FREEDOM

The SNP, so opposing politicians repeatedly declaim, is ‘intent on breaking up the union.’ This is rather like saying, of someone setting out to make an omelette, that he’s ‘intent on breaking eggs’. The SNP’s aim is to obtain a greater measure of independence for Scotland. Breaking up the union might well turn out to be collateral damage, but it is not the purpose of the enterprise. And indeed one option – the federation – would give Scotland greater independence without breaking up the union. It was not the SNP who refused to have Devo Max as an option in the Referendum questions.

When you are in a private discussion with someone on this subject, generally the last objection offered is, why should 90% of the population of Britain be obliged to change custom and practice they are quite content with, because 10% of the population of the UK wish it to be done?

I suggest we people of the four nations identify firstly according to our nation. So, I am a Scot. But I am also British and proud to be so. I suggest most British people of whatever ethnicity feel much the same. We believe that to be British makes us the equal of anyone. We believe that we are a just and fair-minded people. We regard ourselves as being ‘the mother of parliaments’ and that we offered a model of democracy to emerging nations. We regard ourselves as free citizens who have chosen to live within the union, which is an honourable estate. (We have the occasional lapse of morality; illegal wars, MP’s expenses etc – but everybody has those regrettable lapes – and on the whole, we feel good about ourselves.) We’re glad that we’re British.

We also accept that we are four nations, united by common consent within the United Kingdom. Any-one from any of the four areas, mistaken for one of the others, would immediately correct the error.

In particular, within the union, Scotland’s rights as a separate kingdom have been jealously guarded. We have a separate legal system, a different education system, a different royal regalia, a different church hierarchy. We are another country without a doubt. (I cast no aspersions of the entitlement of the other countries of the UK to be regarded as separate countries.)

So it follows then that since we are a free people of a separate country, (Scotland) which therefore belongs to us, and we live in a democracy, we are at liberty to choose whether we remain within the union or not. We recently voted on this issue, and we did not choose to leave the union, and being the democratic people that we are, we are still within it. But if we were to be denied the right to make this choice, then we would not be free British living by choice in a democratic union. We would be a vassal state belonging to England.

So this is why 10% of the population can choose to leave the union. We have not encroached on England’s rights. We are not proposing to annexe northern counties of England. It is also a democracy. It can choose how to run its own affairs.

So I suggest the English people stop frettng abou the SNP and consider how they wish to run their own country. Do they want to continue having their administration in London, or do they want it rotated through their principal cities. Do they wish the whole of England to be one administrative body or would they prefer a different arrangement. Do they wish to stand alone or would they like to join their neighbouring states in a federation? (Terms to be negotiated.) Only the English people can decide on these matters. We Scots will certainly uphold their right to do so. These questions are not being asked yet, but they are coming.

Meanwhile let us remember the words of Rule:Britannia. Britons never shall be slaves.

PS   I should point out that the assertion that we are ‘united by common consent within the UK’ is a moot point.   James VI, who sold his birthright for a mess of potage, decided on our behalf.   The Scottish people have NEVER been asked if they consent to the unio.   But let us not be petty.   We have not objected and therefore our comsent must be assumed.

BUBBLES AND SQUEAKS

 

We were in Wisley last week on the kind of glorious day that makes you glad to be alive. Many trees were in blossom, so you didn’t know where to feast your eyes.    It had been the kind of week where problems which you knew were lurking in the undergrowth like snakes in the grass had risen up, hissing, at your approach, but we had despatched them all for the present anyway. John, helped by Robert, had finished the roof of his office to everyone’s satisfaction. So we sat, tired but content, in the sun.

Ewan who is far sighted, came hurtling across the grass, shouting Grandpa!    Sarah, Rory, Julia in the pram, and Sarah’s parents followed in due course at a more sedate pace.

Greetings and coffees sorted out, Julia was unwrapped and laid carefully in my arms.  She was wearing a little beige wool knitted coat that I had bought with Carolyn in a craft fair in Balcombe.   I sat watching fleeting expressions drift across her pretty face as she floated slowly up to wakefulness.   She opened her eyes – still a baby turquoise – frowned – and focussed on me.   I quite clearly saw her think, “Who on earth is she?”   So I told her who I was, gave her my names and my credentials and I saw her concentration as she listened.   Then I paused.   There was a short space of silence, and then, to my complete delight,  came forth a reply, as surprising at her tender age as if the Sphinx had spoken to a tourist.   She blew bubbles out of her mouth and uttered a few little squeaks.      Then I told her how pretty and clever she was.   When I stopped, again bubbles and squeaks.  We repeated this sequence four or five times, with her listening carefully, waiting for the pause, and then singing her little song.   She certainly understod the ebb and flow of conversation better than many an adult.

Thn suddenly, her face looked anxious.  This stranger was entertaining, but what if – her face crumpled- Julia and she were the only people in the world?   Where had Daddy gone?   She wanted Mummy’s lovely face. mummy’s warm arms, familiar comfort and food.      But the stranger was calling for Mummy, and she was handed over, and then all was well in her little world.

