This week, a visiting friend commented on how I visibly enjoy my cottage; I readily agreed, then thought about it. The balance of solitude next to a forest – with health care and shopping ten minutes away; yes – it feels ‘meant’ that this cottage and I found each other.
I’ve always enjoyed reading about the affinity between people and places: Ernest Hemingway’s fondness for Paris; William McIlvanney’s rare understanding of Glasgow; Paul Cezanne’s feeling for the light and landscape of Provence etc. The nearest I myself came to ‘re-locating’ was to the sea and sunshine of Andalucia; I felt a deep, almost ancestral connection to the region, and if life events had…. But my intuition senses that our personal ‘homeland’ is an inner construct that we need to understand and befriend.
When my spirit is lowest – typically when I am coming out of sleep – the awareness of what is ‘essential’ to me can fail for a few seconds – and I’ll panic. As my mind clears, it doesn’t conjure beloved places or possessions; what ‘steadies the ship’ are memories of a few people from my past and present, who smile with shared love. I’ve come to realise that such people are our real ‘home’. I remember a beautiful passage from one of the final interviews with Chilean poet/writer, Roberto Bolano: “ My two children are my only homeland. And, in second place, maybe a few instants, a few streets, a few faces or scenes in books – that live within me.”
When the UK golf establishment accepted Sky TV’s money, they knowingly consented to a paywall which excludes the great majority of the public; this, of course, has shrunk grassroots participation and golf’s place in the national conversation. While none of the media will mention it (the realm of paywalls), Europe’s current golf decline will be linked to its disappearance from the public realm for corporate profit. A functioning democracy requires that ordinary citizens, regardless of wealth, view and discuss common events, like football matches. A list of events which are of national significance – a democratically selected ‘commons’ – should be excluded in law from paywalls. The ‘enclosure of the commons’ should be made illegal. I started this rant in 2016.
I saw Keir Starmer on the Andrew Marr show and felt sorry for him – a nice guy, but out of his depth; after his conference speech, I’m not quite so dismissive. Conference saw an honest, solid, dependable leader and Labour now has a chance to formulate a ’serious plan for government’- a more effective opposition.
The Leave campaign pitched its post-EU Britain as an outward-looking world leader of principle – but it becomes clear we’ve traded our leading role in Europe, for a sub-ordinate one with the US. Referencing the recent, shamefully hurried, withdrawal from Afghanistan, this Conversation piece calls Britain a ‘stooge of the US’.
Predictably, there is hysterical media coverage of how Brexit is destroying Britain’s food and fuel supply chains – but we need to calm down. For those of us who want to re-join Europe as an independent Scotland, there are certain attractions to the Tories presiding over chaos; but it’s the families with no savings – no ‘reserve tank’ – who will be the main victims of a ‘winter of discontent’.
In recent years, I’ve noticed how some friends struggle with retirement; their work, it seems, was as much about identity as about livelihood. This article by a psychologist suggests that, while most people will choose uninterrupted leisure, for some happiness lies in fulfilling our potential – optimal functioning. It helps to know what ‘wellbeing’ means for you: ongoing engagement or beach lounger.
From ‘The Poor had No Lawyers’ by Andy Wightman (see review)
“Land is about power. It is about how power is derived, defined, distributed and exercised. It always has been and it still is thanks to a legal system that has historically been constructed and adapted to protect the interests of private property. The few counter-balances to this, such as the defence of public rights to foreshore or to burgh commons, have been significant but limited in scope. Ultimately, the dispensation of land we have today is the product of centuries of vested interests organising things to their own advantage. We are thus living with both a legacy and a culture that have become so ingrained as to be almost invisible and have been subject to only the most cursory and short-term critique”.