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Parked briefly in Leith

This morning I awake with a nagging discomfort in my back. My travelling to Parliament has necessitated my sitting in the driver's seat of my car for some seven hours.

The rules of lockdown mean that my possible break at "Peggy Scott's" at Finavon for a pot of tea and a bacon roll is not currently possible. So it is a non-stop drive.

Incidentally, the late Ms Scott, who created the delightful pit-stop I refer to and who supervised its excellent kitchen and fine fine-pieces that emerged from it was not called Peggy.

She was an excellent example of local entrepreneurship. She had a window in her domain, the kitchen, which enabled her to attend to the culinary activities while also keeping a close eye on her customers outwith that area.

Her sensitivity to any body language, which suggested anything less than 100% satisfaction would have her gently approaching any customer exhibiting such a response to her hospitality, and engaging them in conversation. And where she could, making sure that she took the opportunity to refine her establishment's efforts. Next time they visited, she would be out to re-engage and cross-check.

A phenomenal memory and a very effective way to build her business up to the modern and inviting establishment it became.

For my part, it was not any dis-satisfaction she could perceive in me that led her to my table, or if I was lucky, one of the sofas. Rather it was that she recognised me for who I was - a Parliamentarian.

As Thomas Jefferson put it; "He who stands for public office becomes public property".

Once you are elected to Parliament, you will have to plumb impossible depths of invisibility, a very few have achieved this miracle, to avoid being recognised wherever you go. Your opportunities for misbehaving, you won't think we'd want to would you?, become severely constrained.

She was well informed and could deliver a well-argued set of comments designed to align your mind with her views. In a proper fashion.

But there was also more general gossip in there. In one such conversation, it emerged that as a serial business person, the trading name for her establishment, "Peggy Scott's", was the moniker previously conferred on the family dog. Sharing that special knowledge with, apparently, only a few special customers, made you feel a member of a limited club. Clever.

The company has survived her demise a couple of years ago. And remains an inviting pit stop. But for the moment it is sharing the pain of this pandemic and is shuttered and closed. My uncomfortable back is testament to the important role, this, and other small businesses play in my life.

So, for my next visit to Parliament, that's probably next week, I am going to read the rules for using the train carefully and weigh the increased risk of sharing my travel with others against the personal discomfort of my car seat.

I am not anticipating a need to speak in the Debating Chamber again before recess starts at the end of June. But it does look like I shall have, for the third time, to attend two Committee meetings which are being held at the same time. I await final advice of timings. That will necessitate my travelling to my Edinburgh accommodation where there is sufficient broadband bandwidth to permit that.

Under the modest easing of restrictions, I was able to go for a walk in the St Mark's Park area of Leith this week. That was my meeting up with Darcey, my goddaughter, and her mum. No hugs, moan, but good conversation is easily possible at two metres' distance.

I discovered that not every bicycle has a bell. Didn't that use to be a legal requirement? And even for those that do, and cyclists who use them, my rural ear simply isn't attuned to them. My failure to recognise a clear signal for me from behind, and caused me to come uncomfortably close to others on the paths upon which we walked. I may yet be the cause of an accident if I do not mend my ways.

Another change in my personal habits necessitated by this pandemic.

I felt as I looked around in the park on our walk, that most of the not inconsiderable number of people I saw, were obeying the rules. Dog walkers, not all so obviously so. The days of the modern "reel-in" lead seem to have led to a reduction of oral commands from master to animal and an unhappy inattentiveness to many dog's activities. There were some dogs off the lead and getting seriously exercised thereby. They were no problem.

But the walk once again shows the joys of walking. I never knew that St Mark's park and all the associated paths were there. That despite my having, over many years, spent quite a bit of time in Leith where, well over a hundred years ago, my mother was born.

So what kind of things were we talking about during our walk? Quite a wide range.

The weir on the Water of Leith is where Darcey had seen a heron recently. And that that speaks to there being fish in the river. Kingfishers too have been seen. That's all good news about the quality of the local environment.

But my eye did not fail to see problems too. The dumping of a bicycle and other junk in the river neither made the view attractive nor was it a benefit for the local area generally. Dumping has been a particular problem in rural areas. Disappointing to see urban difficulties too.

I had taken some of our lemonades produced by a local company, Summerhouse, to Darcey and her mum. They are truly adult drinks. On the edge of being what I have previously described as "wersh". Checking on the meaning of this word in the Scottish National Dictionary, I find I have probably been mis-using it where it is defined as "tasteless, insipid, unpalatable" and that certainly is not true of these wonderful drinks.

And reports later in the day indicated that the recipients had enjoyed them.

The increasing visibility of local companies seem to be one of the unexpected effects of lockdown.

Let's trust that can be sustained.


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