As my Nana used to say, ‘a watched pot never boils’. Her words come to mind as that is precisely what I am doing this morning; boiling up the bones of a chicken for stock. Not long after I had it in the pot and bubbling, I had the urge to go out. ‘Turn it off,’ commanded an inner voice, ‘just go out, it’ll be there when you return.’ Then another more authoritative voice (it sounded like my Primary Five teacher) told me to finish what I had started, to settle myself and be patient. I know this is a tiny act of patience, something I must apply in the very short-term, but we can all experience moments of acute impatience over the most inconsequential things. Those times when you feel antsy, when even having to wait for the kettle to boil can be a drag. Here’s another one that happens to me a lot: it’s a fine day, there’s great drying outside, and I want to wait for the washing machine to run through so that I can peg the clothes on the line before I go out and not have to deal with a wet heap when I get home. I think it’s on its last spin and then the drum churns on for an extra interminable ten minutes, testing my patience. With small children we know that patience is short – we know not to tell them about Christmas until it is very near, as each morning you know they will ask, ‘Is it today?’ As we get older, though, we are supposed to develop greater patience, and yet, pots, kettles and washing machines can, at times, still test mine.

I once knew a man (note my use of the past tense) who would say with a grin, ‘Patience is a virtue, seldom found in women.’ I had never heard the saying before, nor since, but he rattled it off like a scientific formula, never to be contested. I think all of us are patient and impatient at different times and to varying degrees, depending upon what pressures we might feel bearing down upon us from the outside world. In the men versus women argument, I have only one observation: that of queuing to board a flight. Each time I take a domestic flight I have a quick scan of the ‘speedy boarding’ queue, and always, 80-90% of those in the queue are men. Gone are the days when the proportion of businessmen outweighs businesswomen to that extent – and so, my working hypothesis is that men are less patient and more willing to pay their way out of impatience than women. I think Sylvia Plath would have agreed with me.

“Three Women” by, Sylvia Plath

“I am slow as the world.

I am very patient,

Turning through my time, the suns and stars

Regarding me with attention.

The moon’s concern is more personal:

She passes and repasses, luminous as a nurse.”


Patience, when it comes to the bigger issues, mustering and maintaining it during dark times can be very testing. This year it seems that we have had to be more patient than usual in waiting for the weather to change. There have been a couple of days when the sun (and a smidgen of warmth) has flirted with us, and then come to naught. Waiting for any change can feel like an uphill struggle. It can be hard to remain patient and know that there will be a shift. You might feel like Miss Havisham, that cobwebs have begun to be spun around you with all the waiting. Stay patient, here is a little poem of hope and belief that applying patience will be worth it.

‘Uphill’, by Christina Rossetti

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?

Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?

A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.

May not the darkness hide it from my face?

You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?

Those who have gone before.

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?

They will not keep you waiting at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

Yea, beds for all who come.”

3 thoughts on “Patience

  1. I am normally patient, very patient and even very patient but will you please, please send me your Edinburgh address!!! Brilliant writing as always.


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