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The boy

The pages of Jean’s book made a satisfying deep rasp as she turned the next page. The thick, still air, the calm before a July storm, cloaked her in quiet and warmth. The bench could have easily been her couch.

A short, clean “Hi” cut through the stillness. A gangly boy, almost as tall as her, peered over at her book, before slumping uninvited at the other end of the bench

“What’s that?”

She turned the book over to show him the title: “It’s one of my favourites.”

This left little impression on the young man but he pulled himself further onto the bench, his legs sticking out in front, and quizzed her on her reading. He told her about his favourite books (they were unashamedly juvenile, as they should be for a boy his age). His eyes never left hers.

Jean placed her book back in her bag to better concentrate on this animated youngster.

He brushed a flopping fringe from his eyes and her mind was thrown back to a school desk and a brown-haired boy who’s hair flicks left her face hot and her jaw fixed shut.

Jamie had been in her class since primary school. A quick boy with an unshakable smile and boundless energy. In her mind she would run through jungles with him, climb mountains. He was adventure, wildness, joy. The quick wild boy and his untameable hair.

Jamie took her to her first school dance. He walked her home almost every afternoon after that. Their first date was a hike and a picnic. Proper Scottish rain turned their picnic into soggy mush and the smell of ozone clung to them as he rushed them into a cafe on the way home. Drying out over hot chocolates, he kissed her. Marshmallows still stuck to their noses. He laughed, blue eyes sparkling as he flicked his hair away in a practised, unconscious movement.

There were more kisses in the weeks to follow. Then they lost each other. Jamie’s mum got a new job and he was gone. Kisses were spent after that, wasted on others who could never give Jean the world.

She didn’t know what she’d lost until she found it again. At a friend’s wedding, out of the corner of her eye, Jean spotted a familiar hair flick and she never wasted a kiss again. They saw the world, less jungles and mountains but more adventure than she dreamed.

The young boy in front of her waved to get her attention:

“You were away on another planet!”

Jean laughed:

“Actually I was all over this one.”

The boy blew at the hair drooping over his eyes:

“Granny, Mum thinks I should get a hair cut, she says it’s ‘wild’.”

Jean smiled:

“There’s nothing wrong with ‘wild’.”

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Posted by on 16 June, 2018 in writing

 

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Sugar tax

I flick the edge of the container, to save myself the mess. An old habit.

My opiate, my addiction, benign and made benevolent by a lifetime of positive experience. The poke off sweets. The ice cream float. A caramac and a Beano as my granny takes me home.

Another few grammes after so many. What harm could it do?

It is my stroke, my diabetic ulcers, my heart attack, my cancer.

How little I think of it and how much. Every man has a vice and mine lives in youth, it is comfort, it is joy, it is reward.

A swirling wonder, bursts of energy, after a long day. A routine. One solitary wee bottle of bru on the bus home.

They’re taxing it now. They say I shouldn’t.

Today I bought two.

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Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face

a3d07eb45c1e9938550314c8076c86b6I’m not the most vocal ‘Yes’ voter in Scotland, to be honest I’m one of those people who would have voted for devo max if had been an option (what Westminster offered in the final weeks was laughable, unbelievable, and didn’t sway me for a second). That said, I did come to see the merits of our country standing apart and answering to itself for it’s own failings and celebrating its own achievements. There was a positivity in this country that I had never seen in my three decades here.

Once the dust had settled I was sad to see the slightly pouty nature of some of the ‘yes’ camp in the weeks after (some are even now still pouting). Though I should point out that a bit of pouting is nowhere near as bad as the disgusting unionist display in Glasgow, described as a ‘celebration’ (though this was clearly a very noisy minority of ‘no’ voters). That said some of the ‘no’ camp have developed a general smugness which doesn’t seem in keeping with the ‘togetherness’ they claimed to represent. The bit that bugs me is that neither camp seems able to remember what their side represented.

On one side we have the ‘Yes’ supporters, a group which made a clear effort to mark themselves out as people who were ready to muck in and help build a whole new country together if the vote went their way (no small task). These people caught me, the positive attitude, their willingness to take off the blinkers and see that something, anything, needed to be done to change a system that has left most modest-sized towns in this country with a food bank.

On the other we have the unionists, (calling them the ‘no’s seems a little negative to me). If we take them at their word, these were people who didn’t want to see a collection of nations torn asunder. They saw the yes campaign as pure nationalism and worried that it would go too far, that English, Welsh, and Irish people might be made to feel unwelcome in a post-devolution Scotland. Personally I don’t think that would have happened but to be fair we can’t know.

So here’s the problem, we have unionists who are demonstrating something that’s a long cry away from the togetherness of ‘better together’ by laughing at their fellow citizens’ plans to make a change, to try and help build a fairer country.

On the other side we have yes voters who have lost their spark, the worst of them seem to relish in any problems our country has post-no with a slightly anarchistic ‘I told you so’ in the way they address them.

It’s not fair to this country and it’s not fair to the ideals of the campaigns that either of these kinds of people decided to follow. On one side we have a cry for togetherness and understanding, underneath which there was often a recognition that things are bad just now, but that we could work through that ‘together’. On the other is a group who once saw themselves as nation builders. Admittedly the new task ahead may be less grand sounding but it’s still important.

Our country is in trouble, we need new industry, we need new jobs but most off all we need the energy and cohesiveness of our people to pull ourselves up after our bit of self-discovery, to be a nation again. Not a nation ‘who fought and died for..’ but instead one who lives for the future, who lives for each other and wants to see the people (any people) who call Scotland their home do well for themselves. We should not relish in our neighbours’ misery because their misery is our misery. For better or worse, for the time being, we are in this together, we all had so much energy in September, the winter will be over soon and I think it’s about time we all got back to work at improving our lot.

Thanks for reading, as always comments are more than welcome in the section below and you can catch up with me over on Twitter, All the best, John

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Posted by on 16 January, 2015 in Philosophy

 

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Small town philosophy

1236837_914517181911287_1936006581401853506_nWe might expect perspectives to be very different relative to where people live, but the truth can be much more subtle. I’ll admit that living in the countryside can mean that things like solitude can be taken for granted but, as a fellow member of Crieff Philosophy Society pointed out, someone in a bustling city could feel more alone than a country bumpkin out on an empty hillside. It’s all relative.

So what is different about small-town philosophy? To be honest I think the lack of higher learning institutions and the more sparse population can add more potential diversity. In a city it’s (relatively) easy to find like-minded individuals, whereas in an area with a smaller population you often have to be happy with similar-minded individuals. Though this might sound like a negative thing it can actually be a more rewarding experience than just meeting with people who agree with everything you have to say (more or less).

In a city I would probably be socialising with a very similar demographic to myself. That’s not to say a wider, more diverse, circle of friends couldn’t be had in a city, I’m just noting that it would be easier to find like-minded people in a city given the population density. In the countryside you’re kind of forced into a broader circle and it can be extremely rewarding.

The philosophy society has been meeting for around two years and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the conversations, the differences of opinions, and the alternative attitudes I’ve encountered in our wee group.

Our numbers look set to swell a little in the next few weeks/months, at least if social media is anything to go by. I recently set up a Twitter page for the group to run alongside our newly arranged monthly get-togethers which will be informal nights out, focussed around a chosen topic, on the first Thursday of each month. All these initiatives seem to be exposing the society to a larger portion of the local community and I’m hearing a lot of positive feedback.

Our next get-together is on 6th November and the chosen topic is identity. So expect more posts on gender, nationality, nature vs nurture etc. through the course of October.

If you’re lucky enough to be part of a philosophy group, either in a town or city, what have your experiences been like? Is it equally as easy to find diversity in the city? What kind of events work best for your group? I welcome any comments or suggestions you have in the comments section below and, as always, thanks for reading, Cheers, John

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Posted by on 5 October, 2014 in Philosophy

 

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Scotland: A Nation of Philosophers

125371-satellite-image-of-scotland-without-any-clouds-taken-on-may-26-2012-from-neodaasuniversity-of-dundeWith eyes peeled open to the realities of what politics really involve, over three million people took to the voting booth last week to decide on the future of their country. In the run up to this vote being cast we in Scotland were bombarded with such a swathe of information from both sides, and in a host of mediums, that for the last few weeks those who were taking their vote seriously (and I think that was a very, very large majority of the Scottish electorate) became fully active philosophers.

For me the term ‘philosopher’ refers to a certain type of individual; open-minded, yet sure of their own stance, critical of information sources, yet humble enough to recognise the limits of their own investigative powers, and most importantly a person who actively engages with the world around them and sees how things connect and how varied human interpretation of the way the world works/should work can be. I spent nearly ten years studying the subject and working in the field and this is what I gleaned from it.

Keeping this in mind we can (and should) of course celebrate the sheer magnitude of democratic action we saw when over 80% of a nation voted on something. However, the more interesting thing is what this referendum has done to all of us, it has changed us, made us more accepting of difference whilst making us more aware of our own traits. On top of this we have come to see the fallibility of once trusted institutions like the BBC and various different news outlets but at the same time we’ve come to recognise that our view of the world is not the only view of the world.

We have always been a fairly cynical lot but our new-found critical edge is very distant from the flat, tired, almost unthinking cynicism we used to have about things like political promises and the behaviour of our media outlets. We’re waking up as a nation, whether a yes or a no voter people in this country are no longer willing, or even able, to simply accept what they’re told or what is done to them. We have become active, engaged and interested in defining and understanding the nature of our nation and in deciding what might be best for all of us.

The critical eye is open and tired cynicism is on the way out, we don’t simply find problems and exclaim mistrust any more, we are becoming a nation who wants to work at solutions and one that demands that those who seem to expect our trust must first demonstrate that they deserve it. I have not been interested in politics since I was at high school but right now in Scotland the nature of politics is about to get very interesting indeed because a nation of philosophers has opened their eyes and they want to see things change.

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Posted by on 27 September, 2014 in Philosophy

 

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