It is now April and I have just retrieved my fingerless gloves from my bag before I sit down to my audience of one – the computer! I am freezing but, then, I always feel the cold. Warm heart, isn’t that what they say?
Life is nothing if not a rich tapestry and one must never forget the power of the unexpected, particularly if feeling a little overwhelmed. I have really embraced the ‘tomorrow is another day and anything could happen’ philosophy over the past few years and not only has such a mindset proved invaluable but there has been much proof in the pudding. Last Sunday was definitely one of my favourites – a rich sticky toffee pudding accompanied by a dollop of real vanilla ice cream. Just what the doctor ordered!
As my reader knows, I detest monotony and the banal. It is too easy to become immersed in the greyness of everyday life and, particularly, in this climate – both political and literal. One can lose the ability to live, in the true sense of the word. Merely going through the motions, accepting one’s lot, is not living. There has to be colour; the hope of that rainbow with its accompanying pot of gold. Thankfully, never being one to conform, I have an eclectic mix of friends each embodying the traits I value: character, intelligence, honesty, loyalty and a defined sense of fun. I don’t ‘do’ one dimension (nearly wrote ‘direction’ by mistake which would have given it a whole new meaning!) – along with a long list of my other ‘don’t dos’, a frequent source of embarrassment to my children. Get to the point, woman! Well, it being that through my multi-dimensional friends – or thanks to – I do find little pots of gold, every so often, as I did last Sunday …
I met my great friend, Emily, several years ago now and I should really attribute that to Becca. Emily was working in a tailor’s shop we frequented in town and Becca desperately needed something either altered or collected, no matter. Suffice to say, we were late and Emily was just locking up in a bid to dash and catch her train. Thankfully, I persuaded her to open up for us with the promise that I would drive her to the station. True to my word, that is exactly what I did and the rest is history! Now with her own premises and thriving business, Emily – a mere three years older than Becca – is like a surrogate daughter to me and has been a constant source of strength through some challenging times. Wise beyond her years, she has a gentle, caring nature and her shop is a place of sanctuary for many. Meeting characters from all walks of life, she happened to mention the name of one of her particular favourites and I recognised it, at once, as one from my childhood and days of pony club and gymkhanas – no lashings of ginger beer, though! Roddie grew up in one of the beautiful country houses outside Cupar and, although not close friends, our paths would cross regularly over the years and I remember his mother and sister well. Delighted to learn of my continued existence from Emily, he put pen to paper and I received one of my favourite things through the post – a handwritten letter inviting me round for afternoon tea no less. Reminiscent of a past when gentlemen and manners still existed, he even dated the letter in Roman numerals … nothing grey about Roddie!
Emily was to join us at 4pm and I looked forward to time spent reminiscing and catching up on old friends. Roddie knows exactly what everyone is doing now and it would seem, rather dauntingly, that most have done ‘awfully well’ in the marriage stakes with offspring thriving in their wake. Nothing like breaking the mould then, I told him, but I laughed as he replied, comfortingly, that I looked/dressed as though I had money! Delivered as though perfectly serious, I don’t think the smile ever left my face and his appearance, on our arrival, set the tone for the most entertaining few hours as he welcomed us in his kilt complete with plaid over the shoulder. Perfect! Little time to sink in, however, as we were escorted into the inner sanctions of his home passing what appeared to be the dining room complete with three men left over from his lunch party! Like something out of a Dickens novel, they were happily supping wine as Roddie explained our presence and invited them to join us for afternoon tea at their convenience. Meanwhile, Emily and I were given an impromptu history of his family as he explained the numerous ancestral portraits decorating the walls amongst the antlers and wonderful framed black and white photographs characteristic of a bygone era – and royalty!
Escorted into his bedroom en route to the sitting room, one was learning more about this wonderful character: his love of history and art, his books, his propensity for letter writing and his over-riding joie de vivre. A gentle soul with a love of people and a need to share both his story and his home. I liken Roddie to an oasis in the desert; multi-hued in an otherwise grey world, his enthusiasm for everything and everybody feeds the soul. An absolute joy.
There were two more guests to be found in the sitting room and I quickly learned that we were all from different walks of life, at different stages but each with a common bond in our gregarious host. The room filled, abound with old friends, new friends and dogs as we enjoyed old-fashioned tea and cake whilst engaging in conversation and social skills of a bygone era. I was touched, too, to meet Roddie’s dear friend, Callum, who – a member of the R&A – spoke so fondly of Pop …
A delightful afternoon filled with everything good – not least humour. I am still smiling as I picture Roddie, out of the blue, appearing in his coat as, along with another guest, he announced that he was off to a party in Jeffrey Street but to make ourselves at home and stay as long as we liked! We did and, somehow, the hilarity at the departure of our host to another engagement seemed entirely fitting. He told me to ring and make sure to leave a message … I popped a ‘Thank You’ letter through his door the next day content in the knowledge that it would be appreciated – and expected. How reassuring.
On the subject of gentlemen, sadly few and far between in a world which has lost its way, I have beside me a note about a programme I saw several weeks ago on BBC 2 – Talking Pictures: David Niven. A great favourite with my parents, he embodied the quintessential English gentleman and I enjoyed looking back over his life and his many films. There was footage of his last interview for the BBC in 1981, courtesy of Parkinson, two years before he died of Motor Neurone Disease aged 73. What made me reach for pen and paper, however, was the poignancy in the fact that the largest wreath at his funeral was courtesy of the porters at Heathrow Airport. The accompanying card read: ‘To the finest gentleman that ever walked through these halls. He made a porter feel like a King.’ The world is a poorer place without his like.
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
This is Trish, signing off.