Wotcha

If you like my soapbox moments or share my passions, grab a coffee or a gin and get comfy as you’ve happened upon my read me here update and it’d be great to have your comments along the way.

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Firstly, I’ve written as a guest blogger on The History Girls Frae Scotland recently.   I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love The History Girls Frae Scotland site for all its content, best described by themselves as ‘History, Heritage and Hilarity’, it’s a total delight.  The post I’ve written for them is about why, pushed by modern and historical politics, I came to create the website and online community I run called The Grantidote.

TheGrantidoteTrioThe Grantidote is a collection  of real women’s stories from people’s knowledge of grandmothers and other women who impacted their lives.  The Grantidote’s purpose is to create an intervention to a male-centric society in which toxic masculinity’s been normalised.  This may sound like heavy work but the reality’s different – it’s a pleasure and change never felt so accessible to me than through this simple but profound portal.  If you think you’ve a story about a woman to tell with me for this important archive, regardless of your gender, please get in touch.  Contributions can be little or large and I’m interested in getting graphic storytelling and spoken word included too.  Basically, the door’s wide open and the mood’s uber welcoming.  Dive in!

Second up, I was recently interviewed by Jane Woods for Changing People.  Changing People works with businesses and individuals to address gender imbalances in workplaces.  As someone who doesn’t have a career, this chat was terrifying and affirming and had me thinking so much about the discomfort and inadequacy I’ve felt over the years about the informality of my work.  My insecurities here are informed by quite extreme anxiety about money and security dating back to my teens, compounded by adult experiences with post-natal depression.  It was therapeutic to be able to step back from anxiety about my identity and see a bigger story I’m tentatively proud to call my own.

Third and last (and really joyfully) apart from a wee bit of novel writing and nurturing short stories and poems for competitions, I’ve also created spoken word content for Fearless Femme, a frankly brilliant new social enterprise based out of Edinburgh.  Fearless Femme will be providing, ‘a membership community where young women dealing with emotional and psychological challenges can connect with one another, and an online magazine that provides a wealth of advice and inspiration on improving one’s mental health.’  I mean, could it be more my thang if it tried?!?!  Watch this space for brilliant badassery kicking off in early 2018.

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52and40/8 Spirit Level

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I’ve known folk who did everything for change and, at the end of short and happy lives, died.

When change moves at a glacial pace it’s hard to know what the point is.

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I think the point is to make your life a laughing one full of hopeful risks and challenged potential anyway, even if the only payback is a clear conscience.

A clear conscience is a radiant experience, after all.

Change is drip-fed right up till the millisecond the damn breaks against the pressure.

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Maybe change is closer than we know.52and40-1

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What’s all this #52and40 malarky anyway?  Read all about it here.

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Days of Miracle and Wonder

It’s ten to one in the afternoon, I haven’t left the house apart from to hang up the washing in the garden and already I’ve been given six cues to not like myself very much.

When I checked Twitter this morning I had four new followers and six of my tweets had been favourited overnight.  Yay x 10!  Except no.  Three of the new followers were accounts with timelines full of before and after pictures of women who’d used anti-ageing treatments.  Three of the favourite clickers were similar accounts and another was a diet zealot with a bio urging me to get the secret now about how I too could have a body I could love.

The assumption being with all of this cack is that I don’t like myself.

It’s assumed I don’t like my skin.  It’s assumed I don’t like my face.  It’s assumed I don’t like my weight.  Ergo, it’s assumed I pretty much don’t like me.

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It’s also assumed that we can just ignore this kind of shit and pretend it doesn’t get in by osmosis.  And yet…. it does get in.  Because we’re conditioned to let it in.

I block them all but, dammit, it’s already slightly too late.  Their messages shout cheeky one liners from the back of my brain.  They’ve got into the bit where all the messages I’ve seen that tell me not to like myself exist despite the fact I regularly go back there and bludgeon them.  What can I say?  They’re persistent because they’re omnipresently backed up.

All those billboards, all those ads in expensive magazines where a woman sits wearing two grand worth of clothes, airbrushed to buggery and firmly artistically directed not to smile.  Having it all means looking like someone just pissed on your dinner – right?  Wasn’t that the message I was supposed to receive?  Whatevs.  The only thing we can be sure about is that even having it all doesn’t bring happiness and as women we’re supposed to stay thick enough not to notice that (and keep flicking our cash at the naked emperor).

