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In Sickness and in Health. Chapter 8

The occupational therapist 👨‍🔬 was enthusiastically promoting the benefits  of the zimmer and raised toilet seat 🚽 to someone of my disposition when my husband returned.  I could see his eyes widen 👁 as I shimmied along on the zimmer, but it was the realisation that the  raised toilet seat  was also for me that made them water.  He wanted to be subtle but  his obvious horror🙀  was palpable. I knew he was doing everything he could to divert his thoughts from my ablutions and the assistance 🛀 he might need to provide. As I said in previous blogs,  our marriage 💑  vows ( much like my hamstring)  were being stretched to their limits.

I know him.  His  future flickered fleetingly before him; me in my  tartan slippers, rolled down stockings,  woolly housecoat and  curlers 👵🏼. But that wasn’t his biggest worry, no he was  wondering how the hell he was  going to get this equipment out of the hospital and into his car without anyone  👤 seeing  him. He didn’t hear a word any one said for the next ten minutes as he frantically worked out his escape plan.

I attempted to roll off the bed into my crutches with all the glamour and class 💃  of Marilyn Munro but  in reality was  more like Patsy  from AbFab tumbling out of the car legs akimbo🤸‍♂️ with the Bolinger 🍾 unscathed.    My husband had already disappeared conducting a surveillance of the immediate environs for anyone that might know him. Leaving me  to pile my newly acquired  household accessories  high on the zimmer,  much like a Thai flitting on a moped 🛵.  I edged out of the cubicle hoping to achieve a seamless exit with a single manoeuvre, a big enough challenge without a hamstring injury. Needless to say I failed. 🌀

When he caught sight of me 😲, common sense returned momentarily as he put me on a seat, planked the gear at my side and revealed his detailed plan on how we could leave without fear of being noticed.  This plan worked reasonably well  until the electronic door  🚧 in the ambulance entrance closed behind him leaving me abandoned with the raised toilet seat in a hospital no man’s land. If it wasn’t for the morphine dulling my senses I would have cried,  instead I sat there numbly 🤐waiting for the next ambulance to arrive and set me free.

In that moment of solitude I had time to digest the discharge 🤯 advice; to rest at least for 6 weeks,  with the longer term repair likely to take up to 9 months. I’m a pretty active individual; was cycling 🚴‍♀️ , playing badminton 🏸, walking🚶‍♀️ and of course enjoying frequent holidays🌴🌞.   Suddenly the enormity of this situation hit me;  I was going no where fast in this corridor and it would be the same with this injury. It was going  to significantly impact on my social, leisure and working life  and I had no idea how I might get through it.🙊

Within minutes my hero 👼 was back, realising he’d lost me, laughing at himself and finally accepting the toilet seat 🚽 was his responsibility.  In that moment I knew he would  get me through this 💞and I was in awe of  his commitment to me, while he grappled with more immediate matters. With a swift gaze around the exit, he swung the toilet seat  over his shoulder shielding his face from the passing public and threw it in the boot. Such was his haste to escape unnoticed he drove 500yds before he realised the tailgate was still open and the whole world could see what was in the boot.🤣🤣🤣

selective focus photo of gray metal folding walker
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

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Rabid dogs and Frankenstein Chapter 4

animal blur canine close up
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

So one day into our Harrogate trip and it was evident it had been a big mistake ⚡️ coming here with my leg in such pain.  Although getting into  town was fairly easy,  I was walking like  Frankenstein 🧟‍♂️ and it was not a good look – I had to get rid of the crutches.

Shopping  🛍 and eating🍱  out are among my guilty pleasures in life, so sair leg or not  I wasn’t prepared to forgoe either,  and  the crutches weren’t going to hinder me so I ditched them. However by 2pm my leg was throbbing so the promise of  fine dining was deserted for a reduced price Tesco Egg 🥚 sandwich. This decision of course gained maximum kudos from my husband as it   saved him  money💷.    By some miracle I stumbled and hobbled my way back to the hotel clinging to lampposts and moaning incoherently like a jakey despite the lack or pleasure of any wine🍷!   I immediately launched myself into the bath when we returned and  I  noticed extensive  purple bruising had started to appear on my leg😈.

By Wednesday I couldn’t sit  at all so tried to book a train home a day early.  Although possible it was costly 🤑.  Pondering this  in light of the egg sandwich decision, I  considered we could wait one more day since we already had first class tickets 🚞and all the comforts and extras  those promised.  In a strange twist of fate the  hotel owner noticed I was in agony and shared that she had slipped in the kitchen a few years ago and ripped her hamstring in two.  She’d spent 6 days in hospital and it took 9 months to heal. How bloody awful I declared, ha little did I know!🤪

On Thursday we set off home,  and I made a Doctors appointment en route because the pain 💊💊 was now as bad as it had been when I fell. We boarded the on-time ⏰  first train to York  but our luck  🍀 didn’t last. Because of Storm Ali the previous days trains  had been cancelled and now our train was over 2 hours late,  burgeoned with extra  passengers  and  devoid of  any seats and refreshments.  🙀

By now I was I was barking and snarling like a rabid dog  👹 trying to contain the pain.  All the money I had saved did little to endear me in this state to my husband who was wishing this particular trip to Harrogate had never happened. He was unable to provide any meaningful assistance and his best efforts failed to return me to the even tempered puppy 🐶 he started out with.

