This time last year, I was slap bang in the middle of my second trimester. We’d settled into the idea of being parents and life revolved around scans, midwife appointments and shopping for prams. It doesn’t feel like a year, but here we are with an eight month old (I kind of dropped the ball on monthly updates on the blog, huh?). As much fun as it is, I do find myself looking back fondly on the experience of being first-time expectant parents.

Love- or at the very least, lust- is in the air around these parts. It feels like every week brings another pregnancy announcement (seriously people, how much are you having at it?). Every time I see one I get a wee buzz of excitement, even if I don’t know the person. First time parents have so much to look forward to, they don’t even know. Obviously having a baby isn’t the be all and end all. It’s not always immediate cause for celebration. It’s hard bloody work.

If you do choose to have a baby though, for all the hard parts, it’s pretty great. The worst part though? All of the unsolicited advice and intrusive questions. Shortly before my due date, I compiled a list of the most common things I’d been asked during pregnancy. In hindsight, with eight months’ parenting experience under my belt, I’ve put together  a compilation of advice: take it from someone who’s still muddling through, learning on the job. You’re going to be fine.

No one cares about your birth

I mean this in the nicest possible way. If you’ve attended antenatal classes, or discussed a birth plan, you’re probably aware of different birthing options. Whether it’s in a bath, drug-free, hypnobirth, epidural, via caesaerean or getting the ol’ plunger up in there, one thing is the same: whatever gets your baby out safely is what’s natural and normal for you. For me it just feels like another way of heaping pressure on expectant parents. People shoo away the notion of pain relief because they “want to experience as much as possible”. Personally, I opted for diamorphine and had a pretty thorough experience without feeling like I was being punched in the vagina from the inside. If you’re opting for pain relief it’s not wussing out. Giving birth without pain relief doesn’t make you a better parent (although hats off if you did). Giving birth via C-section is still giving birth. Your birth is personal to you, and if people want to judge by their own standards it doesn’t lessen your experience or make theirs any more valid. In the grand scheme of things, as long as parent(s) and baby are happy, no one cares.

Fed is best

Breastfeeding is hard. It takes practise. Considering the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, there’s clearly not enough support out there. If you can make it work, and stick with it, that’s awesome. However if, like me, breastfeeding isn’t an option- or hey, if you just choose not to- that’s cool too. Championing one way of feeding at the derision of another isn’t cool. You don’t know someone’s story or circumstance. As long as your baby is happy, healthy and gaining weight, go with what works for you.

Just say no

This is the one piece of advice that I wish I’d take under advisement when Lucas was born. When we came home from hospital, all I wanted was a nice quiet day or so to adjust to our new life as three. This didn’t happen. For the next few weeks, into Christmas and new year, it felt like a constant procession. We never had time alone just to be ourselves. People mean well but, with the onset of baby blues, it can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to say no if you’re not up to visits right away. Take your time, enjoy the first few days at home with your baby. Family and friends will still be there when you’re ready.

Take your time

One of the weirdest realisations about having a baby is that life goes on. I remember standing looking out of the window of the maternity ward, looking at the buses and cars going up and down the motorway, going to and from work as if nothing had changed. For us, our whole world had changed, but the world kept turnin’. Coming home felt like our little bubble had burst.

Since then we’ve bought a house, moved twice, I’m doing a phased return to work and looking at nurseries for the little man. I don’t know that the enormity of this year of change quite hit me until recently, until it hit me all at once. Change can be hard to process, and having a baby changes everything. Your lifestyle, relationship, body- everything. If you need some time to adjust, fine. You’re allowed to feel like change is hard to keep up with. Be kind to yourself- you’re doing the best you can.

Comparison is the thief of joy

Once your baby’s born you’re thrust into a myriad of milestones. First time smiling, laughing, rolling over, sleeping through the night, eating solids, cutting a tooth. Some babies roll over within a matter of months. Lucas was about six months before he nailed the ol’ back to front roll. Was I worried? No. It meant I could pop through to the next room without worrying. He still doesn’t have a tooth, but nothing I do is going to make that happen faster. Babies do everything in their own time. Looking at what other babies do- or don’t do- can send you spiralling into a tailspin of parental guilt (if you’re anything like me). Likewise, if another mum snapped back to pre-pregnancy weight, or if their baby latched on to the boob while you had to opt for the bottle. Ask yourself “does this in any way impact me or my child?”. If the answer is no, let it go. Parenting is a minefield of worry and the hardest thing to do is learn to pick your battles.

