Writing the Blues

My brain’s playing up again.

I would love to say that I was having a Sheldon Cooper-esque experience but sadly I have not woken up a genius.

I’ve found myself being very depressed the last few months, and when I’ve not been depressed I’ve been extremely anxious, with those nasty little OCD intrusive thoughts creeping in. At times like this, getting out of that chair and walking down the street feels like a day of work.

So thank heavens for good GPs. Thank heavens for these kind souls who, it’s taken me so long to realise, do not think I am a time waster. Who are happy to speak to the psychiatrist, use their influence, try to hurry forward an appointment. I won’t name the GP who was so kind to me this afternoon – she might not like it – but she helped, she really did. In the unlikely event that she might be reading – if I say the words ‘six minutes’ you’ll know who you are! This lovely soul listened to my woes, explained how the prescription she was giving me would work, reassured me, offered to find out about getting me a CPN, and said that she would contact my psychiatrist to organise an appointment asap,instead of waiting for the 3 monthly one.

It makes me wonder how my experiences of ‘care in the community’ contrast with  my forebearers, so I’ve decided that I’m going to finally do the thing that I’ve been putting off. As I’ve wandered through my family history, I’ve avoided one part of it. My grandmother was in an asylum for the last twenty years of her life. Now I don’t want to write about her- that’s private. But I do want to reach out and touch her. In the past I’ve dreaded discovering that she suffered barbaric or debasing treatments but I don’t want to hide from that now. I want to get to know my grandmother, I want a picture of her life.

For so many years, the truth about her was hidden from me. Even when I was a child in the eighties there was still a stigma around mental health. I remember hearing jokes at school about ‘getting on the yellow bus’ – the hospital transport that took people to the mental health hospital.

I’ve no real excuse. The University only a few miles up the road holds the records. I will find out (I hope) about my gran’s treatments, and her condition. Who knows, I might find out a little bit about the person behind the diagnosis.

But it makes me wonder. What is it about delving into history that helps me? Is it purely a project, to provide some stimulation? Is it an avoidance technique- no need to look at your own problems, when faced with someone else’s? Is there part of me that thinks that somehow life was easier or ‘better’ in the past? I’ll be honest, sometimes when I’m really struggling, the thought of an asylum, a place where all decisions were made for the patients, where they literally became children again, sounds very appealing. Or does it help me to keep things in perspective? To remind me that people have struggled in the past, they will do in the future, and that I’m a small grain of sand in all of that?

To be frank though, I think there’s even part of me that just likes the costumes and lovely buildings. And perhaps there’s part of me that wants to give thanks. Because we stand on the shoulders of those who challenged the conventions and fought for better things – whether it was schooling, inventions, political rights, pay, health. Our lives are a little bit pleasanter by those who left us beautiful things. We’re reminded that however hard life can get, there’s always humour, beauty, good times and good people.  Ah well, time to hit the history books.



Back to the history again! Not entirely relevant but these pictures I took of Blairlogie Old Kirk nr Stirling, well they just suit my mood

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Posted by on October 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Beauty of Philanthropy

wpid-wp-1444161159936.jpgIn the past few weeks, I’ve been doing the rounds of the Doors Open Days in the local area, and so much of my walks have been through towns and parks. It’s got me thinking…

So much of the beautiful parkland and victorian and early C20th buildings.buildings are down to that rare breed, the philanthropist. How much do we owe to those people who, hundreds of years ago, considered it their civic duty to give us decent housing, schools, libraries, parks, churches and community halls? Would we benefit from a modern form of philanthropy where those who were able to not only wanted to contribute to their existing society but to create resources for future generations? What drove these people? Was it purely a form of conspicuous consumption – the opportunity to remind those ‘below’ them of their power and influence, or was there a moral force behind it as well?

One site which I visited was the very church I was baptised in. I have to say that I haven’t darkened its door for over 30 years, but my mother and I decided to pop in. What a lovely experience it was to share my mother’s memories, admire the beauty of the interior decoration, and chat to the guides. One of them, a woman who I have known since I was 5 years old set me on the train of thought. She explained that the church existed thanks to the generousity of the Paton family. Now, ours was once a textile manufacturing community, dominated by the mighty Kilncraigs Mill. This county was the home of the Paton woollen empire. The Patons and other textiles manufacturers flourished here but it was the Patons who really left their mark. My friend remarked on how wonderful it was that many generations ago, those people had thought about the good of their community, and that we were still benefitting from it today. The church in question plays a very active part in the community and is planning to expand the good that it does at the moment by appointing a community outreach officer. Would any of this have been possible without the philanthropists?

They didn’t limit their work to buildings either. They recognised the importance of green spaces.And the buildings they created were not just functional, they were beautiful as well. Perhaps one of the greatest exponents of this Sir John Stirling Maxwell, a founder member of the National Trust for Scotland. When he died, he left his estate at Pollok in Glasgow to be used as a public park for the people of Glasgow, and so the citizens of that smoky, bustling industral city were given Pollok Country Park, now the home of the world famous Burrelll Collection.