When the train arrived every seat, suitcase and  corridor floor space in first class was occupied. Despite hobbling among the crowds trying to look needy to the very important businessmen they  avoided my gaze 👩‍💻, perhaps my best Frankenstein impression scared them off.  The offer of a seat was eventually  provided by an elderly lady 😇 who availed me of my misery as we hurtled toward Edinburgh and home and I took it 🤭 (forgive me).  I just  hoped our train would get in on time.

My husband loves travelling by train but he had no seat until Newcastle and we were delayed a further hour on route.  We had nothing to eat or drink until we arrived in Berwick and suddenly the loaves and five fishes 🐟  appeared in the guise of bacon 🐖 sandwiches for those of us brave enough to be travelling on to Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿. Not long now until I saw the doctor and all my problems would be resolved. I was salivating 🤤  like Pavlov’s dog at the thought of that ….

 

 

 

Perth, the Australian one.

We arrived in the dark of night in Western Australia. The level of excitement at finally getting here was momentous, not dampened in the slightest by the fact that it was at night and we might not actually see anything of the skyline or surrounding landscape. The dimly lit arrival area was host to a plethora of tour operators or drivers waiting a little bit patiently and looking a big bit bored for the passenger arrivals to finally make it out through immigration. Our particular tour Tigress introduced herself and welcomed us to Australia. I let that welcome sink in for a few minutes, that we were actually here was truly amazing and I couldn’t help smiling with complete happiness at the reality of this moment. We were directed to a waiting bus and the remaining 17 people who would be joining us. In Singapore we had yet to introduce ourselves widely so while some faces were familiar we wouldn’t really know anyone until much further on in this tour. In any event those who had also undertaken the tour of New Zealand were joining us in Perth and soon 19 would be 28.

I made a couple of mistakes about Perth, or misplaced assumptions perhaps would be a better way of describing it. I believed Perth was on the southern coast, this particular assumption (despite having a higher Geography I might add) was based on the writing of Perth on the Australian Map, going from left to right its position was something of a confusion. I thought this positioning of the name placed the location on the south coast, when in actual fact it was on the west. Secondly I thought it would be a bit of a backwater and once the glimmers of sunrise flickered through the curtains, I realised instantly how wrong I had been. It is a beautiful city, bordered by the river, spotlessly clean and uplifting in every aspect of its being.

The Rough Guide to Australia puts the population of Perth around 1.5 million people. Built along the banks of the Swan river, famous for its black swans and dolphins, early Western Australian settlers were free, that is they were not criminals but those who wanted to relocate. The reality of spending 6 weeks on a boat saw many of these intrepid travellers ditch their hopes of making it to eastern Australia and disembarked and settled as soon as the boat docked. The large expanse of the Swan River is perfect for boats, canoeing, fishing and a range of water sports, all of which was regularly going on. The City, built on a grid system, is easy enough to navigate so a trek around takes no time really. The newly developed Elizabeth Quay is a popular place for visitors, with play areas for the children and assorted seating, sculptures and cafes and bars for the adults. I loved the design, the views and the welcome of the whole area.

We were shown the City by bus to help orientate ourselves, then we were driven the short distance to Fremantle. Now this was a hidden gem. Quite hip, a university town, with loads of buildings with balconies that reminded me of New Orleans. Beneath were little shops, secondhand bookstores and coffee shops. Each one alluring and inviting to everyone except the Lion. Along the front we could take our pick from the coffee shops in Cappuccino Strip and watch the flood of tourists swarming the streets and browsing the wares on offer. From Freo, as the locals call it, we boarded the Captain Cook, and headed west back to Perth via the Swan river. No sooner had we moved from the wharf when two dolphins emerged from the water and tipped their fins high in the water. I screeched with delight, much to the shock of those seated around me, at seeing these mammals in the wild in the proximity of the boat, but we were unable to snap them as the boat chugged its way hurriedly back toward Perth.

Before Fremantle we stopped momentarily for a paddle in the Indian Ocean at Cottesloe. This small but beautiful sandy beach was littered with families and seniors enjoying the warm weather in the high 30’s. The sea ebbing and flowing on the warm golden sands and me dipping my toes in and feeling like I was five years old again. It was idyllic and so far Australia was living up to my expectations.

