Where home is

There’s a strange soft beauty about this place. It’s been 21 years and I’m still not used to it.

The ageing sandstone of buildings eroded by sun and wind and rain – simultaneously places of alien and industrial Georgian symmetry and still yet, looking as though they had grown from the valley, natural as the trees and the cliffs that slip to the river.

I live in a giant’s sand-glass that’s measuring out decades in softening window lintels and hollowed stairs and crumbling chimney stacks. The many sash and case windows multiple mirrors for sparrows and great tits and magpies – and nursing wasp nests in spaces between gently rotting wooden frames and stone.

My home town is blunt bastard of a place. Wrestling raw red brick and render and concrete from a blighted-looking plateau. Housing Schemes that squat down beside old bings and stunted, wind-blasted trees.

I was nurtured amongst the old coal dust and pigeon shit; amongst plain fair and auld cars kept running by paternal magic. I was raised by douce poverty and working class aspiration.  In a tin roofed hoose that became a rain and crow-claw maracas.

I think now, that there’s beauty in that blunt bastard of a place too. Not like this pretty honey-trap – which, despite its obvious beauty, always feels strangely transient – a ghost-community of souls who leave little trace, even day-to-day. But where I came from – there were tangled roots laid down there. Folk you knew – for good or ill – right down to the mammies and grannies and brothers and sisters and aunties, all shouting through spit-thin partition walls. Their joys and sorrows and everyday-ness, a hair shirt and sunday-best that we were all familiar with.

I used to look back with a gladness that I had escaped. That my own children were raised in this cradle in the valley – with the sound of the river to lull them to sleep. And it’s true, that I have no regret that we left and would do it again. There’s only this: that once you leave, there is no going back. The understanding that ‘home’ is more than the lie of the land or a place to sleep. That I am still more there than here.



I’m (not) in with the in-crowd

My week was dissonance and discomfiture.

I’m an ill-fit. In a new shoe type of way. Though I suspect I’ll always be ‘the new wummin’.

I’m not in with the in-crowd. I’m an unknown entity.

But that isn’t the main thing.

Described as ‘wan ae the high heid bureaucrats noo‘ (by colleague from years back) on the same day that I was either ignored or scrutinised behind-hands by the real, long-standing elite of the movement.

I know my role.

It’s to be servant, handmaid, to the big decision-making gatherings. To give effect to the policies that have been decided upon.

This post is as civil service as you can get – without actually being a civil servant.

A combination of general Political congruence and specific political silence.

Beyond the obvious, and beyond need for a political instinct, my views and opinions are irrelevant. Rightly irrelevant. I am a paid employee. Not an elected official. Which explains the silence.

And though I struggle not to be offended by those who take that silence for absence, I will put up and shut up. You cannae take the coin and do otherwise than as directed.

I did get a hint of a scent that the general perception is that I’m middle-class – in a class traitor type of way. A right-wing left-winger. That I’m not Political. That I’ve nae credible credentials.

These are big insults in a political world. And they sting.

But I’m not going to start squealing now. And paranoia is a bad look.

Like my old pal John used to say: ‘You’ve no got a glass head. How do they know what you think. And, come to think of it, how do you know what they think of you?’



Abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum

Violence takes many forms. And sometimes even the most strong-seeming people can be defeated if the violence takes a form that they are particularly vulnerable to.

I’ve had to do a lot of personal reassessment recently.

All in relation to male-on-female violence.

I was sexually abused as a child. By a male relative. My experience was mild as it turns out – mild in comparison to that of at least one of his sisters and of my other female cousins.

When I did eventually confront the abuse (as an adult – and after I’d left my child protection job – ironically protecting children from the very same type of abuse!) I remember contacting my aunt. We briefly discussed reporting what had happened – and ‘making him pay’. But in the end – for me at least – I just couldn’t go through with it. He was/is demented. He had no contact with other children and/or young women. My memories are not precise – in terms of dates/times. My Dad and my Mum would not be able to cope with any of this – though clearly they know and are appalled. And I was not prepared to turn my life upside down – becoming a ‘victim’ within a system that is notoriously poor at delivering justice for those who have suffered sexual abuse.

Shame, I now realise, was also a very strong factor in my decision not to do anything formal about it.

Shame that it had happened at all. Shame – because abuse taints you and that taint affects everyone.

As a child, I experienced the abuse as confusing and as dirty and as wrong. And I remember actively avoiding situations where I’d be alone with that uncle. Other than that, it just was. I never thought that deeply about it. I just sat and was a good girl. I acquiesced in the abuse. I passively allowed it to happen. In fact, I remember, aged about 7, when asked ‘do you like that?’ I felt obliged to say ‘yes’.

