‘I got the train home. It was rush hour so there were four passengers. On an eight coach train.’
Roz pauses, scissors in hand. ‘At the start of lockdown I quite liked the novelty of a seat to myself,’ she says, meeting my eyes above the mask in the mirror. ‘Now I really miss the banter on the Glasgow train.’
Our daily constitutional takes us uphill. Late afternoon, defying a gloomy weather forecast the sun breaks through. We could take that as a good sign. Well, why not?
I knew about inequality. Of course I did. As journalist and editor I read and write about people whose daily lives are very different to mine. I did not feel the difference in my guts before.
Seven days and four nights in hospital brought me a close up and very personal view of the state of our nation. Across every part of the UK Covid has exposed the grotesque inequalities of our society. But it did not cause them.
After successful surgery I returned home to a genteel part of Edinburgh where people like me can expect to live 21 years longer (twenty one years longer, let that sink in) than people in the neighbourhoods my husband and I passed on our short journey to and from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. As I wrote for Sceptical Scot (see It Hurts Us All post below the line), I can see no solution, no genuine Covid recovery plan until we address that cruel imbalance. We seem to be hurtling towards a second devastating lockdown. Once again the most severe pain will be felt by those without the protection of secure homes and incomes. What is our plan?
Every moment her light was growing fainter; and he knew that if it went out she would be no more. “Do you believe?” he cried.Peter Pan: JM Barrie
I wrote a brief tribute to Edinburgh International Festival’s haunting celebration of theatre for Sceptical Scot culture section – with a caveat: we in the audience must do more than clap to keep the performing arts alive. And then I read the thrilling call to action by playwright James Graham in the Financial Times and I wanted to run through the city streets shouting.
Not by the wildest stretch of imagination is this an elegy. Graham’s article throbs with urgency for theatre to seize the opportunity to ‘come back better’, to be at the heart of restoring a ‘common culture’. Not just ‘national treasures’ – “theatres outside London are not “regional”. They are our “national” theatres, in the places where the majority of us live.” That applies, of course, to every part of Scotland. Now back to Edinburgh…
Flashback. One sultry Saturday night in the south of France last year I caught a glimpse of the near future hurtling towards us.
Begging to differ, a critical comment brings an unexpectedly welcome opportunity to step outside my social media cell.
Another day, another chaotic train journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Not much poetry on the tracks right now but one fine day I think I will board the West Highland Line with a musician and film-maker to capture the sight and sound of the best rail journey in the world.
This train is for Mallaig. The rolling stock has seen better days but for those lucky enough to be heading north there’s five and a half hours of magic along the line.
On a Wednesday morning early I took the road to Derry
Along Glenshane and Foreglen and the cold woods of HillheadSeamus Heaney: The Road to Derry
It’s almost always personal. My latest poetry blogpost for Sceptical Scot provides a selection of five poems for the General Election. I wanted to balance the persistent drumbeat of divisive politics with different voices. I kept more intimate feelings to myself.
Children play football in the sharp spring sunshine, bright
voices bouncing round the walls of close-packed tenement housing. We have reached the right place.
And after the snow melts…snowdrops. Good to walk without plunging up to the knees in white stuff. Even better to feel the warmth of the sun. For the first time in two weeks the road to Pond Cottage is open and, apart from the odd Henry Moore shapes emerging from what’s left of roadside snowdrifts, the Siberian front has retreated. Continue reading