KINGSMUIR

I was born in Scotland in 1949 in the town of Forfar, Angus and I lived there for a few years until my parents bought a house in a nearby village called Kingsmuir, and we moved there. We left there when I was 8, and in the sixty years that have followed I have spent at most half an hour in Forfar, and never returned to Kingsmuir. But this year, staying in Edinburgh and tiring of the over-crowded city, the idea of finding that village, using Sat Nav appealed to me. So we set off North and were soon whizzing smartly through Fife, across the Tay Bridge and up into Angus. Just short of Forfar we got a road off saying Kingsmuir.

I was surprised at how flat and wide the fields were. The land was rich and prosperous. It is odd how your memory correctly remembers the scale and size of some of the buildings but does not have an accurate picture of others. Our house in Kingsmuir was a single story house built of stone and called Dunvegan by some previous owner. We had an enormous garden where my father kept bees, and chickens and a turkey cock which was vicious and used to attack my brother. I had planted a sycamore tree in the garden, but this was no longer there as the land had been sold off and houses built on it, The spectacular view down the valley was undisturbed though and the farmhouse where the farmer’s son lived who contracted to marry me when we grew up was still standing, likewise the wood with the wild cherries where the pigs lived. I had remembered all this in the correct scale, as was the length of the walk I took to school which was about ten minutes in length.

To my great surprise the school was still standing, (a ruin now) though I remembered it as being about twice the size it actually was. It had only two rooms, and they still had the fireplaces that held the stoves that kept us warm. Our teacher, a Miss Sorley (I thought at first she was Miss Sorry) was a pretty young woman. She used to send me into the big girls’ (and boys’) room to choose a reading book from their selection. I noticed that when she took us out on a nature walk, she looked very tired after she had lifted each child up to see into a bird’s nest with baby birds in it. When she left, the class gave her a tea set, in which (this was in the fifties) each cup was a different colour. I thought this was extremely stylish and there was born a love of ceramics which is still with me.

I also had my first encounter with The Bully and with a cooperative group while here. The bully was a fat, ugly girl with a squint, unflattering glasses, freckles and lank reddish hair who terrorised everyone. Although I had been born in the town only a few miles away, I was a stranger in the village and therefore a target. I looked at this unprepossessing specimen of girlhood and thought there was no way I was going to put up with meddling from her. I concealed my resentment however and waited my opportunity. The bully was tough and strong – I would come off the worst in any fight, so cunning was called for. One day we were throwing bean bags to one another. I waited until it was my turn to throw to the bully and then I flung the bean bag with all my might, straight in her face. She doubled over, bellowing. Immediately I called out to the teacher, Oh miss, I’ve made a mistake in throwing the beanbag and it’s hit poor Muriel in the face and she’s hurt. I am so sorry! The teacher accepted my story, but the bully knew that I had hit her deliberately. I apologised profusely to her, but she knew I would keep up attacks on her if she did not desist. I had given her a face saving exit; so she graciously accepted my apology. She continued to be the bully, (I in no way challenged her) so long as she left me well alone, which she did. In the many schools I subsequently went to. The bully would come and have a look at me, think, Nah, and leave me unmolested.

Looking at our toilet block, I remembered something I had forgotten. It was a low building with a sloping roof. The school wall butted on to it. Children used to climb up on the school wall, scramble up the roof, and sit astride the apex, legs dangling. (Can you imagine reactions to this activity today?) Boys and tough girls could negotiate this unaided, but I needed to be pulled up to the highest point of the roof, and helped down. It was great fun sitting up high on the roof, (in reality it was not high at all) with the wind in one’s hair and a delicious sense of adventure and wrong doing. But I needed help from others – which was always forthcoming – and it taught me that although I believed as a tenet of faith that ultimately you had to walk alone, much could be accomplished by team work.

When it came the time to go, I left there without a backward glance, and I barely thought about that place again. From when I left there, I belonged to no place. But I can see, looking back on it, that Kingsmuir was a lovely village, and a good place to set out from on the long journey of one’s life.

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REFERENDUMS?

Someone asked me, last week, in the middle of a political discussion, what I thought would happen next. I had absolutely no idea.

I am continually surprised by how politician’s judgement of the mood of the electorate is frequently so wrong.

There seems to be a general assumption that if a election were called now, Labour would win. I voted Labour in the last election, largely because Jeremy Corbyn had been so badly treated by his party. (I know there is no logical connection between our mid Sussex constituency where we rejoice in having Nicholas Soames, friend of Prince Charles, for our MP, and Jeremy Corbyn, but voting isn’t a logical matter.). But if he with his red associates stood a fair chance of winning, would I vote the same? I doubt it.

I thought the Labour Party had behaved abominably but the Tory party’s disloyalty and poor treatment of Teresa May surpasses even Labour’s poor conduct. I’m not a Tory, and I’m not an admirer of Mrs May (she wears leopard skin shoes!). But she is in an impossible position. The people who should be supporting her are speaking out in public against her. Mrs May is perhaps not brilliant, but she has sticking power. She gets up every morning and she puts her best effort into her impossible task, day after day. She keeps her courage flying even though every man’s hand is against her. She doesn’t lose her temper. As a representative of Britain she is dignified and calm. She does not personally antagonise one the way Mrs Thatcher did. For these virtues one could even overlook the leopard skin shoes!

