- Best bit: Becoming part of the fantastic Dunbar Sings!
- Worst bit: The compound awfulness of Hawick Cashmere joining Hawick Knitwear in its troubles; and of already flood hit parts of the South being dealt another blow.
- Folk of note: Gordon from South Lanarkshire Greens who has an astonishingly good singing voice
- Miles travelled: 447
- Things I learned: 350,000 people travelled on the reopened Waverley Line in the first three months from September; the South of Scotland can lay claim to some phenomenal women poets from the same time as Burns; and Stranraer (which will be home to a politics festival in March) may well derive its name from the Gaelic for “the fat nose”.
This week has been a little stop-start with some necessary rest (broken bones are super tiring) and some great expeditions.
On Wednesday last week I spent much of the day on correspondence but had a great meeting with the South of Scotland campaign board in the evening which always leaves me feeling positive and enthused. They really are a fantastic group of people and I’m eternally grateful for their support, creativity and drive through the campaign.
Thursday was a great local day. I got the bus through to East Linton, just 6 miles down the road, to meet my new pal Bert for lunch. We were joined by his pal Danny and by Heather and Ally, two fab women who work at the library there. Over our lentil soup and cheese toasties in Votadini’s, we talked local history, pipe bands, trident and Jeremy Corbyn. After lunch, Bert took me on a wee tour down to see the ancient Preston Mill. It’s a really amazing building, shaped like a wizard’s hat. I look forward to it reopening in the Spring so I can have a good nosey about.
On the way back, I called in at the deli to chat with another Ali. The previous week she’d encouraged me to join the singing group in Dunbar. This week she was successful. That evening I went along, unsure of what to expect, and was utterly blown away by the incredible Dunbar Sings. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and the sound we made together was just astonishing. There were moments, looking around when I could see I wasn’t the only one bowled over by what we could achieve together – there were a few teary eyes! I’m so excited to go back tomorrow.
Friday was an epic journey to Kilwinning (about 110 miles) to meet with Jen and Yvonne (our new Regional Campaign Support Officers for the South) and Danny who’s campaign manager. I can’t quite explain how wonderful it is to have full time support for the campaign but I went off after a couple of hours of planning and strategising feeling really motivated and energised.
From Kilwinning I went back to Edinburgh where I met up with the Two Minute Manifesto gang for another epic journey, this time to Comrie for the first of our shows on tour. It was a really lovely evening, hosted by Chris and Alan who have been running Comrie Conversations since before the referendum. You’ll be able to hear the show once we get the podcast up in the next few days.
Saturday was spent thinking about Robert Burns and, more specifically, about his female contemporaries. I was tasked with delivering the reply from the lassies at the South Lanarkshire Greens Burns Supper and wanted to move beyond the traditional essentialist stereotyping of men and women. So I found some wonderful words from brilliant women of the time that summed up how they saw men in Burns’ time. You can find the whole toast here. Huge thanks to all at South Lanarkshire Greens, especially Janet Moxley for organising such a great night.
I stayed over at my Dad’s place with my Mum on Saturday as it’s just a couple of miles from Biggar and spent a lovely lazy morning with Mum chatting and putting the world to rights. In the afternoon Nat and I had a wee history outing being tourists in Edinburgh, visiting the castle and having a lovely meal out.
On Monday, Brenna (social media genius) and I went travelling about to film things to mark 100 days and to film another wee thing that will be revealed at the weekend. I adore getting up into the hills and we were lucky enough to catch some great glimpses of wintery sun before the rain started.
That night I had another Burns supper with Adam Ramsay and a whole heap of lovely folks including fellow candidate and amazing fiddle player Maggie Chapman. A collective reading of Tam O’Shanter ensued!
Tuesday was a pretty quiet day of correspondence as my grandfather would call it (a little more glamorous than traipsing through emails) and reading up on the super school plans in Ayrshire, railway issues in the Borders and community and employee ownership.
In the next week I’ll be hearing about some community projects in Penicuik, Ofcom’s plans for telecommunications in Scotland and climate resilience across the Borders. Until next time!