Today finds me up in the attic room of our house, sipping on strong black coffee, listening to Carole King’s Tapestry (click here if you’d like to listen along too), and typing away pensively.
Tapestry is the ultimate break up album, by turns soulful, melancholy, angry, sassy and warm. A friend when there doesn’t seem to be one nearby. Even the cover (Carole, barefoot on her window seat, covered in cats and smiling wisely) is downright comforting. And I need her right now – because as it turns out, breaking up is very hard to do.
Don’t worry, Mr D and I are very much together, but it seems that I’m being dumped. By Scotland. I feel like the needy ex-girlfriend, who’s increasingly undignified in her efforts to make the Scottish stay. Like the child of divorce, and even if ‘mummy and daddy’ do decide to stay together for old times’ sake, there will forever be a current of resentment, mistrust and animosity running under even the simplest exchanges.
‘Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool’ (Carole King, It’s Too Late)
I’ve been noticing it for years. Not just from Scotland. My Irish grandmother’s family settled in the Northeast and even as a child, I was subject to snide remarks from grown men about how I was a ‘bloody Tory’ just because I happened to be from the Midlands (which northerners tend to classify as ‘down south’) – I was eight years old! Once, my great aunt and uncle came to tea on their way to a Cornish holiday and proceeded to shout at my father for not being a Labour supporter (he never did say who he had voted for) after they asked him.
I learned that the closer you live to London, the more you are deemed responsible for governmental policies. Having said this, I love the north of England (where I have studied) and Scotland (where I have holidayed) and have met fantastic, open-minded people from both. I don’t want to think that the media scaremongering about mutual antipathy is true.
But mostly I’m just sad and resigned to this fate. Even a vote tomorrow to sustain our union will probably result in another referendum sooner, rather than later, until Independence for Scotland is reached. I’m in dire need of chocolate.
‘So far away, doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?’ (Carole King, So Far Away)
It doesn’t help that from 3000 miles away, I can’t ascertain the actual mood surrounding the debate. I read various British newspapers that all seem to be focusing on the alleged nastiness that has punctuated the Yes and No campaigns, and the accompanying comments that don’t seem to paint many people in the best of lights.
‘You can’t talk to a man with a shot gun in his hand’ (Carole King, Smackwater Jack)
Can I even believe the stories of violence and intimidation that are zipping around the internet? I was disgusted by one tale of a pregnant woman being kicked in the stomach at a No rally, but have not found it reported in any paper – is it in fact a myth created by cybernats?
I have a Scottish neighbour. He plays his bagpipes loudly every Saturday afternoon, and from what I hear, has been over here for about thirty years. I almost encountered him yesterday when I got caught up in the leashes of our local friendly dog walkers, with whom he was chatting. Slightly terrified, I did what I always do if I don’t want to deal with the British thing; I put on an American accent.
And so it transpires I have never actually talked to him, and do wonder if any exchange might contain some frostiness (I do so hope not), and if he has very strong feelings on the independence issue. But then, do either of us have a right to feel strongly about an issue neither of us can vote on, having left our shared native shores?
I have registered to vote in the UK by proxy, which in itself is an act of trust but may do more good than a tardy postal vote. I wouldn’t get a vote in the Scottish independence referendum even if I was still living in England, then again nor do any Scottish servicemen/women stationed abroad. We expats already feel slightly dubious about our ability to help decide the government of a county we chose to leave willingly.
So I’m going to sit up here, drinking my coffee, looking out on to these foreign rooftops, accept the outcome and hope we can still be friends.
‘There’ll be good times again for me and you
But we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too?
Still I’m glad for what we had’ (Carole King, It’s Too late)