Living Simply or Simply Living?

In this week’s short blog ‘Living Simply or Simply Living?’ our Head of Listening, Dr Nicola James, asks what we have learned from our lull in life’s sidings?

During these last few months life has been pared down by necessity.  As we emerge from lock down we are curious about what to leave behind and what to take with us from the enforced retreat. At the Tavistock Clinic in London psychologists think that in the aftermath, we may find an increase of up to forty per cent of people presenting to their GPs with anxiety. We cope when we are swimming for the shore, but the magnitude of our enforced task sweeps over us when we reach the beach.  This is human and natural and we need time to restore ourselves, to regroup and to sort the sand from the glass. There are folk around from whom we have had support and likewise who have been supported by us. We need each other.

I live in a small village between two sets of hills in Stirlingshire, the Campsies and the Fintry Hills. I knew the valley as a child and later made forays out there from Glasgow.

Fintry is a ribbon village – the main road through the Endrick valley follows the river of the same name as it makes its way to Loch Lomond. The cottages, mill tenements and houses on the roadside beneath the two hill ranges tell the story of its varied existence from the stone to digital age.  In summer it is genial, fertile and abundant and in winter snow bound for up to several weeks at a time.

Sweeping down from high in the Crow Road to the village below, a small hut comes into view. Nestled in the turn of the track to the local farm it seems functional enough, but slowly reveals a silver chimney flue, windows intact, and a miniature garden complete with apple tree, tomatoes and an earth filled boat, planted with herbs and flowers. A small burn runs alongside.

The present occupant has lived there for nearly fifty years. He says that as a child he could see the Campsie Hills from high up in the family’s Possilpark tenement, and he had been cycling to Fintry since he was a nine years old. ‘I just settled’s quiet here. There’s nothing else I want.’

Aerial photograph of the hills and valleys of Fintry. In amongst the trees and green hills you can see the roofs of groups of houses
Fintry, Stirling. Photograph by Richard Webb.

The carriage he lives in was made in about 1910 and was later brought to the village by a local who worked at Cowlairs Railway depot in Springburn. It was probably a guard’s van or catering wagon. For a while after its arrival it was a holiday home for families from nearby Kirkintilloch. Now it has a wood-burner in the corner, and the arrival of electricity in the village saw the eventual instalment of a fridge and television. The additional bed box is traditional from Glasgow to Orkney. 

But back to the present, as we emerge blinking into the light of our unlocking, what can we take from the time the carriages stopped and we were perforce pulled into the siding of our own lives. What is it about the view from life’s sidings - the frustration of journeys not taken, surrounded as we were by the house backs, or are we ‘just settling’ now in to the quiet and pink profusion of rose bay willow herb that seems to line all our sidings?


Part of what is asked of us has been time spent in enforced retreat. 

Part of what we receive is the possibility of taking some of its learning, and even its beauty, into life as we emerge from lockdown.