Saturday, 10 September 2016

Scotland: family, dogs, politics and art

It’s wonderful visiting family in Scotland.

In fact, there are only two things that worry me about being here. 

One is the fine piece of art by my granddaughter Aya in her younger days, enjoining me to save energy. The message is fine but, if I see it first thing in the morning before I’ve got up, all it does is encourage me to roll over and sleep a little more. 

Fine work by Aya.  But with an undesired effect
The other concern is the automatic kitchen bin: walk past it and the lid springs open, looking like nothing so much as the open maw of a famished predatory bird demanding, “feed me, feed me.” It’s worse than Luci, our poodle, and Luci may be small but I've never known a creature more enthusiastic about being fed at any time. Even she, though, doesn’t seem as ravenous as that accursed bin.

Luci’s with us, as it happens. I’m not sure how much she liked the train trip, but she took it reasonably well. At any rate, I’m proud of her for having found herself a seat, which is more than Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, famously could on the same service a few weeks ago. He made a plaintive video about his experience; I’m glad to say Luci avoided any kind of whinge.

Luci showing she can get more comfortable on a
Virgin East Coast train than the Labour leader can
Scotland continues to be the one part of the United Kingdom with political leadership. It was that way under Alec Salmond, its still that way under Nicola Sturgeon (nothing fishy about those two). One of the characteristics of the historically great leaders is to fight the battles one can win and leave others to one side until circumstances are more propitious. Immediately after the Brexit vote, Sturgeon was waving the banner of a new independence referendum – Scotland voted massively to stay in the EU and would not accept being driven out by England and Wales. Now, however, Sturgeon’s putting all that on the back burner, saying instead that, “Scotland should have a conversation about independence.” So where’s the new reticence from?

Sturgeon can read an opinion poll and has the sense not to write it off. The latest shows that only 37% of Scots want a new independence referendum right now, and a majority would vote No again if one were held. So she’s proposing to go on discussing it but backs off from forcing the question right now. If only other leaders displayed such practical wisdom.

But enough of all that. One of the advantages of being up here, in the village of East Linton, was to get away from ghastliness of politics for a few days. It helps that we turned up just in time for the opening of the Art Exhibition, for which this year’s Convenor (like last year’s) is my daughter-in-law Senada Borcilo. 

Senada welcomes us to the exhibition
East Linton is a small village which seemed to face near-terminal decline back in the sixties. Launching the annual Art Exhibition in 1968 (ah, the nostalgia: the Paris May-June events were still fresh in our minds, the hippies were yet young) was one of the initiatives intended to rejuvenate the place. Since then the village has been re-energised, with a lively centre boasting new shops and a pub or two serving good food, a thriving school (Aya’s school) and, of course, a growing, vibrant Art Exhibition now in its 48th year. It remains true to its founding principles, ploughing profits back into the community and continuing to accept art from both amateur and professional artists.

Pictures at an exhibition
Winter Sun was one – or rather three – I particularly liked
The show this year is the biggest it’s had, making it the largest art show in a single venue (as opposed to open-studio type events) in the whole of the county (East Lothian). It’s a great show, with some eye-catching pieces.

A great change from the dismal picture of England’s political landscape.

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