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 56 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!

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Band of Gold

I still remember the balmy autumn evening on the putting-green in Victoria Park, Glasgow, in August 1966, when I proposed to my wife-to-be, and, fortunately for me, she accepted! (crikey, that’s almost 50 years ago!)

Victoria Park on our engagement evening Sept 1966

…….. and the lovely emerald engagement ring she chose a few days later. Unfortunately the colour rendering does not show the superb dark emerald colour. For those not around at the time…..the original photo was taken as a ‘slide’ or ‘transparency’ and had to undergo digitisation for its storage into eternity.K's engagement ring Sep 66

I understand from friends, (male and female) that the decision about the engagement ring ranks second only to the bridal dress in importance. As one would expect, the Lady had a sore tum with nerves, so I expected there to be much deliberation as we set-off for the jewellers. However, there was little question in the eye of the young Lady when she spotted this one, in McGowans of Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. She took to it instantly and I breathed a sigh of relief. My signet ring choice was quite easy!

But all was not finished. After wearing it for a little time she felt that the ring was slightly too small so it had to be taken back to be stretched. No problem there, but when we uplifted it again, tears were forth-coming, as it was now much too large! Eventually, sizing and engraving were satisfactorily completed, so that showing them off to friends and relations could begin in earnest!

Now we have to fast-forward a year which we mostly spent apart as I was working in Watford. I either flew-up or came overnight by bus about once a month to see my fiancé who was still proudly wearing her engagement ring. Must have been true love!

One of the things we had to do during these weekends was to finalise the wedding arrangements. The purchase of a wedding ring was on the agenda, but in my diary it hardly rated a mention when we got it on 24th  Aug 1967 along with the final Reception details, Marriage Registry paperwork, getting music for me to play at a wedding, and booking our honeymoon!

All went smoothly at the wedding in October, and those rings continued with her all our married life. Even during her two pregnancies, the wedding ring never had to be removed, even when it was thought wiser for the engagement ring to be tucked away for safety. Baking, washing, house-cleaning, etc all were done with the ring firmly in place.

She has worn them faithfully all those years and they always ‘looked-right’ on her.

So, you might say, what is the purpose of this blog? A good question, which indicates that you have been following the thread……….

Well, one day recently, in the baking frenzy just before Christmas, both rings were sensibly removed because of the sticky nature of the ingredients. Although Lady of the House is usually well-prepared, it was suddenly necessary for us to go to a local shop to get some baking products.

Normally I might have been sent alone, but at my age I probably could not be relied-on to come back with the right goods…I would have got raisins instead of sultanas, or baking powder instead of baking soda…you know the scenario!

So I was to be the driver, in my old clothes, and Lady would dash in to Sainsburys to purchase said goods, alone. We were only a minute into the journey when, you’ve guessed it……no rings!

Suddenly, concern was expressed from my Lady about the bare ‘ring finger’…..’I hope I don’t meet any of our friends, because, what will they think?’. ‘I’ll just have to keep my left hand in my pocket, so that no-one will see’. ‘Maybe you should come in as well, so that folk will see that we are still together’. ‘Maybe I have some gloves in the car which I can wear, to cover my hands’. ‘Perhaps YOU can go in to get the few things, and I will just sit in the car’.

Suffice to say that she DID go in, and met NO-ONE we knew, no gossip was started, and we returned home safely. But it set me wondering………. men do not, as a rule, wear rings all the time, and I don’t think that it worries us,………but married women ALWAYS seem to have their wedding ring on.

But why is this so? Is it a ‘status’ symbol (in the true sense of the word) within their peer group?. Is it boastful? Is it pride? Is it a visual indication to the world, of the promises made on marriage? Or is it a statement of their love for another human being? I’m not a woman so cannot speak for them but would like to think the latter might be right………

We were both 70 this year and the lovely joint birthday present from the family was a casting of our clasped hands (please ignore what look like dirty fingernails!). Our rings are in evidence, (although mine is now on my ‘pinky finger’ and if anything indicates love, this surely must be high on the list…..P1050515.JPG

 

Keep right on to the end of the road…….

