Before the pandemic I used to go into Edinburgh quite regularly. We have a railway station within walking distance of our house and it was a pleasant hour-and-a-half journey, down to Perth, through Fife and along the coast of the Firth of Forth before crossing the Forth Bridge and on into Edinburgh. When the estuary tide was in, basking seals were often in view, dog-walkers on the flat sands when it was out. If one had fallen asleep, the distinctive rattle-and-thump of the tracks on the nineteenth century railway bridge was usually enough to wake one up before arrival.
This week I took the train in for the first time in some time. It was a cold morning, overcast and with a biting wind, but by the time I was ready to come home again the clouds had gone and late afternoon sun blazed from a clear blue sky. I had forgotten that the train now takes a different route. Instead of crossing the Forth it makes a perfect dog-leg, north-west to Stirling and then north-east to Perth, before heading for my home station of Dunkeld and Birnam, and on northwards to Inverness.
For ten miles or so this route passes through the rolling landscape of Strathearn, a gentle interval between the Ochils to the south and the Grampians to the north. From the train that evening it was an idyll of new lambs, fresh green pasture, the geometric lines of newly ploughed fields, sunlight glinting off standing water, and in one large field, a solitary swan, wings outstretched and eyeing a retreating tractor, its spreader arms trailing a spray of quicksilver. Beyond, the distant hills rose comfortingly into crystal air. It was one of those spring evenings so perfect that one feels the world is holding its breath.
We can only hope for such a blessing when our son Jake gets married on Saturday week. The wedding is in Surrey and I note that the venue, a small country house, is poised between the cricket ground and the polo club. This to us is the deep south – and a joyful occasion awaits us there. Jake and his fiancée, Nicola (Nics), met on their gap years in the Alps, as bar tender and chalet girl. That was thirteen years ago and neither at that point, as far as I know, had plans to meet their life partner. But still …
They survived the trans-Pennine relationship that followed as one went to Newcastle and the other to Manchester University. Today, in their early thirties, they both have jobs in the City, a world about as unfamiliar to me as that of cricket grounds and polo clubs. They work hard and play hard and are devoted to one another in the particularly touching way that two people who have grown up together can be. They have a small house in southwest London and a chocolate Labrador called Moose.
As parents we rejoice in this marriage. We know it is well made. It has weathered squalls to reach a sunlit state of easy, loving companionship. We and our daughter-in-law-to-be have come to know one another gradually. For our part, the more we know her, the more we appreciate that Jake has found a partner who is his equal in every way – and we love her as much for that as for anything.
Our three other children will be there with their children, who will dash about the marquee in their party clothes. There will be dinner and lots to drink and good music and a hog roast at lunch the next day to banish the hangovers. We will all be as over-excited as teenagers. We will talk too much and some of us may even dance badly. We will feel great love for the newlyweds and for each other. And if it rains we probably won’t even notice. We will just be happy to be there, in the deep south.
I’ll be talking about Don Roberto: the Adventure of Being Cunninghame Graham at
– Boswell Book Festival, 14 May, 1.30pm, Boswell House, Ayrshire bookings
– Aye Write, 25 May, 7.45pm, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow bookings
Loving your love. The description of the train travel is delightful poetry. Enjoy the wedding (seems a ridiculous thing to say, as how could you not!)
Thanks Carolyn. I don’t think all weddings are unalloyed joy for all present!
Gorgeous description of the landscape, fabulous analysis of the relationship that uas lead to marriage. Here’s to the day being as idyllic as the lambs in spring sunshine.
Thanks Paul, fingers crossed!