I too have planted violets

Did you see “Germaine Bloody Greer” when it was on BBC a couple of months ago?    She was a bit short with the interviewer a couple of times but no wonder: she was getting asked some pretty daft questions such as “What were you trying to say in The Female Eunuch?”  Though it’s a while since I read it, I’d have thought it was pretty obvious what she was saying.

In the programme, there were clips of her in her prime, taking on the male establishment and her many lovers  –  good on her, is what I say.  However my favourite part was when she was giving a tour of the grounds of the house which she is leaving, including a wooded area where, while she stomped about, she pointed out how the few violets she’d planted were now successfully spreading.  It seemed to me, though perhaps fancifully, that she was as proud of what she’d done in those woods as of any of her books.  What would last longer, I wondered.


I thought of the violets I too had planted and I hoped they would be left to continue spreading after I have gone.  I’ve spent so much of my working life talking, writing memos and emails and reports that were probably not read in any great detail – if at all.  Now that I’m coming to the end of my ‘career’, I’m wondering how much good I did and how much harm and what on earth was the point of some of it.

I’m thinking of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s lines from Sunset Song:  “… teaching and saying and praying, they lasted but as a breath, a mist of fog in the hills, but the land was forever, it moved and changed below you, but was forever …”

However I’m also remembering a young lassie I spoke to on a Saturday in September 2014, the Saturday before the referendum when all things were still possible.  There were Yes stalls at the top of Buchanan Street in Glasgow: Labour for Independence and Women for Independence.  I stopped at the WFI stall and, thinking about the campaign nearly at an end, said to one of the stallholders: “What’re we going to do when this is all over?”

“Build a new country”, was her immediate and inspiring reply.  Wherever she is now and whatever she’s doing, I hope that she, at least, has kept her enthusiasm and her ideals.  And if she can also scatter a few wildflower seeds, so much the better.


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