I don’t know about you, but I have a fascination with dead-end roads, especially in the countryside. In some ways the sign we use can be a bit disappointing, or even intimidating….’Not worth going down this road’…’There’s nothing to see’…….. ……’Better to turn round while you 7559_signs[1]have the chance’……you know what I mean.

However there usually is something to see…a beach, a loch, a little pier, a house, an old church, and often they have a lovely view. Someone obviously thought that it was worthwhile building and maintaining a road for good reason.

And so it was that yesterday, along with two of the ladies in my life, we set off for one of the loveliest dead-end roads in the west of Scotland. Skirting the historic City of P1010551Stirling, you take the A84 and A873 through Thornhill. There you will find the excellent restaurant ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ where you could stop for excellent refreshment. Continuing to head west and joining the A81, you pass  (or stop to admire), the only lake in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith. It is tiny, but the village is called  Port of Menteith, and it feels quite proud of its watery neighbour, and the Inchmahome Priory.

Just as you come to Aberfoyle, you enter the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and head on the B829, which has the afore-mentioned ‘dead-end’ sign . The B designation is a good indication that this road is not for the faint-hearted driver, as it is single-track with passing places. P1040845But we managed to stop and pick some blackberries on the way, on the side of Loch Ard.

I should say here that it was not me driving, as medical advice was that I should not get behind a wheel for a little time yet. So it was the Lady of the House, who was in control. (She is, of course often in control when I am driving!) Daughter was in the front passenger seat helping with the negotiation of this nasty but lovely road.

Wonderful country houses abound along here with the sweeping drives, and gardens which would have engaged a number of full-time gardeners at one time. Lovely it must be to live in such locations, but what about the winter? 4WD vehicles would be more suitable than a flash car when the snow comes, or trees fall over the roads, or accidents block roads.

When you are able to stop to admire the vistas, Ben Venue, Ben P1040838Vrackie, and Ben Lomond all offer great views, so a camera, and binoculars are advised on this trip.

Water is not normally in short supply here, and so several lochs have been dammed and channelled to provide water for Glasgow and the Central Belt of Scotland. Besides Loch Ard, where got the berries, Loch Chon also is beside the road, and both offer boat fishing. The water here and ultimately fed to Glasgow is very pure and no lime-scale is produced in kettles or washing machines…….and it is lovely to drink, especially in a glass of amber liquid!

As we move northwest, we are travelling between two large lochs….Katrine (Glasgow’s main water supply) and Lomond (known the world over for the Bonnie banks). At a T junction you can turn right to Stronachlachar (an awkward-sounding word for non-Scots), with a Pier-head Tearoom.

P1040851However we were turning westward past the lovely Loch Arklet heading to the village, or more-correctly, the clachan of Inversnaid.

This is probably the most awkward part of the road as it drops sharply to the northern tip of Loch Lomond, and indeed the Banks are Bonnie as promised in the song. Suddenly, from a narrow country road we descend into a large car park, beside the massive Inversnaid Hotel, and situated beside the pier for boats cruising Loch Lomond.

So, you may ask, why has this large Hotel beenOld Photograph Inversnaid Scotland[1] built here in a remote area, and is obviously popular, with high-occupancy rates? The old photo shows how long it has been operational.

It was built in 1790 by the Duke of Montrose as a quiet hunting lodge. It achieved exposure to the world, when Queen Victoria visited there several times, for privacy. Whether the impropriety involved with John Brown, her ghillie, occurred here I do not know. It has obviously been extended over the years.

We had a very tasty meal in the hotel, chosing the Inversnaid Burger, which consisted of P1040865chicken, bacon and cheese. Afterwards, we went to examine the waterfall just beside the hotel. There has been no appreciable rain recently, so no  great torrent of water, which was a bit disappointing. There are lots of little walks in the area, which we could not explore due to time restraints.

The pier is a place of constant activity during the day, and P1040858no doubt, there is a fair bit of freight brought in by boat. Looking across the Loch, you can see the village of Inveruglas, and the large pipes of the Loch Sloy Hydro-electric Power Station on the hillside. They have a Visitor Centre about the area, so is well-worth visiting.

