December 13, 2019

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. Breath goes forth, he returned to his earth; in that very day (Psalm 146.3–5).

The most dispiriting outcome of this election has been the unalloyed outbursts on social media: rank triumphalism, on the part of some of the victors, and vindictiveness and malice, on the part of some of the squarely trounced. (To be fair, there have also been heartfelt expressions of hopelessness and despair, by others in the latter camp, on behalf of those who can’t cope for themselves.) I’ve also read tweets by artists and musicians who’ve spoken of the solace that they’ve found in their work, and in believing in the resilience of the human spirit. Religionists, for their part, have written about the consolation they’ve found by trusting in a higher and overseeing governance. God can just as easily remove the wicked and unjust leader as establish a righteous and principled one (Daniel 2.20–21). In the end, all human authorities, however well-intended, falter and fail ultimately because they’re limited by their wisdom, compassion, resources, energies, and experience. For better or for worse, these times and seasons will pass. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done!’ And a little more civility would be a small step towards realising both.

7.30 am: We began our journey to Edinburgh for a weekend away in the rain. The ex-Virgin pendolino train from Wolverhampton was no longer painted a whorish-red but a virginal-white, ironically. But it still wobbled at speed:

The art historian T J Clarke once asked the critic Clement Greenberg how important he thought art was. Greenberg replied: ‘At least as important as politics.’ I’m inclined to agree. Which, in part, is why we make, write and talk about, teach, curate, and engage art. Art can promote new insights that motivate actions which, in turn, bring about change. Art may succeed where politics fails.

12.40 pm: The train moved into the Lake District. Geese flew overhead, clouds gathered, and snow capped the distant hills. I remembered our holiday taken close by, this year:

1.45 pm: The train entered the Lowlands. ‘I’m going north’, I told myself. (‘Am I going north?’) I feel so much better when I’m in the north:

2.30 pm: We arrived at Edinburgh and headed for our accommodation in little down-at-heel quarter of the city. (It has a lap-dancing and striptease bar at the corner of the street.):

3.30 pm: An exploration. 3.38 pm: Sun down. The temperature is noticeably colder here. The city has a high-rise stateliness: narrow buildings with many windows, and illuminated rooms on top floors, with no one in them. (Hoppersque.) This is a haunted city — I feel it. Ghosts abound: the unsettled dead, parts of history that refuse to go quietly, black dogs, and prisoners of conscience.

6.00 pm: a Dinner. Proper Scottish bangers and mash:

The waiter commiserated with us over the election outcome. ‘You’re very welcome to come here as refugees’, he encouraged.

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