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Archive for the tag “Scotland”

My father’s voice

A eulogy for Ralph Gray


My dearest dad


We are still trying to process your absence. I have told the awful news a few times over now; I have kissed your peaceful sleeping face and watched my dear mother, your beloved wife of so many years, cry over your still form in anguish because you left her; and still I can’t quite believe it.

Right now, I can’t really think of a life without you in it.

And yet, I think you were fading from us for a long time; slipping mentally and spiritually into shadow realms where we could not always follow. Peaceful realms, I like to think. You always looked peaceful when you opened your eyes again this past short while – as though you’d been in pleasant, restful places.


The last three years have been so hard – on all of us and most especially on you. You fought to stay with us for so long, doing your best to fight off a terrible enemy that ravaged your own body from within, just for a little more time with us all.

Now I am going to start remembering you as you used to be, before the disease took hold. I am going to start erasing, or at least subduing, the memories of my dad who could no longer move or talk, and had to communicate with hand gestures and facial expressions.

I am going to wave the magic wand of memory back to a time when your body was still as active as your mind; when you jogged down the driveway to open the gate to visitors; when you worked in the garden to bring us organic vegetables, or climbed a ladder to clean the leaves from the gutters, all the time wearing that funny hat to – ostensibly – protect your face from the sun.

Dad bday 2011

In my mind’s eye you are again that stocky man with broad shoulders who kept busy around the garden until finally you allowed yourself to relax when the work was all done. The Scotsman who enjoyed a temperate measure of Bells in the evening or maybe a can of Guinness; the man who read poetry at quiet moments; the family man who loved to tell stories and jokes and chortled with laughter all the way through the telling.

I loved it when you told jokes. They were always long and complicated, and you so frequently messed up the punchline – that was the best part!

V and dad Christmas 2011

My earliest memories of you, when I was very small, encompass bedtime stories and you trying to save a baby bird that fell out of the nest. Later on there was a time when you untangled a heron from some fishing line at a local dam. Whenever I see a heron flying majestically overhead I always think of you. I also think of how I loved to hear you say ‘heron’ – with a double ‘rr’ in there and a bit of a Scottish ‘burr’ (brei) on the ‘r’ sound.


great blue heron in flight

I wish I could hear you say it again. Together with words like ‘loch’ and ‘poetry’, which you rolled around your tongue and pronounced as ‘locch’ and ‘poi-ye-tree’. It was very poi-ye-tik, I always thought.

Your eternal Scottishness sometimes entered conversations at unexpected moments and in unforeseen ways. In my teens, you amazed me once by requesting that I play a song from ‘Dew-rrrrran Dew-rrrran’ on my brand new boom-box. I couldn’t get away with the fact that you even knew who Duran Duran were – let alone that you actually liked any of their songs!

Duran Duran

Another time, when I’d recently discovered a Scottish rock band called Runrig and you’d apparently been listening to my music again, you gleefully referred to the lead singer as ‘that Teuchter (choochter) from the highlands, but he haaaaas a guid voice’.

Donny Munro

Apparently the word ‘teuchter’, said by a lowland Scot about a highland Scot, has implications of being a bit of an unsophisticated roughneck. I remember you chortling when you called him a teuchter. Sometimes mornings before we went to school and work were quite entertaining.

And who of us around the table that family dinner could ever forgot the immortal time you demanded of your own wife and teenage daughters, with huge exasperation, “Cahn yoo lott no onder-stond me?” The answer was gales of laughter and a pithy ‘no dad – at that precise moment we couldn’t’. I think you were asking someone to pass the salt, or something fairly mundane like that.

And then there is the “No-aht the caap! No-aht the caap!” memory (‘not the cap’). It turned out that you’d been holding out on your teenage daughters when they went through a brief stage of requesting some of your Bells to put in their coffee, together with some cream, for an occasional little treat in the evenings. When we were writing exams, you understand, and were stressed.

Lorna and I were deliberately mis-informed, for quite some time, that the standard unit of measurement for making the Scotch version of an Irish coffee was the cap of the whiskey bottle. Which is not actually a lot of whiskey. This went on until the night that we offered to make you, too, one of our special coffees. When you realised that you were about to be short-changed on the amount of Bells in your coffee cup, it seemed that a mild panic set in and the truth came out. Thereafter the true unit of measurement for Scotch was revealed to us for all time.
glass of Bells

Of course, your accent got put to good use when it came time to read the immortal words of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. Around the world, people sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ every new year, but in real life, only you, my dad, could spout Scotland’s most famous son, Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns) without a book in front of him. Chapter and verse – you used to pull it out of the air.