Enjoy the little things

It’s an old adage but it’s true. Babies are only babies for a short while. Before you know it, they’re actual real, independent, little people. I was guilty of getting caught up in thinking of the next Big Thing and trying to do as much as possible. As soon as I went back to work for a KIT day, it felt as though the last eight months hadn’t happened. Trying to overreach was just stressful. While I still like finding new things to do, it makes me appreciate chilled days more. I went along to a CBT course run by the NHS wellbeing services, which helped massively. If you don’t have the time or inclination to sign up, there are plenty of resources out there. Spending the afternoon in a library, getting some fresh air, not getting dressed til 11am, , writing down one thing I’m grateful for every day, even- gasp- putting my phone down helped massively. As did putting Lucas down for a nap, patching the cleaning and actually having a hot cup of coffee.

Take it in your stride

Like I said, people are only too happy to throw advice at you. Some of it’s helpful and well meaning, some of it isn’t. Most of it will be unsolicited. When it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion, but only you know what’s best for you. Smile and nod. Very few of us know what we’re doing, but we crack on. You got this.

As you may know, we bought our first house in April. After years of renting, it was such an exciting prospect to start making it into a home. Plus, y’know, it’s nice to pay your own mortgage at a lesser amount to someone else’s. I’d been dreaming of decorating my own place for so long that I thought I’d want to batter in at full pelt, with swatches and samples in every colour scheme, shade and finish. Turns out moving twice with a baby is knackering. By the time we’d unpacked, cleaned, vaguely rearranged the furniture and stocked up on essentials, we kind of ran out of steam.

Even for an old person’s room this would be ‘eh’

I had an idea of what I wanted for Lucas’s room. I wanted something that would grow with him, but was still suitable for a baby’s room. The colour scheme I had in mind was neutral, so that I could tart up it with accessories. It also had to look homely and playful, but still practical. And nothing involving wallpaper. So far, so many, many requests. Thankfully I’d spotted mountain murals during a tumble down the Pinterest abyss and they ticked all of my boxes. They range from simple and stylistic to complicated and multi-tonal. What I liked, was that it could be as intricate (or not) as you wanted.

In the end, I had so many images pinned that mine became a sort of composite of everything. Having zero experience in the field of DIY (other than glossing windows at seven months pregnant and painting my bathroom window), I recorded it at every step of the way. There were loads of ideas online and a few decent tutorials. Since it’s our first attempt I thought I’d put together a wee step-by-step guide of my own, so here it is!

Research It!

Even if you have a vague hypothetical image, keep an open mind. Have a quick shufti on Pinterest, if it’s possible to do so. Look for blogs, articles, tutorials, videos, hell even a Google image search. You might find layouts or colour schemes you hadn’t thought of, or other decorative ideas. Save ’em, pin ’em, stash ’em in a folder. This can give a good indication of what colours you’re going to use. Roughly speaking you’ll need light, mid and dark tones so make sure your colours mix together.

Samples and tester pots are handy as they can often look different once applied, and even days later. I didn’t put too much thought into where I bought my supplies: there’s a B&Q about two minutes’ drive from my house.

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that.

Have a good base to work from

The room was wallpapered when we moved in and stripping it was the biggest chore. We decided a white base was best to work from, as it’d best show up the mural and would give us a clean slate for the other walls. The previous owners had left a couple of tins of white emulsion- yass. This made our choice easier as even white emulsion is a minefield. We ended up using silk emulsion, which has a slight iridescent sheen to it. If you want something flatter, go for a matt. Silk is easier to wipe, but it can also show up imperfections, so go with whatever best suits your needs.

