Being married to a Young Lady.

My dear wife has today had another birthday…at which time we are the same chronological age. She enjoys the fact that for six weeks she appears to the rest of the world to be a year younger than me. It is her little ‘thing’ which she brings up when age comes into a conversation with friends. For some reason, women do like to keep ‘their age’ a secret, whereas men in general are proud of their advancing years, and increasing wisdom. I am also able to say that I am married to a much younger woman (I know I am stretching credibility a little here!).

I have to say, that looking at her now, I still see the cheeky grin I fell in love with some 53 years ago, and whilst comparison photos from all those years ago show both of us as having changed physically, she has weathered the years very well, and they have been kind to her, so I will just let her have her little secret…..Oh just forgot, sorry Dear, it’s not a secret any more!

European friends…

It was just about a year ago that we were on holiday on Lake Como, in Italy. Sad to say the weather was worse there than it had been in Scotland, and the hotel and food left a little to be desired. Luckily it was a secondary holiday, so we were happy to make the best of it.

There was a wide range of nationalities represented, as you can imagine, and I always enjoy speaking a foreign language. The difficulty arises when you catch short snatches of what is obviously not English, but are unable to identify it. I once had a long chat in German with a gentleman at the Mozartblick viewpoint in Austria, and only when we asked each other where we lived did I discover that he came from London, and of course I was from the west of Scotland! Red faces and laughter were evident in equal measure!

And so it was at Lake Como. Staring out at the rain, I sensed a Germanic conversation drifting towards me from a couple. I was in the midst of commenting on the weather in German, but was informed that ‘We are not Germans’ in German, and then repeated in an undistinguishable lingo. It turned out they were from the Netherlands, and from such a rather unfortunate start, we grew to be regular conversationalists in English which they both spoke very well!

Over the relatively-few days when our holidays overlapped, we found a bond developing, and since they had never been in Scotland, they were invited to come to our house to see some of the best of our wonderful country. Such offers and acceptances are easily made, and just as easily allowed to lapse. But we felt there was something in this one, and exchanges of Christmas cards, and the arrival of a Dutch-English Dictionary, seemed to weld the friendship together, and eventually dates and provisional plan were agreed.

It was probably at this time that a few minor thoughts crossed the minds of both families…..we didn’t know each other well, would they like our food, could they manage English for a solid eight days?, what if it rained all the time? would they be comfortable staying in someone else’s house? what about their political views?, could I learn a few words of Dutch? We were also having a large party at our house at the same time, for Son’s 40th birthday, so how would they manage in a large crowd?

Suffice to say that all went perfectly. From the meeting at the airport we felt we were in the presence of lovely friendly people, who settled well into our house, and seemed comfortable to be with. The weather was unbelievable, and trips to Aberfoyle,the Trossachs, Dunoon, Inveraray, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Crail went well. Unfortunately there are so many great places to be seen that they could only visit a few. The eventual parting was accompanied by a number of tear-stained faces, and many hugs!

We have seen how two different cultures can get along so well in the intimate spaces of a house and car, such that even possible disagreements in culture or politics do not have to prevent people from being part of a friendly human race. We are now saving our Euros so that we can make a return trip, but I must try to get my tongue round some of their very strange-sounding words..because they’re not German, you know!

Just a short call…

Are you one of those people who are happy to agree with the old Irish saying ‘Never do today ,what you can put off till tomorrow’ . Well, I can be a bit like that. If it’s a nice day we should be out enjoying the scenery….the weeds can be pulled tomorrow! If there’s a good film on the television…well then, the dishes can wait!  I don’t need new clothes…these old ones are fine!

 Today, I made a phone call I meant to make a while ago.  I shouldn’t have put it off…there was no good reason.  It definitely had to be made. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Lady of the House had been at me for weeks to get on with it… know how it is, guys?

It’s not that it was crucial, or critical…I could have put up with not making it…the world was not going to change….no-one would be particularly affected by it, besides myself. 

On the other hand, why wait? What reason could I keep giving to the family or others as to why I hadn’t made that simple move?  I’m a grown, mature adult, so it wouldn’t be difficult….perhaps a little embarassing….but I just had to lift the phone, dial the number (if I could find it again…) and get on with it. It wouldn’t take long, and having done it, I should feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders.