I think the mood of the British people is confused, alarmed and resentful. We were precipitated into a referendum by Cameron (in an effort to subdue a rabid element of his own party) with insufficient information. I was horrified to see, when the vote was cast, that the Leave side did not expect to win, and had no plan. After 18 months we are none the wiser about what the actual outcome will be in any given scenario. It has been an absolute mess from beginning to end and it’s not improving in any way. Most people do not understand the implications fully (I certainly do not) and I’m beginning to suspect that nobody actually understands the whole picture.

Not only do I not know what will happen next; I don’t know what SHOULD happen next. I would doubt that an agreement will be reached; the Tory party (or elements within it) and the DUP will see to that. They both appear to be obsessed with issues that are more important to them than EU membership. It seems to be the case that we shouldn’t have held the Referendum; but we did. I don’t see that we can keep holding referendums until we get the ‘right’ answer.

If the issue is put to the ‘people’s vote’ (was it not people who voted in the first place?) again I don’t know what the outcome would be. There is a case for the electorate being alarmed into voting for the status quo and staying put. But I wouldn’t count on it. We’re so disgusted with the whole business – the remainers, the leavers, and the European politicians – that we might just wash our hands of the whole affair and decide to put distance between them and ourselves. It’s a brave – or foolhardy – politician who would gamble on getting the ‘right’ outcome.

Mrs May is as good a person as any to be in charge. Can you think of anyone who would do better?

The only thing I’m sure of is that the whole thing is an absolute mess.

visits to long remembered places, c

c

This picture shows my Aunt MAIRI getting into a taxi outside our housem DUNVEGAN, in the village of Kingsmuir, Angus afer a visit to us, waved off by my mother and me.   I AM about 6 years old.   Picture courtesy of Eugene Windsor.

 

I was born in Scotland in 1949 in the town of Forfar, Angus and I lived there for a few years until my parents bought a house in a nearby village called Kingsmuir, and we moved there. We left there when I was 8, and in the sixty years that have followed I have spent at most half an hour in Forfar, and never returned to Kingsmuir. But this year, staying in Edinburgh and tiring of the over-crowded city, the idea of finding that village, using Sat Nav appealed to me. So we set off North and were soon whizzing smartly through Fife, across the Tay Bridge and up into Angus. Just short of Forfar we got a road off saying Kingsmuir.

I was surprised at how flat and wide the fields were. The land was rich and prosperous. It is odd how your memory correctly remembers the scale and size of some of the buildings but does not have an accurate picture of others. Our house in Kingsmuir was a single story house built of stone and called Dunvegan by some previous owner. We had an enormous garden where my father kept bees, and chickens and a turkey cock which was vicious and used to attack my brother. I had planted a sycamore tree in the garden, but this was no longer there as the land had been sold off and houses built on it, The spectacular view down the valley was undisturbed though and the farmhouse where the farmer’s son lived who contracted to marry me when we grew up was still standing, likewise the wood with the wild cherries where the pigs lived. I had remembered all this in the correct scale, as was the length of the walk I took to school which was about ten minutes in length.

To my great surprise the school was still standing, (a ruin now) though I remembered it as being about twice the size it actually was. It had only two rooms, and they still had the fireplaces that held the stoves that kept us warm. Our teacher, a Miss Sorley (I thought at first she was Miss Sorry) was a pretty young woman. She used to send me into the big girls’ (and boys’) room to choose a reading book from their selection. I noticed that when she took us out on a nature walk, she looked very tired after she had lifted each child up to see into a bird’s nest with baby birds in it. When she left, the class gave her a tea set, in which (this was in the fifties) each cup was a different colour. I thought this was extremely stylish and there was born a love of ceramics which is still with me.

I also had my first encounter with The Bully and with a cooperative group while here. The bully was a fat, ugly girl with a squint, unflattering glasses, freckles and lank reddish hair who terrorised everyone. Although I had been born in the town only a few miles away, I was a stranger in the village and therefore a target. I looked at this unprepossessing specimen of girlhood and thought there was no way I was going to put up with meddling from her. I concealed my resentment however and waited my opportunity. The bully was tough and strong – I would come off the worst in any fight, so cunning was called for. One day we were throwing bean bags to one another. I waited until it was my turn to throw to the bully and then I flung the bean bag with all my might, straight in her face. She doubled over, bellowing. Immediately I called out to the teacher, Oh miss, I’ve made a mistake in throwing the beanbag and it’s hit poor Muriel in the face and she’s hurt. I am so sorry! The teacher accepted my story, but the bully knew that I had hit her deliberately. I apologised profusely to her, but she knew I would keep up attacks on her if she did not desist. I had given her a face saving exit; so she graciously accepted my apology. She continued to be the bully, (I in no way challenged her) so long as she left me well alone, which she did. In the many schools I subsequently went to. The bully would come and have a look at me, think, Nah, and leave me unmolested.

Looking at our toilet block, I remembered something I had forgotten. It was a low building with a sloping roof. The school wall butted on to it. Children used to climb up on the school wall, scramble up the roof, and sit astride the apex, legs dangling. (Can you imagine reactions to this activity today?) Boys and tough girls could negotiate this unaided, but I needed to be pulled up to the highest point of the roof, and helped down. It was great fun sitting up high on the roof, (in reality it was not high at all) with the wind in one’s hair and a delicious sense of adventure and wrong doing. But I needed help from others – which was always forthcoming – and it taught me that although I believed as a tenet of faith that ultimately you had to walk alone, much could be accomplished by team work.

When it came the time to go, I left there without a backward glance, and I barely thought about that place again. From when I left there, I belonged to no place. But I can see, looking back on it, that Kingsmuir was a lovely village, and a good place to set out from on the long journey of one’s life.