On our final day in Perth we wandered around the City streets, locating London Court, with a Tudor facia, this lane was gaily swathed in colourful bunting and little shops and coffee houses bringing a little feel of England with a lot of Australia on offer. It was a lovely place to spend an hour or so idling before striding around the grids of Perth looking at buildings and people before heading back to our hotel. The Tigress had us up early for the next trip to Adelaide so the cases were packed up, the pictures edited and organised, family updated and we were off on our travels again.

Corona virus- not in my back yard.

In Singapore, coronavirus was the main topic of concern and just about everyone local acknowledged this by wearing a mask. Whether this was mainly due to the large number of Chinese in the area (somewhat misplaced but nevertheless that is perception) or not the fact was it was a real and present danger at the time of our visit. On our tour some people felt they had to cancel this stopover as the risk, in their opinion, was too high. It also emerged during our visit that tourism was hit significantly by the threat of the virus. Those whom we had contact with in Singapore, playing the party line, were at considerable lengths to explain the Government were doing everything in their power to halt the spread into their country. That, at the end of the day might be futile.

On arrival into Singapore we were health screened at the Airport. Several university students, presumably having agreed to undertake this onerous role, were masked and seated behind several wires and multiple cameras. They observed the travellers, arriving into the country, en masse with microscopic thermometers to identify those individuals with high temperatures as the masses filtered their way through the airport. Our main purpose as travellers was to move swiftly past this crew without as much as an atichoo or a cough.

If you had a cold when you left Scotland (and lets face it who doesn’t) you needed to disguise it. Instead of wiping your mouth after dinner, you had to use the napkin in such a way as to disguise the real reason for its use; to cover the stream of snot from your nose. This had to be done surreptitiously in order to disguise the fact you had this common Scottish ailment, after all we are a world heritage site when it comes to colds, nevertheless it was one ailment we were well accustomed to but at the moment, which might be seen by the rest of the world as potentially fatal.

I was also glad I wasn’t in the throes of my usual flush as I sauntered through the airport, rather nonchalantly, trying to disguise my runny nose and concealing my rising temperature. Otherwise I’d have been swept up, turned around and booted right back to where I came from. The menopause cannot fool most thermometers because when it begins it feels like a furnace has started burning in your skull and the only way to release this heat it is through your hair and skin pores. Thus any remote thermometer is likely to identify you sooner rather than later. While this less than welcome intruder is making its mark on your temperature you find yourself praying it will subside soon and no-one will notice it, or you could try to conceal it by waiving your passport frantically like a fan to avert the heat and look as if you are just slightly harassed from finding your luggage. The reality of that of course is always different with most people noticing your flush and then trying to avoid looking at you as you disintegrate into a sea of scarlet, all the while trying to maintain a level of cool that everyone knows is fooling no-one.

Every shop in Singapore had a hand sanitiser, every toilet had a public safety message about the corona virus, and making sure you washed your hands. Singapore was worried about the spread of this virus even though the corporate messages were clearly meant to reassure you. The mask wearing public took no chances; while we tourists, well we worried about it, no-one else felt the risk was low and were keen to prevent any opportunity to contract the virus or allow it to spread. The world, in Singapore at least, went about its business without worrying too much about Corona, but it was clear that keeping its threat at bay was going to take a lot more work that hand sanitisers and masks. Singapore was sending a message; almost impertinently that it was not welcome here, while all the time knowing it was only a matter of time before it arrived.

As we continue on our trip the Coronavirus dominates the headlines. We keep our mask close at hand but have as yet had little cause to uses them. lets hope that good fortune continues as we venture into the unknown.

Slinging back to Singapore

Singapore is the first stop on this epic tour. By epic I mean we are away for five weeks and by any stretch of the imagination, with the Lion loving travelling(NOT) , this is no mean feat. I have family here so in advance of our arrival had made contact in the hope we might meet up. Despite an 18 hour journey he agreed to meet us on arrival in an Irish pub to watch the Scottish Football later that night! Such a Singapore thing to do. Least said about that, in travellers terms, the better other than the pub was a haven of football fans, suitably attired, singing anthems and behaving like we were actually in paradise. This requires considerable tolerance as my family support our arch rivals but nevertheless showed impartial tolerance, above and beyond what he was feeling, as we trounced this team and claimed the three points.

This partisan activity left us completely available for the next two days to see and experience Singapore. First impressions were that it was a magnificent, shiny and bustling city. They proudly claim they are the most westernised city in Asia and the guide appeared considerably smug about this fact. It was spotlessly clean in every aspect. One of our fellow travellers commented that it was too clean, the Lion was dumfoonert (incredulous) by this statement, how, in his opinion, can anywhere be too clean? This traveller had yet to experience the Lion and all his idiosyncrasies and so limited insight as to what makes a good holiday, in the Lion’s view, would solely be based on his assessment of the cleanliness or otherwise of Singapore.

