WHA’s LIKE US?

SCOTS WHA HAE…

My eldest daughter Joanna is working as the Night Manager in a prominent Glasgow hotel, of a well known hotel group. She enjoys the job.

Of course in a city like Glasgow, it is impossible to escape forever some contact with violent drunks, but we have always felt that the majority of Glaswegians, from all walks of life being kind, friendly and helpful – gentlemen in the truest sense of the word – more than compensates for this problem. Glasgow men do not lack courage and initiative either. They dealt with terrorists at Glasgow Airport some years ago with deadly despatch before ever the police etc had arrived.

Joanna arrives on the scene with the incident in full happening and has to deal with it unaided and on the spot. She believes that generally the fact that she is a woman (and not one easily intimidated) is helpful because even a Glasgow villain would hesitate to attack a woman, certainly not in a public place. This man however is so drunk and so vicious and abusive in what he shouts at her, coming right up to her and yelling obscenities in her face that for a moment or two her courage fails her and she feels wobbly. She thinks, if he touches me, or if he reaches for a weapon, I will shout for someone to call the police. But in general she hopes to see the drunks off, either safe in their room if they are resident (often they are very big spenders with only occasional lapses) or out of the hotel if they are not resident. If the police are called, they come with all guns blazing, (metaphorically!) and the noise and disturbance upsets the other guests.

Somewhat to her surprise however she feels the offender hesitate, and he ceases abusing her, and just occasionally mumbles some protest sotto voce. He is not a resident, and he grudgingly agrees that she may call a taxi for him. Still feeling quite shaky, and thankful for the mystery of his swift capitulation, she turns round to get someone to summon a taxi.

Standing behind her is every male member of staff who is on duty, from the banqueting manager, the bar staff, the concierge, the night porter. Chefs are present in their white coats, one or two with the kitchen knives they were working with still in their hands. Other men are hastening towards them. They are standing, a dozen or so strong, quite silent, with their arms folded across their chests, in much the same way as the administration of the Scottish parliament received Cameron when he was foolish enough to go there. They are an intimidating sight. No wonder her drunk thought better of his treatment of her.

You could certainly ask of Glasgow men, Wha’s like us? (The answer being, Gey few, and they’re a’ deid – which isn’t exactly encouraging!) I’m married to a Glaswegian so I know all about this.

I’ve never been a daughter of the city of Glasgow though I’m fond of the city, and would be proud to be reckoned as one of that august body. I do not know if Joanna would count herself one of them either – she grew up in Sussex after all. However, the ladies of the City of Glasgow should be dealt with using extreme caution. If anything, they are more deadly than the males.

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FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

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FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

In the sorry mess that is Brexit, I’ve seldom thought anything else apart from shaking my head in disbelief at people’s (everybody’s practically) bad behaviour and stirrings of alarm (faint as yet) at the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.

On the day that Parliament voted so decisively against Mrs May’s proposal, I was interested in comparing the style of the two closing speeches – Michael Gove for the government, and Tom Watson (Labour) for the opposition. Both were very good speeches but they were utterly different in style.

Dealing first with Gove, I was quite amazed that he could deliver so effective a speech. I had him down as what in Scotland would be called a ‘nyaff’ – generally ‘a wee nyaff’ – which loosely translated means an annoying, useless, worthless person. Someone who has irritated you but you’re not going to take any action against him because he’s ‘just a wee nyaff’. Gove’s speech was like an attack by a wasp – a series of fast action taunts against Corbyn which were designed to annoy him and damage his reputation. He did get annoyed but there was no external acknowledgement of this. He listened without comment to the end.

Watson was altogether a more dangerous opponent. He spoke calmly and quietly and he began in praise of Theresa May. He said he accepted that she acted in what she believed to be the country’s best interests in all her decision making and arguments; that she had put a great deal of her strength and energy into securing a vote in our favour. His brief account of things painted a picture of a fine servant of the country and he in common with many others admired her energy and commitment she brought to every task she undertook. At this point the camera briefly scanned Theresa May’s face; she looked as if she was about to cry, so that I said, ‘Don’t cry, Theresa, don’t cry.’ She didn’t cry and he went on to describe how the country was sympathetic to her. He himself had sympathy with her, listing some of her difficulties. Then in the same calm voice he said that however good her intentions, she had failed. She had not succeeded in building a consensus on anything; she was inflexible; she had decided the course of action she was recommending was the correct one and although he did not say so it was clear that he thought the rabid right wing of the Tory party were dominating the actions being approved. She had failed and she alone was to blame for this state of affairs.

At this point one had to pause and think about what was being said.

I myself (never a Tory sympathiser) have some sympathy for Mrs May. But Watson’s speech with its generous acknowledgement of the Prime Minister’s strength and drive; her capacity to hold to her position no matter who was the challenger made you realise that some of Mrs May’s finest qualities are also a weakness and make her unable to take any view or plan apart from her own seriously.

I could dismiss Gove’s remarks as mere propaganda and malicious spin because they were – not outright lies, but details from his history which could be mendaciously spun. The history of the English in Ireland is capable of different interpretations, and to have sympathy for the cause of a united Ireland does not make one a terrorist sympathiser any more than to believe the time has come for an alteration in the government of our component nations makes one any less British. Nor does a desire to terminate the monarchy mean one cannot be a patriot, or that to sympathise with the difficulties of the Palestinians means one is anti Jewish. These are differences of opinion and there should be room for them all in a democratic country.

But with Watson’s remarks you felt that every word was true; and that he had examined her strengths and weaknesses with shrewdness, insight, wisdom and tolerance and was kind in his remarks and fair in his judgement.