Of course we are lucky to live in a country where we have a free health system, welfare benefits, free education. I wouldn’t deny that for a second. But to me these organisations are, out of necessity, usually very functional. I wouldn’t want to revert to a society that depended entirely on the goodwill of those with money for any form of social work. But wouldn’t it be lovely if , like these philanthropists of old, more importance was placed on beauty as well as functionality? Our philanthropists left us buildings and views which elevated and inspired us. We owe them our gratitude.

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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


4 legs and 2 legs 2gether

I’ve never believed in ‘4 legs good, 2 legs bad.’ Indeed, I think that 4 legs and 2 legs working in unison can make something beautiful.

The 4 legs, by the way, are that of a horse, the 2 its’ human rider. The thing of beauty is the art of dressage. I’ve been thinking about one of my desires. One of the things that I would like 2 do.

Watching a BBC 4 documentary (don’t the coincidences keep coming?), I saw the historian Lucy Worsley achieve one of my desires – to see the horses (4 legs) and riders (2) of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. These are masters of the art of dressage – an equine ballet, perfect communication between 2 species in the shared language of the dance. The perfect combination of grace and power. The school has its roots in the military – horses of the light cavalry had to be perfectly agile – but beauty and goodness is the other side of the coin of war.

Ronald Duncan, in his poem The Horse put it better than I ever could:

‘Here, where grace is served with muscle,
And strength by gentleness confined…’

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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in art, countryside, history, horses


A Truly Good Man

Not so long ago I attended a team training session where one of the ice breakers was ‘Who is your favourite person from history?’

I only had to think for a second, because as  a child there was one person whose spirit reached out from the past and touched me, and has continued to do so. I can honestly say that when times seem hard I’ve dwelt on this person, what I knew of his story, and immediately felt a warm, comforting, feeling. So let me take you back to 1984, Mrs Thompson’s P5 class, the year of the LA Olympics and a school radio programme dedicated to an Olympian who had become a hero some 60 years beforehand.

Eric Liddell was born in January 1902 in Tientien, China. His parents were missionaries, and young Eric would follow in their footsteps eventually, but not before he found another way of celebrating God. Eric Liddell was a brilliant sportsman. In fact he excelled in both rugby and athletics, playing rugby for Scotland when a student at Edinburgh University. He qualified for the 1924 Paris Olympics …and it was here that Eric Liddell did one of the thing that would ensure that Mrs Thompson’s P5 class would learn about him 60 years later.

You see, Eric believed that when he ran he celebrated God. God was his friend and companion. He saw life as a race, but the strength to get through it came from within. Running was a spiritual experience for him. He had a very distinct running style – flinging his head back, waving his arms round and effectively running blind. The actor Ian Charleson, who played the part in the film Chariots of Fire likened this to the trust exercises that he had learned at drama school, where one student would fall backwards into the arms of another (Magnusson)The student actors learned to have faith that their colleagues would catch them, and Eric trusted that God would guide him safely to victory. It was clear that someone with such strength of belief was not going to be able to sacrifice the sanctity of the Lord’s Day for personal glory. So when he found out that his race, the100m, was to take place on a Sunday,  had little choice but to say ‘I can’t run on a Sunday.’  Having the courage of his convictions and taking such a huge risk would, ironically, grant him personal victory. Instead of being put forward for the 100 m he was entered for the 400 m. Which he won. He also picked up bronze in the 200m. Eric Liddell never said the most poetic line, in the movie, it was scripted, but the viewer can’t help feeling that it truly describes the man.
‘God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.’

Liddell’s career as an athlete was short lived. He soon returned to China to take up missionary work and in 1932 was ordained. When China was occupied by the Japanese Eric and other missionaries were interned in Wiehsien camp. Here Eric organised sports activities, taught school,  tutored and helped people, visiting the sick, helping to police the camp because it was better for ‘offenders’ to be caught by him than the guards. He died of a brain tumour at Wiehsien, separated from his own family, in February 1945. He was only 43.

So what draws me to Eric Liddell? I’ m not a practising Christian myself but his incredible faith and the strength he drew from it inspires me. His kindness and courage. The sense of humility and duty. The fervour with which hevdid everything, because all of his skills were God given. Yet with it all there’s joy as well. Eric Liddell makes me want to celebrate life.

Magnusson, Sally, The Flying Scotsman

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Posted by on September 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


A wee bit about me

Hello, I’ m Evelyn.

History lover, arty type, keen walker, would be outdoorsy sort. Proud Scot but not in a ‘Brave heart sort of way.’😉 I’m lumbered with a combination of mental health problems and I find all of these activities escapist and therapeutic, although I probably should spend more time doing them and less watching telly…

Yes, I’ll admit that I wouldn’t mind making some cash out of writing. In fact, I’d love to write an historical novel …now I just have to decide where and when to set it…

So here are some of the things I ‘ would like to’ do, in no particular order

1. Write that novel!
2. Live in a caravan in the woods
3. Become physically and mentally fitter.
4. Learn about politics and the law
5. Become a better artist
6. Help people with mental health problems
7. Do more horse riding

I’ ll be writing about history, art, mental health, walks I’ be been on and well, basically anything in the news that grabs my interest.

I don’t have any decent photos but I will get some. I might even post up some of my drawings if I have the nerve!

I hope you enjoy my wanderings☺

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