It is really difficult with globalisation to articulate what makes one place so really different from another. MacDonald’s are in every city, town and village wherever you travel. Most of the retail kings and queens can be found in most modern cities across the world. And everywhere has an Irish bar, at least one anyway. Singapore was no different. It’s unique selling point has to be something about the culture, which on the surface appears western but with subtle but tangible overtones of Chinese, Tamil and Malay who were early settlers here. We visited Chinatown and Little India to experience first hand the 4th and 5th generation Chinese and Tamil people’s culture. Religious places of worship to Chinese gods and Tamil deity were colourful and aromatic as the incense and jos sticks permeated the air inviting you inside to experience calm and peaceful prayer.

Chinese dragons and tigers adorn the doorways on the way out of the temple the tiger symbolising the elderly and it’s cub, the young person and how the two must work together to achieve balance through youth and experience. Much to be acclaimed about this symbolism. Entering on the right and leaving by the left was important, with the key difference here that we could keep our shoes on for the visit. In Little India the moneylenders sat riverside to offer new business funding to the early settlers, clad in little more than a loin cloth the money lenders would purview their investments and hurriedly pull out if they considered the business unviable. Nothing new there then if you have experience with the banking system we have nowadays.

The Singapore river is beautifully lined with walkways offering a warm evening stroll either side with a variety of eating places and watering holes along the way. It is mostly tourists in this area and the prices reflected it at $12 Singapore dollars for a pint and $10 for wine. There are a variety of fusion restaurants as you might expect with a city built around Asian influences so we had Italian. Now that is a frustration to me since the Lion, another of these idiosyncrasies, rejects spicy food as it might upset his tummy, so Osso Bocco it was for the first night.

A must do visit is to Marina Bay gardens at night, the light show dances and entrances the eyes, you feel like you are in Avatar. The beauty of the show enveloped us we then travelled 36 floors up to the Viewing platform surrounding a huge surfboard atop this magnificent hotel which hosts a bar, food and swimming pool. Only residents might experience the latter but the $23 dollar entrance price is deducted from your food and drink bill so it makes for a reasonable trip if you don’t mind the height. At night you get a real sense of the dazzling splendour of Singapore; glistening with lights the tall buildings peppering the horizon it allows you to experience this beautiful city from a completely different perspective. On our way up in the lift we met a couple of people from Dundee, of course it is a cosmopolitan city. They were experienced travellers now living in Gibraltar and they had been to the city before, filling us with recommendations we were unlikely to ever manage given the short nature of our trip.

After an expensive but much appreciated and must do Singapore Sling we descended into reality and headed off in the general direction of Rafffles where we wanted to experience first hand the most traditional element of the Singapore visit. We had stopped there on our travels around the city with the guide but wanted an unhinged experience, more out of duty than want if we are honest. We set off confused by the darkness, down one street, along a tree lined avenue, in the underpass, back onto the river and soon realised we were lost. By 11pm we gave up our quest to be hip the bar was most likely to be closed (things close about 1030pm there) and found our way back to the river hand in hand, back to our hotel. Ah well lets leave that for another night, yeah…………….

An Epic journey

As those of you know who have read earlier blogs, we are not the luckiest travellers in the world. We’ve had near misses, disasters and even missed holidays altogether. You will recall that in September 2018, when I booked the Very Best of Australia Tour with stopovers in Singapore and Bali, I mistakenly booked it for February 2019! It was a cock up before we even got started. Having realised this mistake, I ate humble pie and contacted the tour operator who rebooked the right date to coincide with my 60th birthday, I was assured that nothing else could possibly go wrong, right?

The bushfires in Australia ravaged the country in the summer of 2019/20. Nowhere was safe apparently and the country suffered horrendous loss of life, people lost homes and wildlife was decimated. People were picking through the the ashes trying to salvage what little the fires had left them and we were going there on holiday. It was hard to be so oblivious to their suffering. As the fires continued air quality was now an issue and media coverage did little to quell the rising levels of anxiety. Tennis players participating in the Melbourne Open were complaining bitterly about the air quality there and it was one of our stops. We might not be able to visit any of the places at this rate. We watched with interest as the impact of the devastating fires became all too real in every day life in Australia.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office became our new best friends. We favourited them to assist us getting to the information quickly and efficiently. The insurance company also suggested that unless the F&C stated that it was unsafe to travel, they would not refund the costs if we cancelled. Having paid a telephone number in cash for this trip the dream holiday was quickly becoming a nightmare. Our antenna was raw monitoring the situation. The news continued to sound concerning, I know we have coped before with such threats and risks but this was a major set back.

