They say the granite sparkles.
Aye, in the sun, a lovely sparkle.
She tries to see it, face up against the stone
and in the ends decides –
It is an hallucination from living this far North,
surrounded by grey
and (possibly) granite radioactivity affecting their sight.
She makes a joke to that effect
and a deathly silence follows.
She throws her head back laughing,
But the pursed and tightened
John Knox disapproval radiating towards her
is dour and sanctioning.
Who does she think she is?
Foreign. Not from around here –
that’s for sure.
Is the accent English? Southern?
Definitely not Scottish.
Definitely not Aberdonian.
Aberdeen: the regional capital of the north-east.
An oil city in decline.
A fishing industry broken long before Brexit,
with too many shops emptying out
and closing down, because of Covid.
But we get more sun here –
more than the rest of Scotland, she is told.
There is the beach – long, exposed, windy.
The rivers Dee and Don
bracketing the city
and Balmoral Estate, a drive away.
But she doesn’t care for Royalty,
thinks they are outdated, ridiculous – says
the French had the right idea.
Why did you move here then?
She makes more jokes about sparkling granite,
radioactivity, being a closet Royalist
and loving the feeling of wind-ravaged skin.
When the truth is:
She moved here for love.
Why else would you ever live here?
In March 2021 I followed my husband to Aberdeen. Though he had been working in the city for over two years, I had resisted the move North for many of the reasons stated in this poem. There are cities you ‘know’ even if you have never been there (New York for example), cities you love, and cities you live in for a while and then leave, if you can. Aberdeen is such a city. Its greyness is overwhelming and combined with a lack of green spaces in the city centre, oppressive. If people reflect a city, then I keep waiting to turn into a dour, inflexible, humourless person with apparently (hidden) sparkle. Till then, I continue to be amused by the Aberdeen graffiti, (and the title of this poem) which in prim Presbyterian fashion states: ‘pardon me, if I don’t trust your hallucinations.’