NHS Scotland's original spring booster letter told me my appointment was at 8.30am on 11 April at the Glasgow Central Mosque. A neighbour had received an identical letter. She had been able to rearrange her appointment at a more reasonable time and at a different place – Partick Burgh Hall. Worth a try I thought. I got 11.40am, but at the original site.
My taxi was late in arriving and the Glasgow Mosque proved to be even further away than I thought. So I was late. But at a glance I knew it didn't matter. Several hundred people were already there. The mosque's space was huge, and it had been divided up into a series of criss-crossing corridors all of them packed with people. I took my place on the bottom rung. Movement was hardly perceptible so I knew I was in for a long haul.
Not all of us were elderly but many of us were. To be fair, in some rows there was the odd chair, but it was hard to tell who most deserved the opportunity of a brief rest. Most of the time it was standing room only – no matter how exhausting long-term standing would be. I did my best to grin and bear it. After all it was about keeping me healthy!
As time passed, and the vaccine area seemed as far away as ever, I became less and less convinced that being here was really in my best interest. I suppose I could have asked someone to allow me to sit out for a few minutes without losing my place in the snail's pace queue. But was that realistic given the number of the elderly all around me? It wouldn't work I knew.
Well, nothing lasts forever. Having begun queuing at 1.30pm at exactly 3pm, I was next to be assigned a table where the booster would finally happen. The system provided me with a bottle of water and a couple of biscuits while I waited the post-jab five minutes. By 4pm I was home, and however exhausted, presumably healthier.
But the system? To my mind, it was no more than chaos calling itself a system. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise a timing scheme which does not require several hundred people to arrive at the same time? Has any of those involved in the current arrangement actually stood in line for an hour and a half waiting to receive a vaccine booster? Somehow I suspect not.
In his Commentary
(13 April 2022
) Gerry Hassan states: 'Add to this that Sunak has had US Green Card status for the entire period he has been a Tory MP and minister, which necessitates that he has declared that the US rather than the UK is his permanent home'.
Rishi Sunak was elected MP for Richmond in 2015. The US Government regulations applied to Green Card holders who remain outside the US for more than a year are: 'US immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. Remaining outside the United States for more than one year may result in a loss of Lawful Permanent Resident status'.
Perhaps Gerry Hassan could tell us whether Sunak kept his Green Card under some 'exceptional' circumstances? Lesser human beings would have lost it by now, particularly if they had a job such has Sunak's in the Public Eye, so nowhere to hide from the United States INS Department.
The latest production at the Finborough in West Brompton, one of London's best fringe theatres, is The Straw Chair
by Sue Glover. It was first seen in 1988 at the Traverse in Edinburgh and while there have been subsequent revivals in Scotland it is only now getting its London premiere. It can take things Scottish some time to come south of the border.
It is about Isobel, played by Rori Hawthorne, who goes to St Kilda as the new bride of the missionary minister, Aenas, sent to bring the islanders into line with the teachings of the Kirk. She has no idea what she is heading into. She meets the mysterious Lady Grange played by Siobhan Redmond, a woman distraught, half-mad and obsessed with the chair, which is her sole remaining symbol of the status she once enjoyed.
The story of Lady Grange, as chilling as anything by Dumas about persons wrongly imprisoned, is also told in The Prisoner of St Kilda
by the late Margaret Macaulay, a journalist on The Herald
who started the same time there as I did but who, unlike me, had a book in her. In time she left journalism, married, had a family and wrote the book, about which she did tell me as it progressed. I read it when it appeared but had pretty well forgotten about it until I saw Glover's fine play last week. The Prisoner of St Kilda
can still be found online in both hardback and paperback versions, so if you are looking for a good read, just Google it.
Lady Grange, born Rachel Chiesley in 1679, was the daughter of a man who was hanged for murder. She married John Erskine, Lord Grange, a lawyer and Law Lord, by whom she had nine children. It was a tempestuous marriage, he being a philanderer and she having a fierce temper who allegedly kept a razor beneath her pillow for use should he offend too much.
Erskine was a Jacobite sympathiser and became afraid that one of the ways Rachel might take revenge on him for his treatment of her, after he threw her out of his house to live elsewhere in Edinburgh, was by passing on to the Hanoverians what he was up to. He dealt with the threat in 1832 by having her kidnapped by some friends and she was held prisoner at various locations in the Western Isles, most notably on St Kilda, until her death on 12 May 1745.
Nobody cared. Margaret Macaulay places her story in the context of how women were treated in the 18th century and it makes for sobering reading. Glover too takes a clear feminist stance as Isobel, who tries to help Lady Grange, finds her own strength and discovers just how little power women had then and how badly they could be treated by men.
The play has always fared well with Scottish audiences, but just how it will go down with those in London will be interesting to discover.
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