Family Backstory

On this page you will find out about the Haines family history. I will post photos including stories and an explanation of those photos. You will be able to follow the backstory of our family from early beginnings. The latest posts will appear at the top of the page.

One of the Backstory posts each week will be from my Godmum and Aunt Carol. Carol has long helped me with these posts, however I felt it was time she had one of the weekly posts. The Carden family and the Haines family were always very close, and now we can show the whole story.

Birthday Girl.

The 6th of April was Bethany’s sixth birthday. We were all invited to the birthday party. As usual Bethany was the belle of the ball and looked great in her party dress. David was away in the Balkans at this time with the UN. He often missed those special family days however his job was important and he was making a difference. All the family could see that he really enjoyed his work over there and he would come back with stories to tell.

In the May it was Gregor’s sixth birthday as well. We basically had an open house with friends and neighbours popping in to bring gifts and see Gregor. Bethany and Louise popped over to our delight and the three kids got on well. Euan, who was into skateboarding and roller blading had given Gregor a training skateboard. Euan spent ages trying to show Gregor how to skate but he was having none of it. Not long after Gregor’s birthday the skateboard had been homed in the darkest recesses of the shed.

The obligatory school photo was taken. It was Euan’s last year at primary school and Gregor’s first, so this was the one and only photo of them at the same school. The relationship between the boys had grown stronger. As Gregor became less of a baby and a child and more a boy and had become more independent their relationship had changed. I am not saying there wasn’t the odd argument or fights especially if Gregor messed around with Euan’s Warhammer. Euan continued to spend time with Gregor playing his games and pushing him to reach further. He was in many ways the perfect older brother and Gregor doted on him.

Friends in Goa.

27th February 2003 saw us off to Goa and we were looking forward to seeing our friends, especially Thomas who had written to us earlier saying the date for his marriage had been finally set for 26 January in Kerala. As we could not get to Kerala for the wedding we looked forward to seeing Thomas and his wife Sindu in Goa.  Some other news was that Jaiman was getting married to Thomas’s sister Laiby in September.  As usual we enjoyed meeting our friends and chilling out on the beach, and enjoying good food.

We had decided what to do about our next project at home and had gone big. We decided to have a lean-to greenhouse along the whole side of the house covering the back door, and which would also house the oil boiler.  We had found a firm who could supply and erect the greenhouse, but we would need to organize the walling and level flooring.  We would also have to have planning permission so on our return from Goa set this in motion.   

Easter saw Frances Chloe and Matthew coming to us for the school holidays, which we all enjoyed.  Mary, Chris Stuart and I enjoyed going to the various  ‘Mill’ shops on our days out.  We had heard about the ‘Mill Trail’ at Sterling so one Saturday off we went.  We stopped to see the William Wallace Monument, which many say looks like Mel Gibson, then on the A91 to Minstrie following the mills at Alva and on the way to Tillicoultry, we had an enjoyable day shopping, and after going into most of the mills returned home tired but happy.

Back in Benidorm.

Carol, Mum, Stuart, and Dad, loved going away for their Christmas holidays and Benidorm was a favourite destination for the festivities. It was their chance to relax and have a laugh and see the New year in.

The usual routine was a walk along the promenade, stopping off for a coffee or even a wee tipple before wandering along again. A little bit of shopping here and there with nothing definite in mind. Finding a bar with a pool table was a bonus and the four of them would play all afternoon before wandering back to the hotel and the evening meal.

The four of them often saw the same people on these holidays as they were regulars like the four of them. They had made friends over the years, which added to the enjoyment of these trips. There was no pressure, no must see list, although they did take trips here and there.

Back home I was working on the ward for Christmas so I could have the Hogmanay off. We used to throw a wee party for our friends and sometimes neighbours. I really enjoyed the New year celebrations, it was a time of renewing, of Spring and the promise the new year held.

Making Plans

Stuart and I decided it was time to think about moving the gas boiler from under the steps to the back door.  We also thought it would be an idea to have somewhere where we could dry Rusty off and also hang our wet jackets, etc. after our walks with Rusty.  Stuart took this as his next project and from Stuart building something outside the back door it gradually grew that it could be a greenhouse as well – Stuart spent time trying to plan this and eventually we decided what we could do and we would start the project in the Spring.

In the meantime on 21st December Mary, Chris, Stuart and I flew off to Benidorm for the Christmas/New Year break.  We enjoyed being able to walk along the promenade in the sun stopping for a drink and people watching during the day and at night enjoyed the entertainment at the hotel.  As usual we went to Mundamar to see the dolphin and sea lion shows. We also went to Alicante on the train, which we enjoyed doing. Although not very good we did like a game of pool and it could be quite competitive between the two men against Mary and I.  We had found a nice bar/café on the sea front  ‘The Blue Whale’ and spent many an hour there playing pool and having fun.  As usual we had had a great time and flew back home on 4th January ready to face the coming year.

Visit from Dad’s Family.

At the end of the school Summer holidays, Mum and Dad, stayed at ours for a few days as a wee surprise for their grandchildren. Always looking to give the boys a wee treat we all took off in the car for Edinburgh Zoo. A zoo was Always a favourite place to visit even when David and I were kids. As usual a massive picnic was prepared (big enough to feed a small army) and off we all went. Mum and Dad just enjoyed spending time with their grandkids.

In the August of 2002 Euan returned to school, this time accompanied by his brother. Gregor was so proud of his school uniform and only wanted to be taken to school by Euan his brother. I think in the first few ears of Primary school, Carolynn or myself only took him to school a dozen or so times. The rest of it was with his big brother. Gregor was extremely good at doing his homework from school and folding neatly his uniform before going out to play with his friends.

In the October of that year some of my Dad’s family had travelled over from Australia to revisit friends, their old home and suchlike. Dad is pictured here with one of his brothers and his only sister Maud. Maud stayed in West Yorkshire, and it was only on rare occasions they got to see each other. Maud had I remember the kindest heart and nature and you can see the obvious love they shred. Maud came up and stayed with Mum and Dad at their home in Ayr for a vacation. It was so good to see dad with his sister.

The Vikings Have Landed, Again.

August saw Frances Chloe and Matthew coming to Scotland for two weeks with Steve coming up for the second week when it was Frances’s birthday. The first week was spent as usual with lots of walks with Dusty up the woods, doing a little gardening (which Frances always liked to help with) and Chloe and Matthew exploring the wood at the back of the garden. We were so proud when Chloe showed us the School Shield which she had won that year for being the top pupil at the school. Chloe had also decided to play the flute and had brought it with her so she could practice. She was getting on really well, but said the teacher kept saying Chloe ‘more wind.’  That holiday the favourite phrase between Chloe and her grandad was ‘more luft’ ‘more luft’ (German for wind).  Matthew not to be outdone had decided he would play the guitar and was planning to have lessons at school the next term but would ‘strum along!!’ with Chloe as she played some lovely tunes.

The second week Steve joined us, and it was also Frances’s birthday. We decided to have an evening meal at home and Mary and Chris joined us. We had a great time lots of fun and laughter. The week also gave Steve and Frances the chance to get out and about on their own, and doing a little shopping.  October saw Frances Chloe and Matthew back up in Scotland with us. It was Matthew’s birthday and we had planned a day out at Largs with a visit to Vikingar a exhibition/centre about the Vikings in Scotland and the Battle of Largs in 1263 between Norway and Scotland. As he was being dressed as a         Viking, he looked a bit apprehensive, but his face soon changed when given the sword!!!  He enjoyed his day out, especially the large fancy ice-cream at Nardini’s of Largs a well-known ice-cream parlour since 1935.

When I’m 65

On the 11th of June 2002, Dad hit the ripe old age of sixty-five. Mum had been arranging a few surprises to celebrate Dad’s birthday. One of them was that Carolynn, myself, the boys and David were secretly travelling to Ayr to help celebrate the big day.

As was usual in the family we celebrated with a barbecue in the back garden of Mum’s. Carol and Stuart came over as well, to help with the organisation and cooking. Stuart arrived all dressed up as you can see in the photo along with a massive cardboard box containing Dad’s present. Now Stuart was a master with wood, some of the things he had made over the years was quite incredible and spectacular. In a different life I am sure that our God Dad would have been a master cabinetmaker.

Anyway, inside the box was the most exquisitely made and detailed wooden windmill. You can see in the photos how well made it was. However, there was a hidden surprise. When the sails of the windmill turned a winch rose and fell just like a regular windmill. Dad was absolutely blown away by this gift from Carol and Stuart and there was a tear in his eye. It was obvious to dad and all of us that this gift was a gift of love from them. It must have taken some amount of time and planning. Dad loved it! The windmill sat in Mum and Dad’s garden for many years and gave great delight to both of them.

The second surprise was that the four of them, Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart were heading off down to Cornwall on a holiday coach trip to see the famous Eden Project. Somewhere Dad had wanted to visit for some time. The trip also visited the gorgeous town of Polperro. It really was a dream come true for Dad.

The Eden Project used to be a barren landscape – a former clay mine with no soil or plants. They transformed this huge crater into a beautiful global garden, which sets the stage for an extraordinary visit where the four of them discovered the natural world as they've never experienced it before. 

They explored the massive, covered Biomes walking through the world’s largest indoor rainforest and immersed themselves in the calm fragrance of the Mediterranean Biome. The Project has extensive outdoor gardens, contemporary artworks, performance, and storytelling.

The Garden of Eden.

June saw Chris turning the young age of 65 years. For a surprise Mary had organized a BBQ and a further surprise was Mike, family, and David, together with Stuart and I all turned up to wish him Happy Birthday. We had a great time, and it was lovely all being together.

There had been a lot of media reporting and talk about a new project at St Austell, Cornwall – The Eden Project. It was opened in March 2001 and was on our wish list of places we wanted to visit. After Chris’s birthday we went on a week’s guided coach tour to Cornwall, with the emphasis on The Eden Project and other Gardens. The Eden Project was built on barren ground of former clay pits and was to be a Global Garden with enclosures consisting of adjoining domes. Each enclosure would emulate a natural biome with the larger of the two biomes simulating a rainforest, which was to be the largest indoor rainforest in the world. The domes were extraordinary and amazing. Walking inside to see the wonderful plants and sculptures etc. was breathtaking. The grounds around the domes were being prepared for outdoor gardens, etc. and work was still being done with planting in the domes.

The next day saw us going to see Truro and then on to Falmouth to Trebah Garden. It is a unique ravine garden ending at a lovely beach, first planted in the 1840s and looked after until the Second World War. This garden was then neglected for 40 years, but in 1980 work to restore the garden began, it was a wild and magical garden. Our next trip was to The Lost Gardens of Heligan, part of a huge estate owned by the Tremayne family for four hundred years. Again, these gardens were once neglected but since 1990 were being slowly brought back to life. We were able to walk through ‘The Jungle,’ a subtropical valley garden with a boardwalk which snaked through bamboo tunnels, tree ferns, palms, and a banana plantation. Then we spent a late afternoon and early evening in Mevagissey, where we had been camping in 1974.

The next day it was to Looe, a lovely town and fishing harbour in the morning. Looe is divided in two by the River Looe and connected by a bridge. In the afternoon we went about four miles along the coast to Polperro, a fishing harbour and a beautiful village with lots of winding narrow streets. We had a good look around and thoroughly enjoyed the day. The next day saw us boarding the coach for our return home, we had all enjoyed ourselves and were glad to have had the opportunity to have seen places that were on our wish lists. (We often wondered how the gardens had grown in the time since we were there).

All the Family at Mum’s.

David, Louise, and Bethany had gone over to Ayr from Scone to spend some time with Mum and Dad, and to see Carol and Stuart as well. Mum and Dad loved having their Granddaughter over and dad as always roped her in to doing jobs with him. The path in the back garden used to flood when there was heavy rain. So, you can see Dad and Bethany sweeping water away into the drain.

Having Bethany at their home allowed Mum and Dad to play a little gentler than my two boys liked. There were tea parties and playing with dolls and to dad’s credit he would get stuck in and join in with those games.

Carolynn and I along with Gregor and Euan had travelled across as well to spend time with not only Mum and Dad but with David and his family as well. We all led busy lives and sometimes getting together was problematic. Visiting Mums whilst David and family were there, killed two birds with one stone, so to speak, as Mum loved having her family around her.

Euan had chosen to go to Loudon Park for his birthday, so Mum and Carolynn packed up an enormous picnic and we spent the day at Loudon, at the petting, zoo, the fairground rides, and the wonderful woodland walks, that we all enjoyed so much.

Euan had taken up rollerblading and so for his birthday presents he was given a roller hockey equipment, much to his delight. He good fair get up to some speed on his rollerblades. We had enrolled him in a roller hockey club in Perth, which he loved going to.

A walk along Ayr promenade was one of the usual things to do when we stayed at Mum’s. The boys would take their scooters and zip along quite happily. Mum had bought a pogo stick for the boys as a wee surprise, that blasted toy caused so many laughs and near injuries as we all, including Mum and dad had a go. Carolynn nearly broke her jaw as she fell off it as it rebounded. You can take it as read that she was not amused at our laughter.

Gone To Goa.

Late February saw Stuart and I once again flying off to Goa, for our winter sun and ‘chill-out,’ and to meet friends. Thomas, Jaiman, and Anthony all came from Kerela, where their families still lived. They came to Goa for the work but said Kerela was now looking at tourism and were planning to build hotels. The three of them lived in two rooms and asked if we would visit them and have dinner there, we were delighted to accept. Only having the basics to cook on we had a lovely dinner of fish, rice and afterwards mango, all beautifully cooked and delicious. Thomas’s brother, Martin, had arrived from Kerela to look for work and he joined us. They always enquired about the family and asked if we had photos of Frances and the children which we did not have on holiday.

Frances, Chloe, and Matthew came up for the Easter holidays and we celebrated Chloe’s 11th birthday. We decided that we would go to the Monkton, and she had a lovely cake and really enjoyed her birthday meal. When we asked Frances Chloe and Matthew if we could send a photo to Thomas, Jaiman, and Anthony they agreed. You will see from the photo we managed to write ‘Hello’ in Malayalam on the signs and sent these to Thomas with copies for Jaiman and Anthony. They were really pleased with the photos.

Stuart had been busy over the Autumn and Winter on his latest project making two arches for the garden and with some nice spring weather he was able to get the first arch into position and make a couple of raised beds ready for plants on either side. It looked really good and was sort of a gateway into the garden from the patio. We had spent time with David and family when they came to Ayr and also Mike and family, it was always lovely to see them, especially as work and school times did not always link up. Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I still had our day trips out. We went down to explore the coast of Luce Bay on the A716 from Stranraer, it was a lovely trip, but the highlight was finding Logan Botanic Gardens. We spent a long time just looking around, before going back home with some plants.

Off on their Travels

Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart had decided as was their want to head abroad for the Christmas 2001 holidays. This break away for them was a chance to let their hair down and have a good laugh and enjoy themselves. Although both David and his family and myself and my family would have loved them at ours for Christmas, we never begrudged them this time of relaxation and fun. David and I could see how much the four of them got out of their trips.

This time they were off to pastures new, a place called Fuengirola in Spain. Located close to Malaga city, Fuengirola is one of the Costa de Sol's most popular seaside resorts, with lots of great restaurants, extensive beaches, and an enviable climate. Fuengirola is a firm favourite with families and couples. Fuengirola is famous for its seven-kilometre stretch of sandy beach, beginning at the Sohail Castle to the west and ending at Torre Blanca to the east.

One of the favourite things to do for the four of them was in the evening have a leisurely walk along the beach stopping off for a wee drink here and there and then returning to the hotel for the evening meal. They also enjoyed excursions to Gibraltar and Tangiers, although the favourite trip was to the El Chorro gorge, this is a famous landmark with a suspended pathway leading up the side of the gorge to a dam.

They also visited the mountain top city of Ronda; this iconic city is a top tourist destination due to the beauty of the town and its views over the surrounding countryside.

The celebrations for Christmas and New Year were celebrated in the hotel with new friends they had made as well as the four of them. As always, the four of them returned to the UK refreshed and energised.

Fun in Fuengirola

23rd December saw Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I going to Fuengirola for Xmas/New Year. Christmas Eve saw us looking around Fuengirola and found it to be a lovely shopping area, so much so, that Stuart and Chris bought a pair of leather shoes each, great Xmas pressies!!. The beach walk was great, and we enjoyed strolling along and going to the harbour. Christmas dinner was good, and at the end four waiters brought out a huge Xmas chocolate log on a huge board. As it was our first time in that area, we were looking forward to seeing as much as we could. Our first outing was on a free ‘Blanket Trip’ a good way of seeing the local area although an hour had to be spent listening to a talk on bedding. Our next day out was to Gibraltar, and we had a guide to show us St Michaels Caves which were stunning (In WW2 they were prepared for use as a military hospital if required). We saw The Pillars of Hercules, and of course the famous Gibraltar rock apes. We loved Gibraltar and because it is so British had Roy’s ‘British’ fish and chips for lunch. The next day it was back to Gibraltar where we crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers. It was a very busy place, lots of little streets and alleys and of course the street vendors and the ‘snake charmers,’ Stuart being the only one to handle a snake. On the 30th of Dec we decided to look around more locally as we had booked tickets for a pantomime that night. We decided to go to Marbella and to have a look at Puerto Banus. Marbella was busy but had lovely gardens and Puerto Banus is a luxury marina. We were ‘gob smacked’ at the top designer shops (and their prices) and the Rolls Royce, Ferrari, to name a few cars parked up on the streets. We enjoyed our pantomime Dick Whittington (in English). New Year’s Eve again we decided to go local and hopped on a 17 min bus ride to Mijas, a town at the foot of the Mijas hills. We strolled the whitewashed streets which were lovely, and we just relaxed having coffee and people watching. We had a great New Year’s Eve seeing in the bells at the hotel and then having a lovely walk along the prom. New Year’s Day we spent in Fuengirola, walking, drinking coffee and people watching.

On 2nd Jan we were off again to visit the Ardales National Park and El Chorro, a small village located next to the Gorge of the Gaitares, which is famous for a scary walkway ‘Caminito del Ray’ which hangs 100m above the base of the gorge and was the final location spot for the film Von Ryan’s Express. Our next trip was to Ronda – sometimes called the town in the sky. Ronda sits on either side of the Tajo de Ronda, a narrow gorge more than 150m deep. A bridge Puente Nuevo links the old town and the new town. Houses sit on the edge of the cliffs, and it is a beautiful town full of history. We visited the Plaza de Torres (bullring) said to be more than two hundred years old, and now only used once a year. There are beautiful squares where you can sit and have coffee or lunch. The road up to the town can be a bit scary as you look down as you climb higher, but on the way down you can see various birds of prey just gliding on the thermals over the gorge. Granada and the Alhambra Palace was our next trip. Granada was ninety-five miles away so it an early start. Apart from what we could see out of the bus window we did not see much of the actual city. Alhambra Palace was a beautiful place, and although plenty of tourists you kept finding areas where it was peaceful and quiet. It is a medieval Nasrid citadel and palace, one of the most famous of Islamic architecture. It took approx. 3 hours to go round, but there were enough facilities for drink and WC.  There were also nearby cafes outside, so we were able to eat and drink before our return to Fuengirola.

Although we went for the Christmas and New Year festivities which we really enjoyed, we limited the nightly entertainment to be able to get out an about. The holiday was more a sightseeing holiday and we had thoroughly enjoyed it all. The area had so much to offer. On 6th Jan we returned home.

Wedding Bells and Belle.

Gregor had started at nursery, with which he was not enamoured. He would cry, scream, and cause chaos, however after we left, he settled down and was fine. This happened every day and was shall we say a pain. Euan had been enrolled in the next-door primary school so for the obligatory school photo, they put the two together.

My cousin Frances had got married to a gentleman called Steven down in Yorkshire where they lived. Carol and Stuart went down as the bride’s parents and Mum and dad travelled down as well. Mum was Frances’s Godmam, the same way that carol was Godmam to David and myself. It was a happy occasion, and all went well with the bride being pretty as a picture.

For the Summer holidays the boys had gone across to Mums for an extended stay as was usual. There was never a problem getting the boys to stay and their Nana and Grandads, the boys loved going and Mum and dad loved having them to stay.

As usual Carolynn and I went over for a week and as usual there were day trips away. The ones pictured here were at Blair Drummond Safari Park. A favourite place for both the boys and their grandparents. Carolynn and myself went as well. Mum had packed an enormous picnic which could have probably fed the park never mind us. The trip ended up in Girvan for a fish supper at the harbour.

Wedding in the Family.

August saw Frances, Chloe, and Matthew up for the school holidays, with Steve coming up for a week. We thought Steve might like to see some of the area and we went down to the Galloways for a drive around finishing at Loch Doon, for a walk and a drink at the little café there.  Chloe and Matthew had a choice of where they wanted to go, and Chloe chose a favourite Blair Drummond Safari Park. Matthew chose Edinburgh Zoo, which we had not been to before, and the antics of the meercats were a favourite. They were great days out – with picnics packed and full days to explore. Steve, although not a holiday person, enjoyed himself as well.

It was Frances’s birthday – a big ‘O’ one so we decided to go to the Monkton to have a meal, Mary and Chris joined us so they could meet Steve before the wedding. We all got on well and had a great time and were looking forward to going to Yorkshire for the wedding.

Frances and Steve were married in October and Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I went down for a few days. Stuart and I went to Frances’s on the morning of the wedding to help Frances and the children to get ready. Frances looked really lovely, happy but nervous. Matthew and Chloe were really pleased and excited about the wedding, which was a quiet family affair, but all went well, and we all had a wonderful time. Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I were able to explore York again for a day, taking in the shops and the Shambles and market before returning to Scotland.

Birthday in Ayr.

Mum and Dad had asked if the boys could go over to theirs for the Easter holidays, so of course Carolynn and myself said yes. I would coincide with Euan’s birthday and give the lads a wee holiday. Tensions were a bit high in our home in Perth. Sao dad came over in their car and we had Euan and Gregor packed up ready to go. The next day the three of them headed back to Ayr. The plan being that we would head over at the end of the holidays and bring them back to Perth on the bus. This would allow me to work as much overtime as I could.

As you can see the boys had a great time and a nice wee celebration for his birthday. When we joined them at Mum and dads all was well. I have said before and will say it again, we loved going to Prestwick Beach and walking the miles of golden sands before turning round and walking the miles back.

We all would find some lump of wood, plank to carry back just for the fun of it and Gregor would find something interesting. I can remember once, I am not sure if it was this visit or not, mum found this weather-beaten and salt encrusted driftwood. It was a trunk of a knarled old tree that must have been drifting in the see for years. Mum decided it would look good in the garden. So, dad, myself and the two lads helping carried this driftwood back to the car, taken home, where it was added to Mums garden.

Katrine Boat Trip.

David and family had gone over to Mum’s as well for a long weekend. Whilst Mum and Dad loved the boys, they doted on their only Granddaughter Bethany. I think Mum had always wanted a daughter however got David and myself, and we were not lady like in any manner. Having Bethany visit meant that Mum could indulge in all things she wanted to do with a wee lass, dad was always ready to play and get up to mischief with Bethany as well.

On one of Mum, Dad’s, Carol’s, and Stuart’s day trips away was a visit up into the Highlands and on a boat trip on Loch Katrine.

Loch Katrine and surrounding areas are steeped in history and is recognised as the favoured and much-loved setting of some of Sir Walter Scott’s most famous poetic works, as well as boasting links to Scottish legend Rob Roy MacGregor and closely linked to Queen Victoria. The Steamship Sir Walter is rightly famous and is beautiful in its own right.

Launched in 1900, this world-famous steamship has captivated visitors for over a century. Connecting every aspect of the Loch Katrine experience, the steamship brings together the best of adventure, relaxation, and history.

I will let Godmam tell you the story of the visit in her post following this one.

Gone to Goa.

1st March saw Stuart and I flying off to Goa for our usual winter sun. We were staying at the usual hotel and were looking forward to seeing friends again. We had made friends with a couple of young men (Thomas and Jaydon) from the hotel on our first visit to Goa. We would meet up with them at a local bar/restaurant for a meal and we would talk for hours about all sorts of things. I was given a lovely bouquet of flowers which was to become a regular thing each year. One day we decided to go on a dolphin sightseeing trip and were lucky to see bottlenose dolphins playing and swimming. The captain of the boat was a lovely man and when Stuart’s hat blew off into the sea he immediately turned round and hooked the hat out of the water, much to Stuart’s surprise and delight.

As usual Frances, Chloe and Matthew came to us for the Easter school holidays and to celebrate Chloe’s 10th birthday. We were also progressing with the back garden with more trellis and flower beds. We then went down to Yorkshire to see Frances and the children for a quick visit. Although we had met Frances’s friend Steve the last time, we were down we were pleased when they told us the good news that were going to be married and hoped to arrange the wedding in October. Steve was a workaholic and did not like going on holiday but encouraged Frances and the children to still come to Scotland in the school holidays. However, he did agree to come up in the summer school holidays for a week and Frances’s birthday and would meet Mary and Chris.

Mary Chris Stuart and I had decided that we wanted to go to Pitlochry again, a favorite place when Mary and Chris lived in Scone. We went to see the dam and salmon ladder and Stuart wanted a new cap from the man’s shop he liked. Mary and I got a rather boring item each, but one we loved, a large cooking pot for broths, soups and stovies. From Pitlochry we took a tree lined winding road hugging the River Tummel to the Queens View, a stunning viewpoint. It is widely believed it was named after Queen Isabella, wife of Robert the Bruce. July saw us going to ‘The Trossachs.’  We went to Callander to have a look around, and then to Loch Katrine for a sightseeing boat ride on the Sir Walter Scott. The scenery was stunning, and we had a great time. On our return home we headed for Aberfoyle. The road was quiet no cars, nothing to see but the beautiful scenery, then on a fairly straight part of the road we saw someone on the road. It was a ‘Piper,’ so we stopped and had a chat then he played his pipes, we had a little dance, photos taken, and we went on our way. We never saw a single soul or car on the road other than the ‘Piper,’ we did not even see his car or bike or any means of transport. (See Mike’s photos!!)

Kelburn Park Fun.

Mum and Dad used to love David, Louise and Bethany visiting. As Bethany was Mum and Dad’s only granddaughter, she was in many respects the apple of their  eye. A visit from David and family was always looked forward to.

In August of 2000 David and family drove over to see mum and dad. One of their favourite places to visit was Kelburn park not far from mum and dad’s house. With so many things to do at the park and so many things to see including the graffiti castle it is a popular destination certainly for David and the family.

Based around a 13th Century castle that’s had an amazing makeover courtesy of a team of Brazilian artists, the estate near Largs, Ayrshire also features dramatic walks, breath-taking gardens, and many features of historical interest. Kelburn Castle is currently having restoration work carried out. Elements of this project will be concluded later this year and will help preserve the Castle for many years to come. The work includes re-roofing the building and doing internal structural works. The owners have funded this project and received support from Historic Environment Scotland due to the Castle’s historic importance. Some 2000 acres is rough moorland, and 1500 acres of the better land is contained within a 7ft wall that encircles the heart of the estate.

Bethany loved going to see her Nana, however it was her Grandad who she wrapped around her little finger. As with his Grandsons he would quite happily get down on the floor and play with Bethany and her toys.

Crimbo at Ours.

With Christmas looming, I had been working as much overtime as possible to ensure a good Christmas for everyone. Mum and dad were coming over for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Carolynn and I had put away our differences and the usual arguments and had decided to have a real splash out Christmas. It seems like we had hundreds of presents to wrap, not only for the boys but also for David and his family, and of course mum and Dad. I am sure that we went through miles wrapping paper.

Mum and dad arrived Christmas Eve morning and soon got stuck in helping with the arrangements. We had a family tradition at our house for Christmas Eve. We would go into Perth for any last-minute shopping and then a walk around enjoying the Christmas lights, decorations atmosphere. Then we would walk home stopping off for a chip shop dinner. When we got home the boys would get dressed for bed and I would tell them a story or two. We would pack them off to bed with strict instructions but if they got up for anything else than the toilet Santa would not be coming with his bag of presents. Mum, Dad, Carolynn, and I finished off the last of the present wrapping and then with A Christmas drink would arrange the presence in piles each person. Of course, the boys had the biggest piles. When we went to our beds, my last job was to put out Christmas stockings each person’s door. The rule was but you could open your Christmas stocking, but you could not go down the stairs. Everyone had stockings that always included a 50p, a tangerine and a few small presents.

