Friday, November 16, 2012

A Scottish Village Renaissance

It's been a long time since I posted on here, mainly because I've been concentrating on finishing a brand new novel called Ice Dancing, which you can find on Amazon Kindle, here in the UK, or here, if you happen to be reading this from the USA. There was a lot to do to it, to get it ready for publication, and I was also spending quite a lot of time travelling around Scotland for various talks, festivals and meetings. I've been acquiring and processing some textiles as well, mostly at auction, so I have lots of things to list before Christmas. They are all clean and sweet smelling and neatly piled up in my big stock cupboard. I look at them and think 'oh dear, better get started then!'

The new novel, which isn't really about Ice Dancing at all, is set in a small Scottish village, a lowland Scots village of the kind I know well, and like very much. The ice dancing is a metaphor for something else, although it does feature ice hockey in Scotland and an athletic Canadian hero with a dark past. 'A nice man to whom bad things have happened' as one of my readers says. And she's right. But essentially, this is a novel about village life, the good and bad, the closeness and familiarity of it all, the way in which everyone knows everybody else's business, the safety of it and the occasional frustration of it all as well. I think it's quite a loving portrait, because I enjoy living in the countryside - but I'm also aware that it can be a bit of a mixed blessing.

I was thinking about all this today when I popped out to our village shop. It was a fine morning, after days of rain, and the village was looking rather cheerful with lots of autumnal activity. And I was thinking that just three years ago, although the village was picturesque and friendly, things seemed to be on the slide. The pub had been closed for a while and was looking derelict. The one and only shop was on the verge of closing. The school was looking a bit the worse for wear. Some of the houses were empty and unkempt. Some of our annual events seemed to be falling into abeyance with nobody to organise them.

Cue forward a few years. The shop is now community run, and includes a cafe as well. This morning it was busy and full of the appetizing smell of home baking. Two young men were sitting in the cafe drinking tea and waiting for their breakfasts. The fruit and vegetables had just been delivered (by the local retired doctor, who does the veggie run every week!) and there were covered plates positively stuffed with the most appetising and enticing home baking imaginable, all made in time for the weekend. The village hall was ringing with the cheerful sounds of children playing. We are getting a brand new eco friendly primary school and while it is being built, the school has been transferred to the newly redecorated hall. The pub has been renovated and reopened with a fabulous new restaurant. The village is decorated with pretty tubs, already planted out with winter pansies - courtesy of our new and very successful gardening club. Last week, the attendance at our reinstated firework display was bigger than ever. We supplied soup and hot dogs for the assembled spectators, and collected a good contribution to the next village event. We have had all kinds of gatherings and events, ceilidhs, and parties, most of which have been well attended and enthusiastically received. The few derelict houses have been sold and are already under enthusiastic renovation. In short, the village seems to be 'on the up' all over again.

It didn't happen without a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment on the part of a great many people though! And it didn't happen without the usual grumbling and the odd dispute. Has it all been worthwhile? I think it certainly has. Communities need a lot of hard work and good will to sustain them. Let's hope we can keep it up in the future!


Anonymous said...

I am glad to read that maybole is thriving again. We loved it there.


Catherine Czerkawska said...

Well - we're not quite Maybole - three miles down the road! And although Maybole is improving, it's a more difficult proposition, I think! But it looks as though finally they'll be getting the longed for bypass, and I think that will help enormously.