Things I will miss about our flat

We’re moving house tomorrow. We moved into this flat six years ago, just the two of us. Tomorrow we leave with a toddler, two neurotic cats and an increasingly imminent baby. I’m feeling excited about establishing our new family home and fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. But there’s a lot of things I’ll miss.

  • The way the light shines in through the bathroom window when I’m showering in the morning
  • The joy of having a kitchen that we designed to suit the way we live
  • The ramshackle maze of gardens and back lanes that I can see from our kitchen window
  • The elegant Greek Thomson townhouses that line one side of our street
  • The friendly community in our close and the surrounding houses: my neighbours are all gems
  • The gardens at the top of our street, maintained by the community
  • The feeling that our street is a secret: almost no-one comes down here by chance

Leaving things behind is always sad, but it brings with it the prospect of discovering something new. I hope the new owners of our flat love it here just as much as we have, and I hope I love our new home even more.


Slow. I am slow these days. Slow like a tortoise, slow like an old lady in tartan tweed, trailing a shopping trolley behind her. Slow not like a tourist, dawdling happily to take everything in, but like an ancient dog, painful limbs dragging, tail drooping down, constantly seeking a place to rest.

Thirty-two weeks pregnant is a difficult place to be. I am naturally fast – I walk fast, I think fast, I charge from one task to another, ticking things off and constantly working out what needs done next.  But I can’t be like that now: every time I try to speed up, my hips start protesting, my breath becomes short and I have to call a halt.

Everything is becoming limited: the clothes I can fit into, the range of cupboards I can reach, the things I can do for my wee girl (changing nappies on the floor is a no-no- it takes too long to get back up again). Things that are dropped on the floor must remain there. Even my choice of positions in bed is restricted: I haven’t been able to lie on my back for months, and rolling from one side to another involves time-consuming and complicated manoeuvres with my beloved pregnancy pillow.

I have no choice. All I can do is embrace my new ponderous pace.

So I will try. I will try to see it as an opportunity. What do I miss, usually, as I storm about the world with my head down, full of priorities and plans and pressing agendas? Perhaps there is birdsong. Perhaps there is beauty. Perhaps there are biscuits. For the next few weeks, I shall try to take notice.

Very, very slowly.

Why the SNP should listen to Paul McCartney

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the SNP’s next steps, and I think Paul McCartney has the answer.

I don’t imagine Nicola Sturgeon has considered consulting the former Beatle’s songbook for political guidance, but if she did, she’d find his song, Hope of Deliverance, pretty much sums it up. Not the catchy backing refrain (“HOPE – be- do- be – dooby”) but the chorus, which goes

“We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us”.

Since September, the SNP has been trading in hope. The Yes campaign may have taken a while to get going, but when it did, it juddered out of the control of any one political party as people across the country allowed themselves to be hopeful, to let passionate politics become a part of their life and to believe that it might be possible to make a better nation, right where we stood. Since the referendum, the SNP have become the repository for that hope, and they’ve embraced the role, promising to be a stronger voice for Scotland at Westminster.

But a voice is just a noise, unless somebody’s listening.

Without a Labour government requiring a stern Scottish backbone, or a minority Conservative administration dependent on SNP votes, the 56 new MPs might quickly find themselves unable to influence anything very much. There will be no Cabinet roles, there is no need for a pre-Queen’s Speech deal, and it is highly unlikely that their Westminster colleagues would countenance an SNP Committee chair – except, presumably, the Scottish Affairs Committee.

So what is this strong Scottish voice actually going to achieve? The SNP need a plan, and fast, otherwise those who placed their faith in them will quickly become disillusioned – as indeed might their new Westminster cohort, finding themselves part of a rudderless gang surrounded by hostile colleagues.

There are three options. The SNP could devote themselves to re-opening the Smith agreement, pushing for greater economic powers and abilities to protect Scotland from further Tory cuts. This could work, but it’s hard to build passion around details of devolution, and it’s unlikely to satisfy their new legions of voters.

They could focus on building the anti-Tory coalition they’ve so often talked of, in the hope that Cameron’s government will have the same trouble John Major’s did with defections and by-elections, and could be destabilised and sometimes defeated. This would be a longer-term strategy and is undermined by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which means that even if Conservative policy intentions could be thwarted, the Government would probably remain.

Or they could embrace their impotence, and use it to build support for the infamous second referendum.  It’s not hard to imagine an argument along the lines of “The Westminster elite isn’t listening to Scotland’s voice: it’s time to leave it behind”. A cynical strategy, but it might well be the best one available to them – if they can’t inspire enthusiasm through achieving change, they may need to maintain support by stoking resentment.

I quite like the idea that I’m wrong – that there is some fourth option that the pointy-headed SNP strategists, infinitely cleverer than I, are even now working on in the bunker of Jackson’s Entry (the street on which SNP HQ is based, not a rude reference to Jackson Carlaw). But it’s hard to see how else this rowdy busload of Scots who are now on the their way to London can deliver their supporters from the darkness.