As an adult I feel the abuse as an invalidation – an invalidation of my existence as a multi-dimensional human being or as someone who is allowed to be honest about what she actually feels. In fact, when I think of the abuse I feel it somehow stripped me of my humanity and made me this ‘other’ pitiful thing. Worth less. Less than those who hadn’t been abused in that way. It taught me that much about myself: that I was less.

It also desensitised me to misogyny and sexual touch. So that my boundaries sometimes don’t work to protect me. They malfunction – particularly when in situations with men I find frightening. With men who don’t recognise the normal rules of social discourse – or who impose a macho bullying aggression on the world.

The weird thing is, few people intimidate. At least not now. Not in work or social settings.

But I have discovered that if exposed to that particular set of circumstances, then I freeze. I don’t fight back. I become pliant or passive.

I discovered this glitch in my system, a few years back following a bad but thankfully brief ‘experience’ with a male neighbour – and again, equally brief and shortly before Xmas last year with the same neighbour. Only, the time before Xmas has triggered this – this final comprehension of what it is that the abuse really did to me. So I am glad of it, in a way. And now have an opportunity to do something that I previously avoided: to testify in court against the perpetrator.

Not on my own behalf, of course, for that would be a step too far. But for my young neighbour who woke at 4am to find the same man in her bedroom, just staring at her. A man who’d tried her house door and – on finding it unlocked (this is such a quiet and good village after all!) – climbed up all four floors to get to where she slept.

She endured this man telling her she’d a ‘nice arse’ and asking to see her tits. She humoured him for more than an hour. Keeping him ‘happy’. Placating him. Before finally managing to talk him into leaving around 5.30am.

She finally told me about it in February. She’d been working abroad so I hadn’t seen her over January.

When I asked (the kneejerk insensitive question) why she hadn’t called the police straight away she said ‘but who would believe me? I mean, look at me…’ And I immediately knew what she meant. Because, I mean – I was less than his wife.

She then cried about the fact that she hadn’t screamed or got angry or fought.

She’d carried on a conversation as though they were both in the most normal of situations. As though it wasn’t the early hours of the morning. And he wasn’t an intruder. And she wasn’t naked under the bed covers. And he wasn’t making obscene suggestions.

And because I thought it would help her, I told her how I’d responded. Like it was my job to placate and soothe him. Like it was my responsibility to make him feel good about himself. Because if I managed to do that then I would be ok and everyone else would be ok too, and there would be no threats of violence against my family or property or slashed tyres (we’ve had many (9) slashed tyres that we couldn’t ‘pin’ on anyone but which came after some slight he’d perceived) or disgusting rumours or…so, for what would be less than a minute, I’d passively allowed him to touch me, like I meant nothing, like I was worthless, like I had no choice in the matter at all.

Funny thing is – she’d never have reported it if he’d just kept his distance. But he didn’t. And worse, he got his wife involved, having spun a cock-and-bull story about why and when he was there… So when his wife screamed at my neighbour ‘if you’re so concerned you should have reported it to the police’, my neighbour took her at her word and phoned the police…

Anyway – I’m not the only witness who can testify as to what happened and when, that night.


Abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

I was a child of misogynistic 60s and 70s Scotland. A world where men were breadwinners and the heads of their households and women were mothers and housewives. Expectations of – and for – women were so very low. And as a wee girl I was used to hearing the value and nature of ‘education for girls’ being questioned, doubted and ridiculed.

I was also taught to be a ‘good girl’. And ‘good girls’ focused efforts on pleasing people – on being ‘good’.

In extremis those early lessons and experiences regain their old power. In extremis I think we all might re-become our damaged inner child.

Maybe this is what age does. Or the years do. Live long enough and all the hurts and the harm that’s been tucked away, will surface. Live long enough and you are forced to face them.

I am afraid. I am still afraid to face them.

But I think that it’s time.

Brexit: A Zero-sum Game

I’m in the ‘path of least resistance’ camp. The UK’s rotten, rotting and outdated mode of governance has proven it’s not up to making decisions that are in the country’s best interests. Our politicians are incompetents. Stuck in adversarial nonsense land – when the decisions that need to be made require consensus-building and high-level negotiation skills.

FFS the folk that have been negotiating on our behalf are zero-summists. They’ve supped at Trump’s table and think ‘The Art of the Deal’ is where it’s at. They’d rather cut off their testicles than ‘compromise’ – rather die than shift their position and think about interests (other than their own of course).