I decided to bite the bullet and late this afternoon I found the number and called. I was instantly in touch with the person to whom I had to speak. After a few minutes of trivial chat, I knew I could not delay or I would get cold feet and hang up the phone!

The person was very pleasant about it all, seemed to sympathise with me and was certainly helping me with what I needed to say. It took longer than I thought, but there were no unpleasantries and the chap on the other end was very pleasant and professional about it all.

I thanked him profusely for being so understanding and helpful, and, as predicted, I did feel a great sense of relief when he finished the conversation with……

………..’Thank you for applying for your Old Age Pension’………dammit that’s what made me feel ancient!

Up,Up, and away….at last!

Aloft balloon

A previous post  told of the postponement of a balloon ride for Daughter’s 40th birthday, accompanied by Lady of the House. After a number of attempts to re-arrange it, we at last heard from her that Saturday was to see it all come true.

At 11pm on Friday night she confirmed the good news that a morning flight would take place from Biggar near Lanark….the bad news was that we had to be there by 7 am!

Biggar is a pretty little town in the middle of the south Lanarkshire countryside, and working backwords it was established that Lady and I would have to be up by 4.30 am to pick up daughter at 6!…..and with another hour’s drive to Biggar!

But you know what happens when you have to be up very early….you don’t sleep very well, and I was awake at 3.45 am and at my cereal by 4am!

The journey there all went to plan and we arrived at the site on a lovely autumn morning with a layer of mist and low cloud. Even then there was some doubt about whether it would take place because of the wind speed limits and the low mist.

All was OK’d and the laborious task was started to unpack the balloon from a bag the same size as you see the round hay-bales in. It was a bit like unwrapping a tent, but of gigantic proportions! The noise of the fans and then the burners, to expand the envelope was ear-damaging, and the sight of seeing the pilot walking about inside the balloon, checking for leaks, as it was being blown-up, was somewhat surreal!

Prepare balloon

There were 16 passengers tightly-packed into the wicker basket….fat people would not have been able to clamber into the basket, never mind sit down with any degree of comfort!

I had been taking a video record of all the preparations, and was taking some final still photos before they took off. I turned round briefly to get the video out again, and when I turned back, they had lifted-off and were rapidly rising into the clouds!  The pilot was obviously not prepared to descend and rise again, just for me to get some more shots!….but hey, that’s just life!


My intention had been to follow the balloon by road, keeping visual contact, but I never saw it again, even when the sky was a perfect blue! I drove around some of the beautiful Borders roads, with my eyes gazing upwards. I had to admit defeat however, and return to Biggar. A mobile phone call told me that they had landed safely, and allayed my fears that they had disappeared into some kind of Bermuda Triangle in the sky!

balloon view


Theywere brought back for champagne and a chat about the events which happened when they spooked a herd of animals, and the farmer’s reaction!…but that’s another story!

But what do we give her for her 50th?

Up, up, and away….almost!

 mongolfier balloon

Today was supposed to see Daughter (birthday present) and Lady of the House on a hot-air-balloon trip from Falkland Palace in Fife. We had a pleasant drive over to this beautiful countryside and had a meal with old friends. However the flight was was diverted at the last moment to Perth, and so we had a mad dash to be there…..only to arrive and discover that the flight had been cancelled because the wind was 10 miles/hour!

The limit is 8 miles/hour, so a 150 miles round-trip and meal costs have been wasted. I wonder if the Mongolfier Brothers were held up because of a difference of 2 miles/hour, or are we seeing the safety culture going to silly levels. Surely part of the thrill of such a flight is the adrenaline rush!

If you are considering getting involved in such an event be prepared for a disappointment.

………….Let’s hope a re-booked flight is not called-off.

Life begins at……


It’s a bit weird!…..some of our favourite bloggers are approaching, or have reached, a certain unmentionable age… fact one used the fact as the title of her site….and no-one really wants to admit it! 