And it was not over. Kangaroo Island where we were to spend two nights was removed from the tour, anyone who watched it on TV could see the horrific impact on wildlife there. Other trips were also under threat, but daily updates continued to pour oil on troubled waters and glimmers of hope began to emerge. I turned to prayer, only to hear that Trump had started an offensive in Iraq. The thought of a war in the Middle East filled me with dread, we were passing through the Middle East and might be affected. Those chances increased tenfold when some angry men shot down a passenger jet, admittedly mistakenly, nevertheless taking out all on board. I was weak at the knees, finding my seat as I watched and contemplated the impact of these latest developments. And it was about to get worse.

Two weeks before we were about to travel, news of a deadly virus in China was beginning to filter onto our news channels. Wait, we were heading in this direction, with a stopover in Singapore itself with close links to China was one of the areas hit with the virus. It was the third calamity to hit the holiday. We watched with horror as the WHO declared it a global problem and instigated measures to attempt to constrain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. Our favourite website was red hot as we searched for guidance and information about whether we should travel. Our cases lay empty, no real packing had even begun with this latest development. During all of this, quite innocuously my sister mentioned that there had been a plague of locusts in Africa that had devastated crops, described as giant locusts, the like of which had never been seen before. This piece of information resonated with my religious teaching. It was beginning to be clear, fires, floods, plague, locusts and shooting planes down could mean only one thing, the end of the world, imminent annihilation, the apocalypse was coming.

Never say we are not positive, for despite these threats, the risks mounting on a daily basis, we started to pack the cases, buy the currency, book the driver and buy the guide books. It is called faith. Always looking on the bright side we purchased masks to wear when we arrived in Singapore and ensure we were free of the virus. A little bit of excitement was beginning to take hold the morning the driver arrived to collect us. We threw the bags ( well maybe we dragged them they were quite heavy) into the boot, sat in the sumptuous leather and breathed a sigh of relief. Two miles into the journey an accident on the M8 forced us off the motorway and rerouting our journey added a half hour delay. We breathed a second sigh of relief as we rejoined the M8 only to hit a second accident at Charing Cross. A further delay meant we arrived a little late into Glasgow Airport but we managed to drop our bags and head to the lounge for the first champagne of the day. That is when the Lion said “ These accidents they usually come in three’s don’t they?…………….”

Storm Ciara threatens the party plans.

The final event in the birthday celebrations was for family. This is no mean feat; between the two of us we have around 54 people in our immediate family. So we often find that restricting these events to family only, works very well. A family party when the family are as plentiful as ours does place a serious amount of pressure on the organisers. You have to tread carefully since you don’t get to refresh the crowd that often obviously, unless there is a new partner (possible with some of the young crowd) or another baby has arrived (and they generally have no idea what’s going on anyway, as long as there is milk).

The party, if left to chance, could prove calamitous since there is a danger of creating a “Groundhog Day” with the same people always in attendance. This means that not all parties are attended and there is a danger that, with no preparation at all, no-one would come; this is social suicide for the family member hosting. It has become vitally important in these circumstances that a big hitter makes a commitment early on, according to Kevin Bridges anyway, and so in our family we have our very own big hitter- Marilyn. No party is complete without our funky, funny, adorable Marilyn. She works shifts so getting her to the party can be critical in terms of the timing of your event. And given the volume of people in the family, there are likely to be a few family parties in a year. No-one should underestimate the challenge of pulling this off as a straightforward gig, complacency is not an option.

Of late there has been a recent trend of fancy dress parties, usually the younger crowd drive this, so it has been 21st birthdays or birthdays at Halloween. eBay and Amazon, thankfully, accommodate such events and have enabled us to get our hands on pretty much any outfit for any occasion at cut price. People arrive in sharply coutured (albeit weird and wonderful) outfits. On the downside however we seem to have lost a bit of the creativity for outfits with the easy to access and disposable outfits, gone are the bunches of grapes from balloons kind of costume. Nevertheless, costume parties are a trend and one that required me to put a little thought into the planning of this party. If it was costume AND Marilyn could come then success was inevitable. Seeing as this was the big 60 birthday extravaganza and this combo was necessary, in addition for success to be ensured it needed to be an untried theme and so the sixties choice evolved.

What I hadn’t planned, given the intricate nature I have explained in pulling this party off, was that behind the scenes my sister and daughter were also planning the event. While well intentioned they have no idea of the nuances of such a big occasion in a family like this, nor the social implications. As a bit of a control freak and as my reputation as a hostess was at stake I didn’t want to renege as much control as they might have liked. I needn’t have worried and couldn’t have been more wrong. I assumed control of the food, (as Gayle says “you’re a feeder”) as my future reputation as a hostess may well hinge on this. Therefore I gained control of the food planning early on. This was a bit of a strategic coup, since once I had control of the food, the organising twosome saw it as a defeat and let me in on their plans. AWESOME as they were.

