Well here I am after a couple of action packed weeks with my son, Christopher Rubens. It is always good to be out of Alberta when they have disgusting weather. Actually the weather in Scotland has been pretty amazing. Quite mild today and of course the roses are still smelling wonderful, the trees turning into glorious orange, golds and reds. Sure it has rained a few days but we have had wonderful autumn weather and have no complaints.
Where to start? We began with a weekend in the Lake District with Clive's brother Desmond in gale force winds. Some school students were searching the mountain for the 6 tents they had abandoned in the early morning. As they dragged them, sodden out of the streams the brown nylon tents looked much worse for the experience. Meanwhile the brothers had a gleam in their eyes as they thought of bagging Scafell, the highest mountain in England. The fact that I was being blown off my feet across the mountain did not deter their zeal. Chris was not convinced of the fun of the experience. Still we did make the summit - it looked as if we were walking around inside a kettle. Definitely worked up a thirst for the pub, recommended in the Good Pub guide, bear and fish and chips almost compulsory at the end of a long wet day.
The next day dawned calm and clear. I walked while the three men rock climbed. The general consensus was that Des was a masterful traditional climber, knew exactly which piece of protection to place in the cracks. He rarely second guessed his choice.
Then it was back to Edinburgh for lunch with my niece Sarah at the Art Gallery of Modern Art. Believe it or not we sat in the sunny garden, watching the orange and black butterflies land on the purple Michaelmas daisies as we wondered how modern artists are so daring in their simple compositions. After lunch we walked along the Water of Leith, marvelled at the tall trees and the magnifients Thomas Telford bridge build in the eighteen hundreds. The high light of the following day was a visit to the theatre for a play called the Siver Darlings which essential was a story about a mother separating from her grown up son. How appropriate was that? She tried to convince him to attend the university to study Latin while he wanted to become a fisherman. 'Latin' he looked ar her in bemused puzzlement 'What would I want to learn that for?'
The highlight of the last two weeks was our three days on the island of Arran where I holidayed as a child. We rented a house on the sea front with great views across to Holy Island now owned by the Tibetan Buddhists. Here we left 92 year old Grandpa while the three of us trundled up on Arran's spectacular granity ridges in perfect blue sunny skies. The weather god's were shining on us.
We had a wonderful meal in the Kilmichael Hotel with my cousins, Anne and her husband Jim who were up from Bath visiting her brother Douglas who is lucky enough to live on Arran. It felt luxuriously oldy worldly with coffee served in the sophisticated dining room in front of a roaring fire. What a memorable evening! At the end the normally taciturn grandpa was heard to say 'People are so kind to me'
We were all sorry our stay was so short but we had to head to Dundee to visit with my niece's young family.
Sunday dawned clear and sunny, CLive, Chris and Ross MacDonald, my neice's wouth African husband headed to Glenoe to meet the intrepid mountaineer Des to scale Buchaille Etive Mor. Apparently mountains were completely obscured when they arrived but as soon as they started hiking they cleared and instead of the gale force winds forecast they had a calm day with views across Scotland from the summit. Meanwhile I enjoyed my grand nephew, a secure and happy little chappy!
That brings us up to the last couple of day spent wandering around Edinburgh, taking in the tourist sites of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle and catching up with more nieces. Emma, Jane her husband Graham and their adorable blue eyed six month old Ethan. Oh yes and my brother in law David. Opps I almost forgot the trip to the Whiskey Club down in Leith where Grandpa Theo is a member. The written descriptions of the whiskey's would have made any creative writer proud - included some that tasted of paintstripper, ginger, - that goes to prove I should have written the flowery notes down at the time as they seemed to have flown from my brain.
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a tour of the old pubs. So we began in the Abbotsford, moved to the Circle Bar that closed too soon at 11 pm so wandered down to the grass market with some new friends from new York and Preston. Chris loved it and wanted to it the following evening but alas his five am start for the airport meant an earlier night.
It was sad to take Chris back to Glasgow Airport - needless to say it felt like no time at all since I had picked him up two weeks ago. Still as he heads back to his life in Revelstoke he has a deeper sense of his Scottish heritage.
On our way back from the Airport with not much planned for the day we decided to visit the town of Airdrie where I lived for 8 years as a child. I left when I was ten and have never been back. I remembered where my father's church was. A stark stone building with Ebenezer Congregational Church on the notice board and the metal guards around the stain glass windows. We drove up the main street and there on the left the sign for Springhill Avenue. 'This is it. turn here.' Springhill Avenue was shorter and less steep than I remembered. That's were our parents put cinders and tarpaulins across the bottom of the avenue to stop our sledges from shooting our on the main road.' I told Clive. ' There is the old weeping willow. We used to climb up on the inside and slide down the inside.' It definitely looked taller than 50 years ago! I looked over the wall and pointed out to Clive how far back the rear garden went. I took photos but was reluctant to leave so knocked at the door. The retired couple were more than happy to take me through the back, a few things had changed, the huge vegetable garden turned into a herbaceous border looked much smaller than it had when I was weeding it all those years ago. There was the manure heap, the little patio across from the kitchen were my mother loved to eat lunch. 'This is were I rode my maroon tricycle I received for my fifth birthday.'
The couple asked us in, showed us around, we drank coffee in the Parlour that we were not allowed into except on the most special of occasions. Upstairs I wanted to say that was the room where father died, the room below the one his body was laid out and I touched his rubbery dead body.' Still it was the steepness of the old walnut banister that surprised most. How I remember how much fun my sisters and I had sliding down the smooth wood. Memories flooded my brain. It feels like I have come to terms with my now dead family and it is time to honor the positive influences like the old weeping willow, the little piece of garden that was mine and the fun us sisters had using my parents bed like a trampoline.