Back to back disasters. Chapter 4 book of the Lion

Of course we know that British Airways provide excellent service but this was our first long haul, which was now very much in jeopardy, so we needed them to be on the ball. First, however, we needed to find out if the lion had had a stroke. It was certainly very frightening to observe but the whole episode had in fact lasted no more than a minute. When he finally rallied all he wanted to do was sleep and all I wanted were answers. As is normal in these situations we were made to stand out even more by waiting until everyone disembarked at Gatwick. Pitiful glances from our fellow passengers did little to advance our wait and, as you will hear as the story unravels a bit more, our travel companions waited with us… on this occasion. It was all so uncertain, we had no idea if we were on a flight to Atlanta or heading back to Edinburgh.

Once we were helped off the plane with a wheelchair for the lion, we were transferred to a buggy which rushed the patient to see a Doctor. The lion was still very much slurring his speech and perspiration was dripping from him. He just kept on about sleeping, but the doctor didn’t seem too concerned. He deemed him fit to fly and carry on our journey. It sounded like a fit he determined and I was mighty relieved at that. Although it was the first time, it would not be the last.

British Airways ground staff accompanied us throughout the process, remaining anonymous but coming to the fore if we had any questions or actions we needed taken care of. We didn’t have time for the luxury duty free shopping as this whole process had taken over a couple of hours and now it was time to get to the flight. Our driver careered the buggy through the droves of meandering public who seemed to have lost all awareness of safety on entering the airport. They were quite unaware why we were being chauffeured around and nothing but an inconvenience to their meaningless meanders. I wanted to shout out that we had every right to have this mode of transport MY HUSBAND NEEDED IT. There that felt better.

We were driven right to the gate where we handed over our boarding cards. There was an unwelcome pause as they were studied then ripped up. Oh no we were not being allowed to travel but then our BA companion advised we had all been upgraded to business. Well, not much takes me by surprise but this did, it was completely out of the blue. All 4 of us travelling together were upgraded, it was astonishing, but if I am honest rather welcome after the trauma we had suffered. And of course it would be much easier to deal with dead people in business, they’d just be left in their beds.

Champagne was such a welcome to receive, but all the lion wanted to do was get his head down and no sooner had the seatbelt sign flicked to off he got into the bed and fell instantly asleep awakening only some 2 hours before landing. I on the other hand indulged myself with the seared filet of beef, the smoked salmon and cream cheese washed down very smoothly with a perfect Rioja. Damn them it is so very hard to travel economy when you’ve sampled that experience. BA you won that round.

We landed safely in Atlanta and met our tour rep and bus driver for the next fourteen days. We were high on life, champagne and the tour that lay ahead. The lion seemed better, was rested and relaxed and up for a wee trip downtown before bed and the start of our fantastic trip. I didn’t bother ringing the kids to alert them to the disaster which had befallen us, it had after all turned out alright and their dad seemed fine now. We spent the first night in the Sheraton Suites in Atlanta, as the next day our trip would begin with a visit to Peachtree Road, where Elton John occasionally resides, although just our luck he wasn’t in. Followed by a brief reconnaaitre to ‘Tara’ the home that featured in the epic Gone with the Wind. before setting off for few days in Chattanooga.

We had two rather large suitcases that were doubling as wardrobes for the fortnight as we had rather a lot of stopovers. I flung the discarded socks and pants into a bag for laundry and closed the case. The lion spotted a scrap of paper no bigger than a fly on the floor, clearly it had annoyed him, at least it had caught his eye. He bent over and picked it up, then in a squeal of pain crumpled in a heap on the floor. He was struggling to move, I knew immediately it was his back. He could not get to his feet so lay on the floor and his muscles went into spasmodic overdrive. I watched in horror and could do little to alleviate his pain. It was incredible that within 24 hours my poor lion had gone to the dogs.

