

It’s been good news for the garden with a bonus second picking of broad beans – maybe not quite enough for a meal, but enough to make a solid contribution to a dish of Random Veg Risotto (where we’re going to put all the French beans is another question seeing as we have rashly filled up the freezer with blackberries).

September broad beans

My peas, which have been absolutely pathetic all summer long, have suddenly discovered their mojo. In September. (They’re still not climbing up any of the supports I provide for them, of course, but I’m used to that)

bonus peas

And the dinosaur egg mystery beans? Well, whatever they are, there are about to be a lot more of them…

mystery beans

This may or may not be a good thing.

Spain without the Sunshine?*

September 10, 2014

The weather was ridiculously nice today, to the point where I was forced into shorts which is patently absurd in Scotland in September. Cycling down to the local shortbread emporium (it pretends it’s a farm shop) for free range pork this morning we couldn’t really say anything coherent to each other than taking it in turns to sigh with contentment as we pedalled in the sunshine.

tree in the sunshine

I still haven’t made up my mind yet (I’m doing my homework though) but if I were David Cameron and I really wanted to save the union,** I’d be praying for rain. In weather like this it’s hard to pay attention to the dire warnings of even the most eminent of economists. It’s not called the dismal science for nothing…

Let’s see which way the weather gods vote, eh?

* Paul Krugman’s verdict on an independent Scotland within a monetary union.

** Actually, if David Cameron really wants to save the union he shouldn’t be up in Scotland telling it how much he loves it, he should be back in Westminster announcing the repeal of the bedroom tax, an end to reforming the NHS into a hole in the ground, and mounting a robust defence of the UK’s place in the EU and the free movement of people. Oh. So he doesn’t want it that much then? As you were, Scotland


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