2007 - 2021

Dreams of Normality

scotlandwall-1Several years ago, in Inverness’s fabulous church of second hand books, I found what became my favourite (3 line) poem. Three lines that (you may or may not agree) now require a 3 line sequel. The poem is in ‘The Road North’ by Finlay and it asks: “What is a glen?”

Water where once there was ice
Heather where once there were trees
Air where once there was breath

In there lines: the geological, ecological and social history of these lands.


– given the beginnings of the restoration of the land (and of people to the land) underway these last score years

– given the leaving behind of the time of lament and losing

– given our finding our voice in the long two years of 2012 to 2014 that sped so swiftly by. . . .

(Even with the silencing we are undergoing just now – that feeling of being overwhelmed by being asked to take sides in others battles we never wanted to fight.

(Even with all this that is going on now – the crazy Brexit referendum of two false choices, like the false choice in Turkey of undemocratic coup or voted in dictator,

Even with all that:

We will soon be out of this silencing moment, where we are overrun by analysis of a politics and politicians we abhor.

We will regain the poets ability to unexpectedly juxtapose two images that point way beyond themselves to previously unimaginable possibilities.

We will give up the worship of those who claim to understand economics (as if it were a hard science with rules we must obey, rather than a way of persuading us to fear and obey a system driving us to destruction).


– across the river to England’s Westminster,
– across the Channel to France’s Nice,
– across the Bospherous to the coup and the wrath that will follow,
– across the Atlantic to automatic weapons and Trump,
– across the Mediterranean to the Africa I am working in right now, and then
– way up towards the melting Arctic,

. . . it is easy to feel overwhelmed and forget what we knew so deeply in our bones but so long ago:

A self-determination we experienced as we approached the struggle for independence with hope and compassion, and with a refusal to be dragged down into hating those who hate us, a refusal to play the clever tactical political games (remember those ones? – both votes this, and second vote that – that understandably divided us in the party-ful 2016 election that was inevitably so unlike 2015’s general election or 2014’s IndyReF1.

The 2016 Holyrood election? Remember that! That was so so long ago/ only two months ago.

Despite the tactical voting, and the tactical berating of tactical voting . . .
– THAT is the politics we want.

The politics of normality:

Of choosing between SNP, S Tories, Labour, S Green, S LibDem, RISE, Solidarity, all of whose leaders reject xenophobia, the majority of whom reject the insanity of nuclear weapons, and some of whom offer the kind of radical path needed (if we are to change course and so not enter an endless series of environmental shocks, shocks that will make current wars, crises, and attacks look so so manageable).

Politically, the key point of this Holyrood electoral system (and why we need the politicians elected through it to manage
ALL our political affairs and not just some) is not anything to do with which party is likely to succeed in it.

This electoral system matters not because certain parties may stand a greater chance of winning than others at Holyrood rather than at Westminster. Why it matters is far more crucial than that.

What matters is not so much who you vote for but that each of us has the chance for our vote to count, and so we can make change happen if we choose, and we can hold them to account if we choose.

Politics and politicians can be held accountable in a way they never can be if you can only choose the lesser of two evils (meaning evil always wins) and in a way they never can be held accountable if politicians being rejected by the electorate simply means they are rewarded for services to the status ago by being elevated to the ‘Lords’.

Independence, autonomy and self-determination are enabled or smashed by the kind of system we endorse. And that system is played out in politics, in the playground, on the pavement, in the workplace, in the home.

The more self-determination we allow ourselves to take, the more generous we can be:

It is a win win world, or
it is a lose lose world.

Understanding that is the key to a victory that overturns privilege, and in the process liberates not only all who are being crushed and devalued, but liberates the privileged from their learnt inhumanity. Something that requires a hardening of the heart to bluster and maintain the lie that they have what they have because they are uniquely deserving, rather than because we have let them get away with inhumanity.

This self-determination is a fundamental right of all peoples – whether they self define as nations, as indigenous peoples or as other collectivities.

Self-determination is the fundamental principle underpinning the work of the United Nations. At its best, this is the work of recognising and sustaining diversity, and so enabling effective and mutually beneficial interdependence.

While those who wield power on behalf of themselves assume an ordered world whose problems derive from the incompetence or malevolence of the poor, we know the reverse to be the case.

The world is maintained and sustained by all those acts of care and effort whose harvest is the well being of ourselves and others.

It is a harvest that the powerful and privileged take more than nine tenths of. Leaving us battling and fearing each other rather than recognising the real culprits and demanding they relinquish their spoilt, greedy and self degrading game, and instead regain their humanity, and enabling us all to live.

But I digress.

All I meant to ask was:

Can anyone offer another three lines that may capture the world we are in now?

– Not the lament of the past – however beautiful,
– Nor the lament of what we see happening beyond our rivers and shores – however true,

But 3 lines that speak to the spirit of the IndyRef: Both the spirit we experienced during IndyRef1, and the spirit we are about to rekindle from the many places that keep hope burning in such diverse and necessary ways.

Those places are way too many to name because so so many are local to each of us

But those places are also in politicians actions – Nicola Sturgeon speaking for us all (even if some don’t realise they are part of that all) the morning after Brexit, Andy Wightman telling land speculators that buying land is no more an investment than buying a pint and they need to be stopped from making a profit from it.

But also those places are here online doing extraordinary jobs in very different ways – whether Bella, Lallands Peat Worrier, Wee Ginger Dug, Newsnet, Wings over Scotland, Scot Goes Pop, Common Space, Derek Bateman, Lesley Riddoch, Apolitical, Left Scotland, Land Matters, and the many many more.

As we move into IndyRef2 there’s a need to turn from the inevitable multiparty competition and criticism we have engaged in (and yes the other person always verifiably started it) to the spirit of IndyRef.