Then there are the TV ads.  The ones that make you want to gouge your eyes out because they make you realise that if these ads still exist too many people on the planet think women are just naturally better at cleaning and baby-care than men and men are much better at doing flipcharts and power enhancing worky things. Duh!

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So I’m clearing what messages I can and turning on a different kind of TV.  This time I’m going for Tunnel Vision.  I will sing out loud when I come across women-hating Twitter accounts and have to spend three seconds blocking them.  It’s really hard to take in subliminal messaging when you’re singing Boy in the Bubble from Paul Simon at the top of your lungs.  I’ll keep treating misogynistically coded billboards and perfume ads as if they are shite-coated scorpions rising up in front of me; the only appropriate response being to scream and run or karate chop and spit F words.  I’ll keep watching Netflix instead of normal TV because life without the ads and the pop viewing bullshit is like gifting yourself two entirely new brain lobes.  I’ll hunt out the reality that chimes with me instead – stories that tell tales about women knowing their explosive worth and men who need more than a Playboy jumpstart to get turned on.  I’ll keep engaging in stuff that advances arguments littered with intelligence and creativity.  When the shitty parade of society rolls up in front of me to reinforce patriarchal messages I’ll turn the music up and show it my (gyrating, non-aspirational) ass.

In a hilarious act of radical defiance that’ll make men and women everywhere roll their eyes and wish I’d just get over it, I’ll continue to have the audacity to like myself.   

n.b; I was going to link to Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble video on YouTube here but sadly it would’ve meant subjecting you to an ad from Febreze featuring two women (and zero men) dancing joyfully around a perfect light and child filled home, generally having a marvelous, life-fulfilling time of cleaning.  Obviously I can’t be complicit in that kind of shite so here’s a subversive thrill from Malala Yousafzai instead.  I’m sure you have your own soundtrack that makes you feel great to accompany her, if needs be.

12 Powerful And Inspiring Quotes From Malala Yousafzai:

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I’m working on clearing a great big thing right now.  It’s tightly bound with a lot of the things I thought about last year along the themes of self-actualisation, self-esteem and self-sabotage.  The thing I’m clearing is the programming of a few hundred ideas and memories that all lead to one beautifully pleated but ultimately useless conclusion about womanhood and martyrdom being intertwined and about my time somehow being less valuable than my husbands or that of my kids (and, on some days, that of my neighbours, friends, yadda yadda, you get the idea…).  The bottom line is that I seem to have a default position of being quite keen on pushing myself to the end of the list and then moaning when I find myself, quelle surprise, grasping at the farts of my dreams.  In essence, I still have some dodgy software on board and it’s fucking up my printer.

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As my kids start to really think about their futures as adults I’m acutely aware of bunging in as much good modelling as I can before they take wing.  I want them to see that home is a place they can come back to in any version of themselves.  I want them to see that they need creativity like they need vegetables, movement, sunlight and laughter.  I want them to witness that all people are equal until someone starts playing out a scenario that oppresses others or oppresses themselves and that often that oppression is unintentional but to never become complicit in it.

So how to model all of that?  I find the answer is increasingly simple – by living it.

You’d be forgiven for thinking all of this sounds familiar because you’re right.  I’ve been here before.  It’s a station my train frequently pulls into because I find this deprogramming work needs constantly revised.  And why wouldn’t it?  Every time we switch on the telly, see a billboard or thumb through magazines we’re fed messages that women do children, cleaning, sex and body hate while men are for work, play, money and adventure.  A huge percentage of older people in our society reaffirm constantly that gender balance is something new age to have a wee giggle at.  So I figure that until the messages going in are balanced we’ll have to keep re-balancing them for ourselves.

I remember the first time I went for a run.  I was shit at it.  I had to do it again and again and again and again (repeat for about 2.5 years) until I started to feel like it was part of me – that the being a runner was at least as ingrained as the not being a runner.  Forming new habits takes time, especially when we have a whole cacophony of crap going on in our thoughts urging us to jump off the merry go round and into the crash mat every time we get disorientated.  The thing that makes me persist is the idea that I really want the result because intuition is determined that it’s the right thing and who the hell said it would be easy anyway?  

