The title Roots may trigger thoughts which take you in one or several directions, depending on mood or current concern.
There has been recent media debate on whether hairdressing should be identified as an essential occupation, and plenty advice from currently unemployed hairdressers that we must leave well alone for now and wear a hat. They caution against home colouring. My cautionary tale about that goes back more than 50 years. The label on the product I used on my shiny black straight hair, read after the resultant carrot colour and a severe tellin’ aff, stated 80% hydrogen peroxide. That experience allowed me to suppress the shock of the bleached effect the same chemical had on the top of my grandson’s dark hair, when he experimented as a young teenager. I ruffled his curly locks, admired the look, and knew full well it would soon grow out – at the rate of half and inch per month judging by my crowning glory.
Mention of carrot colour brings an image of my heavily stained chopping board. I overestimated my need for root vegetables. One kilo of carrots, kindly sourced and delivered by a neighbour, has produced a pot of soup big enough to swim in, with enough left over to treat next door’s rabbits. Fortunately I was more circumspect with the fruit and have no need to follow the current trend for baking banana bread.
Some say money is the root of all evil but that leads me to believe it isn’t the money per se, but rather what it is or isn’t used for by those who have it. There are innumerable examples of philanthropy for the widest greater good, and currently much more evidence of the generosity of the less well off, and those who struggle but still want to give. Fundraising for International, National and Local causes continues to support provision of basic needs and services. Arguing that access to what are documented human rights should not be dependent on charity belongs on another platform. The evil in vast wealth comes with the apparently uncontrollable power it affords individuals and corporations we don’t have to look far to find.
I’m sure we all agree that the root of the problem is not the money but the fundamental failure to manifest a fairer distribution. As my Granny would often say, half way through the last century, “It’s an ill-dividet wurld”, and we are still saying the same. An ill-divided world.
If I think back to my roots, in the small tight-knit community, being seen but not heard when grown-ups were gossiping provided a fertile learning ground. “Jock’s idle just noo” didn’t mean he was lazy, it meant he couldn’t find work. “Mary’s carryin’.” heralded a baby on the way, whether it was welcome or not was indicated by the tone. A teenage girl would initially be “A weel daein’ quine, good at the school.” and was a focus for approval, but that same young woman, returned from university might be discussed in different terms. “Just fa does she think she is? Lady Muck! I kent her granny!” In other words, if there was any attempt to climb up the social beanstalk, the chance was that a person might get tangled up in the roots, and any effort undermined.
A social anthropologist could have a field day attempting to untangle and explain the social mores of the tribe, but whatever any thesis argues, the sea air, the freedom to roam, the village bringing up the child and a diet consisting of plenty fish, nurtured many who have contributed much. Besides, everyone knows, in the way that carrots help you to see in the dark, “eatin’ yer crusts gie’s ye curly hair and fish gie’s ye brains.”
Nowadays, with access to so many resources, the root and branches of the family tree can be revealed. We can watch Who Do You Think You Are on television, and marvel at the skill of the researchers and the unpredictable outcomes.
The first record I remember was, at a young age, being aware of writing on the war memorial. I remember the pleasure I felt upon hearing I was connected to one of the names. My Granny’s brother had died, aged 18, during WWI, while serving with the Gordon Highlanders. Not killed in action but a previous tragic pandemic known then as Spanish Flu’. A long time later I learned that the impact on her life of losing her only sibling went way beyond teaching me to read his name.
I had a go, many years ago now, at doing a family tree, but at that time most of the readily available records had been drawn up by the Mormons and stored on microfiche. For those unfamiliar with the system, Google it, and those who remember it will understand why my enthusiasm to visit the Central Library for access was short lived. Now we have the results of Human Genome Project!
And at the start of the search back to our roots is ourselves. Physical and facial likeness and the inheritance of the odd endearing blemish serve as assurance that what has gone before will continue. The secrets held in the twists and turns of the double helix might raise questions or even some hackles, but there’s no denying the DNA!
Among the advantages of being #vulnerable age and Hunkerin Doon, is the opportunity to take stock. Some of us are clinging on to the 5th but see too many of the signs of the 6th Age to deny, if we haven’t yet entered, it is at the very least impending. Not necessarily scary but a time to reflect and to plan. For the present, during this period of social isolation, there is time to discover a bit more about ourselves. Some behavioural traits of mine are beginning to become irksome. I won’t elaborate.
It is dawning on me that, in spite of hitherto attributing my independence and self-sufficiency to my own efforts, I have grown into myself because I come from good root stock, had plenty sunshine and just enough manure to stimulate new shoots. I have branched out, and to suck even more sap from the metaphor, the people in my life create the blossom!
When this lockdown ends, not only will more of my true self be revealed to me and I will accept that I did not inherit the curly hair gene, but more to the point, my true colour will be revealed to the world.
My roots are silver!