I like my morning walk to work. I consider myself blessed that I live close enough to my job to be able to walk to work. It’s a 10-15 walk…depending on the weather, and what shoes I’m wearing. Sometimes I vary the route, but this morning, I took the long way to work.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Dundee is its size. After 12 years here – 9 of them in the same building – I’m known. I walk to work to in the mornings, and Gurkirat – the old guy who opens the Sikh temple I live across from in the morning – always says “Hi Kathy” in that melodious accent that I love. As I pass the back garden gate of 94 Victoria, I’m always startled by Gavin, who always laughs at the way I jump when he comes out the gate to go to his car. We met when a problem with my boiler caused a leak onto his garden shed.
As I make my way down Victoria Road, I’m greeted by numerous people I’ve come to know. It’s a bit like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. Smiling friendly people, that wave hi, call out “Oi Kath!”, stop me for a wee natter. It’s a nice start to my morning, and when you’re an immigrant, you appreciate little niceties like that.
This morning, my walk into town was a bit different – off-kilter. The polls had opened at 7am for the Scottish referendum. The morning was dark, damp, misty from the harr that made the hills of Fife totally invisible – what Dundonians refer to as “a dreich day.” . And the people were different as well.
I pass four bus stops on my way to work; usually they’re hives of activity, chatter, laughter from anecdotes told about the night before down the pub. Many of the bus stop regulars know me from when I rode the bus, and they usually wave and speak. This morning, they were all quiet as I passed – they were silent, standing apart. I smiled and threw up my hand as usual, but no one responded. Their faces were taut with anxiety.
It was like that all the way into town and my cosy office in the Cathedral. The bin men who usually speak or flirt with me were quiet; though I spoke as usual, they went about their business of picking up McDonald’s wrappers and fag ends with a concentrated solemnity I found unnerving.
This morning, people on the streets seemed to be holding their breath – an air of uncertainty and expectation hung in the air with the harr, the only noise coming from the usual morning rush-hour traffic and the aggressive seagulls and pigeons.
Dundee – like me – was waiting. After two years of often negative campaigning, the moment of truth had arrived: Scotland’s people were about to make the most momentous decision in the country’s history.
It made my stomach hurt. I wondered if anybody was as scared as I was as they cast their vote.
Things were a bit different once I reached City Centre. The contractors laying the new pavement on the High Street smiled and waved as I passed, but without their usual banter. I went into the Tesco Metro to buy milk, and though Moira chatted with me as I paid, the smile she gave me when I left resembled a death’s-head rictus.
So much is at stake. Small wonder that on this morning, things were a bit different. I was relieved when I got to work.
Dundee is Yes city – so named during the campaign. Saltires and Yes banners and flags and Lions Rampant hang from building windows. I have friends who are voting Yes – I have friends who are voting No. I have friends who have opposing opinions who are now not speaking to each other. And I, who fell in love with the warmth of the Scottish people, am grieved by this.
So I now sit at home in my wee flat which I love in the country that I love, waiting for the results of the referendum with a people that I love. Unlike the night of Obama’s election (the first one), when my flat was filled with people of all nationalities, I’m waiting alone, flipping through all the news channels, feverishly reading the online updates of the polling.
I’d like to say it’s all over but the shouting, but I don’t think that’s applicable here. Whatever the result, there’s bound to be anger, disappointment, bitterness and tears in the aftermath.
That said, I love Scotland. My life is here, and I will remain here, even if I don’t get the result I voted and prayed for.
Lang may yer lum reek. ❤