So here is one for my mom. I’m not going to try the accent.


A red, red rose

By Robert Burns

red rose inkwell

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.


So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.


Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.


And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

Though it were ten thousand mile.


I’m going to end with another poem, this one from John Keats. I think it was one of my dad’s favourites. I won’t read the whole three verses, just the first one, because this verse especially reminds me of how much my dad enjoyed working in his vegetable garden. Mostly. The digging, of course, wasn’t so much fun.


Ode to Autumn (verse one)

John Keats


Close-bosom friend of the maturing son

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more

And still more, later flowers for the bees

Until they think warm days will never cease

For Summer has o-er-brimmed their clammy cells.



Goodbye, Ralph Gray.

Or shall I say ‘Au revoir’ and ‘Arrivederci’?


You were a truly special man. We were so lucky to have you in our lives.

With much love…. Always.

Linda and Ralph young







Yesterday, today and tomorrow: songs of an unfolding heart

Sometimes the songs and the music of your life’s personal soundtrack arrive when you are still too young and inexperienced to appreciate their significance, or even the true meaning of some of the words. And yet, because it’s part of the soundtrack of your life, the words haunt you and stay with you from youth to less youthful.

And then one day you wake up and find you can put them in some kind of sequence.

Relate them to those you love.

Realise why the song always spoke to you, when love and sorrow and even some kinds of special joy had not yet properly crossed the threshold of your life.


“Ahhhhhhh,” you think, “I get it now. Ah yes…”

Here are a few of the songs from my personal soundtrack: far from all – just a hand-picked few for now because otherwise this post would have been even longer.

All together now: violins, guitars, piano, voices. Especially voices.


(Click on the song titles for the video/audio links.)

John Denver

Sweet surrender

I like to imagine these words playing in the background when my future husband, then aged just 17 to my 12, was trudging along a road in the semi-desert close to the Namibian border, forlorn and alone. I like to think that the promise of me in his future was there all the while in the heat mist swirling up from the tarmac; while his soul yearned for freedom from the emotional pain and something in him still clung to a belief in better days to come.  

John Denver

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Travelled by many remembered by few
Looking for something that I can believe in
Looking for something that I’d like to do with my life

There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me
To something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more
Than enough to just be here today

And I don’t know what the future is holding in store
I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Guns ’n Roses

Sweet child o’ mine

Late teens; early twenties. Sisters. Experiencing moments of telepathy across the ocean. Crying with laughter at elephant-in-the fridge jokes on the kitchen floor – the same laugh coming out of two siblings’ mouths in a funny kind of stereo. Snaking separately through the crowd at The Doors when the song played, summonsing us to meet on the dance floor. An invisible spotlight shines on us as I look back – together, we were invincible!

To Pook, from Seet-sah. It will be okay even when it’s not. Love in abundance!


She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

Nick Cave

Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

This one is for all those times when I had to keep believing that the right person was still out there, knowing that if I did not believe, my fundamental faith in a mostly-positive universe would crack irrevocably and change me into someone I was not meant to be. This one became part of our wedding music.

Nick Cave

I’ve felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you’d find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my destiny? Is this how you’ll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

As you’ve been moving, surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I’ve sat and I’ve watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Out of sorrow entire worlds have been built
Out of longing great wonders have been willed
They’re only little tears, darling, let them spill
And lay your head upon my shoulder
Outside my window the world has gone to war
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

O we will know… won’t we?
The stars will explode in the sky
But they don’t… do they?
Stars have their moment and then they die

There’s a man who spoke wonders though I’ve never met him
He said, “He who seeks, finds, and who knocks will be let in”
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Cowboy Junkies

If you were the woman and I was the man

This one celebrates the romantic in me and the beginnings, finally of an ‘us’ . Unexpectedly, I said “I love you” first. I was that brave because it was right. (I like this live version of the song featuring John Prine’s gravelly guest vocals.)

Cowboy Junkies


If you were the woman and I was the man

Would I send you yellow roses

Would I dare to kiss your hand?
In the morning would I caress you
Like the wind caresses the sand,
If you were the woman and I was the man?