That which is (beneath it a) totally welcome and healthy in the normal politics of the normal country we aspire to be, is not something we can afford when we are undertaking the work of extraordinary transformation.

Transformation from being caught in the dysfunctional anti-politics of the UK state to achieving the highest state possible: that of a normality that can look directly at the very real challenges we face and know we can only do our best, but at least we CAN do our best, rather than have to always be choosing the least of two evils.

So, anyone up for offering three lines to follow on from Finlay’s 3 lines that told the story of up until recently? Up until the turning we each – in thousands of different ways- are working to bring, or have already brought, to life.

Comments (35)

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  1. Pat Kane says:

    He canna Scotland see wha’ yet
    Canna see the infinite
    And Scotland in true scale to it.

    – well you asked for three lines…

  2. Ama says:

    Indeed a great three-liner, not by Finlayson, but Alec Finlay (son of Finlay) and Ken Cockburn.

    1. Thanks, yes, we’ll update it

    2. Justin Kenrick says:

      Thanks so much Ama, I’ve been searching and searching for the poets name. Any idea how to get hold of the book?!

      1. Ken Cockburn says:

        You can get the book via the publisher’s website –

  3. Dorothy Bruce says:

    There should be a competition for this.

    Am no poet, but can’t resist the challenge. So here goes –

    The Junction
    Peopled roads zigzag in glaur, diverge
    The well-trodden, once believed safe
    Now only the stones of the new proffer hope

  4. Michelle Frost says:

    Hope is a four-letter word unless you use it
    Faith in ourselves the invincible force
    Rekindle the flame

  5. Andrew Hay McConnell says:

    An old Lakota Sioux saying that I feel is relevant to all of us too:

    “We are all related,
    One Heart,
    One Body”

    Aindrea MacDohmnhuill

  6. nick says:

    brilliant article, thanks…i shall print it out and ponder because i think it matters and it is generous and open and democratic and worthy of emulation and pauses the knee jerk anger at all the lies and injustices – reflection(s)…so my 3 line poem (might) start there

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      go for it! start there

  7. Ian Wight says:

    A Collective Artistry of Possibility:

    The me in we, beyond them and us
    The both/and of independence in interdependence
    The well-being in inter-becomings, whole-making, together

  8. Mathew says:

    Sorry but there can only be laments now.

    Water where once there was ice
    Water where once there were trees
    Water where once there was a dwelling place

  9. Mandy Haggith says:

    Well i’m for hope:
    Breath where there was only air
    Trees where there was only heather
    Water where there will always be water

  10. Michael Moore says:

    Pity the Landsman in his crumpled bed
    of down, he does not know the nature of the
    sound, that freshly minted sky and sea, compound.

  11. Jennie Smith says:

    A hand stretched out to you and the future,
    An eye backlit by the love of home,
    A heart steadfast to build for the future,
    A Scotland for us all.

  12. Alison Phipps says:

    Gifts are in the feet.
    Gifts are in the tears
    Gifts return in their breath.

  13. Stoker says:

    Water where once there was ice
    Heather where once there were trees
    Air where once there was breath

    Hope where once there was fear
    Fact where once there was fiction
    Growth where once there was emasculation – (or replace ’emasculation’ with ‘deprivation’)

    That’s my tuppence worth! Well, you did invite the loonies to the party!

    1. Michelle Frost says:

      this one’s my favourite so far. 😀

  14. Justin Kenrick says:

    hugely appreciate these responses:

    hope or lament, gift or deprivation, they pause the infinite with the sound of whole-making

    is this the first time comments below the line have been a conversation in poetry?

  15. Broadbield says:

    People where once there were people
    Breath where once there was none
    Homes where once there was heather

  16. Wul says:

    London calls today
    Orders me to store the power to incinerate bairns in a loch behind my home
    Aye Right!

  17. Etienne Sutherland says:

    Can anyone tell me who the painting is by? Ta

  18. nick says:

    Imagination is a Mirror in which A People takes form.

    No Mirror – No People.

    Imagination reaches out to what does-not-yet-exist – The People.

  19. Juteman says:

    Gonna take you to a foodbank
    that has glass tables,
    you can watch yourself whilst you are donating.
    Mirror in the foodbank.
    With apologies to the original. 🙂

  20. Susan Macdiarmid says:

    Wind stirs bonfire ash, young leaves shiver.
    Breeze fills eager sails, sunlit waters beckon.
    Lungs suck fresh free air and voices sound, rejoicing.

  21. Trueseeing says:

    Hope rises renewed
    Lies seen through and rejected
    Truth and Scotland rise once more.

  22. nick says:

    …bit red-face re first attempt – this IS definitely more me

    i see myself reflected dead in the lenses of the dwp
    you and me talk of fleeing to the mountains
    but We shake the earth itself

    1. nick says:

      that should be

      but We shakes the earth itself

      1. nick says:

        or not…its the bloody capital and i dont want to put scare quotes on it – some call it the genative but i find i have to actually look that up each time!!! sometimes you reap a double harvest and sometimes you just confuse the reader

        1. nick says:

          got it – 4 line poem

          but We
          shakes the earth itself

          (amazing what a piss can do…)

          1. nick says:

            Finally (honest gov)

            put the but We on line 2!! rules complied with

            sorry to waste your time in such extravagent fashion….

  23. nick says:

    true art fucks with consciousness itself – its products are non-existent
    the earth is barren without madness – the science of heaven and hell…
    supping with the gods and being torn to shreds by demons

  24. nick says:

    i think the 3 line form has a impecunious but nevertheless future

  25. nick says:

    check it..

  26. Nerea says:

    I welcome you
    and now
    You welcome me

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