I actually imagine that it isn’t so long since I, and the Lady of the House were at that stage and we had a large house-party……sideburns and smoking pipes were very-much in evidence! But now that our Daughter has hit that age…..that puts rather a different aspect on this number! She doesn’t look it, I must admit, but neither did her Mum at that age. Maybe there is no such thing as ‘looking one’s age’, or feeling one’s age!

The fact is that we only get one chance at each age….it is a one way street, and it is probably best just to enjoy it as best you can…you can’t turn the clock or calendar back, or halt their progress. You just have to accept that the positive thing called ‘maturity’, brings along with it the baggage called ‘age’.

Some writer once said that he knew that we were all born, lived and would eventually die, but he hoped that the Almighty would have made an exception in his case!……… ‘fraid not.

Life is for living and with all its problems and limitations, this world is a wonderful place; and with all their problems and limitations, other human beings are all we have.

So, Daughter, take on the world as you always have, value your friends highly, hate no-one, don’t be too hard on yourself or others for none of us is perfect, always try to look to the positive side of every event, let yesterday go  gently into history, enjoy today, look eagerly to tomorrow and continue to do good in the world.

Do this and we will continue to be proud of you.

Mum and Dad

So far and yet so near

Brother, who is married and lives in Australia, has just had his 60th birthday, and, as requested, has sent me a very nice family photo including his wife and children. I was almost tempted to ask him why the photo did not come upside down, but that is too corny even for me!

He went to the antipodes on UK Decimalisation Day (probably to escape the horrible word, PENCE), and thinks nothing of the long flights back for funerals. It is strange to note that even with being so close as children, who played well together, we have spent most of our lives as far apart as is presently possible, and have built-up relationships, and pursued careers unknown and un-connected to one another.

Yet when we do meet again, we seem to just settle-in again as if nothing had happened.

There is one other interesting point. When writing the obituary for our mother, I e-mailed him to see if there were any specific points or memories he wanted brought to mind, and he sent me over his version of our childhood. There were some important points on which the facts seemed to differ from my recollection and diary, but at this stage in our lives it makes no difference, but does show that we can observe happenings from different viewpoints, and carry that view all our lives.

We still hope that we might take the long journey over, and resolve who was right about the various parts of our childhood, if someone could knock me out for the 36 hours of travelling!

Old?…not me!

Yesterday I reached the age of ‘thrice-21’, which sounds less old than 63. I got lovely simple presents, such as a pair of posh blue walking boots from Daughter (will I ever wear them out at my age?), a modern shirt and after-shave from Son (to try to keep me trendy?), and from Young Lady of the House, a six-CD collection of Scottish comedy and two books of humour (to try to keep me sweet?).

We didn’t go out for a meal, but had a glorious Indian carry-out (good typical Scottish food, then?) and a blether. We are seeing more of both of them just now, and it is great sitting down as four adults without having to tell them to ‘take their elbows off the table’, or ‘don’t gulp your food’, or ‘eat your greens’.

I feel for those with young ones at the table, who have to be fed, or who insist on feeding themselves (or the dog), or who can effectively put food on walls, floor, even ceiling, with a well-placed fist into the middle of a dinner-plate.

Never mind, they do get better….I suppose the next thing is when I become cantankerous and may well end-up emulating the above-mentioned children!

Until then I will try to behave at table and act like a grown-up…..which I suppose I am!

Eighty years young!

Evensong at the Cathedral was special tonight…. the choir numbered 50, of present and past choristers who had gathered together to celebrate. The music was selected by Bernard Porter, a previous organist who was 80 years old this weekend, but certainly does not look it!

He was a pleasure to sing under, with gentle criticism and much praise, a wonderful musical knowledge, but who used and practised his skill and craft with a wonderful under-stating. The youngest and most inexperienced chorister gained from being with him, and even those of who have sung for many years still came away knowing a little more about the works we were singing.

Heavens….this seems terribly like an obituary! No, he is still alive and kicking, with an impish grin. I asked him what he will do for the next 20 years, and he said that it will all seem a bit ‘downhill from now on’. So different from those musicians are so full of themselves, with a puffed-out ego.

So let me add my congratulations…well done Bernard!