Thursday, 19 April 2012

April 19th.

Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh, taken from near the Union Canal, near Ratho.

Today was a special day for me and my brothers, as on the 19th. April, three years ago, our Mother died. We met up at Warriston Crematorium, where we perused the entry in the Book of Remembrance and each of us, no doubt, had our own thoughts on the meaning of the words that lay there on the vellum page. I will not repeat the words, as I think that they are our own and for us only but I am sure that they reflected our Mother's character and the legacy that she passed on to us.

We of course, do not need any book or other device to bring the memories of the person who brought us into the world, gave us our start and guided us as we made our faltering way through the ups and downs of life. My brothers, no doubt, have had their own thoughts and memories and I know that in the last few days, I have spent much time, thinking of her and our Father and being grateful for the hard work and the many sacrifices that they made, uncomplainingly, in bringing up their sometime not always appreciative sons. As three years have passed, I find that the painful memories of her last few weeks of illness and her passing are now falling into their proper place in the story of her life. Now, as each year winds it's way through time, we can rejoice in the the many happy and joyful times that we were blessed to have shared with our Mother and that legacy that we are honoured to continue and celebrate.

Our Mother had always maintained that, "apart from the deaths", she had had a good life. She always had a positive and happy attitude to life and showed a courage and strong resolution to that life and the problems and difficulties that fate threw at her. She was a widow for much longer than as a wife and with the death of our six week old brother from a cot death, our Father, still a relatively young man, passing away after many years of illness with kidney failure and the death of our other brother in a drowning accident, the winging and demanding parents of today would have much to learn from her strength and fortitude.

Each time our Mother made her own pilgrimage to Warriston, she always had a list of all of the good, happy and positive things that had happened in her life in the year since her last visit. I hope and indeed, I am sure, that seeing her three sons chatting happily over coffee and tea and cake, she would be proud, happy and content.

You may be wondering why a rather mundane photograph of an unassuming hill should feature above in this blog. It is one of the many hills of Edinburgh (there are supposedly seven, as in Rome) and Corstorphine Hill was our indicator that we where nearly home when returning from our travels. Our Mother enjoyed much pleasure from the woods on the top of the hill, walking our dog, meeting neighbours walking their dogs. Even when her fitness would not allow her these pleasures, she enjoyed watching, from her house opposite the woods, the regular dog-walkers and of course their dogs. She had always been very fond of dogs and would relive the time when she would meet with and share conversations with friends and neighbours as together, they all walked their dogs.

The hill is visible from much of Edinburgh and is therefore a constant reminder, as if one was needed, of our Mother and will always, for us, be known not as Corstorphine Hill but as 'Grannies Hill'.

Until the next time.....


Monday, 9 April 2012

A Fisherman's Tale

Yesterday, being Sunday and having dropped my wife of at her church, on a whim, I decided to go for a little morning drive. Having collected my Sunday Paper, I turned the car left and headed for the wilds of my home county of West Lothian. Had I turned the car right, I would have headed home. However, I was now heading west and I knew where I was going.

I am one of the many Bangour Bairns. I was born in the Bangour General Hospital (not the Bangour Village Mental Hospital next door) but I have never seen it since those first moments of life and I was not paying much attention then. The hospital is gone and has been for some time. It was replaced by the new St. Johns Hospital in nearby Livingston. It had only been a temporary structure (that lasted for decades), built to deal with the injuries of wartime, with the new hospital, the long wooden huts of Bangour were soon removed, returning the fields to their agricultural uses. Now, only green fields mark the area where I first entered this wonderful, exciting and constantly interesting world. Lest you think that I was born in a field, there are books and old maps that record the time and existence of the hospital. However, looking over the field, I felt that, had I been born on that grass, I was in good company, as the many sheep that grazed there had brought young spring lambs into the world. The lambs had a rather curious expressions, as they looked at me, unaware that they were part of my thoughts. We were both fortunate to share the same place of birth.

When I had first arrived, a local dog showed it's displeasure at me disturbing it's Sunday devotions by barking loudly and fearlessly. I approached it in an attempt to make friends with it, my bravery being augmented by the high and strong fence that stood between us. The dog was having none of this and it was only when his much more friendly owner appeared, I was pointed to the field that I had made my small pilgrimage to find. As I left, she probably thought that our canine friend was worth every penny of his Winalot, when there were such weird people about.

I left that field to the sheep and their new offspring and headed home by the scenic route. It was a lovely morning and while the sun was somewhere behind the clouds, it's light filtered through those clouds with a silver gleam that spread on the landscape with a bright but soft luminous glow. The grass had a brilliance of colour because of the previous day's rain. That rain had also washed the haze from the air and you could see for miles. The distant hills and mountains in every direction had a lovely blue/grey or purple colour to them. Even a distant wind farm looked beautiful, with its majestic turbines lazily turning in the gentle wind. It reminded me that you do not have to travel to the highlands of Scotland, magnificent as they are, to see such fantastic scenery. The lowlands, just a few miles from Edinburgh and our other great cities, can present a landscape that can rid your soul of all the insanity that our modern lives soak up.

You have probably guessed where this is going. The Fisherman's Tale is usually about the one that got away. In my case, it was dozens or possibly more. With this beautiful landscape all around me, its colours and that fantastic lighting, only my memory had captured that lovely Sunday morning. Yes, I was without a camera. The whim that had made me turn left, rather than right, made sure that my Canon camera was able to continue it's slumbers, untroubled by having to work out focus or shutter speeds. The embarrassment that I feel at missing such an opportunity will at least make sure that a camera will always be with me, although such a magical scene may never present it self again

I had planned not to show any photographs, reinforcing my shame at not having a camera on me but the excuse for showing the above pictures is as part of my explanation of the two hospitals in this area. I have described the General hospital and while nothing remains of its building, the other still remains, if only in the form of its ghosts. The Bangour Village Hospital was so named because of the type of layout of the hospital. It consisted of a number of large stone villas, each placed within a spacious landscape. A church was added later and there was also a nurses home and a recreation hall. It further consisted of other buildings, such as a laundry, a shop and a boiler room and at one time even had its own railway branch. It was in itself a completely self contained 'village', set in open countryside where I hope some of its patients found relief and maybe the return of their sanity. To my knowledge, there has never been a normal village called Bangour.   
Until the next time.....