The Coven’s Edinburgh Trip

by Kathleen O’Loughlin

          There was always a good attendance at the April coven meeting at Dysart. This was the meeting where the group made their decision on their annual summer holiday destination and the choice this year was between Killarney (a coven favourite) and Edinburgh (proposed by Miss Myrtle). Miss Agatha was in the chair as usual and she brought up the matter of summer holidays thus: “Ladies, we have narrowed down the choice of holiday venues to either Killarney or Edinburgh. What is the feeling among the group on the matter? My own vote would be Kerry, we haven’t had a bad holiday there yet, but we are a democratic coven and this year Edinburgh has been proposed. Would you like to say a word regarding that suggestion, Myrtle?”

    “Thank you, Chairwoman, yes, I’m proposing Edinburgh, home of the  Scottish Enlightenment, as we haven’t been outside the island on holiday since before Covid, and none of us are getting any younger. I believe it’s time we began travelling again.”

     “The main figures of the Scottish Enlightenment must be turning in their graves at the consequences of Scotland’s new Hate Crime Law. Between Hate Crimes, and Non-Hate Crime Incidents (NHCI) being recorded by the police, is it safe to go there? Could one of us have a NHCI recorded against her and not even know it until she went looking for Garda clearance to referee the under 12’s camogie matches?” asked Miss Agatha.

     “Surely not,” said Myrtle, “the Scots have a long history of enlightened governance behind them, what’s there to be afraid of?”

      “What’s there to be afraid of? Have you read the history of the witch trials in early modern Scotland? Scary stuff, I can tell you! I was hoping that if they were to implement a Hate Crime Law that the least they could do was make sure that witches were among the minority groups protected under such legislation, but no, it doesn’t even protect women, let alone witches. It’s all about race and gender and lifestyle as far as I can see.”

      Myrtle could see she was losing the room on this one and so decided on a more accommodating stance. “ Hmm, I can see your point Agatha, how about we go incognito. These pointy hats do make us stand out a little. How about we abandon them in favour of more conventional headgear for the holiday?”

     “Maybe that would be a wise precaution, we could go disguised as local Women’s Shed members.”

     “And how are they represented?”

     “OH, you know, they are very crafty types, hats with ribbons and flowers, statement scarves, colourful bags, that kind of thing.”

     “Ah, much like ourselves so, we just need to change our hats, we can manage that alright.”

 Although Miss Agatha was somewhat reassured by the plan to visit Edinburgh, (home of the Scottish Enlightenment-as described by JK Rowling), not all members agreed to go there and it was eventually decided that they would divide into two parties, with six of them going to Edinburgh and the others taking up the invitation to visit from the coven in Roundstone, Connemara.

     The ladies decided on continuing their low-profile policy and took a Ryanair flight to Edinburgh rather than their usual broom flights and arrived well rested and relaxed, ready for any adventure, which was just as well as they had barely parked their bags in their Airbnb when they heard someone at their front door. The doorbell didn’t ring, and there was no one there when they opened the door  but there as a note was dropped into their letterbox, addressed to Miss Myrtle.

      “Good heavens, who knew we were coming? I told no one other than our coven,” said Myrtle with a blush. Of course no one believed her.

      “Who is it from anyway, Myrtle?”

      “It’s from Miss Isla, chair of the Edinburgh coven, we are old friends from our college days.”

       “And what does she have to say for herself?”

       “She is looking for help to save the SNP.”

       “The what?”

       “The Scottish Nationalist Party, they have been in trouble since Nicola Sturgeon resigned, and the dream of Scottish Independence is fading by the day. She wonders if we could meet up and formulate a plan to revive their fortunes.”

       “Myrtle, we are on our holidays, I hoped for a culturally enriching but otherwise relaxing break so we could recharge the batteries before we face into the chaos of election fever at home, not get involved in another coven’s political affairs. Besides what on earth could we contribute to the mess that party has managed to get themselves into.”

       “Well actually, she has an intriguing suggestion which just might help with the situation at home.”

              “ Oh alright, when and where?”

       “Palace of Holyrood House, eleven o’ clock tomorrow morning.”

Poor Agatha didn’t sleep a wink that night, wishing she had gone to Roundstone with the other half of the coven. Next day saw yet another May morning without a sunrise, just another grey, cold morning of tepid light and drizzle. But Agatha led her colleagues to Holyrood House via Bus link, advising them all in a loud voice to take good notes and pictures of all to be seen there for their Women’s Shed meeting the following month.

       When they alighted at the Palace, they were met by Isla who welcomed them on behalf of the Edinburgh Coven. She explained that their help was needed to save the SNP in order to conserve the gender ideology that had been so bravely and fiercely fought for over the previous few years. All would be lost if the conservatives won seats.

      Myrtle soaked all this up with shining eyes fixed on the face of the six foot four, bearded Isla who wore high heels and raspberry coloured lipstick. Agatha was appalled. She didn’t know where to look, and had no idea that the Edinburgh coven had succumbed to the trans ideology.

    “Goodness, is that my phone,” she squeaked, and practically buried her head in her bag as she rummaged in it. She fished it out and pretended to answer a non-existent call.

     “Good heavens, Beatrice, you’re not serious, you mean, Mildred is in…? We need to get home straight away? Well, of course, naturally we’ll … what’s that? She might not..? ”   

      “Ladies, change of plan, we’re needed at home. So sorry to leave you like this, Isla, but our first duty is to our coven sister, I’m sure you understand,” and with that she marched across the road to the bus stop to make the return trip to the Airbnb.

     Myrtle fluttered in her wake, “Please, Agatha, surely we can give Isla a couple of days help, I’m sure Mildred would understand.”

     But Agatha got on the bus followed by all the ladies bar Myrtle.

     “Myrtle, I’m going home now, what you do is entirely your own business,” said Agatha, as she took her seat behind the driver. She flushed as everyone stared at her when Isla shouted from across the road in a fine rich baritone, “You transphobic old bigot.”

  Myrtle hesitated but then stepped off the bus and recrossed the road to join Isla. Agatha watched her, feeling more sorrow than anger, and muttered to herself, “Two hundred years of a ‘no witch left behind’ tradition gone. How sad.” And with that, the bus pulled away from the pavement.” She sent herself a reminder message to post Myrtle her pointy hat.