My thoughts are playing hide and seek on this whole deprogramming sexism thing.  It reminds me of standing in the playground at school when I was wee, turning 360 on the spot and trying to catch a glimpse of any movement of someone else in the game who was trying to get back to base without my detection.  Sometimes it was the flash of a jacket sleeve that didn’t match any of the other sleeves in a gaggle of girls.  Sometimes it was the glimpse of a bare knee above a white sock hiding among a huddle of grey trouser legged boys.  Sometimes it was someone’s face appearing from halfway up the corner of a white harled wall and then snatching backwards again, out of sight.

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I think we have to train ourselves to keep seeing it, to start remarking on it every single time in order that it gets absolutely no sanctuary in our decisions or changing self-image.  To scan the playground and notice the thoughts so they don’t get back to base before us.

This deprogramming work can, of course, be a little unsettling.  Unpicking beliefs that have shaped identity, experiences and personality is like walking into your comfort zone as if it were a cosy room and setting at bits of it with a pickaxe.  Shelves fall down on one side.  A previously perfectly propped cushion lands face down on the rug.  The tie back goes missing from one curtain and pages get ripped out of your once tidy stack of magazines.  Then there’s a phase of simply learning to sit down anyway; getting comfortable within the uncomfortable followed by reorganising things so they’re less fragile.  Putting up a new pickaxe proofed shelf.  Choosing new magazines or chucking the lot in the bin with a yee-haa of liberated delight.  Ripping down the other curtains and getting someone who knows what they’re doing to make you roman blinds for the joy of their simplicity, common sense and beauty.  Putting the cushion back unpropped and unplumped, because it’s easier to relax and sit back like that without a thought to what appearances you’re despoiling.

This morning a Twitter friend shared this wonderful footage of Jada Pinkett Smith talking to her daughter about life balance.  Whether a woman has children or not, what Pinkett Smith has to say is undeniably powerful.

Bottom line: when we fail to act upon our own need for happiness, nothing works.  

When Calorie is The C Word

Women for Independence tweeted recently that they wanted to hear thoughts about food.  It makes sense.  ‘The domestic is the political’, as the saying goes and it’s a saying that needs to become overused and clichéd because it’s so damn true.   The more I think about it, the more I believe that everything that goes on in our homes and heads is politically linked.  The more we connect the ideas of home and Holyrood or the House of Commons the more we increase the understanding that political engagement is something we can exercise to influence things for the better, particularly in a relatively small country like Scotland.

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So here it is from me, you can provide the Food Glorious Food soundtrack from Oliver yourself. Or, you can (please) take it from my head where it’s played on loop every time I’ve thought about writing this post in the last fortnight.

I’ve been mulling over what my relationship with food is.  I came up with a few things; allergies, and hormonal conditions that need balanced with nutrients sprung to mind for starters.  How my family does the food shop came into my thoughts too.  But the main thing I kept coming back to?  The thing I kept trying to avoid thinking about so I could concentrate on easily quantifiable schizzle?  Well, that was an encounter that threw an axe head between my experiences of food and had a huge impact on how I feel about and discuss food and self image today.  It was an encounter that was emotional and I was hesitant about going there.  Yet… since it kept coming back to me I knew it was valid.  Then, the more I thought about it without kicking it away, the more I realised the emotions that are side dishes to food are a narrative we need to reconstruct to challenge ideology that limits woman in how they view themselves and are viewed by others in terms of their political (and domestic) impact.

Quite a few years ago I had a friendship group that I thought was pretty much perfect.  Three interesting women with different lives and outlooks crossed my path.  Thanks to some synchronicity in our weekly routines we soon found ourselves meeting once a week.   It felt positively Sex and The City and, fresh from being at home with pre-schoolers, I was happy for a sassy new highlight in my weeks.

