Bleak North - Photos, Stories and Reflections from the Highlands

The Giants

The giants moved into our neighbourhood some years ago now. They were a peaceable, not to say placid, group, who settled on land that was out of cultivation and a good distance from the village. They employed a good number of local citizens in a domestic capacity and in assisting their construction projects. They were neither unsightly nor intrusive and were settled in such small communities that no-one felt under threat from them. Some near neighbours complained, as near neighbours are inclined to do, about their size and the potential for accidental harm but, as time passed, even they became strangely enamoured of their gentle neighbours.

 

This affection grew somewhat when a number of tourists and sightseers appeared in the vicinity merely in order to view these monsters, as they called them. Some even ventured close and stood below them to experience in full the awe and calm which they exuded in equal measure. Inevitably, such a boost in visitor numbers contributed to the local economy and to the wealth of numerous private individuals who took advantage of the opportunity to offer bed and breakfast, meals and entertainment.

 

Thus it continued for many years.

 

However, it is a misfortune of a consumer economy that nothing can remain unchanged. Growth is the cry. We need growth. A number of influential business people, wishing to increase their collective wealth, ventured to invite more giants to live on more marginal land, of which there was plenty. The numbers gradually increased and their communities spread. Soon they seemed to encircle our village community. People grew anxious. Neighbouring villages wondered if they would soon move near to them.

 

It was not many years before these gentle giants had become a source of unwitting controversy and were hated and loved in equal measure, largely according to the wealth they brought to each individual. Owners of marginal land were especially pleased since they earned more from the Giants than they could ever earn by conventional means. Neighbours of each community were less benignly disposed.

 

Soon relations between the giants and their neighbours worsened. There were protests and petitions as each new settlement was planned. Councillors, who had previously managed to ignore localised objections, now found themselves under pressure to speak out. They brought in regulations to control further settlements. However, little could now control their gradual spread.

 

A few years later, the giants were looked upon as a pest species and their gentle natures were refuted. They were endowed with a malevolence that existed only in the anxious minds of villagers. We were unhappy. Our anger grew. Tourists, now fearful that the fate that had befallen these people might one day befall them, came no more. The small cottage industries that had grown around them decayed and closed.

 

And the silence and peace of the land was gently crushed under giant feet and the peace in the hearts of the people was destroyed.

 

And still they came.