Monday, 23 April 2007
Time and place
As we are limited by the incessant ticking of the clock, so do most of us constrain our lives by location. In turn, it is the place where we live that provides or denies the opportunities by which to thrive.
The area known as Southern Scotland incorporates the counties of Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. It is a land of dramatic hillsides, sweeping rivers, tumbling falls and long, sandy beaches. This part of the British Isles has had its fair share of historic drama and its border towns have been won and lost to vying conquerors for millennia. Robert Burns, the great Scottish Bard, lived and died here. King Robert the Bruce was born here and it is here where he committed one of Scottish history’s most famous criminal acts —the murder of the Red Comyn at the altar of Greyfriar’s Kirk in Dumfries. This region has many famous sons as well as a long, vibrant history.
Much of the scenery of Southern Scotland has remained unravaged by man mainly owing to the fact that outlanders know little about it. For those who are confused as to where Southern Scotland actually is situated, it is the place to the left and right of you as you drive up the M74 from Hadrian’s Wall to the Central Belt and the Highlands. For the more intrepid traveller, it is the area mainly to your right as you head towards Stranraer for the ferry to Ireland. Despite attempts by VisitScotland and the local councils to direct visitors to turn left or right off the motorway, this part of Scotland tends to be by-passed by most tourists travelling to Scotland.
It is not surprising to find that large industries, transport networks, the mass media, important educational establishments and government cash also tend to by-pass Southern Scotland on their way to the north. This area apparently boasts the lowest wages in the United Kingdom and possibly the least available jobs and business opportunities. There is a rampant drug culture, mass unemployment and all the associated socio-economic problems that come with hopelessness. A quiet, relatively cheap, housing market has led to an influx of retired couples from more prosperous areas of the UK seeking comfort and serenity during their final days. This has bumped the house prices up threefold over the past few years and many local first time buyers are finding it difficult if not impossible to compete with their richer adversaries. Most of the land belongs to a big business heritable duchy and affordable housing is becoming a privilege of a distant past.
Southern Scotland, however, is probably no worse off than many rural areas in the UK and is considerably better off than most other places in the world. People, in general, have a way of overcoming obstacles and the survival instinct inherent in all forms of life enables us to endure.
The plus factor is that this part of the world stimulates the senses of many artists and craftmakers; of musicians and writers; of ramblers and hermits, who all find inspiration and significance in the quiet serenity of the hills. This region fires the imagination with new ideas and provides the opportunity with which to nurture it and fulfil aspirations.
My preparations for glory in five years can therefore begin. I have established my time and inadvertently my place. I have the space within which to carry out my work and the bedrock upon which to build my dreams. All I need now is the energy to see them through.