Choose your tools

I didn’t put a great deal of research into the paints I used. The plans I’d drawn required a light, mid and dark grey, and I went from there. My nearest DIY store was B&Q so went there for convenience, and had a browse of their testers. If you’re not sure what colours to go for, testers are great. I painted a few swatches and let them dry overnight, to see what they’d look like dry. I bought three Dulux shades: Warm PewterPolished Pebble and Urban Obsession. I ended up not using the latter as it was just too dark, but it depends on what you’re going for. For the background, I used colourcourage in Soft Grey. It dried to an almost beige-grey which complemented the other shades nicely.

We got paint pads for the white emulsion, instead of using a roller, as they gave better coverage with less splashback. I used a medium-sized one for the bulk of the mural coverage and tidied up the edges with a brush. Don’t forget a dust sheet if you don’t already have one. It’s a licence to make as much splattery mess as you want.

Make Your Mark

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that. The plan itself was pretty flexible. Once I knew what colours I was using I could play about with it. Even if you don’t stick with it to the letter, it’s handy to have a visual reminder. I measured the height of the wall then got bored of measuring. I’d also pinged myself in the hand with the retractable tape measure and it was hell’a nippy.

Plan in other hand, I marked the design on the wall using Frogtape. It’s easy to apply and can be moved about without losing its stickiness. Every time I stuck a bit down I’d step back and readjust to straighten up my lines. With a Scandi-inspired design you want your lines to be clean. Frogtape is great for giving you really sharp lines. Trim off any excess or overlapping tape with a cutting knife or super-sharp scissors. You don’t want any sad, flaccid, blunt lines.

Little hint: once you’ve got your tape where you want it, give it a wipe with a wet cloth or sponge and it won’t budge ’til you want it to. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I just bought, like, three kinds of Frogtape and it turned out pretty sweet).

Have At It

Now that it’s all been marked off, start with the biggest area (that requires the most coverage) first. That way, you can work round the fiddly edges while the middle bit is drying. I started with the mid-grey that made up most of the mountain, then got in about the shady shapes behind it. The peaks were the last thing to start and finish.

Once you’ve painted the edges, remove the tape immediately (or at the very most, after an hour or so). That way, you’ll get the sharpest lines and the paint won’t bleed.

Yes, you’ll need to keep applying the tape to get your lines straight and fill in the gaps. Don’t do this right away. Leave it for an hour or so, or you run the risk of the tape ripping off your paint. When you paint on one side of the tape, you’ll need to adjust it to fill in any blank space. It’s fiddly, but the whole design relies on straight lines, so it’s worth the extra effort.

Don’t paint a second coat while the first is still drying- this will make the paint blister and it’ll look weird. Crack a window and leave it for a day. I repeated the process the following day until the paint was smooth and even, the edges were sharp and any blotchy bits had been fixed. Voila- a mountain mural.

The room is still far from being finished- the opposite wall is a complete blank canvas, and as you can see we don’t have curtains yet. The mural gave a good basis for the room’s colour scheme though, so we have a better idea of what else to put in it. This IKEA Gonatt cotbed also comes in white, but the grey sold me on it. It has two heights and you can remove the bars on one side to make it into a bed. Perfect for the whole ‘room that grows with the baby’ thing. There are other random bits and little touches to give the room some colour, too. For a work in progress, and a first attempt at DIY, I’m pretty proud of it. If you’re attempting something similar, I hope this little guide was useful (even as a fan letter to Frogtape).

Tomorrow, yet again, we go to the polls.

Yup, for the sixth time in less than three years, I’ll be off to out my X in my box of choice, sit tight and hope for the best. This time, though, something feels different. There’s something hanging in the air, something that says change is brewing. I don’t know whether it’ll be for good or not. What I do know is that this election carries a weight of expectation and, whatever the result, things aren’t going to stay the same.

This is old and blurry because it’s from my old, blurry, 2014 phone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to tell you which way to vote. I’m not an expert by any means. Even if you’re voting Conservative, I’m going to assume you’ve done your research, looked at the respective party manifestos, watched the debates, conversed with peers then decided you still hate the poor, sick, young and elderly and thought “fuck ’em all”. Hey, you do you. Opening up discussion and accessing information is one of the great things about our generation being so media savvy. I’d like to think, in the last few years, we’ve become a lot more switched on politically. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its downfall, though. Social media is an echo chamber of political discourse, and it can at times feel pretty daunting. After all, Thursday’s outcome will determine who’s going to be in charge of running the UK for (at least) five years. In turn, that’ll determine what kind of country it’s going to be. There’s a lot riding on it, now more so than ever.

