Dear friends, he began, there is no timetable for happiness; it moves, I think, according to rules of its own. When I was a boy I thought I'd be happy tomorrow, as a young man I thought it would be next week; last month I thought it would be never. Today, I know it is now. Each of us, I suppose has at least one person who thinks that our manifest faults are worth ignoring; I have found mine, and am content. When we are far from home we think of home; I, who am happy today, think of those in Scotland for whom such happiness might seem elusive; may such powers as listen to what is said by people like me, in olive groves like this, grant to those who want a friendship a friend, attend to the needs of those who have little, hold the hand of those who are lonely, allow Scotland, our place, our country, to sing in the language of her choosing that song she has always wanted to sing, which is of brotherhood, which is of love.
The drinking dens are spilling outThere's staggering in the squareThere's lads and lasses falling aboutAnd a crackling in the airDown around the dungeon doorsThe shelters and the queuesEverybody's looking forSomebody's arms to fall intoAnd it's what it isIt's what it is nowThere's frost on the graves and the monumentsBut the taverns are warm in townPeople curse the governmentAnd shovel hot food downThe lights are out in the city hallThe castle and the keepThe moon shines down upon it allThe legless and asleepAnd it's cold on the tollgateWith the wagons creeping throughCold on the tollgateGod knows what I could do with youAnd it's what it isIt's what it is nowThe garrison sleeps in the citadelWith the ghosts and the ancient stonesHigh up on the parapetA Scottish piper stands aloneAnd high on the windThe highland drums begin to rollAnd something from the past just comesAnd stares into my soulAnd it's cold on the tollgateWith the Caledonian BluesCold on the tollgateGod knows what I could do with youAnd it's what it isIt's what it is nowWhat it isIt's what it is nowThere's a chink of light, there's a burning wickThere's a lantern in the towerWee Willie Winkie with a candlestickStill writing songs in the wee wee hoursOn Charlotte Street I takeA walking stick from my hotelThe ghost of Dirty DickIs still in search of Little NellAnd it's what it isIt's what it is nowOh what it isWhat it is now
Americans may say they love our accents (I have been accused of sounding 'like Princess Di') but the more thoughtful ones resent and rather dislike us as a nation and people, as friends of mine have found out by being on the edge of conversations where Americans assumed no Englishmen were listening.And it is the English, specifically, who are the targets of this. Few Americans have heard of Wales. All of them have heard of Ireland and many of them think they are Irish. Scotland gets a sort of free pass, especially since Braveheart re-established the Scots' anti-English credentials among the ignorant millions who get their history off the TV.
Alan Campbell opened one eye.From somewhere in remote distances, muffled beyond sight or sound, his soul crawled back painfully, through subterranean corridors, up into his body again. Toward the last it moved to a cacophony of hammers and lights. Then he was awake.The first eye was bad enough. But, when he opened his second eye, such as rush of anguish flowed through his brain that he hastily closed them again.
In prehistoric times, early man was bowled over by natural events: rain, thunder, lightning, the violent shaking and moving of the ground, mountains spewing deathly hot lava, the glow of the moon, the burning heat of the sun, the twinkling of the stars. Our human brain searched for an answer, and the conclusion was that it all must be caused by something greater than ourselves - this, of course, sprouted the earliest seeds of religion. This theory is certainly reflected in faery lore. In the beautiful sloping hills of Connemara in Ireland, for example, faeries were believed to have been just as beautiful, peaceful, and pleasant as the world around them. But in the Scottish Highlands, with their dark, brooding mountains and eerie highland lakes, villagers warned of deadly water-kelpies and spirit characters that packed a bit more punch.
In the Scotland of the early seventeenth century, an old woman living alone in Kirkcudbrightshire was accused of witchcraft and on conviction was rolled downhill in a blazing tar barrel. One of the charges against her was that she walked withershins round a well near her cottage which was used by other people. The well was afterwards known as the Witch's Well. These episodes must surely serve as cautionary tales to anyone tempted to transgress the usual custom of walking deasil round a holy well.