So. The morning after. A bit of smudged eye make-up and a slightly sore head but not too much regret, surprisingly little hangover and no-one calling me Sarah. But what now?
I had been ready for a big night last night. I had even been out and bought the cheapest bottle of malt whiskey I could find in the shop (which was in fact the third cheapest malt whiskey, the first and second cheapest having already sold out: we like a celebration round here but we don’t go nuts) and was toying with staying up until the wee hours, maybe even trying the walk to my kids school still pissed. But life is never quite as exciting as you think, and after grappling with the children, making cupcakes for a sodding school bake sale, Don’t Tell The Bride and a drink or two with my lovely husband while we listed to classic reggae hits suddenly all the excitement and worry of the last few days hit me and I was asleep by ten o clock.
But awake again soon after two thirty. I got up and lit a large candle and paused for a moment that might have been a prayer before I turned on the telly and my computer, wondering which one was going to tell me any answers first. It didn’t look good, Shetland, first, then I am sure we all enjoyed learning that we actually knew the Gaelic word for ‘Referendum’ after all. I only know my gaelic numbers up to five so I struggled hard with the Western Isles announcement, wishing the man would offer me some dried fruit or sing a small ditty about washing his hands or some other vocab I have picked up from gaelic playgroup. But once the numbers came out in English it was sad news, surely if even those hardy windswept island folks couldn’t connect with their revolutionary sides and stand up to project fear we were all in trouble.
There was a glimmer of hope and excitement with a couple of big yes announcements, and at one point I believe the overall percentages hit 49.8% against 50.2%. Just a few minutes where anything really could happen, and the commentator seemed flushed with something that might have been surprise or excitement or shock or all three as he stuttered, its, its , its, well it is, its fifty-fifty. But then it all went downhill, and my eyes started to get sore from staring at too many screens. I didn’t know at four in the morning whether I wanted a cup of tea or a glass of whiskey so I made myself an orange squash, an unsatisfying Devo Max of a beverage if ever there was one. This is ok, I thought. Everyone has voted. More people want one thing than the other, this is how it works. By five o clock I shuffled back to bed, where lovely husband was awake, warm, kind, strong like always. It’s a pretty definite no, I told him, and we drank tea together before going back to sleep.
In the morning I felt calm, resigned really, but the school run strange, no-one in the street making eye contact. I thought I wasn’t that upset, that I was on the whole just pleased that democracy had done its thing, but on one of these crap, grey, dark days that Scotland does so well, as I walked across Leith links I felt the first hot tears stinging my eyes. In the bustle of the school gates a voice deep inside me was singing an angry rendition of Rod Stewart’s I Don’t want to talk about it. If I know you voted no it might hurt to talk to you, and if you voted yes it definitely will, and I can’t cry in front of the nursery staff, not again. As I walked away I bumped into someone who I know has had a big yes journey and as our eyes met it looked as though she was having the same inner Rod Steward soundtrack as me, we hugged and she mouthed I know.
So why is this so painful? In some moments I can reflect on all the lovely people I know who voted no for very worthy reasons. Because they wanted things to be better too and genuinely believe that staying in the UK was the best way to do that, or the best way to help fix injustices across the whole of Britain and not just Scotland. But there are also those who it is difficult to face because their no vote sometimes seems to say ‘I am ok. Things are alright for me. I have a house and a career and a car and plenty of money. And more importantly I already have a voice and a status and I don’t feel disenchanted and disenfranchised. And so I don’t want change.’ And somewhere inside my head I can’t help adding the words ‘so fuck you’ to their argument. But maybe I am being over-sensitive.
But it is hard for it not to feel like a punch in the face too, like you are being told ‘How dare you? How dare you dream, how dare you want to have a voice, how dare you want your priorities reflected by the people who govern you?’ And while the massive turn out speaks of genuine democracy, it is difficult not to be irked by a mainstream media which has shown itself to be rotten to the core, either because of establishment arse-licking or ‘I’m ok so fuck you’ neoliberalism, and wonder if that has had an effect.
And yet all these negative thoughts, while maybe valid in some way, are ultimately unhelpful though. Because the great jenga tower of the establishment might not have toppled but a few bricks have been taken out near the bottom and all it might take is for someone to slam the door or bump into the coffee table and the whole thing might still come crashing down. I am proud to have been part of something that had Westminster running scared for a while, and I am more determined than ever to keep fighting. Because the myriad of vibrant yes voices has shown the desperate need for polyphony, for the carnival; that genuinely dynamic melting pot where through exchanges of different kinds of voices meaningful discussion can take place. The might with which the establishment and all its mercenary cronies swooped in to cover-up these voices, to make sure it was All Just About What Some Big Men Were Saying, shows just what a terrifying prospect that is.
And it is terrifying. Because this is not just about protecting the wealth of the greedy. Its about belief in a hierarchy that protects us from an all manner of ghastly truths. We were an empire built on blood, rape and brutality to children and if we don’t all worship that we might have to feel traumatised by it. And it is blood, rape and brutality to children which still holds those jenga bricks together. Those boys at the top of the tower have to be right as they have the furthest to fall when they come clattering into the floorboards. And they carry the darkest secrets of all and need the most protecting. If a single mum in Dundee’s voice is as powerful as David Cameron’s then he didn’t have to leave home when he was eight. We are a (now united, for another ten years or so at least) strategic survival nation. We must keep be brave, keep daring, and refuse to shut up until every child grows up believing they are worth as much as any other. Until every voice can be heard and nobody needs protecting anymore.