On the day before the party, a surveillance team were deployed to ensure I was not around. Conveniently celebrating a birthday with my friend ( after all other people were also having birthdays) I was out sufficiently long enough for three Gazebo’s and 1800 lights, bunting, chairs, tables, a juke box and cocktail bar all to appear on my patio area. I was actually moved, it looked stunning and my only regret is not taking pictures of all the hard work that went into this. It looked so inviting, so colourful and bright. I began to feel excitement stirring in my veins. Storm Ciara had other ideas. The lion’s wee brother dropped off a bright orange 60’s TV and we had other props that were strategically placed for optimal experience after all many would not recall the 60’s.

On Saturday morning the double-glazing in our bedroom had worked its magic and drowned out the fiercest of winds and rain overnight. But imagine my horror when I looked out to see half of the gazebo’s missing and brightly coloured bunting, napkins and cups scattered around the shrubs at the edge of the garden. Once outside it was worse, the sandbags holding the gazebo’s in place, were futile in the clutches of Ciara’s gusting winds, they jostled about like chicks looking to hide inside their mother’s wing. I raked around the street and surrounding woodland and recovered some of the missing gazebo, then I started to look at ways to ensure we didn’t lose any more. The weather forecast was not promising and drastic action was needed.

A bright spark led me to Hobby Craft where I bought 6 meters of Velcro, hoping this would ensure the flapping side panels resisted the winds and were kept in situ. That made little impact, I gathered large stones, boxes of tiles from the garage, concrete slabs, to no avail nothing could hold the three gazebo’s in place. Ciara was relentless and wining this battle – perhaps if I had invited her she might have given up just a little more. After 2 hours of battering against the elements and 20 minutes before my make-up appointment. I gave in and summoned the construction team back to remove them. Defeated I felt the party might be a disaster after all.

Following the transformational work of Fiona at Fabulous on my ageing and withered skin, I emerged luminous with the Mary Quant look, complete with beauty spot. The strong winds just managing to blow the wrinkles away. I returned home in time to see the gazebo’s, defeated by Ciara, laying desolate on the ground folded up and awaiting the imprisonments of the bags, no longer colourful and inviting but lacklustre and unwelcoming. The patio was remarkably bare.

Unstinted by this setback the organisers had taken over the house which had been transformed with the lights and bunting, the 60’s props and a VW Beetle photo booth erected in the snug. Photographs of me at various stages of life were peppered around the room along with balloons, banners and colourful ribbons. With 560 60’s tunes downloaded, snowballs with maraschino cherries, pork pie, cocktail sticks bearing sausages, cheese and pickles the scene was set for the party to get off the ground. As a final touch, and one of complete self-indulgence, I printed some old pictures with my name below and taped them to the Tennant’s lager cans in a fit of nostalgia, they never had a Tennant Girl with my name before. Now we can get this party started ………………………

Wonderful delights of Scottish January’s

It snowed the day I was born, hardly surprising, the weather in Scotland is predictably poor in January. Nevertheless, it did not deter my plans when I had to select a destination to celebrate my birthday weekend with my friends. Somewhere hot, beach, cocktails, lots of blue skies and dry golf courses. I can hear your brain generating those dreams from here. Nope, my favourite place in the whole world was the only place I wanted to spend my birthday; Kenmore, Perthshire in Scotland. The weather was not a consideration for these plans, you see here in Scotland we are a bit of a unique race, we have innate and eternal positivity when it comes to the weather, this way it has little chance of spoiling things. Generally most Scots are able to adapt their behaviours and clothing to 4 seasons in one day without batting an eyelid. Our weekend bags however, are always large, a bit on the heavy side as we attempt to be prepared for a deluge of rain, a flurry of snowflakes or an arid heat wave (extremely rare). Therefore packing a range of clothing from bikini to polar fleeces is the normal preparatory behaviour of the average Scottish tourist staying local for a holiday or winter break.

So Kenmore, why is this my favourite place in the world? Let me explain its geography and history to give you a bit of context. Kenmore is in the midst of the Perthshire Highlands, surrounded by the Breadalbane Hills and Glen Lyon and on the shores of Loch Tay, everything you’d expect from a perfect Scottish location. 10 miles or so off the A9 with Pitlochry to the North, Aberfeldy to the west, Dunkeld to the south. It’s an area our finest literary minds found enchanting, even Shakespeare.

Kenmore was built as a planned estate village by the Earl of Breadalbane in the 1750’s meaning it’s been there almost as long as the house I live in, we are so connected. Scotland’s oldest inn; the Kenmore Hotel claims it was established in 1572, long before the village appeared. The whole area was also loved and visited by our National Bard; Robert Burns, inspiring many poems about the scenery and location. On the east side of the Kenmore Square is an elaborate stone gateway giving access to Taymouth Castle. Built in the 19th century this beautiful granite and slate Castle has suffered dreadfully from poor or misjudged investments. Each year since 1925 , investors have been trying to make it a hotel, but now nearly 100 years on and several failed attempts, it lies unoccupied with a smattering of works completed by investors who could see the potential but were unable to sell the dream as effectively to the punters.