The next morning the boys who were sharing a bedroom woke up about 6am, and we all piled into Mum and dad’s bedroom with our stockings. Later on I crept down the stairs and put on the Crimbo lights and carols on the music centre. The rule is that you must have a proper breakfast before you can go through to the living room and open your presents. It was a fantastic morning with lots of laughs and lots of presents.

For Christmas dinner David and family, were coming around to enjoy the festivities and open their presents. It really was a Christmas to remember.

Mum and Dad took the boys back to their home in Ayr, for a few days before coming back to our house for Hogmanay. our long-time friends Deborah and Chris came round to share and bringing in the new year.

I think looking back over the years this was an almost perfect Christmas. Carolynn and I add put away how differences and had made a real effort for our guests and of course our two boys. Until quite recently this was the best Christmas I have ever had. As you can see, we had a lot of laughs, a lot of love and of course a lot of silliness.

Exotic Thailand.

Christmas 2000 and Mary and Chris had decided they would stay at home, and spend the festive season at Perth with the families.  As it was our ‘Ruby’ Anniversary year Stuart and I decide we would go somewhere different to Spain and so the 20th December saw us flying to Phuket, Thailand for the Christmas and New Year holidays.  We had chosen to stay at Dusit Laguna on the Laguna Phuket Complex (spreading over 70 acres) on the shore of Bang Tao Bay.  The complex was linked by various lagoons and canals and a free shuttle boat was available to take you to the various hotels, Canal Village Shopping Centre, etc on the complex, you just went to one of the jettys and the boats picked you up.  If you did not fancy the boat tuk tuks were also available.  The hotel was brilliant and every type of food you wanted was available.  Christmas Eve dinner was a huge buffet and the local children sang Christmas carols and there was live entertainment while we ate.

We went on a trip to Phang Nga Bay to see ‘James Bond Island’ and then sailed among the stunning limestone karsts and caves.  Another day we sailed to Ko Pannyi (Gypsy Island) an old fishing village built in the water on stilts. We walked along the boardwalks taking in the colours and smells, looking at all the goods on display and having a lovely fresh seafood lunch.  Phuket itself was a very busy place, plenty of shops selling designer goods, street vendors selling fake designer goods and the many massage parlours.  Although we were both a bit unsure we decided to go on an Elephant Trek.  Getting on was an effort, but the elephant lay down and a small step ladder helped.  It was a bit scary when the elephant stood up and you seemed so high up and the howdah you sat in swayed a little as the elephant walked but we both enjoyed the experience, and our mahout, Pim Tai, was such a lovely older man, pointing out native plants etc.  Another day we went canoeing on the canals of Palai, Although Stuart had canoed before I had not so we had a two-man canoe and after a little adjustment on my side we paddled down the canal finishing at a small cafe for a delicious lunch.

New Years Eve started with a cocktail party, then a procession of torch bearers, dancers and singers.  Then it was an alfresco dinner buffet, featuring food from around the world in 3 huge marquees.  I have not seen, even to this day, such a huge array of food, infact it was so huge you could not decide what to have.  After midnight there was the Dusit Beach Party with bonfire and drinks and dancing.  If you lasted that long at 4am an early champagne breakfast was served.

4th January saw us flying back home from the sun to be told we were lucky as we had missed the snow that had fallen.

40th Anniversary Celebration.

The sixth of August 2000 saw the 40th Anniversary of David’s and my Godparents, (also they were our Aunt and Uncle). Like all couples they had tough times, they had terrible times and they had happy and glorious times. The times the four of them were together, the adventures they had, the day trips, and the holidays were for all four of them the best. They balanced each other perfectly and had the freedom within their group to have a right laugh at each other’s expense without offending.

Pictured here at the Stair Inn, not far from Carol and Stuart’s home, they celebrated the anniversary. Again, they celebrated with love and that sense of fun that characterised their relationship.

On the Waverley Again.

Mum and Dad had enjoyed their first trip on the Waverley.

PS Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world. Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. Bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), she has been restored to her 1947 appearance and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.

Since 2003, Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as "a vessel of pre-eminent national importance".

The trip that Mum and Dad had taken was around the Kyles of Bute. A most glorious voyage around the some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland. Taking in the Isle of Bute and a number of the nearby isles, Mum and Dad had a wonderful day long trip.

If memory serves me right Carol and Stuart were down south visiting their grandchildren.

Busy in the New Garden.

In September we took a short trip down to Yorkshire to see Frances and the children, while we were away Mary and Chris took the opportunity to take a very scenic journey around the Kyles of Bute on the Waverley which they thoroughly enjoyed. We continued to work on the back garden with Stuart putting in gates in the back fence so we had easy access straight into the woods, which was handy for Stuart who on walks with Rusty would often come back with large stones to surround the raised beds. The grass bed was looking good and fully planted, and Stuart had sorted out raised flower beds in front of some trellis he had put up earlier.

Mary Chris Stuart and I, together with Rusty, continued with our day trips out – either finding new garden centers, going to the wild deer park, or more often just literally following back roads we fancied and seeing where they would take us, and exploring the area. We were always prepared with flasks and plenty of food, not knowing what time we would get back home.

October saw Frances and the children come up for the school holidays, as usual they donned wellingtons and were off into the woods, either exploring themselves or with Stuart, Frances, and Rusty. Stuart would also take them to the farm to see the animals and Matthew could never get over how long the bull’s tongue was.

October also saw Chris coming to help Stuart get the oil tank, which was by the kitchen door and too close to the house and oil boiler for safety, ready to move away. They then had to get the ground level ready for a new tank to arrive and be in a position that was within the safety rules. You will see from the photo a small cupboard under the steps leading outside from the kitchen door this held the oil boiler – not a very good position, but Chris and Stuart made it water and weatherproof until we could decide what we would do. Meanwhile Mary and I made ourselves scarce and went shopping on the Saturday and then on the Sunday made ourselves useful by making lots of cups of tea and sandwiches and then a lovely Sunday roast for our evening meal. Job well done!!

Two Weeks Hols in Ayr.

As always Carol and Stuart, Mum, and Dad, were frequent visitors to their respective homes. The four were a great support for each other both in happy times and sad.

At home I was steadily learning the new job as a nurse in Murray Royal Hospital. I found the work difficult at times but also found it to be quite wonderful. I really enjoyed the interactions with the patients, and I learned a great deal from the seasoned hands of the experienced nurses. Carolynn had been a nurse for many years and worked in old-aged psychiatry. I found that, of all the different sectors of the hospital most difficult to deal with.

Euan and Gregor, our boys had been invited across to Mum and Dad’s for t a couple of weeks during the holidays. This allowed me to work overtime as well as getting jobs done in the house. Two weeks without my lads around seemed so attractive before they went, however after they had gone, the house seemed so empty and quiet. The boys had a wonderful time with Mum and Dad, day trips to all sorts of places including the isle of Arran, Edinburgh Zoo and the beautiful beach at Prestwick and Ayr. Euan was a superb big brother to Gregor. Early on he would do everything for Gregor, however he had learned that Gregor needed to find his own way, so he maintained a wonderful balance with Gregor and of course a lovely friendship

Ruby Celebrations

It was lovely living only about 30 minutes away from Mary and Chris. We enjoyed our day trips out to the garden centers, having a BBQ or just an evening playing mahjong or canasta. We still enjoyed going to the ‘Galloways.’  One time we walked around the ‘Black Loch’ – you will see from the photo of Rusty why it may have been called Black Loch. Another day trip was out to Glentrool village and Loch Trool to see ‘Bruce’s Stone.’  It is sited at the top of a hill and the massive boulder was erected in 1929 to commemorate Robert the Bruce’s victory over the English in 1307.

Beginning of August was our 40th Wedding (Ruby) anniversary and we had a lovely dinner out to celebrate. Frances and the children came up for some of the school holidays and we celebrated France’s birthday and had a wonderful time exploring the woods and taking a picnic lunch down to the river, which was only ¾ mile away from us. Frances also loved gardening and would help us with whatever project we were on.

Mary, Chris and Stuart and I also liked to go to local events like the classical vehicle show at Culzean Castle and Country Park. The castle is really spectacular and sits on the edge of the Ayrshire cliffs overlooking the Firth of Clyde. It was great walking through the park and then down to the beach.

A Change of Career.

In the January of 2000 I began a new job as a Nursing Assistant in Murray Royal Psychiatric Hospital. Both of Carolynn’s parents and Carolynn were all nurses. My Mum in-law had advised me to apply for a job at the hospital as she thought I would make a good nurse. This was a turning point for me. Like humanitarian work was for David, nursing was for me. I started off working in a forensic day centre, which was my first experience in working with people with mental health issues. It really was an eye opener; however, I soon grew to love the job. I worked in all the wards over the years I nursed and found that ‘making a difference’ feeling that matters so much. I purposely wore the most outlandish ties which often provoked a laugh or a mickey taking by my colleagues and patients alike. With the patients it meant that I could have a good discussion with them even though it had started with leg pulling or should I say tie pulling by them. I had many good years working at Murray Royal and made friends with many of the staff, some of whom I am still in touch with today.

David, Louise, and Bethany had travelled over from Perth to Ayr to see Mum and Dad. Bethany was the apple of my Mum’s eye; she loved having a Granddaughter to dote over. Dad was just as bad in many ways.

With the Millennium passing Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart soon picked up their travelling habit, off exploring all over Scotland and beyond. This trip was down to the New Lanark Mills, a living museum to the industry in that area going back centuries. Again, the freedom they felt with each other allowed them to relax and have fun.

Just for the fun of it, why don’t you have a go at captioning the last photo.

Just Milling About.

2nd March saw Stuart and I flying back to Goa for our winter sun. We met up with friends we had made over the last couple of years and enjoyed chilling out in the sun. Easter school holidays Stuart brought Frances, Chloe, and Matthew up to Scotland. Chloe and Matthew enjoyed the freedom of exploring the woods behind us. There was a burn running along the valley at the bottom of the woods and they loved looking for frogs, tiddlers, etc. Chloe had requested The Monkton for her birthday dinner and had a great 9th birthday.

Although we had initially said we were not going to do much gardening – Autumn and the Spring saw us planning the back garden. I concentrated on an ornamental grass bed while Stuart started making trellising and establishing flower beds. On our days out with Mary and Chris we discovered The Clyde Valley Route, it was perfect for garden enthusiasts – every ½ mile or so there would be a garden nursery or garden center so we had plenty of choice in plants. It was to be a favourite Sunday trip out that Spring for us all, and we always came back home with plenty of plants. May saw us having a BBQ with Mary and Chris and you can see the difference in the garden from the photo the year before.

In June Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I went to visit New Lanark Visitor Centre (now a world heritage center) It was an 18th century cotton spinning mill village located on the banks of the river Clyde, founded in 1785. In the early 19th century Robert Owen created a work environment where child labour and corporal punishments were abolished. Workers were given decent homes; children went to school and there was a village shop for the mill workers. You can wander around the village, see a school room and a recreation of the village shop and workers houses from the 1820s and 1940s. The car park is at the top of a hill and as we left it started to pour down. Fortunately, the shop sold plastic ponchos, so we kept fairly dry.

1999 into 2000, The Millenium.

Ok folks, sorry I cannot resist captioning some of these photos.

From the top, 1, The lads get the seal of approval. 2, Go West he said, 3, Two many cowboys and not enough Indians. 4, Not captioning this, my Godman may thump me. 5, Look Chris, pull its ears and it burps. 6, Carol sports the latest craze. 7, Flying the Flag.

As you may have guessed the Fab Four, Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart headed off to the sun of Benidorm for the Christmas of 1999. As usual the four of them let their hair down and had a real ball of a time.

Carolynn, myself, and the boys had a quiet Christmas at home. We were preparing for the Millenium Hogmanay bash. Our close friends Chris, Deborah had come round for Hogmanay. A massive party was planned down on the North Inch in Perth. Perth Council had put up a big stage in the park and most of Perth attended the bringing in 2000. There were bands and all sorts of things going on, it was a fabulous atmosphere. I had a big old rucksack filled with beer and spirits from which the four adults helped themselves. Euan was dancing along with us four, whilst Gregor was sat on my shoulders. We had a cracking night, then as the last peals of the bells were dying away, the dancing, the jumping and all my movement got too much for Gregor. Let us just say it was not pretty, all over my head.

When I was a lad, I had dreamed of seeing 2000 come in, and it was no disappointment, well apart from the anointing by Gregor. I do not remember getting home that night, but I must have showered.

Mad Millennium

21 Dec saw Mary, Chris, Stuart, and I flying to Benidorm for Christmas and the New Year (The Millennium). The Spanish people love to celebrate Christmas and New Year. There are lots of ‘Belens” (nativity scenes) some small in shop windows and some large in public squares and places. Even the outside of our hotel was decorated with the three Kings on camels, a manger and crib. On Christmas morning ‘ex-pats’ were on the streets collecting for various charities. At the hotel we enjoyed the Christmas festivities and the gala dinner. Usually the food was ‘buffet style’ but for Christmas Day Gala dinner it was waitress/waiter served. At the end of the meal a large chocolate log was brought in by all the catering staff wishing everyone a ‘Felix Navidad.’  There was always nightly entertainment with music and dancing which all four of us enjoyed

Like the local people we also enjoyed strolling along the promenade, stopping at one of the cafés for a drink and sitting people watching. We had loved going to Mundomar the year before so it was a must for us to visit again. We were greeted by the ‘resident seal’ and then it was onto the shows. The dolphins were our particular favourite and one of the dolphins had given birth and we were able to watch through a glass panel the mother and baby swimming and playing. On a couple of days, we took the train to Alicante as we loved exploring the shops, indoor market, and cafes. No holiday was complete without going to the local markets which we all loved to do.

There was a stage being erected at the Plaza Mayor, Benidorm’s main square for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Here was to be a firework display and live music. In Spain, a tradition of New Year’s Eve is the eating of 12 grapes one for each month to bring you luck. You eat the grapes one at a time at each of the 12 bell chimes to midnight. It is not as easy as you think as you are trying to eat one grape every 3 seconds. Stories of the tradition vary some say it started around 1909 while others say it started in the 1800’s when rich families ate grapes and drank champagne at New Year. For New Year’s Eve the Hotel again had a gala dinner, waitress/waiter service and each guest received a bag of 12 grapes and a ‘goody bag’. The goody bags contained whistles, fancy party hats, streamers and bangs, false noses, glasses, etc. We had a great time and saw the New Year and chimes in at the hotel. We then grabbed our coats and went to the Promenade where we could see the fireworks and also lots of people, like us, enjoying the New Year.

On New Year’s Day most local people just stroll along the promenade the ladies in particular, ‘in their Sunday best’ even to wearing fur coats (but it was their winter time) while we tourists were dressed for summer. Most of the cafes had live music and it was a case of a stroll, sit and listen to the music with a drink, another stroll, and another café, and plenty of just watching people stroll passed us. We had had a great time but on 4th January we had to fly back home.                         

Food Delivery for the Midgies.

As was Mum, Dad’s, Stuart, and Carol’s want, they would pack a car up with a picnic, that was prepared the night before, and early in the morning set off for their destination. This time it was the beautiful Mull of Kintyre, on the west coast of Scotland.

Some of our readers will have experienced, some have heard of and some not all, the infamous west coast Scottish midgies. Now for those not acquainted with our much complained about multitudes of these ferocious wee beasties, they are not your normal midgies. These have a taste for blood, especially human blood/ There are uncountable numbers of these terrors, and they swarm in their millions. Any patch of uncovered skin is descended upon and feeding begins. They are not infamous and feared for nothing. As you can see the four of the travellers were well prepared. Out of the wooded valleys and away from still water, the midges are not such a problem.

The Mull of Kintyre is an absolutely beautiful land, and the four travellers explored, stopping here and there to enjoy the scenery. Mum and dad really enjoyed their trips away with Carol and Stuart. The four just complemented each other so well.

Denmark and Legoland.

In the July, Carolynn myself and the boys headed over to Mum’s for the some of the school holidays. As you can see, my boys loved going to see their Nana and Grandad, and they loved seeing the boys. They were old enough to go over and stay themselves, so after a few days with Mum and dad, we headed back to Perth.

Carolynn’s and I’s relationship was very rocky and a week or so without the boys enabled us to either work on our marriage or as in many cases just work as much overtime as possible with Christmas on the horizon.

Dad employed by British Aerospace on the ATP (Advanced Turbo Propeller aircraft), would often travel abroad to train pilots, aircrew and groundcrew on the aircraft. This would often mean extended trips to all sorts of locations. Dad was heading a relatively short two-week trip to Denmark. The company had extended an invitation to Mum to travel with him.

So off to Denmark they went. Mum would wander round the local town and do some shopping whilst dad was at work. On his time off they would explore the area. One of the places they visited was Legoland. They both loved the park and all of the amazing, scaled model built from the famous Lego.

In the October, for Mum’s birthday the four of us and David headed over a surprise. Mum had many favourite things, however her absolute favourite was to have her family around her. This was her day, and we were only too pleased to spend the time celebrating with her.

Mull of Kintyre.

June saw Mary Chris Stuart and I, plus Rusty touring (B&B) to explore the Mull of Kintyre. We took the A82 to Tarbert on to the A83 to Lochgilphead. Our first B&B was ‘The Factors House,’ a beautiful old house with antiques and inlaid furniture and a beautiful staircase. The A83 took us right down to Campbeltown and from there we headed on the B842 to look for a B&B near Keprigan for 2/3 nights. We wanted to explore all round the area and went to the memorial cairn dedicated to the crew and passengers of the RAF Chinook disaster in 1994. The next day after exploring the beautiful scenery and heading back to the B&B the mist just suddenly rolled in from the sea, and we were lost. On our third passing of a single cottage the owner had come out having seen us keep passing and was able to direct us back to the B&B. On our return journey home, we decided to stop at Inveraray to explore the castle and Inveraray Jail, and stock up on some picnic food. At Tarbert we took the A814 to see Faslane (home of the Trident) and down through Helensburgh where we stopped for a picnic and were ourselves food for the ‘midgies’ – we call them ‘flying dentures’, but we were protected a little by our makeshift hats from Tesco’s plastic bags.

July saw us getting the ferry over to Arran. We went to Brodrick Castle and gardens and looked around the Island. It is often called ‘Scotland in Miniature’ because of its beautiful hills, scenery, and beaches.

End July beginning of August Mary, Chris Stuart, Rusty, and I set off on our next big trip to the Isle of Skye. We again planned to tour (B&B) and also see the Skye Highland Games in Portree. It was up the familiar A82 to Fort William to join the A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh. We wanted to look around the area and go to Plockton an old fishing village overlooking Loch Carron and called ‘The Jewel of the Highlands.’ We really enjoyed looking around and did a little shopping and stayed the night there. The next day it was over the Skye Bridge and off to Portree to have a look around. The next day the weather was lovely, and we spent the day at the Highland Games enjoying the fun and competitions, and Pipe Bands. We explored the Island going to the mystic Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, the cave of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and taking narrow back roads saw lovely hamlets and lovely scenery.

A week after getting home Stuart brought Frances and the children up to Scotland for a couple of weeks. Frances had fostered an old Jack Russel called Rosie, luckily Rusty and Rosie got on fairly well, but with two dogs Frances chose to have her birthday dinner at home, which we all enjoyed, and we all enjoyed the holidays with plenty of walks with the dogs.

We still enjoyed our days out at weekends and one day spent the day at Strathclyde Country Park where a small flower show was being held.

October Mike and family and David and Family were down at Mary and Chris’s, and we went down to join them for a lovely birthday dinner for Mary and also a good catch up with the family. Stuart went for Frances and the children to bring them to Scotland for the October school holidays and Matthew’s birthday. Surprise!!!! He wanted to go to The Monkton, and we all enjoyed a lovely meal – Matthew particularly enjoyed his ice-cream.

Bethany’s Birthday Pots.

David and Louise along with daughter Bethany were often visitors to our home, just as we were to their home. It was always good to spend time together. David and I would have our nights out with Chris, my best mate, however it was good for our families to be together.

Mum and Dad went off to Oban, on the west coast of Scotland for a friend’s son’s wedding. If you have never been to Oban, I really recommend that you make the journey. On the quay side at Oban harbour there is a shack that sells freshy caught local shellfish. They are delicious.

Bethany had her second birthday party at a local hotel. Surrounded by her friends and relations including Gregor and Euan, everyone had a wonderful time. Afterwards it was back to the family home for tea and more cake. We stayed on for a few adult drinks and then when everyone left, we all helped with the clean-up including Bethany.

Maidens in Maidens????

Carol and Stuart, my Godparents as well as being my Aunt and Uncle had moved to their new home in Stair, not far from Ayr. They had a massive garden, which is actually twice the size of what you can see.

Their daughter, Frances, along with her son and daughter came up from Yorkshire to spend some time at the new home with her parents, Carol, and Stuart. There used to be every year a vintage car and vehicle show at a village on the coast called Maidens. Mum, Dad, my family, and I, as well as Frances and her kids all piled into cars and off, we went to the fun or the show.

Mum and Carol who were experts at packing a great picnic, had outdone themselves. After visiting the Vintage show we headed down to the links. This area bordered the beautiful sandy beach. There we all mucked about having fun, rough and tumbling and playing the European game of petanque.

It really was a wonderful day and we had so much fun/ It is a day when asked about my favourite memories, this springs to mind.

There is an original paddle steamer called the Waverley, who does all sorts of trips during the clear weather all up and down the coast. The people operating the Waverley had organised a trip to coincide with the arrival in the area of a massive cruise liner called the Norwegian Dream. As you can see Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart had a good laugh and the enjoyment of each other’s company. That last photo, I have no idea what was going on, but they were giggling so must have been fun.

Egg Rolling in Maidens.

Beginning of March saw Stuart and I going back to Goa. We enjoyed looking around the area and exploring the markets and shops in Panjim the capital. At the end of March Stuart went down to Yorkshire to get Frances and the children to bring them up to Scotland, for the Easter School Holidays. It was Chloe’s 8th birthday, and we enjoyed a wonderful time at the Monkton, which was a favourite for all the younger members of the family because of the children’s play area together with a soft ball area.

Mike and family came down to Mary and Chris for the Easter, and Stuart and I with Frances and the children met up with them all. We had planned a full day at Maidens to see the vintage tractors and cars. We then headed off to the Links to have our picnic and to enjoy a traditional Easter Egg Rolling, with painted and dyed hard boiled eggs, with a few small chocolate ones. The younger members of the family thoroughly enjoyed it and vied for the longest roll and the most eggs they could catch, but poor Rusty had to be on his lead as he would definitely have been the winner. It was rough and tumble from the start and a great day all round which we all enjoyed.

Stuart and I decided to have our first BBQ at Stair. Mary and Chris came and what an afternoon/night we had. I had received a few bottles of champagne when I left work in Leeds and so we decided to celebrate us being in Scotland. As you can see from one of the photo’s we did justice to the champagne and had a brilliant time. Needless to say, Mary and Chris stayed over that night. In one of the BBQ photos, you will see Mary giving us a clue as to our next day out – ‘I see no ships’

Mary was always coming up with some ideas for days out. As asked, we went down to Mary and Chris’s and ended up at Ayr Harbour. A very large cruise ship was moored out in the bay, and we were going on the Waverley to sail out and have a look at her. The Waverley is the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. Stuart and Chris naturally had to see the engines, etc. while Mary and I just enjoyed the views.

Bearing it in Benidorm.

David, Louise, and Bethany had their Christmas at Louise’s Mums and Carolynn, myself and the two boys had Christmas at ours before heading over to her Mum’s for the big dinner.

Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart had decided that since they had no one visiting or needing to be visited. Headed overseas to the fun of Benidorm for Christmas and New Year. The four of them would bounce off each other and let their hair down and have a good giggle. I am sure there are jokes to be made about Dad and Stuart with the bear, however I won’t bear you with any (sorry). Even more could be said about Carol and Mam with the guy dressed as a penguin. It would be low of me to comment on the entire range of one liner’s going through my head at this time. You can see Mum was a lot more at ease with Pingu than Carol was.

On one of their excursions the four of them went on a Ride & Ramble. They along with other holidaymakers took a bus up into the hills above Benidorm and cycled down the hill before taking a walk to see some beautiful scenery. This was to become a favourite sort of trip that they would all do. As you can see the four of them had a great time.

Fun in the Sun.

After talking to Mary and Chris and telling them about Benidorm, and it being so much warmer than Lloret and Salou we decided, instead of the usual coach tour we would fly to Benidorm on 22 December l998 for our Christmas and New Year trip. We decided to see as much of the area as we could taking the train to both Alicante and Valencia which we loved, spending days just looking around, having the usual coffee stops to people watch. Another day we went on a boat ride to Calpe. We found there was so much to explore taking the bus to Denia and walking to a huge supermarket at Finestrat. Another day we ended up going up the mountains on a ramble and bike ride. We were not the only ones who had decided to fly to Benidorm as on our travels and days out we met two couples we knew from our previous coach tours to Lloret and Salou, who had decided to try out Benidorm.

One day we took the ‘Limon Express Tourist Train’ an old diesel train that ran between Alicante and Denia. It was a great train ride experience as the train rattled along a narrow-gauge track through lovely, rugged countryside, stopping for shopping at Gata de Gorges famous for the artisan shops selling local craft products. It was a brilliant day, with lots of laughter especially from all the passengers at the ‘automated announcements. We were lucky to have experienced this ride as the train had to stop running the following year.

Another of our days out was to Mundomar in Benidorm. Although it was classed as an Animal Park it was to become a favourite in the following years. We loved the dolphin and sea lion shows and rushed from one show to another. The grounds were lovely too with plenty to see and do. Sundays were set aside for the huge Benidorm market, and we all loved browsing around the markets. We also discovered and went to Altea market which was just up the coast.

Our days were packed exploring, but we still had the energy to join in the entertainment at night, with dancing and music at the hotel and visiting the bars and cafes, mainly in the old town of Benidorm.

We had all enjoyed Benidorm so much and agreed that it would be our ‘go to resort’ for future Christmas and New Year get aways. We had found a hotel that we really liked and as it was the Millennium the following year and after talks with all the family booked up for the following Christmas and New Year.

Best Buddies.

Gregor was growing up fast and he loved the attention of his brother Euan. Euan would play for hours on end with Gregor and had the patience of a saint at times. Gregor had been given the rocking horse for his birthday and loved it. He would even stay on the horse for his dinner if we allowed him to. Many is the time he fell asleep o that thing.

For the Summer holidays that year we went over to Mum and Dad’s for a week or so. The boys both loved visiting their Nana and Grandad, and of course Mum and Dad were only too pleased to have them around.

One of the things that Mum, and dad did so well was having a family barbecue. Mum would prepare and Dad and I would tend the grill with a beer in hand. Mum’s signature dish was a lovely satay sauce, that no matter how I try have never been able to replicate.

Loudon Park with its woodland walks, fairground attractions and petting zoo was the usual destination for a day trip. Euan loved the rides and my dad, and I were extremely willing to go on them with him.

Pride of her Parent’s Eyes.

Bethany was also sprouting like mad and changed from a baby to a darling wee lass. David and Louise were proud parents and delighted in time with her. For Bethany’s birthday she had been given a kitchen which like Gregor and his rocking horse she loved. When we visited, we would be served with our cups of tea and dinner. Bethany had like Gregor started nursery and where Gregor was not too enamoured, Bethany loved it and took part in the show. Of course, Mum and Dad came over from Ayr too see the show and celebrate Bethany’s stage debut

May Birthday Celebrations.

David, Louise, and Bethany were as regular visitors to Mum and Dad’s as we were, and Mum loved having us over. Mum loved having her family around her however having her grandchildren around was her favourite time. Both Mum and Dad had really found their inner grandparents and when the gran children were over it all came out. She adored her grandsons however closest to her heart was her granddaughter Bethany, and as you can see Dad delighted in her company as well, although at times he found it tiring.

Gregor like Bethany had his first birthdays as well, so Carolynn and I threw a party at our home in Perth. Carolynn’s sister came with her family as well as our neighbours and friends. Gregor delighted in the attention and absolutely loved his main present being a push along car. He adored it and would yell blue murder if you took him out of it. He would even eat his meals sat in that car on occasions, and many is the time he would fall asleep in it. Euan his big brother was wonderful and would do anything he could to see his little brother laugh.