And ‘no deal’ is where the path of least resistance takes us. All it requires is more of the same: nae vision; nae leadership; nae ability to agree or discuss or strike a bargain – though a veritable surfeit of lying, conniving arseholery is mandatory.

I fear the future and I am angry with the system that has brought us to this.

A poisonous right wing media has – for decades now! – drip fed a national diet of ‘immigration bad’ and whipped up such a completely irrational, evidence-free hatred for the EU. An anti-democratic first-past-the-post electoral system which produces a completely useless and anti-democratic two-party adversarial parliamentary ‘winner-takes-all’ system now – paradoxically – has us in a state of executive paralysis. And then there’s the rise and rise of a blood and soil English nationalism that will be the downfall of the whole house.

English nationalism is a peculiar cratur. It’s the bloody stunted misshapen child of  a Westminster that gave Northern Ireland and Wales and Scotland a positive conduit for expressions of national identity – but which short-changed the English by arrogantly conflating England with Britain. The reasoning proceeding thus: the English and England don’t need a devolved government! they’ve got Westminster! Westminster IS English!

The need for systemic change was my sole reason for voting Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum. And that reason has only gone and got itself bigger and stronger.

I’m fully aware that attitude surveys produce remarkably similar results for Scotland and England – and yet in Scotland we consistently vote for left of centre parties. Maybe the survey designers need to think more carefully about the way in which they frame questions and select options.

I am fully aware of the challenges that independence would herald. Not least, borders and currency and trade deals – which become even more pressing issues if England is out of Europe with a no deal and Scotland wishes to re-join its continental family.

I am also aware that there are some dark forces mustering. Fascistic. Populist. Authoritarian. And they already have purchase with the Brexit crew; the angry folk who feel that they have lost their country and who hanker for the mythical days of golden yore.

Politics and politicians, the leaders of our civic society – they have all failed us.

In Scotland, Labour became the establishment – and the usual accompanying establishment nepotism and small-scale corruption and complacency brought them down. The expectation of continuing power and the sense of political entitlement,  bred a generation of representatives who hadn’t a clue how to debate or argue – and gave us a great many who hadn’t a scooby why they were Labour at all.

And the complacency bred a curious political illiteracy. Like folk forgot to care about politics – because things were ok-ish for the majority; because politicians seemed increasingly irrelevant or worse, corrupt (expenses scandal); because expectations became so low.

When the collapse came for Labour – and it was always going to come – we ended up with the New Labour-lite SNP. Because folk were wanting a change – but no that much of a change that they didn’t recognise the political language or feel safe with their representatives.

Devolution has created increasing divergence between the nations of the dis-UK, though. Nowhere more obvious than the Brexit vote, with two thirds of the Scottish electorate voting remain. That’s two-thirds – remember – of an electorate that pollsters tell us isn’t any different in terms of ‘attitudes’ than England or rUK (sorry pollsters – you really do need to try harder).

The difference is in political rhetoric. Plus even the Daily Mail isn’t quite as rabid (it’s still rabid!) in its Scottish incarnation as it is ‘down there’.

I didn’t agree with Tam Dalziel and the anti-devolutionists ‘back then’ – but I firmly believe, now, that devolution will lead to independence. Perhaps not in my lifetime – though if there’s a soft Brexit then the arguments in favour of independence become stronger and may well hasten the break up of the union.

Brexit and ‘no deal’?

Yes, well, I think they’ll deliver up dissolution too – via a cultural, social, economic and political conflagration. A right wing ‘bonfire of the vanities’.

No deal will deal the death blow to our two party system. But don’t expect electoral and parliamentary reform to follow hot on the heels of their demise. Don’t expect an automatic shift to liberal and progressive politics.


Expect the rise of the far right and its chaos and demagoguery.

Expect and prepare for a battle – for progressive values; for Popper’s paradoxical tolerance; for an open and welcoming society; for a welfare state and workers’ rights.

Prepare to fight for all of this – fight that is, if you hold these things dear.

I wanna spend some more time in the gaaarden…

It’s been a while.

I’d lost my ‘voice’.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve fully recovered it.

There’s been no great traumatic happening. More an unhappening. A physical and mental unravelling – with plans set aside; vacation of my habitual role as the family ‘fixer-upper’ and all-round supporter and help-meet; and a donning of the robes of survival-mode.

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last year or more. Existing. Going to bed when I got in from work; sleeping poorly; avoiding responsibility; palming folk off and feeling ill.

I know there’s good physical reason for me becoming this pathetic cratur. And I can testify to the impact that the physical really does have on the mental.


