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An Indyref Romance: Harmony and Dissonance – Chapter 4

Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco, Saint Cecilia and an Angel, Italian, 1582 - 1647, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection

The following Saturday Jenny and Paul were sitting in the Prince of Wales. He’d had to persuade her not to order a pint of real ale, and so she sat with her glass of white wine and he had his pint.
“Let me try,” she said.
“If you must, but I don’t want the whole world making glances.”
“I could care less what the whole world thinks.”
“I thought you were supposed to love your neighbour.”
“Of course, but that’s a matter of how I act, not how he or she thinks.”
“Alright. Have a sip.”
Jenny took a sip, and then another.
“I’ve never really drunk beer before and certainly not like this. It’s a lot more interesting than white wine. I’m going to order one myself.”
“And the wine?”
“I’ll give it back and say I don’t want it.”
“I can’t really win with you. You do what you please. You will anyway. Do you want some money?”
“I have my own money. It’s silly for you to try to pay for everything. It’s me that has my own flat and a good allowance from my parents. I’m the one who’s pretty sure to get the decent scholarship for next year.”
She came back a few minutes later with a pint of dark beer. She grimaced occasionally at the taste as she sipped it.
“You really don’t like it, do you?”
“Did you like beer when you first tried it? Like everything else, it takes practice. Have you ever read a novel and found it tough going, but persevered and loved it in the end?”
“I don’t read that many novels, Jenny.”
“What do you read?”
“Well, after I’ve read the books for my course, I read the occasional classic for fun, but not often. I read a bit of biography or history, mainly rubbish. If I’m on holiday, I might read a thriller or a horror book. ”
“Well, I’m sure some of those need a bit of practice, too.”
“At the moment most of my spare time is taken up with the campaign. There are blogs I follow every day to keep up with the argument, newspapers I read and comment sections I comment on.”
“Is it fun?”
“The campaign group is great. I enjoy the meetings.”
“What happens?”
“I’m not really sure I should tell you.”
“Why? Because I might disagree?”
“No, but some of what we do is sort of secret.”
“And you think I’d tell people on the ‘No’ side? Well, I promise you that anything you tell me I will not use to harm the cause you are fighting for.”
He looked at her and could instantly see that she was completely serious. There was a flash in her eyes that said: ‘I’m telling the truth.’
“You are rather moral, aren’t you, Jenny?”
“What else is there?”
“What do you want to know about the meetings?”
“Who goes to them?”
“Well, my group is mainly students. People from the SNP society and the Greens, and some left wingers”
“The SNP is pretty left wing isn’t it?”
“I’d say so, though not everyone. There are even a few people on the right. We’re all united by wanting independence”
“I can see how people on the right might want independence; it would eventually give their views a chance.”
“That’s a strange thing to say. We’re doing this to keep the Tories out of Scotland.”
“I know, but what if there were a few left wing governments in Scotland either SNP or Labour, and things weren’t going so well, who would we turn to for a change?”
“But at least it would be our choice.”
“Oh, I quite agree. Anyway what do you do at these meetings?”
“Well, we’re sort of assigned tasks. Someone might be assigned to monitor the comment section of the Telegraph, someone else the Scotsman. Another group will share responsibility for twitter. Still others will comment on one of the ‘Yes’ blogs. We’re all encouraged to find someone who might become a ‘Yes’ voter and to gradually convince them.”
“How do you do that?”
“Well, we have lots of information, summaries of the arguments. At the moment we’re campaigning through personal networks, friends and families. The idea is to build momentum. Even someone who is opposed to independence, can be gradually convinced.”
“People like me?”
“Why not?”
“But do you have a good time at these meetings?”
“Well, a lot of these people I’ve known for years. I know guys who have met most of their friends in the SNP society or the Greens or socialists.”
“I suppose, there are couples, too?”
“Yes, a lot of couples. It can be a bit awkward; sometimes people break up and find someone else in the group.”
“And you?”
“A girl I used to know is still in the group. She’s called Roisin. We still get on well enough though her boyfriend doesn’t much like me. These things happen and you move on. We’re all working together.”
“Is she Irish?”
“Roisin? No, she’s from Glasgow.”
“I bet she’s not a Rangers supporter though.”
“No. I suppose, her family came from Ireland some time ago.”
