Division or an (imperfect) unity?

Just over 200 years ago, (in 1798) my namesake Henry Monro was hanged in front of his house in Lisburn, Northern Ireland for his support of a united Ireland. Son of a Presbyterian father and Anglican mother, he was a regular attender at Lisburn Cathedral. He was also on very good terms with local catholics, and they all often attended services in the Cathedral and the local Chapel, for Communion or Mass. He was highly respected for this, and his stance that Ireland should be united with ALL religions playing their part in governing it. This was to be his un-doing as he was a temporary Commander in the United Irishmen and was entrapped and summarily tried and executed.

Fortunately they have moved-on and, whilst still divided by a nominal line on a map, much co-operation has been achieved amongst the various factions. They have learned to forgive (if not forget) their history, and have seen that a political and social life is possible even when differing political viewpoints are seen. I think there are very few people there who would want to return to the divisions of the past, and one has to commend them highly for this.

Scotland has had a simmering element of Nationalism since the 1930s and almost a decade ago, power was achieved by them at Holyrood. There was an immediate and worrying sense of division in the populace; for and against independence from the rest of the UK. This was seen to be an ill-founded desire as in 2014 the populace voted quite strongly, and rightly in my opinion, to remain within the UK, and be politically attached. The SNP Government has steadfastly and stubbornly refused to accept this message, and appear to want to have another ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum. Nothing positive or constructive has come from all the discussions held at the time, but this idea of ‘Independence or Bust’.  Increasingly, time is taken up in the press, and Holyrood about trivial, or highly-controversial proposals, which have increased the deep-seated divisions in our society. I have seen nothing which could be seen as unifying this nation, of which I am proud to have been a part for over 50 years. It seems to be that there is even a fear growing about declaring one’s affinity for UK unity. The fact that it has worked pretty-well for over 300 years seems to hold no importance in the minds of those who want to divide. Even with increasing powers given to them recently, it has still to be proved whether or not they can handle the responsibility of ruling for ALL the people of a country.

Lady of the House, and I have just returned from visiting our Dutch friends from Limburg, in the Netherlands. Whilst they are definitely Dutch, they are only minutes from the German border, and are very close to Belgium and Luxembourg. They very kindly took us round to see as much of these countries as possible. We were treated by all we met with extreme courtesy, interest, and enquiries about why Scotland would want to separate from England, and why the UK would want to cease its involvement in the political life of the European Union. It was only for a short stay, but I sensed a group of people who had become used to each other. It is indeed a Union of many diverse countries, cultures, languages, religions, beliefs, histories, and political agendas, and yet they have each handed-over some of their powers to a central administration, in the interest of ‘togetherness’.  Like the USA, it is a family, with all the expected frictions, disagreements, and name-calling which appear within almost all situations where people come together. You never get everything you want, but it is a great lesson in realising that others have a right to be heard, and their opinion might well be more useful than yours. I voted for Ted Heath’s Common Market in the ’70s, and I don’t think we all knew that it would develop so far. It has, however, and we are where we are. Life and time are one and the same thing, a bit like the flow of a river. Reversal is not possible in either concept, and I believe that we must continue to move on or end up in a back-water (to continue the analogy). Even with the various problems with which it is beset, it is vital to be there, using our experience at the political table to continue to modify it for the better, instead of being ineffectively on the side-lines.

As if to indicate a confirmation of my views, Lady and I attended a Concert by the RSNO a few days ago, and the final piece was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, called ‘Ode to Joy’, and the music was sung to words written in 1785 by Schiller.

The music was chosen in January 1972, by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be the European Anthem of the EU. The words, being German, have no international status, but it is true that they do hold part of the answer to mankind and his dealings with others.

Let’s not be known as the generation which threw out the EU with the bathwater of our complacency about what it has achieved. For two generations, in Europe we have had relative peace.

Let’s be happy about that, because there are a lot of possible friends out there!

 

 

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A small Borders town

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Over 40 years ago, (1967 to be precise) when Lady of the House and I were just engaged, I was living in Watford, and used to travel up on Friday overnight by coach (11 hours!) from London to Glasgow to visit her, and make sure the wedding was still on!

The coach had a few ‘comfort stops’, and the one north of the Scottish border was in a small neat market town. We knew when we had arrived there as we were rudely wakened from our slumber by the lights going on and the doors being opened. We were graciously allowed the facilities of the local hotel, before we headed on our last leg to the arms of our loved ones, and Lockerbie to its own devices.

Fast forward to  Christmas-tide 1988 and we were preparing for the festivities. Son was still at school and Daughter preparing for her passing-out parade at the Scottish Police College the next day.

We had promised hospitality to the young son of friends, who was driving up the A74 (which skirts a number of pleasant small market towns), and my folks who were over from Ireland and were also driving north.

They had all arrived safely and we were looking forward to having a Happy Christmas…..and then we turned on the television and heard what had happened to that little Borders town……………….

Another day, another car….

Last Monday was a holiday, and the lure of a drive to another part of Scotland was strong. My old CRV has 105,000 miles on the clock so is a bit tired; young Lady’s Civic has to be preserved for when CRV gives up; and son’s BMW needs its own petrol tanker coming behind it. So Daughter, who has just acquired a new Ford Focus, volunteered to give the new car a run into the Scottish/English Border area.

Peebles is one of those areas which is what is a REAL Market Town…..with REAL shops. It is situated on the River Tweed, well known for the fishing. The approach is by quite narrow roads and a sudden twist into the Main Street. It is wonderfully wide, but don’t expect to get easy parking on a nice day. On both sides of the road, you will find every kind of specialist shop, including a great book shop (for Son and me), and shoe shops (for the ladies).

Picnicking was possible on the riverbank, and we watched children happily playing about. Then we walked along the river, and through the rugby grounds. If the borders is known for nothing else, the rugby features highly in the social life of this whole region.

A visit to our favourite group of art and craft shops was essential, and a slightly-roundabout journey back took us to the source of the River Tweed, and a Devil’s Beeftub, a very deep valley in the shape of a deep bowl near Moffat. Back to Daughter’s where she served-up her usual high-quality food ( a gift acquired from my Young Lady) and a snooze, before being driven back home by Son in his BMW.

……………nothing startling, but just a nice day!