If I was the woman and you were the man

Would you send me yellow roses
Would you dare to kiss my hand?
In the morning would you caress me
As the wind caresses the sand,
If I was  the woman and you were the man?


If I was the heart and you were the head

Would you think me very foolish
If one day I decided to shed
These walls that surround me
Just to see where these feelings led,
If I was the heart and you were the head?


If I was the woman and you were the man

Would I laugh if you came to me
With your heart in your hand
And said, ‘I offer you this freely
I will give you all that I can
Because you are the woman
And I am the man?


Colbie Caillat


Such a funny little love song this – so sweet and innocent, and probably this is why it’s my love song for my children: for their bubbly faces, their sweetness, their innocence and the way that they make me smile. They can be tiring years, when your children are young; physically and mentally exhausting sometimes, but I’m trying to hold on to this stage for as long as I can.

Vivienne boys DStroom

Will you count me in?

I’ve been awake for a while now
you’ve got me feelin like a child now
cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tinglies in a silly place

It starts in my toes
and I crinkle my nose
wherever it goes I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
wherever you go

The rain is fallin on my window pane
but we are hidin in a safer place
under covers stayin dry and warm
you give me feelins that I adore

It starts in my toes
make me crinkle my nose
wherever it goes
I always know
that you make me smile
please stay for a while now
just take your time
where ever you go

What am I gonna say
when you make me feel this way
I just……..mmmmmm


Il Volo (my love)

This is the song that pulls at your heartstrings long before you have ever been tempted to walk out the door during the bad times. This is the song for anyone who will ever think – with your heart breaking at the time – that you just might not come back. This is the song that gets you with its pain and its joy and its breathtaking emotion, perhaps before you have even come close to understanding the emotion’s true depth.

Pavarotti and friends

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine ways to sorrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Wild cat in a sad dog story
Nine roads to follow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love that’s torn us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Lost cat in a dead end story
Nine lines that echo
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

I’m waiting

Stray cat in a mad dog city
Nine lives to borrow
A moment’s all it takes to say goodbye

For all the love before us, for us
For all the pain so sweet
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave

My love, I’m dreaming of one girl
Someone to make my world
Someone just like you
My love, the girl that I’m dreamin’
To give me that feeling
Someone just like you

Siamo caduti in volo, mio sole (We fell while flying, my sun)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)
Siamo caduti in volo, mio cielo (We fell while flying, my sky)
Siamo caduti in volo (We fell while flying)

Gonna paint this town, for you
Turn it upside down
Say you won’t, say you won’t leave


This beautiful pain


I write this with tears in my eyes as my father’s frailty; his subjugation to his illness seems to grow so much faster than we had ever imagined. Fittingly it is a Scotsman’s voice in this love song; this ballad and this lament that I copy down for my Scottish father, who seems threatening now to fade like the light in the song words below.

My father, Ralph, has loved my mother, Linda, all the days I have known them – and she in turn has loved him. How lucky I am to have seen this shared love for so many decades.

I have appreciated the beautiful lyrics of this song since I first returned to my Scottish homeland as a young adult and felt the hills calling me with an insistent voice I recognised  and responded to immediately. I particularly like the section that says, “You put all of my youth in my future. You put the future back into my past”, and I had always thought this to be a love song for me and mine. And perhaps it is also that, but right here, in this time right now, it is my father’s love song for my mother.

I have only just understood this.

Linda and Ralph in St Peter's Square

Day was young and desire was stirred.

Summer was all but gone.

Light was fading from the side of your face.

Sinking low in the corn.

All that’s constant and wise

I still see in your eyes

It was always this way from the start.

Right here where I stand on the last of the land.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Now all I have is rushing right through my hands.

Sailing over the seas.

Down that tide where fresh and salt combine.

All victories are released.

We who wrestle the years

Have traded our fears

For a glimpse of ecstasy in the dark.

Turning ice in the fire but still we’re denied.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

The skies turned red without failure.

They held their promise and dread till the last.

You put all of my youth in my future.

You put the future back into my past.

So shine a light and shine it brightly now.

You know it all takes its course.

And all the many ways I’ve tried so hard

To reach this potent source.

On the day behind time across the divide.

Along the cord came all light out of dark.

