Friday, September 26, 2014

Waiting it out with Robert Burns

Why is patience so hard to come by?
The Scottish referendum which came down on the wrong side of independence through fear and indecision teaches me about patience: The majority of under 55 year olds voted Yes and 75% of young people voted for independence - so patience is in order. The debate won't go away. We just have to bide our time (we might have to wait until JK Rowling is out of the picture so she can't fund the unionist campaign!) Robert Burns was fighting the unionists for Scottish independence 250 years ago,  and so he had to have had even more patience, a patience that would outlast him.

For the second time this summer I sat through an eight hour flight from Scotland to America's east coast, only to run for a connection for another four hour flight to Denver. The airlines have figured out the absolute minimal space a person can endure for twelve hours of flying without going completely bonkers, but only just. You're on the verge of screaming for more leg room, more centimeters on the arm rest, more space between you and the seat-back screen in front of you. Inhuman patience is required.

Same goes for my writing career. It would have been silly for me to hover over sales figures in the first month or so after publication. I am not a known entity - as my agent forecasted, it was going to take time for the book to percolate up. And that's what it is doing. I got a letter lately from a reader in Australia who had bought my book at a local book store - I didn't even know it was available in Australia! (I should add that she called it a "work of art." Can't argue with that from down under or anywhere else!) Then, while I was in Scotland, I went into the big Waterston's book shop in Oban, the biggest town in Argyll, where I went to school. Being a Scot and having been taught not to toot my own horn, I was extremely uncomfortable going up to the man at the cash register and introducing myself and my book. Especially when he went to his computer and tried to bring it up. He shook his head. "Not in the system." I located a kernel of growing panic in the area of the chest. But he had been entering "Vale of Time," instead of "Veil," and suddenly he found it. "Already on order," he said. It's not a big place, Oban, but the news made my heart sing an ode to joy -  it is  a home town for me in many ways, and I felt like Sally Field: "You love me right now! You really love me!"
But such an outburst wouldn't have gone down well, not in Scotland. There is still something subdued and cowed about the Scottish people. I think that is why I left. And it is why, given the offer of independence, the people of Scotland chose not to take it.

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