The plaintive cry of a young Scottish girl



Death and I have had a long, and as time tends to render these things, personal relationship.

When I say ‘Death’, I am actually alluding to the figure that is ‘Death’, as opposed to the act or state of “death”.  The two are at such opposite poles that to compare them, would be akin to comparing an onion to ABBA in the 1970’s. Both grab your attention, but that is as far as it goes.

‘Death’ of the Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse persuasion, is present with everyone at their ultimate demise, regardless of their manner of, or time or place of their death.

Whereas in death, the stinky manifestation that is nothing more than life leaving its earthly vessel, what you find is really just a terminal form of extreme escapism, purely at an evolutionary level at least.

Now as I have described earlier, Death isn’t a bad old duck, so  long as you don’t stir her up to much, and you are able to get a pot of tea plus a few biscuits on the go, and have the fire lit in the hearth on chillier days should she drop by in between jobs.

Death is also a demon in the knitting department.  If you happen to be one of her relations, a friend of the family, a sibling to one of her inner circle of friends, you have just had a baby, or a grandchild arrives, you can be assured of her input.  Within the week following a parcel, neatly wrapped in brown paper, and tied with string generally, will find its way, always left out of the weather on your doorstep.

Booties, and bonnets, and cardigans for the wee bairn will appear upon opening.  But that is not where it stops.  Death has been known to knit shawls for young mothers after the loss of a child; stout winter hats, mittens and socks for husbands and fathers, enabling them to remain outdoors in snow and sleet, working and grafting the longest hours to secure food for an empty table in a starving house; she knits for those in the throng of the winter years of life.  For widows now too old to be able to keep the home as warm as it was when father was still alive, and when there was someone to split the wood.

Most importantly of all, she believes in life, all life.  She is the transition from the living now, to the living there after.  Death does it very well, for those living on either side of the mortal coin, doing so with great pride.

Time and space don’t apply to her when she’s on the job.  Death never rushes the task before her, and sets about it with utter professional determination.

Here is how Death works.

Let’s say ‘Old Bob from down our way’ is kicked by the 25 year old horse he is attempting to shoe.  The horse has kicked him because the horse is a right bastard and has been looking for an excuse to kick ‘Old Bob from down our way’ for the last 24 years.  There is no apparent reason other than it really is just a “bastard” of a horse.

Now, with exception to the cat, ‘Old Bob from down our way’ had been on his own when the horse kicked him.  Mother is seeing to Aunt Dot at the neighbouring farm; Aunt Dot is a conniving old biddy who has feigned illness the last thirty years.  Sadly she does to entice people to check in on her, aka – ‘visit’; leaving her otherwise alone on a farm with no one for company except for her equally old and conniving cat.

It is a good hour’s walk between farms, and just at this moment snow begins to fall thickly.

Of the nine children ‘Old Bob from down our way’ and Mother have had; only five survive.  This is the way of illness and war and life.  Of the five, two boys remain on the farm; the others have married and taken alternate professions.  The farm struggles to support one family, let alone a multitude.

Of the two on the farm, one is milking in the milking shed.  All tightly closed up against the cold, lessening the chance of the highly prized seven Jersey cows freezing to death.  There are only three in milk at the moment, with two milked so far.  Another 10 minutes and the job will be done.

The remaining child is in the village securing obscure, yet much needed farm implements to weather the cold snap.  He is a good three quarters of an hour away.

“Old Bob from down our way?” ♠

“Yes ma’am?”

“Happened to be passing, but how are you feeling at the moment?” ♠

“Bit ‘ard ter say really ma‘am?  Not really feelin’ much at all.”

“Are your two boys still working the farm?” ♠

“Yes ma’am?”

“Cows in milk, fruit, vege and grain enough stored to last the winter?  Oh and wood?” ♠

“Yes ma’am?”

“House in good nick?  Don’t need repair?” ♠

“No ma’am.”

“How is mother?  Hip still playing up?” ♠

“She as fit as a fiddle ma’am.”

“Do you owe money?” ♠

“No ma’am.”

Death considers all she is told.  Mother will have enough food and warmth for the winter.  There won’t be men with sticks banging at the door demanding money. The chances of illness to anyone in the house are minimal.  Should Bob survive his grievous head injuries, he would be incapable of mobility, rapidly draining the household of funds for medicines, and paying the bills of self proclaimed medical men.  In which case, the family would starve, the farm would be lost, mother would be dead within a year due to famine, the sons would be hanged as thieves, and “Old Bob from down our way would die via his own hand on the eighth attempt.

“Right, stand up, and do try not to look down.  There’s a good chap.” ♠

“Yes ma’am.”

There is a necrobilical cord between the standing ethereal version of ‘Old Bob from down our way’, linking him to the dead version lying with a shocked look upon its face, slowly being covered in snow.  Death reaches into her pocket producing her spectacularly sharp secateurs of trade.  A fluid, brilliantly fast sweep from her left hand, and the thread is cut.

“Beggin’ yer pardon ma’am, am I dead?”

“Yes.  Now you get to start living proper.  Give it a second and you will see.  Got to dash, great effort Bob.” ♠

And the back firing of a clapped out Volksy is all that remains.

A week passes, and Mother finds a grease paper wrapped book leaning against her back door.  Being one without the ability to read, she, her grandchildren, and daughters-in-law walk the book over to Aunt Dot, who had “the learnin’s”.  After brief consultation, Aunt Dot, in a moment of absolute power over the gathering crowd around her, slowly read from the cover.

“101 Best Recipes For All Cuts Of Horse.”

and then,

“’ang on.  Somefinks writ inside it!” Aunt Dot now frothing begins to read. “Dear Mother, use the big hammer from inside the stable door, and get your biggest lad to apply it with great force between the eyes of the bastard horse; and if bloody Dot keeps pestering you, apply to her the same as the horse.  Happy cooking, D xxx”


……………and life rolled on.





Click the red shoes. That is all.



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