castle garden of water to beyond

Twelve months in a Japanese garden in Edinburgh


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September – Ken’s post

It’s the day of the referendum on Scottish independence. I’ve already voted by the time I pick up my daughter, Isobel, and head out to Lauriston Castle.

We go inside for the first time, for a lecture on ‘Women in Scottish Education from 1850 to the present’, delivered by Dr David Dick, a sprightly 85 year-old who spent a career as an engineer before devoting himself to history.

He says he became interested in the reputation abroad of Scotland’s ‘intellectual democracy’ in the 18th and 19th century’s: the country’s education system was recognised as one of the most progressive in the world, in terms of access to and participation in higher education. But only for men: women were almost entirely excluded. That’s gradually been changed, to the extent that today women make up almost 60% of the student body (and a new problem is how to attract more men into higher education); but still only 20% of professors in Scottish universities are women.

It’s good to have a sense of the long view – what has been changed, and what’s still to do – on a day when it feels like everything could change overnight. Yes, it could, but whatever happens is part of a much longer process of change initiated decades go and will continue to play out over the rest of my lifetime, and beyond.

In the garden it’s not raining, but there’s a mist over the water: Cramond Island is just about visible, Fife isn’t. There are signs of autumn: sweet brambles and some leaves turning, but the chestnut-trees seem to have been badly hit by the recent dry spell, their leaves going straight to brown without any livelier tints.

Back home I switch on the lunchtime news, and the trenchant Yes / No views are remarkable by their absence. It’s an odd lull just for polling day, between the frenetic campaigning of recent days and whatever comes next which won’t, whatever else it will be, be business-as-usual.

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