Island Blog – Birthday Hallelujah

This day my wild son Ruari turns 40. Nobody, especially he himself, ever imagined he would make it thus far. He was bent on self-destruction from the get-go. Risks were normal for him. Frying bacon at the big hot Aga at 4 am, stark naked, aged 2, and balanced precariously on a chair I had no idea he could even shift, never mind climb on to. He was making us a surprise breakfast. He would think nothing of setting fire to anything that took his fancy, or climbing onto the highest roof and, once, shinning up a lamppost in the centre of Edinburgh after a boozy dinner, all the way to the top, like a monkey. My eyes rarely stopped rolling around him and my heart was always in a state of turmoil, because whatever came next never entered the heads of anyone else. It was too dangerous, after all, but not for him.

Now look at him! Shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year Uk, married to a beautiful, feisty and very tall Viking and with two lovely wee daughters; launching a global business that innovates and supports any who choose to leave alcohol behind and thus to become fitter, happier, healthier. Check out OneYearNoBeer to see for yourselves. I am so very proud of him and not just because of what he has achieved, but of how he has turned his whole life around; how, through walking his own talk, he has generated a huge following of all ages who were lost once, and are no more. There is no greater leadership. Experiential wisdom cannot be bought, nor learned like a script. We do not follow a talker. We follow one who is leading by example.

I wish him another 40 years. Who can say where his lunatic road will lead? I am happy to say he is considerably less reckless these days although I know that light in his eyes, the one that twinkles like the North Star, the one that tells me he is still the wild child and always will be. Delivering a child so unique and impossible, so fast and so enterprising may sound like the most wonderful thing, but it had its consequences. I was never not worried about what he was up to, or planning to be up to, and he was baby number 4. But, despite all the eruptions and chaos he brought to bear, that fabulous face, that gloriously cheeky grin could, and still does, melt my mother heart. I could see, as could his dad, the extraordinary talents he was born with and we both wrung our hands as we agonised about the chances he had of living to this age. We knew that, given the right protection and the right guides, this child would rise to stardom, hopefully feeling happy and proud of who he is. We just had to wait and see, like all parents of a genius.

I honour him. I also honour the beautiful, feisty, very tall Viking, for without her, he may well have spiralled off into the stratosphere. She through love and support has helped him to grow into himself. I don’t know if he likes himself now. I don’t know many of us who do like ourselves. But I can feel a peace around him these days, a confidence born from his own self belief, one no longer rooting from the naysayers, the bullies, the neglectful teachers, the cruel bosses. He is becoming his best self.

I know his dad would have been so happy for this day. He would have growled out a happy birthday song and he would have told this crazy boy how very proud he is of him. As am I.

Island Blog 39 – The New Old

Me on the boat

Today I am 60 years old.

When I was a young thing, bouncing carelessly through my days and nights, my greatest concern was that I looked like everyone else whose stocking seams ran in a straight line all the way up to their sensibly clad bottoms, and whose mothers approved of them.

I never managed it.  In fact, it was rather fun to see just how many winds of seam I could wrap around my leg before I choked and fell over.  When tights came in, everything went to pot on the wrapping fun, for reasons I am sure you can quite well imagine.

Those women of 60, to whom I looked up, or so they thought, and, to be honest, some of them earned an upward look, seemed ancient as fossils.  They had looked like their mothers since they were 25 anyway, but somehow, at 60, it all set like concrete, in their attitudes, their faces and in their moral confidence.  I can still roll my eyes and want to hide up a tree just thinking about them, as they pinged my mother’s doorbell and were allocated seats for luncheon. It was there in those lips pursed for ‘a small sherry’ and in the hush of gossip.

Is this now me?

No flipping chance.

I and my 60 year old peers are breaking that mould.  We are no longer ‘mouldy’ nor are we up for being moulded.  Although we may have become shape-changers, we are doing it our way.  Not as a group, which is what the previous generation seemed to do, but as individuals.  It is not necessarily easy nor simple this being an individual thing, but the more I speak with my daft female friends, the more determination I hear and because we support each other, not to be the same as we are, but to be whoever they are, through the filter of their own life, their own heart, I do believe we are about to cause chaos.

I can see that such a change might not be too everyone’s taste.  After all, our mothers happily retreated behind mounds of fluffy scones at just the right time, allowing us to leap out of the conjurer’s hat and into a surprised world as the ones to watch from now on.  Our mothers’ sensibly clad bottoms became just bottoms, when ours invited conversation.  Their voices fell back into an appropriately domestic hum, whereas we say blow to baking on a regular basis (not least because our husbands might grow too fat), and the confident voice of the new olds reaches up and out and can silence a room of men.

Now there’s a thing!

So get ready world, for we are coming and worse, much much worse, our daughters are watching.

Island Blog 5

Did I tell you I cook and clean for Old Harry?

Well, I am now, and I do.

