This short story was to be the basis of the third part of a series. Each would feature a thread of the same characters. The first explored the relationship between two siblings, and a mystery involving their grandmother. Each chapter took place on a different day in their lives. The second was planned to follow some of the same characters over a fortnight’s holiday, and the final one, during a single day, 6th November 2021. As always best laid plans etc. First I chickened out of attending the day of action in Glasgow, I didn’t want to write about it without having been there. And then I realised that stories one and two had a similar arc, and might work better together as one story. But that as they say is another one.
Today on Twitter I saw a quote attributed to Annie Proulx:
“What I find to be very bad advice is the snappy little sentence, ‘Write what you know’. it is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given…What one should write about is what interests one.”
Disclaimer I don’t know whether she said/wrote this, I don’t know her work or views on things such as cultural appropriation, I don’t know what the poster’s agenda may have been. I don’t subscribe to the idea that writers can write what they like without criticism, and would always do my best not to appropriate someone else’s story. But it did make me reconsider the third story. What I took from it today, was that I could go ahead and write it, even though I hadn’t attended the event. Because I *do* care, and am interested.
I don’t usually post stories in first draft, so this will be a bit ragged. But here goes…
The day they didn’t care
Malcolm didn’t care that he was a good few decades older than most of the crowd. He was feeling younger and more useful that he had for years, certainly in the years since he’d retired. If he felt self- conscious at all it was because of the hat Elspeth had insisted he wore, but his wife was right, his hair was beginning to thin on top. And today, as so often lately, had above average temperatures and enough sun to cause damage. So he was a little too warm and afraid he looked like an infiltrator, though for once he was glad to look his age. No-one would mistake him for a police officer.
It was a shame he hadn’t been able to persuade Elspeth to join them. She’d cited staying home to look after Fred, and he had to agree this crowd would have put the dog into a frenzy, but one of the neighbours might have helped. His wife was always more conservative, with a small ‘c’, even back in their university days.
It was good to see Gilly and Mat looking happy together again, and he adored any time spent with little Bobbie. His granddaughter was too little to understand what was happening. She was simply being wheeled along in her buggy waving to everyone, she probably thought everyone was there for her. Which in his case he was. For Bobbie, and all the other young people, and the ones not yet born. Trying in some little way to safeguard their future. A future which was scary even for Bobbie, born into affluence and a wet climate.
Flò didn’t care that she’d only had a few hours sleep. She was happy to be here, with Beth speaking to her again. It was just that at the moment, talking, but it was a start. And to be honest Beth had spent most of the past week working so there wouldn’t have been time for anything else. But after the months of blocking it was more than Flò had let herself hope for. It had been a mistake the two of them moving up to Glen Bruach, it had seemed a good idea, plenty of space and potential for Beth to work. But it hadn’t worked out that way, and Beth had been isolated and grown depressed. Working here had given her some purpose, taken away a little of the hopelessness that had swamped her back there. Which hadn’t been helped by the mocking she’d got from Flò’s family, well her dad and brother, Mum had been ok.
Being back in the city had cheered Flò, she’d had enough of Callum’s nonsense too, all his chat about ‘nicer weather and decent summers’. He had no idea how his industry would be decimated by climate change. Added to that, he was forever moaning about the number of tourists and incomers they already had, add in a few decades of sunshine and Glen Bruach would become like the Costa del Sol. And it would be the landowners who’d benefit from that, not the likes of him. Same old, same old. It wasn’t just Callum and her family though, she’d missed seeing people who didn’t look like her, missed the crowds, missed the cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head. Even missed the drunks, not that they lacked them in Glen Bruach. Ok, so she was still doing the same kind of work, only swapping her mum’s shop counter for a bar, but the liveliness had revived her. She’d even started writing again.
Gilly didn’t care that she hadn’t had time to wash her hair, she joked it was her little bit to help the environment, in truth they’d taken advantage of Bobbie waking a little later than usual. What did how she looked matter? They were all here together. Only a month ago that wouldn’t have seemed likely. She’d been an idiot, but there was no point dwelling on that, turning things over and over. Same with this, stay in the present, focus on the positive. Even if it was unlikely to have any effect on the people at the summit, at least they’d tried. It was good to be part of something bigger. And nice that Dad had come along too.
Val didn’t care that her feet hurt, or that the young people around patronised her. They thought she didn’t catch the ‘oh bless’s, couldn’t see their glances. She didn’t care, she was a veteran. She was on the first of the Aldermaston marches, she’d been at Greenham Common, protested against the Poll Tax, campaigned for a Scottish Parliament. Now she was marching to save the future of all the children she’d never had.
All around her there were faces, of all kinds and ages. A few as old and weathered as hers, some she even recognised, others seemed to have been born yesterday. All of them here because they cared. All of them trying to make those other people care, the other faces, the ones inside the halls of the SECC.
Did they care? Did they care enough to be unpopular? Did they care enough to be less comfortable? Did they care about the animals that weren’t cute and fluffy, or didn’t swim elegantly in the sea, the plants which were small and not beautiful?
How long would they keep on caring once the conference was over?
How many did not care at all?