JUNE 21, 2013

As Ian and I are leaving the house, I ask Dad if he’ll sit in the front of the car today as I want to try Mum in the back for a change. I make it sound casual, but the suggestion is the result of an emotive late night chat with Carolyn, my Canadian cousin on Mum’s side, who went out with us last week and who has had a couple of conversations with Ian on her own. She reckons that it would do Ian good to be able to sit beside Mabel and hold her hand. Apparently, Ian told Carolyn that he felt the connection was stronger between Mum and me than between Mabel and him. “That’s not right,” said Carolyn, to me, tears glistening in her eyes, echoed, no doubt, by the tears rising in mine.

I put Dad’s Zimmer in the back of the car and off we go to the home. Getting Mum into the back of the car is just slightly more difficult than the front, but carer Shona helps me, so we get there. She tells us that Mabel really perked up the other night when girl guides came along to the home. Of course, Mabel used to be a guide and a brown owl and those experiences have gone deep. With Mabel settled, I open the front passenger seat and Ian hobbles out with the aid of the Zimmer. Once he’s safely seated beside Mabel, I put the Zimmer with the platform under a tree, handy for us when we get back.


We stop at a roadside hut selling strawberries. I hand a few especially ripe ones to Ian. The largest berry he offers to Mabel and she bites into it. So far this seems to be working.

We stop at a picturesque place at Bridge of Cally. It’s down to Ian to both feed Mum cake and see that she drinks her tea. He’s fine with this. I’m soon finished my tea and, for once, I’ve got a few minutes to myself. I get out of the car and make my way down to the river. Anticipating this breather, I’ve brought with me Mum’s little diary for 1955. It was in July of that year that Mabel was pictured in a dinghy floating around a pool of dark water.


Here are the relevant diary entries:

July, 1955
Thursday 14th
‘I bought me an R.A.F rubber dinghy but didn’t get it launched today as I was too busy. Harry’s had it in the shop for years and we just thought of blowing it up today, it’s just the job.’

Harry was Mabel’s brother-in-law and for years Mabel had a stress-free existence tying flies and making up cartridges in his hunting and fishing shop.

Friday 15th
‘Went to Clunie Loch with my dinghy and we had great fun. Ian acted as outboard motor!’

That’s what he is today, Mum’s means of propulsion. Well, no, that’s me. I am still driving the car, after all.

Saturday 16th
‘Went up to Bridge of Cally. Ian swam and I sun-bathed.’

That’s what they’re doing today. Or at least as close as I can get them to swimming and sun-bathing, which is sitting in the back of the car together, sharing afternoon tea.

On the way back, Ian is holding Mabel’s hand. For part of the time he sings this:

"Oh! Oh! Antonio, he's gone away
Left me alone-ee-o, all on my own-ee-o
I want to meet him with he's new sweetheart
Then up will go Antonio and his ice-cream cart."

Perhaps, if Dad had sang that when he was in the back of the car on his own, I’d have twigged that he felt removed from Mabel. As it is, I think it can be said that Mabel and Ian in the back together will be the norm from now on.

I recall Dad saying to me that when Mabel came into his life in the early Fifties, her
joie de vivre transformed his life, pulling him out of a depression that his own troubled family life had left him in for much of his teens and twenties. Ian’s doing what he can to return the favour to Mabel, sixty years later.

Back at the home, Mum refuses a goodbye kiss from me. As I retreat, Edith says to me “If that had been any closer I’d have given it a wallop.”

I realise that she must be talking about my backside when I bent to try and kiss Mum. A double-whammy, I realise.

And I leave the home. Smiling.