Thirty Three years ago this morning, a child was born. A boy. The Third Boy – 3 being the first prime number, the lucky prime, the only prime triangular, the triad, the noblest of all digits, and the only one of five to be born on the island; the only one to spend his first night on this earth in matron’s bottom drawer.
Let me paint the picture……….It was a wild and stormy night (which it was) and I was determined to miss the last ferry. I knew a-plenty about birthing by then, had already had 3 labours (one being the Only Girl) and did not want to be inside a hospital. The first two had been home births and the process is straightforward enough anyway – I mean, there’s only one direction to go down, and all I have to do is swear a lot, push when told to and trust in the doctor and nurse, both of whom I knew well. So, in the middle of this gale, and in the darkness and in the crankitty old landrover with its binder twine door hinges and sheep food in the back, we rattled to the old folks home and Mrs MacFlorrie’s bed. Not that she was sharing with me, you understand, but was, instead, shunted down the corridor to bunk up, temporarily, with another ‘old folk’. That is how it was in the olden days, for we had no island hospital back then.
He was small and stayed that way for a while. They suggested a growth hormone, but we said..
‘Leave him be. When you have this many children, it’s handy to have one you can just pop in your pocket. Whilst other boys are growing and talking about how big they are, Rhua squeezes through the gaps. he is as wiry and as fast as Spiderman, and just as fond of heights. Look at me! he shouts, aged two and half, from half-way up a cliff face, or from the top of the massive old oak tree, and we all do look, just to keep him quiet, and we keep looking, although I must have looked away at least once, as there is another baby on the way.’ (Island Wife Chap 17)
When he came home to Tapselteerie, he spent any sleep times, never longer than 20 minutes, day or night, in the tea towel drawer, whilst I worked in the kitchen. Because the house was so huge, I could never have left him upstairs, just below cloud level, for goodness knows what he might have got up to. He was the one who tipped all liquids and powders from all bedrooms into the loo and mixed up a cauldron of seething bubbles and curious smells. He is the one who left home aged six in the dark of a wild night, with only his toys as luggage. He is the ‘chef’ who signed up for trial of a deep fat fryer, one that arrived in the back of a big lorry. The delivery man did not believe me when I tried to send him away, saying it was a mistake. He would not countenance that he had driven all the way from the depot in Glasgow to this isolated place, with moon rocks and pitfalls and nothing but sheep and heather for days. I had to show him the 6 year old chef, before he would even consider returning to base camp.
It was this third boy who rose from his short sleeps with a head full of ideas, and a deep sense of purpose. I found him once frying bacon on the aga, start naked, aged 2. For our breakfast, he said. He had already laid the table, with brandy, bread, salad cream and red sauce, tonic water and chocolate. It was hard to be cross. How he managed to lift the heavy aga lid, without nipping his manhood in the bud, still amazes me.
I took to sleeping outside his bedroom door, lying across the narrow landing on the servants floor (no servants to be seen) in order to save us all from this boy’s nocturnal ideas and sense of purpose.
When he finally grew into a young man, he hit the world with a force it might not have been ready for. Wherever he went, wherever he worked, he was enthusiastically bonkers, and very successful. And now, as a father and husband, and broker in the flatlands, he still is, but it is not the outward success that matters, but the man he has become. A man I respect, admire and adore. One who makes me laugh, whose heart is huge and strong, who can blag and wind up, who can reach too far, fall down, and get up again in a nanosecond. Although he is born of me, he is himself as are all my kids, and each one of them delights and surprises me.
I remember the illnesses, and the times of trouble. I remember the nights of worry, the fears and hopes, the dreams dying, the prayers a-plenty, but when I look at them, at any of them, I am so very proud. All we ever wanted for our children, was that they find their own way into a fulfilled life. I know this is not a thing that comes gift-wrapped – indeed no,t for it is a process, and a long one, but to see young people on what appears to be the right track, is indeed a blessing for any mother, or father. We couldn’t give them life on a plate, or expensive tuition or finishing school in Switzerland, but we gave them Tapselteerie and we gave them adventures and memories.
‘From the mound of dogs and kit, they(the children) marvel at everything, and, in their marvelling, I can taste the freshness of seeing things for the first time, the elation and sparkle in that seeing, like having lemonade in your veins and butterflies in your head. There are no seat belts in the back of the Landrover, and no law to put them there, so the children bounce and whoop and flip like monkeys, free as air, as the car rocks like a boat in a storm.
Suddenly, my head is bursting. Enough! I roar, causing everyone to freeze mid-flip, and Alex to swerve. He is not pleased.
Why are you shouting? he asks with a frown across his face, deep as the Limpopo River.
I don’t bother to respond, enjoying the sudden silence. Instead, I turn to fluff up a very flat collie and to settle my sons the right way up.
What are you going to spend your money on? I beam at them.
Jake is buying a Lego set, one of those big ones with enough pieces to block the vacuum every week.
Rhua wants an Action man. Well, that figures.
And Solly? Well, Solly wants a gun and chorus.
A gun and chorus?
Yeah! Gun and chorus, like Duncan’s at crayboop.
He is getting upset, as he always does when we have no idea what language he speaks.
Okay, okay Sol, that’s grand. We’ll find one.
Cassie, seeing my predicament, pulls her finger from her mouth.
It’s a dinosaur with flashing eyes. Duncan’s got one and he brought it to playgroups. It’s called a Gunnacaurus.
She says all this in a monotone, staring straight ahead, like a code breaker in a spy movie. I wonder what we would all do without her translation skills.
I bend my head down to hers. Where do we get one? I ask.
She looks at me in puzzlement. A dinosaur shop, she says.
Of course! Silly me. (Island Wife Chap 21)
So, to the First Odd Prime Number I say…….Happy Birthday!