A Congregation of Cardens

On 18th August we left Leeds with the removal van, and we stayed with Mary and Chris overnight and on the 19th of August we moved into our new home at Stair. Mary and Chris helped us move in, but on the 23rd of August, while Mary and I were food shopping, Stuart fell off a ladder and we came home to see the ambulance on the drive. He spent five nights in hospital with a small fracture to a vertebra, not a good start, but he was soon on the mend, and we loved our new home. We only had a neighbour either side of us and farms dotted around. Over the next week or so they gradually introduced themselves and welcomed us into the small community. It was also great that we, and Mary and Chris, did not have to travel approx. 215 miles each way to see each other, and we could meet up fairly regularly for a night to play Canasta or Mahjong. As you can see from the photo the back garden was just patio and grass and our first priority was to fence it in and make it dog safe, as Rusty was too interested in the scents from the woods – there were pheasants, badgers, and foxes all around us enticing him to go off on his own. I found not going to work strange but with plenty of work in the house, and with woods to the back of us and just up the road and open fields I was able to go on long walks with Stuart and Rusty and we soon settled into rural life. September saw us going down to Chester for a Carden Gathering. Stuart’s cousin Judy (in Australia) and a George Carden had worked on the family tree of the Ramsey side of Cardens and had planned a gathering. There were Cardens from all over the world and it was a lovely weekend. October saw Stuart driving back down to Yorkshire to get Frances, Chloe, and Matthew to bring them up to Scotland for the school October holidays so they could see where we were now living. It was also Matthew’s 3rd birthday. They, like us, loved the bungalow and Chloe and Matthew also loved going with Stuart on his walks to the woods with Rusty.

Cake, let them Eat Cake.

Mum and Dad, accompanied by Carol and Stuart had jetted off to Spain for Christmas. My wife and I with my boys Euan and Gregor had Christmas morning at home and then whilst on shift at Murray Royal, they went to Carolynn’s Mums close by.

Going abroad with Carol and Stuart was always a good pressure relief valve for my parents. Normal rules were suspended, and a good laugh was enjoyed by them all, along with the usual banter between them all.

For Easter and mainly for Euan’s birthday the four of us headed over to Mum and Dad’s at Ayr. The Monkton was a favourite birthday celebration place for us all. Euan was celebrating his birthday, so he got to choose and the Monkton it was.

Euan celebrated his birthday with the now traditional family walk along Prestwick beach and a visit to Go Bananas, a kid’s indoor play centre. Euan and Gregor would have an hour in the play centre, that was filled with climbing frames, ball pools, all the usual. They would come out tired out, sweaty, and grubby, but they loved it.

Prestwick has quite a good outdoor play area as well, which if weather permitted the lads had a good time whilst Carolynn and myself read our books in peace. As you can see there was an incoming rain shower that we were about to be soaked by.

The Birthday Month.

It was David’s daughter Bethany’s birthday, and this being her first they threw a party for her at home and then a meal at a local hotel. As you can see the birthday Winnie the Poo themed. Bethany loved the attention, and her cake was a work of art. Gregor and Bethany had this complete attention for one another. They loved playing together.

One of Mum’s most favourite things to happen, was to have her Grandkids all together. This I think was Mum’s ideal moments.

Gone to Goa.

On 5th March Stuart and I went off to Goa to find our winter sun.  The weather was great 30 deg. And the sea was like warm tea.  The hotel was not large and had its own private beach. The food was good and we just completely chilled out.  We had enjoyed it so much that we booked again for the following year so we look around the area and Panjim the capital.  A week after getting back home it was Chloe’s 7th birthday and we had a lovely time with Frances Chloe and Matthew, also Stuart was also helping Frances to do some decorating, so we were at Frances’s often.  April saw us back in Scotland for a weekend with Mary and Chris.  As usual we went off for the day on the Saturday and on our way back to Ayr we saw a bungalow for sale that we liked the look of.  We telephoned to ask if we could view on the Sunday morning on our way back home, to see what was on offer in the area  As soon as we went inside we knew that this would be our next home.  It was rural with lovely views, about 12 miles from Mary and Chris and we loved it.  As soon as we got back home we contacted the seller, made an offer which was accepted and then telephoned Mary and Chris (who thought we were having them on) to let them know.  We had made no plans to move so soon, but Monday morning saw us arranging for Estate Agents to sell our bungalow and for me to inform my boss what was happening so they could arrange for a replacement for me, and I planned to retire on our move to Scotland.  In May on our weekend in Scotland we needed to do some measuring at the bungalow so Mary and Chris came with us to see it, you can tell by my face in the photo how happy I am.  We were hoping to sell our bungalow at Leeds fairly soon and had had some interest.

Another Christening.

The second of November saw Gregor getting christened. We had asked my long-time best mate Chris and his wife Deborah to be Gregor’s Godparents.

Mum and Dad had come across from Ayr to share in the fun and games of the day. Getting ready in the morning was a bit of chore with everyone wanting into the bathroom. Gregor as was his want had already gone through two changes of clothing. Eventually we all had our best clothes on and scrubbed up all nice ready for the off. Gregor had his Christening robe.

You may recall that Gregor like his brother Euan, could fill a nappy at the drop of a ……. hat. Well, he exploded is the only way I can describe it. It was everywhere. We found out later that Euan had been feeding him sweeties to keep him happy.

Anyway, the Christening went off without a hitch and we all had a wonderful day. We had a lovely meal at a Perth hotel and then back home to get into our comfortable clothes.

One Inch Car Pull.

David and I had volunteered to help out at a Perth Cub Scout Pack. I enrolled as a leader and David because he was travelling so much, he helped out when and where he could. In Perth there are two main parks: the North Inch and the South Inch. Fundraising can be really difficult, so we tried to come up with some really daft ideas. Our idea for the first fundraiser was to pull a Ford Ka, kindly lent by a local garage around the North Inch. The sponsored event was called The One Inch Car Pull. A path circumnavigates the North Inch to a distance of 5km. The plan was for the Cubs and Leaders to by means of a tow rope pull the Ford Ka around the full 5km path. The garage supplied a driver to ensure safety of passers-by, Cubs, and the Leaders. The Cubs set off at such a pace that the driver had to keep his foot on the brakes to slow them down a little. We had the local paper come down and do a story along with Scout Association representatives. The fundraiser was a cracking success, which allowed to Cubs to get new kit and a camp to be part paid for. If I remember right, there was ice creams after for the Cubs

Christmas in the Sun.

Christmas/New Year 1997/98 saw Mary Chris Stuart and I once again on the coach heading for Lloret de Mar for Christmas and the New Year.  We visited the usual places, Lake Besaru, Gerona, Blanes and of course Barcelona.  We loved wandering through the Ramblas where Chris had each year bought Mary and me flowers.  Also a first was having a shoe (boot) shine.  We had always enjoyed the market at Blanes, and this time decided on also seeing the Botonic Gardens.  The sea front at Lloret was always good for stopping to have a coffee and do some people watching.  The highlight of this holiday was a trip to Andorra.  We left the sun in Lloret de Mar and as we drove higher in the mountains on the way to Andorra we were into snow.  Andorra is a sovereign landlocked microstate on the Iberian Peninsula in the Eastern Pyrenees, bordered by France to the North and Spain to the South.  It is a popular resort for ski holidays.  We found the place quaint, prices to be cheap for good quality items and the café/coffee shops served delicious pastries and cakes.  It was a great trip.

We had talked many times about where we would settle when we had all retired, Leeds area had been mentioned but it was now becoming a very impersonal, hustle bustle place with new motorway links, and commercial developments etc., and with our third burglary Stuart and I thought the quality of life was better in Scotland.  Mary and Chris were delighted with this idea.   In February we went to see Mary and Chris and our day out was just looking at various areas around Ayr to give us an idea of where we would like to stay.

Harking Back.

Lynn, I and our two lads headed over to Mum and Dad’s in Ayr for a long weekend. Going over to Mum and Dad’s was always a pleasure. Mum had that knack of wherever they lived it was home to us.

You may remember a similar photo to the third one from my childhood. That was a photo of David and myself. Mum wanted a similar photo, so of course we obliged.

Gregor was a baby of extremes, he could definitely let you know when he was not happy, however the cure for that was the appearance of his brother. Euan was amazing as a brother, he would sit and play with Gregor for hours, he would feed him and all sorts of things. The bond between them, then and all through their lives so far was and is special.

One of our favourite things to do at Ayr was to go to the beach. Ayr has a gorgeous beach of golden sands. Lynn and I would pack up a picnic for the four of us and head to the sands. Just behind the beach was a great playpark that was wonderful for the kids, there were tables and benches for the parents where we would sit and read our books whilst we watched the kids at play.

They had these digger things in a big sandpit, that Euan loved. You sat on the digger and operated an arm with a scoop on the end. Euan would spend ages digging a big hole and then fill it back up.

An Experience Indeed.

Later in 1997 Mum and Dad hired a campervan. This was the first time they had a modern camper they invited Carol and Stuart to go away for a week’s holiday doing their own planned tour of the North of Scotland. . They set off and headed North. Lessons were learned by all.

They all enjoyed the trip a great deal, however when asked it was the same thing; what happened on the road stayed on the road. When pressed they would say; we saw things that we should not have had. David and I had a good laugh on that I tell you.

It was a trip that all really enjoyed however it was not to be repeated as four grown adults in a small camper was not the best situation. Lets just say lessons were learned.

The night that the four of them visited the Commando Memorial in Spean Bridge they learned of Princess Diana’s death.

Carol and Stuart were hooked on the ability to explore the countryside in a camper.

Meeting Old Mates.

29th August saw Stuart and I, together with Rusty, going up to Scotland to Mary and Chris, we had hired a 4 berth motorhome for the next morning for 7 days.   After signing the papers we set off on our journey, heading north with Ullapool our destination.  We stopped at Luss on Loch Lomond to sort our boxes and the motorhome out and to have a snack before heading off to a campsite at the north end of Loch Lomond for our first night.  The owner of the campsite had been in the RAF and both Chris and Stuart knew him, so that night we had a good natter about old times.  Next morning we were ready to head for Fort William, as usual we were in no hurry, taking back roads when we could to see the beautiful scenery, to stretch our legs, let Rusty have a walk and to have a snack and put the kettle on.  Fort William is a lovely place, full of history and we did a little food shopping while there.  We also wanted to go to Banavie 4 miles from Fort William to see Neptunes Staircase – 8 locks on the Caledonian Canal - the longest staircase in Britain.  It is quite a marvel of engineering, being built in 1803 and 1822.  From there we headed to Spean Bridge to see the Commando Memorial and to look for a Site for the night, the weather was not nice it was pouring and dark, but we managed to get a Site and park up.  We also learned over the radio that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris in the early hours of that morning.  The next morning we were up early planning to meander up to Ullapool stopping when it took our fancy. We kept on the A82 following Loch Lochy, and then Loch Ness then cut across on the A831 to the A835 up to Ullapool. After settling we went off to have a quick look around and have a meal.  Next day after a good breakfast we spent the day looking around the busy fishing port and village, and booked for a boat trip the next day.  Although a little chilly we really enjoyed seeing the coast from the sea and also the seals and birds.  We were a bit uncertain how Rusty would be but he enjoyed it too.  We had to hand in the motorhome on 5th Sept by 4 o’clock and as we all wanted to visit Inverewe Gardens decided to leave Ullapool the next morning, visit the gardens, and again stay the night near Fort William.  The gardens were beautiful, sloping down to Loch Ewe, then we had a leisurely trip down to Fort William. The next day it was back to Glasgow and to hand in the motorhome.  With both Chris and Stuart taking turns at driving we all managed to view the beautiful scenery, and also to stop and admire it (while having a cuppa).  We had all thoroughly enjoyed our trip.

A Christening or Two.

Euan got his yearly school photo and looked as cheeky as always. Euan was really enjoying being a big brother to Gregor and had even helped to change a nappy.

Gregor was being christened so Carolynn and I had asked our close friends Chris and his wife Deborah to be Gregor’s Godparents.

On the first of July 1997 Bethany was christened alongside one of David and Louise’s friends’ child. Mum and dad came across and stayed with us in Perth. David and Louise along with their friends had organised a big christening party in a Perth hotel.

It was a great day, and it was good to see my brother so happy. He was glowing. Gregor behaved wonderfully and Euan was his usual himself, charming everyone with his humour and manners.

Sixty and Still Going.

The 11th of June was our dad’s sixtieth birthday. David and his family came across and we had a wee party at our home in Perth. David and I had given Dad a special edition Swiss Army knife. Dad loved his penknives.

In late July David and Louise along with Bethany visited Mum and dad in Ayr. The five of them had planned a wee trip over on the ferry to Arran.

Their trip was a real success and Mum and Dad had loved their time with the new parents. They took time to visit all over the island and see the sights.

Brother In-Laws Birthday.

Chris’s 60th birthday came around on 11th June, unfortunately we could not get up to Scotland at that time, nor could we make it to Gregor’s christening, but were able to get up for a couple of days for 1st July for Bethany’s christening.  We went to Mary and Chris’s in Ayr and the next morning had a leisurely drive up to Perth.  Mary and Chris were staying the night with David and Louise but with Mike busy with two children we decided to stay at a Motel in Perth for the night.  It was a lovely day and we loved seeing the new additions to the Haines family, Bethany and Gregor, as well as everyone else.  There was a christening meal after the christening at the Perth Hotel which everyone enjoyed with much catching up on the births and how the babies were.  Unfortunately we had to leave for Leeds after the meal, but we had seen everyone and were happy that all was OK.  We had also had a chance to talk to Mary and Chris about our next adventure/trip away, it was decided we would see more of Scotland and with Mary saying she would make the arrangements, we said our goodbyes and looked forward to seeing them again on 30th August. Summer starting and plants beginning to grow we spent the next few weeks in the garden and seeing Frances and the children often.

David Becomes a Dad.

On the 6th of April 1997 at Perth Royal Infirmary, David and his wife Louise became parents. Bethany entered their lives and changed everything. David like many a first-time dad had been so nervous and worried about what he was going to do and how. No matter how I reassured him he would not listen however David was an awesome Dad.

This was our parents first Granddaughter and Mum, and Dad were chuffed to be part of her life. It was to be honest, instant love on all our parts, I was Uncle to a gorgeous wee lass.

Bethany brought new life and light into the family and Mum and Dad recovered from their holiday with Carol and Stuart in Egypt loved being part of the hurly burly.

My wife Carolynn was still expecting and was expected to deliver in mid-May. So, double the excitement.

The 10th of April was Euan’s Birthday. Dad Euan and I had a lads away day so we could spoil him a little. Euan loved to play football with his pals so one of his presents was a football kit.

Euan as a cousin to Bethany was wonderful and caring and had bought her a fluffy penguin thing from his own money.

A Dad to Two.

On the 17th of May Carolynn gave birth to our second son, Gregor. As opposed to the protracted labour with Euan, Gregor, arrived very quickly indeed and soon filled the room with his cries.

The first meeting between Euan and Gregor was a bit flat, too be honest I don’t think that Euan was too impressed with this squalling bundle of noise. This was to change pretty quickly.

Mum and dad had come across to help us all out whilst Euan and I and they visited the hospital. It was only a day or two before Carolynn was home with Gregor.

Like any expectant Dad, I was nervous, how could I cope with two sons never mind one, hows could I love another son as much as I loved Euan. As normal when Gregor arrived my heart grew big enough to love them both and fill me with the desire to care and nurture them.

I was so so proud of my boys.

Spring Clean.

Our journey to Egypt over we were back home.  Spring was officially here and we had lots of jobs to do in the garden, planting plants, seeds and general tidying up, so we were going to be busy. There was new developments in the area too, a motorway to link the A1(M) to the MI with a Freightliner Terminal, and other developments in the pipeline.  This would swing around Temple Newsam Park, and the work at the time was making large lagoons and open land – Stuart, with Rusty, loved going for long walks there.  Frances was now on her own with Chloe and Matthew.  They were all fine and we saw them regularly.  Chloe seemed to be growing everytime we saw her and Matthew was a typical very active young boy (very fond of chocolate biscuits as the photo shows).  Frances took after her dad and was good with her hands and DIY, she would try anything and she also loved gardening, and was busy sorting and changing her garden.  6th April we had good news David and Louise were parents to a baby girl Bethany. Mary and Chris went over to Perth to be introduced to Bethany, they were now proud grandparents to a boy and a girl.  We did not get up to Scotland then but knew that we would soon as we were waiting for news from Mike and Lynne.  It came on 17th May Gregor, a lovely baby boy had been born, and we looked forward to seeing them all soon.

Making Port.

Mum, Dad, Carol and Stuart had really enjoyed their exploration of the wonders and marvels of ancient Egypt. In it’s own way the schedule was pretty tough and there was a lot of walking. This took its toll on them all. The second part of the holiday was a week’s break in Luxor.

Luxor (it’s name meaning?'the palaces') is a modern city in Upper (southern) Egypt which includes the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. It is among the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open-air museum", as the ruins of the Egyptian temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs of the west bank Theban Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Thousands of tourists from all around the world arrive annually to visit Luxor's monuments, contributing greatly to the economy of the modern city.

A controversial tourism development plan aims to transform Luxor into the biggest vast open-air museum. The master plan envisions new roads, five-star hotels, glitzy shops, and an IMAX theatre. The main attraction is an 11 million dollar project to unearth and restore the 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) long Avenue of Sphinxes that once linked Luxor and Karnak temples. The ancient processional road was built by the pharaoh Amenhotep III and took its final form under Nectanebo I in 400 BCE. Over a thousand sphinx statues lined the road now being excavated which was covered by silt, homes, mosques and churches. Excavation started around 2004.

A Tale of Two Cities.

Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Upper Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the glorious city of Amun, later to become the god Amun-Ra. The city was regarded in the ancient Egyptian texts as wAs.t (approximate pronunciation: "Waset"), which meant "city of the sceptre", and later in Demotic Egyptian as ta jpt (conventionally pronounced as "tA ipt" and meaning "the shrine/temple", referring to the jpt-swt, the temple now known by its Arabic name Karnak, meaning "fortified village"), which the ancient Greeks adapted as Thebai and the Romans after them as Thebae. Thebes was also known as "the city of the 100 gates", sometimes being called "southern Heliopolis" ('Iunu-shemaa' in Ancient Egyptian), to distinguish it from the city of Iunu or Heliopolis, the main place of worship for the god Ra in the north. It was also often referred to as niw.t, which simply means "city", and was one of only three cities in Egypt for which this noun was used (the other two were Memphis and Heliopolis); it was also called niw.t rst, "southern city", as the southernmost of them.

The importance of the city started as early as the 11th Dynasty, when the town grew into a thriving city. Montuhotep II, who united Egypt after the troubles of the First Intermediate Period, brought stability to the lands as the city grew in stature. The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom in their expeditions to Kush, in today's northern Sudan, and to the lands of Canaan, Phoenicia and Syria saw the city accumulate great wealth and rose to prominence, even on a world scale. Thebes played a major role in expelling the invading forces of the Hyksos from Upper Egypt, and from the time of the 18th Dynasty to the 20th Dynasty, the city had risen as the political, religious and military capital of Ancient Egypt.

The city attracted peoples such as the Babylonians, the Mitanni, the Hittites of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Canaanites of Ugarit, the Phoenicians of Byblos and Tyre, the Minoans from the island of Crete. A Hittite prince from Anatolia even came to marry with the widow of Tutankhamun, Ankhesenamun. The political and military importance of the city, however, faded during the Late Period, with Thebes being replaced as political capital by several cities in Northern Egypt, such as Bubastis, Sais and finally Alexandria.

However, as the city of the god Amun-Ra, Thebes remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period. The main god of the city was Amun, who was worshipped together with his wife, the Goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, the God of the moon. With the rise of Thebes as the foremost city of Egypt, the local god Amun rose in importance as well and became linked to the sun god Ra, thus creating the new 'king of gods' Amun-Ra. His great temple at Karnak, just north of Thebes, was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity.

End of the Road well River.

Our cruise over we were leaving the RA11 behind and going into Luxor for the next 7 nights.  That morning Mary did not look well and admitted she had had a bad night with a tummy bug and was still not feeling good.  Luckily the taxi came and took us to our hotel, where our rooms were ready, and we could all get settled.  With Mary not being well we arranged to see Mary and Chris the next morning for breakfast followed by a day chilling out at the hotel around the gardens and pool.  Mary was feeling a lot better that day but we enjoyed relaxing by the pool and recharging our batteries ready to explore Luxor.  That evening Stuart and I took a little stroll and saw a lovely jewelry shop, Stuart wanted to buy me a gold chain bracelet and to cut a long story short after choosing a heavy solid one, having it weighed to see what the value was, we agreed a price, but would have to go back to the hotel a short distance away to get the money.  On our return the bracelet was in a lovely box, with the owner ready to wrap it, but Stuart wanted me to wear it took it out of the box and immediately realized it was not the one we had chosen, this was a lot lighter and not solid.  There were a quite a few words, excuses and arguments and we left the shop without buying.  We loved the sights and sounds of Luxor, from the wide roads with cars to the bustling narrow back streets where horse drawn carriages battled for space regardless of people trying to walk and shop.  Mary and I were in our element in the souks and shops and with Chris and Stuart ready to do the bargaining for the price we wanted to pay we managed to buy quite a few things over the next few days.  Mary and I even played a little music with the ‘local band’. One place we wanted to see and have tea there was the Winter Palace Hotel.  The Winter Palace dates back to 1886 and is an historic British Colonial-era hotel.  Its many guests included Lord Carnarvon, Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie who wrote Death on the Nile when staying there in 1937.  The day arrived when we were to fly back home.  We had enjoyed our stay in Egypt, had been overwhelmed by the Temples and Tombs we had visited and had loved the narrow back streets of Luxor with its souks, shops and bazaars, but it was time to go home.

Dam it is Hot.

The Aswan Dam, or more specifically since the 1960s, the Aswan High Dam, is the world's largest embankment dam, which was built across the Nile in Aswan, Egypt, between 1960 and 1970. The High Dam became a key objective of the government with its ability to better control flooding, provide increased water storage for irrigation and generate hydroelectricity, the dam was seen as pivotal to Egypt's planned industrialization. Like the earlier implementation, the High Dam has had a significant effect on the economy and culture of Egypt.
Before the High Dam was built, the annual flooding of the Nile during late summer had continued to pass largely unimpeded down the river. These floods brought high water with natural nutrients and minerals that annually enriched the fertile soil along its floodplain and delta; this predictability had made the Nile valley ideal for farming since ancient times. However, this natural flooding varied, since high-water years could destroy the whole crop, while low-water years could create widespread drought and consequently famine. Both these events had continued to occur periodically.
As Egypt's population grew and technology increased, both a desire and the ability developed to completely control the flooding, and thus both protect and support farmland and its economically important cotton crop. With the greatly increased reservoir storage provided by the High Aswan Dam, the floods could be controlled and the water could be stored for later release over multiple years.
Abu Simbel.
Abu Simbel are two massive rock-cut temples in the village of Abu Simbel near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser. The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments", which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan), and include Amada, Wadi es-Sebua, and other Nubian sites. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th Dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king Ramesses II. His wife Nefertari and children can be seen in smaller figures by his feet, considered to be of lesser importance and were not given the same position of scale. This commemorates his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic.
The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968 on to an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary or they would have been submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile. The project was carried out as part of the UNESCO Nubian Salvage Campaign.

Karnak Explored

Karnak is the modern-day name for the ancient site of the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt. The Egyptians called the site Nesut-Towi, "Throne of the Two Lands", Ipet-Iset, "The Finest of Seats" as well as Ipt-Swt, "Selected Spot" also given as Ipetsut, "The Most Select of Places".

The original name has to do with the ancient Egyptian belief that Thebes was the first city founded on the primordial mound which rose from the waters of chaos at the beginning of the world. At that time, the creator-god Atum (sometimes Ptah or Ra) stood on the mound to begin the work of creation. The site of the temple was thought to be this original ground and the temple was raised at this spot for that reason. Karnak is believed to have been an ancient observatory as well as a place of worship where the god Amun would interact directly with the people of earth.

The Temple of Amun is the largest religious building in the world and honors not only Amun but other gods such as Osiris, Montu, Isis, Ptah and the Egyptian rulers who wished to be remembered for their contributions to the site. It was built gradually over the centuries, with each new ruler adding to it, from the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (2040 - 1782 BCE) through the New Kingdom (1570 - 1069 BCE) and throughout the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323 - 30 BCE).

It has even been suggested that the rulers of the Old Kingdom first built there owing to the style of some of the ruins and the king's list of Old Kingdom monarchs inscribed by Tuthmose III. His choice of kings suggests that he may have removed their monuments to build his hall but still wanted them to be remembered. Structures were regularly removed, renovated, or expanded during the temple's long history. The complex continued to grow with each succeeding ruler and the ruins today cover over 200 acres of land. It has been estimated that one could fit three structures the size of Notre Dame Cathedral in the main temple alone.

The Temple of Amun was in constant use with perpetual growth for over 2,000 years and considered one of the most sacred sites in Egypt. The priests of Amun who oversaw the administration of the temple became increasingly wealthy and powerful to the point that they were able to take control of the government of Thebes toward the end of the New Kingdom when rule of the country became divided between theirs at Thebes in Upper Egypt and that of the pharaoh in the city of Per-Ramesses in Lower Egypt.

By the 4th century CE Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire and Christianity was being promoted as the one true faith. The emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 CE) ordered pagan temples to be closed in 336 CE and the Temple of Amun was deserted. Coptic Christians made use of the building for church services, as evidenced by Christian art and inscriptions on the walls, but then the site was abandoned.

It was rediscovered during the 7th century CE Arab Invasion of Egypt at which time it was called "Ka-ranak" which means 'fortified village' because of the enormous amount of architecture amassed in one area. When European explorers first began traveling in Egypt in the 17th century CE they were told the grand ruins at Thebes were those of Karnak and the name has been in use for the site since then.

The Splendors of Egypt.

Aswan was a lively and busy place, on the river there were boats sailing, fishing, loading and unloading goods and the cruise boats with tourists.  We took the opportunity to go on a day excursion setting off at 05.00 (at that time it was cold and dark)and travelling 280 kms through the Nubian Desert to see the Abu Simbel Temples - two temples which were cut into solid rock to act as a monument to Ramesses 11 and his wife Nefertari.  On our way we passed through small villages, saw a mirage, passed camels whose owners offered to let us ride them. Stuart and Chris took up the offer with Mary and I watching. It was a tiring trip (in a not too comfortable bus, together with two armed security men) but one we really enjoyed. That evening saw us starting to cruise back to Luxor, and staying at Esna for the night, although tired we managed to get a small boat to go across to the Temple of Philae to see the Light and Sound Show which was brilliant. Next morning after seeing the Temple of Esna, it was then on to Luxor to visit the Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and walking along the Avenue of Sphinxes which connects the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. The photos we took do not show the marvels or the magnitude of the temples and tombs we saw on our cruise.  When you think most of these were fully or partly buried under tons of sand it is amazing that they were discovered, and the buildings, carvings and hieroglyphics in stone telling the history of each temple, tomb or monument were also on scales that told of ‘master stone masons’.  As with many buildings over the years there was graffiti, including initials of the archaeologists and Egyptologists, who found and worked on these ‘ruins’, even during the war soldiers had decorated some partly covered ‘ruins’ with graffiti, now they have been fully uncovered you have to gaze high up to see this graffiti.  The wall art and the colours used within the tombs and temples were a marvel, telling stories of gods and the afterlife.  The sheer size, scale and workmanship was awe inspiring and although tiring we had enjoyed every moment.  Finishing at Luxor we stayed on board that night, some guests flying home the next day and some, like us, staying in Luxor for 7 nights.     To be continued…….

The Nile Cruise Continues.

Mum, Dad, Carol and Stuart had begun a Nile cruise to see the wonders of ancient Egypt. This was a life long dream for the four of them.

Hatshepsut temple is an ancient example of pure visual architecture and there is simply nothing that can match the beauty and elegance of the Hatshepsut temple

Hatshepsut temple was built by Queen Hatshepsut during the 18th dynasty in the new kingdom on the west bank of the Nile under the cliffs of “Deir El-Bahari”. Its purpose was to become the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut and was known as Djeser-Djeseru (Holy of Holies). The temple was the neighbor of the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep II which was used as a primary model. It was dedicated to the god Amun and Hatshepsut herself who was successful in immortalizing her name through the ages.

Valley of the Kings

The main use of Valley of the Kings was for burials mainly from 1539 BC to 1075 BC. The valley contains about 63 tombs of different rulers, pharaohs, and queens of the old kingdom of Egypt starting from Thutmose I and ends with Ramses XI. The main kings and rulers of the eighteenth were the only ones who were allowed to be buried in the valley. Others out of the royal family were buried in small rock chambers close to the tomb of their master.

The tombs inside the valley of the kings were decorated by the workers of the village of Deir el-Medina, who came from different routes over the Theban hills. Many tombs have graffiti from the ancient tourists as the site attracted tourists from the last two centuries. There were also many expeditions by the Napoleon expedition to Egypt and the European exploration to draw maps to the tombs inside the valley till around the beginning of the 20th century when the team of the American explorer Theodore M. Davis discovered many Royal and non-Royal tombs in the valley. In 2001, new signs of the tombs were designed by Theban Mapping Project to provide new information about the open tombs.

Edfu Temple

Edfu temple is the most impressive one among all Nile temples between Luxor and Aswan. It is located in Edfu city, which is located 60 km north of Aswan on the west bank of the Nile River in Upper Egypt. It was established during the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 237 and 57 BC. Edfu temple was the center of the cult of a triad of gods. Edfu city was known in the Greek documents as, “Apollopolis Magna”. The reason behind this was that Horus was identified by the Greeks with their god Apollo. Edfu flourished a lot in the ancient era and the most important touristic landmark in it is Edfu Temple. It dates back to the Ptolemaic period. Here are all the information need to know before visiting Edfu temple:

Kom Obo Temple Complex

Kom Ombo temple is a double unique temple that is located in the town of Kom Ombo 30 miles (48 km) north of the Aswan governorate in Upper Egypt. This temple was constructed during the era of the Greco-Roman but the area had been inhabited since the pre-dynastic period of Egyptian history. Many ancient burial sites were discovered in and around Kom Ombo.

This amazing double temple was in fact dedicated to Sobek “The Crocodile God” and Horus, the falcon-headed god. Every part of the temple id duplicated to two sets of gods. The god Sobek is associated with god Seth, the enemy of Horus. According to Seth’s myth, the allies of Seth made their escape by changing themselves into crocodiles. The main sanctuary of Sobek was Kom Ombo temple where there were once huge numbers of crocodiles. The local inhabitants of this area went in fear because of the dangerous animals and they believed that a totem animal is going to attack them.

Kom Ombo temple was established during the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Greco-Roman period from 332B.C until 395 A.D. Everything in this marvelous temple is perfectly symmetrical along the main axis. Everything inside the temple from texts and reliefs refers to the Cultic liturgies and the temple itself has a specific theology. There are two themes presented in Kom Ombo temple, the Universalist theme, and the local theme. Unfortunately, much of this temple was destroyed by the Nile River. Jacques Morgan restored all temples in the southern part of the plateau in 1893.

The Ptolemies have established a lot of military bases near the Red Sea, which fostered commercial activities between these bases and the Nile towns, especially Kom Ombo. The most glorious days for Kom Ombo were when the Romans ruled Egypt. During this time, Kom Omo became the main administrative center and the capital of the province.

Toot and Come In.

Our next stop was at the Valley of the Kings, and the first thing we saw was the Colossi of Memnon, 2 giant statues that seemed to be guarding the area of the Valley of the Kings (tombs and burial sites of the pharaohs).  We visited the tombs of Ramses, Seti and Tutankhamum (unfortunately his treasure is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo).  We then went to the Valley of the Queens (tombs and burial sites of the pharaohs wives) also known as Ta-Set-Neferu “The place of Beauty”. Here we entered the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut (who became a Pharaoh, reigning 1650-1600 BC,  We could not take photos of the beautiful wall art inside the tombs, although we were able to take photos of going into the Tomb of Seti which gives you an idea of what would be inside.  Next stop was Esna to visit the Edfu Temple.  Edfu is the second largest temple in Egypt and is known as the Temple of Horus (falcon-headed god).  On to Kom Ombo to visit the Temple there.  This Temple was unusual as there are two temple spaces within the one temple.  One side for God Sobek and the other side for God Horus. Our next stop was the Temple of Philae (known as the Temple of ISIS), then on to Aswan to see the world’s largest embankment dam the High Dam.  The High Dam is located at the northern border between Egypt and Sudan. The Nile then flows into Lake Nasser.  We also went to see the unfinished obelisk, this was unfinished because a flaw had been found when making it.  It lies at the granite quarry the source of Egypt’s finest granite. That night we had an Egyption Night on board the RA11, dressing up for the occasion, and staying overnight in Aswan ready for a 230 km journey into the desert early next morning…  To be continued ……….  

Cruising the Nile.

There is going to be a slight change to the way we do the Backstory for the next three weeks. In the March of 97 Mum, Dad, Carol and Stuart set out on a dream holiday. With two grandchildren expected Mum and Dad knew that time was going to be scairce. So the four of them embarked on a Nile Cruise to see the wonders of ancient Egypt.

Now I warn you there is going to be a lot of photos, and these are only a small selection of the many many photos that Mum had in their album.

Dendera Temple Complex.

The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mudbrick enclosed wall. Dendera was inhabited in prehistory, a useful oasis on the banks of the Nile. It seems that pharaoh Pepi I (ca. 2250 BC) built on this site and evidence exists of a temple in the Eighteenth Dynasty (ca 1500 BC). The earliest extant building in the compound today is the Mammisi raised by Nectanebo II – last of the native pharaohs (360–343 BC).

The features in the complex include:

Hathor temple (the main temple)

Temple of the birth of Isis

Sacred Lake


Mammisi of Nectanebo II

Christian Basilica

Roman Mammisi

a Barque shrine

Gateways of Domitian and Trajan

the Roman Kiosk

Nearby is the Dendera necropolis, a series of mastaba tombs. The necropolis dates from the Early Dynastic Period of the Old Kingdom to the First Intermediate Period of Egypt.[2] The necropolis runs the eastern edge of the western hill and over the northern plain.

Continuing the Nile Cruise.

The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Since 1350 BCE, they have stood in the Theban Necropolis, located west of the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor.

Egyptian Alabaster.

Egyptian alabaster has been worked extensively near Suez and Assiut. This stone variety is the "alabaster" of the ancient Egyptians and Bible and is often termed Oriental alabaster, since the early examples came from the Far East. The Greek name alabastrites is said to be derived from the town of Alabastron in Egypt, where the stone was quarried.

Egyptian Adventures.

5th Mar 1997 saw Mary, Chris. Stuart and I heading off to Egypt.  We had all wanted to see the ancient sites of Egypt, particularly Mary, and so off we went.  We had booked for a 7night cruise of the Nile, Luxor to Aswan and back and then 7 nights in Luxor.  When we got the details we knew it was going to be a full and tiring trip down the Nile.  On our holiday we would be seeing Dendarah Temple; Valley of the Kings; Edfu Temple;  Kom Ombo temple; Valley of the Queens; Philae temple; Esna Temple; Unfinished Obelisk; Abu Simbel Great Temple and Small Temple; The High Dam; Botanic Islands; and lastly Temple of Luxor; Karnack Temple, Luxor Museum and Cachette and the Winter Palace Hotel and were excited to see everything  We would be seeing 7,000 years of history along part of the longest river in the world, and history around Luxor itself.  The traffic on the Nile was busy with Feluccas cruise boats and local fishing boats.  There were plenty of tourists from other cruise boats but as long as we kept our guide with her pink/black umbrella in sight all was ok.  Our first stop was just up the Nile from Luxor to Dendarah Temple then we turned around for our sail down the Nile.

To be continued……….

The Best Ever Crimbo.

I must admit these photos and writing this is both a joy and very hard. I am not ashamed to admit I have tears streaming down my face.

Christmas 96 we went over to Mum and Dads. Euan, Carolynn and myself had packed all the prezzies up and had made the journey over to Ayr. Mum as always had decorated the house and there was a lovely Christmassy feeling.

Christmas Day was wonderful plenty of great food, lovely presents and Euan just amazed at the array of presents from Santa. Carolynn and myself had an extra prezzy for Mum and Dad as well as Gregor. They were to become Grandparents again and Gregor was to have a wee brother or sister.

It was a joyful day indeed. Carolyn and myself had buried the hatchet and were loving the Christmas spirit.

Boxing Day Madness.

Boxing Day morning saw the arrival of David and Louise. It was always good to see my brother. They came laden with presents, good cheer, and Dave with his sense of mischief. It was Christmas day all over again for us.

David and Louise also had news for us, they were expecting as well. Mum and Dad were going to be thrice Grandparents, they were shocked and full of joy at the good news.

Mum and Dad had a long all in one living room and dining room. Christmas dinner was again served to us all and as pretty much always it was superb. After the table had been cleared David unveiled his star presents for Dad, Euan, myself and his self. It was pull cord helicopters that would fly a short distance. Euan and Dave were at one end of the Livingroom and Dad, and I were at the opposite end in the dining room. The four of us were firing these toy helicopters over the couch in the middle of the room at each other. Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling came down and it was wild. Euan loved it.

The best was yet to come!

As the evening came all the adults were having a few wee drams beers and wines. David called Dad and myself into the kitchen, he had hatched a plan.

Roll forward ten minutes or so. Euan walked into the living room and told Mum, Carolynn, and Louise to sit on the couch. He then returned to the Livingroom bearing a sign “The Chumpindales” and pressed play on the cd player. On came Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, Dave, Dad, and I walked out, and we did a very basic dance routine to gales of laughter from the ladies. I admit it we were laughing so hard and with the added alcohol we were out of step bumped into each other, we were terrible. We turned round and dropped our trousers and mooned Mum, Carolynn, and Louise. The shouts of laughter were that loud I am surprised the neighbours hadn’t called the Police.

Then it was the ladies turn. I can’t remember the song they used because we like them were laughing so much. At the end of the song, they all turned their backs and then pretended to take their bras off and fling them over their shoulders at us.

All of us including Euan had laughed ourselves silly, our sides ached, and we had tear stains down our faces.

That was the best Christmas ever.

Benidorm Christmas

Christmas saw just Stuart and I going once again on the coach this time heading for Benidorm for the first time. Mary and Chris had decided to stay home for Christmas and were also not keen on the awfully long journey to Benidorm. Our first impression was that it was so much warmer in Benidorm than it had been north in Lloret. We started to explore the area and realized there was a lot to see. We went to Valencia visiting the fire museum and the new art museum. They were building many attractions on the dry riverbed which went through the city. We went up into the hills to visit Guadelest, a village on top of a mountain, built by the Moors 1,300 years ago. We had a lovely day looking round the village and visiting the castle, and the valley, with the dam and reservoir. We also went to the UNESCO Heritage site of Eche (known as the Palm Forest), again lots of history – the trees were brought to Elch by

Muslim Caliphs, who planted them and dug irrigation ditches in the 10th century. Alicante was a lovely place – either walking along the prom or sitting at a café people watching while drinking coffee. A good shopping center and a good market.

30 and Not Out.

My 30th birthday had come round which was a complete surprise for me as I had never thought I would reach the age of thirty. I could never see myself aged thirty, (never mind the 55 I am now). I had planned a nice quiet day for myself however that was not what everyone else had planned.

The day before my birthday there was a knock at my front door, upon opening it, there was Carol and Stuart with bags, “we are here for the weekend Godson” which was a surprise to me as you can guess.

My wife Carolynn had organised without me finding out Mum and Dad were staying at David and his wife’s house in Scone, Carol Stu with us.

The Saturday was my birthday and was filled with family and friends the things I love best. There were plenty of presents as well and also a few early beers. In the afternoon we had a big barbecue, my best mate Chris and his wife Deborah came round closely followed by David and his wife Louise. Mum, Carol Carolynn, Louse, and Deborah all looked after the food preparation whilst the men looked after the bar and the barbecue.

The food was plentiful and gorgeous. Mum had done her signature Satay sauce and belly pork, and there were so many different dishes. Our neighbours came round and joined in the festivities as well.

We had a great day, and the craic (Google it) was fierce. Dave was on great form as usual, and he and Stuart made the party go with a bang.

I had come to realise that I was and am very like my Mum the most important and valuable present anyone could give me was time.

Belles in Belfast.

Mum used to work in the Royal Mail building in Ayr. There were times she moaned and groaned about the work, however she really loved mixing and chatting with folk. As much as she liked her personal life to be quiet, she liked the business of her work.

Some of the girls from her work decided that after a particular busy time that they would treat themselves to a weekend away. Mum at first was reluctant to go however the others persuaded her to head off to Belfast with them.

Mum came back refreshed and full of life. The girls obviously had a wonderful weekend and had enjoyed each other’s company.

Mum and the others had loads of shopping, I have no idea how they managed to get it all back in the plane.

My cousin Frances and her husband had a girl, Chloe, and a wee lad called Matthew. So, for Matthew’s birthday Mum and Dad met up with Carol and Stuart at Frances’s home in Selby. Matthew was delighted with the presents he received and of course the attention.

Lots of Fun.

June saw us heading for Ayr and then on to Perth for Mike’s 30th Birthday. Stuart, Rusty, and I stayed with Mike, Carolynn, and Euan while Mary and Chris stayed with David and Louise. We had a wonderful time; the BBQ was lit and with Chris at the helm (he always liked cooking the barbie) we were well fed and watered. It was a great weekend. We mentioned how good ‘Opera in the Park’ had been so David and Louise said if we could get tickets, they would come down to us for that weekend. We got the tickets and they thoroughly enjoyed it, although again the weather was not the best with rain showers. In October it was Matthew’s (our Grandson) first birthday – he certainly enjoyed his car when he could get Chloe out of it.

Exploring North Wales.

In the Spring of 96 Mum and Dad, Carol and Stuart had decided to have a holiday exploring in North Wales. They had rented a cottage in the Snowdonia mountains for a week.

Mum and Dad and also had visited my wife and I when I was based at RAF Valley on Anglesey and had liked the drive through the mountains and across the island and had said they wanted to explore the area further.

So, taking the opportunity they had their week in the mountains and valleys of Snowdonia and Anglesey. As always Stuart and my dad got up to there mischief and had their fun.

One of the places they visited was Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­gochor as we used to call it in the RAF, Llanfair PG.

Literally translated, the long form of the name means: "[The] church of [St.] Mary (Llanfair) [of the] pool (pwll) of the white hazels (gwyn gyll) near [lit. "over against"] (go ger) the fierce whirlpool (y chwyrn drobwll) [and] the church of [St.] Tysilio (Llantysilio) of the red cave (-ogo[f] goch)".

Llanfairpwll is on the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn in Welsh). Anglesey is separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait. There are two bridges - Britannia Bridge and Menai Bridge. Llanfairpwll is just over the Britannia bridge.

The Royals - William and Kate

Anglesey was also the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - Prince William (heir to the British throne), Kate (Middleton) and their new baby, Prince George, whilst William was based at the Royal Air Force base on Anglesey. Their home was in Bodorgan - just a few miles from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

The four of them visited many of the places that I had visited when based at Valley and in the Snowdonia National Park. There are some gorgeous towns and villages and scenery.


My Cousin Frances had got married and they had a lass called Chloe. Chloe and my lad Euan were cousins although they met infrequently. I can never work out whole first, second etc, thing. Chloe now has kids of her own.

When my wife and I had time off together we sometimes would head over to Mum and Dad’s in Ayr. Euan loved going over to his nana and grandad’s. My dad would get him involved in all sorts of wee projects and jobs. The two of them had such a warm and lovely relationship.

My wife and I were trying to make our marriage work again and so things in our household were more calm and certainly less noisy. We were all the better off for it.

Walking in Wales.

In May Mary, Chris, Stuart and I decided it was time for another break, so it was agreed we would have a week in Wales.  Chris had just recently returned from a work trip to America and was also eager to have a break. Mary and Chris would come down from Scotland via the M6 while Stuart and I would travel from Leeds on the M62 to the M6 and meet up with Mary and Chris at what was then The Little Chef for breakfast.   We decided to head for Angelsy, crossing the Menai Bridge (a first for me) and visiting the tourist attractions there, including the Butterfly & Bird castle, Sea Zoo, the lovely beaches, and quiet hills.  One day we travelled south so we could go to Blaenau Ffestiniog so we could go on the Ffestiniog railway and also see the Slate Cavens. Chris had brought back hats and sheriff badges from America for himself and Stuart and of course they wore them often!! You can see them in the photos. Stuart had even tried several toy shops to get kiddies holsters and toy guns to compliment the hats and badges, so they could practice ‘cowboy draws’ and have a ‘fastest draw’ tournament, but could not find them anywhere (much to Mary’s and my delight)!!  As usual we made sure we had everything for picnics and BBQ,s, and a quick visit to the shops in the mornings saw us prepared for each day ahead.  Rusty now a seasoned traveller loved the freedom of the beaches, hills and open spaces.

On our return the front garden was ablaze in colour with lots of tidying up to do and Rusty loved sitting watching us work.

Taking the Pi**.

The Christmas of 1995 Mum, Dad, Carol and Stuart had headed off for another Christmas away. Both David and I never resented these Christmas breaks as they always seemed to breathe new life into both Mum and Dad.

David and his wife were having Christmas with her parents and family and I was working right over the Christmas period, picking up as much over time as was possible. Once again my marriage was going through a rocky patch. We had goty married without spending enough time together and those small wrinkles that could and should have been ironed out, never were. We both compiled mistake after mistake on top of each other.

You may be wondering why there are so many photos of my parents and so little of my side of things. There are two reasons, one, we rarely took photos secondly because when we did separate I tokk very little with me. We often intentionally worked opposite shifts which came in handy for childcare however it was handy for other reasons as well.

Anyway back to Mum and Dad, Carol and Stuart. One of the escapes for them all was that Dad and Stuart (my Uncle and Goddad) gave each other reason to get away with murder almost acting  like young rascals which in a way they were. They bounced off each other and that mischief enhanced their holidays. There are quite a few photos in the same genre as the last one here and there are many stories as well. My favourite was the tale of Dad the Poledancer although that is a little way off as yet.

Happy Hogmanay.

The four some of Carol, Mum, Stuart and Dad saw the New Year in whilst they were on holiday. Being just the four of them and meeting up with fellow travellers meant that they could all enjoy a wee tipple or six. They also liked a dance and boy could they dance when the mood or the alhohol struck.

The four of them loved the southern coast of spain and had many holidays over the years basking in the Espania sunshine. The third photo was taken on New Years Day. I think Mum and Dad may have had a wee hangover.

Why the chair in the fourth photo was stuck down an alley or why it was so high I have no idea. I just know I don’t want to meet the family who uses this chair at the table. If you know its reason for being or have a funny caption let me know.

I spent the Hogmanay working as usual although I did manage to get a wee dram or two. New Year has always been an important time for me, not so much the celebrations although I enjoyed them as well, but more of a personal thing. The coming new year, the hope that things would get better. I had made a decision to try and get my marriage back on track and make things better at home.

Beautiful Bali.

December saw Mary, Chris, Stuart and I once again boarding the coach for our Christmas/New Year in Lloret de Mar, and once again we met up with many friends from previous trips.  We loved the surrounding area, particularly Barcelona where we explored the Ramblas, but also Genoa, Blanes, Lake Besaru and the markets.   We also enjoyed the night life and entertainment at the hotel, and along with the other guests participated in the dancing, fun, and banter.  The year before we had called our holiday the ‘Lladro’ holiday because we had collected more Lladro.  This year it was the ‘Scarf’ holiday.  Even Chris and Stuart participated wearing their scarves (bought at the markets) everywhere.

3rd March saw Stuart and I going off to the sun again.  We had decided to go back to Bali, but would split the holiday between Bali and Lombok, a small island east of Bali.  Our days in Bali were spent chilling out and relaxing then it was a flight in a small plane to Senggigi Beach, Lombok.  Lombok was not a tourist island and was very rural and tranquil. We hired a car and guide (Andry) to show us the island.  In the photo you see us with Andry at Kata beach, a deserted sandy beach. Andry said in 18 months time there would be hotels being built all along the beach, to attract tourism.  In another photo you will see men with baskets collecting (by hand) gravel from the river bed and taking it up the river bank to lorries. A grueling job.  Water buffalo were wandering all around the island, and we saw traditional Sasak houses and rice barns.  The end of our stay saw us going back to Bali for a couple of days then home.

Barbecued Rocks.

Mum, Dad, Carol and Stuart kept up their trips away and the enjoyment of exploring new places as a foursome. They might be gone a day they might be gone a few days, sometimes I am not sure that they even knew. One thing I did know was that Mum and Dad loved this time away. Mum and Dad apart from the friendship with Carol and Stuart in many ways lived a very solitary life and like all folk could be a wee bit difficult to live with. Mum had a sharp tongue on her at times and Dad could go into a dark mood. Having Carol and Stuart around just made things a wee bit easier. 

I had been having a rough time of it and because I was not in a good place neither was my wife. I had been going from job to job and periods of unemployment. During one of those times I had gone back to working with husband and wife team Ian and Philly. They had this theatrical prop building company that saw me being employed as a handyman. 

Working with Ian and Philly was a learning experience in many ways. During the slow times of prop building we built all sorts of other things from Santa’s grottos at Christmas time, to fibreglass kiddies rides, to merchandise and stage props for The Singing Kettle. It was great fun although very intermittent work. Sometimes you would get weeks of work and sometimes it was only a few days. 

During this time of uncertainty my marriage was on a very rocky road. My wife and I, in many respects were living apart in the same house. I slept in the spare bedroom and we were passing ships in the night. 

Galloping Galloways.

When we went up to see Mary and Chris we loved going to the Galloways. As usual we would pack a BBQ or a picnic and just head off.  You will see from Mike’s photo that because of recent dry weather we ended up setting up the BBQ in the middle of a stream bed to eliminate the danger of fire.  When Mary and Chris came down to Leeds we decided to visit the Royal Armouries Museum.  It is a national museum which displays the National Collection of arms and armour.  It was really good with lots of information, exhibitions and photography.  Chris and Stuart particularly enjoyed looking around. 

Beginning of September saw us going north again to the Highlands to see the Braemar Gathering, Mary had managed to get tickets and had told us to keep that weekend free.  We had all wanted to visit the Gathering which had in one sort of another been going for about 900 years.  The Braemar Royal Society had organized the Gathering for only 178 years. We stayed at a lovely B&B in Ballater, and they had arranged ‘day care’ for Rusty as dogs were not allowed at the Gathering.  What a great day, with Massed Pipe Bands, dancing, marching, international athletes and teams from HM Forces taking part in ‘heavy’ and ‘track’ events.  The Queen and Prince Phillip would sometimes attend the Gathering, but we were unfortunate as the they did not attend that year. As usual we had a good look around the area while there and again as usual went on the back roads when we could.  We loved the quietness, scenery and wildness travelling the back roads, and never knew what we would see or bump into.

Halton Reunion.

The end of September saw Stuart going down to RAF Halton for the Fifth Triennial Reunion for all ex-Halton ‘Brats’ (what the apprentices were called).   Stuart thoroughly enjoyed seeing lots of old faces, catching up with those from his entry (the 80th Entry) sharing memories and looking around the camp again.

October saw Chloe and her dad staying with us while Frances was in hospital having our second grandchild Matthew.  Chloe could hardly wait to see her little brother and could not wait to give him a cuddle. 

Berwick Again.

As a family my wife and I did not have money for overseas holidays, so we often hired a caravan on the Berwick- Upon-Tweed campsite. It was perfect for us, it had plenty going on for Euan, play clubs and all sorts of activities going on. It was also close enough to the town to be able to walk into.

Berwick is a town steeped in history. One of our favourite things to do was walk round the ramparts and battlements that protected the town from roving armies. If you have never been to Berwick, I recommend it as it is a great place to visit. It is a very quaint town with lots to see and do.

Another always visit place was Holy Isle and the village of Lindisfarne. In 635AD Saint Aidan came from Iona and chose to found his monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. From here the Christian message flourished throughout the world.

I have always found Holy Island and especially the Priory and St Mary’s Church to be such a peaceful and holy place. I have sat in St Mary’s church for many an hour over the years. You can feel the holiness of the place.

My family and I returned to Holy Island for a visit. I was looking forward to an hour or two of peace, prayer, and solitude in St Mary’s, however I was horrified to see the number of visitors there now. Lindisfarne was mobbed.

Another favourite place to visit was Bamburgh Castle. Euan loved visiting it and the gorgeous beach. Not far down the road is the Seahouses where we used to head for fish and chips after a visit to the castle.

The Ape in Us All.

Euan always loved animals and as discussed before he had this fascination with poo (he still does by the way). A trip to the zoo was a win for us as parents if we took him, no matter how many times we had been.

Our plan when we went visiting anywhere was to pack a picnic and find a good spot to enjoy our food and drink. I recall coming back from Edinburgh Zoo with some animal poo in one of our sandwich boxes after this visit. He had asked one of the keepers for some, and the Keeper delighted with Euan’s interest got him some (much to his Mum and I’s disgust).

The shot of Euan on the orangutang sculpture is one of my personal favourites. He was a very happy lad. He travelled miles sat on my shoulders and steered me by pulling my ears. I would go wherever he steered me. I have many many happy memories of Euan’s childhood.

Mum and Dad had travelled down to Yorkshire to spend some time with Carol and Stuart. Stately homes, gardens, and garden centres were always top of the list for the four of them. And of course, it was no longer the four of them as Rusty had joined them as well.

Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart’s willingness to stop anywhere and get the gas burner out for a cuppa or a bite to eat had influenced David and I.

David at this time was still based at RAF Leuchars in Fife. He and his wife would often pop in to see us in Perth. It was always good to see my brother, Euan loved his visits because it meant that he and his uncle would get up to some mischief. Euan loved showing his poo collection to David.

Singing in the Rain.

When Mary and Chris came down to Leeds it was not always for shopping, we would visit places like Percival Hall, Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsam Park. Our bungalow backed on to Temple Newsam Park and Temple Newsam House. They had introduced ‘Party in the Park’ the year before which proved to be popular. They also introduced ‘Opera in the Park’ which we were really keen to go too. We checked with Mary and Chris to see if they were free to come that weekend and got the tickets, it was to be held on the grassed area which slopes down at the front of the house. We decided to walk the short distance through the park to the house. It was an evening event and was set to be cool with the chance of rain showers. Because we were walking, we ate before we went rather than carrying a picnic, and so with wet weather jackets on, each carrying our own chair and flask of hot drink (fortified!!) off we set. We picked our places and set up our chairs. As it started to rain quite heavy and seemed to get cold, we bundled up in our jackets, but our legs were going to get wet – Mary to the rescue – with a ‘Tra La’ she produced 4 heavy duty wheelie bin bags into which we put our feet, pulled them up to our waists and we were dry, warm and snug.  When I had mentioned rain showers for the concert, she had come up with the idea of the wheelie bin bags and had brought them from Scotland to be prepared (she had not mentioned them to us at all). The opera was brilliant, and it was a wonderful night, even though we had to walk home through the park, in the rain, with only a couple of torches.

Over the years to about 2014 Party in the Park and Opera in the Park were held each year to audiences, I believe, of between 50,000 to 70,000 each time.

Temple Newsam Estate comprises of 1,500 acres of park land, woodland, and rare breed’s farm. The house is Tudor-Jacobean, and the grounds and garden were landscaped by Capability Brown. History Records go back to 1066. It was a favourite place for Stuart to walk Rusty. They both loved the open space and the ponds and would walk for miles. The front garden was in full bloom that summer and de-heading and pulling weeds kept us busy in the summer nights.

Wandering the Woods.

When we were across visiting Mum and dad at their new home in Ayr one of the favourite days-out places was Loudon Castle. This old stately home had been redeveloped as a petting zoo come funfair destination. It was slowly being built up over the years we had started going there.

Euan loved the rides and was happy to go on all of them more than once. He was never afraid of the thrill rides. Euan also loved the petting zoo side of things and was continuing his study into the poo of different animals.

The five of us with Mum and dad would pack a picnic and off we went. The castle has the most wonderful bluebell woods. They carpet the woodland floor in their thousands. The scent is heavenly, and the place feels magical.

Highland Travels.

Carol and Stuart, with Mum and Dad had headed off to the Highlands to have a few days peace and quiet after we had visited. For the first time Rusty Carol and Stuart’s new dog came with them.

Rusty soon became a firm favourite with Mum and Dad alike. Rusty although very inquisitive was always very well behaved.

As always, these trips away with the four of them were a chance to let down their hair and have a laugh. I know that such trips were a real pressure relief valve for Mum and Dad both.