Two other facts about the area…….

Firstly……The local primary school was, in 2010, the most expensive/pupil in education costs, in the UK. It is said it was £54,000 per pupil! Presumably some may have been accommodation costs for those who could not commute each day, in the scattered community.

Secondly……The famous Rob Roy was basically an outlaw involved in castle-rustling, and in the Jacobite rising. He hid in a cave, close to the Hotel, and which can be only approached by water, and was well-hidden. No doubt the locationis pointed-out to all those on the cruise boats.

……so there you are, a true end-of-the-road journey, which provided on a very-pleasant autumnal day, a lot of visual excitement with the gorgeous scenery,  a trip on narrow roads, a pleasant meal, and plenty of blethering!…….

And the day was complete on our way home, as we popped-into a tearoom in Aberfoyle………pleasure complete……

P1040875P1040876P1040877

A non-driving day out…….

I’m a guy………so I love driving. I always have, (since first driving a tractor on a farm at 11!), I go to the driver’s door automatically when we go out, and the seat and reversing mirrors are set for me.

However, I am somewhat hors de combat just now, with non-driving the medical order of the day for at least two or three weeks. Meanwhile I have plenty of good neighbours, family drivers, and a bus stop only 200 yards away….but it’s just not the same!

I like using the skill required to negotiate our quirky Nissan Juke through traffic, over the bumpy tracks (sometimes called roads) and the notorious bends in the nearby Campsie Fells. But this has had to be delayed.

So what to do on a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday?……..

Well, how about a trip to Colzium Park, in Kilsyth, and the Lady of the House would drive. In a magnificent setting, with a house by the Lennox’s (who created the town of Lennoxtown, surprisingly), it was a place we would take the children when small, (nearly 40 years ago!) to feed the ducks, kick a ball, and have adventures in the extensive woodlands. There were still dog-walkers, a man in his motorised scooter, people with grandchildren, stones being thrown into the pond, shrieks from children as swans flapped their wings….nothing every changes. A brief chat with each renewed our social-interaction. Now, less-used, it is somewhat dilapidated, but still handy for an hour’s entertainment in the fresh-air. A carton of juice, and a lovely biscuit beside the car, allowed us to proceed on the next bit of the journey.

There is a wonderfully-named road close by called the Tak-ma-doon Road. It is not an easy road to drive at the best of times and by the most-experienced of drivers, due to the bends, sudden gradient changes, single-track sections etc, but as I said, this is something I enjoy. Good Lady, less so! The way from the Park to this road is at a very nasty , badly-sighted T-junction, where clutch control, handbrake, eyes, and accelerator need to be all fully-functioning. She handled this with aplomb, and we proceeded as planned, upwards and onwards towards Carronbridge.

There is a viewpoint at the highest point, where we stopped to get some photos. A car (which had allowed us to pass them earlier) pulled-in behind us, and I thanked them for their kind deed. We chatted and they were from Alberta in Canada, so we had a good blether about a visit we had made to Canada, and also about a pending one next year. Lovely people!

On past the beautiful Carron Valley Reservoir, with relatively quiet traffic to the delightful Fintry. The Crow Road which is better than the Tak-ma-Doon Road but must still be handled with care, then took her attention, and we returned safely, to the bosom of our house after a simple drive out.

It would not have been possible without the courage, and skill of my Good Lady, so a public THANK YOU VERY MUCH, is very much in order.

To the Beautiful north of Scotland…Brodie Castle

One thing I love about being away on holiday is the variety of breakfasts available. I like to serve myself and can try things for the first time. Having said that, I had a Full Scottish Breakfast every day! Presumably every British area has its version….but it is still probably based on egg, bacon, sausage, beans, black pudding, fried bread/hash etc,…… good healthy stuff! Much toast and coffee and I’m set-up for the day. The Kingsmills Hotel was our place of repose for the night, and next morning dawned with a blue sky, and you can see Lady of the House waiting patiently, and wrapped-up, for our SAM_0379friends to collect us for the day.

