no longer middle aged

“Once you get to fifty you become young again.” said the friendly GP, “Young to die.”

I told him I might need to change practice. We laughed, but I knew what he meant.

I realised recently that I remembered clearly the 50th birthday of each of my parents. Each day was defined by the old man’s health. On his birthday, he went to hospital for a minor procedure, which became major surgery, Christmas on a protein drip, and a cancer diagnosis. Two years later he was in a different hospital, pleading to get out for a few hours to help herself celebrate her 50th. That didn’t happen. The old man was young to die, at 52. Herself was still young to die, at 68.

Many of mine are long lived, but nobody has reached a century. I’m past the middle.

So we gathered together, the Belfast based McSpecs and the Scotland based McSpecs. We swam and lounged and laughed. We walked and ate and looked around us at loveliness. Children played, bounced on all the beds and had adventures with a golf buggy. We went to bed at a reasonable hour  and were dressed, sociable and devouring cooked breakfasts by 8.30 am. Eventually we had to come home to an eccentric dog and real life.

In a few weeks, there will be no sedate loveliness, or early bed. There will be a wee room, a bar and a dance floor. Spurs Fan is compiling a playlist. There will be a gathering up of friends. There may be silliness.

Family, friends, togetherness, celebration- what’s important in the world.



turn, turn, turn

The vibrancy has gone from the green. Leaves are getting ready to fall.

The school preparations are nearly done, although Girl2 will be happier once she has mastered the knotting of the new tie.

The end of August is in sight, but the temperatures are those of later in the year. “Like October” said the weatherman, and nobody was surprised. We’ve all been putting on the heat. People have been spotted out and about in winter coats, scarves and hats. Children are donning the warm things without being told.

On the other hand, I just found the linen trousers I put away carefully for the summer. I’m wearing them. I’m wondering where I put the thermals.


preparation for student life

I lived in a small town in the west. We had fields behind, a lake in front, lakes all around. Far enough from the border for it not to loom, close enough for it to be an everyday reality. Regular life in Northern Ireland in 1982.

But changes were ahead. I was planning on going to university. I didn’t know any students. Past pupils from my school came home at Christmas, smug and worldly wise, too busy being grown up to discuss their new lives.

I’d intended to go to England, but wasn’t brave enough to head away into the world on my own. Belfast was far enough.  I’d never stayed there overnight. Belfast was scary, but at least my accent would be understood there, and I could go home anytime I wanted. Small steps.

We all prepared for my student life together: Herself, the Old Man, the Brother and I learned everything we needed to know from TV. We laughed and winced and cringed and learned a whole new vernacular.


Rik Mayall died yesterday. Thank you, Rik for all the family fun.*


*not “family friendly”