“So did part of mine. My grandfather came from somewhere near Dublin.”
“Where do you go to Church, Jenny?”
“I mix and match. Sometimes I go to the Church of Scotland, sometimes to the Catholic Church, sometimes to the Episcopalians. I’m not that interested in denominations. It doesn’t seem important to me. At the moment I’m reading about the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“Why ever would you do that?”
“I think parts of it are rather deep and I want to understand Dostoevsky better.”
“I heard he’s tough going.”
“He can be, but the ideas and the stories, the characters are unforgettable.”
“It sounds good. You’re going to study him?”
“Not only him. But he’ll be a part. Do you want me to give you one of his books?”
“I don’t know if I’ll have the time, but I can try.”
“Please do. I’ll buy you a copy of the translation I think best and you can have a go.”
After another pint, Jenny was beginning to feel the effects of the beer, but she liked the feeling and it gave her the nerve to raise the topic that was most on her mind.
“Paul, we’re getting on pretty well, I think.”
“Yes. I think so, too. What’s on your mind?”
“We’re sort of practicing, too. I know you find it a little difficult and a little unusual. We meet up every day at my flat and we end up lying on my bed kissing. I have an idea that you don’t know what to do. What’s OK and what’s not.”
“Jenny, you’ll have to keep your voice down. It’s embarrassing.”
She saw his face redden and the sense of mild horror in his eyes. She was used to committing these sort of social errors, which was one of the reasons she was rather shy. But she was also determined.
“No-one is looking at us,” she said. “No-one is listening to us. It’s important. We have to get through our British, or if you like, our Scottish reserve.”
“All right. If you think so. It’s just I don’t think there should be a problem at all. It all seems so silly.”
“My beliefs aren’t silly, my dear, they are me. They are all that I am.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny. It’s just we kiss and kiss, and never get anywhere.”
“It’s a process. We’re getting to know each other, not only by talking but also by holding each other and kissing.”
“It’s just not what I’m used to.”
“I know, I expect the last time you started going out with someone, by now you would already have slept with her.”
“That’s how everyone is these days.”
“I know, but let me put forward to you a way that we can love each other, which will be nice for you and nice for me. Maybe it will even be more beautiful and more loving than what you have in mind at the moment. It could even be a sort of ideal to tend towards.”
“Go on.”
“There’s no reason at all why in a few months from now, you and I shouldn’t be in a bed together completely naked. We can wake up together. I can give you pleasure and you can give me pleasure. We can find out about each other and about our bodies, what works and what doesn’t work. We can reach a level of closeness that few people reach. It’s not something that happens in a day or week, but gradually and with patience.”
“That sounds good. But how does that differ from what everyone does?”
“Well, let’s just say, we use only our caresses. If I agree to not put anything in you, you agree to not put anything in me. Doesn’t that seem fair?”
“I suppose so. It seems a bit silly having rules about what should come naturally.”
“It’s not a matter of rules. It’s a matter of how I feel about myself. I want to take a journey with a man, which involves gradually getting to know him, both in terms of his personality and in terms of his body. I don’t want to hurry, because I only want to have one such relationship. When he promises to love me for ever, we will be married and then with all this practice loving will come easily and naturally and beautifully.”
“Marriage is not something that’s very much on my mind, Jenny.”
“It doesn’t have to be now, because we’re only practicing.”
“So how does that change things? I mean, practically, when we’re back at your place?”
“It doesn’t change anything. We’re not going to be a few months ahead now at this moment, but I’m not going to reject your caress and nor are you going to reject mine. We’re going to spend some time learning about each other and discovering how to love each other. It needs time and trust. That’s the most important thing. I’m trusting you not to hurt me.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you, Jenny.”
“I’m pretty pleased with you, too, Paul. I’ve been waiting for someone with your understanding. Most men would either laugh or run a mile. Anyway, let’s go back to mine. We should begin practicing.”

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog:
https://www.effiedeans.com/2018/06/an-indyref-romance-harmony-and.html

About Effie Deans

Profile photo of Effie Deans
Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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