Then came food – goddammit  – and the good times and diverse chat took a turn I wasn’t expecting when we agreed to make time to meet weekly for lunch.  The problems arose from the fact that I was not on a diet and they all were – permanently.  At first there was a jovial, bantery acceptance of the fact that I would always eat more than any of them at a lunch.  Then there was the triangle consensus between them to support each other in a plan to exercise more and eat less – I wasn’t there that day but was told of it much later.  In fact, in preparing for a big night out the plans extended to eating nothing but salad leaves and simply drinking water.  For days.  I was shocked and said as much, repeatedly, saying firmly but as non-confrontationally as I could, ‘count me out. Completely.’

Then there was the fact that we (they) seemed to have simply stopped talking about anything other than weight, food, exercise, ‘perfect’ bodies and diet cheats.  I had nothing to say on the matters.  In all my other friendships we talked about politics, ideas, the world, stories from our pasts, kids, our hopes, our dreams, work, relationships, learning, music, the universe, cake, clothes, art, spirituality…. and now here I was in conversational territory that was alien in its focus on just one area of self flagellation.  I was genuinely confused about how the same point could be made again and again and capture interest and emotion.  The conversations were leaving me blank and hollowing me out.  There was a vast irony in this that I didn’t see at the time; I was overweight and feeling good.  Everyone else at the table was a size 10 and feeling not good enough.  The confident women I’d met had, it turned out, been bluffing all along.  Worse, they’d assumed I had been too.  I was the odd one out.  Or, had they all just brought this out in one another and magnified it?  I couldn’t figure it out.

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Things got acutely strained the last time we met for lunch when, despite my consistent stance in the months before, my lunch was taken away from me halfway through the meal because, ‘let’s face it, you’ve had enough’.

The quick round up from there is that save some awkward exchanges we haven’t had lunch (or coffee, or drinks, or basically anything much) ever since.  It’s been a lot of years now.  They could never see what they did wrong and what they believe apparently works for them.  I could never get past having been overruled about my food, my body, my self-esteem and my need to talk about a gazillion things.  Those things are red line for me.  Nobody gets to tell me what I should change about myself unless I ask for their opinion – not overtly, not subtlely, not through words, not through behaviour or side glances.  We can discuss concerns, sure, but not if they’re based on vanity and someone else’s ideas of how I could appeal to them more.  That stuff is ridiculously less than helpful.   It’s something I feel even more strongly about since my son was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine).  Regardless of what the covers of magazines and billboards tell us all, there simply is not just one body type, shape or form that is beautifulThere are limitless variations on beauty.  It’s a label that absolutely everyone is entitled to give themself.

For all the flag waving, self-loving feminism in what I declared at the time and in that last sentence, the whole thing deflated my self esteem like a stealthy puncture.  The sight of that plate being removed from beneath my face, my fork and knife still in my hands and the sound of those words hitting my ears has replayed in mental slow-mo more times that I want to admit.  I felt embarrassed, for a while, that I’d found myself beautiful and happily excluded from dieting and body-hating only to be almost bludgeoned into it by how society supports the heinous notion that every woman is a deep down self-hater who wants more than anything else to be skinny, even if it means she’s hungry, tired, stressed, neglecting her bones, internal organs, muscles or the neurons she needs to stay strong.

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I’d thought at some point the conversation would switch back to other stuff.  I’d thought I could keep the concepts of ‘my relationship with my friends’ in one part of my brain and ‘my friends’ shocking self-hatred’ in another.  I’d had no idea whatsoever that at some point those two filing cabinets were going to collide all over the space between them and contaminate me with horrible thought-worms that would root around whispering, ‘you probably are really ugly and unattractive because people you trust certainly think so’.  But the thing is I was also always going to fight for the thought that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, by my standards, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see something repugnant smiling back.  I saw a person who valued so many other things so much more than she valued any thoughts about any size, age or conformity.  Dare I say it (society loves to hate women who value themselves so I’m out on a limb here), I also saw beauty.  I was raised that way by a mum who knew herself to be beautiful and yet was never on the cover of Vogue.  I fought my way back to that woman and have had to chalk up the bad experience to, well, experience.  Different strokes for different folks.  I need food for fuel and food for enjoyment and relaxing with people I adore and who adore me.   Sometimes I need food as a bonding prop at a meeting or a get together.  Breaking bread together is a good thing for connecting.  I will not be coerced into seeing it as something that makes me ‘naughty’ or ‘really good’.  Because I’m a self-determining adult.  Because I am a good person, regardless of my dress size.  A stick of celery, sixty five doughnuts, a gazillion runs and all the scales in the world have fuck all to do with that.