With all that in mind, it can be overwhelming. With people shouting over one another, telling us to vote this way and that, it’s hard to admit that there’s anything you don’t know. Like how to decide who to vote for, or even how to vote. The first part? Well, that’s entirely subjective. The second part is actually pretty straightforward.

Who To Vote For

It’s now so close to the election that deciding who to vote for is more than likely a done deal. However, if you’re in need of a refresher, have a look here:

  • The SNP manifesto, which promises to fight to end the Rape Clause, challenge Tory austerity, fight benefits sanctions, do more to end domestic violence, oppose Trident, increase free childcare provisions, keep university education free of charge, scrap the bedroom tax and oppose state pension inequality. I’ve dealt with the party at a local level concerning zero hour contracts and they’re the only party whose commitment I can account for first hand.
  • The Green and Scottish Greens’ manifesto. The Greens are into empowering young people. The Scottish government lowered the voting age to 16 in 2014 and the Greens want to campaign for the same in Westminster. They also want to reinstate housing benefits for under 21s, scrap age-related wage bands and introduce a higher living wage.
  • The Labour and Scottish Labour manifesto. They’re looking to bring railways, energy and the Royal Mail back under public control, as well as scrapping tuition fees, the bedroom tax and wage caps for NHS staff. They’re also looking to completely overhaul the care system, which in the face of an ageing population is sorely overdue. Sadly Scottish Labour is a bit of a mess and I can’t vote for Corbyn’s Labour party, but I wish them well.
  • The Liberal Democrats and Scottish Liberal Democrats want to offer a second European referendum, extend paternity leave, add a 1p dividend on income tax to fund the NHS, restructure provisions for mental health care and introduce a regulated cannabis market (I know, right?).
  • The Conservative and Scottish Conservative manifesto, which promises strength and stability or something and looks like an estate agent’s schedule for a stately home.
  • UKIP have a baffling purple filter over the union jack and are predictably anti-burka.

There we have, at a glance, the main party manifestos. On each site there are easy-read versions listing the main points, as some of them are pretty heavy. Research is important when it comes to informing your decision. I wish I’d done more when I first voted. I went for Lib Dem because they were the third largest party after Labour and Conservative, and I quite liked Charles Kennedy. Also, my first choice didn’t have a candidate in my area. Who knew that Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe, wasn’t a big Green demographic?

Way back in 2005, there wasn’t the same access to social media discourse. I didn’t even have a laptop. To access the internet I had to go to my uni’s computer lab and that was more effort than I was willing to make. There wasn’t the same drive back then, it wasn’t such a huge, pressing issue like it is now. It’s great that we have these conversations now but, like I said, it can also be hard to ask questions. Now for that second part.

How To Vote

First of all, in order to be eligible, you should’ve registered by the 22nd of May. However, if you missed it, you can always do it now for forthcoming elections. Keep reading too, if you want, for future reference.

In order to vote you have to go to your local polling station. It should tell you where to go on your polling card. If you don’t have that, you can find out your local station here. You can’t, as I found out, just turn up to any polling station and vote there. You have an allocated polling station- usually somewhere like a school or community hall. Polling stations are opened from 7am to 10pm on voting day so pop in at your convenience. You don’t need to take your polling card, or any other form of ID, with you. Sure, it makes it slightly easier to look you up, but it’s not essential- just give your name, take your voting slip and X marks the choice. Pop it in the ballot box and that’s it. Done. Well in pal, you’ve voted.

That’s all you need to do. Please don’t put anything other than an X in your chosen box- otherwise, it won’t count. I mean, unless you want to spoil your ballot, but what’d be the point?

What’s Next?

Regardless of the outcome, like I said, there’s a change in the air. The results of an election don’t always signal the end, if the outcome isn’t favourable. If you resonated with a particular party, look into joining them. The post-election period is boom time for party membership, why not get in on it?

