This is post I wrote long before engaging in the Independent Referendum debate. I offer it as a light sorbet for those tiring of the political stodge. I place it in amongst my Referendum links because I realise now an appropriate title might well be:
A Scottish Love Story
University was over and it was the end of my last summer on Islay. As I remember it now it seems as if the sun had shone every day for weeks. I was fit, healthy and carefree. I’d heard I’d got my top First, I had been offered the job I wanted and was excited about the prospect of embarking on my adult life proper.
It was 4am and I was sat in my battered old ford escort, parked on a single-track road, looking out over a moon-lit Loch Gruinart. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was playing on the in-car cassette and I was sharing a joint with my best mate George. We sat in contented silence and I smiled to myself as I ran through the evening’s event in my mind.
I’d fancied Anne from my school days but as a painfully insecure teenager I had never before had the confidence to do anything about it. Something had clicked that night though. I’d met her in the pub and we’d chatted; we’d gone down to the beach at midnight and I’d carried her piggy-back out into the sea. We’d compared suntans (my legs were browner but my feet were white compared to hers), we’d laughed and gently flirted. Nothing more happened but nothing more needed to happen; it was enough to thrill me. I think maybe I realised then that I was no longer an awkward teenager, that I had finally grown into myself and become comfortable with who I was.
As the 20 year-old me sat there I was struck by the realisation of how truly happy I was. I turned to my mate and smiled: “You know what George? This might just be as good as it gets … and I’m OK with that”.
I've often reflected on how lucky I was to realise that at the time, to recognise the fleeting and never-to-be-repeated nature of that moment and enjoy it all the more for that realisation.
I'm now 45 years old. I've been married and divorced, I have two wonderful children. I've had a successful career and been lucky enough to spend the last 13 or so years satisfying my entrepreneurial urges. My life has been interrupted by some serious illnesses. I've been lucky enough to recover from cancer and to have emerged from having my colon removed largely unscathed. At times I've been scared and I'm certainly emotionally and physically scarred; but ultimately I've been very lucky.
I work a bit too hard, I ride my bike less often than I’d like, I find I can’t really cope with running for fun any more. I'm trying to find more time to let myself be happy, but up until last week I thought that the 20 year-old me had been right; that that moment in time was as good as it would get.
But last week I visited the Island of Harris in the Western Isles for the first time. I was with Jane, my best friend and a unique woman who demonstrates an incredible capacity to tolerate me and my irritability, intolerance and many irritating habits. Jane possesses reserves of compassion and an ability to care for others that I can only marvel at.
Despite it being the end of May and much of the country suffering sleet and snow we were treated to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. There was a chill Easterly breeze but the scenery was so breath-taking we didn't really notice the cold. I managed to ride my bike a few times. We saw golden eagles being dive-bombed by rooks and white-tailed eagles soaring on thermals, we walked on spotless and deserted white shell-sand beaches, we sat on the machir and watched porpoises playing in the Atlantic waters, we watched gannets diving for fish as we sipped gin & tonics on the rocks (on the rocks).
One evening we were walking along the beach at Scarista. Waves were lazily breaking as they reached the beach, creating a fine spume of spray lit by the setting evening sun. The low sunlight created shadows and accentuated contours on the long deserted beach. I have never seen a more beautiful sight.
My eyes scanned across the shells at my feet and found one that formed a natural ring shape and picked it up. I got down on one knee and with tears of happiness streaming down my cheeks I asked Jane if she would marry me.
She said yes; I've never been happier.