“Tick tock, tick tock”.
Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e’er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.

“TICK tock, tick tock,” she says – her early words in English. “Abiy, Abiy”, her early name for me, in Tigrinya.

My granddaughter is Skyping me. She is 16 months old, born under the curse of Brexit, to a refugee mother, our foster-daughter from Eritrea.

My granddaughter is a European citizen of the UK. But in the hostile environment for migrants to the UK, especially those who are people of colour, or from majority refugee sending countries, her mother still has a while to wait, and many tests and quests to accomplish, before her fitness for membership of the citizenry, is complete. She will never be an EU citizen now.

Her name is Sienna. It’s an Italian name. Chosen because it “sounds Glaswegian”. After all, there were considerable Italian migrants to the city in the past.

Like most who are forced to flee war and have a “well-founded fear of persecution” my Eritrean family continues to experience the ways in which the rhetorics of greed and scarcity produce a world where the only question on the table at the time of the Brexit referendum was profoundly xenophobic. Burns had his own fair share of xenophobia. He didn’t much like the English.

As I write, the country has been bought and sold for Facebook gold by a parcel o’ rogues in nation. Billionaires are bank-rolling Brexit, probably illegally, and have off-shored their wealth and bought new citizenships for themselves as they prepare to asset strip the country, whilst encouraging blame for any malaise on refugees first, and then anyone who is vaguely foreign sounding or foreign looking to them, oh, and women. The misogyny is quite something.

The war’ly race may riches chase, -
An’ riches still may fly them, O;
An’ tho’ at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne’er enjoy them, O.

But they don’t look happy, these referendum and General Election winners. And they don’t sound happy. The media is flooded with the fury and hatred of the victors.

One day there will be a Chilcot or a Macpherson style-inquiry, such as the ones carried out into the Iraq War or the murder of Stephen Lawrence, on both Brexit and even more particularly, the UK’s Home Office.

In the meantime,
Mean Time.
Tick, tock, tick tock.
It’s Brexit o’ Clock.

Little Sienna giggles at me over the phone, touching the screen with a tenderness I can hardly bare.

Maybe, maybe, come next week we will have a fair trade deal not a chlorinated-chicken free trade deal; maybe the hardships to come – as come they must as it is vital, politically, that Brexit fails for the survival of the European Union – just maybe, England will wrestle with her past empire and colonial misdeeds as Aotearoa is doing in these careful, uneasy days of new settlements.

Maybe Scotland will shake herself free, and fairly so. And maybe the darkness I feel is just the darkness of the womb, waiting in hope.

Burns brought poetry, not reason to the world, especially when it came to nature and “the lassies”.

Poetry, said RSThomas, is that which enters the intellect by way of the heart.

It’s love for the world, love for the wee one in my arms.

Alison Phipps delivered the address in Dunedin, New Zealand