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.
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.