Hi. I hope you are doing ok? I further hope that you are physically safe and that you are able to manage your risk of catching or distributing COVID-19 without material impairment to your quality of life.
I am doing ok. I am physically safe and able to manage my risk of catching or distributing COVID-19 without material impairment to my quality of life. And for these things I am grateful.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything on here. It’s really bothered me that I haven’t done so. I felt like I was getting into the swing of things in May and I am annoyed that I have been derailed by events, other commitments and my tendency to procrastinate.
I had a great idea for the next blog post, which I have been composing in my head to the detriment of any actual output on this site. The next bridge I wanted to tell you about was the Neidpath Viaduct, which is an old railway bridge just outside of Peebles. So the subject of my blog was going to be the reasons why this is no longer an active railway bridge, namely the so-called Beeching axe of the 1960s.
Dr Richard Beeching was a physicist and engineer, but is most famous for his role in the dismantling of the British railway system during his time as Chairman of British Railways in the 1960s. On his recommendation, the Conservative government of the time closed a third of Britain’s 18,000 miles of railway lines, as well as over 2,000 stations, axing 70,000 railway jobs in the process.
There is a blog to be written on this subject, as it is seen by many Borderers as one of the great injustices done unto them over the last century, as well as being incredibly short-sighted and reckless, given what we now know about the impact of car usage on the wellbeing of the planet.
But all this would serve to do would be to highlight the extraordinary privilege which I have come to take for granted as a cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class white man in a relatively safe part of the world.
The fact that I could even begin to sense something approaching anger about a railway line that closed 60 years ago is a source of extreme embarrassment when I look at the outpouring of agony, injustice and fury from people of colour in the US (and beyond) after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis.
I have absolutely no idea what true injustice feels like. A couple of weeks ago, people in this country were feeling the first flushes of indignation about a man called Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s senior adviser, breaching the lockdown restrictions that he helped to draft and that we were being told were non-negotiable and essential to save lives. We all, myself included, felt that was grossly unfair, and that there should be consequences for the transgressor. People were rightly angry about this, and this escalated as the government spin machine (of which Mr Cummings is the beating heart) whirred into action to deny any wrongdoing.
But that anger now looks pathetic. A cirrus cloud next to a cyclone. So, the mask slipped for a week or so. One after one, politicians were revealed to be more interested in maintaining than any genuine care or respect for the nation or its inhabitants. Has it not ever been thus?
The day of reckoning will come. We haven’t forgotten about you Mr Cummings. But now is not the time.
What to say about racial injustice? It is very difficult for me to write about this subject without hypocrisy. But that is not a good reason for me not to try. If I get it wrong, then I expect I will be told so and I will learn and adapt. But, just like any injustice, if it is left to the victims to resolve it, it will continue to pervade. I am not an architect or operative of racial injustice any more than I am a victim, but it is no longer enough for me to be a passive opponent. I feel guilty for not realising sooner that we are, right this second, living through an era that my children’s generation will (I hope) look back on with horror as being the peak (or perhaps the trough?) of unfairness, inequality and injustice. But, for that to happen, things have to start to change.
So, I will say more, provide more support, act more and act better. The fulcrum of the anger has been in the US, but this is not a problem unique to that part of the world. We must all do what we can in our respective communities and do it now. Educate yourself, as I must do, then find out what you can do. Then do it.
In other news, I’ve got a heron update. I have deduced that there are (at least) two herons in Peebles and not one as previously assumed. But I trust you will forgive me if I opt to save the accompanying tale until next time.
In the meantime, be good to each other, to yourself and to the world.