I awoke a few mornings ago to see the radio light flashing off and on again and then off altogether. Looking out of the window, the street lights were off and the whole of the village was equally benighted, a victim of the high winds here, which had been much worse in other parts of the North East. For a moment I panicked, until I remembered that the cooker hob in my new house was gas powered and I had matches. I could make coffee and the day was saved! Well, it was until the schools all announced they were closing so I then had the company of my energetic granddaughter.
Thankfully, the power came back pretty quickly – we never think about the tireless people who sort these issues out so rapidly until things go wrong. But I remembered that as a child I used to hate windy days as I thought they were caused by the Earth wanting to blow all the people away out into space. Judging from the way humans seem to treat our planet, maybe I was onto something there? Like a wet dog shaking its fur to get rid of the water, maybe that's what the Earth is doing now, getting rid of the most dangerous and destructive species that lives on it.
I may be turning into an old curmudgeon when I have criticised others in the past for their lack of respect for the human race. Because most of my favourite fiction books are still stuck in the storage unit until I get a shed, I have been rereading some of the late Mr B's travel books (I hate travel, but I like reading about it). I think Bill Bryson, the well-known travel writer, is about my age – actually he's a year younger – and when I'd previously read his books I'd always thought him a bit of a grumpy old man. But now, increasingly, I find myself agreeing with him…
It seems we are living in a period where quite a lot is going wrong – but is it as bad as the Black Death, the British Civil war (wrongly termed 'English' in my opinion as the Scots had provided the irritating monarch who started it), or the dreadful effects of the Industrial Revolution? Or the two world wars? But there is a general malaise and a sort of gloomy fatalism that says the world is going to Hell in a handcart, and we can't do any better, especially with those we elect as our decision makers.
The unexpected announcement by Nicola Sturgeon that she will step down will no doubt be commented on by the more political heavyweights in this journal, but as an SNP activist I feel I'm allowed my observations, and have been busy cheering up those of my colleagues who have been downhearted by the news. I suspect it has not been such a shock to Nicola's closest colleagues and I'm sure she will be greatly relieved to know that I don't blame her.
This may seem fanciful – or worse – to more level-headed readers, but the brilliant Jungian poet Robert Bly echoed one of Jung's thoughts when he remarked that it was not surprising that Marilyn Monroe died young, as she was the subject of so many people's psychic projections (as glamour queen, prostitute, earth mother and such) that she could not sustain the emotional pressure. The same could be said about Princess Diana (interesting that Elton John developed the song he wrote in Marilyn's memory for the former archetypal figure).
It seems to me that Nicola has been extremely sensible – if not necessarily in career terms, in terms of her emotional and spiritual health – in refusing to be the butt of so many people's psychic projections and getting out while she still has her physical and mental health. And indeed is still alive, for another Sturgeon hater has recently been found guilty of threatening to murder her, such is the psychic power she exerts over many for good or ill. Such dreadful threats have sometimes been put into action, as the recent murders of politicians demonstrate (Jo Cox and David Amess).
Ave atque vale
This is what I wrote to an academic colleague who was understandably depressed by Nicola's decision:
Gaining Scottish independence is like doing a PhD. You have to believe you will get there despite all the setbacks. In a way, Nicola could be said to have sacrificed her career for the cause because she knows the hatred which is projected on her by the forces of conservatism (and Conservatism) can stand in the way of people ever seeing the light. We need to convince more 'small c conservatives' as they are the majority in personality terms and such people are often change averse… We must keep believing in our cause – Ireland got there after centuries of tribulation…
There is a really virulent hatred of Sturgeon from a section of both men and women – the former as they resent a woman leader – and the latter the same, as some women are notoriously not part of a sisterhood and will resent the idea that any other woman could be in charge while men have traditionally been 'the boss'.
When canvassing for the SNP, one woman told me: 'I hate her – she has an answer for everything'. Interestingly, it was this that I first noticed and admired about Nicola. At one televised debate, while other politicians squirmed and wriggled not to answer questions, Nicola's body language was like the clever kid at school, eagerly leaning forward: 'I know
the answer to that'. I was a bit like that at school although I had none of Nicola's other talents and I have always admired people cleverer and more talented than I am – there are a few more.
Sadly I've never met her in person, although if Nicola Sturgeon is reading this, I would love to do an interview with her. My granddaughter did meet Nicola at the age of two, and there is an infamous family picture of Olivia rejecting Nicola's offer to sit on her lap and clinging to her mother. Unfortunately, one violently anti-SNP family member saw the offending photo on Facebook and subsequently removed me from their will on the grounds of corrupting the young. Ach well, principles before profit.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant