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Blog 61 - Flower Of Scotland

I had to ditch the magic flying carpet this week for my trip to Scotland. Three people aboard would be too much for my over-worked old rug so it was a streamlined LNER train from London, via Edinburgh then north-west to Dunblane for sister, her husband and me. I started as I meant to go on, haggis in one shape or another for four days, starting with our first dinner and followed by full Scottish breakfasts for three days which included haggis and black pudding!

This was not my only ambition on a trip down Memory Lane. The obvious one was to enjoy every moment of this Golden Wedding anniversary of my cousin with the extended family and friends. Last week I was choosing a suitable greeting card with a detachable sequinned heart when I spied alongside it a print of a painting of a Scottish loch. It was by Neil Barton, Scotland’s foremost mountain artist showing Ben Lomond beyond Loch Ard. This is one of Scotland’s lesser known lochs just beyond Aberfoyle where I lived as a child of ten for two years. I bought the print and will give it to my sister as she went to school in the village, spending more time there, whilst I boarded at McLaren Academy in Callander. So, this was another hope that we might somehow fit in a visit to the loch, yet feeling we could not encroach too much on our celebrating hosts’ time. Imagine my delight when we set off on a 'mystery trip' on our second day, armed with map, and it turned out to be the Trossachs Trail. The purple heather was coming out, the sun shining, two sisters excitedly looking out for their old schools and finally the loch with memories of getting the rowing boat from the boathouse and one of the uncles rowing through water lilies on a Sunday afternoon. The day was rounded off with lots of champagne back at our cousin’s home, unwrapping gifts and believe it or not, a game of putting on cousin John’s immaculate nine hole putting green in his equally well tended garden.

There was yet another wish which was fulfilled last Saturday….to visit my oldest school friend who is now in a nursing home. I had feared she might not recognise me through lack of memory. The bond was still strong and I hope the photo of us together will remind her of the days when we were sportswomen representing Central Scotland, and not two old ladies a bit dodgy on the pins now!!! I went into Dunblane Cathedral on my own after this visit to spend a few quiet moments. Not so! An unexpected hour’s organ recital by Chris Brag who studied in Amsterdam and Utrecht and has performed in six European countries and USA. What a bonus! Haggis and Bach in one day!

But what about this week’s scarf and my foremost ambition to find a silk one in a Dunblane charity shop? I failed entirely in this task. Not one silk scarf to be found, far less one with hand rolled edges. We had a lovely cheerful lady, Caroline, serving us breakfast in our comfortable small hotel opposite the Cathedral. She knew about my blog and found me a pretty green scarf, albeit not silk, in the Strathcarron Hospice charity shop in Bridge of Allan. Little did she know that my cousin Christine has been Chairman of this very hospice and her husband competed in a 10K charity run for it. I wore it for my return to London and am posing in it by the postbox painted gold to commemorate local boy, Andy Murray’s Olympic Gold Medal in 2015. So I didn’t find a silk scarf, but I found something even better, a vintage cashmere Hermes, made in Scotland! I show it with a pewter brooch with thistles. Not sure whether the flower of Scotland is the thistle or heather. Lots of purple heather but didn’t see many thistles. I’ll look out for them on my next visit in October to Glen Esk farther north. I’ll be wearing my Hermes cashmere!

The white heather is significant. At the big outdoor party held in the grounds of Mansfield House, the newly built eco-friendly wooden home of the celebrating couple’s son John and wife Sam, all the ladies were given a little spray of white heather and pale peach flowers. The heather was from propagated plants grown over the past fifty years from an original sprig from Christine’s wedding bouquet. And yes, I noticed she had removed the sequinned heart from the greeting card. Not one to wear her heart on her sleeve, she had stuck it on her trousers! Sparkling like the whole afternoon.

Final musical gift of the day…..a bonnie young girl piper playing The Flower of Scotland, the country’s national anthem and other stirring favourites to kick off the barbecue banquet. I will treasure these memories….and my Hermes scarf. I have my sprig of heather in water, will buy ericaceous soil and hope to root a plant to keep that wedding bouquet of fifty years ago still growing. I also hope that all the young people I met will fulfil their dreams so that they too have such memories as I now cherish in later life.

Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Series 2, Blog 61.

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