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Saturday, 28 June 2014

   It transpired that CM would be driving up to Dundee next morning, and could take me with him. Over a delicious supper, our conversation roamed expansively from Syria to the Balkans, pilgrimage in general, and the architectural distinctiveness of Coldstream, on the Scottish side of the Tweed, as opposed to Cornhill, on the English side. When I asked whether this contrast also applied to Berwick, as compared with Tweedmouth and Spittal on the southern bank of the river, CM answered corroboratively; from an architectural standpoint, the northern part of Berwick-upon-Tweed is indeed characteristically Scottish. 

   Breakfast included Scotch pancakes – ‘mist’ was another Scotch exception that my hosts came up with. I asked whether Scotland’s flagship daily newspaper The Scotsman had ever been called up over the explicit sexism of its name (not as far they knew) and the ‘Yes/No’ independence conundrum was touched on briefly. It was then time to drive to Dundee.

   CM was born in Glasgow but schooled in Edinburgh, and studied at the Universities of Poitiers (Tours) and Bristol. As we drove north, from his student days in Bristol he recalled George Ferguson, whose election as mayor of that city in November 2012 confounded many peoples’ expectations. By coincidence, in Dundee city centre on the next day, the sight of canvassers for Scotland’s Independence campaign, kitted out in exactly the same type of posh country gear that Ferguson’s campaign team sported when they were on their rounds in Bristol, had me wondering whether the SNP might have taken a leaf out of Ferguson’s book, though on reflection this is just as likely to have been the other way around. Sometime after the Forth road bridge there were the beginnings of a building project of some kind, next to quite a big sort of rocky escarpment; it occurred to me that perhaps the most high-profile personalities of Scotland’s independence contest, from whichever side carries the day, might seek to have themselves carved out of the rock here, a la Mount Rushmore. CM was also able to tell me all about the building which now houses the backpackers’ hostel in Dundee where he dropped me off; a mediaeval part of it, known as ‘Gardyne’s Land’, is the oldest extant building in the city centre. At £10 per country (and saying it was up to me whether England and Scotland counted as different countries), he sponsored me more than any other person up until then.

   On that Friday I visited St Andrew’s Cathedral, noting that there would be a Mass on the following morning. I also weighed up the possibility of looking round the handsome RRS Discovery (which safely delivered Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic and back in 1901-4), in the harbour, but decided it would stretch my budget. I did however spend some money on a pocket-sized SAS Survival Handbook, because you never know, and enquired about local football. The prospect of attending a game due to take place next day between Dundee Utd and Aberdeen was quite enticing, but Tannadice (Utd’s ground) wasn’t very handy to get to from where I was staying, and tickets were £22 each.

   On Saturday 6th April, St Marcellinus’s Day, I was glad at least to make it to St Andrew’s Cathedral for 10am Mass, and sitting on the back pew was an Irish gentleman I recognised from an SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) conference near Derby some years before. He wasn’t sure about me, but phoned his wife, and when the three of us met for a light lunch at the café in Dundee’s public library, it turned out that she and I knew each other quite well, having chatted at a different SPUC conference in London, addressing maternal health in the developing world, in March of the previous year. They spontaneously gave me really quite a lot of money for Mary’s Meals, knowing the charity well, and explained a number of things about Dundee, such as its traditional industries of jute (a type of natural fibre put to myriad uses in the 19th century especially), jam and journalism. She happened to have had a letter published in that week’s Scottish Catholic Observer, an abridged version of which is reproduced here; I also put it onto a blog entry that I spent much of the afternoon writing, entitled ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?
Charity begins with the basics of life
   "I ... wholly agree that we must be careful when donating to charities if we do not wish to compromise our beliefs.

   It is true that Christian Aid does a great deal of good, but it also funds 'reproductive health' projects, which in essence means the carrying out of abortions and distributing abortifacient contraceptives and so on to young girls in developing countries. Unfortunately, several other well-known charities do the same.

   What the charities should be doing rather, is working to bring a reduction in maternal deaths. Well over 90% of the world's maternal deaths take place in developing countries. The majority of these deaths are easily preventable by basic healthcare and living conditions, which the rest of the world has long taken for granted.

   If only charities such as Christian Aid would help these types of projects instead of putting funds into population control, women in developing countries could be properly looked after during childbirth." 

'MBKO'

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