So there’s some of my relationship with food – the bit with the massive learning curve blip where I realised that context and echo chambers really affect self-esteem and self-actualisation.  I’m not sure what I could’ve done to have made things work out more happily with those friends. I live and I learn, hopefully.  And I still love lunch.

From food notes to footnotes….

I’ve been trying to find out who first came up with the phrase, ‘the domestic is the political’.  I think it might have been Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote (the frankly amazing); A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792).  Do you have any insight on this quote?  I’d love to know more about its origin.

On Dream-catchers, Boomerangs, Tiny Islands, Fear and Futures

If anything was going to drag me out of blog hiding, little did I know it was going to be the Scottish Independence Referendum.  I remember when I first heard about it, a little over two years ago.  I was unclear what it would achieve.  I guess if I’m totally honest I still am.  Regardless of which way the vote goes, neither route’s lit up like a Christmas tree or marvellously easy to envisage without a leap of faith.  Would this referendum, I wondered, create a notion of whether or not the country might want independence or Devo Max?  Or, would it actually decide something real, like staying in the Union or scrutinising the first past the post voting system so we’d get a better representation of bums on seats MPs and MSPs?

Bit by bit I untangled the gist of it.  I’m not quick on the uptake, generally speaking, but I am thorough in getting to it.  It used to be the other way round but I perused garden centres much less then and had no concept I could ever be wrong about anything.  Ah, the wonderful arrogance of youth, fresh from the arms of a self-esteem guru mother and free of any direct responsibility for others.  But, as is also now typical of me, I digress.

Back to the point.  It gradually became clear to me that in this referendum malarkey there would be just one question and two possible answers; should Scotland be independent, yes or no (and absolutely no maybe or Devo Max me please, baby).

And it was Devo Max I wanted.  It was Devo Max I wanted ever since my proper political awakening in 1997 when my Mum burst into my room at 6.30am on the second of May to blurt to my twenty-one-year-old self in my single bed that the Tories were finished in Scotland.

I got out of bed and we jumped around my monochrome, 90s bedroom singing ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ and pulling stupid smiley faces.  Not because we particularly loved Labour or Tony Blair mind, but because we felt entirely muted by Thatcher, Major, Edwina Currie et al.  We’d felt like the baddies stuck in the mirror prison Phantom Zone in Superman – banging away on that unbreakable glass rhombus along with everyone else in Scotland who didn’t have land or title, seen but not heard, vaguely detectable on far stretch radar, totally forgettable on an everyday basis.

At last, we felt, Scotland had a speaker attached to our hifi and we might actually get to hear the audio rather than just see it looking awesome on the graphic equaliser digital display.  And, post 97, we kind of got that.  Scotland gradually got some more power.  Holyrood got built amidst controversy over millions upon millions being spent on bizarre sticky things stuck to windows and grey concrete.  And, to my surprise, I saw a building emerging that I loved; it was everything the establishment and government I’d known to date had never been.  It was exciting, surprising, fresh, daring and a bit like a Banksy next to a Rembrandt.  The vast merits of the old were undeniable in their wonder.  Yet… the new was a bit cheeky, hugely thought provoking and fit for purpose as well as art.  The water pools outside projected calmness, absorbing and diffusing some of the surrounding white noise of change grumblers by throwing out new reflections.

Above all, the new thing was relevant in a way the old thing never could be.

Since then though, it feels like the output from Scotland’s 90s hifi has been patchy at best with intermittent bouts of the wire falling out completely, exposing radio silence.  We’ve been back in the Phantom Zone fairly regularly, most noticeably when other people’s votes decide our government.  It’s an odd state of affairs given that in principle we’re a democracy.  It’s a bit like being brought a life affirming coffee and Danish pastry only to remember you have a cold and won’t be able to taste anything.  You get some benefit but the experience isn’t immersive.  You kinda also know that ultimately the caffeine, sugar and fat are bad for you even though you’ve been conditioned to want their transitory highs then struggle to ignore the following lows.

