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Issue 73 - Editor's View

Scotland Magazine Issue 73
February 2014

 

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Editor's View

One thing Scotland does very well, amongst other things, is big wide open spaces where you can escape from the rest of humanity and experience something approximating silence.

The great wild and rugged places, like Rannoch Moor and much of the Highlands and Islands, exert quite a pulling power for those of us that like to get away from it all; escape and not see another human being for a little while. The remotest parts of Scotland offer us that chance. The great writer George Orwell found his solace on the Isle of Jura, where he wrote his seminal work
1984.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about sound, silence and being out in the middle of nowhere. We seem to live in a world that is constantly bombarding us with noise; whether its radios in cars, music in shops, the need for train operators to continually update us on travel progress (or lack of) the amount of sandwiches available, and of course the general noise of the human maelstrom of a city. Then there are other sounds that are nearly always there, lurking behind the everyday, the constant hum of traffic, the whirl of air conditioning, heavy plant and machinery grinding away. The chatter of the natural world is hidden away behind all these layers of man-made intrusions, especially if you live in a big city. It is hard to decipher the wind in the trees sometimes, and the only birdsong we might hear is the clatter of the dawn chorus or the excited chirping that heralds in spring.

One of the best places I used to go was up a little track into the Kilpatrick Hills above Dumbarton. The views from the top were utterly stunning. The Clyde laid out like a silvery ribbon stretching from Glasgow to Greenock, the landscape changing from the distant high rises of the city to small clusters of town and villages. Behind the lookout point over the Clyde, the hills stretch away over to Strathblane and then the Campsie Fells. Some really good walking and mountain biking is to be had here. The area provides a green lung in one of the most densely populated parts of the country.

Silence also plays an important part in music, with various religions teaching the paragons of meditation and contemplative silence. Of course I realise that seeking such a stillness and quietness is a fairly solitary occupation, but it cannot hurt once in a while to stop, slow down, readjust our senses and appreciate what goes on around us.