He made me reflect that Theresa May on finding herself still Prime Minister but with a reduced majority just carried on as if everything was quite normal. Whereas we are having the greatest constitutional crisis since the Abdication, she has attempted the impossible, and tried to ‘fix’ the differences within her own party, scrabble up a few loose ends in other parties and win a majority in favour of her preferred solution.

She failed to recognise that the crisis demanded that she set up a cross party group, comprising MPs of all parties and other interested parties (Farage to be invited also). It would have had to be headed up by a Leave person. Also there would have to be whoever available to the government was recognised as an ace negotiator. (Theresa May certainly doesn’t seem to be one of those.) She and the cabinet should have carried on running the country and this special group should have been negotiating with Europe.

It’s probably too late for this approach now. Goodness knows what the outcome will be.

Tom Watson gave a good speech. He shone light in a dark corner.

 

WRITING THE PROSE

I wrote 33 blogs last year. I intend to write one per week but clearly I don’t always manage that.

The subjects were:

History 1

Clothes 3

English 1

Health 2

Sewing 2

Family 8

Weather 2

Holidays 2

Flora and Fauna 2

Politics 5

Interior Décor 1

I enjoy writing them, and I enjoy your comments.

PRESENTS

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Whenever anyone asks me what I’d like for a Christmas or birthday present I’m always quite useless at suggesting anything. This is not to say that there aren’t things that could be mentioned; only they don’t quite fall into the category that you would feel comfortable requesting. If they are affordable, and I want it, I will have bought it.

If they are not affordable… I’d like a necklace of aquamarines and pearls. I’d like a cashmere dressing-gown. I’d like a silk dressing-gown and matching pyjamas. I’d like a small clutch bag of emerald green snakeskin like the one I had that the dog ate. I’d like a teaset in fine china, teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, six cups, saucers and plates. Probably I’d never use it, but I would still like it.

I’d like a large black leather- bound notebook, with my initials in gold lettering and thick creamy paper pristine and without lines or margins, edged in gold, and I’d like to have beautiful writing to go in it. I’d like a set of six small perfume bottles, glassy and original, filled with different exquisite perfumes, every one of which I loved and which made me acquire some of them in larger sizes (or I could have that as a gift also.) However at the moment I can just about tolerate other people’s perfumes if they refrain from wallowing in a bucketful of it. I would like a pair of little finches in a cage whom I would release into our garden where they would eat what I fed them and stay clear of the cat. I’d like an Egyptian type kitten, all black with green eyes and a long tail, tres belle, and we’d call her Nefertiti. I’d like a section of a wood, on a slight slope mainly made up of beech trees, but with a few oaks, maples, elms and geans of the white blossom, with a stream running through it. I’d like a bay on the sea (the one between Banff and Macduff would do nicely) with a river running into it, wooded hills on either side of it where dolphins would occasionally visit.    No people would ever visit apart from people I loved.

I’d be embarrassed if I actually received any of that. It’s all a lovely fantasy.

It’s a bit like asking what weather we’d like. We would all like perpetual summer, where the days are warm and fragrant, full of light and birdsong but the oppressive heat of summer is not yet upon us. But we must take the rough with the smooth because if we monopolise all the good weather someone else is drowning in mud.

But some things are modest but nice and can reasonably be requested. Some embroidered handkerchiefs, or perhaps edged with lace. A silk scarf of colours that suit one. A pair of leather gloves, lined with silk. A large box of very good chocolates. A bottle of champagne. A new magazine or a novel you haven’t read by a favourite author…

Now you’re talking…

HANDBAGS AT DAWN (OR WHENEVE R YOU LIKE. )

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I need a new handbag. Today is my birthday and my husband, asking me what I would like for a present, nodded when I told him this and I knew he did not foresee the difficulties which would arise in obtaining one. For him it was a simple matter: a handbag, what colour, any other requirements? Left to his own devices he would have gone out and bought one and presented it to me, nicely wrapped, this morning. There would benothing wrong with his choice either. He has good taste. It would have been a nice handbag. I tell him that I must see it for myself and we should expect it to take some time to find what I am looking for.

Because I am unbelievably picky about handbags. Although I own 5 or 6 of different colours, in practice I very rarely wear anything other than my black leather basic. I cannot be bothered shuffling my possessions from one bag to another. Having found one, I keep it close to me. The one I’m reluctantly replacing has been repaired twice. I bought it in a village nearWinchester, whose name I cannot now remember which has a beautiful chalk trout river with outstandingly clear water.

I’m not looking for a cheap bag but Iwould be unwilling to pay more than say a couple of hundred pounds for it. I have no desire at all for a fashionable bag and paying £3,000 for a handbag seems to me a disgraceful extravagance.

What I would like visually – a small, square, boxy handbag, black leather and with its metal trim silverand a fastener that slotted into place with a click does not hold my requirements these days. For many years I bought my bags in France or Belgium and I wore a European man’s handbag.

But now the list of requirements is rather long. It has to be leather and black with silver trims. It must come within my budget. It must have a long and a short strap. It must be light enough for me to carry myself and it must not be ultra feminine as John will carry it when we are together.

It must have room for: a tin containing my drugs; a small bottle of water; a small plastic cup in case I need to take an effervescent drug; a small purse; a small bag containing the key to disabled toilets; a small pack of paper tissues; a small bag containing mirror, comb and lipstick; a handkerchief; my mobile phone and a notebook and pen and house keys.

The quest may take some time!

PS I had imagined a 6 month’s leisurely perusal of leather shops and websites but I had forgotten my partner’s legendary drive to complete what he has started. Facedwith hundreds of handbags on the internet, a dozen of which met my requirements, I thought, resistance is futile.

The bag arrives tomorrow.

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.

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.