When a friend enquired recently if I was managing to keep cheery, I admit to a slight hesitation before responding because it would be stretching it a bit to put that label on my modus operandi during this September.

That momentary introspection highlighted a particular pre-occupation which justifies a less than cheerful mindset, stemming principally from apparently unanswerable questions and my inability to influence the outcome. Although the serenity and courage maxim is understood and accepted, the wisdom part of it continues to be a work in progress. However, whatever happens, the resolve to look on the bright side is, for the most part, maintained.

There has been plenty to be cheery about since my If You Want post a month ago. I have enjoyed the generous bounty of plums, apples and blueberries from the productive gardens of friends, and the recent spell of lovely weather has made walks in the Botanics and park a joy. Tentative re-entry to well regulated favourite meeting places allowed near normal across the table get-togethers and proper catch-up chats, and where that has not been possible, FaceTime, Zoom and old-fashioned landline blethers have filled the gaps. Sticking to the rules, there has been visiting and visitors; true to my imaginative hostess skills, the default dependence on those moreish dark chocolate ginger biscuits continues, but not served daintily on Granny’s bonny cake plate. Now, they are available individually foil wrapped, so with the hand sanitiser in easy reach too, what’s not to enjoy while supporting the Scottish economy?

There are some signs to indicate greater observance of appropriate distancing and face covering in the local supermarket, and wiping everything with something purporting to kill 99% of all known germs has become second nature, but …

Somehow the lighter moments are overshadowed by the all encompassing concern about the seemingly relentless spread of this virus because people do what people do. Some of you might have more understanding than I can muster for adults who think house parties and crowding together in pubs is justifiable because missing such social connection might be detrimental to their mental health.

I do have great sympathy for the new students.  These young people have worked hard to win their places throughout a disrupted school year.  No amount of guidelines and appropriate safeguards issued by the universities, or warnings, pleadings or bribes from worried parents can suppress the exuberance of youth. Nor should it and nor should we be surprised.  Their unshakable belief in youthful invincibility during the first couple of weeks has landed them on a steep learning curve.  A lesson learned the hard way is never easy but it is seldom forgotten.  Let’s hope they will work out what they are required to do to keep themselves and their fellow Freshers safe.   Okay, they are supposed to be intelligent but they are young, and I guess we can all remember what that was like.

Running up the hill after evening class, to the trendy pub for a half-pint snake bite for 1/- , before 9.20 p.m. last orders, at the age of seventeen, was our norm. We had the added risk of contributing to and peering through the fag reek to find pals. Rules were broken and risks were taken.  My peers will recall the sex, drugs and rock & roll of the sixties, and we can tell our grandchildren about it if we consider that wise. Those with flower power and free love experiences, or whatever else was the risky trend for your generation can hopefully acknowledge that we soon outgrew the daft stuff and survived largely unscathed. 

The students who have stirred up this major issue will be the generation to shoulder the responsibility of trying to sort out the world we have created for them because of the life-styles we have enjoyed. Pile on them the additional burden of trying to build their lives on the very shoogly foundation resulting from this current calamity, never mind that they are missing out on what they expected would be the usual university experience, let’s at least try to support a pragmatic approach to sorting them out just now.

My Granny used to say “There’s nae use in worryin’ aboot what might niver happen.” That is sometimes more easily said than done. Never mind the worrying spread of Covid 19, it is difficult to ignore the gathering dark political clouds on this and the other side of the Atlantic. I fear we will find little shelter from the deluge of unexplained or as yet undisclosed after effects of a No Deal separation from our cross-channel neighbours. All that and well, the nights are fair drawin’ in too. Oh dear me!

In an effort to lighten the tone and get back to cheery, I suggest you say the word aloud a couple of times, at the mirror, and you will see that without trying very hard you are halfway to a smile.  It might be wise to do this unobserved, but if that is unavoidable, at least your witness will get a laugh.  Don’t try thinking up rhyming words tho’ because you will end up with dreary, weary and bleary, and the benefits will be lost.

There have been several occasions this month when the biggest laugh has been at myself. I have learned that it’s the best way to deal with what I might otherwise consider the early onset of dotage.  I won’t elaborate but will admit to feeling a bit silly.  I don’t doubt for a minute that you can all think of something you have done that brings a chuckle once the red faced embarrassment fades.

There’s plenty to bring cheer if we look for it and forward to it The full moon is huge this time and worth a step outside to enjoy. The man in residence up there has a smile for absolutely everyone prepared to acknowledge his presence. It’s traditionally a time associated with the display of behaviour bordering on madness. That’s your prerogative, but make the best of the opportunity to be excused if you do. Lunar cycles aside, we can look forward to the beautiful autumn colours as the trees change, and gather the best of the brambles if any can be foraged on a country ramble. Watch out for the geese flying south and get ready to bring out the warm jumpers.

There may seem a lot to miss out on because our usual activities can’t be enjoyed due to current restrictions, but there are always alternatives if we are fortunate enough to have the resources to find them. If you are really stuck for diversion from the harshness of reality, I believe the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is scheduled to start soon. I am a very recent convert, drawn in because my favourite young investigative journalist was involved. I had to keep tuning in to cheer Stacey all the way to her win.

There’s no modicum of doubt that dance in any form can be a tonic and music brings its own pleasures. For that reason, I leave you with links to enjoy a few moments of both.

Join the cheery folks of Peebles –

And although a wee happy tear might escape, share the delight this is bringing to everyone.

Until next month then


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