I managed to help him to the bed but what were we going to do about this trip now, was the primary thought I had in my mind. ‘I’m fine’ he kept saying and I kept hoping he was, but i knew this was bad. With much effort and pausing with every spasm we managed to get to the lobby. I found a Starbucks and ordered him a coffee but every movement, even holding the cup sent splinters of pain up and down his spine. His face was contorted in pain, it was clear he was in trouble.

There is something in the makeup of tour reps; they are eternally optimistic, ours was no different. He didn’t feel too phased by my pain beleaguered Lion and quickly produced a wheelchair to transport him to the bus, as if that was all that was required. I suppose getting him on the bus was his priority, he had 40 other passengers desperate to set off. Our friends joined us on the bus but in all honestly no one had a clue about the trouble he was in, except me and I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well. Even the lion thought if he got on the bus everything would be fine………………………………..

Off on holiday we go. Chapter 3 Book of the lion

So the first holiday you take as grown ups without your kids is a remarkable moment. It is s coming of age, when you arrive and suddenly make grown up decisions for you and no one else. Most of our holidays had been taken with our kids in mind, we’d gone where they wanted to go, we’d given up on our dreams, or at least put them on hold. Our hopes were also on hold, and just for the peace that’s was necessary when you have teenagers, we made sacrifices without any fuss. All of those holidays had been safe, we had gone to resorts where teenagers had been accommodated, where parents were invisible, until of course we were needed. Holidays where you blended in, merged with the sand, sea and sunshine and somehow managed to have fun in spite of your kids and their demands.

So when they were 17 and 16, and no longer wanting to travel with us, we were delighted. We tried to conceal our joy when we booked a trip to the Deep South of America and curtail our enthusiasm for this was a first for us. This was to be a journey to the musical Deep South, where we could indulge in our love of country, blues and jazz. We were uber excited and two of our then closest friends wanted to join us, what was not to like? It was after all our first grown up holiday. We booked with a company that provided us everything we needed from our dream trip; starting in Atlanta, crusing into Chattanooga before moving into Nashville, down to Memphis, Natchez, New Orleans, Baton Rouge then finally Houston. What a trip! we were beside our selves with anticipation and excitement and all without our kids.

The night before we set off we had a bit of a blitzkrieg with our daughter, significant at the time, although now, despite my best efforts I have no idea what it was about, but it was significant enough to upset us both that night. We did not sleep. It just goes to show that arguments with children in their teens are an emotional wrench and although hardly worth reflection there is little doubt we were deeply affected by this hiccup because we cared. So much so, we got up in the morning having not slept a wink, for a five o’clock taxi pick up to head to Edinburgh airport with no joy in our hearts for this trip, rather I have to admit we had heavy hearts that day.

We were travelling British Airways, again the most efficient airline customer service wise. And given what was to confront us on this journey, they were to come to the fore once again. Our flight out of Edinburgh to Gatwick was straight forward and after we had been served our breakfast, some 40 minutes into the flight, our journey suddenly turned into a nightmare. The lion who was in the middle seat, like me was making his way through a majestic scrambled egg with sausage and bacon. I glanced sideways to acknowledge the sublimity of this meal, this trip and our happiness when I noticed he was not enjoying his food. I suddenly became aware of how claustrophobic the space was between the three seats we were contained in. Suddenly, without warning, he put his knife and fork down on the tray, and in an instant his eyes rolled in his sockets as he fell backwards into the headrest and turned grey.

My observations were informed by my experiences and the pace of my thoughts had little concern for reality. I immediately thought he had had a stroke. Then I noticed his parlour a pale grey, and thought he had died. I wondered fleetingly where dead people went on a plane. These were flashing thoughts because at the same time I was panicking, I was pushing the button to alert the air hostess. I was screaming silently for help and noticed immediately that the hostess thought I was just seeking more coffee. She looked toward me with disdain but I slowly raised my arms, started waving and my face communicating that this wasn’t a request for coffee but an urgent need for her assistance. All of this while I was calculating where dead bodies might go on the plane.