You can also use your representatives in your favour. Something bothering you? Write to them. I did, and my MP took it all the way to Westminster. Check out when and where your nearest MP (or MSP) surgery is held and make ’em work for you- not just your vote. Keep an eye on good ol’ social media, too. There are loads of grassroots protests and demos popping up. In my city, thousands of people marched for independence, a mere month after protesting the hideous, dehumanising rape clause. Even my mum travelled to London to protest against women’s state pension inequality. If you’re anxious about going it alone (which, admittedly, I can be too), just ask! There’s guaranteed to be an event page or a Twitter post about it. There’s no harm in asking, after all.

Why Bother?

In the current climate, it can sometimes feel like voting is a futile exercise. Every party has its flaws. Brexit showed us that even when an entire country votes against something, it makes little difference to the bigger picture. What I would say is, don’t be disheartened. In the EU referendum, the biggest turnout was amongst the over 65s who, unsurprisingly, opted to leave. Turnout was lower in areas with a younger population. 1, 269, 501 votes separated Leave from Remain, yet 30% of people didn’t turn out to vote. The split between the Yes and No camps in Scotland was 45% to 55%. If you think one vote can’t make a difference- it really, really can.

The margins between these referendums was minimal. In order to get the results we want, we have to take the power back from an older generation that doesn’t understand us. That doesn’t, overall, think about the future they’re leaving behind. Voting is a privilege, one which it’s our duty to uphold. Suffrage wasn’t always afforded to everyone in the UK. We live in a democracy where we have the opportunity to choose from a multitude of political parties. That’s important. Not voting, or spoiling your ballot, is no longer an act of defiance or rebellion. Your generation needs your voice. Stand up for yourself. Make your damn vote count for something.

If anyone wants to buy me this, you can get it here. I’ll pay you back when the Tories lose and we all earn a decent wage.

Things have been quiet ’round these parts lately, and in all honesty I’ve needed the break. It’s reignited my need to write, as opposed to doing it because I felt I had to. It’s also- shamefully- been pushed to the bottom of the pile of Things I Have To Do. What else could be so important, you ask? Well, we’ve been busy adulting hard. We’ve been packing, cleaning, embroiling ourselves in mortgages and temporarily decamping to our respective parents. The reason?

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

Yeah, if ‘mortgage’ and ‘packing’ weren’t enough of a hint, we’re now officially homeowners. It’s taken two months from seeing it initially but we’re in. And we’re staying. It’s a whole new chapter and yet another massive change from where we were before. I still can’t believe that we have somewhere to call our own, after years of renting.

As exciting as it is, it’s also tinged with melancholy. I know these are super first world problems, and we’re lucky to have a roof over our heads regardless of where. I’m not complaining. It’s just that leaving our first flat was a little harder than I thought.

I’ve lived away from home, on and off, for ten years and always had a fondness for Glasgow’s south side. The west end was tired and pretentious, and I’d already lived way down east. The south side was new, uncharted territory. I knew bits and pockets but had never had any connection to it. When the chance of a flat came up, Ally and I leapt on it.

We’d been together for, at the time, two and a half years. We were ready to move in, although we hadn’t really looked. A flat came up at the perfect time, and we took it. Boom. It wasn’t in the most desirable area.  Mentioning a move there merited a sharp intake of breath. For us, that meant it was cheap and we weren’t complaining. It was busy, noisy, close to town and it was easier for work. We could walk into town as quickly as we could walk to the park and take in the views. It might not have been perfect, but it was perfect for us.

Our flat was the basis for a lot of firsts. As well as being our first place together, it was a new area for us to explore. It was the base from which we went on our first holiday together. We put up our first Christmas tree together there and carved our first Hallowe’en pumpkins. It was where I found out our first child was on the way. It was where we brought our son home from the hospital and it was Lucas’s first home. There were a lot of good memories in that flat. Friends could pop round, we could go out and not worry about getting transport home.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot I wish we could’ve done. The wallpaper peeled off of the bumpy corporation plastering, and we only had one bedroom. The single glazed windows rattled in their frames, icy tendrils of wind whipping through the cracks in the wood. When Lucas was born with jaundice, I couldn’t put him at the window to get some sunlight because of the draught. On numerous occasions, mice snuck their heads under the door or we caught a flash of them out of the corner of our eyes. We found ways around it, though. We’d wrap him up and walk him in the pram for hours, getting him sunlight and fresh air. It did us all good to get out, and we would talk for ages on everything and nothing. When we got home we put on the heater, piled the sofa high with blankets and cosied up in the living room. We painted the windows and Ally laid the flooring in the kitchen and we made it as homely as we could.