They visited the mountains and glens of the Highlands and also Balmoral. They really enjoyed their trip and were looking to repeat another time.

Giggles and Mischief.

We loved going up to Scotland to see Mary and Chris for the weekend as we usually took this time to explore the beautiful countryside around Ayr.  The Galloway Forest Park with its many lochs was a particular favourite to go to on a Saturday for the day, a different scene and pace from the busy way of Leeds on Mary and Chris’s visits.  In May we decided to extend a weekend for a few days and made plans to go to see Balmoral Castle and the surrounding area.  We had a great time, and as usual had plenty of jokes and laughs.  The hills and glens were wild quiet places, and keeping to the back roads as much as possible we kept a lookout for deer and birds of prey.  We took Rusty with us to see how he was ‘on the road’ he took to it like a duck to water.  The B&B’s we stayed at all welcomed him and he loved the attention.

He was used to being out in the country, as when at home Stuart took him out every day for long, long walks. I would join them at the weekend.  One Saturday we were out and on a bridge crossing over a stream quite a way below.  Rusty heard ducks and jumped up onto the bridge wall slipped and fell to the rocks and stream.  I went into panic mode while Stuart gingerly climbed down the banking to get to Rusty.  He had hurt his leg and was limping a little, but luckily it was nothing serious, although he enjoyed the attention when we got home and played the ‘wounded soldier’ for a day. In the photo you can just see him on the patio bench wrapped up in a blanket.     

Spending a Penny.

The Christmas of 94, Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart headed off for some Winter sun in Spain. Carol and Stuart  put their new dog  to friends Kevin & Julie and it was a bit expensive for them as Rusty wee'd on Xmas tree and blew the lights, also he decided that his best toy was Julie's pair of brand new £80 leather boots.  Fortunately they loved having Rusty, took it in good spirits and we replaced the boots.for a wee break for Rusty but also for them. Rusty was full of life and so curious. He loved sticking his nose into everywhere.

The famous four headed away to have Christmas and New Year in Salou. They enjoyed their festivities with their fellow holidaymakers.

Carol’s birthday is on Christmas Day so Mum especially loved to find a jokey present to give her sister for her birthday. You can see her present in the second photo.

The four really let their hair down at times and sometimes like in the third photo even more. Stuart was the real joker in the pack.

I was still working at an electronics factory on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Perth and my wife was nursing at an old age psychiatry in Perth. We were both working long hours and I was doing as much overtime as possible. I needed the overtime to help pay the bills. The distance between myself and my wife. Was increasing and we were having more arguments.

Muscle Beach, Perth.

Euan was going to the nursery close to where we lived. The nursery ran this week long Circus Week which I helped out as an extra body. Euan loved the dressing up and the fun of the circus. One of the big circuses was in town during the same week so as a family the three of us went to see the fun and games. Too be honest the circus is not really my cup of tea however Euan loved it, which was the important thing.

For Euan’s fourth birthday we headed off to Ayr where Mum and Dad had moved to with Dad’s job. Mum was really making the house ito a home. It was a talent that Mum had wherever we lived.

Euan got a bike for his birthday, and was soon scaring everyone on the wee estate as he zipped along the paths. You did not get much warning I can tell you that.

Euan had a wonderful relationship with his grandparents and was always happy to visit them or for them to visit us. In Ayr there was and still is a cracking playpark where on sunny days we would take our picnic and Euan would play his heart out with other girls and boys.

Another favourite thing to do was go for family walks along Prestwick beach. Prestwick beach went for miles and the sea very shallow. We spent many a day having fun there.

Exotic Travels.

Mary and Chris came down to Colton for the shopping, but we stayed at home for the next couple of months.  As I was at work during the day Stuart was training Rusty on his outdoor activities!!  We had booked to go to Salou for Christmas and New Year with the coach tour again.  Mary and Chris travelled down from Scotland and the next day we boarded the coach to Salou – there were many passengers we recognized from the year before.  We enjoyed the tours around the area, taking in Cambrills, Peniscola, Tarragona, Barcelona, and Monserrat, and having lots of fun.  Both Mary and I had bought Lladro figurines the year before and so it was inevitable that we would add to our collection, hence the photo of us carrying heavy bags!!  The evenings were spent dancing, watching the entertainment and just enjoying ourselves.

Beginning of March saw Stuart and I going off to Bali to find our winter sun.  Our BA package holiday (to our surprise) included a personal driver/guide and car for the whole fortnight.  We left it up to Eric (our driver/guide) as to where we would go.  Eric would pick us up early in the morning and not only did we visit the tourist places but he also took us to small villages, and through rice fields.  We saw families making silver jewelry and wooded ornaments in their homes, and ate at little local cafes, and went to the Balinese Theatre.  We even joined a funeral procession ending up on the beach so the ashes could be washed out to sea.  The temples were lovely, the most impressive being Para Besakib (Mother Temple).  It was the most sacred temple of Bali, situated on the slopes of the volcanic Mount Agung. Climbing up the very many steps and into the clouds hanging over the mountain felt surreal.  We had a brilliant time and with Eric’s knowledge were able to appreciate everything we saw.

The Last Move.

After a lifetime of moving home, sometimes from country to another there was one last move left for my Mum and Dad. Dad had been moved to a new position at British Aerospace Prestwick. Once again Mum and dad had to pack their bags up, box everything ready for the move. Mum was not happy, the home in Bramhall was perfect for having all the family together. The business of the life in Stockport and Manchester suited Mum to the ground. However, with only a few grumbles, they set forth to Ayr. Ayr is a seaside town on the west coast of Scotland. After a good hunt they found a lovely bungalow in Cloverhill. As always Mum soon turned it into a home.

Not long after Mum and Dad had settled into the new home, Carol and Stuart got a strange request from Mum. It was coming up Stuart’s birthday and Mum and Dad had organised a surprise trip to Ireland to celebrate. They visited the Giants Causeway and all over the Northeast of Ireland. As usual the four of them had many a laugh and a touch or two of mischief.

The First Family Graduation.

Whilst doing all sorts of different jobs from bar work to stores I had been studying at Perth College, part of the Highlands and Islands University. The aircraft industry was not doing well and my hopes of landing an aero engineering job had failed. So, at the age of 28 I went back to school. I had been pretty much useless at school, however now I was motivated to turn my life around and head in a new direction. I had been studying a Business Administration degree. I found as a mature student that I loved it. I really studied hard and came away with a merit and nine distinctions.

My family all gathered for my Graduation; I was the first person in my family to graduate. I can remember David cheering when I received my scroll.

The happiness did not last, however. I had made a mistake. I was applying for jobs I had no experience for. All I had ever known was working with aircraft not a desk job in my working life at all. I wrote hundreds of applications and letters. It was not to be.

I began working with a company called Red I, that built scenery for theatre and opera, Santa’s grottos, and all sorts of things. It was actually a great job acting as Ian’s assistant, Philly his wife was an amazing artist. We even built a three-quarter size channel tunnel train for La Boheme. Unfortunately, the work was very seasonal.

My wife and I were going round in circles, having massive arguments, apologies being made on both sides, a brief period of where we tried to improve things, then back to arguing. We hid this from our families however David could see through our evasion.

Rusty Joins the Carden’s.

Once again there was a move within the family with Mary and Christ moving back to Scotland.  Chris had been promoted and had moved to Prestwick Airport.  They had found a lovely bungalow in Ayr and had soon made it into their home.   Stuart and I went up to help where we could, and we explored the area around Ayr.  We were looking forward to seeing more of Ayr and Scotland on our weekend visits, while Mary and Chris would come down to Leeds for the weekends for shopping and the markets.

 Stuart had finished the back garden and we were looking forward to bringing our puppy, whom we decided to call Rusty, home. Mary had organized a surprise for the weekend of Stuart’s birthday, and we had  arranged to pick Rusty up the following weekend.   Arriving at Mary and Chris’s Friday night we were up very early on the Saturday morning and on our way, only Stuart did not know where (I had been told the night before).  We arrived at Stranraer, got on a ferry, leaving the car behind and set off for Ireland. When we arrived at Belfast we got on a coach and went on a tour of the scenic Antrim countryside and coast, the highlight being the Giant’s Causeway, a World Heritage Site, a breath taking place,  Arriving back at Belfast we had time for a quick shop then it was the late ferry back to Stranraer – a great time

The next weekend we went to Thirsk to get Rusty.  He settled in well, and was the centre of attention which he loved.  He loved being cuddled.  He was so good, but Stuart wondered why he had planted the back garden!! 

Euan’s 3rd Birthday.

On the 10th of April 1994, we celebrated Euan’s third birthday. Mum and Dad came across for the weekend to help out with the party we were having in our home for Euan. My wife’s family had many relations and Euan had many cousins and it seemed they all visited that day. I seem to remember an inexhaustible supply of sandwiches, sausage rolls and typical party food coming from the kitchen.

Dad was the hero of the day by getting attacked very vigorously after Euan had hatched his plan with his cousins. It wasn’t just Euan it has a whole herd of kids that got Dad on the floor, he had no chance. We did have to stop some from jumping off the couch onto Dad’s stomach.

To recover from his beatings by the kids Mum, Carol and Stuart took Dad away for a long weekend away down to Berwick upon Tweed. One of our family favourite getaway destinations. The four of them explored stately mansions, and gardens enjoying the lack of noisy kids attacking poor Dad.

The Legends of the Selkies.

One of the places they visited on their trip to Berwick Upon Tweed was the Farne Islands. The four of them had hopped on a boat trip from the Seahouses, down the coast, out to the Islands.

They loved the peace and quiet and the freshness of the breeze. Though that changed a little with their visit to the colonies of seagulls on the cliff faces. Mum was enamoured with the Puffins; they soon became a favourite of Mum’s.

Not only te many different types of seagulls inhabit the Farne Islands but also there were many seals basking in the sunshine of the rocks.

Up here the seals are called Selkies. Perhaps one of the most notable mythical sea creatures in Irish and Scottish legends are the Selkies who are also called Seal Folk. They are mythological beings capable of changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin.

There is a famous legend in Scottish folklore that revolves around a selkie wife and her human lover. According to the tale, a man finds a female naked selkie on the seashore, so he steals her skin and compels her to become his wife. Throughout her captivity, the wife longs to return to her true home in the sea and always gazes longingly at the ocean.

Although she may appear to settle into her human life and may even have children with her human husband, as soon as she can find her skin, she will immediately flee and return to the sea.

David and his wife, my wife and I headed down to Mum’s for a surprise birthday party for my dad. He was hitting the big 57. As always, the family’s choice of food was a BBQ, a few drinks, some leg pulling and plenty of laughs.

One of Mum’s favourite things to do was toast marshmallows over the BBQ. Mum and Dad learnt this trick many many moons ago from friends in the RAF.

A Dog for the Carden’s

We were still going regularly to Bramall and Mary and Chris were coming to Colton, if Mike or David and families were visiting, they would come too.  Euan though was more interested in the fish in the pond and the pet rabbits next door. In May we decided it was time for another trip away and so we headed off to Berwick.  We stayed in a lovely hotel called Marshall Meadows just outside of Berwick.  It was a lovely stately building set in some lovely grounds, and even boasted a croquet pitch, which of course we had to try out, can’t remember who won the day, but it was not me – I was rubbish.  We had a trip out to see the Farne Islands – they were spectacular with the birds and seals, but before we went out in the boat both Mary and I had to go to a shop in Seahouses to buy wrist bands to hopefully stop seasickness.  We also went to Holy Island and had a good look around the Berwick area, and we found a great garden center which we all enjoyed looking around and of course trying out the cafe.  Needless to say, we took plants back home with us.

Stuart had done well with the back garden.  Greenhouse was erected, vegetable plot done, and he was digging out the pond.  We had always wanted a dog and we had decided on a spaniel.  In June we heard of some Welsh Springer Spaniel pups that had just been born and so made an appointment to go see them.  Frances with Chole decided to come as well and Chloe was really excited that she was going to help choose the pup.  They were gorgeous, and it was difficult to just choose one, but we did - Gabriel Gilrean was his pedigree name.  The owner wanted the pups to stay with their mother for the first twelve weeks and so it was agreed that we would bring him home in September.

A Lucky Escape.

I was still working for an electronics manufacturing site in Perth. I had passed my test on the forklift and was quite happy zotting back and forward on the site’s forklift.

I was working late one evening, I was tired, it had been a busy day, it was about eight at night and I was looking forward to getting home. I had just dropped a number of loads at the ‘Goods Out@ department at the other end on the factory and was returning to my department down a road on the industrial estate.

I had taken my hands off the wheel to light a cigarette, my hand caught the steering knob on the wheel and the forklift motoring along at top speed turned a 90-degree right turn. Everything started to happen in slow motion for me. I had not (against SOP’s Standard Operating Procedures) lifted the forks to a safe height. As I crossed the width of the road, I was sure my forks were going to hit the kerb, and tip me and the forklift over on top of me. It must have been a hairs breadth of difference, the forks slightly scraped the kerb, and I went up on the kerb and into a neighbouring car park between two parked cars, both of them expensive posh cars, I flattened a bush and came to a halt. I was shaking with adrenaline, and fear. I had an extremely lucky escape.

Expecting an almighty telling off and probable firing I reversed back onto the road. I returned to the forklift garage much more slowly and both hands on the wheel. Expecting hell to be unleashed on me from management I awaited the call of doom. I went home thinking my sacking would come next day, but nothing was said. Nobody had seen my little diversion, including the neighbouring business. I got away with it. However, I had learned a valuable lesson and I am sure a wee gift from God.

My wife was working at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth, working shifts. The pressures of shift work, parenting and the pressures of married life were widening the cracks in our marriage. I had started drinking more and smoking more.

Mum and Dad along with Carol and Stuart decided that Christmas to take off on a Coach Holiday to Lloret De Mar. The idea of travelling all that way on a coach seemed to me to be a nightmare, the four of them however loved it.

Bus Trip to Lloret De Mar.

Carol, Stuart, Mum, and dad had decided to spend Christmas and New Year on holiday in Spain. The idea of travelling from the UK to Spain on a coach sounded to me too be a nightmare. All that way with occasional pee breaks and food stops seemed madness, however they came back with determination to redo that style of holiday.

As I have said before the four of them had grown very close, even though they both as couples had other friends. The two couples had good days and bad days however when one couple were not doing so good the other couple were able to support and help.

I will let Carol tell you about how they spend Christmas Day 1993. Anybody else, I would not have believed it, however with them it fitted.

The trip included, Gerona, Barcelona, Blanes, Banyolles, Tossa De Mar, Besalu and Montserrat. They came home refreshed, happy, and ready to go again sometime.

These trips away were a great tonic for all four of them, helping in all sorts of ways. No matter how old David and I were, we were still Mum and Dad’s kids. We also had our own lives, problems and paths too take. Mum and Dad were always there to support us, when we needed them however it was important for them to have their own lives as well.

A Unexpected Encounter.

Christmas/New Year was looming, Mike, David and Frances were either spending their Christmas at home with their family or with in-laws.  Having spent so many Christmases with Dad being the focal person Mary, Chris, Stuart and I decided to do something totally different.  We came up with the idea of travelling with a coach party to Lloret de Mar, Spain.  It was a long way, but enroute we learned how to get off the coach quickly for comfort stops before the queues started forming!  There were plenty of excursions and we explored the area of Costa Brava, and enjoyed the entertainment at the hotel. It was a bitter/sweet time with lots of laughter and plenty of tears of sadness.

Christmas Day we went off to the beach and as we had taken our kites on holiday with us had some fun (kite flying was something we enjoyed with the families).  We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but later in the evening were talking to some guests, and they asked if we had seen the idiots flying kites on the beach – NO - we did not admit it was us!!  We also visited Barcelona Football Club, which Stuart and Chris enjoyed and even tried their own moves at tackling when we came out.  At the end of the trip with a ‘see you next year’ said goodbye to our fellow passengers.

Stuart and I loved the heat, sun and beaches and warm sea to swim, but Mary was not keen on too much heat or the beach, so February saw Stuart and I flying to the island of Bandos in the Maldives.  We went sea fishing, visiting other islands, as well as Male to see the beautiful mosque and enjoyed the beach with plenty of snorkeling over the reefs. The reefs were beautiful and the fish even more so. One day Stuart went a little too far past the reef and saw a shark, he came back a lot quicker than he went.  After that we kept to the reef and just a little way over the edge, but Stuart did not appreciate my humming the music from ‘Jaws’ when he went into the water.

Days off as a Family.

I was a Goods In manager for an electronics company that built such things as internet servers and routers. When I left the RAF, I had gone from job to job. I had been firstly employed as an aircraft engineer at Air Services Training, at Scone Aerodrome. Unfortunately, I was made redundant after six months. I had gone from one job to another with times where I was unemployed.

It was a challenging time for my family and me. I was doing all sorts of jobs to bring money into our home. I cleaned toilets, I served in a bar, I was a bouncer for a good few years. Some jobs I did were a touch on the shady side. During this time with my wife bringing in the wages for the family (Carolynn all through our married life earned far more than I did even with all the extra overtime I did), the first cracks in our marriage started to appear.

On those rare occasions when Carolynn’s and my shifts coincided and we had a weekend off, Mum and Dad would come to us for a wee break. With our weekends off we would take off for the day, picnic packed and no real destination in mind. The road took us wherever Dad fancied.

This particular time we had headed to Pitlochry, an absolutely gorgeous town in beautiful scenery. Our picnic was in a wee memorial garden. Euan took great delight in feeding himself and the seagulls in equal measure.

The day was finished with a trip to a petting zoo. This was Euan’s idea of heaven. He loved getting in with the animals and chasing them around. Euan had this fascination with their poo. If we were not quick enough, he would be tasting it.

Return to Portsmouth for Mum.

Mum had been in the Women’s Royal Navy (WRNS) and had actually been based at the Royal Naval base at Portsmouth for a time. Mum had a fondness for the South of England, so on one of their trips away, Mum, Dad and Carol, Stuart, headed down to the south coast.

They visited the Isle of Wight, on a windy day as you can see. They also visited the Hidden Gardens which Stuart especially enjoyed, taking inspiration for his and Carol’s Garden at home.

I could make comment about “the two old wrecks” in front of HMS Victory, however since both of them have passed on I will keep quiet.

The four of them had travelled to Portsmouth to go and see the wreck of the Marie Rose that had been brought to the surface after so many years lost.

The Mary Rose (launched 1511) is a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. She served for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany. After being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. She led the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, but sank in the Solent, the strait north of the Isle of Wight.

The wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered in 1971 and was raised on 11 October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive maritime salvage projects in history. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of great value as a Tudor-era time capsule. The excavation and raising of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology.

The four of them although related Mum and Carols, sisters, Stuart and Dad, brothers in law, had grown beyond that and had become such wonderful friends to each other. This friendship was to be a massive support as they grew older.

An Old Wreck.

Mary Chris Stuart and I could not settle after past events and so decided to go away in the hope that different surroundings would help.  We decided on Portsmouth as we all wanted to see the Mary Rose, Henry V111’s flagship, which had been discovered and raised from the Solent.  On our journey down we called at Titchfield so that Stuart could get some history of the Carden family for his cousin, Judy, in Australia who was compiling the Carden Ancestry Tree.  In Portsmouth we saw all the local attractions the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, as well as Mary remembering her time, while in the WRENS, and being stationed at Portsmouth.  We also went over to the Isle of Wight, going to see the Needles, the Needles Pleasure Park and around the island.  The trip was just what we needed to keep us interested and busy.

October saw us going on a trip to Durham, we wanted to go to the Beamish Museum, an open air museum about life in the North East during 1820’s to 1950’s,. We also wanted to go into Durham itself to see the cathedral and walk along the river bank, something we had done often when living in Ferryhill.  We took the opportunity to also go to Ferryhill to again see the house we lived in and visit the places we played and spent out childhood.  The weather for the whole trip was very cold and wet and both Mary and I on our return home spent 2/3 days in bed with flu, but the visit had been well worth it and had brought back lots of memories. 

In between our trips Stuart had been busy with the back garden, finishing the patio and making and wiring a small water feature, but there was still a lot to do.

Dad Passed On.

Dad (grandad) came to stay with us, while Mary and Chris went on holiday to Malta.  They had a lovely break, and really enjoyed seeing the sights of Malta. Meanwhile Stuart had started work on the back garden while dad (grandad) quite enjoyed sitting and overseeing the work!!!

For Chris’s birthday in June Mary had planned a great day.  We went to the Portland Basin, Ashton-under-Lynne to visit the Tameside Heritage Centre and finished the day off in a horse drawn boat on a Piccadilly Village Cruise with the Ashton Packet Boat Company, having tea/coffee and a light snack on the way.    July saw a very colourful front garden full of flowers in bloom, a credit mainly to Stuart’s hard work the year before.

Towards the middle of July dad (grandad) started feeling unwell and we visited Mary and Chris often.  1st August a telephone call from Mary told us dad (grandad) had been taken into hospital, and we went to stay with Mary and Chris so we could all be at the hospital.  On 4th August we had a lovely day, taking dad for a walk around the hospital grounds in a wheelchair, and enjoying each other’s company.  Sadly after his evening tea he said he was very tired, went to sleep and peacefully passed away.  Dad (grandad) was mainly a private man who did not like fuss, so according to his wishes was quietly cremated.  The whole family were devastated as, with his quiet humor and twinkle in his eyes, he had always been the mainstay of the family.

A Sad Goodbye.

In the Spring of 1993 Mum and Dad had a holiday in Malta.

I do not know if you have ever been to Malta, it is well worth a visit. The weather is gorgeous even in the off season, the scenery stunning, the food delicious and the people of Malta are warm and friendly.

I have been to Malta a number of times and have loved it. Mum and Dad stayed in the Qawra Hotel in Bugibba, in the north of the island. Malta is dead easy to travel around, the bus service is excellent.

As Mum and Dad did, they made friends with fellow holidaymakers and enjoyed sightseeing around the island. Even visiting the remains of the RAF station where Dad had been stationed for a while.

The airbase is now a wonderful collection of dozens of artisan crafts from the island. They have utilised the old buildings of the base to create a great destination.

David and I got the call to head to Mum’s at the beginning of August. Grandad was ill and had been admitted to hospital. It did not look good. David drove us both down as we both wanted to be there. I am sure he never went less that a 100 all the way down.

Seeing Grandad, in the hospital bed, hair disarrayed, confused and in a bit of a mess was really upsetting. Here was this true gentlemen always dressed well, always in control, a quiet reserved man, really looking rough. It tore our hearts. We went to Mums dreading the expectant news that we felt was sure to come.

It was quiet all night. Nothing from the Hospital. In the morning we dressed, ate and headed to the hospital. Here was that key figure in our lives, sitting up in bed, all washed, neat and tidy and with that old twinkle in the eye. There were tears in all our eyes. That day was wonderful, he really was the life and soul of the party.

James Ballantyne Richards passed away that night. He left us all devastated. Stuart and my dad had looked on Grandad as a father figure, we were all in shock. I firmly believe that day when he was so spry and alert, was his last gift to all of us.

I know that the tears would have been flowing down the cheeks of my Godmam as she wrote her post. The tears are flowing down my face now as I write this. He was a true gentleman and someone I admired and learned from. He is with us still.

A Day on the Water.

Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart had taken a wee trip out to the living museum of Tameside Heritage Centrefor dad’s birthday. .

These wee trips away, whether for the day, the weekend, or a long weekend, were probably my Mum and Dad’s favourite thing to do. Their first choice in companions was Stuart and Carol. Although Mum and Dad had friends Carol and Stuart were their first choice.

As you can see, they had a great experience and learned of the rivermen’s’ way of life. These living museums are a great place to visit for the day. We have visited quite a few over the years.

Another thing Mum liked to do was  pack vacuum flasks and a picnic and park up somewhere that had a lovely view. Ever since we were kids we have had our picnics in all sorts of places, occasionally in the car when it has been pouring with rain.

F1 Driver in Training.

That Christmas, my wife, myself and the terror (Euan) headed back down to Mums for a family Christmas. David and his wife were at the in-laws.

It really was great having Crimbo at Mum’s she really put the boat out. David and I learned fairly early on that Mum’s best present whether birthday or Christmas, was to have the family around her. She just loved the buzz of it all.

Stuart as you can see still had his beard, and whilst mine was still black, Stuarts was definitely on the badger side. Euan was fascinated with Stuart’s beard.

Euan for his Christmas got a go-kart from his Nana and Grandad. Little did we know the terror they had unleashed. It was not long before he was pulling handbrake turns in it. Outside on the path when you heard him coming you had to dive for cover.

We had bought these toys for dad and Stuart, educational toys, a train and a car. They were in a kit and had to be built up, it kept them quiet for hours.

The Shelby Family.

I have I admit quite happily accepted the legacy of loving the family around me. There is nothing better I like than serving up a Crimbo dinner to the family including in-laws right to this day. It is the best present that I can be given. A good barbecue and a few beers comes a very close second.

In the new year Carol, Stuart, Mum and Dad got back to having their long weekends away to all sorts of places. They are pictured here at the Ellesmere Longboat Museum. I apologise I can’t help it,,,,,,, “By Order of the Shelby Brothers and Sisters.

I am sure they would have taken to canal boating like ducks to water, well Mum and Carol, anyway. Dad and Stuart would have been tinkering with the engine or scaring other river traffic away.

Our Own Bit of Paradise.

Christmas saw us at Bramall, with Mary, Chris, Dad (grandad), Mike, Carolynn and Euan.  What a Christmas - good food and drink and with the family. Euan was so excited dashing around in his new go-kart, and showing everyone his new toys. 

We loved having some winter sun so February saw Stuart and I in Lanzarote, we had hired a car and went all around the Island.  There were so many attractions from caves, garden, sculptures by Ceasar Manrigue, and a wonderful view point ‘Mirador del Rio at the north end of the island, and of course the volcanos.  We had a great time.  

Over the autumn and winter months Stuart had decided he would like a water feature in the conservatory, even though he was planning to have a pond in the back garden, as the one in the front garden had turned out well.  You may gather from this that Stuart liked ponds with fish in and water features.  With being in the conservatory he was able to get on with it and put the finishing touches to it on our return from Lanzarote.

March saw Mary, Chris, Stuart and I planning our next trip, after many suggestions it was agreed we would go to Ellsmere Port, Cheshire to see the Boat Museum, what a great day, particularly for Chris and Stuart who spent a lot of time in the machine/engine rooms, and the displays outside.  On our return we were already starting to think of our next day trip, and it was voted we would go to  Chatsworth House and gardens.  It was a lovely day for the time of year and the trip was well worth it – Mary’s favourite being the house, while mine the gardens.  Ellsmere Port had given Mary an idea for a day trip out for Chris’s birthday in June.

Birthdays Galore!

In the October my wife, Euan and I headed back down to Stockport for the double celebration of my Mum’s birthday and my Grandads, 90th birthday,

I cooked them a nice meal and even had a go at making a fancy menu. If I remember rightly the family enjoyed the meal and no one was ill, ha-ha.

Grandad looked superb and very smart for his 90th. Grandad always dressed smart but for that day he went all out.

Euan had a lovely relationship with my Grandad. He would sit for ages and copy whatever my Grandad was doing. I have very similar photos of when I was that age doing the exact same thing. My Grandad had such a lovely way with Euan.

You may have noticed in the background the inflatable giraffe Euan got at Chester Zoo last time we were down. When we left for home last time, Euan was most upset that the giraffe didn’t come with us. He made his objections known to all.

What a Pair.

Euan was a pretty good-natured baby overall, however there were some special people in his life. My Dad, Euan’s Grandad, was chief amongst them. The two of them had this very special and close relationship. Part of it was the way my dad would quite happily plonk himself down to Euan’s level and play with him for hours.

Euan was devoted to him and could not get enough of him and their play. If Carolynn, myself, my mum, and my dad were in a line it would be my dad that Euan would head for.

These three photos are some my most favourite photos I have of them. They whisk me back to carefree times.

Mary Loved the Lights.

After Portugal we headed over to Mary and Chris’s for the day to celebrate Mary’s and Dad’s (Grandad) birthday.  We had a great day Mike, Carolynn and Euan, together with David and Louise were also there, so it was a lovely family gathering with everyone in high spirits. 

