step i wi' my cromak tae the isles

Monday, 15 September 2014

C'moan ya ba'as.  See they feart folk wi' bag's ay plooms? 
Oo'll batter th' soor bastard English or oo'll git a beamer.*

By Friday morning, it will all be over.  I've been listening to this with equal joy and melancholy. Its utterly incomprehensible lyrics perfectly reflect the tangle in my heart.

I was born in Edinburgh and went back to Scotland most summers as I was growing up.  My year there at school was by far the happiest of my silly education and I still see the friends I made there.

I see most of them because they, too, no longer live in Scotland.

It's rather interesting that my extensive weeks of questioning have revealed two distinct camps:

1. Expat Scots who say 'No'
They feel that leaving the union would be hasty, imprudent, bad-mannered and economic suicide.

2. English Folk who live in Scotland and say 'YES! YES! YES!'
They are full of wind and whisky and feel it's time the Scots had charge of their own affairs. It is beyond annoying to the expat Scots that this camp get a vote and the first do not.

There are also some Scots who live in Scotland who have always referred to me as 'that forrin lassie' and who hate the English with a breathtaking vociferousness that Camp 2 must surely be aware of.  They have not responded to my questions, but are posting lots of misty photos of heather-coated wilderness and themselves skirling about in tartan.

I am blaming my advancing years. but the impending vote has reduced me to hot-eyed lumpy throatedness.  Today, I bought a huge expensive armful of grey-blue thistles that reflect my current spiky fragile mood of fierce nostalgia.

I want us to stay together.  Nobody north of the border gives a stuff what I think.

*Look, there are our neighbours.  Let us give chase, for they have fruit.  Our honour is at stake.

No friend as loyal

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

As well as indulging in the annual shout-and-sew-athon that heralds la rentrée,  I am in such a sunlit-and-lazy-buzz end of summer, wafting about ancient hedgerows with bowls of brambles, that I have no desire to escape to any other paper life.  Had I not misplaced my reading mojo, it is usually around this time of year that I re-read, for the hundredth time, these fabulous books.

Because the bots need to transmogrify from feral teenbeasts to shod and shiny schoolchildren, I also, very sadly, missed the annual Gathering of the Friends of Tilling, a gloriously eccentric day in Rye for those of us obsessed by EF Benson's Mapp and Lucia series.  This is what they promised, the teases.
The day will start with a walk to Benson's grave followed by a ploughman's lunch and a dinner in the evening. After lunch will be a reading of a brand new Tilling story "Humble Soup" by Tom Holt. This new story, written especially for us will be read by Nickolas Grace. During dinner Gyles Brandreth will host our annual Tilling Quiz and it will be followed by Un Po-di-Mu.
I was fleetingly tempted to throw nametapes to the wind and hunt out some appropriate scrub and hitum, but Tilling, as someone should have said by now, will always be there.

There's a new series, too, with Anna Duckface Chancellor (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Miranda Richardson (Blackadder) about which I am thoroughly overexcited.  On the BBC this Christmas, as if there weren't enough gifts already.

For the Luciaphiles, further moments of happiness here and here.

an aching kind of growing

Saturday, 6 September 2014

We rented a Devon longhouse this summer, along with the Pretty One's family, some too-scarcely-seen cousins and a few friends for Rose to dilute the testosterone.

The ridiculous tropical weather burst the night before we drove down, so we panic-packed board games and all manner of wet-weather gear. We had planned a fortnight of sunshine and outdoor sports, and I envisaged gruesome, twisted teenage plots fermented under the dripping straw and tiny, leaf-blocked windows.

The weather was kind, though.  There was an ancient pitted tennis court set in a pewter-trunked apple orchard.  Those on ball-duty ate ruby-colored juicy apples and swatted wasps with the old rackets.  We knocked up for hours on end, trying to remember alternative tennis games we'd invented as children.  The husbands told of glory days jumping triumphantly over nets.  We thought about the distance to the nearest A&E and stuck to manly hand-shakes of congratulation.

Three of the children were awaiting major exam results and grew greyer and more dish-washing as the results day grew close.  They played table-tennis and swam and as soon as we took the dogs out, watched all sorts of unsuitable DVDs found in a cupboard.  We busted them spectacularly returning unexpectedly for a forgotten phone.  There were tidy rooms and laundry done all week.

The exam results came out at dawn on the second-to-last day. Proud parents, we bought local fizz and fish and feasted outside on a long, humid evening full of overexcited relief, texts to friends and the surreal talk of college and universities; sixth form choices and who would pass the first driving test.

There was a secret garden next door filled with bursting yellow wasp-flecked plums.  I went in with a bag to scrump some for a spontaneous addition to pudding and listened to the buzz and laughter from the terrace.  It was a moment filled, like my mouth, with the bittersweetness of endings and beginnings and the certain inevitability of change.