Monday April 26th
With the relaxation in Scotland of Covid restrictions, I had a brisk walk with friends and revisited my local erratic, Samson’s Stone, and the adjacent Iron Age fort. Thence we repaired to my local hostelry, The Lion & Unicorn (established 1635), for luncheon. Hurrah! Carrot and coriander soup, lasagne, and ice cream. Delicious.
I had sent last week’s blog, Horizon, to the letters page of The Herald, and they kindly published me, verbatim and unedited, under the banner headline, “A blind obedience to IT is stifling the human interactions that really matter”. I braced myself for ripostes and accusations that I was a Luddite. Actually, I’m beginning to think the Luddites may have had a point. They smashed the looms, but at least they didn’t damage the planet. We on the other hand are turning the landscape into a gigantic landfill site full of the detritus of our dark satanic mills. Maybe the Luddites were on the right side of history after all. As C. P. Snow said of the scientists, “the future is in their bones”. Dr Leavis thought that was a frightful cliché.
9.56 am. Oxford Astra Zeneca mark 2. Went like clockwork. In and out of the health centre under two minutes. Last time I felt like death warmed up for about five days. See how it goes. Meanwhile I perused The Herald letters page for hostile rejoinders. In fact, there were two letters of support, so I had no need to defend myself. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, came under attack from Sir Keir Starmer; he seemed reluctant to tell us who paid for the wallpaper up front, and was affronted at being repeatedly asked. Mr Blackford, flirting dangerously with unparliamentary language, asked Mr Johnson if he was a liar. It occurred to me that that is the sort of question that Bertrand Russell might have spent a decade trying to get to the bottom of. After all, if Mr Johnson had answered in the affirmative, and therefore was lying, what could that possibly mean? You see the difficulty. I think I would strongly advise any budding philosopher not to pursue such a line of inquiry. Let it go. Don’t enter that dark labyrinth.
No vaccination side effects, yet. To Perth, to stroll by the beautiful silvery Tay. I live in a Stirlingshire village sometimes dubbed “the middle of everywhere” and it’s perfectly true. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee are all less than an hour away. I walk round their airts and pairts, like Edgar Allan Poe’s The Man of the Crowd, simulating a sense of belonging.
To Edinburgh, in glorious spring sunshine. I parked by Fettes College off Ferry Road, the closest you can get to the city centre without paying exorbitant parking fees. From there I walked through the New Town up to Princes Street Gardens, the Mound, then down through Canongate to Holyrood, pausing for refreshment in the Palace Café. Then I walked round Arthur’s Seat. What a beautiful city. I am a Glaswegian who lived here for a decade, at the end of which time I was just beginning to break into Edinburgh Society. Actually I was treated with the greatest kindness. Nobody ever suggested to me that I would have had my tea. To Blackwell’s bookshop. Resisted the temptation to buy Jan Swafford’s new Mozart biography. First I will have to create some shelf space.
A visitation from Aberdeen friends. Back to the L & U. Carrot and coriander (it’s terribly good), chicken and haggis in a whisky sauce, and a flat white coffee. Then we had a walk round the local grimpen quag, Flanders Moss. Fine views of the highland boundary fault line. Got drookit, but ’twas good for the soul.
International Dawn Chorus Day. Another visitation, another lunch, a walk across the battlefield at Bannockburn, and a piano recital. Grieg, in nostalgic mood. Later, the only person in the country not to watch Line of Duty, I instead watched the final of BBC Young musician of the Year. A horn player, a percussionist, and an oboist. They were magnificent, but I was unmoved. Competition kills music. The percussionist won.
Monday May 3rd.
My latest tome, Cobra, is being published tomorrow as an E-Book, and tomorrow week, as a real book, in print, on real paper. Can’t wait – not so much for the electronic version as for the real thing. I’m delighted with the cover design, courtesy of Cherie Chapman, and I’d thought to post it on this site but dear me, I can’t figure out how to do it. I watched an on-line training video, and then tried to emulate the suggested steps, but to no avail. Then I made my own vain attempts by trial and error, always fearful that, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I would get out of my depth and then completely lose control while the cyber systems ran wild. Before I knew it, I would have posted a hundred and fifty million images of dubious provenance, irreversibly and in perpetuity, and I would forever be dubbed a troll, or a purveyor of bawdry, and a thoroughly filthy fellow. So, recognising the onset of symptoms of ennui and despondency, I packed it in. I have to admit it. I’m a Luddite.