Who would have thought that I would have written over 350 blogs about retirement before I shared with you possibly my greatest fear, no not senility, although you may disagree if you have read all 350 plus. No, my greatest fear is, and always has been, poisonous snakes, well any snakes really but particularly the ones that can harm you. And who would have thought that it would take a trip to Scotland to remind me of this fear (among others). But sure enough and I include the above photo as evidence there, on our local beach and the best one for walking the pups, was the above sign. Let’s hope the little sweethearts are all safely tucked up in their dens or wherever they spend the winter. Somehow I have the idea that, as Scottish adders, they might be particularly vicious to English people even those with Irish heritage. They’re even mentioned by one of the previous visitors to this delightful cottage in the visitor’s book – saw an adder on the beach. That was in June but you never can be sure with Scottish adders. October to them might be high summer to a normal, i.e. English, adder. Anyway quite a surprise but by no means the only one and it’s only Monday.
I know this sounds silly but the other thing that surprises me given we’re only just over the border is that they’re well, very Scottish, that is they sound very Scottish to the point of us having to pause to work out what they’ve said. E.g. ye cin’t gi wrang – you can’t go wrong. I mean fair enough we are in Scotland but only just, how does the accent miraculously change within the distance of a few miles? Just a surprise, that’s all, absolutely no criticism intended. And ni tiken. Driving habits also seem a wee bit different, i.e. a little more aggressive, do we have Sassenach written on the Land Rover. We turn off the civilised M6 onto the two lane A75 and bingo, the whole world goes mad, it’s not really two lane, it’s three on account of the drivers interesting, not to mention dangerous, over-taking techniques. Of course there’s no reason to suppose these drivers are Scottish, they could easily be English. Maybe it’s just the road that has some magical effect. Either way I was glad to arrive still alive.
Then there are the old ladies of the title, I know you will have been wondering. So far bearing in mind it’s Monday, there have been nice ones, sharp ones and not so nice ones. The same the world over I suppose but all three in the space of 24 hours, I’m not so sure. Let’s take the nice one first. She was changing the flowers in the church I’ve taken a photo of. A Presbyterian church, very austere, would that be the word? Little decoration, well, none really other than the flowers and three excellent stained glass windows. I’m sure there’s a message here for the congregation and a very different one from Catholic churches with their, verging on the ostentatious, approach to worship. Anyway the nice lady answered all our questions and laughed in a kindly fashion when I told her about my study of the stained glass. Mrs Summerhouse, a while ago, was a member of a stained glass study group and we have visited a few local churches learning about stained glass, including being able to find out who the maker was from his name buried somewhere in the decoration. I told the old lady that I thought I had spotted the name – Frank, but couldn’t quite make out the surname which was underneath, eventually I worked it out – incense. Strange last name I thought and then worked out what I had read – Frankincense – silly me. The nice lady laughed at my folly but in a kindly way.
The sharp one worked in the bakery. I’m not often sent out to buy bread so the lady and I had a long conversation about the different types of bread that were on offer, some of them, I have to say in my defence, different to what you’d get south of the border. After quite a bit of humming and hawing I chose one that looked right. Sorry about that I said but I’m not often sent out to buy bread. In a small, Scottish voice she said, “I wonder why.” I had no comeback to this so left the shop quietly and a little chastened.
Then there was the not very nice lady. At this point I am about holding my own with the old ladies but not for much longer. Mrs Summerhouse had taken the pups down a very steep hill on to one of the local beaches. I said I would come and fetch them in 45 minutes or so to save them having to climb back up the very steep hill, it was very steep. Only problem to my kindly plan was that this meant driving down a private road and parking where it said no parking, not that I intended to get out the vehicle, just signal to them on the beach to come and be picked up. I will be polite and ask if it’s alright if I wait here for a few minutes. Enter third little old lady in her drive, where I had not parked. Is it alright if I stop here for a few minutes while I wait for my wife and our dogs? I asked with all due humility. Noo, it is not, she replied. Oh, that wasn’t what I expected. I’ll only be here a few minutes to save my wife from having to walk back up the, did I mention it was steep, hill. She replied, without pause, if you canna walk back up a hill then you shouldna’ walk down it. OK, old lady, you win this one, it’s your turf (literally) but you bloody well better not come to Leeds looking for kindness and understanding or even a parking spot. I walked away, signalled to Mrs SH to get back to the Land Rover and we drove away. Hmm, that I chose to drive away without another word might have been the civilised thing to do (given the sentences that were forming in my head), but it really hurt my pride. And this was Saturday. Quite a challenging holiday thus far.
So that’s my first ever retirement report from, in parts, Bonny Scotland. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week pans out, if it goes well we would plan to come back here maybe once a year combined with our retirement trip to Ireland early in the year, that’s assuming the euro doesn’t continue to kick the crap out of the £. That’s the thing about retirement though, so much more time to have fun in the most unexpected ways. So far this retirement holiday has had it’s surprising moments.