Farewell Scotland, Hola Spain

Do you know that feeling you get when you don’t really want to leave somewhere? When you’re comfortable, happy and there’s a strong pull to stay?

I had that feeling again over the past couple of days as I started to turn my mind toward leaving Scotland, just as I had it when I was leaving Melbourne almost two weeks ago.

When I think about it now, it’s not a feeling I got when I had to face leaving my job. It’s now almost seven weeks since I finished work and I can say that with some conviction.

I wasn’t sure whether the feeling would last, but at the time I remember saying that while I was sorry to be leaving some of the people, after seven years it felt like it was about the right timing for me to move on. To do something new.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I wanted to stay in Blantyre, the town of my father’s birth.

It was hard to say goodbye to my cousin. She may have been born in 1928 in the ongoing days of the horse and cart, but she’s a thoroughly independent and modern woman. I felt a strong connection to her on so many things – from a love of history and travel to a strong commitment to working and making our own way in the world.

She’s been to Australia a couple of times, but she wants to see Uluru (Ayers Rock), so I’ve promised to go with her if she visits again. And she knows that I will be coming back to Scotland when I can.

“Don’t leave it too long,” she said, as she drove me to the airport. “I cannae last forever.” Just like my Dad – it’s hard to believe she’s not invincible, but I know she’s right. That’s a big part of why it felt so hard to leave.

I’ve also had a couple of lovely nights out in Glasgow and Edinburgh with her son (is he my third cousin or my second cousin once removed?) He’s a great guy about my age, a lawyer and father of seven-year-old twin boys. Despite growing up on different continents, we have some shared life experiences and values.

We’re both children of older parents who were born in the 1920s, who lived through depression, war and the rapid modernisation of the world. Like me, he learned not to ask for too much, to work hard and be immensely grateful for what life brings.

As I embarked on my visit to Scotland, I posed a question about whether or not it was a place where I could live and work. The answer is yes – in the summertime at least!

As proudly and irrevocably Australian as I am, there’s a poem by Sir Alexander Gray that I saw etched on the side of the new Parliament building in Edinburgh that stirred something in my Scottish heritage:

“This is my country
The land that begat me
These windy spaces
Are surely my own
And those who toil here
In the sweat on their faces
Are flesh of my flesh
And bone of my bone.”

That’s how I feel about Australia – particularly rural Australia – but it’s wonderful to experience some sense of belonging in the land of my father. I’m sure I’m not the only child of a migrant to feel this way.

My next stop is Spain. It’s my first visit and I have no family or other connection here. However, like a record 27% of people in Spain at present, my employment prospects have been directly impacted by the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.

Hola Spain – what will I learn from you as I arrive here a newcomer to your land and customs?

I recall something my Scottish cousin told me her mother would bid her as she left the house as a girl, back in the 1930s: “Chin up, shoulders back and step out.”

M

One of a number of poems and quotes on the outside wall of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh
One of a number of poems and quotes on the outside wall of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh
This piper in Edinburgh's Royal Mile is the first one I saw after arriving in Scotland a week prior. Friday, 24 May 2013
This piper in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the first one I saw after arriving in Scotland a week prior. Friday, 24 May 2013
Pollok House, Glasgow
Pollok House, Glasgow
Dad spoke often about playing down by the banks of the River Clyde as a child. This section is near his childhood home in Blantyre.
Dad spoke often about playing down by the banks of the River Clyde as a child. This section is near his childhood home in Blantyre.

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David Livingstone was born in Blantyre and lived in this building, now part of a memorial in his honour
David Livingstone was born in Blantyre and lived in this building, now part of a memorial in his honour
Incredible statue of David Livingstone being attacked by a lion in Africa. Livingstone Memorial, Blantyre
Incredible statue of David Livingstone being attacked by a lion in Africa. Livingstone Memorial, Blantyre
International runners at Edinburgh Castle during the ~5km International Breakfast Run, part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Saturday, 25 May 2013
International runners at Edinburgh Castle during the ~5km International Breakfast Run, part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Saturday, 25 May 2013
This is the house in Blantyre, Scotland where my father was born
This is the house in Blantyre, Scotland where my father was born
I snapped this shot out of the bus window as we returned to Blantyre from a visit to the seaside at Largs, on the west coast of Scotland
I snapped this shot out of the bus window as we returned to Blantyre from a visit to the seaside at Largs, on the west coast of Scotland
Dad used to speak about playing in the Bothwell Castle ruins as a child. It's located just across the River Clyde from where he lived.
Dad used to speak about playing in the Bothwell Castle ruins as a child. It’s located just across the River Clyde from where he lived.
Drumlanrig Castle in the south of Scotland
Drumlanrig Castle in the south of Scotland
A rainy day in George Square, Glasgow
A rainy day in George Square, Glasgow

4 thoughts on “Farewell Scotland, Hola Spain

    1. Wow, that’s just around the corner Kevin. Dad was obsessed with Cowboys growing up in Blantyre and in his day (1920s) it was because the talkies had just started and cowboy movies were big. How great to grow up with Bothwell Castle and the Clyde as your playground. Thanks for sharing your memories. If you haven’t found it already, you might get a lot out of the Blantyre Project site. Lots of great pictures and memories to be found there 🙂

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  1. You certainly didn’t go to Scotland for the summer eh MF? Sounds like you’re having a hoot of a time. Super pics too. Enjoy Spain, one of my favourites, & travel safe. Look forward to your next post. Ciao IMM & DLOE xxx

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