Gina Davidson: I hope reopened wounds can heal

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MORTONHALL Crematorium is a sombre place at any time.

Even when the sun shines it’s hard to feel warmth among the gravestones or in the flower-strewn chapel of remembrance. Maybe it’s something to do with its geographical position but there’s seems to be a breeze which creeps beneath coats and jackets and into your bones.

In winter months it’s especially miserable. The damp and wet seems to drain any joyful memory of those who’ve passed on. Wander in the Rose Garden in particular, where children’s and babies’ graves are decorated with teddies, toys and other mementoes, and their sodden softness lying amid scattered leaves is a depressing physical reminder of how much they are missed by their families.

Yet graveyards and crematoria are our places of official remembrance; the only places where many who have lost loved ones have to go if they want to pay tribute – unless they’ve scattered ashes somewhere more personal, more glorious.

But at the same time they are also places where grief is allowed free rein, where people can shed the stiff upper lip and reveal the pain of their loss without judgement. Having somewhere to go where it is publicly acceptable to cry, to remember... it is important in the human grieving process, no matter how distant the death.

Tomorrow the atmosphere will be even more serious than usual. Coats will be buttoned up, scarves pulled tightly around necks, gloved hands rammed into pockets, feet gently stamped as the chill seeps through shoe soles while music is played and short speeches made.

Tomorrow Mortonhall opens a memorial garden to the babies whose ashes were never returned to their families and, once the official opening is done, it will be there forever for the babies’ parents.

These are the people who were told there would be no ashes, nothing to bury or scatter after their babies – either stillborn or who died in the hours or days after birth – were cremated.

For years these parents had nowhere to go to put flowers, place soft toys, to sit and remember that their child had existed, however briefly. For years they carried the pain of the loss with them, a pain which three years ago was compounded by the revelation that they had been lied to, that they could have received their baby’s ashes if it had not been for the extremely poor practices and judgement of the management at Mortonhall.

Understandably there are parents caught up in this horror who will never want to set foot in Mortonhall again. Just as understandable there are parents who need somewhere to go, who want a permanent memorial to their child – who may well be buried somewhere in the grounds of Mortonhall, for there are still parents who have had no resolution to that.

The names of the children whose ashes “disappeared” will be engraved on the benches within the memorial garden. Parents who right now feel too angry about what has happened, can in future add their babies’ names if they so desire, though of course they may never get to that stage.

Everyone grieves differently, but at least this memorial garden may help those who do need a place to go, a place to sit and remember, a place to cry. It could be the first step in healing the wounds which were reopened when the scandal came to 
light.

And the circular stone wall which surrounds it might even help keep out the Mortonhall chill.

Unable to accept democratic vote

CAMPING as a form of protest has a fine tradition in Britain. Greenham Common, Faslane, Calton Hill (more brazier watching than tent pitching admittedly), St Andrew Square, Bilston Glen – those who are so invested in a campaign that they’ll forsake home comforts should provoke some appreciation for their dedication . . .

But now a group of people who cannot accept the outcome of last year’s referendum have pitched up outside the parliament and vow to remain there until Scotland is independent. We’ll see how long it lasts once they start using Holyrood’s wi-fi.

Hotel needn’t dominate city

AS much as I like the idea of young people trooping up Calton Hill with their wind, brass and stringed instruments, I don’t really have a problem with the idea that the Old Royal High school could become a hotel instead of a music school.

But the current plans are plain awful. Not because the modernity of the design is such a contrast with the Victorian building, but because it involves two wings which are so tall.

Why is it that every new hotel development wants to tower above everything else around it? Edinburgh is not a city of skyscrapers. Yes we have large, monumental buildings – the National Art Gallery, the Royal Museum amongst others – but in terms of height they are not over-powering in their settings.

Let the old school become a hotel, but one which fits its surroundings rather than dominates them.

Maxwell sparked mobiles

JAMES Clerk Maxwell had an amazing mind – the discoveries of the Edinburgh scientist of the Victorian era have led to modern technology, including the mobile phone. So thanks for

the emojis, Jim.

Train delays no surprise to me

IT was unsurprising to read that the service on the new, long-desired, Borders Railway isn’t up to par.

Trains are late, trains are cancelled, there are problems on the track, there are problems with rolling stock... it’s all old news to those in East and West Lothian already relying on Abellio to get them into Edinburgh.

This is the age of train rage.