For those of you who don’t know the area, Inverness and north can be windy. When preparing for our trip, I looked at videos I had made over the years, and speech was often drowned by the wind. So that it makes the use of a even a modern video camera very difficult. So it was to be my still camera only.

We, and our local friends  have been members of the National Trust for Scotland for many years, and we make use of the facilities as much as poss. There is a variety of outdoor-nature-historic,-gardens to see but the further you go from areas of population, the options decrease.

SAM_0389

However, Brodie Castle is one of these places where you can spend equal time inside and out. We were blessed with bright, cold blue skies, and the extensive grounds were chosen for exploration while the weather held-up. Long wide avenues, tree-lined tracks, a well-populated duck- (and swan-) pond and a private family graveyard would give us plenty to see. Last time we were here was in 1996 and we met Ninian the 25th Brodie of Brodie, but he now passed away.

The castle itself was built in 1567, but the family presence there goes back to the granting of the lands around the castle stands in, during 1160, by King Malcolm IV.

SAM_0392But first of all we had to fortify ourselves against the bitter winds, and this was achieved by repairing to the warmth of the little tearoom in the castle. This is one thing which the National Trust for Scotland does well……they have volunteers who serve in the tearooms, and use local baking and cooking where possible.

So hot chocolate and highly- calorific cake were consumed avidly before we set-out. The gentleman in the picture (I use the word ‘gentleman’ for the sake of retaining his friendship) may well be known to watchers of Grampian Television News, as he provides signing for those with a severe hearing impairment.

The swans and ducks were very friendly – indeed they followed us along the towpath- but it SAM_0407may have been the desire for food! I can imagine both swans and ducks providing food in the early days, but now they are now just for show. Along the side of the pond was a narrow track with trees, whose leaves were turning in colour. I much prefer walking on non-manicured lawns, amongst untrimmed trees, and crunching on the leaves. And this was certainly possible here.

It was a wonderful time, not just because of the natural beauty, but also because there was no wind. We were well-protected amongst the trees, but still left with a ruddy glow to our cheeks.

One relatively-known fact is that Scotland, and especially the north, has superbly beautifulSAM_0425 beaches. You will see some more later, but just along from Brodie is the town of Nairn. famous for oatcakes, and as the holiday home of the singer Harry Lauder, A thriving town, but it was the beach we had come to see.

I think most of us love beaches, either because of childhood memories, the fact that there is a sort of ‘cleansing effect’ from sea-air, or we find some strange affinity with a vista which seems limitless.

So today we had seen three different environments…the castle, purely man-made…the gardens, nature tamed by man, and…..the sea and beach, still largely free from man’s interference, but for how long?

Off tomorrow up the rugged east coast to the most northerly point of Scotland’s mainland………come and join us….

A secret corner of Scotland…

Lady of the House achieved yet another birthday last week. Nothing unusual about that, and we usually go somewhere quite conventional for a nice meal…you know the kind of place….a country house hotel, a specialist Italian restaurant, the place where we first had a meal when courting, or have a meal in-house. But this year was different. However I’m getting ahead of myself……

You will already know of our great love of the County of Argyll in the west of Scotland. There is no question that within a travel distance of about 90 minutes from our house, some of the most dramatic and interesting scenery, along with travel-friendly roads, is available. We’ve travelled most of these roads before, but some were when the children were small (a not-inconsiderable time ago) or on business (when the minimum time required to transverse said roads was important)

Now that retirement is reached, and the weather is brilliant, time takes-on a new dimension. It is something to be enjoyed because of what it allows you to do, and permits seeing scenery with new eyes. A measure of how little I took in many of our previous experiences was the number of times Lady said we had been at a certain tea-room with the children, or stopped at a certain view-point for a picnic, but it had failed to make a lasting impression because of the haste with which such weekend visits were made. We now had more time just to enjoy doing things with no need to entertain others in the process.

We left Lenzie, and curved round the south end of Loch Lomond, past Duck Bay, over the A818 hill to Helensburgh. Once a thriving seaside/holiday town, the seafront shops have been blighted by the council up-rooting the main road so it is difficult to stop there…so we passed through without stopping, and all the small shops suffer!