Having a son made us reassess what was important. We weren’t going out at all, our families and friends with kids lived far away. The noisy streets, dirty with rain and pollution, weren’t what we wanted our son to run around on when he was old enough to do so. We wanted space to live, a place where our little family could grow, that we could call our own. Buying our house happened so quickly that we didn’t really have time to think on the hugeness of it ’til the sale had gone through. It hit me a lot harder than I thought. I was ready to move on. I knew that what we were doing was for the best. However, there was still a bit of me that mourned the life we were leaving behind. I’d forged a routine for us. Lucas and I had our routes that we walked, and every time I went out I tried to find somewhere different for us to go. It was silly, sure, but as much as I was excited to move I was sad for the memories we would leave behind. Everyone kept saying “you must be so excited”. While I was, I felt like I couldn’t say that it was also tinged with sadness. Like I could only be looking ahead and wasn’t allowed to miss what I was leaving. That is, until one of our walks put it into perspective for me.

One day, I took Lucas around Queen’s Park when he woke up in the pram. I took him to the top of the flagpole to sit and feed him. As I did, I looked across the city skyline all the way to Ben Lomond. By that time he was asleep, nestled in my arms with no awareness of the world around him. It was then that I realised that, as much as I would remember that moment, he’d have no recollection at all. His memories were ahead of us. He needed a home where he could play, be safe, go out in the garden and run around with is friends. I wanted him to be able to walk to school without crossing any roads. I could still look back fondly on what we’d lived before, but that didn’t make the future any less exciting. Anyway so much had changed for us in the last year that it’d be nice to finally have a permanent base.

After weeks of living between our parents’ homes, we finally got our keys last week. The place is still stacked high with boxes but it’s coming along nicely. Just as when he was born, our new routine is a mystery. Our new memories are unknown. The good news is that this time around, we’ve got all the time in the world to make them.

 

2017 is the Scottish year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and it’s definitely something we’re not short of. Not only is the country spoiled with a wealth of scenery, it’s also home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites. Ever since I was wee I’ve had a love of history and exploring, ably helped by my mum and dad taking us to castles, heritage sites, landmarks and museums around the country.

Thanks to this, I was/am/will always be a massive history nerd. I devoured any information I could read about historical landmarks, so that when I went I understood its relevance (fun fact: I made a documentary of my trip to Linlithgow Palace when I was nine, putting me way ahead of the vlogging game). It’s been a lifelong passion for me, which has shaped my interests personally and academically. Of course, I didn’t understand the importance of culture and heritage as a kid. I just knew that these places nurtured my imagination and brought what I’d read about to life, and none more so than New Lanark Mill.

New Lanark Mill is nestled in the Falls Of Clyde, less than an hour outside Glasgow. Like a lot of 18th century villages, New Lanark centred around its cotton mill. Its residents lived, learned and worked in the village. However, unlike many other villages of the same nature, mill owner Robert Owen believed that the most efficient workers were happy workers. Key to their happiness, he believed, was access to education, healthcare and good food. Owen was what you’d call a “Utopian philanthropist”, concerning himself with worker well-being at a time of industrial revolution.

At the time it was a pretty innovative notion (let’s face it, it’d be an innovative notion today). As a result of its legacy, the Mill was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and the village still thrives today. I remember going as a child, but I don’t think I’ve been down that way in about twenty years. It was surprising how much of it I remembered (being a heritage site, there’s not a huge amount you can change, I guess). As soon as we got out of the car, the first thing that strikes you is the setting. The site is based within a conservation area, and the first thing you notice is trees for miles.

We were welcomed with tickets and a little passport which we had to get stamped in each of the five areas of the Mill. The first thing you come across is the Annie Macleod Experience: you hop aboard a pod that transports you through time, offering a history of the mill through the eyes of ten year old mill worker Annie. When the little girl’s voice came through the headsets asking “do you believe in ghosts?“, I remembered the shiver I’d gotten the first time I boarded the ride. It was strange, feeling like both a recent and distant memory. I’d forgotten the specifics of it, so it felt like a new experience watching the ghosts of the past swirl around us, bringing alive the stories of real people that could’ve easily been forgotten.

