Somewhere in Scotland

in #life6 years ago


A snapshot from British reality through the eyes of a non-binary Pole thrown under the Brexit bus and living in hope of Independent Scotland.

Somewhere in Scotland I grab my backpack and leave my home. The sun is shining and birds are singing. As I leave the small cul de sac where my home is located I see two cyclists approach. It’s my Spanish neighbours. We greet each other and stop for a brief chat. Like the majority of Spanish people I have had the opportunity to meet, they are very cheerful and friendly. They moved here recently from the South of England and, like almost all Europeans I have met, they are concerned about Brexit and the rise of fascism. The possibility of an Independent Scotland gives them hope. We chat for a while and I nearly miss my bus.


I arrive in Edinburgh late at night and get picked up by family and friends I will be staying with. They live in a shared flat owned by the most notorious landlord in town. This means things in the house do not work as they should. In the UK many politicians are also landlords, so the law is written to favour them. We pay some of the highest rents in the world but receive poor service for our money. It’s the norm all over the UK these days. We are one of the wealthiest nations yet many adults are forced to live with their parents or in shared flats far into their adulthood. The living conditions are deteriorating every year.

The Fringe

In Edinburgh, the Fringe Festival has just started. The city is vibrant, colourful and thriving with art events and theatre, comedy, musicals. Streets are full of people who come here every year from all over the world to experience this. Venues are opened longer hours to accommodate the influx of tourists. I get a pint of super overpriced craft lager and sort through a handful of leaflets I ended up with. I think of the trees that were shredded to make these and of the people who hand them out all day long in the scorching sun to make very little money. It might be my last August in Scotland and last passing experience of Fringe so I may as well enjoy it.


It’s evening and I am meeting a group of like-minded people. I find them with some drunk guy who is shouting at them. ‘All live matters not just black!’ He repeats like a broken record with his eastern European accent. He is Polish and so am I but I do not admit it. I don’t want to be singled out and cornered by him. Eventually, a shopkeeper from next door threatened to call police on him so he backs off. I feel ashamed.

We go into a pub, talking to each other about the other side of the Fringe. The festival draws countless people who are willing to pay high rents to stay in air B’&B’s, hotels and self catering around the city centre. This means that landlords often rent properties for 11 months to clear them ready for the festival goers. Many local residents are forced to look for new accommodation on the outskirts of the city. It’s all a part of the larger issue of gentrification especially affecting minorities. As we speak private housing provider Serco is preparing to evict 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow leaving them to homelessness.


We share our own experiences of being displaced and discuss how things could change. I return home to crash in the living room for the night. The extreme heatwave that hit Europe this weekend allows me to sleep without a blanket. I wonder how people in Portugal can cope. ‘Lucifer’, as the heatwave has been nicked named, is blasting its fiery breath leaving a scorch mark on the records as if to prove climate change deniers wrong. It seems like a smack in the face for the petroleum lobby. It feels vindicating.

The workshop

It’s Saturday morning. I am woken up by some noisy seagulls. It turns out we overslept and might be late for a workshop. We grab a quick breakfast and coffee before going out. When I arrive at the venue, the atmosphere is chilled out. People offer me some coffee. We are waiting for a few more folks to turn up. The workshop is dedicated to theatre techniques, fooling in particular, and how they can be applied in the protest movement. It’s a great day full of intense and fun practice. I feel really good amongst the people I am with. I only know one person, the rest of them are strangers but they don’t seem like strangers at all.

We play with each other, mock each other, expose our inner selves, make ourselves look and behave very very silly. It’s liberating and its hard. It’s difficult to abandon the safety of routinised behaviour and be spontaneously human. There is no sense of judgement from anyone. We all respect each other and push our own boundaries consensually and willingly as far as we want. It feels safe.

We take a break for lunch during which I get to chat with a diverse and inspiring group of people. I begin talking about Finland and mention that I plan to move there in case of hard Brexit. One woman shakes her head and with genuine emotion says she can’t hear this because it makes her so extremely sad. It makes me sad too and I can’t walk away from it. We get back to the workshop for the rest of the afternoon. Energy is a bit lower but we still get a great few hours of exercise and play. Everyone helps to clean and tidy the venue before we part our ways.


I get picked up by family. We grab some food and booze and head off to Tyninghame to camp with friends overnight. The evening is warm and the sunset is stunning. Nearby cliffs overlook Bass Rock and the local marshland is teeming with waders and other birds. Their haunting calls sound all through the night. We make a bonfire and spend most of the night under the stars, between Scots pines.


Our friends are sharing their impressions from a recent visit to Warsaw, Poland. They talk about a food growing revolution and the positive influence of Polish migrants on Sottish culture. ‘Poles have the connection to the earth and the land that we have lost.’ says our Scottish friend as we roast some chicken of the woods mushroom I found in a park earlier. I am the only person who had tried it before and I am happy to share the culinary delicacy with everyone.

We go for a walk to the cliffs after dark and we watch a bat chasing an elephant moth in the light of our torches. The calm sea is shimmering with boat and city lights. We talk about Scottish Selkie folklore, about nature and about our life. It feels so natural to be together and to be here. It’s home to all of us, no matter where we are from. Our friends like myself and my family are in multicultural relationships. We do not share citizenship of the same country and we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. It’s impossible to avoid talking about Brexit and the future of Scotland.


I look at the flickering flames and think about what home is. I feel at home around the fire with my friends regardless of where I am. I feel at home in nature. I feel at home in my skin. I feel at home on Earth. Home is where the heart is but my heart is torn apart. A part of me really wants to stay and help to make an Independent Scotland happen. I don’t want to leave my friends and family behind. I want to know that they are safe. I don’t want them to lose their careers, livelihoods, rights and freedoms. I want Scotland to stand up against growing tyranny.

The other side of me is tired of living in uncertainty, unable to plan my future, not knowing what is to come. There is a whole world out there, unlimited possibilities, different cultures and societies. I could become a part of any one of them. The more I read about Finland the more fascinated I become with its culture. It sounds like a place where I could fit right in. I fall asleep thinking about it all while listening to the wind in the trees, the hum of the sea and bird calls.

I wake up to a cup of hot coffee. We spend a lazy morning at the camp before packing up and driving to North Berwick. It ’s a hot sunny day. We grab fish and chips, stroll on a beach and enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We end the day with dinner at our friend's place. The next day I head back home.


Returning home

I pick up a Metro paper on the train. The main article talks about Liam Fox blaming EU for failed negotiation and the increasing risk of hard Brexit. My friends bought some dried rice just in case and we half-joked and half-seriously talked about stocking up coffee while I was there. Should I be packing my bags or stockpiling food rations? It all feels so surreal. I arrive at my hometown in the evening. I feel really emotional. Impressions from my travel are fresh in my mind. It’s a strange mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and despair. Overall I am empowered to stay engaged and act no matter where life currents take me.

I get to a bus stop. It’s empty with an exception of one grey haired man on crutches. He waves to me so I take out my headphones and we begin to chat. He asks where I am from and I tell him I’m Polish and I live here. He asks how do I like Scotland. I respond that I love it and that it’s a great place to live. He says he is involved in the pro-Independence movement. We shake hands and greet each other before he gets in the car and leaves. ‘Freedom is coming’ he calls out the window as the car drives away. I go back to my Scottish home to a warm supper and my non-binary English spouse. I feel lucky to be here.


I missed you whilst you were gone. It is good to read about the adventures you had but I am glad you are home now... :)

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