Meanwhile the front garden was finished and planted up ready for spring and summer and Stuart started making plans for the back garden.  Mary, Chris, Stuart and I would often take off for a day’s trip at the weekend, never knowing where we would end up.   One day, at the beginning of November, we went down to Stoke to the potteries and on the way back decided it would be a good idea to take the opportunity ‘as we were passing!!’ to go into Blackpool to see the illuminations.  We phoned dad to check and see if he was OK and to let him know we would be a bit late that night, and had a great night jumping on the tram to see the lights and then a brisk walk along the prom before setting off back to Mary and Chris’s.  We also discovered Bridgemere Garden World at Nantwich which proved to be a great favourite and we had many trips to there.

His Great Grandkids.

David and Louse were going on their honeymoon from Manchester, they were off to Egypt for two weeks. We headed down with them to Mum and Dads in Stockport. The house was crowded but all good fun.

Dad took the opportunity to fire up the barbie and Mum invited my Cousin Frances, her husband and wee lass Chloe. Of course, Mum took the opportunity for some photos with the Great Grandad.

Grandad loved having both his great-grandchildren round. It was good to see my cousin Frances again, it had been a while. Frances and I always had a close relationship.

Trip to the Zoo.

David and Louse had set off on their journey to Egypt and the Pyramids, Frances and family had returned to their home. One day we got up early packed a massive picnic and headed to Chester Zoo.

I don’t know if you have ever visited the zoo there if you haven’t, do go as it is superb. Chester is a beautiful city as well and great for a wander.

This was Euan’s first visit to a zoo, and he liked what he saw. Even to this day he loves a zoo or aquarium. In fact, when this is published on the website, my family and I will be in Scarborough, and he has already booked a trip for the Sea Life Centre.

Euan just loved all the animals. He was totally absorbed in them. In the Petting Zoo we had real problems bringing him away from the animals. I am sure he would have brought a goat home with us if he could have done.

This love of animals carried on right through until he left home for Uni. He had various pets including stick-insects, tarantulas.

The Old Man of the Sea.

August saw Mary Chris Stuart and I off to New Brighton Nr Liverpool to see the tall ships sailing up the Mersey.  What a day we set off early so we could get a good viewpoint set up our chairs and picnic bags and settled down.  The day was hot and there were crowds everywhere, but what a spectacular sight with 2, 3 masted tall ships slowly gliding up the Mersey and at the end a cruise ship followed the flotilla.  Lots of people had even taken to their own yachts and boats to sail alongside. Oct saw us having the opportunity to go to Portugal with the condition that we look at time shares.  We went to Quinto do Lago which was situated in the grounds of a top championship golf course.  The time shares and facilities were so luxurious they were miles above our pocket, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and looking around the area.  Stuart had wanted to grow a beard for a long time, and you will see in the photos that he looked like ‘the old man of the sea’ or even ‘Father Christmas’ – needless to say it came off when we got home.

Wandering in Wales.

Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart had decided to get away for a break before David and Louise’s wedding. They set their sights on North Wales renting a cottage for their break.

Like any siblings Carol and my Mum has their ups and downs however they were first choice for each other when it came to spending time. Mum and Dad really enjoyed their company and Dad would really let his hair down with them.

This relationship was to help when harder times were to appear on the horizon. Their trip to Wales was a roaring success. They had explored and laughed themselves silly but most of all had put aside their worries.

It is plain to see the fun they had from these photos.


On the 25TH OF July 1992, David, and his fiancé Louise, got married. They were married in the Congregational Church in Perth. I was Best Man for my brother.

As always David looked handsome and fit in his uniform. All the family had their best clobber on, and everyone looked smart for their wedding. Euan my son was to play a part and we had brought four changes of clothes and loads of nappies. Euan was as good as gold and didn’t even have to change his clothes. I am sure that was his present to the newlyweds.

The reception was held in a posh hotel on the outskirts of Perth. Very fancy and the bar was very expensive, all of our family were nervous and wanted to put on a good show.

I must admit when it came to the speeches, I bottled it. I did the barest minimum and did not do my brother justice.

Godson 2’s Wedding.

Jun saw Mary Chris Stuart and myself going to Wales again for a long weekend.  This time the weather was brilliant.  Sun and warmth for the full four days.   We were able to see a lot more of the countryside than our previous visit.  A highlight was finding a lovely old historic market town Machynlieth where we spent the day looking around having a lovely lunch and then staying on for an evening meal.  The break recharged our batteries, particularly Mary and Chris who were preparing for David and Louise’s wedding.  A small point which made Mary and I have a little giggle was I managed to buy my wedding hat while in Wales.

July saw us going again to Perth for David’s wedding.  It was to be held in a posh hotel and would be more formal than Mike’s wedding which gave us a few nerves.  Even so every thing went well and again it was nice to be all together as a family and we all enjoyed our day.  On the Sunday we had a super day with Mike, Carolynn, and Euan.

Under the Saharan Sun.

In the January of 1992, Mum and Dad, packed their bags and jetted off for a holiday in the sun. Whilst Mum and dad headed to the delights of Tunisia, Grandad, who was now staying at Mum’s headed across to Carol and Stuart’s home for a stay.

Initially there was a little bit of difficulty between Mum and Grandad in the home in Stockport. Mum was used to doing things her way and Grandad his way. Mum would come home and find things like ornaments moved slightly to her dad’s liking, there were other things that irked shall we say between them, no matter the love between them, these things happen. So, the visit to Carol and Stuart’s, was a holiday for Grandad as well.

Back to the Tunisian holiday. Mum and Dad loved the sun in Tunisia and whilst wanting to see the tourist highlights also wanted to experience the culture. Mum and Dad were not beach goers preferring to head into the town for the sights, sounds and smells.

They Just Souked it Up.

Mum especially and Dad to a lesser degree loved the hustle and bustle of the souks (markets). Mum liked to haggle with some of the traders and Dad was always happy to remain in the background.

Mum and Dad returned home with Thobes; the long robe worn by Arabic men. These became a great favourite of mine and still are. I am more than happy to relax at home in a thobe.

One of the excursions that Mum and dad went on was a trip into the desert to see Arabic country life and practices. The evening was a camel trip into the Saharan desert to watch the sunset. I think Mum was more than a little put off by the strong-smelling camel however Dad, was in his element. I am sure he thought he was the re-incarnation of Lawrence of Arabia.

They returned home with so many stories from their holiday. It was obvious that the trip to Tunisia was a roaring success.

Scrabble Champ.

The beginning of the New Year saw Mary and Chris having a break in Tunisia, which they really enjoyed. Chris seemed to really take up the atmosphere and loved riding the camels.  Mary told me that other guests on one trip called Chris ‘Lawrence’, a reference to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.  They also enjoyed an overnight stay in the desert.  Dad (Grandad) came to stay with us, which was nice as I had had an operation on my legs and had to walk every day, so I was the ideal companion to Dad on his daily walks.   After playing cards Dad (Grandad) and Mum (Nana) had used to love playing scrabble.  Dad had left his scrabble board with us so each night when Dad stayed with us the scrabble board came out.  Dad had left school before the age of 13 years.  He had got an exemption from school on condition that he was doing WW1 work.  He went to Crawick Forge where they were making trenching spades, but no matter the lack of schooling I could never beat him at scrabble – I never ever won a game and I tried.

Meanwhile the work on the front garden went on and at last the pool was filled and ready for the edging to be done.  It was really beginning to take shape. I was assigned to the back garden washing the plant pots after the plants had been planted in the front garden.

Off to Mum’s

In the September we headed down to Stockport to visit Mum, Dad and Grandad. Along with our baggage we had our bundle of joy. I tell you that journey on the train was a real eye-opening experience and unfortunately for our nostrils as well. Euan went through three changes of clothes on the four-hour journey. I am sure that he stunk out the whole carriage.

Euan was a (forgive me for this Son please) a pudgy baby. However, he was a very happy baby and had got into regularly sleeping most if not all of the night. The early days were a bit tough especially when we were working. Euan loved attention and between Mum, Dad, Grandad, he got all the attention he wanted.

Carol and Stuart came over for a few days and Euan was introduced to his first BBQ. There has been many many since and no doubt many more to come.

Whilst we were down at Mum’s we had day trips out here there and everywhere always with the essential back-up supplies including three spare changes of clothing, six nappies wipes and nappy disposable bags triple strength.

Mum has always loved having photos of the men of the family together. It meant a lot to her and now looking at the photo there is a wee tear in my eye at great memories.  


Euan was the happiest of babies. He loved to laugh. He could giggle and chortle for what seemed like hours. Hi absolute favourite thing to do was get a horsey ride on my Dad’s foot. Dad would cross one leg over the other and sit Euan on his foot and bounce him up and down. Euan would shout for more when Dad got too tired. He absolutely loved it and it was my Dad’s thing with him. Only Dad did it.

Euan seemed absolutely taken with my Grandad. He loved sitting with my Grandad, content just to be with him. My Grandad had this trick that could put Euan to sleep within minutes.

It was only much later we discovered my Grandad would dip his finger into a bowl of sugar and let Euan lick it off.

My Grandad was so chuffed that Euan, his first great grandson carried the Ballantyne family name.

That Christmas Grandad was installed full time at my Mum and Dad’s. This was a relief for all the family not just Mum. Since my Nana had died Mum was constantly worrying about her Dad.

Bonny Bulgaria.

8th September saw us flying to Bulgaria to Sunny Beach for a weeks sun.  The resort had until the previous year been a R &R Resort for Russian Soldiers.  We found the people lovely, but very poor.  The shops were half empty and there were long queues for very small supplies of bread, milk and sugar, The shops often selling out within half an hour and people left without. The marigold was the national flower and they grew everywhere, and the gardens were full of them.

After Bulgaria Dad went to Mary and Chris’s for a stay, we went over and again enjoyed being with the family as Mike, Carolynn and baby Euan were there.  Had a great time and of course had a BBQ.  We also were able to persuade Dad to stay at Mary and Chris’s for a long stay with a view to making it permanent.  At the end of September Dad agreed that he would stay and Mary, Chris, Stuart and I got the things together that he wanted to keep and then sorted out and finally with Dad’s permission gave up his flat in October.

At home we were still working on the garden and starting to grow seeds and flowers for the garden. The conservatory was beginning to get full of flowers, and we had branched out into tropical houseplants like hibiscus, datura (trumpet plant) and Jasmine

My Son Arrives.

As I said in my last posts, we found out that my wife was over six months pregnant in the December of 1990. I was plagued with doubts and insecurity, I could hardly look after myself. How could I look after a baby, how could I love this new addition to the family, the hows, why’s, the what ifs, plagued me.

On the 10th of April just after midnight, after 27 hours of labour by my wife, my son arrived. I was there. That moment with always stay with me. All the doubt the uncertainty, all my questions all disappeared to be swamped by such a feeling of love and protection for my son. Suddenly I had all this extra love, and it all went to my son, Euan Ballantyne Haines. It really felt like the beginning of a new adventure and life. When the Midwife gave Euan a smack to get him to inhale for the first time, I was ready to lay her out. There were a few minutes when there seemed to be complications however, they sorted themselves out and I held my son for the first time.

I know that almost every father out there will understand my doubts, my worries and then that feeling of love. It is defiantly one of the miracles of new fatherhood. I am sure that I was walking ten foot tall from the hospital that evening.

Both Carolynn’s parents, my in-laws and my Mum and Dad were on the scene pretty quickly to see their new Grandson. My Mum became a Nana like my Nana and Dad became Grandad. The new addition was quickly enveloped in family love from all sides. That photo of the men of the family was always a favourite of Mums.

Carolynn was discharged from hospital after a couple of days and returned home to proud grandparents and a sparkling clean house. Mum had decided to spring clean ready for Euan’s homecoming.


So, what was Euan like as a baby? Initially he cried a great deal and slept very little. At the start I would get up and make Carolynn a mug of tea whilst Euan was fed, then that slipped a little and I made a flask for her, and I would pour her tea whilst Euan fed. After what seemed like weeks of very little sleep he settled down. When I look back on it now, we were very lucky. He slept through the night from a very early age. What Euan could do was fill a nappy. By goodness me he could cr*p for Britain. There was a part of me that was inordinately proud of his ability to fill a nappy, even when it was me that was changing him. If we went out even into the town, we had to take three or more spare outfits.

In July of 91 Euan was baptised at the Church I had been attending. My Brother from another mother (Chris was Goddad to Euan and one of Carolynn’s aunts, Nina, was Godmum. Even at the Christening, Euan managed to fill his nappy twice and had to have his outfits changed twice.

The Christening party was held in the Royal British Legion in Perth. Sadly, the RBL where David, Chris and I were members is no more. The RBL did us proud and everyone had a good time.

Brilliant News

Baby Euan had been born and both mother and baby were doing well.  Mike was over the moon and it was obvious he was really smitten when we talked on the phone.  Meanwhile we were busy making plans for our home and garden.  However we decided to have a break with Mary and Chris and June saw us going to Wales for a holiday.  We had taken a farmhouse at Llwyngwril, Gwynedd.  The weather was horrendous all week, but it did not stop us seeing all the sights.  Beddgelert, Snowdonia saw us buying fleeces and padded anoraks as it was so cold and wet. We went to Sygun Slate Caverns, Shell Island, Portmeirion and proceeded to see all the sights, just laughing at the sight we made with our fleeces and padded anoraks on, particularly Shell Island where we were the only ones there to brave the elements.  It was Chris’s birthday while we were away and his choice was to go to the Copper Mine.  Again rain was blowing horizontally and we got well and truly soaked, but we had a good day ending up having a lovely meal at a local hotel, then going back to the farmhouse to a lovely roaring log fire, which the owner had got ready for us.

July saw us going up to Perth to meet Euan for the first time and for his christening and having a lovely weekend with the family.  It was then back to work with Stuart landscaping the front garden.  He made plans for a pergola, stub walls for flower beds and the most important to Stuart a pool.  Then he set too with the work- being retired he had the time to do it and although hard work he was doing something he loved.

Big Changes Ahead.

The December of 1990 was all change for Carolynn and myself. We had bought a house in Perth. It was an ex-Council house, and it would be a great family home. It needed a bit of work here and there but nothing drastic. Little did we know that a family home was to be needed sooner rather than later.

That December Carolynn and I discovered that she was expecting and not only expecting but nearly six months pregnant. This came as I am sure you can imagine one heck of a shock. The fact we were going to have a baby scared the living daylights out of me. I was totally unprepared for the arrival of a bairn in a few months’ time. It came as a shock to Mum and dad as well. That Christmas Carolynn and I decided to spend in our new home. There were tensions running all through the family and I definitely got the impression that Christmas was a little difficult. Like all married couples, Mum and Dad had good times and not so good times. No matter what Dad tried to brighten the mood as you can see it was difficult for Mum, Dad, Grandad, and David in Bramhall and for us in our new house in Perth.

The Big Project.

After a busy year and Dad (Grandad) staying with Mary and Chris for the festive season we decided to have a quiet Xmas/New Year at home.  Mike and Carolynn had bought their first home and with the discovery that Carolynn was pregnant were spending Xmas at home.  Frances was also 6 months pregnant the birth due in March, and were staying at home.

It turned out to be an eventful time for Stuart and I.  British Gas were again in the throes of a reorganization and were offering voluntary redundancies and early retirement to staff.  Stuart had always said he wanted to retire early as he had seen too many friends and colleagues not having a retirement.  He talked to BG personnel to see what ‘package’ he would have, and after many discussions and doing our sums we agreed that Stuart would retire. The conservatory was now finished, and Stuart tiled the floor (a knee hurting job), but it did look lovely.  It spanned the house to the garage and ran the length of the house – a lovely space for growing house plants and to relax in, and would give Stuart plenty of jobs.

The First Grandchild.

We were able to visit Dad regularly, and on a Wednesday Stuart would pick me up from work and we would go through to see Dad.  He insisted we have dinner and usually had a homemade steak pie, pots and veg and to finish homemade apple pie and custard ready for us.  He was a good cook and lovely pastry maker.  After dinner I would clean up and Dad and Stuart would play crib.

He came to stay with both us and Mary and Chris for breaks, but would not as yet give up his home.

March ’91 saw our first grandchild born – a little girl named Chloe.  All had gone well and both were doing well.   Chloe was taken to Ripon to meet with her great grandad

Mum does Seagull Impressions.

In the October of 1990 Mum, Dad my wife Carolynn and myself headed to the joys of Blackpool. When we were kids and were in the UK or later as David and I grew up almost every October Mum and Dad, sometimes with us, or without would head to Blackpool for the Illuminations. Mum loved the drive from the very top of the Promenade to the very bottom. Dad would drive nice and slow to the annoyance of other drivers sometimes however he didn’t care it was for Mum.

Mum was taken on by Blackpool Pleasure Beach as a seagull scarer, she didn’t last long. It wasn’t just seagulls she scared it was small children. Only joking Mum. It really was a great trip Mum was in the mood for a good laugh as you can see and of course if Mum was happy then Dad was.

Dad and I went on this ride in the Pleasure Beach, it was completely dark and all we did was go round and round and round. Then without warning the car were in dropped straight down. It fell for what seemed like miles. Dad and I were really quite shaken when we got off but pretended it was nothing we were soon sussed out by Mum and Carolynn.

October saw David and his girlfriend Louise visit Mum and Dad’s in Bramhall at the same time as we were there. That evening he went and popped the question; my brother was to be married. We were all so happy for him. Louise and David seemed to be a perfect pair. We had a celebration that night I tell you.

Next stop Paris.

In the December of 1990, Mum, Dad, Carol, and Stuart took a coach holiday to Paris. All four of them loved the journey on the coaches and had a few holidays like this. The journey for them was not a trial, it was part of the fun and games. They had cards and picnics and made the journey fun. They made friends on the coach tours and not only with the other holidaymakers but with the drivers on occasion as well.

Mum and dad had always wanted to visit Paris and had never made it when we lived in Europe. Carol and Stuart jumped at the chance of the trip when Mum and Dad proposed the idea of the four of them going.

The four of them loved to get away on these trips together. It really was a chance to let their hair down and have fun and games and more than anything have a good laugh and leave their worries behind. You can see from the photos how much they enjoyed their trip.

In the third photo I am sure that Mum told me that Stuart had dropped a pound coin and was looking for it. Stuart was always the life and soul of the foursome although Dad had his times as well. More about them later in the series.

Barbados Bound.

March saw us back at Temple Newsam Leeds having sold the Guest House.   We had already booked to go to Tunisia in Oct with friends and we booked to go to Barbados in June before we started our search for a new home I also applied for a job in April and was accepted.  In June off we went to Barbados.  We hired a car and literally went all round the Island sightseeing and meeting the locals who were really friendly but ‘cricket mad’ we ate the local food and really had a great time. When Dad was in the Merchant Navy (1920’s)  he had been to Barbados and told us stories.  He told us about finger bananas which he had never seen before so I took a photo of them growing and even took one back home for him

After our holiday we started searching for a bungalow.  September saw us moving into our bungalow in a small village called Colton, Leeds.  It overlooked the large Temple Newsam park, so we looked out at fields and space.  We settled in and made a list of what we wanted to do.   It was also lovely to be able to go and see Dad often and also Mary and Chris for the weekend or just a day.

First we had our holiday in October in Tunisia again with friends, just chilling out and enjoying the sun and company.

Xmas ’89 saw Dad (Grandad) staying with us for a while – you will notice the chef’s hat – dad loved being ‘top dog’ in the kitchen and I was the gofer, so we made it official with the hat.  New Year’s day saw Mary and Chris, Frances and her husband coming to join us to bring in 1990 and again we had a great family time.

We started on the bungalow building a conservatory, and making plans for the garden.  June ’90 saw us having a wee break in Zakynthos (Zante ) which we enjoyed just chilling out. 

Then after a busy time Mary Chris Stuart and myself decided to go to Paris, on a coach trip – it was great and although the weather was not good we certainly enjoyed ourselves seeing the sights, particularly the night life around the Moulin Rouge/Montmarte area at night time!

A Brand New Plane.

Dad had been moved onto a new project within British Aerospace. The Advanced Turbo Prop was a new venture for Bae. When an airline bought the ATP one or dozens Dad would go to their base of operations and train everyone from Ground Crew to Flight Crews. This took him all over the world, sometimes for months on end. On occasion Mum would go with him but mostly not.

Mum had started working at the British Telecom building to give her some independence and to make new friends. Mum loved her job there and really enjoyed the banter with her colleagues. It also meant that whilst Dad was away on a long trip, she had something to do. David and I were terrible to Dad at times. We would wind him up something rotten about the ATP. When one of the ATP’s flew overhead, we would pretend to cower or take cover shouting “its going to crash” and had nicknamed it the A Ton of Plastic, ATP. The ATP had taken advantage of the latest technology and materials. Dad used to get so defensive about it, as I said we were rotten to him. I think it was a touch of envy as some of the places he was travelling to were incredible like Canada, Mauritius.

Crimbo on the Camp.

My wife and I had decided to have Christmas in our first home together at RAF Valley in a married quarter. Carol and Stuart had joined Mum, Dad and Grandad at Bramhall and David had managed to get leave.

Our Christmas at RAF Valley was very quiet however with a lovely coal fire we managed to have a great time of it. We found out later that AT Bramhall they had had a Crimbo to never forget.

Grandad had decided to act as Father Christmas, all well and good. He handed all the presents out to the family however he did not take any notice of the labels of who they were for. According to David he even got a little tetchy if you didn’t open the parcel you were given or tried to give it to the person it was actually meant for. It resulted in people getting the wrong presents and sometimes this resulted in hilarious results. By all accounts the living room was a real mess of wrapping paper.

That Christmas was talked about for many years and even into family history.

Shopping in London.

Mary was able to get down to London for a day again by train from Manchester and again I met her at the train station.  As we were nearing Christmas (although the lights were not up yet) the streets and shops were busy, but we managed to enjoy ourselves shopping and window shopping and having a lovely lunch before Mary had to return to Manchester and myself to Gatwick.

For the Christmas break Stuart went to Mary and Chris’s from Leeds and I went by train from Gatwick to Manchester, where Mary, Chris and Stuart met me.  Dad was already having a break at Mary and Chris’s and David had also managed to get home for Christmas.  It was a great time with lots of laughter, banter, and good food.  Stuart and I had some good news too, we had set into motion the selling of the guest house to Stuart’s sister and husband and were all hopeful that completion date would be around the 3rd March, when we would be back again in Leeds. We had always fancied running a guest house but had found it was not for us.

Stuart was still busy at British Gas and was looking forward to not having to commute every weekend, and sometimes during the week, down to Gatwick. 

Celebration Time.

In the September Mum and Dad packed David and Grandad into the car and headed for Perth once more. The occasion this time was to be my wedding.  I had got engaged last Christmas to a Perth lass called Carolynn. We had set the date for the wedding as 23rd September. Mum and dad had decided to take it easy on the journey up from their new home near Stockport. They had stopped at a number of places to enjoy once more the Scottish scenery. Carol and Stuart were also ravelling up from the Guest House.

For the wedding Mum had booked all our side into a Bed and Breakfast for a few days so all the family could be together. One of my best mates, Sean had also travelled up for the wedding. David was to be my Best Man and Lynn’s sister was to be her Bridesmaid.

 I had decided that I would get married in uniform and likewise David and Sean were both in uniform. Due to the mainland bombing campaign by the IRA I had to notify the local police that there would be service personnel in uniform. On the day of our wedding, we had plainclothes police out the front and at the back of the building. We did make sure that they were looked after.

The night before the wedding we went out for a few beers and to let our hair down. I had had my stag night on the camp at RAF Valley. It was from the little I remember of the night a wild night.

Going for the Garter.

As you can see my family really scrubbed up well. All my family looked spick and span. It really was wonderful to have my Grandad at our wedding, Carol and Stuart also brought their own style and humour to the day. Mum and Dad looked great in their finery and of course David looked magnificent in his uniform.

Our wedding really was a lovely occasion. The pilots on my squadron had promised me a fly past as their present to my wife and I. The 23rd of September had dawned damp low cloud and a horrible day. After my wife and I had married we left the Registry Office and walked the short distance to the Royal George where our reception was being held. Right on time we heard the fly past f the Hawk aircraft from the Squadron. Unfortunately, we were not able to see them, however they were there.

After the wedding service we walked down to the old bridge to get the photos taken. It really was a horrible day. There was a very fine rain that soaked everything. We returned to the Hotel and the festivities.

Lynn was standing at the bar ordering a drink when my best mate Chris who is six foot four mussed up her hair. I think she could have killed him. He got teased about that for years.

We danced and drank late into the night. It was a great night a good mix of music and traditional Scot’s folk music and the dancing to go with it. The next morning everyone gathered to see us off on our honeymoon. I am ashamed to say we were dressed in matching shell suits. In my defence I must point out it was 1988. Next stop Spain.

The Budding Photographer.

Good news  – Mike was to be married Sept ’88.  Dad (Grandad) was staying with Mary and Chris, so they could make sure he had everything for the wedding and they travelled from Bramall to Scone.  Stuart drove up from Leeds while I flew from Gatwick to Edinburgh where Stuart met me.  We met up with Chris, Mary, David and Dad (Grandad) and we were all staying in a quest house within walking distance of the church and reception.  Mary had booked a hairdresser for us and so off Mary and I went, then it getting ready for the big event.  What a great wedding, it was a lovely relaxing wedding and all went well.  Everyone in their best and Stuart was acting out as David Bailey (photographer) with Mike’s camera, everyone was just laughing and enjoying themselves, while Stuart was trying to arrange family shots etc. much to the amusement of the photographer (I am glad to say).  This continued through to the reception where after a lovely meal the dancing and drinking began.  A good night was had by all.  Even Dad (Grandad) was up dancing the reels, so much so that we got a bit worried about him, and we had to talk him into having a rest.

October saw us going to Tunisia with friends, a holiday we had planned way back.  We had a great time looking around the area and the Medina, and meeting up again. 

Christmas 87.

I had met and had been going out with a Perth lass for some time now. Our relationship had slowly gained strength and that was one of the reasons for my coming home that Christmas. Of, course being home with family and friends was the best. I had worked quite a few Crimbos (Christmas in military slang), however coming home at that time of year was wonderful.

David and Dad were still having rough and tumbles on the living room floor although David getting a touch to big and Dad’s age wearing on him a bit. These rough and tumbles were for me anyway the memories I look back on with most fondness.

One of my favourite things to do with David was head to the pub, where we would have a beer or six, shoot some pool or darts and of course my mate Chris was always along as well. We would often sneak David into the dancing although he hadn’t turned eighteen yet. Just chilling at the end of the night with a bottle of brandy was always a good option as well.

So, for the Christmas Carol and Stuart had come up for a stay. Having them around was great, Carol and Mum would shove the years off their shoulder, Stuart, Dad, David, and I would get up to some sort of mischief and we were all in high spirits. Mum had cooked a massive roast dinner and my girlfriend had joined us. We were all sat at the table when Mum noticed a sparkly ring on her finger. We had got engaged just that morning. Well of course that lifted the spirits even more. It was a great day and then we had to go visit her Mum and Dad’s so we could share the news with them as well.

Always With Us.

Unfortunately, we were to lose our Nana in the March of 88. This really hit the family hard. I could not make the funeral because of work. Nana although fairly quiet had made a great impact on us all especially of course on her girls Mary and Carol. I was to discover much later how it felt to lose a parent.

Dad had landed a new lecturing position with British Aerospace not far from Stockport. A new home was bought, the move made, and life had begun after the fuss of moving. Grandad had gone to stay with Carol and Stuart for a few weeks after the funeral of Barbara, wife, mother and Nana to David, Frances (my cousin) and myself. After a few weeks Grandad came to the new home in Bramhall with Mum, Dad and David.  With me being away from home it meant that Grandad had his own room and privacy.

In the Spring of 88 David signed up for the Royal Air Force, carrying on that family tradition of service to our Queen and country and also of course following Dad, Stuart, and I into the RAF. David did his basic training course at the infamous RAF Swinderby. Before like myself heading to RAF Halton to do his trade training as an Engines mechanic, (Sumpy in RAF parlance). Dad and Mum took our Grandad to see David’s Passing Out Parade. Seeing our Grandad as he marched past, he told me later meant so much too him.

Big Decisions.

April saw Chris starting in a new lecturing position with British Aerospace and the family moving down to Bramall, Nr Stockport, much to our delight as it was nearer to Leeds area.  David also had a big move – he joined the RAF and went down to RAF Swinderby for basic training before heading off to RAF Halton.  Dad (Granda) was taking breaks with us at Gatwick and Mary and Chris at Bramall.