The River Tay provides some of the best fishing in the area. So it was as a youngster our summer holidays centred around the Rivers Tay or Tummel so that my father could fish for trout or salmon. His younger brother shared his passion and so we took many holidays with his family and other cousins and friends whose first passion was fishing and not holidays, but they tagged along nevertheless. We always stayed in a caravan park on the outskirts of Aberfeldy where we enjoyed terrific holidays as children, free to roam to the park or the pictures or play rounders till the sky turned dark. My poor mother, as a fisherman’s wife, was frequently left with three kids, finding solace in a martini with my aunties and their kids, trying to amuse one another in the tiniest of caravans while the men waded into the water in the hope of catching the big one. We kids, following in our fathers‘ footsteps, often went en masse to fish ourselves with coloured nets on bamboo canes and jelly jars. So intent on catching minnows, our eyes glued to the clear but turbulent waters for the swish of a tiny fishes tail, we hardly paid attention to our compadres or our surroundings. Until the unforgettable day we failed to notice one of our group being tugged away by the dark force of the River Tay’s fierce undercurrent. Later, when it became apparent he hadn’t returned, the force of his mother’s screams that night resonated in our little caravan for the rest of the holiday. We never returned for many years after that.

6 miles from Aberfeldy is Kenmore, we often piled into the transit van with a picnic. On the small but quaint Loch Tay beach with inflated tire inners to float and swim in Loch Tay, we huddled in blankets as the wind blew and the sun peeked out behind Schehallion long enough to venture into the water. It was a picturesque place, the setting and surrounding scenery breathtaking. The famous Dr Finlay’s Casebook was filmed here. The opening credits focused on the majestic stone gateway leading into the fictional village of “Tannoch Brae”. To me Kenmore seemed a bit of a Scottish Hollywood, not that it was teaming with big stars, but the fact it was on our televisions every week created a mystique and captured the imagination of this 6 year girl who dreamed of being an actress, or even an extra, if I was fortunate enough.

Most of the Square in Kenmore is now property offered for short term rental. More recently three distinct sites in close proximity offer a range of modern or traditional properties with saunas or hot tubs, sleeping up to 12 people making it a favourite destination for holidays and breaks. We always opt for Mains of Taymouth and have stayed there now for over 10 years. We’ve also used Kenmore Lodges on the other side of the road and now the more recent Taymouth Marina has breathed fresh ideas into the holiday experience, enticing a younger generation to the area. Mains of Taymouth is my personal favourite and hence I return there time after time.

It has a small 9 hole golf course and we have enjoyed many a rivalrous game there. And so it was on my birthday weekend, there we were, 8 of us playing a competitive 9 holes with a trophy at stake, our brollies trundling down the fairways swept off by gusting winds, as we huddled under the shelter of the trees from the horizontal sleet and rain, peppered now and again with blue skies, sunshine and stillness at every other hole. After the 9th hole, it was just too much for the birthday girl to continue and so I scurried back to our beautiful house, leaving the career golfers to play on. As I slipped into my swimming suit and slunk into the hot tub with a glass of fizz, oblivious to the driving snow and wind I could not wish to be anywhere else in the world……..Ahhh bliss, for me is Kenmore and the hot tub.

For she’s yer mammy’s mammy

The problem with getting to 60 is that your try to find relatable women to work out how you might behave in this new decade. One woman who’s been the basis for my transformation into a ‘Granny’ is intrinsic to my own experiences of Granny’s in my past. I became a Granny at 50, my mother was 45 when I made her a Grandma so we have experienced, in our family at least, being a Granny at a relatively young age ( speaking contemporarily). But the only actual tangible experience of being a 60 something Granny, the provider of the framework for my future role, is the only one I had, my mum’s mum.

Jemima Henderson Mark was born in 1900, so when I was born she was 60. You can see why I’m drawing these comparisons as I approach the Golden Girls era. Obviously I don’t remember her when I was born, but my earliest memories do start when she was probably around 65years of age. I called her Grandma; I don’t know why that particular name was chosen but that is what she was to me and my sisters. I was not the first grandchild, so perhaps the first two had determined what we would call her. I know that my son named all his grandparents by different names while his words were still forming and the 14 or so grandkids that came after him followed suit. I myself have chosen Gran. I feel this reflects the sophistication of what I am trying to achieve as the older person in my grandchildren’s lives and tones down the ageist commentary that is commonly associated with status and responsibilities. My mother is GG (GreatGran) typically reflecting her personality, but more of that later.