Now I stand amazed in this beautiful pain.

But you’re still breaking the heart.

Midge Ure


 This is the song of my youth and the song of myself.

This is a song that speaks to my idealistic core.

It reminds me of the unfolding young adult I once was, who struggled to combine poetry and beauty with the bittersweet realisation that life is not always malleable when you want to shape and bend it to your will.  

I did not yet know for whom I was going to breathe – and who in turn was going to breathe for me – but this was my song when it was my turn to sense the spirit of the future still destined to cross my path as part of the unfolding Plan.

This is my little bit of inspiration when times are tough, and even more so when they are good.

Always remember to breathe.


With every waking breath I breathe
I see what life has dealt to me
With every sadness I deny
I feel a chance inside me die

Give me a taste of something new
To touch to hold to pull me through
Send me a guiding light that shines
Across this darkened life of mine

Breathe some soul in me
Breathe your gift of love to me
Breathe life to lay ‘fore me
Breathe to make me breathe

…This life prepares the strangest things
The dreams we dream of; what life brings
The highest highs can turn around
To sow love’s seeds on stony ground


Thank you to all the artists who have produced my life’s sound track to date. Thank you now most particularly to:

John Denver

Guns ‘n Roses

Nick Cave

The Cowboy Junkies

Colbie Caillat



Midge Ure.


My life has been infinitely more musical because of all of you.

And thank you to Frank – who notably has also played and sung live for an audience – for making so much of my sound track come to life.

Frank guitar 1

For auld lang syne, my jo….

Happy new year to all my friends and loved ones! Although I’ve got one and a half blog entries currently in progress, I thought that before I post them, I’d say happy new year to everyone in these dying moments of 2012. So all the best for 2013: hope it’s a brilliant year for you and yours – and me and mine also.

And so – with great thanks to Wikipedia and this site – here are the words to that mysterious song that gets sung at new year parties around the world: Auld Lang Syne. How many people out there do actually know the words, or what they mean?

It emanates from Scotland originally (1788), thanks to the Scottish poet Robert Burns…

Robert Burns

…so I give you the words to Auld Lang Syne, in this order:


1. How they pronounce it in Scotland (try saying it yourself, hehehe)

2. The original Robert Burns poem (not much more understandable than the first option, if you don’t come ‘frae Bonnie Scotland’)

3. What it actually means in modern(ish) English.


Happy new year, one and all!



Scots pronunciation guide
(as Scots speakers would sound)

 This one for my mum and dad, Linda and Ralph Gray, who grew up not far from where ‘Rabbie Burns’ was born, three kilometres south of Ayr on the west of Scotland. 


Linda and Ralph young

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,

an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn?


Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.


We twa hay rin aboot the braes,
an pood the gowans fyn;
Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,
sin ald lang syn.


We twa hay pedilt in the burn,
fray mornin sun til dyn;
But seas between us bred hay roard
sin ald lang syn.


An thers a han, my trustee feer!
an gees a han o thyn!
And we’ll tak a richt gude-willie-waucht,
fir ald lang syn.



Auld Lang Syne (traditional)


Auld Lang Syne music


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.



Auld Lang Syne (translation into modern English) 


stroke of midnight


Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear, (for old times’ sake)
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine; (dinner)
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.




Musical matters

We’ve got an eclectic collection of CDs going on in the Panda right now. By we, I really mean the music that I choose, which is sometimes endorsed by the boys and sometimes not. However, when you are aged only six and four respectively, mom’s rules apply in mom’s taxi, so basically it’s my way on the highway or no music in the car at all.

Literally. I can be a bit of a dictator when it comes to road trips. Music is my stress relief, and few things stress me more than having to listen to music I don’t like.

As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog, I’ve been revisiting Barbra Streisand lately and singing along loudly while pretending that her voice is actually mine. After a few days, my throat got a bit sore, so I decided to give Barbra a rest. Going for classic mode, I took out a Pavarotti CD and allowed my good buddy Luciano to take over the vocals for a while on the morning drives. I can’t speak (or sing in) Italian so it was an easy way to give my vocal cords a rest.