The outer seat passenger was tucking into his breakfast totally unaware of the drama unfolding before him. When the air hostess arrived with oxygen in hand she dragged him out of his seat without the slightest concern for the progress of his consumption of his breakfast. With a single but swift manoeuvre he was launched into the aisle in shock. So slick was her actions he had no time to absorb what was happening, By the time this response and immediate reaction had take place the Lion was taking a deep breath and with all the effort of the flick of an electronic switch he came to life suddenly, totally unaware of the drama he had created. I was immobile stuck in the corner when this drama unfolded. I could do nothing to inform those around me about what was happening, I could not share with them that I thought he had died. I had to stay put as people were displaced, and while his life was re-ignited I knew suddenly our trip was in jeopardy. The captain was in control of what happened next. I was looking at the lion wondering what had just happened, grateful he was alive and watching those around us who were preparing to land oblivious to anything we had endured on this journey.

The lion started to perspire, slurred his speech and was disorientated. Oh my god he’s had a stroke I thought and my holiday dreams as a couple and not parents, flashed before me…………………….

Back to basics. Chapter 2 Book of the lion

A sore back accommodates a multitude of conditions, pain and discomfort. It can explain a variety of ailments ranging from muscular pain, nerve damage, disc displacement to broken bones. It may be life threatening or life limiting but rarely is it without some kind of impact on the physical or psychological wellbeing of the individual affected. Inevitably there will also be collateral damage to others affected by the level of disability experienced, the quality and intensity of the pain, alleviated only by good pain relief, effective back pain management and your partner knowing when to keep her mouth shut.

The Lion, when he was just a boy, fell from a significant height landing on his feet and jarring his back. And over the years deduced that this was the most likely event to which he has attributed over 40 years of pain and immobility. The sore back is as much a constant feature of our marriage as our bank account, and fluctuates just as frequently. It has, more than any other event, including having children, defined and proscribed much of what he can and cannot do in his adult life. We have lived with it cheek by jowl our entire married life, it’s a harlot, an unwelcome addition to our natural marital equilibrium.

We both agree this fall was the most credible explanation for what many years later was diagnosed as spondilolysis during one of our many forays into the health service to get to an explanation and hopefully a remedy. Spondilolysis is a condition more commonly associated with sports professionals, and as an avid footballer I suppose it befits him, or at least entitles him to align this debilitating condition with the career threatening injuries of his sporting colleagues . Sir Ian Botham is one of the most famous with this condition. He accquired it as a result of flexing his spine during the technique that brought him fame in his fast bowl. This flexion caused the bottom vertebrae to compress and crack. In a similar way ot ended the Lion’s football ‘career’ when he was 35 years old.

The Lion’s MRI scans revealed three of the bottom vertebrae were compressed; each disc that acts as a cushion between these bones has long since lost its functionality and instead serves only to irritate and exacerbate the nerve ends that surround the spinal column. Occasionally, but increasingly frequently, sitting, standing, stooping or squatting causes a massive unseen reaction beneath his skin. The muscles start to spasm resulting in extraordinary searing pain that jerks spasmodically and rips through his lower back muscle like an electric shock resulting in total immobility. And these episodes can be extreme resulting in hospitalisation at worst and major drug intervention at the very least.

The body naturally attempts to protect the exposed nerves most likely to ignite his pain so his spine will adopt an s-shape that pushes his hips out of alignment and makes him look remarkably like Quasimodo. It also results in unusual pressure on the cracked vertebrae that in turn perpetuates the cycle of pain and discomfort, that thereafter inflames the muscles and leaves him immobilised; unable to stand or walk. An acute episode can last anywhere between 2 days to 2 months and can be triggered by the most innocuous activity from leaning over to pick up paper, to trying to activate the brake whilst driving his truck in a more recent and concerning incident. That one cost him his job.

