Growing up in Scotland, when I had to have an injection the nurse would reassure me by saying “Och, it’s only a wee prick.” Couldn’t help reflecting on that today.

William Wallace's sword - according to legend, but nobody really knows

William Wallace’s sword – according to legend, but nobody really knows

We drove into Stirling, the ancient seat of the Scottish Kings and site of the Battle of Stirling where William Wallace soundly defeated the English. It was interesting to find that he won through the use of superior tactics; or perhaps that should be the use of any tactics. Basically the English were expecting the Scots to be appropriately chivalric and allow them to cross a narrow bridge, get into position and then engage in battle. Instead the Scots let a few of the English across the bridge and then attacked. The English couldn’t bring their superior forces to bear, got bunched up on the bridge which collapsed under their weight, and were slaughtered. In a move repeated many times in the coming centuries the English promptly stole a Scottish innovation and made good with it – using these new-fangled tactic things to great advantage against the French at Poitiers and other battles.

Anyway we were in Stirling on a mission. We had to get Yellow Fever and Hep A booster injections. Yellow Fever was necessary not because of any real risk, but because we can’t get into the USA after visiting Peru unless we’ve had the injection. We’d made a booking at a travel clinic from France and so turned up at Stirling University Pharmacy as the highlight of an otherwise dull pharmacy day. The injections were predictably traumatic as far as Callum was concerned and he got through it only by reciting prime numbers, much to the pharmacist’s amusement. Still lots of trauma though, even with prime-number assistance. Declan, also predictably, shrugged the whole thing off. Jennifer and I were only really traumatized by the absolutely obscene amount of money the whole thing ended up costing us.

So then on to William Wallace whose monument dominates the Stirling skyline. From one point of view it looks like a thick needle. From another it’s simply and remarkably phallic and theres nothing wee about it. I did wonder if there was a hidden significance in that, given poor William’s awful end. When finally betrayed and captured Wallace was dragged naked through the streets of London, partially hanged, castrated, had his entrails burned in front of him and finally beheaded.

I wonder if the monumental shape was a bit of a backhanded gesture to poor William, returning to him some of his stolen dignity. Maybe not the most chivalric thought; but then you never know with these Scots…