The job sort of came to me.  I wasn’t looking for work, but Old Harry has looked after me and my family for over 35 years, doing odd jobs and bringing those little bits and pieces to us when we were without them.  A short length of roofing felt, perhaps, or a special size of bicycle screw, or a bit of wire fencing to block up a hole in the fence.

Well, since his old wife died, he has had to fend for himself in a kitchen he never knew existed.  He did outdoors and she did indoors and that was that for a whole lifetime.  So, Old Harry found someone to cook meals for him, freeze them and deliver once a week.  There was a bit of washing, a bit of cleaning too.  When one cook left him, he came to tell me and I said, quite without thinking, I’ll do it Harry.  For you.

And I do.

This morning I was supposed to go over with supplies, clean washing and my rubber gloves for the cleanup which is never much as Old Harry was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the war and still lives that way.  But, it was raining again, cats and dogs so I knew Harry, whose work is all outside, remember, would be stuck at home and not wanting a merry little cleaner like me moving him around whilst I cleaned.  So, I stayed home and cooked extra meals for him instead, which is timely as we are off to see our new grand-daughter in London on Wednesday and I will be away for ten days helping out.  I will still keep up my blog, though, so no worries there.

I’m bushed now, though.  Time for a walk in the Fairy Woods.  I’ll tell you what I find tomorrow.

Island Blog 4

Yesterday, my husband the old sea dog, turned 70.  Nobody really believes he is THAT old and he certainly doesn’t look it. When we were young, people that old were bordering on fossilisation, but we seem to be ageing differently these days, and keeping ourselves young and fit.

We had a great day, just pottering about and took a lovely walk up into the Fairy Woods with the little dog, managing to lose her during games of hide and seek! The wallow, used by the deer, was more like Lake Titicaca with all the rain we’ve had recently. We lit the fire and played scrabble and laughed a lot over tea and crumpets (or that’s what they called themselves on the packet)

 

Later, we went through to one of our boys, James (the tv star!)and his family, for a fondue and indoor fireworks.  The fondue was delicious and lasted for hours – the best sort of meal.  The Birthday Boy was truly spoiled and celebrated with the generous birthday present of five gold tickets.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but think it quite brilliant.  As the kids are dotted across the world, busy with their own lives and families, their gift to him, a whole day one to one, is a fabulous idea.  When they were little, they were a collective – inevitable when you have five and an extremely demanding work life, and, as they grew, he had to find out anew, who they are, as they did him.  They had to learn a new friendship.

 

We stayed over, and woke to play with the grandchildren on another rainy morning. Then, after a cooked breakfast (as if we needed more food) we went for the wettest walk in years, getting completely soaked, even through big ass waterproofs and we didn’t mind at all.  Once you’re wet, you’re wet!  The massive waterfall was spectacularly swollen with the rains, and the sound of it drowned out all conversation.  We just looked up and marvelled.

 

Back home, we booked our flights to London next week.  Another adventure and this one takes us to meet our littlest grand-daughter, born on Boxing Day.

Can’t wait!

Island Blog 3

Today is my husbands 70th birthday. Neither he nor I can believe he is that old, and yet looks and behaves like a kid.  Now, is this down to my splendid management I wonder……caring for him these past 40 years…..or should he take the credit himself?

Last night we went out for supper to the local pub – just a spur of the moment decision not in the least influenced by the liver casserole in front of the telly option.  We had a great meal, a bottle of sauncy Rioja and then, at midnight, fried egg sandwiches and a glass of 15 yr old malt whilst Sascha and John Digweed entertained us through the stereo speakers.  Now that’s pretty impressive for a septuagenerian don’t you think?

We talked about this blog over coffee and I have this idea to set myself a challenge for the year.  My book is out in March, I turn 60 in March and it seems like a plan to have a daily challenge that people can get excited about.

‘How is she doing today with whatever-it-is?’

That’s the sort of question I want you to ask yourself so that you just HAVE to check my blog each day.

Should I have a flow of recipes, such as the ones in Island Wife, where I had to think last minute often for hotel guests who were expecting gourmet food every Summer’s evening?  The delivery vans refused to venture up our pot holey two mile track and just dumped (literally) food supplies at the gate.  I never knew if the box of bananas would more resemble a box of brownish brackets ((((  and it kept me enterprising to an extreme degree.

Venison Jumble………that’s elderly tough stag with lots of root vegetables and a bottle of red wine cooked slowly for 2 days, then dropped on the floor, scooped back up again and topped with a savoury crumble.

Yum yum, they said, smacking their lips.

The roof on our ancient bird table took off this morning on the back of a very startled pheasant.  One minute he was enjoying the corn, with most of him squished and just his tail feathers showing, the next (after I appeared) he is flying over the stone wall with a roof on his back.  I retrieved it, minus pheasant, in a ditch.

Roofed Pheasant?

I am certain I could make that one up.

Hmmm…..food for thought.

Sounds like I need pastry and that pheasant.

Any comments?