There have been many significant dramas associated with the ‘sore back’, and we shall visit these as and when the desire takes me over the coming days. Today’s account is about setting the scene and letting the enormity of this crippling situation settle into the consciousness. It will provide a little insight into the challenges that are presented and how we have dealt with these. It will be.a different journey to my imjury for I cannot see into his inner soul, his physical experiences can only be viewed as an onlooker a bystander to his pain and the psychological damage that it has left him with I cannot fathom and only begin to imagine.

These observations on this sore back will be mine, the impact and affect they have made on my Lion and how he has managed that and, of course as many of these experiences were joint, I therefore appoint myself qualified to report and share them with you.

For the first tale, I’m going to take you one what was our first ever holiday without our kids………………..join me next time to find out more.

Markets are calling me away. Chapter 5 Holidays

January always leads you into thinking about holidays but it’s the advertising that calls me to action and is the real deal breaker for me. Adverts on TV, FB or email seem to flood you with ideas and tempt you to book a wee break. I don’t need much encouragement to be fair. January is a time when I would start to look at booking something. But we are still meeting family needs at the moment so immediate holidays are not on the cards, for obvious reasons.

When British Airways sent me an email about their January sale ( it’s still on btw) I always want to browse the delights on there as soon as possible. So I did, and within a reasonable amount of time I have identified a holiday to Mexico. We have already been to Mexico, it was one of the few places that we did not have any dramas, so you will appreciate the appeal of it. We looked at various options, but by far the best resort was Moon Palace. We enjoyed our visit there previously because there were about 20 restaurants to chose from and you can golf. The lion was sorted then! We organised the flights, our travel arrangements and our hotel, all inclusive for 6k. I have paid more for a holiday there with Thomas Cook so if you think BA are expensive, think again. That price included business class flights.

A dialogue with my lion throughout this dithering decision, meant I hovered over the ‘continue to payment’ button for about half an hour. We debated back and forth about this holiday, but in the end a quick shift onto the Jet 2 site revealed a two week stint, albeit with only bed and breakfast included, to Spain was £1200. Now when you are retired on limited income, and with a big holiday to Australia already planned, my sensible head did come into action. We had been to Spain last year but it has everything we need; heat, food, wine. What was not to like with that deal? So there I was , flicking between the two pages before making the big but sensible decision to take the Jet 2 trip, and that is it booked, decision made.

I flicked onto the BA site again still tempted by their wares, wishing we could go stateside or take the trip to Mexico but remembering there is plenty time. We can always go another time, maybe next year. That is the problem with this kind of marketing, good customer service and enticing you in with a range of deliverable delights. You get seduced into random action. I know I like my brands, but we have had tip top service from BA so my loyalty is guaranteed to an extent, because I know if things go wrong they fix it.

And another reminder of just how powerful these marketing strategies are. The next morning, because it was clear big brother was watching me, I received a letter from BA. It was notification that we had not maintained our tier points (we should have booked Mexico) and were being down graded from silver to bronze status. Shock and horror.

Now it is the maintenance of this silver status that takes me right to the BA site to buy my holiday, so this subtle marketing strategy works for them, on me anyway. I don’t want to lose it, but in all honestly all it does is give you permission to choose your seat ahead of everyone else. Not that much when it comes down to it. When you are that loyal and there are incentives like tier points, it doesn’t take much to tempt you back, or hook you into other purchases. But you never forget you have a choice, so on this occasion BA lost out, mainly because we had already booked a big holiday for next year and finances are not limitless.

If you are thinking of booking a holiday try BA or Jet2 both very good quality for the prices they set. Jet 2 have not yet been tested with any of our dramas yet, but I’m sure there’s time…………………

Getting away from it all. Chapter 4 book of the family

It’s been a while, and I am making a poor excuse, but Christmas is always so busy. Haven’t you been busy?? And now here we are mid January and not a jot has been written, it’s frankly a disgrace! Just when I might have reached the dizzy heights of 3k views I go and get lost in a virtual outer space, flitting between family dramas and falling out of favour with my followers for failing to report on them. I have committed the most incredible sin; I have omitted to provide insight, social commentary and details of the ongoing, albeit somewhat dreary, dramas that drift in and out of my life.