Something else happened in 1997.  The Isle of Eigg over and off Scotland’s west coast  removed itself from long years of shambolic patriarchal private ownership by staging a community buyout that irrevocably changed the possible answers to the question; who owns Scotland?

The whole thing on Eigg would doubtless have completely passed my Aberdeen life by had it not been for one fact – the man I fancied like no man I’d fancied before lived on Eigg and worked with me in Aberdeen.  I’d been out to Eigg with him and other friends.  We’d partied on Eigg and I got to know people who lived there.  I’d come across a way of living I’d never even known still existed the year before.  Some people had no electricity in their homes.  Others had no TV or phone.  Mobile phone coverage and the birth of texting was exploding on the mainland but out on Eigg many people were still keeping a larder cold all year round rather than owning a fridge.  Above all, what I learned in that time was something I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t really appreciated at all til then; Scotland is heart achingly, tear jerkingly, soul stirringly beautiful.  Getting to Eigg, driving on roads I’d never seen and through glens I’d only vaguely paid attention to in films, I had a hot jab with the branding iron that is the reality of growing up and realising the world’s bigger than you.  Scotland’s beauty got me.  I fell in love with Eigg as well as one of its gorgeous residents and there was no turning back from there – their combined influence changed not just my heart but also my psyche.  Reversing that process would be impossible; so far reaching was the impact on my neurons, their stored Kodak moments and the aftershocks of self-awareness melding to more world aware epiphanies too.

In the year before the Eigg buyout in June 1997 I watched bits of the fight that a huge amount of people on and off the island said wouldn’t be won.  People argued and never without passion.  Voices were raised, doors were slammed and phones were clattered back onto receivers with a lot of cursing.  The stakes were high.  If things went wrong no-one’s place on Eigg was assured, everyone’s connection to the island had the sudden potential of being threatened, spoiled or cut abruptly off.  In a community already living in a reduced fashion, the fragility of the potential for success often felt palpable – as though the island’s very soul might start a lamenting song for its people from a beach, a bluebell wood or a chunk of foreboding basalt rock.

The media reported little and large accounts sporadically about what was going on with Eigg.  Politicians, activists, Eigg fans and reporters turned up and made their personal investments or withdrawals depending on their understanding of the islander’s plight.  I stood back and said little; I felt I understood so little and was terrified of some of the huge and voluble characters in discussion on the island.  The campaign to save Eigg from private ownership was well underway, those at its heart had no time or energy to stop and explain its evolution to me or anyone else.  I knew that just being there, having an occasional third row seat and seeing it unfold, I knew that was history in the making, that was privilege in the extreme.  As the campaign moved towards its climax, it became clear that whichever way it went, nothing on Eigg would ever be the same again.  Right up until the very last minute, no one could call it.  I remember wondering if future trips to the island would feature a community or a place made more still and wild by becoming a nature reserve.

Worse, I could see the imminent threat of Eigg once again becoming someone’s beautiful private playground, only observable from a boat or long lens, the kapow of distant shot in the air and the audacity of rich men’s moneyed aura at a drawbridge pier.

My view from the sidelines was often narrated by Lesley Riddoch, a journalist and political activist who was on Eigg a lot helping lead the buyout campaign.  Lesley had (and still has) a strong voice in the national press, informing everyone then who didn’t know about Eigg’s trouble why it was important in terms of history, present and future.  Lesley’s explanations on and off the island let me understand the issue but other commentators lit fires of doubt, too.  Could a wee, tiny island really take on a legal system that favours the rich?  Could they ever win?  Could they raise enough money to buy it and sustain it?  These Eigg folk were wonderful and colourful but some of them could talk a fair amount of shite as well, in my previous opinion; there were unmitigated amounts of dream-catchers around the place after all, at least 4 in every home, and I was prejudiced about dream-catchers and what they said about their owners.  Could power and responsibility really come in this ramshackle uniform?  Didn’t it have to be wearing a suit, carrying a laptop and knowing what the FTSE 100 was, like in Aberdeen?

I projected my own identity crisis and lack of cohesive vision onto Eigg.  Eigg projected back to me and anyone else who stood looking perplexed that it would do things exactly as it did things and to hell with conforming.

Good on you, Eigg.

