Friday, 19 September 2014

The morning after.

The red mare and I ride out into dear old Scotland, who seems miraculously the same after the seismic events of the last few weeks. The clouds are low and the sheep are sanguine and the cows are having a nice rest. The blue hills are still blue. The birds are singing.

As my mighty thoroughbred swings along underneath me, I think: it was not a case of winning or losing. Those who yearned for a resounding Yes will be feeling bruised and deflated this morning, but they are not my opponents. I feel no sense of triumph. I remember, keenly, when I canvassed for one of my oldest friends, years ago, wearing out shoe leather walking door to door, with hope in my heart. He lost, and I disgraced myself by bursting into tears in front of an entire political association. But it did not mean that those who voted against him were my enemies; they simply chose someone else. Vague with lack of sleep, I think: you say pot-ay-to, I say pot-ah-to. (Although nobody actually does say pot-ah-to.) I think: we don’t have to call the whole thing off.

A mighty exercise in democracy was enacted last night. People who have never been politically engaged before found their voice, and put their shoulder to the wheel. The young people will have discovered, perhaps for the first time, what it is to fight for something in which you believe. That will not be snuffed out, even if they turned out to be on the minority side. I hope that the notion that they matter will be kindled in their hearts, and they will go on to fight other fights.

I am glad and relieved that the Union survived. Scotland roused herself, and showed that she mattered. The politicos in Westminster will have to think more about affairs in the north, and the Holyrood establishment will have to raise its game. Some of the clichés about Scotland may be put to rest. It is not just a land of shortbread and haggis and deep-friend Mars Bars and constantly falling rain. It has an amazingly active electorate, who turned out in their millions and made their mark.

And, for all that I had my aunt-ish spasm about some examples of bad manners, overall the whole thing was conducted with great grace. There is little glee or I told you so this morning; there was, after all, no fighting in the streets. Hands are being stretched out across the divide, as if everyone is remembering that there is more that holds them together than drives them apart. I see a lot of mention of hearts – each side voted from their heart, from hope and belief. I think that, yes or no, it was a vote from love, for this fine, ancient land.

Some hearts will be sore, and some unburdened. But what matters is that those hearts beat for something true, something that mattered, something bigger than themselves.


Today’s pictures:

Just one, no prizes for guessing of whom.

I know I put up far too many photographs of the red mare, but she is the love of my life and so funny and beautiful that I can hardly help myself. In the last few days, she has been my still point of calm in a frenzied world. No matter how fretful I grow about votes and book deadlines and work and life in general, for two hours each day she offers balm for the soul. She is like a meditation, because when I am with her I think of nothing else. My crazy monkey mind stops, and I am only aware of my physical self and her physical self, working in harmony. It is a great privilege to ride a thoroughbred, because of all that power and grace. I am only a puny human, but when I am on her, I have wings. Today, out in the wide green spaces, she offered me a dancing canter of such cadence and rhythm that I shouted aloud in joy. She is an absurd gift, and I don’t know what I did to deserve her.

19th Sept 1


  1. Don't know what it was all about, but Scotland should be so proud of itself for its turnout. In America, very few turn out for a vote; too lazy I guess. I need you to work with my Gracie. She is beautiful, but since she bit me, I keep her at arm's length; just a quick pat now and then. She is huge and I fed her across the fence for two years before the neighbors finally sold her to me. They didn't feed her, nor take care of her. Her mane and tail were black when she was young, but now are white and match her dapple gray coat. Wish she wasn't so excitable - semi wild.

    1. Donna - thank you so much for your kind words. I had to go right back to the start with the red mare and re-educate myself after so many years away from horses. There is a brilliant man called Warwick Schiller who has many training videos on the internet (just Google him), and whose methods I follow. Can't recommend him highly enough. He specialises in problem horses and is very clear and no-nonsense. Red spooked and reared and wigged out when she first arrived, having come from a top yard to bumbly me. She had no confidence in me at all, and she had a point. Now we ride in a halter and as you can tell from the endless blogs on the subject are partners of the heart. Really good luck. :)

  2. Fried Mars bars? Tell me that was not serious! Oh dear.

    One more thought (from an American, so someone looking from the outside): you write about traditional character traits and about the glory of Scotland. And I understand that. I think Scotland really is beautiful and the people are over the top special and friendly. But I was born in Poland, a country that has struggled with nationalism over the past century. How does one reconcile core values with an evolving, more heterogeneous population? I know, for example, that a lot of my (former) country men and women now call Scotland home. Are they included in the image of a true Scots person? I have these same questions for the French -- I spend a lot of time in that country and I truly love it, but I understand that my images of what it means to be French have to change over time. One thing that I worried about in terms of Scotland's push toward a separate state is that the brand of "Scottish" would be too narrowly described henceforth.
    Anyway, I am much relieved that you voted as you did. For very many reasons.

  3. Another thoughtful post - thank you. And thanks also for sharing your gorgeous girl with us - she is so beautiful! I love the notion of the two of you morphing into Pegasus!

  4. My heart isn't sore today - it is broken. I know that reeks of melodrama, but your blog is a haven of truth so even though you are in the opposite camp, I feel safe to say that here. I've been completely ambushed several times today by tears - usually by the kind word of someone from the opposite side of the fence. I know you don't - and won't ever agree Tania - but we had such dreams. Such beautiful, glorious dreams. And it really hurts to see them trampled into dust.

  5. I'm with Gilly - although I didn't burst into tears, I feel bruised. So much hope. As an American, replying a bit to the first commenter, I can tell you that we who don't vote do not abstain because we are lazy... it's because no one is running for office who is any better than any of the other louts. Every politician says what sounds good before the election, and proceeds to do exactly what they (and Congress) want to do afterward. Why bother to vote - it's like asking someone if they prefer their bowl of mud for dinner sprinkled with sand or gravel. I'd rather cook for myself, thanks. Also, if I don't vote, then I'm not directly responsible for voting for whichever worm ends up in office. Democracy is supposed to be headed by someone who represents the people, works for the good of the people... but it never works out that way.


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