January is always such an awful month; moneyless, dark, wintery, dark, everyone on a diet and off the drink, oh and dark. Of course we are now 26 weeks into my injury and I am making considerable progress so I suddenly want to do things, be places, see people, have fun and party. Problem is no-one else does. A bargain weekend was available and no-one wanted to go. I was cheesed off. I was hoping that would help ease my humongous gas bill, since it’s been on full blast all the while I have been house bound, but nope no-one wanted to go out or away. So there was only one thing for it, let’s go away ourselves for the weekend to………………our own house!

Turns out this was actually a fab idea and I seriously urge you to try it. We do have a lovely home, it is our pride and joy. It was built in 1750 and was previously 5 farm cottages knocked into one. We have put our heart and soul into this house, on every level we have invested love, care and attention to very corner, every room. So often when we go away I will catch myself remarking that we have just as good at home. Hence the mad idea of spicing up our January by pretending we were visitors in our own home.

Off I went on the Friday morning for a meeting with the feeling that today was going to be different. It was the excitement and anticipation combined that you get when you have a planned weekend away, albeit this was not away, but it was creating the feeling of being away, if you follow my drift. The lion was tasked with changing the bed and cleaning the house ready for the arrival of the guests, us. He even mentioned later he tipped them for a job well done. We laughed at that.

We were not allowed access until three so when I returned from work at 1pm, we went off shopping to buy what we needed for the weekend and of course that included shopping at a different supermarket and trying different brands. Then, as it was still a tad early to get the keys, we went to the cinema to watch Stan and Ollie. It was now nearly four so we made our way to our home for the weekend, pretending we had never been there, making hilarious comments like ” wonder what it is like inside” the pretence just added reality to the event.

When we opened the door, although it was with a sense of deja vu, we nevertheless continued with the drama, gasping at the size of the kitchen and delighted there was a wood burning stove, cleaned and set ready for ignition. We couldn’t wait to check out our bedroom for the weekend and later, after our first night we were so happy the bed was just as comfy as our own. Every action was designed to value what we had here, to look at it through a different lens. We took it all in, surveying what had become routine and making it mean so much more. I even posted pictures on FB # weekend away LOL.

On Saturday morning I set the table for breakfast using every piece of Denby I owned, including the toast holder that I bought three years ago but had never used. It gave me a simple but satisfying pleasure, I cannot explain, but the thrill of feeling that it was all new. I was making the most of what we had been taking so much for granted. The lion went off to play golf ( he had been taxiing me about all week to hospital appointments) while I stayed in our “holiday home” and made a goulash with yoghurt dumplings and even baked bread. I felt so invigorated.

We went to church to try out the local religious arrangements, then came back, lit the fire had a glass of wine before we enjoyed a romantic winter supper surrounded by candles and music. I cannot tell you how satisfying this weekend away in our own abode was. We made the most of what we had, and I’ve rarely been more satisfied.

Over the past 26 weeks I’ve come to realise how precious my health is. It made me want to live my life again as soon as I could. A simple slip took so much away from me, standing up, walking, dancing, cycling, catching up with friends, shopping, eating, visiting family, it had all been affected by my inability to move.

We also look after our parents and over the same period a lot was happening for them both and we lost some of our closest family members. All of that provided us with a mirror on our own mortality. I don’t know when I might get any clearer an insight to my future than I have these last few months, but I do know that what I have decided to do is make the most of it, however big or small that most is.

Marvel in the minutest things, love, laugh, dance, smile and be thankful for everything you have because you have no idea how long it will last or how important it has become.