I have fresh disdain at the ways in which my body is determined to humiliate me and I have fresh disdain for doctors and medics and nurses and ‘the system’. I also have the following advice: do not guffaw at ‘anaemia’. It sounds, well, like an anaemic excuse of an illness. Undiagnosed and left untreated, it wrecks some serious shit. So, if you feel like shit, get your doc to do a full blood count.

Aside from that? Well, it’s same-old, same-old.

The work/life imbalance feels worse. The yearning for holiday escape is probably the same. But there’s fewer resident children and cheaper food bills.

Mind you, this bit is new: talking and thinking about retirement is now a thing – a thing that we do.

We do it when we get a pay rise (the blessed ‘final salary’) or hear about a (slightly older) pal who’s retiring or bump into them, looking mildly scruffier but smiling and sounding happy and certainly less harrassed, especially as they talk about the clubs they’ve joined or the time they are enjoying just pootering about.

It’s a thing we do when we’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and are contemplating the stretch of work days before we get to a holiday. A thing that we do when we get to the end of a long awful week of stress and too much work and mealymouthed nashgabbing and paggering…


I need to be truthful.

I am a bit shocked by this development.

Especially as it’s the type of thing I contemptuously dismissed in folk who’ve already trod that path.

I had them written off as weak. As finished.

They’d joined the ranks of ‘I wanna spend some more time in the gaaarden’…

They had the stench of irrelevance and church candle wax about them.

And yet now, here I am, discovering that, actually, I quite like the smell of hasbeenery – especially when it’s combined with vanilla scented burning candles (you get great ones from Aldi’s).




Bit of a pish beginning

Well. That was a pish start to a job.

The first return to work was abandoned after 2 weeks.

I just went steadily downhill after that. A whole other 7 weeks. A whole other story – one that shows little sign of ending.

I am back again now.

Feeling like I was the prize catch that turned into an albatross. Or maybe not. Maybe I am just too sensitive. Reading too much into little nothings from people who are frantic with an excess of work – people I hardly know – people who don’t know me.

Anyway. It hasn’t been the best beginning. And I am still not entirely myself – though I hesitate to say that I am still recovering. I suspect this lower energy, old-feeling me is my new normal. And I just need to get used to her.

I also suspect that the physical illness has gifted me a mental depression. Like it wasn’t enough to scorch and excoriate my lungs and inflame every organ. It has left burnt earth inside my head. A dead zone.

And maybe that’s all just a natural response – as it should be.

I reason. Tentatively. I am just tired. My confidence has been crushed. And to top it all – I am the new girl – one who hasn’t time to be ‘new’ or to acclimatise – one who has to take decisions; organise; strategize; just know what the answer to the problem/s is/are.

I don’t much feel up to it. I don’t much feel like I’ve the energy ‘it’ requires. Nor the inclination to do anything other than sleep.

Yes, sleep.


I dream of sleep.

I dream of simply folding into myself and my bed. Into that velvety darkness of deep dreamless sleep.

Ah feck.

But there’s the rub.

Plenty of time for that when I am dead, says my sensible practical work-ethic wired head.

I will get there. I suppose. All things pass.




Well. I’ve survived so far :-D

I returned to work on Tuesday (past) after a (challenging) discussion with my General Practitioner.

I’ve spent all of today sleeping.

Recovery (I use the term loosely…) is taking longer than I thought. Turns out that GP’s sometimes know a thing or two…

thought that once I was breathing, more like a normal person, I’d be ‘my old self’ (the self who didn’t know about the other crap and was just blithely sailing on into the future).

I’m not.


look like my old self. I talk and laugh and joke and think (mostly) like my old self. I am just not anywhere near as energetic. Or enthusiastic. Or as resilient.

I am finding that I want to cry – quite a lot. And I spend considerable energy every day just suppressing that urge. My lungs still feel odd. Sensitive. Like they’ve been burned – and I am breathing through smoke. I am breathless and my legs ache when I climb stairs. I am not yet fit enough to do the moderate Walkway circuit – though I have tried.

Then there’s the too-fast-heart thing – not constantly too-fast, but just there. Occasional. Reminding me.

Of frailty. Vulnerability. Limitation. Mortality.

My very own glitch in the system. My on-board shit-faced irritant.


As for the work?

In the main, it was a typical new-start’s week: information coming at you in a tsunami of words and people and tasks.

Differentiation’s always difficult when it’s like that.

But I am starting now, to assemble the mental ‘filing baskets’ that will help me categorise and then perform the tasks that will be required of me.

There is much to be done. I don’t think I will be bored or unoccupied.

I’ll just leave it at that.