At 60 my Grandma was deaf and wore a hearing aid. None of your minute concealed microscopic ear pieces, oh no this was a full on draw attention to your disability apparatus that, despite being stealthily coloured beige to blend with the skin ( if you were even beige in the first place) and therefore conceal it, was of monstrous proportions. This less than discrete apparatus, (Tena the brand of discrete was yet to be discovered- remember this was the 60’s) was operated through a clip on box designed to be worn on your dress like a brooch, however it measured about 6 inches by 2, and was the size of a small radio. It often dangled down in the creases of her bosom, which was ample and could swallow it up threatening to disappear forever. This box then connected to an ear piece, exactly the same as that used by the NHS today (things haven’t moved on much), by a slim but obvious lengthy wire. I know quite a lot about this hearing aid because it whistled constantly like R2D2 and you could not avoid looking at it as she fumbled with the volume to turn you up and it down. You couldn’t play hide and seek because you would hear it whistling giving away the hidey hole she had managed to squeeze herself into. It was constantly a source of inconvenience for her.

I experienced great sympathy for my Grandma, she seemed so vulnerable, probably due to the hearing aid, and she was so embarrassed about her disability, particularly if it whistled. When she went to Church she wouldn’t wear it because it threatened to squeal and she’d get embarrassed about that. Instead she’d go without the hearing aid and of course not hear a word that was preached, sung or whispered. I also knew she wore bloomers, but not the ‘Gone with the Wind Southern Belle’, style with ribbons and frills. In fact these were pre-Tena brushed cotton and elastic and beige that covered the leg from the hip to the knee. As a youngster I wondered if this was linked to the fact that my grandad had died in 1961 so she lived alone, and perhaps bloomers had sadly replaced the satin knickers that might have been worn if he was still alive. Or perhaps it was because there was no central heating and she just wanted to be warm. What ever the reason these memories were the realities, the very foundation for fearing my impending age.

On the other hand I often went to spend the night with her. I loved that. The big feather quilt puffed in pink satin squares floated on top of the bed, which was a big double. There was a stone water bottle that was filled with boiling water and laid into the bed about half an hour before you were due to bed down. On the fireplace you were guarded through the long chilly night by 2 magnificent Wally Dugs proudly asymmetrical at the fireplace ends, spooking the life out of me in the dark. The sleepover bed was a joy because I had a bedroom all to myself and didn’t need to share the bed with either of my sisters. A sleepover at Grandmas always meant smarties and dumpling with tanners in greaseproof paper and tomato soup for tea. I’d snuggle up along side her on her small two seater sofa and watch TV. In the 60’s that was a small square about 10ins x 10ins screen contained in a walnut cupboard. We watched the Titanic on that set and I broke my heart when it started to sink, going to the back of the TV to try and salvage a lifeboat or two. I remember she was worried that I’d get bad dreams from that experience so she sat beside me on the big comfy bed till I fell asleep.

My Grandma was a member of the Eastern Star, a female version of the masons. She had an orange sash, with brocade and embroidery, laced with golden tassels that swung in time with the music as she marched. I saw her walking with it on once, she wore it with pride and I thought how grand she looked in her smart coat and sash. In Lanarkshire you were generally one thing or the other, Protestant or Catholic. The pathway of my birth took me down the blue route. But she was not a bigot, her heart as big as a lion’s she embraced everyone whatever side they were on. When I was 7 while walking past Carfin Grotto on the way to her house, she took me in to show me Mary and all the other statues and grotto there. I loved that place and begged her to take me on a picnic there the next time I visited, its a memory that stuck with me when as an adult I made the decision to become Catholic. I know she’d have approved.

My Grandma’s brother, James, affectionately known as Shemi, came calling one night I was staying over. I knew when he arrived he’d been drinking, it was probably the half bottle of rum hanging out of his pocket that gave it away. Grandma loved her big brother and welcomed him into the sitting room where she provided a glass for each of them to share the rum. Before long, something I had never seen before was brought out from the depths of the hall cupboard. It was a fiddle and Shemi put on a green velvet coat covered with badges and ribbons and they started to Irish jig. It was a side I had never experienced of my Grandma and what a delight it was to see her so happy and playing her fiddle with such fun in her eyes. Just as well that hearing aid was lying in the bedroom, there were a few notes not quite what they needed to be with all that rum!

She died when I was 10 years old, I was devastated. I never knew pain like that before that moment. The loss was more than I could bear. Not the whistling hearing aid, or the bloomers, her grey wiry hair, her spectacles, the stone hot water bottle or the big comfy bed. The enduring thing I learnt from her was love; relationships and family were all you really need to help you develop your behaviour in this next phase of your life and as the song goes there is no way I’d shove that Granny off the bus. I hope my grandkids spare me that delight now I have my bus pass!