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Caring people

As I walked yesterday, a couple of things came to mind. Visually I was stimulated by the vigorous flowering of the broom at the roadside. Looks much the same as the whin that still dominates the countryside with its vivid yellow flowers. The broom is slightly more mellow but, more importantly, lacks those vicious sharp thorns that any medieval barber could have used in his blood-letting practice.
And the other was prodding my brain; a traditional English nursery rhyme, "Monday's Child" which is thought to have come from their county of Devonshire.

Thursday's child has "far to go". It was Thursday. That was relevant to my walking exercise. I am a Tuesday's child, and thus I am "full of grace". Perhaps.

My brother was a Saturday child, he "works hard for his living", this eighth-decader used to, but it's my sister who is Thursday's child.

Now, of course, a rhyme is just that. It ain't necessarily a philosophical statement. Nor does it represent the results of an in-depth analysis of multifarious children. This one's eight lines long, where the last word is matched, in this case, in ending pronunciation with its predecessor.

Sir Thomas de Ercildoun, born abut 1220 in the Borders, acquired the sobriquet "Rhymer" to be remembered to this day as "Thomas the Rhymer". Scotland is not merely the land of Burns. Alas, little of Thomas' work survives. But he was the inspiration for some of Walter Scott's writings six hundred years later.

And I sit here at my keyboard, another part of my brain is listening to Steeleye Span's "Thomas the Rhymer". An inspiration still today. You can listen too at

But although poetry does mostly have rhyme, it is as much about the overall sense of balance in prose. Here's the prose poem which I wrote for my god-daughter when she was born nearly nine years ago. As you can read, it's about her being a Wednesday's child:

for Darcey May

Poetry can capture truth,
Poetry describes our thinking,
It tugs at our hearts,
Reflects our hopes and dreams,
Mirrors their realisation,
But it cannot compare to the
Living, beating heart of the new-born child,
Bred of past and present,
Carrying our hopes to the future.

Drawn from English stock,
Born in a Scottish realm,
Nature and nurture,
Drawing hybrid strength from both,
Unique, longed for, precious,
To travel beyond our time,
And to define a future unknown to us,
Without fear, instead in hope,
Building a new world for tomorrow.

Cherished, adored, this child,
To learn from us all,
And then to teach us,
How to deal with new mysteries,
Who will you think you are?
Who are you to become?
Even with our helping hands; unknown,
But in the certain hope we have,
No woe for this Wednesday child.

My sister, who has "far to go", is, like her siblings, required to take more stringent protection measures even than the general population during the current pandemic. Like many, she now looks out on a garden tidier than for some time. Despite her years, well past what was previously thought of as being retirement age, she still works part-time. She had been matron of a care home, I know it to be a very well-run privately owned one. This week's events in Skye are definitely not representative of the care sector. On moving to part-time working, she became part of the team once again.

Any institution with a concentration of residents, hospitals, prisons, care homes, can present significant potential for rapid transmission of disease.

The idea of care homes is not new. I don't know how often I have bought a volume of the Para Handy tales. They are addictive. I frequently find myself lending my book to others. And never seeing it again.

The first appearance of Para Handy was in 1905 in the Glasgow Evening News. They were in short form and written with a light touch. Today the author's name appears on the book as Neil Munro. But in the paper, they appeared under the pseudonym Hugh Foulis. Munro did not want this part of his writings associated with the more serious stuff he wanted to be known for. Tough; history remembers, and TV has mined, the Tales of Para Handy - by Neil Munro.

One such touches on the matter of care homes under the title "Pension Farms". Like many of the Tales, it was anchored in what were then-current events. In this case, opportunities for the likeable scallywag that was Para Handy that might be derived from the Old-Age Pensions Act 1908. By the closing date for applications on 1st January 1909, 60,787 Scots had applied for their five shillings a week pension or seven and sixpence for a married couple.

In discussing the relative merits of establishing a hen farm or a pensioner farm, Munro has Para say;

"there's quick returns in pensioners if you put your mind to it"

But like many of Para Handy's "schemes", nothing came of it.

Today, of course, it is not something for speculation. It's an absolutely necessary part of our support for older people. There are so many more of us today than there were a hundred years ago. And we live much further into old age.

Recognising that, it is a sector with high standards in the great majority of homes, and is firmly regulated. I know that my sister while enjoying a wee bit of time out, is looking forward to its ending. She has "far to go" and is not yet contemplating reaching her final destination.

Now before I close, and I am late, having been diverted into fine-tuning my amendments before the noon deadline relating to the Coronavirus No.2 Bill, let's say a wee bit about yesterday's writings.

A well-informed rebuttal of some of my assertions about the primacy of the Gaelic oral tradition over its written one has dropped into my email inbox.

I always knew about the "Book of Deer" which recorded, in Gaelic, property rights across Scotland. It's thought to be the oldest surviving written Gaelic. The key statement made to me is that Gaelic/Irish is the third oldest written language in Western Europe, following Greek and Latin. And a reference which should probably be given more weight than my musings is also provided: (

However, after a quick look at the National Library of Scotland's web site, I am eager to be able to get back inside the building after renewing my reader's card earlier this year. Their pages do illustrate some of the debate around our oldest tongue.

Every day's a school day.


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