Fay Young

curiosity about the ways of the world

In praise of the shipping forecast: pure poetry

The North wind doth blow though not very hard. Our windmill acts like a weathervane even when it’s not turning and it is facing resolutely north. We shall have snow. Continue reading

Look to the islands for pragmatic politics of hope

It’s not everyone’s idea of escape. A force 7 gale lashed the boat as we crossed the stormy Sound of Eigg. But we were leaving all visible signs of the general election on the mainland and I welcomed that thought even as I closed my eyes and got my head down, praying I wouldn’t need the poly bag thoughtfully provided by the crew.

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Reds (almost) under the bed

A flurry of white feathers on the pond, a pile of guano on the front doorstep and two peanuts in a corner of the hall. Welcome signs of wildlife at Pond Cottage and, note, they are not all outside the cottage. While swans (mostly) keep to the pond, our doorstep guano is deposited by bats roosting above the bedroom window, and the peanuts were left by an inquisitive red squirrel which ventured inside the back door. Continue reading

Poetry breaks the silence of dementia

Over the Years, a poem about ageing and Alzheimer’s, stirs a sad, sweet memory but also hope. Dementia is part of family life – and loss – for so many of us now and I remember how it silenced my once sociable father. Yet Paula Jennings’ poetry, drawing on her work in a nursing home, invites a new way of talking and listening.

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Bridge of sighs

Crossing the Forth Road Bridge beneath a dramatically cloudy sky, you can just see one tower of the new bridge over to the right.

Towering ambition

No fuss, no fanfare. Without a tweet or a peep from the press, an invisible shift in the Scottish landscape took place in the early hours of this morning.

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Politics and a vote for love

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

He wasn’t literally poor, of course. William Butler Yeats was born into an Anglo-Irish Protestant family at a time when the landed gentry were still in the last phase of their ascendancy. With that came the big houses, expensive schooling and freedom to move in elevated social circles of London and Dublin. Yet the ardent nationalist, poet and politician would surely be spinning merrily at the result of the Irish referendum. Continue reading

Scotland needs jesters

Looking up at the Gift Horse skeleton sculpture by Hans Haake

Gift Horse by Hans Haake on the Fourth Plinth: could Scotland risk such public art?

I looked a Gift Horse in the mouth. Or, to be more accurate, I joined the tourists in Trafalgar Square snapping pictures of the latest sculpture occupying the Fourth Plinth. After a day in the Houses of Parliament the Tory ‘long term economic plan’ sprang to mind as I admired the skeleton; bronze bones stark and bold against a cold spring sky.

This first appeared in Sceptical Scot, a new online magazine asking awkward questions about life in Scotland. 

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Ad neverendum?

Two grenades top the entrance posts to Little Sparta, Ian Hamilton Finlays garden in the Scottish borders

Retreat or attack? Welcome to Little Sparta

I loiter in the garden and find myself longing for this election campaign to end. And I’m not alone. Over the last few days I’ve been meeting people – politicians, academics and ordinary voters like me – desperate to see the end of #GE2015, as the Twitter hashtags identify this unseemly mess. Continue reading

Blood on the tracks

“Many of the smaller ones perched on my hat, and when I carried my gun on my shoulder would sit on the muzzle. During my stay I killed forty-five all of which I skinned carefully.”



I really wish I hadn’t read that extract from David Douglas’s diary describing the birds he killed during his few days on the Galapagos Islands in 1824. Douglas happens to be a bit of a hero of mine. I get a powerful kick looking up into the huge trees he brought back from his travels in what was then the wild woods of the Pacific North West. He went to such trouble to collect seed without destroying the forest it is sad to discover he was blasting eagles and owls and other grand feathered things off the face of the mountain. But I guess no-one is perfect. Continue reading

Can democracy deliver in time for climate change?

Is the NHS equipped to deal with floods, gales and heatwaves of extreme weather?  A deadly serious question is posed in a quiet corner of the Houses of Parliament.  While the media fulminates in a flash storm conjured by David Cameron during Prime Ministers Questions, the Environmental Audit Select Committee contemplates a more fearful threat than Ed Milliband ‘crawling to power on Alex Salmond’s coat tails’. Continue reading

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