The wind is howling and whispering, rustling and roaring through the leaves as it storms across the valley of Edinburgh spread out between hill and sea. The ridge of undulating Pentland dips down towards its destination in the North Sea, making me think of all the people who must have felt so relieved to be stumbling home at last from their foreign adventures over the years.
Soldiers used to limp back from brutal foreign wars over those hills, we know that because there’s even the remains of a mediaeval hospital (pictured) still standing that used to look after the wounded with whatever limited means they had available. Now I’m disabled myself, I feel for those men when I think of what they must have had to endure at the hands of mediaeval medicine. The dirt, the pain, the fear… The loneliness, the isolation.
Today’s healthcare is, of course, a trifle more sophisticated than anything available in Soutra Aisle, where patients even had to undergo surgery (including amputations) with only a mixture of poppy and henbane to relieve the pain. But I hope I never forget to be grateful for the 21st century medication, physio, pain relief, MRIs and state aid that have helped me with my MS. Kept me even a little bit mobile. Some days I do feel sorry for myself and start wondering why I got sick relatively young. Then I think of Soutra Aisle and remember I shouldn’t give into self-pity; many others have faced much, much worse.
I haven’t gone for a walk today, not because of the weather or the MS, just because I’m feeling lazy. So, instead, I’m sitting at home, listening to the breeze skim over the trees every few moments, sometimes returning with greater force, sometimes subsiding. And I’m feeling extra-grateful for the state-funded ‘disease-modifying therapy’ pills that I take twice a day to keep my MS at bay. Okay, it’s not a cure, but it lessens the frequency and severity of any attacks. That’s an awful lot better than anything the patients of Soutra Aisle had on offer.
Edinburgh in summer – you can hear the wind, you just can’t see it