It's winter part two in this bit of rural Aberdeenshire. My granddaughter was very disappointed that snow did not mean Christmas had come again and more toys would appear. At least the closure of local schools meant she could go sledging and snowman building instead of the dreaded education (which actually she enjoys, but what child would ever admit to liking school?). The work on the shed had to be paused for a day but it now continues. It's going to be so large that I could live there as a granny annexe and rent out my house – although I'm not sure that the aristocratic Freddy would be prepared to live in a shed…
Considering it often happens in this part of the world that March 'comes in like a lion and (hopefully) goes out like a lamb', you would imagine that people would be used to it and that the council would have plans in place for keeping schools open and the like. But it seems in the nature of things that we always like to get caught out. And there's the usual fund of weather stories: 'Well, it often snows in April', 'We had hailstones as big as hens' eggs in May', and the like. The late Mr B swore that he could remember a cricket match being stopped in June because of snow but this may have been apocryphal although not impossible.
A plague on both houses?
I'm sure the commentators with more gravitas in Scottish Review
will be commenting in depth on the policies of SNP leadership hopefuls, and even I gave in to the temptation last week to discuss their religious views. But just now I find it hard to raise my head above the metaphorical parapet regarding that other thorny question – is a transgender woman the same as a 'cis' one, i.e. female at birth? I must admit I don't care for the cis word as it sounds like 'cissy', but it has actually quite a long pedigree – Julius Caesar refers to Gallia Cisalpina – or Gaul this side of the Alps, as opposed to Gallia Transalpina on the other.
I am bemused as to why the issue has become so heated. There are within the SNP two very vocal groups, both of which appear focused on the single issue of transgender rights rather than how to persuade more people that everyone can thrive in an independent Scotland.
Maybe it's a hangover from my classical studies – the Romans had transgender people and while some of them probably thought such people a bit unusual, they were quite happy to let them get on with it. I've known several transgender people and they have all been amiable and polite individuals with many other preoccupations than their gender. A few years ago, there did not appear to be the same animosity on either side. More recently, I have been harangued by individuals from both extremes for not being sufficiently pro- or anti- transgender rights, when I don't feel strongly about the issue. Except perhaps on the general rule that it appears this is a period when the focus is on individuals' rights but rather less on their responsibilities.
I can only imagine that in an era where many ethical values have been abandoned by decision makers who in the past would have been respected, where 'ordinary' wage earners see unemployed people being better off financially (and where there are fewer and fewer decently paid jobs that actually put something back into society as well as supporting a family), many people will be scared of yet more new ideas that seem to challenge their worldview. On the other side, minority groups feel they could be ostracised from the wider community – or worse – if they don't put up a fight.
Sad times, when for many of us a major attraction of Scottish independence is the opportunity to create a fairer, happier society where all individuals can feel safe and flourish.
The eye of the beholder?
I think it was the Terry Gilliam dystopian black comedy Brazil
that described a society which, amongst other things, was so obsessed with cosmetic surgery such that anyone who hadn't had it would be regarded as a social pariah. I wonder if our society is similarly changing. Certainly 'respectable' women's magazines are now constantly exploring the surgical options available to anyone who regularly spends £800 on a handbag.
Personally, I haven't had cosmetic surgery as I couldn't justify spending the money on it and I'd probably have a major allergic reaction that would destroy my skin forever. I was first aware of getting older when we moved to my previous house in 1998 and the bathroom had a magnifying mirror. Up until then – I wasn't even 50 – I had assumed I was quite youthful looking, but that's because I have rubbish eyesight and had never noticed the appearance of 'laughter lines' and the like. Now I am rapidly getting nearer to 100, there are a heck of a lot more of them, along with facial muscles struggling to keep upright.
Although I haven't changed my opinion about having cosmetic 'tweaks' done, I can sort of understand the mindset of those who do invest in it. I'm sure they will be greatly relieved. The point is that I regard my emotional and intellectual age to be around 28. When I look in the mirror, I do not see a 28-year-old there, and it's rather disconcerting.
At least I still (just) have all the teeth I need as my latest dentist visit confirms. Like many people of his time, the 1950s when there was far less emphasis on dental hygiene, my dad lost his teeth to gum disease at the age of 40 or so. I have the same genetic receding gums but thanks to the tender care of the dentist and the scary hygienist, I can still bite when it suits me. Denplan is well worth the expense and it's significantly cheaper than cosmetic surgery!
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant