If the 7.52 train from Aberdeen to London King's Cross were anything to go by, you would be almost oblivious to the fact that Christmas is almost upon us. Carriage C is barely half-full, and there is little by way of extra luggage to suggest people are carrying gifts for whomever it is they are off to see over the coming weekend. There is also, thankfully, an absence of excited, obnoxious, shrill children, though I fear there is time for that yet.
Looking out the window, the sun shines strongly in the bright, blue sky, bringing alive all the glorious colours of the Scottish countryside. If there is to be tempestuous weather, there is little evidence of it thus far- the few clouds there are resemble cotton wool balls, without even a hint darkness or foreboding.
As the train trundled over the Forth Bridge, I found myself admiring the feat of engineering that is the Queensferry Crossing, whilst acknowledging that it, like the Forth Road Bridge, would never be an icon in the way that the Forth (Rail) Bridge is. Even so, it isn't often, that we get to witness the building of a crossing of this size and scale in Scotland.
A little further on, we approach Edinburgh, possibly my favourite city, and I muse that we are passing through one capital city, on the way to another. This got me thinking. Other than living in Aberdeen, I've spent time in Dundee and Edinburgh this year.
Having previously lived in Edinburgh for six years, the place is as comforting and familiar to me as an old pair of slippers. Dundee on the other hand, was new to me, despite having travelled through it, by bus, car and train, countless times (and discounting a long forgotten brief visit to the University of Dundee in 1994). To my surprise, I found Dundee much to my liking- most certainly not the much maligned city many had led me to expect.
Dundee is similar to Glasgow in that there is an earthiness, a warmth to it, quite distinct from Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where the people can be a little aloof, bordering on arrogant. All four cities, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, are unmistakably Scottish, which brings me nicely to my point.
In addition to these Scottish cities, this year, I've spent time in Amsterdam, Belfast, London and New York. And it must be said, I find London no less foreign than any of the others outwith Scotland. In fact, if anything, Amsterdam and especially Belfast seemed less alien to me. That it not to say that I don't love London, it's a great city. But it's an English city, and it is their capital and not ours.
I find myself wondering again, why it is we choose to be governed by and from the capital of another country. I struggle to think of another nation, broadly equivalent to Scotland, where this is the case.
How on earth is it that only Scotland, among small, Western nations, is uniquely too wee, too poor and too stupid to govern ourselves? Why is it that we think it better to leave our fate in the hands of the effete, inbred, imbecilic "elite" of another country. It makes no sense, less so by the day, with England's feeble imitation of Angela Merkel and her clueless "Carry On" Cabinet bound for a cliff edge, determined to take Scotland with them.