To quit, or to rest? Plus bawdy Burns, and another tech fail.

Ardern was right to quit

Banksy: Learn to rest, not to quit

There’s an image of Banksy’s that I used as my screensaver for a while, and it came to mind again this week. It’s a black painting on a white-washed wall and depicts a little girl sitting cross-legged, her head in one hand. She’s watching a tiny blue bird, which is resting on a twig by her knee. There’s a stillness to the image, and its words really speak to me: “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

I’ve never been great at pacing myself, hence the need for that regular reminder. I seem to either be rushing around at breakneck speed, ticking things off my never-ending ‘to do’ lists, or I’m the other version of ‘flat out’, recovering from all that frantic rushing and doing. A little balance? Rationing of energy? Yes, I know. But I’m still a work in progress.

“Nothing left in the tank”

What brought the Banksy to mind was the surprise resignation last week of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she had “nothing left in the tank” with which to carry on with the job. Addressing her party she said, simply, “It is time”.

For having the courage to know when it’s time to quit, and then quitting, she has my utmost admiration. Of all the leadership qualities that exist, surely the self-awareness of when it is time to stop, and the courage to then step down – the relinquishment of the power, position and profile – must be among the greatest, yet most rarely used qualities of all.

Following Banksy’s logic, maybe she should have rested instead of quitting? But no. When you know the time is right to step down, to give someone else a change to step into your shoes, perhaps to seek new opportunities, the far braver thing to do is to quit.

A swift and decisive change at the top

Her party didn’t hang around. Unlike the months as a rudderless ship that the UK suffered in 2022, New Zealand already has a new PM. Ardern and team acted swiftly and decisively. No mess, no fuss. I’m envious, not just that New Zealand had the benefit of Ardern incisive leadership through five difficult years (including Covid), but also that they seem capable of grown-up politics.

Since Ardern’s announcement, details have surfaced of some more of the unrelentless and abhorrent online and in-person abuse that she received during her tenure as PM. As a result, she will be given state security; the first New Zealand PM to need it. Political differences should – in any decent democracy – be capable of being robustly expressed. Death threats are entirely another matter.

Empathy, insight, kindness

This won’t be the last we see of this remarkable woman. Tributes paid to her both domestically and from around the globe talk of a leader with intelligence and strength but also of empathy and insight. She herself wants to be remembered “as someone who always tried to be kind”.

Having had the courage to quit, I hope she gets some rest, before embarking upon the next chapter of her story.

Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796), 1787. Engraving by C. Cook after a painting by Naismyth.

How many inches, Mr Burns??

I was asked last year to deliver the ‘Reply from the Lassies’ at a Highland Burns Supper. Of course, I said yes; it gave me the excuse I didn’t need to dive into the Bard’s works. I checked the ‘rating’ of the audience who were expected to attend. ‘Bawdy is acceptable’ was the reply.

And that opens up a whole other chapter of our national poet’s verse. Let me reassure you, in case you’ve not researched any further; there’s so much more to his works than the romance and flowers of a newly sprung red, red rose.

But did you know that the original hand-written version of one his most famous bawdy rhymes is kept in the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness? At the risk of you choking on your haggis, it’s called ‘Nine Inch will Please a Lady’. It’s utterly filthy, so click the link with caution… (no judgement here). And yes, it’s kept under lock and key.

I need saving… from my own lack of tech skills

Is anyone else of my demographic plagued by unwanted Instagram messages from (apparently) former US servicemen?

Another one came in yesterday. My usual ‘modus operandi’ is an immediate ‘delete and block’ manoeuvre. Except that my fingers accidentally touched the button to start a video call with the creep.

In panic I hung up, but he’d noticed. Within seconds the messages started to flood in.

Thank goodness I have a young person in the house, to properly ‘delete and block’, and change my privacy settings. Technology is wonderful. But sometimes I need saved from myself.

This column is published by Highland News and Media in newspapers across the north of Scotland. Please support the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, or subscribing online. 

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