- Best bit: Adventures in the snow to Wanlockhead and Leadhills to talk community buy outs and land ownership
- Worst bit: Fracturing my arm!
- Folk of note: Bert, aged 82 from East Linton who shared his chocolate and historic tales with me and with whom I have a lunch date this Thursday.
- Miles travelled: 625
- Things I learned: Only 5 children in 100 got a place in special educational needs teaching in Midlothian this year; 70% of the Western Isles population now live on community owned land – an inspiring fact for folk in Wanlockhead; and some Hawick residents face a £5000 excess on their home insurance because of flooding.
This week has been one of ups and downs. On a frosty Friday morning, on my way to the station heading to an Ofcom event on broadband rollout, my bike and I had a disagreement about which direction we were going. It went right and I carried straight on over the handlebars, fracturing my arm and leaving me unable to drive or cycle for a few weeks. As well as being really sore, not being able to drive in the South has been a huge blow. That said, I’m incredibly lucky that it wasn’t worse and even more lucky to be surrounded by wonderful friends who are willing to help out. On balance, it’s been a pretty good week. Here’s what happened…
On Wednesday, I decided to make the most of the day by getting out and about in East Lothian and the Borders. Nat and I went exploring in the sunshine, visiting Traprain Law – a volcanic rock much like North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock which was once home to the Votadini tribe who ruled the Lothians. From there we went down the road to Hailes Castle, dating from 1200-ish, and onwards through Haddington and out into frost covered lanes up into the Lammermuir hills.
We stopped off in Lauder for coffee and a pretty brilliant scotch egg at the Flat Cat Gallery and, after admiring some of the amazing artwork on show, picked up some bits and pieces for dinner. From Lauder we nipped over the hilltop moor to Stow and down into the deep valleys which are once again home to the Borders Railway. I doubt I’ll ever tire of the landscape in the South.
Thursday brought a campaign meeting in Edinburgh in the morning – lots of exciting things afoot! – and a free afternoon to tootle home the long way through another sunny East Lothian day.
I stopped off at the Hopetoun monument whose purpose I’d often wondered about, spotted the proposed site for a huge anaerobic digester near Ballencrieff, and stopped off for lunch in East Linton. Having learned about the Votadini tribe in Alasdair Moffat’s fantastic book on the Borders and the previous day at Traprain, I was lured to Votadini’s cafe on the High Street. A cheese toastie and lentil soup next to a roaring stove was lovely enough but to top it off, I met Bert, aged 82 who told me about growing up in Spott, just outside Dunbar, about a very old church there and about a cairn to the last witch burned in Scotland. He shared his chocolate and we made a date for lunch this week. Ian who runs the sweet shop off to one side of the cafe told me that if I was to get his vote, I’d need to get the station in East Linton re-opened and ensure there were A+E facilities closer than Edinburgh or Newcastle. I promised to look into it and so I shall.
On Thursday evening I drove to Penicuik to meet with the fabulous Midlothian Greens. I talked through the campaign messages and we chatted about how they might translate on doorsteps in Penicuik or Gorebridge. There I heard concerns that there’s a huge over subscription for primary school places in the area, with more than 700 children seeking a place. Apparently the places available for children with special educational needs are particularly hard to come by, leaving 19 out of every 20 vulnerable children desperately unsupported. It’s certainly an issue to examine further, alongside local councillor Ian Baxter.
Friday was the fateful day of my bike crash and sadly I didn’t make it to hear about community solutions to broadband (yep, I’m genuinely sad about missing it) or to Peebles for a gig at the Eastgate Theatre with some lovely Borders Greens.
On Saturday, dosed up on painkillers, I headed to Edinburgh where I met fellow candidate and knower of things on land reform, Andy Wightman and his ridiculously lovely collie dog Coire. Thankfully Andy and his winter tires got us to Biggar to pick up local Green campaigner Janet Moxley and on to Wanlockhead just over the border from South Lanarkshire into Dumfries and Galloway. You can read more about the meeting at Wanlockhead in my next blog.
Sunday was a much needed day of rest, followed by a trip to Edinburgh on Monday to meet our fantastic new team of Regional Campaign Support Officers who were having their induction at SGP HQ. After a chat about messaging and what candidates need from the new team, I was picked up by the very wonderful Brenna Jessie and we headed south to Hawick. Accompanied by our very own Teri and Leith resident Susan Rae, we attended a fascinating meeting about plans for Hawick’s new flood protection scheme. Again, you can find more about the Hawick meeting in my next blog.
After the 160 mile round trip, getting home after midnight, I was fair shattered today so tried to rest up and heal.
This coming week I’m looking forward to a South team meeting, lunch with Bert, a trip to Kilwinning, an evening in Comrie for Two Minute Manifesto and a South Lanarkshire Greens Burns Supper. Until next time…