39 years a slave

What were you doing 39 years ago today – 2 April 1979?

It was a very different world back then, let me tell you. Labour was just hanging on to government, and Britain had not yet had its first female Prime Minister. Gloria Gaynor was promising us she would survive. And a soviet laboratory released a deadly poison, killing a bunch of people. Ok, not so different!

I know exactly what I was doing. And I know what I was supposed to be doing. The two are not the same.

What I was doing, was playing golf with my friend Al.  It was a nice sunny spring day and we had a pleasant round at Silverknowes golf course in Edinburgh. I was pretty rubbish as usual and, as it turned out, this was to be my last ever game of golf (to date).


I was supposed to be having my first day at work: WeeKeef – boy civil servant. But around a week beforehand I had had a call telling me not to go in that day as everyone was going to be on strike. “Have the day off” they said. “Don’t worry. You’ll still get paid and everything. Play golf or something. We’ll see you on Tuesday.” So there I was, tromping around after a small white ball, thinking that this working for a living lark was turning out OK.

Well, 39 years is quite a long time and a lot of water has passed under a relatively small number of bridges since then. But instead of looking backwards I have been doing a fair bit of looking forwards lately. We both have, Mrs WeeKeef and I. Because we are both old enough, and old fashioned enough to think that 40 years is a full career, and that 60 years is a good to age to retire. And both of those things happen to us next year.

So we’ve been taking some advice and doing a bit of planning and all of a sudden the “R” word – retirement – is a thing. It’s out there. It’s do-able. And, while I don’t actually think that I will be putting my feet up permanently a year from today, the welcome inevitability of it is starting to feature more and more in our conversations and our plans.

That’s especially true on days like this – 2 April 2018. A completely non-spring-like day, when the cold and the wind and the sleet are keeping us indoors on this Easter Bank Holiday. On days like this the “R” is not just capitalised. It’s bold, underlined, italic “R“.

We will be Returning to this subject. Regularly.

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Six years ago today the Pater made his last, grand entrance, blown into the crematorium on the shoulders of four sturdy but bedraggled pall bearers, amid a flurry of horizontal rain, hail, wind and leaves. How those men didn’t drop him I will never know. 

It was a horrible day in almost every respect, but even then my dad raised one last smile as the Mater, WeeSis and I looked at each other and knew what we were thinking – “Yes, that’s him arrived”. I could even hear him framing one last story, about the time he was in a PROPER storm that time on a ship in the Indian Ocean. He would have enjoyed the attention.

I’m not sure who it was who first renamed Cyclone Friedhelm to Hurricane Bawbag but it was another way to make the day memorable. And sitting here, looking out at the still, cloudless blue sky that is Storm Caroline, I can’t help thinking that we can’t even do bad weather properly nowadays. 

Dad would have been out cutting the grass by now. 

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The fruit bowl of shame

Our fruit bowl is a disgrace.

I mean, it’s not filthy, or disreputable or anything. In fact, it’s rather a nice one – light wood, large, deep. It should hold plenty of fruit. But it doesn’t. Somewhere in the past few weeks, ever since Boy 3 (of 3) moved out, Mrs WeeKeef and I seem to have lost the habit of doing a regular “big shop” armed with a proper list of planned meals and necessary purchases. Like fruit. As a result, said bowl currently only holds one edible item, namely a lemon. And that has seen better days.

But the real issue is that the bowl, in all it’s yawning emptiness, sits just below a conveniently free electricity socket which has become the main charging point for various phones, tablets, WiFi speakers etc etc which have taken over all of our lives, and has therefore become the receptacle for all the associated adaptors, cables and general paraphernalia. It’s a sad statement on the modern condition.


I suppose I should probably just keep my phone in there too. Well, it is an Apple.


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One of my very earliest memories dates back to Friday 4th September 1964. I was five years old and just about to start school but on that day I was sitting, helping the Mater shell peas for lunch.

And on our old black and white TV (or just “the TV” as we called it back then) we were watching HM Queen open the shiny new Forth Road Bridge – an engineering marvel which would replace the old black and white vehicle ferry to Fife (or just “the ferry” as we called it back then). We were excited and we were impressed.

So it has been very interesting to watch the new Queensferry Crossing take shape over the past few years – particularly as the Mater and Pater lived within sight of it, and the other two bridges, until quite recently.  And on 4 September 2017 it was good to see Her Maj back again to open the new route, amid much hoo-ha and sundry celebrations.

Mrs WeeKeef and I played our own part in that as we were lucky enough to be picked to walk the 1.7 miles across it before the road is handed over to traffic forever. That was genuinely quite a special experience, and I am so glad we got selected. It’s not often one gets the chance to be part of history.


This past weekend I had a day out with the Mater.  We drove out past her old house, which she still misses terribly, joined the long queue of traffic and drove across the shiny new Queensferry Crossing (and back).  It’s an engineering marvel.  We were excited and we were impressed.

Best of all, just like in 1964, we rounded things off with lunch.  Fifty-three years later that too is cause for celebration.


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This bird has flown

On the tenth of August 1988, just after 3.25 in the afternoon, a nice lady in a nurse’s uniform handed me a teeny bundle which turned out to be Boy 1 (of 3). Much the same thing happened in the middle of a sunny May day in 1991, and again on a frosty early morning in February 1999. Thus began the three greatest adventures of my life, and you can’t get very far in these pages without knowing what I think about those young men.

Like all (good) parents I have tried to be around for them as much as I can,  but we always know that we will have to give them up to the world eventually. In fact that’s the whole idea, really. Sometimes it’s hard, but it is also such a joy to see them take the next step in their lives.

Well, it’s been a month for steps, and no mistake. Four weeks ago I became a van driver, helping the aforementioned Boy 1 to move across town and into his very own place for the first time.  He seems to be settling in nicely.  Three days ago Boy 2 wrote a huge cheque and is now also the proud owner of his own home. When Mrs WeeKeef and I swung by earlier today he was in full decorating mode and looking very pleased with himself indeed.

But the biggest step took place earlier in the day, when we took Boy 3 off to his new home for the foreseeable future. Once again, one of the boys is to be a student at Dundee University, this time to study Mathematics. And so we packed him up and moved him in to the very same student flats which did so well for Boy 2 eight whole years ago.

There was no sign of Percy the Clock this time round, but it was all familiar enough to be reassuring, though it will not stop me worrying about my youngest, at least for a while. Even if he is off on his on own first, great adventure.


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