The big hamstring update, Merry Christmas everyone. Chapter 31

It’s now been 17 weeks since my accident so before we say goodbye to what has been our very own annus horribilis perhaps it’s time for a final update, to give those who have followed my story some christmas cheer . It is actually a good time to do this as I had my first real physio appointment yesterday. After weeks of this horrendous stage 3 hamstring injury how far have I come? Have I done as well as expected? Would life ever be the same again? Well I am pleased to share some good news with you at last, we are going out on positive note.

For the last two weeks, I have been managing around the house without crutches, the home physio team were more than helpful in setting me on the path to this independence. Small flexion exercises and encouragement from my Lion made this transition seamless. I am now able to make dinner, sit at the table ( albeit for a limited time) and more importantly lie on my side in my bed. Ah the simple things we take for granted!! After we had to cut our Caribbean holiday short because of my father in laws recent fall, the home physio team from the NHS came back for a second visit and were delighted with my progress, particularly managing without the crutches. And tout suite I was discharged back to the hospital physio where the real work could begin.

But first I had a big test, our regular catch up with old work colleagues, affectionately refereed to as the ‘tapas crew’, was planned for 15 December. This was a daunting prospect for me because the meal was in Edinburgh and of course this meant I had to revisit the scene of this terrible accident and this particular meeting (other than the delight of seeing good friends) can be a wine fest. It had been almost 14 weeks since I had a proper drink, so this, aside from the good points, had all the makings of it being a disaster.

The simplest of train journey’s was one of mixed emotion; I could remember so well that fateful day, messaging my family, responding to emails, making plans for the future and, I thought, well prepared for the torrential rain. Today I wasn’t travelling alone, my Lion was by my side and was an assured presence, and I had crutches. The train station was busy with people and I was instantly overwhelmed, terrified I would be knocked over or trip, it was the weirdest feeling. But the crutches were akin to having the power of Moses, and on sight of these I was able to part the crowds.

I should have known the day would have gone well these friends, who started out as work colleagues, are now among my closest friends. Their support as with so many others, had been incredible and mattered so much on my lowest days. We had a great time and after much chat, laughter and copious amounts of wine we opted for safety and took a taxi home. Another day and another achievement, it had made me feel almost normal.

This was the last day I took painkillers, I only had them in the morning that day. And since then have managed without them. For the last week I have only taken them on the very odd occasion when I have over done it. Admittedly there have been times when small changes or improvements lull me into a false feeling that I’m back to normal, only to find actually I’m not that well yet and I need to remember to take time. The date of the physio was looming and I was looking forward to making it into the actual appointment and staying for the duration.

The Lion dropped me off, and I confidently strode into the hospital. I didn’t falter, I made my way directly there without stopping and took a chair and waited comfortably for the therapist to appear. She was instantly delighted at how I responded to her arrival, I stood up with ease, I walked toward her without hesitating and she had a look of sheer amazement on her face. The last time I had been here she had to wheel me out to the car in a makeshift bed. So it was no wonder she was incredulous at the sight before her now. It was akin to a miracle.

I almost hopped onto the bed; it was incredible how my confidence grew just on the back of her reaction and admiration. She was so pleased with me she wanted to write down the positives; I was back working, I had stopped the pain killers, I was still managing without the crutches in the house. A recent day out without them had reminded me I couldn’t rush this, but on the whole things were so much better.

The therapist got out her meter to measure flexion and movement in my ‘bad’ leg. This was a comparative excercise looking at the difference between each leg to give me a more informed insight as to how it was progressing, The good leg had, on a scale of 0-5, a five, while the bad leg had a four. A FOUR, go girl! I was so delighted with this news I could have coasted out the door fuelled by sheer ecstasy.

When I first visited the Physio I had to complete a questionnaire, setting out among other things my goals and one of these was to get back on my bike. And after this meeting I have been promised a work out on the static bike at the next appointment. I cannot believe my good fortune. And yes it is good fortune, not to be sniffed at, but a timely reminder of how important our health is and how quickly it can alter.