Years later, Eigg’s gone on to not only be successfully owned by the community in partnership with The Scottish Wildlife Trust and The Highland Council, but also to be incredibly well organised and resourced too.  Dream-catchers all round and yet now an incredible sustainable energy grid for all, a growing community, prospects for work on the island, phenomenal entrepreneurship.  Goods and services being sent to the mainland before now boomerang back as pay packets.

Eigg hasn’t just made a success of its land reform journey and battle; it’s become an emblem of how determination and hard work mean more than fear, convention and red tape.

Eigg has become the spearhead other communities crushed by feudal ownership have used to pierce a hole in their own suffocating atmospheres.  Sixteen years later everyone can look to see that not only has Eigg done it, Eigg has done it against all the odds and surpassing even their own hopes and dreams for what they set out to achieve.  In fact, Eigg’s done it with bells on and six cherries on top. Every single one of us who doubted them has had to put their hands up and say we were wrong.

The impossible was, after all, possible.   A beautiful lesson learned.

You can see how all of this is relevant to what’ll happen in nine days time.  Here I am again observing history – here we all are.  Here’s Lesley Riddoch saying, again, that it’ll be fine to make the leap and we just need to work hard and dig in.  Here are the people around me again – some Scots, some English, some French, German, Welsh, Danish, Irish and a little bit of everything.  The majority of them full of passion and fight and emotion and desires – half saying yes, half screaming no, everyone aware the stakes are so very high.  Some – few – are disinterested and disengaged.  They feel the referendum has little to do with them so they anaesthetise themselves from it with silence and changing of the subject.  Here I am this time not living in Aberdeen but in Edinburgh, the iconic castle visible from my street and Arthur’s Seat constantly sticking up somewhere in my peripheral vision, letting me know whether I’m east, west, north or south of that beautiful Holyrood parliament building lying at its feet.

Here I am, again not knowing what the future will be and here I also am with a voting slip in hand but this time I have an opportunity, a right (and many would say an obligation) to be involved and cast my vote.

The only thought that’s been consistent in my decision making process is that I am beyond frustrated I can’t choose Devo Max.  My voice about that has been put in the Phantom Zone.  George Osborne’s removal of a third option from the ballot paper means come the 18th of September those myriad thoughts of everyone choosing to use their vote will all be squashed and simplified down one of two funnels – the yes or the no.  I believe that most of us who vote will take our opinion and fold it very small indeed to reduce it to one tiny little word to go off and be counted. After the counting, those little, weeny words representing what each of us wanted (or least opposed) will pop back out like Jack-in-the-boxes, opinions streaming forth and unfolding multi-dimensionally once more, a cacophony of thoughts, frustrations and hopes masquerading as a bold sentiment or belief.   Ironically, this situation may force another one way or the other vote in the near future – the Tories or UKIP.  The Deep Blue Conservative Sea or the Purple tinted Devil of Farage & co.  Like the referendum, it is a hell of a concept to pull the head around and an even more difficult decision to call in terms of possible consequences and impact. 

Each of our own unique backgrounds mean we come up with our own unique opinions.  I’m not going to tell you what to vote.  If there’s one thing I hate more than dream-catchers it’s evangelism about anything.  Evangelism assumes the person it’s trying to convert is missing information, wisdom or insight.  Evangelism wants the unconverted to be like the converted.  Evangelism says ‘if you’d be more like me, you’d be better’.  What’s to love there?  It’s not respectful or particularly complimentary to anyones  abundant intelligence.  All I can tell you is this is my story and it’s largely formed by listening to other people and assessing experiences as objectively as possible.

We each have to find our comfort zone in an uncomfortable zone.  I feel the time’s come for me to be a little quieter and to just be for a few days, like those pools outside Holyrood and the never absent tide on my favourite Eigg beach; seeing all the action but focusing on the constants, rather than fearful rhetoric about sharks and shallow waters.  Finding my vote then letting it go, being ready to work hard in whatever outcome boomerangs back from us all.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear your comments. You can find me on Twitter @betamother too. 

You can read more about Lesley Riddoch on her website at: http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/ and follow the Isle of Eigg Trust on Twitter @isleofeigg or learn more about the island at: http://www.isleofeigg.org/