Julia, I thought, I’ve met you.    I trust it’s the start of a long and fruitful conversaton.

JAMES

JOVIAL, JOLLY, JOYFUL … JAMES

My step-daughter, Kerri, visited us this week, with her new husband, her pretty daughter, and her gorgeous seven month old baby boy, James. Having observed at close quarters recently our other grandson, Ewan, I was struck by what decided and different personalities babies bring with them on arrival.

The first thing that I noticed about James was his resemblance to Kerri’s grandfather, a man whom I believe I met only twice. John described him as a straight forward, pleasant fellow, easy to get along with, clever … he was a doctor of something or other – chemistry, perhaps. The great grandson, James Anthony (the latter being his paternal grandfather’s name) was a very calm, cheerful and good-natured baby. He looked content with his parents – indeed he seemed predisposed to take pleasure in everything he laid his eyes on, but the source of his chief delight was his 8 year old sister Jessica. Every time she hove into view, his face was wreathed in smiles.

He had plenty of smiles for us too, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone with a greater disposition to find life fun. I’m sure the possession of this type of personality must make it far more likely that life will be fun. He didn’t complain about getting hungry, but he ate what was offered him with gusto and although you could see him identifying unfamiliar foods and registering their new taste in his palate, he did not decline a single thing.

I thought of Ewan, with his driving, focussed, detached curiosity; and with what intensity he examines things and thinks about them before consigning them to his ever expanding memory banks for retrieval and further contemplation later. Or of Dana, physically delicate but powerful in spirit, with her fearsome temper, her swift and silent judgement, and her deadly tongue: – and her enchanting charm, all the more delightful because she doesn’t choose to reveal it very often.

Obviously it would take too long to list the individual characteristics of all our grandchildren. There have similarities of course, but what is fascinating is how different they are in their unique and lovely ways. But in truth it’s life, with its infinite variety and unlimited potential that is so wonderful and awe-inspiring.

James D’Arcy (what a wonderful name he rejoices in) was good to meet. He comes forward with a ready smile and a glad heart. May the road rise up to meet him always.

FACING THE MUSIC

We went to the last of the afternoon Winter Concerts of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra two weeks ago. I had some perpetual winter bug that stops short of killing you so that it can make you miserable at leisure, and therefore could not have been described as good-natured (if indeed I ever could.) The orchestra’s usual conductor – a flamboyant showman who can’t seem to confine himself to merely conducting but will persist despite every discouragement from TALKING, had been mercifully on his travels where other audiences had no doubt had the pleasure of the sound of his voice – had returned and was rapturously received by that section of the audience who are his relatives and cronies and politely by everyone else.

The first short piece was by Lord Berner, to whom I ‘took a scunner’ (Translation: was disgusted by ) because he was so ridiculous and silly as to write music with his title instead of simply with his name – in order, he alleged, to prove that he could write music. But since it appeared in fact he couldn’t write music of any account, perhaps he was actually in hiding. In my opinion, this piece (Fantasie Espagnol) was a graceless cacophony.

Then Walton’s Cello Concerto which was OK but rather a ‘those who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like’ kind of arrangement, and the cellist, Raphael Wallsfisch, seemed to be of indifferent tone and perhaps having an off day.

Some poor soul in the audience of disordered intellect, would from time to time be moved to accompany the orchestra with a mournful and baleful howl. The audience to its credit made that graceful English response of a complete absence of reaction and the sufferer was not required to leave. His mournful cry had a kind of musical lamentation in it and in truth I enjoyed his contribution to the event better than some of the other musician’s!

So we return, not in the best of humours; the kind of audience that sits with its arms folded and says, Go on them, impress me, if you’re supposed to be good. Even the chattering conductor took one look at our dark faces and thought better of whatever inanities he had meant to offer. He turns to the orchestra and they begin Holst’s The Planet Suite.

Now there’s a proper piece of music. The orchestra enters into the piece with humour and gusto. We can see in our mind ‘s eye Mars’ purposeful march by, his call to arms, the relentless energy that whirls around him. Venus is sweeter, but she carries elements of danger – she too is a goddess of war. Mercury sprints past with his speed and lightness. Then the glorious Jupiter (we can have his resolved section for an anthem for the Federation, when we need one,) Saturn brings up the rear, wise and dignified, and finally, almost beyond our hearing and our understanding, fading into the distant heavens, we just catch the fading echoes of the mysterious Neptune.

My friend Carolyn, a wonderful, empathetic and glorious singer, was helping to swell Neptune’s chorus, though they were out of sight and not acknowledged.

I felt the performance of the Neptune was the equivalent of a religious act, and so I despatched a prayer for the welfare of our planet and his guardianship of the purity of our waters, and I remembered how I would walk through the summer fields with that priest of Neptune, my father, and gaze into the clear water of his well, which never ran dry.

The orchestra fades away and there is silence. Then as I began to clap, I feel my gratitude rise up in my throat. The Planet Suite is a moving piece of music. I forgive the conductor all his faults. But he too seems to have been transformed by the music and he remains silent and still. As for the orchestra: to the last man and woman, it can play. It just needed the music.