We continued with running the Guest House and making improvements.  Stuart was able to go to see Mary and Chris at Bramall and Dad at Ripon, but I was missing my family.  Then Mary called me one day and said could I get a day off, she had checked train times and could get the early morning commuter train from Manchester to London, where I could meet her and we could have a ‘girlie’ day together in London.  It was great we shopped, window shopped, had a lovely lunch and spent the day together laughing and enjoying ourselves, before I saw Mary onto the evening train back to Manchester and I returned to Gatwick.  We promised ourselves another ‘girlie’ day before Christmas, something to look forward to.

Queen & Country.

My best mate Chris had joined the army and I had joined the Royal Air Force. Occasionally we would be able to meet up when our leave coincided. As you can imagine we got up to all sorts of adventures. Quite often David joined us in our fun. Even from school days when Chris and I had first met, we were able to go to the pub.

By this time, I was based at RAF Valley on the Isle of Anglesey not far

 from Holyhead in North Wales. I had been put on the Groundcrew for Central Flying School, where pilots learned how to become instructors. In the second photo you can just see me back row on the left, I am wearing at hat.

RAF Valley was a training school for pilots doing their fast jet training. Well known for the good weather at Valley it was a rather good place to be based. Out the side of the camp was a massive, long beach of beautiful sands and gorgeous clear water. We had many a beach party on those sands.

I am still in touch with some of the folk in these pictures to this day. Those were good times and too be honest some pretty rough times. The Forces life is a great life and you become part of a sister and brotherhood. I was longer a nurse than I was Air Force however I will be RAF till I die.

On Their Hols.

All through our childhood Carol and Stuart had joined us on camping holidays. Our two families loved getting together and chilling out. Carol, Stuart, Mum and Dad decided on a foreign holiday together to get some winter sun. So, they booked up for Tenerife and off they went. This was to become a regular thing, the four of them jetting away to the Canaries.

The four of them loved that first holiday, all of them having great fun and in their own way getting up to mischief. Having a wander in the Spanish sun, stopping for a coffee and a bite to eat suited them down to the ground. They had more exotic holidays, more exciting holidays however these were Mum and Dad’s favourites.

They would take excursions and see all round the island and the attractions. Both Mum and Dad loved the mountainous areas of Tenerife and the other Canary Islands. This was their getaway time.

I have heard many stories and even family legends of the holidays the four had together. They definitely broke their chains and let loose.

Much, much later the Canaries were to become one of my wife’s and I favourite get-away from it all destinations.  Much later on after Mum and Dad had passed on Vanessa and I went on holiday with my Godparents Carol and Stuart to Tenerife.

Busy in The Garden.

It was a busy year improving the business and trying to cope with flights leaving Gatwick as early as 4.30am and arriving at Gatwick as late as midnight if on time, with plenty of flights in between.  However we soon got into a routine with our international guests flying in and out of Gatwick.   We also arranged that we should have holidays and breaks in future and the men would take their holidays from work and while one couple managed the guest house the other couple had a holiday.  Stuart was working on the garden to produce  vegetables for us and flowers for the guest rooms. We were looking forward to Christmas as Mary and Chris were coming, and the guest house was not open over Christmas.  It was the first time we had seen them for a year and we had a great time being together again.  Boxing Day turned out cold but sunny so we spent the day at Brighton Pier and Beach.

January ’88 saw us with Mary and Chris going off to Tenerife, it was brilliant being with them again and we explored all over the Island by excursions and hire car.  Just strolling and stopping for coffee or a drink and people watching was a favorite.

End of February ’88 was a bad time Mum had a stroke and was in Harrogate Hospital, I immediately went up to Leeds and then to the hospital.  Mum had not woken up from her stroke and they were not sure what damage had been done.  I returned to Gatwick to sort things out and then back to Harrogate Hospital to be with Mum and the family.  Mum passed away peacefully on 4th March with the family beside her. 

We began to feel that the guest house business was not for us, particularly being so far south and away from our family and Stuart still commuting.  On our return to Gatwick we had discussions with Stuarts sister and husband about selling our share of the business.  We agreed to stay another year when they would be in a position to buy our share, and run the guest house without us.  Stuart brought Dad down for a couple of stays at the guest house as a break and company and he really enjoyed talking to all the guests from all over the world.

Up To Mischief.

I was doing my Trade Training at RAF Halton. One of our regular haunts was the town of Aylesbury. There were some good pubs and even better nightclubs. In the first picture the building you can see was a great café. This was our eating place of choice. Down on the left hand corner. You can just see a wall. We would superglue 50p coins on the wall and then sit up in the café and watch folk trying to get the money glued onto the wall. We thought it was hilarious, we were young, we were foolish.

David was now playing regularly for Perth Youth Brass Band. One of their favourite venues was under the old city centre way before it got done up. The city centre looked quite different to its modern look today. You can just see David to the left of Mr Annan, the conductor.

Now our family including Carol and Stuart loved and still loves a good barbecue. If we had one planned, we were not going to let a silly thing like weather stop us from enjoying ourselves. Come rain, shine, gales, or high-water Dad would be the chief BBQ Chef.

David was now working as a Postal Cadet with the Royal Mail. He had this cheeky irrepressible smile, a wicked sense of humour and a winning way with the ladies. And by goodness me he loved a good argument. He seemed to portray a sense of reliability and welcome to strangers and they would quickly become his friends. 

All the Men Together.

Even though Nana and Grandad were putting on the years they would still make the trek up to the family home in Scone. As they grew older Dad would often drive down and pick them up and bring them back, also taking them home as well. This saved them the trouble of trains and coaches. My Nana’s eyesight was deteriorating quickly due to cataracts and Grandad a little less stable on his feet.

Nana and Grandad would stay in my room, and I would sleep in the caravan. When we had moved into the house in Scone, I had made a rash decision by choosing the second largest bedroom. Of course, when we had friends and family stay, I was turfed out so they could sleep there. David had this smaller room to himself and was allowed to decorate it whatever way he wanted. I was allowed one wall for my posters. At one time David had painted his room black and had a massive bloodshot eye he had painted on the wall.

One thing Mum liked to do was have all the available men of the family photo’d together. David had put a real spurt of growth on and was my height. Time spent with Nana and Grandad, Mum and Dad to my parents was special and deeply valued. Age was creeping up on them.

Mum, Dad and David had taken a tour of the west and northwest coast of Scotland for a holiday. I couldn’t get leave for this so the three of them went themselves. The last photo is one of my personal favourites although David did not look so happy. This was taken in Ullapool.

New Adventures

Yes we did love our BBQs and one of the highlights was sitting by the embers of the BBQ toasting marshmallows and chatting into the night.

Mum/Nana ‘s eyesight was getting bad.  The doctors would not operate on the cataracts as her eyes were so scarred from previous ulcers, etc it would have made no difference.  However it did not stop Mum/Nana and Dad/Grandad from doing the daily crossword – Dad would go get the paper and then read out the clues to Mum. They also had a method of playing scrabble, which they both loved.  With Mum being registered blind and unsteady on her feet we got a wheelchair for her and Dad would take her on his walks.  The fields and river walk were out but he would walk along the pavement to the next village of Sharrow, pointing out the wild apple and plum trees (the fruit which over years had gone into pies).  Dad was brilliant in the kitchen.  He would put ingredients out ready for Mum to make scones or cake, and be on hand to help.  They never saw Mum’s blindness as an obstacle.

The middle of ‘86 saw us on the move again. I left my present job with everyone wishing me luck in my new venture. We had sold our bungalow bought a small house at Temple Newsam, Leeds as a base and agreed to a joint venture with Stuart’s sister and husband to buy Logans Guest House at Gatwick Airport.  Stuart’s sister and myself would run the guest house while the two men would continue with their own jobs.  We agreed to give it a try for 2/3 years when we would either continue or sell our share to Stuart’s sister and husband.  Stuart put in for a transfer to BG Reading, but BG decided at that time to reorganize and go public.  Everyone was hanging on to their jobs and no transfers.  Stuart was having to commute from Leeds to Gatwick every weekend and sometimes Wed to Thurs. a situation we did not like.

We had a very busy time improving the business and trying to cope with flights leaving Gatwick as early as 4.30am and arriving at Gatwick as late as midnight if on time, with plenty of flights in between.  However we soon got into a routine with our international guests flying in and out of Gatwick. 

Home on Leave.

Coming back on home on leave from the Royal Air Force was always good. Getting home to see my family and friends was a bit mixed, not so much family but friends were. They were still mostly stuck in Perth doing all the same old things whilst I was off doing something interesting with the RAF. A little distance was creeping in except with my mate Chris. Chris and I had met during our school days, and we have been best mates ever since.

Having got through my training I was at my fittest. So, a wee jaunt up into the hills was not a real test of exercise for me. Getting up into the hills had always been an escape for me. I think I must have got my love of walking from my Grandad, Jock. A short walk for Grandad was 5 miles.

When my Grandparents were staying with us at the family home in Scone, Carol came up for a wee break. My Nana loved both her daughters together, Dad acted as chauffer and took them all sorts of places. My Mum loved it as well and the yea5rs seemed to have rolled off her.

Square Bashing

I had been doing my training at RAF Halton. Which whilst a lot of fun in many respects was also hard work. I ca remember many runs up in the hilly forests behind the camp.

My Cousin, Frances, had quietly got engaged and had planned their wedding for later in the year. I made sure I could book leave so I could be there as well.

We all put our 'gladrags' on the celebrate the happy couples wedding. We had a ball of a time.

Wedding in the Family.

Frances had moved in with her boyfriend and got engaged.  They wanted a quiet family wedding September l984, with a night time party for their friends.  It was all systems go, booking the venue, ordering flowers, cake cars and sending invitations.  Then it was looking for a dress for Frances, who knew exactly what she wanted not long, not white, but midi and ivory. We went to the Brides Shop in Leeds (where I had my wedding dress made 24 years previously) and they would make Frances’s dress.

Mary and Chris came down a few weekends – mainly for Mary and I to go shopping for our outfits.  It was fun trying on various hats, shoes etc. One weekend they came down, parked on the drive Friday evening, but on Saturday morning when they went to the car something was wrong.  Chris thought the clutch had not been right on the way down.  Chris and Stuart checked, found the cable had broken and a couple of other things.  Stuart and Chris jumped in our car to visit the various garages in Leeds to get the right parts and spent all Saturday fixing it.  Needless to say we did not shop that Saturday.

The wedding day arrived and Frances looked stunning.  Everything went as planned, Mary Chris, David and Mike stayed at Ripon to make sure Mum (Nana) and Dad (Granda) were OK and got to the wedding.  Stuart’s family stayed with us at Swillington.  The evening ‘do’ was a success with Stephen and Frances staying in the bridal suite and going off the next morning to Berwick on honeymoon

Hard Winter Indeed.

The winter that year was extremely cold, and we had snow for quite some time, at one point the snow was four foot deep outside our home. It was a great skiing season for all of Scotland not just at the ski resorts at Glenshee and Aviemore. David and I got in loads of sledging and skiing but on the hill behind our home. With the snow lasting so long I was able to improve my skiing ability, but I was always as usual more enthusiastic than skillful.

David and I made a little extra pocket money by clearing people’s paths along our street, with the snow falling so often this was quite a little earner for David and myself.

Once the snow cleared family work back out onto the hills for our regular family walks. In the bottom photo we are up above Kenmore for the annual river Tay Raft Race. This is where all sorts of different organisations raced down the Tay on home-built rafts. It was always a lot of fun no matter what the weather and it certainly drew the crowds to watch the fun and games.

Leaving Home.

My Grandparents Jock and Barbara were still taking the trip north to our home on fairly regular visits. It was always good to see my Nana and Grandad. We would all squeeze into the car and go away for the day. One of our favourite places to visit was Saint Andrews where a picnic was our usual fare.

All through the summer I had been preparing to join the Royal Air Force. I had previously joined the Air Training Corps to get used to marching and discipline. I had started training, running and exercises to build up my fitness. Mum had taken it upon herself to teach me how to iron and press my uniform. This was to come in extremely useful as it gave me a big advantage over the other entrants when I joined later in the year.

My Passing Out parade at RAF Swinderby was a big occasion for me. Getting through training was long, hard, and difficult. Mum, Dad and David had travelled down to Swinderby to watch the parade and see my Passing Out. We were lucky enough to have an RAF Vulcan give the flight past. I can still remember to this day that feeling of euphoria as we completed our passing out parade and were marched back to barracks, we had survived!

Gas Men Inventors.

Not only were they having lots of snow up in Scone we also had plenty of snow in Swillington. Although the fields looked lovely – white and glistening – to get out was not good, particularly down our road which had little traffic.

Frances did what she set out to do and completed all the required parachute jumps and more and earned her ‘wings’ and her School of Freefall Parachuting Certificate, she said she had really enjoyed doing it - not only was she proud of herself we were too. Frances turned 21 and with her friends celebrated at Cinderella Rockafella in Leeds.  Mary, Chris, Mike and David came down to Swillington to help her celebrate.  Frances had been jealous of us going back to Cyprus with friends and so as a surprise we all went to Cyprus for a holiday, again with hers and our friends. Mary, Chris, Mike and David were down at Swillington again in Oct to give Dad/Grandad a surprise 80th birthday.  Mary had made another lovely birthday cake and we all enjoyed ourselves.

Later Mike gave us some good news – he had been accepted as a boy entrant into the RAF, something he had always wanted to do – we were all happy for him.

Stuart was still busy at NEGAS and took part in Career days at local schools talking to pupils about the prospects and career opportunities of working for British Gas.  The hazard survey vehicles for sniffing out gas leaks had sniffing apparatus which was costly to buy, maintain and repair.  Stuart and a colleague Michael came up with an idea and designed a ‘sniffing apparatus’ that was cheaper and more efficient.  NEGAS did trials, and fitted all their hazard survey vehicles with the new ‘sniffers’, and hoped that other Regions would benefit from this.

Oompah Oompah

David was now a regular member of the Perth Youth Brass Band. Almost every other weekend he was playing with the band for the public enjoyment. The PYBB are still going and in fact one my Godson is playing in the band although Mr Annan has long left. Mr Annan seemed to be able to get the absolute best from the musicians. At Christmas time they were playing almost every day after school in one place or another.

One of our favourite things to do on a Sunday was to get out for a family walk. We loved going up into the forest behind the house in Scone. There were old air raid shelters from the war days you could explore. Another favourite place was Kinnoull Hill. There are many trails that led all over the hill overlooking the city of Perth. Although Kinnoull hill was very popular walking, it teemed with wildlife. These walks with the four of us were bonding time for our family.

Cardens back in Cyprus.

Easter 1981 saw Mary, Chris, Mike and David coming down to Ripon and we celebrated mum’s (Mike and David’s Nana) 80th birthday.  As always it was great to all be together again.  Mary had made Mum’s birthday cake and we had a great day, there was not much cake left at the end of the day.  We also were able to meet up often during their stay in Ripon.  We continued to visit mum and dad regularly throughout the year, Stuart enjoying his walks with dad and me taking mum for a drive.

We were still improving the garden with Stuart laying a small patio and steps to the lawn.  September saw us going with friends to Cyprus for a holiday.  The Island had been ‘divided’ since we were posted there.  The north of the Island was under Turkish control and the south was under Greek control.  You went to either the north or the south and could not cross over from one to the other.  Nevertheless we still enjoyed visiting old haunts.

Frances had taken up ten-pin bowling and was really into this, but the biggest surprise was that she wanted to take up parachuting with the Adventure Scouts and was going to go training.  One up on her dad – as he said he would do most things but wouldn’t parachute out of a plane.

Surprise In the Beak's Office

David was still at the Robert Douglas Memorial School in Scone, whilst I had moved up to the Perth Academy in the City of Perth in Scotland a few miles away. The move to the Academy was not good initially. I hardly knew anyone and had unlike most of the students no history or family in Perth. On my first day I ended up fighting three different lads. It went downhill from there. I was marched off to the Beak’s (Headmaster) Office and there waited an even bigger surprise for me; the tawse or the belt it was known as. Scottish State Schools used the tawse to punish pupils of either sex on the palm of the outstretched hand. Pupils were usually instructed to hold out one hand, palm uppermost, supported by the other hand below, which made it difficult to move the hand away during the infliction of the strokes. It also ensured that the full force of each stroke was taken by the hand being strapped. The punishment was usually inflicted by the class teacher in front of the entire class. Can I just say that hurt, but for some reason I received a lot that first year it did not go as well.

One of the great things about the Academy was we played a lot of rugby and cricket. With Rugby I was more enthusiastic than skilful, however with cricket I had a wee bit more talent. I played for the team and was pretty reasonable bowler. During the snow season the school had weekend skiing lessons up at Glen Shee north of Perth. I loved skiing, although I was more enthusiastic than skilful. When we had snow in Scone, David would take his sledge and I would take my skis (equipment borrowed from the school) and we would sledge and ski down the hill behind the house.

Right the way from we moved to Scone until I left home for the RAF we would take trips up to Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen. We would come home from school on a Friday and find the caravan hooked up to the car, Mum and dad hurrying us up to get changed and off for the weekend we would go. Stonehaven was and still is beautiful and has some of the best fish and chips I have ever tasted.

I was still going to the Scouts on a Friday; I loved the meetings however getting away on camp was the best. Here I was ready to go to an International Scout Jamboree in Braemar. I enjoyed the comradeship of Scouting, the challenges and the outdoors skills. Scouting was a big part of my life and in some ways till is.

A Rock God in Making.

Mum and Dad had turned the house in Scone into a real home. We all loved our home, Mum and Dad with our reluctant assistance had produced a great garden as well. As I said before, this was our first real home, here we set down roots, made friends and enjoyed life.

I had decided that I was either going to join the Royal Air Force, an intention I had since I was knee high to a grasshopper, or I was going to be a Rock God on guitar. My thinking was that my great guitar heroes all had played classical guitar, so I was going to be like them. I learnt classical guitar. Little did my family know how many hours of practice and punishment I was going to inflict on them. The David went one farther and learned the tuba. Now I had no real talent and had to practice and practice however David seemed to have this knack of being able to pick up anything whether it be sport, musical or even art. It was seriously annoying to be outclassed by my little brother even though he wasn’t the sportsman or musician. That boy could play, and play anything, including my guitar and better than me. David auditioned and made it into the Perth Youth Brass Band run at the time and for many many years by a Mr Annan. The PYBB played all over Perthshire at all sorts of events.

Later on, David joined me at Perth Academy and once again outshone me in academia, sports, music and pretty much everything else. Although it irked at times, I was underneath it all I was enormously proud of him. We also got an insight into what his love life was going to like. He loved the girls and they loved him. Now that really irked ha-ha. Here I was Rock God in the making, desperate for a girlfriend and he came along, and the girls flocked to him. I think my desperate air scared them all off. This continued all our way through our lives and became a standing joke between us and later my mate Chris.

A Contented Man.

We had got into a routine of work, gardening and home improvements and were enjoying life.   Frances like her dad enjoyed outside activities and was a member of the Adventure Scouts (Rangers).  Most of her time was spent training for various activities and then at weekends she would be off on survival weekends, canoeing, or gorge hopping. abseiling etc.  On her 18th birthday we bought her a Honda Scooter so she could be more independent and she was soon off here and there.  Mary, Chris, Mike, and David came down from Scotland for a short stay and we all went out for a lovely Italian dinner at The Bistro in Leeds. It was the time when age of consent changed from 21 years to 18 years, but Frances said she would rather celebrate this at 21 years. 

Stuart enjoyed working for the North Eastern Gas Board, based at Tingley.  It was sometimes long hours, especially when a gas leak occurred at night and they had to make sure that all homes and buildings had been evacuated and the buildings left empty.   Stuart’s nephew had come up from London for a holiday with us and as NEGB had an annual fete we decided to all go – it was a fun day and we even all tried the apple dunking.

Stuart from a young boy had always been keen on course fishing When we started courting Stuart got me to go with him fishing on the River Ure at Ripon and started me off, he showed me how to do it – even to putting the worms, maggots or bait on the hook myself.  He then left me to get on with it.   Luckily on my first fishing trip I caught a lovely river barbel and for me that was it – I love fishing.  If an opportunity arose to do some fishing we usually jumped at the chance and so we did quite a bit on the River Nidd near Wetherby with friends who had fishing rights.

1980 saw us going with friends to Portugal (our first holiday abroad since we put down roots and Stuart left the RAF) It was a great time and we toured all along the Algarve.

Cubs & Scouts.

I, then David had joined the Cubs Scouts and then had gone into the Scouts. Although David enjoyed it less than I did, I loved the Scouts especially getting away on camp. The Leaders of the Scout Group were great, it was always green field sites for us, where we had to dig toilet trenches, sleep in tents and cook on fires. The Scout Association was a big part of my life for a good few years.

One of our family camping holidays was down to Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire. Mum and Dad had packed us into the caravan, and we were off. Whitby was always high on the list of places to visit. Such a wonderful place to wander and the ruins of the Abbey overlooking the town are beautiful. I am sure you know that Bram Stoker was inspired to write Dracula by Whitby. I highly recommend the fish and chips in Whitby.

The bottom photo is proof that my dad, Chris, took part in a strike. I cannot remember why or how long it lasted. This is a photo of Dad on the picket line. I seem to remember Dad really entered into the spirit of the industrial action.

Flying High.

As was our usual family want, we explored all over Scotland. Visits to the Castle in Edinburgh were always valued. I think Mum and Dad took us there so often because then they could go shopping.

Not only did we have family come and visit us, friends of Mum and Dad from the RAF came and visited us. The second picture is family friends the Always. Pete and Sue were always good fun to be around. I cannot remember the three daughters name, though I do know I fancied the eldest a great deal.

As always Carol, Stuart, Frances and our Nana and Grandad would visit when they could. Now that we had a real family home, we saw more of them which was great.

I had also joined the Air Training Corps in readiness of my plans to join the Royal Air Force myself. The plan was to get a wee head start on the basics like marching, ironing and looking after my kit. I had my first flights in the ATC like many a young man. I flew in Jet Provosts, Chipmunks and gliders.

Stuart the Gas Man.

We continued to improve the garden and our bungalow at Swillington.  Frances and her dad (Stuart) also decided to go jogging/walking.  One evening Frances returned home on her own to say her dad had hurt his ankle and could not walk.  We got in the car and went to bring him home.  Luckily there were no breaks, but he had damaged the tendon and it was very very swollen.  For a very long time it proved to be a weak spot, when walking distances.

Stuart’s service in the RAF was due to end in September. He had served 3 years as a boy entrant and 22 years man-service.  After discussing what he wanted to do he decided not only to leave the RAF but also to finish working in the aircraft business.  He felt he wanted to do something totally different and the end of August saw him joining British Gas (North Eastern Region) as a Distribution Supervisor responsible for directing 11 mobile survey teams engaged on leakage surveys of the distribution system.  He soon settled into ‘civilian’ life.  He enjoyed the change and diversity of the work and also enjoyed being able to be in the field as well as at the desk. 

As always we visited friends and had friends to stay with us, plus new friendships were being made via British Gas.  A highlight though was going up to Scone.  It was always lovely to meet up with the Mary, Chris, Mike and David and enjoying our many day trips exploring.   The bottom photo of the building is Scone Palace.  It was lovely inside with a rich history of Scotland,  lovely grounds, and held many annual events such as the Game Fair.

Duty Done.

In 1977 my Dad retired from the RAF after completing 22years service. My Dad had a bit of difficulty acclimatising to what is called in the military ‘Civvy’ life. For those who haven’t experienced the military this comes as a big, big shock. Many ex-Servicepeople can’t acclimatise to the way life is, outside in the civilian world. It is worth asking an ex-service member to explain it.

We were headed North and had planned to stay a few days with my Nana and Grandad in Ripon, Yorkshire. It coincided with my Aunt Carol, Uncle Stu, and cousin Frances’s visit. It was good to have all the family together. As you can see Dad took the opportunity to grow his hair, very 70’s look for him isn’t it.

Anyway, Dad retired from the RAF and we packed up and moved to Perth in Scotland. Dad had secured a position as an aeronautical engineering lecturer with a company at Scone Airport. Our new home was at 68 Spoutwells Drive, Scone. This was our first home of our own. This was to be our home for many years.

Mum and Dad roped Carol, Stuart, and Frances into helping them get the house sorted and our belongings unpacked. Stuart always was a dab hand at DIY, he could tile, he could lay carpets, he could work wood and do all sorts of things. Always handy to have around. And of course, to David and I, he was our Naughty Uncle, always willing for a bit of mischief. It is a role I try to fulfil now with our niece, when I can get away with it, agree Mary?

Beware of Buffaloes.

Mum and Dad soon made friends and started socialising. Dad had been a member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) is one of the largest fraternal organisations in the United Kingdom. The order started in 1822 and is known as the Buffs to members.

The RAOB organisation aids members, their families, dependents of former members and other charitable organisations.

The Order's motto is "No Man Is At All Times Wise" and it has the maxim of "Justice, Truth and Philanthropy".

This meant that Mum and Dad’s social life widened and the process of integration in the community quickened.

David and I went into the Robert Douglas Memorial School in Scone. It was close to the Summer holidays, so I only had a few weeks in Primary 7. The RDM was and still is a really old-fashioned red brick school that is gorgeous. As is usual there were the school photos to cringe at.

Mum and Dad loved their garden. When we moved in the garden was rough to say the least. The photos shown are from a few years later, I didn’t have any photos of the house and garden from when we moved in. Slowly Mum and Dad turned the garden into a delight. This was the first time Mum and Dad were able to develop a garden of their own, all the places we lived in before were RAF Married Quarters, basically council type housing for families owned by the Ministry of Defence.

That winter was if I remember correctly quite cold and we had snow that lasted for a good while. Behind our home there was a carpark and garages, a field full of the Earl on Mansfield’s prize-winning Highland Cattle including a massive bull called Charlie. Behind that was woods and forest that stretched for miles. It was a great place to go and play. Like most lads we had our den up in the woods.

Feeling Flushed.

Having moved into the bungalow at Swillington we set about making it our home.  It had recently been changed to gas central heating from oil, but the huge steel oil tank was still in situ.  It was in the rafters of the garage and still smelt.  Stuart did not think it was too safe and wanted to get rid of it.

He emptied and then flushed the tank out numerous times to get rid of any oil residue which was quite a feat being so far up.  Then with an angle grinder and sitting on the rafters cut the tank up into pieces.  Each piece when cut was passed down to Frances then with my help carried outside.  After the tank had been all cut up and the pieces placed outside a scrap metal man came and took it away.  We also started tidying the garden (it took over and both Stuart and I were hooked on gardening as you will see in future backstories). We started with a crescent shaped rose bed at the front drive.

Chris having left the RAF the Haines family were on the move to Scotland to start a new civilian life.  They called at Ripon on the way and we all met up, mum and dad were especially pleased and loved having the three grandchildren all together.  We then followed them up to Scone, to help with the move.

August saw us again at Scone this time to look around the area, and we found beautiful scenery and places to visit.  It was also Frances’s 16th birthday and we spent this at St Andrews beach, having a picnic in the dunes.  The weather was lovely and we had a great day.

Stuarts transfer to MOD Harrogate finally came to an end and he was posted back to RAF Leeming as Shift and Trade Manager of a rectification group responsible for the rectification of aircraft defects.

Away He Went.

RAF St Athan was a great home for us, Dad was working regular shifts on his job in the Maintenance Unit. It meant that we had regular weekends as a family and there was always something to go and see.

Mum was a great sewer and knitter and she had made almost everything in the first photo apart from underwear and shoes. I can’t remember what the occasion was that this photo was taken for, it must have been something though. This photo always gets a laugh from the students on my presentations however every parent has photos of their kids like this.

David, on his birthday had been given a Space Hopper (remember those?). It was lethal, basically a big rubber balloon with ears that you held on to as you bounced. It was great fun but as I said lethal. Mum caught Dad at the perfect time just as he was falling off it. Could not have been timed better.

When I was a lad, I always wanted to play football, I was rubbish. I was always one of the last to be picked. However, that changed when we settled in Wales. I was introduced to the Welsh national religion, rugby. I loved rugby and still do although my playing days are long long past. As always, I was more enthusiastic than skilful. That phrase could epitomise my life in sport and many other things, always more enthusiastic than skilful.

The Intrepid Hunters.

