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Early in the April mornin Ah hear the kraawk o craws, the kroo-kroo o doos and countless call an response chirps an cheeps o unknown provenance.

Ah keek through ma windae at the Glen oer the road an seagulls stalk the grass by the bairns’ playpark as the trees stand still an the traffic light at the crossin shines green.

Ah’m aye up early for work (and mair grateful than ever Ah can graft at aw the noo), bit afore Ah turn on the breakfast telly news Ah’ve started listenin tae the birds.

Ah’m feart. When Ah think o the future, Ah cannnae see past the next few days or weeks. Ma only real ambition right noo is tae make it through this crisis wi me an ma faimly an pals alive an intact.

An when Ah listen tae the birds, when Ah really listen, it makes me feel mair calm for a wee while. Ah mind that, in the midst o chaos, there’s still some sort o natural rhythm an order. An at a time when Ah see few fellow humans outwith a phone screen or telly, it minds me there’s probably someone else next door or alang the street listenin tae the same dawn chorus, an probably steelin themselves for a daily battle much bigger than ma ain.

An then Ah mind how lucky Ah am. An Ah feel ashamed for feelin feart an selfish. An Ah start tae think what Ah’d like the future tae feel like once, God willin, we get through this.

This thing is indiscriminate, but if ye dinnae have the wherewithal tae isolate in comfort an ye’ve tae walk or take buses cos ye dinnae have a car, an ye’ve tae share the place ye live wi a wheen o other folk, ye’re no as protected as those who are sittin pretty. Yet ye might be leavin yer cramped hoose every day an kissin yer bairns goodbye and setting off tae work in a hospital tae put yer life on the line tae save us aw.

So in the future it would be braw if the first were last and the last were first – if we looked at a nurse or a shop assistant wi the same awe an admiration that’s usually reserved for someone who happens tae have made a lot of money, but hasnae done much else tae make things better for everyone. But oor admiration should extend tae peyin these folk much mair too, because kind words dinnae fill bellies or pey rents an mortgages. Let’s dae a bit o wealth redistribution in the future.

It would be guid if, in the future, we mind that when the country shut doon, it happened cos the ordinary workers couldnae keep at their daily grind. An we should mind that captains o industry who inherited their positions were locked in their hames helpless, together alone with the rest of us. And that it turns oot that even self-proclaimed, self-made men an women werenae quite as self-sufficient efter aw – a load of folk had been helpin them the hale time. In the future, it should be all o us first. Naebody should be judged any better than anybody else.

An Ah hope we mind that we’re aw Jock Tamson’s bairns in the future, an that in hospitals across the country in these hard days, medics o aw creeds, colours an religions were saving oor lives an sacrificing theirs, bravely stepping into the breach as if their PPE was armour rather than plastic and paper. In the future, we shouldnae look for scapegoats an there should be mair checks an balances tae stop poisonous ideas driftin unchallenged through corridors of power – an takin life as ignorance licensed by law.

Ah hope that in the future we’re kinder tae each other an tae oor planet. That we continue spraffin tae neighbours an sparin them a few minutes of oor time, oor precious time that we noo realise isnae precious because we should be spending every wakin minute o it making money and paying bills and buying things. Naw – it’s precious cos we never ken when it’ll run oot like sand atween oor fingers. So oor last words tae someone should be somethin warm an lovin rather than cauld an callous.

We will have a perty, in the future, when this is officially over. But Ah hope we caw canny an keep the collective heid, because too many o us will be mournin those we’ve lost, who we never got a chance tae say bye tae properly. So celebrate aye – cos life is a gift tae gie thanks for – but mind that there will be deep wounds tae heal.

An when we buy oor cairry oots for that perty in the future, when it’s aw over, Ah hope we look the checkout assistant behind the plastic screen in the eyes and say ‘thank you’ and mean it fae the bottom o our hairts. An that we tidy up after ourselves and dinnae dare complain aboot recyclin oor rubbish intae multi-coloured cooncil bins in the mornin. Then Ah hope we sober up for a guid lang while.

Ah hope Ah listen tae ma ain advice an that his is a hard lesson, but one that lasts a decent lifetime.

This might be the sairest fecht we ever face thegether an wha really kens what the future holds?

Aw Ah ken is that the birds are still singin an that light’s still green.

This is life.

For the moment.


First published in the Scottish Book Trust ‘Future’ anthology, November 2020.