The man in front of me said something to me, and I couldn’t understand one word. It sounded like English of some kind. I could recognize vowels – and wasn’t there a ‘question’ in there? This filled me with joy, and I couldn’t help grin. The man moved away before I could ask him to repeat himself, and I realised that I was finally in Scotland.
My uncle had brought my Scottish aunt and one of the cousins to meet me. In a very rainy Stirling, we stepped off the train at about four pm yesterday. Our original plan was to join our Scottish cousin in London in his car, but our Scottish cousin had to stay behind. We either had to cancel, or to take the train. We decided not to cancel, and I had promised a friend of mine to come up and spend New Year’s at his place.
It was something I looked forward to. Hogmanay is said to be something special, and I wanted to see it for myself. Mark wasn’t so keen, but that’s just him. He doesn’t like crowds of strangers, but in that ever ebbing and flowing stream of compromises we make with each other, it was his turn to yield to me. I insisted, and now we were in Scotland.
After all, I just compromised with him and his parents to do that gig. It went well. Apparently several people had approached Mark’s mother, and told her that they enjoyed my singing. One of them even asked her if I had done a record, so I suppose that’s an endorsement.
My friend up here in Scotland rang three times over the course of the day, and we made plans to ‘meet and greet’. Except he warned me that ‘greet’ didn’t mean the same thing up here as it did in England. He hoped that we wouldn’t have to ‘greet’ much. I’m still not sure what he means, but I guess I’ll find out. After we met briefly to stash our gear in his flat, it was back to family.
When we got into the car at the train station in Stirling, my uncle immediately started to talk about politics. It’s one way to realise he’s part of our little clan. This obsession with politics. But then again, he’s gone from being a socialist firebrand in his youth to being a trade union rep in his job. He’s the one who bolted out of England just because of Thatcher, isn’t he? Now he wanted to talk about Labour. And independence. One of my cousins, who was with us in the car, told him to shut up about it for once. There was that word again, him ‘greeting about it aww the time’. I don’t think it’s a positive word.
By the end of last night, three people had wanted to talk about politics. And independence. I get the feeling that the question isn’t as dead up here as I thought it would be. When I spoke to Callum, my friend in Edinburgh, for the third time I asked him. I could almost hear his mental sigh over the phone. ”Scotland has changed a lot in the last year.” As if that was enough of an answer. I’ll have to ask him.
Mark has this amazing ability. He can fall asleep anywhere. I always have trouble sleeping in a strange bed the first night. That’s what’s happened now. I fell asleep for a couple of hours, then woke up. It’s four thirty in the morning as I write this. At least I got a couple of hours sleep.
Outside, I can look up toward the castle. I can’t see anything because of the weather. But the light is different. The sky is different. I’m not in Surrey anymore. That kind of fills me with excitement. On Thursday we go back to Edinburgh, and there we’ll stay with Callum. We’ll go out and do the Hogmanay thing. I can’t wait. Maybe I’ll meet someone else who I can’t understand a word of.