Extracts from The Land of Lost Content
I have swapped islands. It’s taken a while and my love marriage to Sri Lanka never worked out that well but the arranged marriage is on firmer foundations. I expected nothing and got much more. Finally I have found what I have always been searching for, contentment. It just turned out to be on a different island.
I adore the seasons, the promise of spring, the beauty of summer, the bounty of autumn and the cooler colours of winter. I can no longer imagine a life with only two seasons.
The colours of the tropics, like the saris and sarongs are dramatic and exotic but the colours here are more subtle but equally lovely, less harsh on the eye.
Few things can be more beautiful than the Scottish mountains, lochs and countryside. You are never far from water or the sea. I love the dour foreboding hills; they remind me that man is but a small creature passing through. The land is forever.
Everything is free in Scotland. There is a Calvinistic ethos still. All men are and can hope to be equal. Education and health are free. We can criticise what we have and aspire to make it better but try living without it. I think the NHS is the finest organisation in the world and am proud to be a part of it. I do wish politicians would stop meddling with it all the time and turning it into a political football. Care of the elderly is free and to paraphrase Gandhi “the greatness of a nation can be measured by its treatment of its frailest”.
We complain in Britain about our governments and the press. It is true that in all walks of life there will always be the corrupt and self-seeking but many people still work for the common good. If you really want to see corruption go to Sri Lanka, they can show you a thing or two.
I read an article that stated that only fifteen per cent of the world has a free press. How lucky we are that we have a voice. British broadcasting and its uncompromising coverage of world issues, is another fine example of what is great about Britain.
I embrace it all - Burns, J.K Rowling, the Proclaimers, Rab C, tartan, ceilidhs, the Loch Ness monster and the haggis roaming wild on the hills.
I love the fact that there are not too many people in Scotland. I can escape to open spaces quickly and even our motorways are quaint and not that busy. We are so well placed geographically that we can fly with ease to any part of the world and yet, being an island, we are a little apart. It is a land of peace, prosperity and in the words of William Wallace, or maybe Mel Gibson “freedom.”
We can grumble about racism here but many immigrants have had greater opportunities in this foreign soil than in their own homeland. When the British had their colonies, they sometimes lived apart and did not assimilate with their host nations. Today many communities live in Britain as if they were in their country of origin. This is a truly limited existence. If you think you have nothing to learn from the indigenous people, you are arrogant and need to go back to your roots. You are clearly on a shallow learning curve.
I have equal disdain for those who pretend to be what they are not. “Pick and mix” is definitely the way forward. No one nation is better than another. Like our children they are all different and have something special to offer and varied irritating traits.
I get a little anxious about “Scottish Independence.” We are a small country and if we did not have our cousins across the border, would rapidly become insular. I have seen some of this behaviour before, this is how it starts. I do not want to see it again.
We have our part English, part Scottish, part German queen to bind us. She has an amazing work ethic and whether you are a royalist or not, she cannot be denied as one of the greatest Queens that ever reigned. When we first came from Ceylon I used to stand for the national anthem but never sing it. Now I sing too but if I’m honest never quite manage “send her victorious.” I ask myself what I would do if Britain went to war with Sri Lanka; it would be hard but I would support the United Kingdom.
Even the greatest cynics must have been moved when seeing the Royal Wedding, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Olympic ceremony. Were we not all proud to be British then?
The children have presented me with an iPod so that I can listen to my favourite tunes without annoying them. I walk past waterfalls and rivers and boats on the Firth of Forth. The water is dirty and cold, only tourists who don’t know what they are doing get into it. The warning signs are clear; perhaps they cannot read or are not bothered.
I used to tell my children about the beaches in Sri Lanka and how spectacular the sea was to swim and fish in. Priorities change, this water is not so good but I can swim if I want to and I don’t need a permit.
Time passes quickly when you are busy. It almost feels as if the first half of my life had little connection with the second half. I wonder what the last bit will bring. The great thing about getting older is that you care less, it is liberating. I reflect on how fortunate I have been and how much I have had, whatever happens next no one can take that away.
I have spent too many years looking forward and the same again looking backward. So, now, I make myself a promise, that today is the best day of my life.