Because of the deep water Gare Loch  in the lower reaches of the Clyde, there are military establishments in this area. The first is the Faslane Submarine Base where nuclear subs are serviced, opposed by the Faslane Peace Camp. The construction is spectacular and secretive, and therefore  photography near the base is not exactly encouraged! Travelling further north on the A814 we meet the township of, (not surprisingly) Garelochhead and turn southwards into a peninsula, one of the hidden gems of Scotland. with a lovely narrow road (B833) which hugs the coast, down to the area of Rosneath. It has an attractive centre and Church, and the views of the Gare Loch across to Greenock are spectacular.

We ate, on the advice of locals, at (perhaps, surprisingly) the local caravan site http://www.rosneathcastle.co.uk/. SAM_0311We are not caravaners by nature or practice, but the welcome at the bistro, the courtesy of the staff, the quality of the food and the walk we did round the impeccable site might have swayed us a little! We even had a mother duck and six little ducklings accompany us on our walk. The photo shows the lovely view from the Caravan site, across Gare Loch to Rhu and Helensburgh.

Heading clockwise through Kilcregan and Cove, (again with beautiful views) we came upon another great surprise. The houses here are built on a grand scale….many are colossal! Some take on the image of castles. Most of them were founded on the proceeds of the tobacco trade, at which Glasgow excelled. The owners were known as Tobacco Barons and fortunately the present owners seem able to keep the buildings in a good state of repair. It is difficult to drive safely around here as wonderful new sights are pointed-out as they appear round each corner.

Further north up this little road is RNAD Coulport, where nuclear warheads are stored in the Coulport Roundabout - geograph.org.uk - 160841.jpghillside, and docking is provided for visiting submarines. All a bit spine-chilling, especially as you are in this idyllic setting. The photo shows the roundabout at the gates. In order to transport this rather strange cargo from the midst of the country-side, a brand-new road was built to the centres of population, and luckily there were suitable stopping-places provided to view the vistas.

There is a debate about what would happen to both Coulport and Faslane bases (with repercussions on the employment of the indigenous population) should Scotland demand, and be given, independence.

Our trip ended by returning through west Dunbartonshire’s Gartocharn, Croftamie and Dumgoyne. Any enquiry via Google will show all of these places to be delightful villages. We are SO lucky, to have all this on our doorstep!

…almost there!

After many years of suggesting, a year of cajoling, and quite a few months in the planning, Lady of the House has got us booked on a trip to Canada. We have travelled life together for over forty years, and are now about to embark on some rather long physical journeys together.

The west coast is our destination, with Banff, Calgary, Jasper, Kamloops, and Vancouver all to be visited and stayed-in,  and arrived-at by coach or train.  After all this bottom-numbing travelling, and packing/unpacking, it will be lovely to embark at Vancouver on our week-long Alaskan Cruise on the Holland Volendam ship.

The trouble with visiting such a vast country (10 million square kilometers!)   is that we can only see a small (but no doubt, beautiful) part of it. This will leave the Good Lady (and perhaps, even me) wanting to see more, so any Canadian Dollars remaining may well be preserved for later use!

What to pack or leave out from the limited weight allowance will no doubt vary from day to day as the final hours approach, but with her great expertise of these occasions, no doubt Lady will win with her common-sense approach. If we had only had the first week of travelling, then loose/casual would have been the order of the day, but to have our stately cruise with lady’s birthday happening whilst there , means that I have to be prepared to make a sartorial effort!

I get bored whilst sitting in a metal tube, many miles above terre firma, so crosswords/sudoku/light reading/film-viewing/snoozing/eating will need to be used to fill-in the hours. However, what I have read in the travel guides, and seen on Google Street about our various destinations lead me to believe that there are many wonderful experiences and sights to be witnessed on this ‘semi-retired’ treat to ourselves. ….bring it on!

And just think, there must be couples in Canada looking forward to coming to Scotland with the same anticipation!