Then it was time to leave the maestro’s music and add some rock into the mix, so I gleefully hit my Runrig CDs – a Scottish rock band who were in their heyday a little while ago (I suppose you could basically say that about Barbra and Pavarotti also, right? Although I’m not yet ready to say that about me). I used to listen to Runrig during my ‘me-time’ away from South Africa when I was younger. Being a traditional bunch of Scotsmen, the Runrig men also sing occasionally in Gaelic, and there’s a track in the old language that I really love. Soul connection stuff, I think, because I was born in Scotland and I discovered Runrig as a young adult, when I was spending time trying to re-connect with my ancestral homeland and working out who I wanted to be.

Anyway, after Barbra, Pavarotti and Runrig had all been given a really good innings over a couple of weeks, I decided to stay with the rock-type of genre and so I headed over to the music of the US, for some newer stuff in the form of the Kings of Leon. They visited South Africa in late 2011 but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing them live.

‘Didn’t have the pleasure.’

Okay, let me be honest now, whether y’all like it or not.

In my very first hearing of my new album, the voice of the Kings of Leon vocalist (Caleb Followill) reminded me strongly of a yowling stray cat deciding to have a midnight jam festival a little out of time with the rest of the band of cool cats.

I’ve got images from Disney’s The Aristocats in my head here.

And Caleb is kind of yowling a bit fuzzy and off-key. Whereas the rest of the band are seriously tight. So it felt like a mismatch.

Anyway, I bought the CD in December last year because I was feeling like a bit of a dinosaur on the music front and thought I’d better start getting with the programme again.

No really, I was feeling like a fossil (most dinosaurs these days are fossils by default, with a few arguable exceptions like the awe-inspiring coelacanth and maybe – imagine! the great Megaladon shark).

I actually used to be quite hip with my knowledge of music. I mean, because of my then-job, I used to get into the VIP boxes at big concerts with international and eternal rock stars like The Rolling Stones and Sting, back in the day. And then I found, mournfully, that I’d apparently become a fossil.

But why? How?

Easy to explain. But oh, how it crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.

These days you see, when I’m not listening to my own music, either while driving or at home, my default choice is a serious talk radio show and with it, I try to catch the news as often as I can so I am current and mostly-aware of the world’s goings on. (It’s really a necessity for my job.)

So basically it’s my music, or current affairs. But not the current and  fun music stations, not even the one I used to work for when I was younger (I mention this just to prove that I did used to have street cred on the music front).

So I was still getting used to Caleb Followill’s voice one morning, on the album Youth and Young Manhood and thinking that I wasn’t enjoying my morning drive as much as usual. But I wasn’t quite ready to embrace fossildom yet so I gritted my teeth and skipped the tracks manually after a tortured minute or so per track.

And then I discovered the last one: “Holy Roller Novocaine”, which I now know is about a preacher man who’s, shall we say, a bit naughty with the attractive female members of his flock. He’s a bad man, basically. But oh my soul does the song have a catchy tune, and somehow Caleb’s voice is less yowly on this one and a bit clearer. And quite frankly the whole thing just rocks – vocals, instruments, the whole package deal.

So I skipped into work that day on a really good music high and only later on, after a bit of googling, discovered what it was all about.  Heehee. It didn’t take away the happy vibes, but it was still the only track on the album that I liked.

And then my children discovered The Kings of Leon.

They asked for them incessantly.

They turned them on without my permission.

They bopped their heads in time to the music – little baby headbangers in the back seat.

All of a sudden Liam was no longer enamoured with ‘Panarotti’s’ number five and ten tracks, and they were both demanding the Kings of Leon, with Matthew’s beaming immortal words: “Hey mummy – thith ith wock and woll!”

So the Kings of Leon are now kind of growing on me over time, but every now and then I insist that we go back to Runrig for a break and the voice of Donny Munroe instead of Caleb.

Now, Donny has a voice.

An amazing voice.

A true and soaring voice that lifts me into inspirational and emotional heights and reminds me of my Scottish ancestral homeland, where the hills roll onward in shades of green and purple and the lochs and misty mountains are the most beautiful patches of nature you could lay eyes on.

But at least, thanks to my children’s current fondness for the Kings of Leon, I am back on the modern wock and woll twail.


However reluctantly, sometimes!

They do say that children keep you young. I guess I’ll find out as time goes by. And in the meantime, Scottish rock still rules. At least in my car.