In what is my last blog before Christmas, I am happy to share this good news, it’s by no means a full recovery but a bit of recovery that has kick started hope as we head into 2019…………………..

Christmas: magic in the gospel. Chapter 5 Christmas

The magic of Christmas can be found in all areas of our lives. It’s no secret that Christmas is an annual delight for me. From the rehearsals to prepare for the big Christmas Morning discovery, to the loss of the Christmas cash, there are many stories that add to the magic and the mystery, and none more than the divinity of Christmas.

I was a slip of a schoolgirl in Primary 5, when I was selected to read a passage from the bible at the Christmas Eve service in our local Church in Shotts. Not only was this a great honour, it was also being recorded by the BBC for their Songs of Praise programme. So my delivery of the gospel was now centre stage and about to be heard by people all over the United Kingdom, that was if they had actually tuned into BBC Radio Scotland.

This was about as close to famous as I was going to be as a child and it was both a thrilling and daunting prospect. It was no real surprise I had been the recipient of the reading prize in many of my primary school classes. But to deliver this live on the radio was about to test the quality of my Received Pronunciation. Perhaps I might be snapped up by the BBC, who knew?

So I got down with some serious rehearsing, and it was full on, so much effort went in to this I can still recall the opening verse of the passage, which was from St Luke’s gospel. This was the moment I fell in love with the real story of Christmas. Day in day out I recited it, practiced it, looked in the mirror and mouthed it, exaggerating the words, investing more and more in the meaning until I truly felt it.

St Luke was one of the many apostles of Jesus, his gospel in the New Testament is noted to be peppered with evidential information that situates events in time. This historical account draws you into the era, and although Scholars are split on the accuracy of his writing, it is credited with being an historic account of events. The gospel passage is one of a census, under the direct request of the Roman Dictator Julius Caesar, an event that places the story within a time frame. This passage, because I became so familiar with it, strongly shaped my beliefs as a young girl. It always reinforced the real meaning of Christmas for me every year since I first learned about it.

Later in life I learned more about St Luke that only served to reinforce my personal religious beliefs and add weight to them. If you are looking for evidence then Luke of all the apostles was arguably one of the most evidentially informative and historically accurate of the gospel writers. He was also strongly believed to be the probable author of the Acts of the Apostles meaning his contribution to the narrative of Christianity was substantial. There’s no doubt he was capable, as a physician he was an educated man who lived until he was 84 years.

The radio programme, much to my disappointment, was actually being recorded and not live, so we had to do this in November. As it happens this day was not without its own dramas. It was to be a memorable day for me for all of the wrong reasons. My Grandad had been ill in hospital, I now know that it was bowel cancer but as a child I was not informed about that. It was a complete surprise when he died and it was on the day of my recital. I remember the pain forming a lump the size of a golf ball in the back of my throat, forcing the emotion upward, forming as tears in my eyes, stinging and smarting as I tried to keep them from tipping over the lid and dribbling down my face. I will never forget the memory of my father unable to conceal his distress and letting the emotion fall over at the loss of his beloved father. Having spent most of the day crying and feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness, like I had never before experienced, it was clear I had to gather myself together and get ready for the big recording. I was not sure I could even walk to the Church never mind stand up and deliver the gospel.

In the Catholic faith, the Gospel is read by the priest, but the readings in the Church of Scotland, could be delivered by anyone. Looking back from where I stand now on my religious belief, the enormity of being asked to read from the gospel of St Luke was an incredible honour. I recall that my cheeks were glowing, red from all the upset. My throat felt as if it had glue poured down into my gullet and attracted all the dust disturbed by the parishioners as they entered the church in their hundreds. It’s amazing what a BBC recording can do to people, even if they were only on the radio.

“And it came to pass in those days” ………….I began to read with no sign of nerves full of confidence and self-assured knowing Grandad was there, right there beside me telling me I was doing just fine.