Ae Fond Kiss

Had we never loved sae kindly
Had we never loved sae blindly
Never met, nor never parted
We had ne'er been broken-hearted

An almost love story from the 60s

On Burns Night, once the haggis had been addressed and eaten, Cannyrob, B and I, glasses of whisky at our elbow, sang our way through our favourite songs. This one, Ae Fond Kiss, always takes me back to being 16 and at the final school dance for the 6th year leavers. I had emerged that year from my cocoon of late development and slight weirdness. I hadn’t been part of the sporty or intellectual groups, but that year I came into my own as a writer and artist. I worked on the school magazine with a boy who shared my sense of humour. We made each other laugh and became close friends. At the dance I was wearing a dress made from fabric I had screen-printed in the art room and I was in great demand. He was the one who claimed me for the last dance. Afterwards we kissed at a party then arranged to meet again the next night. We had four blissful hours together then he walked me home. I thought it was the start of something serious. But he didn’t get in touch. I never understood why. He broke my heart.

Years later I reluctantly went to a school reunion. I had been married and divorced, happy to be single. He was there and sought me out. He wanted to explain. He belonged to a strict religious sect which had meant he couldn’t have a relationship with me. He had loved me, had never forgotten me, although he had married within his church and had two sons. He had become a consultant. He was also an alcoholic. A few months later he tracked me down through my old workplace and wrote telling me he was dying and asking to meet once more. I was curious, but no longer smitten, and agreed to meet at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

He arrived in a taxi, a cannula in his hand, having discharged himself from hospital. We walked through the trees and sat in the cafe for while. He looked ill, the whites of his eyes yellow, and we sat and talked about our lives and what might have been. Then his taxi came, we hugged and said goodbye. I saw his death notice in the paper three months later.

Tarot Reading for February

This card always throws me a bit, but its meaning is much more than is immediately apparent. Death is always with us. One of my closest friends lost a very good friend this month, not long after diagnosis. A creative, vibrant woman with so much of her life still to live. Vivienne Westwood has gone, another shining star. But this card is also about change and transition. We have plenty of that going on in the UK and worldwide. Maybe some of it will be for the better.

Graffiti Vivienne Westwood

I have just been told my arthritis is getting worse and is unlikely to improve. I have to accept my limitations but can still drive, swim, do Pilates and all my creative stuff. The green shoots are there beneath Death’s scythe.

Reading, Listening, Watching.

I’ve been reading more this month. Natalie Haynes Children of Jocasta is another classical treat. Two more of Tana French’s Dublin Murder stories – The Secret Place, Broken Harbour – are complex weavings of victims, suspects and detectives, all with their individual stories. Linked by place and time, each stands alone but there is a common thread of loss and compassion. We have to get back to Dublin this year! Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan and That Night by Gillian McAllister are quick reads, enjoyable but well-crafted stories.The long third book of Philippa Gregory’s Dark Tides trilogy, Dawnlands, covers a strange transitional period in history, from James II to William of Orange. Encompassing slavery in Barbados and corruption in Parliament, it continues to follow the fortunes of one family.

Audiobooks by Conn Iggulden, read by Robert Glenister, Emperor the Gates of Rome and Emperor the Death of Kings have held me in thrall. Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel of life in 19th C Manchester, beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson, has striking parallels with today’s social ills and rich/poor divide. Podcasts by Ashley Storrie are clever and funny (BBC Sounds).

On our new television, the concluding episodes of His Dark Materials were spellbinding, the end of The Handmaid’s Tale surprisingly convincing, as was the start of Marie Antoinette. SAS Rogue Heroes was just amazing – funny and tragic, The English beautifully filmed, poignant and clever, Happy Valley compelling and brilliantly cast. I’m still hooked on Servant and season 2 of Viking Valhalla. Cannyrob is waxing lyrical about Kirk Douglas in The Vikings and singing the theme tune, so I have ordered us a second hand DVD. The Last of Us is a good old-fashioned apocalyptic romp with killer fungus rather than zombies taking over the world.

Domestic News

Cannyrob is still painting the finer details of the new window and the sitting room. I need to get a roofer to come and have yet another go at fixing the leaks in our guest room on the top floor. The gas fires have still not been serviced. I need to phone the man who said he would come before Christmas.

Sitting room

I am so enjoying my Wash House.  Boxes and drawers are all sorted and I can find everything I need.  I have been sewing new trousers for my Indian puppets and making pockets in a quilted jacket from the East sale.  I need pockets!  Always.  I have a pattern and fabric for trousers for Son and a dress for me.  Still trying to lose weight.  Eating less but obviously not enough less.  The bargain bags of toffees bought in John Lewis were a bad idea. 

Coming Attractions

After months when nothing much was happening, we have lots coming up this month – drumming, a birthday celebration for A with Daughter, a night away in a spa hotel with another friend, Scottish Opera in Crail, WeeBoy to stay, Girl from the North Country (musical with Dylan Songs) in Aberdeen.

I have a new ringtone nicked from Happy Valley, called Sci uFolien which I am enjoying.

I have had the Monty Python theme tune for years, now only recognised by old people.

Light at 4 o’clock

Suddenly I notice the days getting longer, more birds singing. It’s still cold but that promise of spring is there. We have a family wedding to go to – my lovely nephew is marrying his sweetheart. I hope your days are brightening in every way. Keep in touch – feedback is always welcome! Love, Elinor