Epilogue – speaking of voices…

I once had the opportunity to sneak into a practice session when Luciano Pavarotti was in South Africa, quite a few years ago. My friend Ray and I were total youngsters and one night, knowing that Pavarotti was practising with the national symphony orchestra, we snuck along the dungeon-like bottom corridors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the SABC) in the long-shot hope of finding him. Coming to the end of an obscure passage, we cautiously creaked open a door and to our great joy, found that we’d hit the jackpot – the great man himself was sitting not fifteen feet before us in full voice!

While we were still sucking in our breath in amazed and awe-struck delight, an officious little man came along and grumpily waved us away. Crestfallen, we started to close the door when the great man actually stopped singing and told the officious little man (with a rather marvellous wave of his maestro’s hand) to allow us to stay. With his trademark bearded beam, Luciano Pavarotti himself beckoned us into the room! Ray and I landed up sitting cross-legged on the floor almost directly in front of him for about fifteen minutes while he sang his glorious song, and then we went back to work.

I have never forgotten it.

Rest in peace, oh great man, and thank you again for your kindness that day. I hope the section of the universe where you are spending eternity still rings to the irreplaceable sounds of your truly beautiful voice.

When in doubt, wipe up the wee with your trousers

So there I was, a temporarily single mom of two small boys. Hubby was overseas on a trip of a life time that I – foolish me – had encouraged him into.

“Go!” said I. “You’ve wanted to visit Scotland since you first bought that Celtic Airs CD and discovered – that night I’d had a bit too much wine – that I can do quite a good impromptu Highland Fling. Go, my love! I have a little windfall coming my way and I’m giving you the ticket there – you just have to find your way back and sort out the spending money. Go, my darling spouse, with all my love. Mmmmmwaah!”

He’d left five days ago and I’d since come to regret my generosity – a few times over. This was to become one of those occasions.

I was in the kitchen multi-tasking, as one is required to on weekday mornings before one goes to work. Only a mother on a time warp is capable of feeding herself, baby, pre-schooler, one dog, four cats and a parrot while simultaneously microwaving baby’s bottles, washing and drying a few dishes and putting loads of washing variously into the washing machine and tumble dryer. It’s a busy place, our house in the morning – about to become busier.

I suddenly noticed Matthew wearing that look of intense concentration on his face – the unmistakable look that means only one thing when you are 13 months old and taking to solids like a Peking duck takes to a Highveld rainstorm.

Time to take the nappy off and clean a dirty bum.

So I did. I was about to put the clean nappy on his little bum when a shriek from the kitchen area alerted me to the fact that someone – the parrot, I guessed – was trying once again to eat Liam’s breakfast instead of its own.

Code Blue.

I lifted baby off the bed so he wouldn’t fall off (Code Black) and dashed off to the kitchen on the rescue mission (no mean feat, because I was wearing beloved spouse’s pyjama trousers – absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that – and as he’s about a foot taller than me, it was more of a speedy shuffle than my normal Supermommy Sprint).

False alarm. Not the parrot, just the dog. (Much easier to discipline.)

Smacked the dog on her nose, chased her outside, started making Liam some more toast…

Oops! Where’s baby? Forgot baby.

Enter baby, on cue, still naked from the waist down and looking extremely pleased with himself. Which meant only one thing…

Code Yellow.

I dashed back to the bedroom from whence he’d come and slithered – quite gracefully, under the circumstances – through the doorway in the large puddle of wee that I’d somehow known was just waiting there… I was still silently swearing, when came from the kitchen the new sounds of mayhem breaking out, which meant that baby was going for big brother’s toast and big brother was taking umbrage.

Code Red.

Time to regroup. Which urgent thing to do first: 1: mop the floor? 2: throw self out of window? or 3: throw children out of window?

Think, think. Oh, right! Can’t do either 2 or 3, because one of the things that attracted us to our house in the first place was the functional yet very decorative burglar bars on all the windows and doors. Okay, so time to mop the floor then…

(Wails and screams getting louder.)

Think, think. No towels to hand, time is ticking and I’m not dressed yet – aha!

Which is how I came to find myself also naked from the waist down, mopping the floor with my husband’s pyjama trousers. (I was in the middle of loading the washing machine, after all.)

One of these days our tenant in the cottage is going to walk past at an inappropriate moment and see something really inexplicably embarrassing.

Until then, the Supermommy Mantras rule. Today’s mantra: When in doubt, wipe up the wee with your trousers.

(Written 2008)

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