From then on we went into the mill room to see a real one in action, got a shot at hopscotch and learned some history behind Robert Owen and the establishment of the mill. In all honesty, I have no idea how a mill works but it was really interesting seeing one in action. The mill is still used to this day to make wool, which you can also take home. Textile production is a big part of Scottish heritage, and I found something quite reassuring about it. I think there’s some comfort to be found, in the time of fast fashion and mass production, that there’s still a demand for local, homespun, quality goods.

From then we took the lift up to the roof garden, the views from which were stunning. It was a bitterly cold day and we were short of time, so we didn’t get to take a trek along to the Falls Of Clyde but the views were enough to tick us over ’til next time. The Roof Garden is the largest of its kind in Scotland, contains over 70 different kinds of plants and is decorated with plaques featuring quotes by Owen. After the noise of the mill downstairs, the Roof Garden was like stepping away from the world.

After a quick refresh (the café is pretty decent, by the by) we made our way outside to the Old School House. For having such a large population at its peak, the village is fairly compact which makes it easy to navigate. Seeing the old classroom set up as it would’ve been was pretty cool, and I even had a shoddy attempt at cursive using the slates. Unusually for the time, the school was set up for both children and adults: children would learn during the day while adults (and kids who worked in the mill) could attend after a shift. It included a creche for young children and acted as a hub of activity for the community (it frequently hosted dances and concerts as well as having a library).

Across the way was an exhibition commemorating the men of the village who had fought in World War One, the women who worked in the mill producing textiles for the war effort and the efforts of village fundraisers. It’s hard to imagine the scale of loss suffered by villages like these and exhibitions like this help to keep the memory alive. It’s especially important as there are no more survivors left– it’s up to us to make their story heard and their faces visible. Seeing photographs, family treasures, handwritten letters and personal testimonies made it seem so much more poignant- and tragically pointless.

Most of the mill workers’ houses have been turned into either owner-occupied flats or form part of a Housing Association, with the ambition of keeping the village as a living community. Luckily, they haven’t all been modernised: our next stop after the school were the preserved examples of housing from the 1930s and 1820s. What struck me the most was that the houses were apparently generously spaced and in good condition for the time. It consisted of a kitchen (OK, a pretty big one, but still) and a little bedroom off to the side. The 1820s house consisted of even less: a singl’ end style property could see ten people crammed into one room. It put our current living situation into perspective- seeing the way people lived back then made me feel a little bad for complaining about our one bedroom flat. While the style of housing wasn’t all that different to anywhere else, it was the conditions they were kept in that set them apart. The mill houses had electricity and running water, and latterly indoor toilets- practically unheard of at the time.

We just about squeezed in the village shop before we had to leave: the shop was a co-operative, set up so that villagers could have access to fresh produce at lower prices than in the local towns and cities. To this day it sells Fair Trade products, including New Lanark’s own-recipe ice cream. The mill also still produces its own wool, which is pretty impressive given its inception was over 200 years ago.

Places like New Lanark are crucial to our understanding of social history. It’s one thing to study it or read about it, but seeing it first hand brings it vividly to life. It makes history tangible, shows us where we came from. The mill and other places like it were milestones in social justice. Its emphasis on humane conditions was innovative at the time and remains so today. Access to education and healthcare are now recognised as fundamental human rights, and places like New Lanark realised this in a time when workers’ rights were unheard of. The layout of the place is easy to walk through, picking up information on the various attractions as you go. Lucas might have been a little young to appreciate it, but it was still nice to have a little family day out and take in some culture. There’s so much to see that we didn’t even have a chance to get around it all in one day. We’ve still got the Falls Of Clyde to explore, and we’re already looking into going back in the summer for the Brick City Lego exhibition. Who says history has to be boring?

We were invited to spend the day at New Lanark Mill as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 celebrations, but my opinions are all mine.

  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology celebrations are running across the country throughout the rest of 2017 and you can find out more here.
  • More information on UNESCO and its world heritage sites across the UK can be found here.