We would often come home from school to find the caravan hitched up to the car and everything all packed for a weekend away. One of our favourite places to go was Ripon caravan site. You could actually see my Nana and Grandad’s home from our usual pitch. The site was on top of a fairly steep hill leading down to the River Ure. David and I spent hours with our nets fishing for tiddlers in the Ure. The steep bank was a great place to go toad hunting as well.

All we had to do to visit my Nana and Grandad was a walk down the road, cross the bridge and then we were in the wee estate my Grandparents lived in for many years. A walk down the river with my Grandad was one of my favourite things, I think I could still walk the route to a great bit of wild woodland called The Jungle. There was a great big rope swing from a very tall tree that you could swing out over the river on.

Masham Steam Rally was once one of the biggest steam rallies in the country. I don’t know if it is still going, if it is it is well worth a trip to see. Steam powered vehicles of all types came to the rally from all over Europe and plenty of sightseers as well. A great place for a picnic on a sunny day.

Up for a Laugh.

Being in the RAF we made many good life-long friends, but the trouble was they were RAF families too and so we found ourselves scattered miles part, Norfolk, Leics, Milton Keynes London and as far away as Canada, Hong Kong and South Africa.  We were able to see those families stationed in Briton fairly often, they would visit us and we would visit them, but the ones abroad we waited until they came on home visits or the posting ended.  We also visited Stuart’s family (sister,brother-in-law and nephew) down in Surrey often.

One Xmas saw us going down to Crowthorne to Stuart’s sister’s.  We went in our trusted beetle but travelling along the North Circular Road were involved in a 3 car bump.  We managed to still drive to Crowthorne.  On arrival, as we had the turkey in the car for Xmas dinner, went to the bonnet to get it out, only to find that the bonnet lid was slightly buckled and would not open.  It ended with us putting a rope on the boot handle tying the other end to a lamppost and Stuart reversing.  We got the turkey out.  We could not drive back home so had to put the car into a garage, take the train home, and go back to Crowthorne to pick up the car a fortnight later.

The Magical New Forest

One of our most successful and eventful family holidays was when we visited the New Forest. Now if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the New Forest, I will tell you a little about it.

The New Forest in southern England, and is undoubtedly one of the UK’s most visited tourist attractions

Some New Forest families still practise their ancient Rights of Pasture by turning out their ponies, cattle, sheep, and pigs to graze and browse the open forest. These animals help to maintain the forests unique landscape. One special highlight is the thousands of wild ponies, which roam freely in the woodlands and open moorland. The New Forest has a wonderful collection of plants, birds, and insects.

The New Forest is full of history, myths, and legends it almost seems magical. It is beautiful and calming although not always as you shall see.

We took the caravan and awning to a campsite near Brockenhurst. Our first surprise was to see some of the wild ponies wandering round the site. As you can see, they were very curious and not at all afraid of the comings and goings on the site.

Beside the site was a river, where you could fish and swim, which David and I did a lot. However, the best thing was hunting crayfish, you had to have lightning reactions. David and I spent hours hunting these wee creatures. At the end of the day, we would put them all back in the river to swim away. If I only knew what a delicacy crayfish are, in those days they were just a novelty.

One night we had the most torrential thunderstorm. The rain was that hard and heavy that the awning and very nearly the caravan was flooded. Dad was digging drainage channels frantically whilst I was grabbing floating belongings and equipment. In the end Dad had to hitch the caravan up and with neighbouring campers helping to hold the awning in place, move the whole kit and caboodle to higher ground. We had to stay a few extra days so that the awning had time to dry out.

Away We Went.

Whilst we were at the New Forest, we took the opportunity to travel and see the sights in and around the New Forest.

We visited Whipsnade Zoo, it is massive, or was at that time. I think it is still going. I loved and still do love going to zoos, and Whipsnade is one of the better ones. You can certainly rack up those steps wandering the zoo and seeing all the animals. I seem to remember it had a great reptile house.

Some of you may remember my Mum was a WRN, (Women’s Royal Navy), known as Wrens. Mum served at HMNB Portsmouth, so of course we visited, and Mum showed us her old stomping grounds. We went aboard the HMS Victory, which is still listed as a Royal Navy ship, although now it is a museum. That really was a great day with us ending it on a Portsmouth harbour bat tour. Seeing all the RN ships at berth was great.

The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu was on our must-see list. David Dad and I all loved cars and bikes especially old ones. It had been a pipedream of Dad and mine to restore an old broken-down car. Unfortunately, a pipedream it remained and will do as cars these days are so complex computer systems rather than good old engineering.

In the bottom left of the last photo you can see some record-breaking land speed cars. Sir Douglas Campbell’s Bluebird is a main attraction at the museum.

Overall, the holiday was like pretty much all our holidays a great success. We didn’t have much money to spend however what we did have was time and family. Every night we would play cards or a family game before we went to bed. In the caravan it was a bunk bed system for David and me, so you can imagine the fun I had tickling him.

I think these years we have been covering recently were my golden years. I was old enough to enjoy the sightseeing and appreciate my family. I had no cares, no wants, and no worries.

Not a Good Start.

1976 did not start too good.  I was unwell and in February was in hospital for 3 weeks, then a convalescent hospital for 2 weeks.  My mum and dad then stayed for a week to help me settle back home, and I was then soon A1 and back to work.

On 9th June Stuart was awarded an Air Officer Commanding’s Commendation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of his work as SNCO in charge of the propulsion tradesmen of the Scheduled Servicing Flight.

 June saw us going down to St Athens to stay with the Haines family.  It was a lovely time, the weather was brilliant lovely and hot.  I remember Mary (mike’s mum) and I deciding to start to get a tan.    Mary and I were laying out in the garden sunbathing, unfortunately we had also used fake tan cream, the result was lots of streaks which took ages to get rid of.  We also all went to Barry Island and got hooked on a tennis game in the Amusement Arcade, which pleased Frances, Mike and David.  We spent all day having competitions and a final championship – there were a lot of 10p spent that day, and a lot of stiff necks from moving side to side watching the games.

Again Stuart was out and about  as he joined a team canoeing the lochs of Scotland.  He had to train first on how to roll with the canoe,  etc   He admitted the days of canoeing were hard but said the worst loch was Loch Ness, it was quite eerie with the shadows of the clouds, wind and rain.

We decided to move up the property ladder and were again on the move. We had sold the house in Garforth and bought a detached bungalow on the edge of Swillington, nr Leeds.  The Haines all came up to help us move.  We all had our cleaning and unpacking jobs, Poor Mary (Mike’s mum) got the short straw and was assigned to cleaning the oven (which she remembered when they moved house!!!).

Later Stuart was given a 1 year transfer to MOD Harrogate. He was to lead a small team of airmen and civilians gathering information throughout the RAF, Navy, and Army and compiling, correcting, coding information and programming results for Automatic Data Processing. 

The Cornish Adventure

After the Haines and Carden’s had been in different parts of the world and were all back in the UK we decided to have a good holiday to relax and enjoy each other's company again.

Chris and Mary (Mike's Mum and Dad) had sold the tent they had in Germany and on their return to the UK had bought a second-hand caravan and awning.  After many discussions it was decided that our holiday would be camping in Cornwall.  Still living miles apart, we arranged to meet the Haines at a motorway service station, we were in our trusty VW Beetle (packed with tent, etc.) and the Haines were in their Hillman Avenger towing their caravan.  With Chris setting the pace with the caravan and us following we headed to Cornwall, to a campsite near Mevagissey.  From the A390 we were to take a turn left to Mevagissey. Unfortunately, we took the first turn left and started downhill where the road started to get very narrow.  We 'realised' that no caravans were allowed, and they would not get down this road.  Stuart made a 'several point turn' and went back up to stop any cars from coming down.  Chris then reversed back up the hill to a point where the road was a bit wider.  We then all pitched in to unhook the caravan and manhandled it around, then Chris also made a 'several point turn' with the car and squeezed passed the caravan.  We hooked the caravan back up and returned to the A390, luckily there was no traffic trying to get down the road, and we were able to take the right left turn to Mevagissey.  What a way to start our holiday.

After Mike cut his ankle and Chris and Stuart had got Mike up the cliff and to hospital in Chris's car it was all actions go - Mary (Mike's Mum), David, Myself (Carol) and Frances collected all our things together and carried then up the cliff path got them packed into the Beetle and went back to the campsite to await Chris, Stuart and Mike back from the hospital.  It did not stop us all going down, many times, to the beach and having great fun playing and swimming in the sea.  As Mike's grandad used to say ' We were blessed with weather' and we made full use of the sun and heat.

Apart from the few mishaps it was a perfect holiday we were all together as family/friends enjoying our time together.

Carol Carden.

The Fun and Drama in the Sun.

As you can see, we still loved a good rough and tumble with Dad. It really was the thing that David and I loved best. Since we were still on holiday with Carol, Stuart and Frances, my cousin joined in with the fun and games.

The five of us travelled the length and breadth of Cornwall seeing as many of the sights as we could and of course the ice-cream and cream scones, mmmm lovely. We visited the iconic Jamaica Inn, scene of many good film and story.

The beach pictured in the bottom photo was at the bottom of a very steep cliff, some of it ivy covered. A long steep path took you to the carpark at the top. I had gone exploring and was climbing part of the cliff. Mum shouted at me to return as I was getting too high.

When I returned Mum let out a yell and asked me what had I done? Looking down there was a great big cut in my ankle. The blood was pouring out. It needed hospital treatment. Dad put a hanky over the cut, slung me over his shoulder and with Stuart joining him started off for the carpark. Stuart and Dad became superheroes that day. It was extremely hot and the cliff very steep. Swapping me over between them, they carried me to the car and took me to the hospital where I got stitches, patched up and sent on my way. It turned out that someone had thrown a glass bottle at the cliff and it had got caught up in the ivy. I still have the scar to this day. To this day I am still amazed at both my Dad and Stuart’s endurance and strength because they didn’t just walk, they ran and whilst carrying me in a fireman’s lift with my leg stuck in the air.

You can see how far up Stuart and Dad had to carry me in the third of Carol’s photos. It was a steep steep path.

Still, it was a wonderful holiday.

Remember Summer of 76?

The Summer of 76 was a scorcher, from the beginning to the end. Mum and dad had sold the tent we had in Germany and on our return to the UK, had bought a second-hand caravan and an awning for it. So, after chatting with Carol and Stuart, it was decided to join up in a camping holiday in Cornwall.

Carol, Stuart, and Frances my cousin, met us at a motorway service station. They had their trusty VW Beetle and Mum, Dad, David, and I were in our Hillman Avenger and on the back was our new caravan. The Carden’s were in their tent and we were in the caravan. That first trip was a learning experience for us all. It was David’s job to wheel the water barrel over to the fill-up point. My job was to wheel it back and connect it to the caravan.

As I said the Summer of 76 was a stormer, such warm weather. Frances, David, and I spent most of the Summer in our swimmies. The three of us got on like a house on fire. It really was the most idyllic Summer.

Getting the Miles In.

Stuart was still enjoying his walking and on 3rd October 1974 with a team of airmen walked ‘The Lyke Wake Walk’ his time being 13hr 20min.   When some friends decided to walk the North York Moors Route of Dales on the 26th October Stuart was with them. 

At the end of 1974 Stuart was posted from RAF Church Fenton where he worked on training aircraft, to RAF Leeming where he worked on servicing and rectification of gas turbine and piston aircraft engines.

Again he had the opportunity to join a RAF walking team. Not content with walking the Lyke Wake Walk in October when the team from RAF Leeming asked him to join them on 17th January 1975, he was keen to try and beat his time on his previous walk and did so by 17 mins.  Later in 1975 he walked with the team on the ‘Hadrian’s Wall - Coast to Coast’ walk which took 5 days.

We still went on our regular visits to my mum and dad, but if Stuart was walking or working weekends Frances (our daughter) and myself would still go.  With Frances at school, myself in full time administrative work and Stuart with the RAF it was usually the weekends when we visited.

Carol Carden.

Cardiff, What a City.

As you can see from the previous post, we now had a dog in tow. Sheila was what my described as a Heinz 57 breed. At that time Heinz had 57 different types of tinned food. Sheila was a dog you could say that came from very mixed parentage. Sheila was however a very good-natured dog, enjoyed playing with David and myself and had cemented her place in the family.

We had a number of favourite places to go as a family. Cardiff was a delight, a great place to visit and plenty to see. I was lucky enough to visit Cardiff on a GAU tour in 2019 and it is still very much the same. Lovely people, lovely sights. We visited the castle quite a bit. They had and still do have all sorts of events at the castle grounds including concerts.

Out other favourite place to go was the Brecon Beacons. As a family we loved hiking in the Brecon’s. The views are incredible, I am sure may of our readers would agree. The last photo is the Mum, David, and I on the top of Pen y-Fan.

Another of favourite places was Barry Island. Barry beach is a great place to hunt for fossils. I still have (somewhere). If we were lucky, we went home to St Athan via Llantwit-Major. There was a great bakery there that sold sausage rolls and the most magnificent cakes. That would be our treat.

Wandering in Wales.

Late on in 1975 my Dad, Chris, received another posting. Due to his work on the Vintage Pair, he was posted onto a Maintenance Unit responsible for keeping the Battle of Britain Flight’s Lancaster serviceable. This was on a base in South Wales, RAF ST. Athan. So as on many occasions we packed all our belongings and headed for new horizons.

Since now as I was of an age to help around the house Mum and Dad brought in a child labour policy. I am joking, I can remember that feeling of pride as Mum and Dad trusted me with doing the dishes and making a cuppa. I did once spill a boiling kettle of water all down my leg. Dad picked me up and dunked me clothes and all in a bath of lukewarm water. I was taken to the base medical centre to get checked out. No real harm done, just a harsh lesson learnt.

The married quarter (military family house) we were in had been relatively newly built. Many of the quarters had been built during the 40’s and 50’s, and quickly at that. Our quarter was the most modern we had ever lived in. If I remember right, it was 32 Livingstone Way.

As you can see from our school photo David’s cheeky grin only increased. It was good times.

Back to the UK.

In 1974 Mum and Dad packed up our house in RAF Bruggen in Germany, and headed back to the UK. We first stayed for a while with my Nana and Grandad.

Dad got a dream posting onto the RAF display team at RAF Little Rissington The Vintage Pair. The Gladiator (left) and the Vampire were brought back into display service to display at airshows across the UK and beyond.

This was a very very happy time for my Dad. I can remember sitting in the cockpit of both these aircraft after Dad had sneaked me onto camp.

We were assigned a married quarter which was to be our home until Dad got another posting.

As you can see David's blonde hair and his charming ways even had the birds coming down out of the trees for him. He really was a charmer.

Venice Was & Is Amazing.

There are so many things to see and do in Venice. The city is truly beautiful. These days spent in Venice were the start of a love affair for me, with Venice and the destination for a good few trips in later life. It has always been a dream of my adult life to visit Venice during the famous and infamous Carnival.

So back to 1973 we were in St Marks Square in Venice, the centre point of the city. Mum was desperate for the loo so we had to stop at a café in the square. We had soft drinks for David and I and coffee for Mum and Dad. I can’t remember how much it cost but I do know that for a few days we were on very much reduced rations. The shock of the bill stayed with Mum and Dad for many years.

Even back in 1973 it was very easy to be ripped off.

Lido De Jesolo 1973

In the June of 1973 we had a camping holiday with our tent in Lido De Jesolo in NE Italy. The main intention was to visit Venice to see the beautiful architecture, visit the museums and galleries.

We did however visit all over the area with a good few days spent soaking up the gorgeous sun. For both David and I it was idyllic time. Swimming in the sea, making sandcastles and our trips to iconic Venice.

The Carden's First Home.

With Mam, Dad, David and me still in Germany Stuart settled into RAF Church Fenton, and by mid 1973 Stuart and Carol had decided that it was time to put down roots and bought their first house in Garforth, Nr Leeds.  They had camp chairs to start with and trays to hold their plates and cups until they could get some furniture.

They were only 45 mins from my Nana and Grandad who were able to visit Carol and Stuarts often giving advice and help.  Also Stuart, Carol and Frances were able to visit them often.  A regular visit was on either Saturday or Sunday when Stuart went walking with my Grandad and Carol would take my Nana and Great Aunt Jenny (who lived nearby) out in the car for a scenic drive usually ending with them going for tea and cakes or ice-cream.  My Grandad was a great walker and Stuart once told me that when Carol and him started courting my Grandad asked Stuart if he fancied a wee walk, when they got back home, a few hours later, Stuart said to Carol - if that was a WEE walk what's his LONG walk.

Loved Seeing Family

This photo is another of my personal favourites. It typifies David and i’s love of fun, games and mischief. Mum and Dad always had a sense of fun, they always had their way of showing their love.

It was always good to see family and friends, whether it be camping with, doing touristy things or staying at our home. When the visitors went home and dad was home we still did lots . There were plenty of day trips to zoos, cities and attractions.

One of our favourite things to do was our family walks. There was a lovely perimeter track round the site at RAF Bruggen. The woodland around the camp were full of wildlife and interesting things to find. We did give Mum and Dad the fright of their lives once when David or I (can’t remember who) found an unspent blank round. Don’t think I have seen Dad move so fast to get it out of our hands.

Nana & Grandads Visit.

Once when my Nana and Grandad came to visit us, we took them to De Efteling. We met them at the ferry in Rotterdam and then to a hotel for the next evening. The following day it was off to De Efteling. They loved it and really entered into the spirit of the place.

You can see David and I listening to the toadstools that were dotted all over the park. You could here music if you put your ear tothem.

As you can see my Nana and Grandad were up for a laugh. Normally quite dignified and reserved on occasions they would let their hair down.

The park took fairy tales and using animatronics would bring them to life in the most amazing way.

They Took The Long Way Home.

At the the end of October l972 Stuart's posting to Cyprus came to an end.  Instead of flying back to England the family decided to come home by sea and land.  They boarded a ship, along with their car as cargo, and set off from Limassol Cyprus to Venice Italy.  The voyage took 6 days calling at Turkey, various Greek Islands, the Greek Mainland and cruising and stopping along the coast to Venice.  A highlight of the journey was sailing through the Corinth Canal.  On reaching Venice they unloaded the car from the ship and travelled up through Italy over the Brenner Pass through Germany to RAF Bruggen (nr Dusseldorf) to stay  5 days with my Mam, Dad, David and me. They were meeting David for the first time and it was so lovely all being together again and catching up on all the news.  They then continued their journey to England where Stuart had his next posting in Yorkshire.  They were pleased about this as they were not too far from my Grandad and Nana.

Just before leaving Cyprus Stuart was told he had been put forward for a Commendation and 31 December l972 he received a letter saying he had been awarded a Commendation in the New Year's List of Honours and Awards in recognition of his hard work at RAF Akrotiri.

Amazing De Efteling

Not too far from Rotterdam in the Netherlands there was, and sill is the most amazing fantasy themed fun park called De Efteling. I still to this day have the most wonderful memories of this amazing park. It took fairy tales and turned them into attractions. It was a place of wonder and awe for kids like David and myself.

Amongst the amazing attractions, all over the parks were these goblins with massive, big mouths. If you put your rubbish in them, they said ‘Danke Schoen’ (thank you). It really was a wonderland.

I hear that there has been a lot of changes of course since I was last there however when and if I have Grandchildren, I will be taking them there

Crimbo 1971

The Christmas of 1971 seemed to me to be our best ever Christmas. It might have been my young age at the time however I remember it as being perfect. Mum and Dad must have been earning more or the exchange was more favourable because we seemed to have more presents than ever before.

Dad was a big fan of motor racing and because my hero loved so did I. I was at the age that my Dad was my hero in everything. Mum and Dad had got me a really pedal powered go kart. I loved it. I had a crash helmet and everything. I had the go-kart for a good few years and must have done miles in it. David got a red tractor on which he turned into a demon.

You know when you go through your memories and photos and there are if you lucky those iconic times when the world seemed to be so wonderful, this is one of mine.

You can just about see David behind the cracker on the Christmas Dinner photo. Mum turned out the best dinners. We always ate before the Queen’s speech, then after the speech David, Dad and I would tidy up and then a family walk before a film on the telly.

Cardens in Cyprus.

Meanwhile Stuart, Carol and Frances were enjoying the beautiful Island of Cyprus.  Stuart had been posted to RAF Akrotiri where he worked on Lightnings on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert). The Island at this time was not divided so they were able to travel the whole Island enjoying the history, food, sun and sand, and the beautiful scenery.  My Grandad and Nana could not travel so far to Cyprus but Stuart's sister and husband, and nephew and girlfriend were able to visit.  Stuart started to walk and hill walk with his friend Alan, and really enjoyed this.  He continued with the walking for many years.  Carol and Frances with Alan's wife and children would at these times go to beach with other friends. Stuart and Alan told me they had achieved an ambition on Xmas Day 1971, they went to Troodos the highest point in Cyprus played in the snow then got in the car and drove down to the coast and swam in the sea. It was not all play Stuart was working long hours on Lightning Jets keeping them ready for immediate flight.  Carol did voluntary work at the Naafi HQ making sure that families had provisions until their furniture etc arrived from England.  There was a small cafe attached which was always busy.

In January 1971 Stuart and his tech team were presented to the then Prime Minister Edward Heath on his visit to Cyprus.

Nightly Routine

Being in the Royal Air Force or any of the Armed Forces is not a nine to five job. We never knew when Dad would appear, he worked until the mission was done. There were times when Dad was gone for days and even weeks. This was and is normal in the Armed Forces, mission always comes first, sometimes he would get a message home and sometimes not.

Every night when Dad came home from work the routine was the same. After dinner David and I would have a fight on the floor with Dad. Dad would slowly strip us and then give us a cuddy ride up the stairs for a bath. Both David and I loved this routine and could not get enough of it.

I never realised the thinking behind this routine until I had my own boys. The whole idea was to tire us out before bed. When my boys came along way way into the future I did the same.

Off To Germany.

Dad received a posting to RAF Bruggen in Germany in 1971. Another exciting stay for my family. We loved Germany. Mum and Dad bought a brand new car, a Hillman Avenger. This was Dad's pride and joy, this was his first and last brand new car.

Mum and Dad also bought a second-hand family tent. We spend oh so many nights under it's roof, all over Europe. This was our home from home. At a drop of a hat Mum and Dad would pack up clothes, food and kit and we would take off.

A Mischievous Wee So&So

David, was turning into this bright, sunny disposition bairn. He could charm anyone with his smile. He seemed to have no fear and would go and explore needing Mum, Dad and I to have eyes in the backs of our heads.

He was as I said bright and cheerful, however on those rare occasions when he was not happy he let everyone in hearing distance know.

Family Always Around.

That New Year we had visits not only from Nana and Grandad, (my Mum's parents) also a rare visit from some of Dad's family. Starting off with the lady looking at us, with black hair is Dad's sister Maud, then my Nana and then you can just see the top of Maud's husband Tom, grandad is next, the my cousin Tom (he was a hero to me at that age). Sitting next to Tom is my Grandmother Lillian, then me and Mum. Dad was taking the photo.

Birthdays & Christmas 1970.

My birthday and our Christmas that year were joyous occasions, I was still totally besotted with my new wee brother.

Mum and Dad always gave David and I as good a birthday and Christmas as they could. Money was tight in those days, however there were presents to open and of course I had my new wee brother.

Happy as Larry.

David rapidly became my best friend as well as being my brother. With that twinkle in his eye and that charm of a smile he was a favourite with everyone and I was only too happy to be his big brother.

My Nana and Grandad were only too pleased to have another Grandson as well. The four of us had many trips to both my Grandparents and my Aunt Carol and Uncle Stu's.

New Addition.

The reason why we had returned to the UK was that my Mum was expecting. On the 9th of May 1970, my wee brother David arrived. It was the best thing ever. I still remember holding him for the first time. I had a brother, FANTASTIC. He was christened David Cawthorne Haines. He was noisy, smelly and I loved him.

Goodbye to The Orient.

Early in 1970 we said goodbye to the Far East and flew back to the UK. Dad had been posted to another base RAF Leconfield as he finished his tour.

Carol and Stuart were still in Cyprus but our plane stopped at RAF Akrotri, Cyprus to refuel and we were allowed off the plane for a couple of hours so were able to meet up with Carol, Stuart and Frances before having to reboard and continue our journey to England.

It was great to catch-up with family. Here I am getting a shave from my Grandad. What I didn't know there was an ulterior motive for our return to the UK.

Hazy Memories

Unfortunately I have only hazy memories of that time. I know it was a time of happiness for Mum, Dad and me. I can though still remember our visit to the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore and also a separate trip to see The Sleeping Buddha.

Explore We Did.

As with everywhere we were based, Mum and Dad took every opportunity to explore. Mum and Dad always taught David and I to respect other peoples culture and faith and to learn from them.

All Change.

There were so many changes to our way of life. You can just see me in the top photo at the fence of our house. This was a very happy time for our family. Full of new sights, sounds, tastes, smells.


CasEvaccing is Casualty Evacuation. Injured American troops were being evacuated from the Vietnam conflict and then onto the USA. Dad was part of the team that kept the Blackburn Beverleys serviceable.

Off to the Far East.

In 1968 Dad was posted out to Malaya and then Singapore. This was the start of a real adventure for all the family as we accompanied Dad.

In 1969 Stuart was posted to Cyprus so again the family were miles apart, but with letters and photos, Nana and Grandad, Carol and Stuart, and Mum and Dad were able to keep in touch.

Family Outings.

Abingdon was a special place for my family. There were plenty of visits from Carol, Stuart and Frances and from my Nana and Grandad.

Mum and Dad took every opportunity to get out and about and explore wherever we were based.

Dad to the Rescue.

As any servicemen or woman will tell you, even to this day, you don't join up for the money. We didn't have much money at home, so Dad set about making toys for me. I can fondly remember that Dad made me a garage that I played with for hours and was eventually passed down to my own boys, both of them.

Family Get Togethers.

With Stuart and my Dad in the RAF getting time off together was sometimes difficult, however when we could we would meet up and enjoy the company.

Ok I apologise for the unreservedly cute photo of me. Not my usual photo as friends and family will tell you. All I can say in my defence is that I didn't know what I was doing.

Down to Abingdon

In the summer of 1967 the three of us travelled down to Abiingdon, Oxfordshire. Dad had been posted onto 47 Squadron which were flying the Blackburn Beverley. The Beverley was to become Dad's favourite aircraft.

Happy Childhood.

It seems from what my family have told me, I was a happy child. I loved riding on the carpet sweeper and playing with my duck as I sat on the potty. I slept well from an early age, (wish I could do that so easily now).

Close as Kin.

My Dad, Chris, had left home at an early age and only really kept in contact with his sister Maud. Jock became a Father figure to my Dad, and to Stuart as well. Jock and Barbara, my Grandparents accepted Chris and Stuart into the family and treated them as sons.

Pleased As Punch.

My Grandparents Barbara and Jock were to become important fixtures all through my life and even to this day although both have long passed on.

I inherited Jock's family name of Ballantyne which has been in our line for generations.

It's A Boy.

On the 22nd of June 1966, Mary and Chris became Mum and Dad with the arrival of their son Michael Ballantyne Haines, that's me if you are wondering. Mum and Dad were very much hands on parents although they had no idea of the rollercoaster they were on.

My Dad had to go on a 10 day detachment and because Mum was near the end of the pregnancy Stuart and Carol travelled from Yorkshire to stay with my Mum. The night before my Dad was due back home Mum went into labour. A very anxious and nervous Stuart got my Mum and Carol in the back seat of the car, and with Mum giving directions Stuart drove down dark, country lanes to get my Mum to Hospital. Dad arrived at the hospital the next day in time for my birth.

Family Christmas.

Carol, Stuart and Frances returned from Germany in January 1965 and at last the whole family could all get together for Christmas 1965 at my nana and grandad's house, and to share some good news.

Scotland Bound.

Mum retired from the WRNs so she could marry Chris. Shortly after their wedding Chris was posted to RAF Leuchars, Fife, Scotland. Chris was to serve on the 43Sqn Hunters and then the Lightnings.

Holiday with the Cardens.

September 1963 saw my mum going to Germany to stay with Carol, Stuart and Frances to tell them the good news about meeting Chris again and that they planned to marry that December. My mum did not see much of Germany as Stuart had planned for them all to drive down to Spain on a camping holiday.

Return To Dishforth.

After Chris's tour of the Far East had been completed he returned to RAF Dishforth.

He soon picked up where he left off, bike out of storage and met a young lady. They were at the dancing in Ripon when Chris stumbled and knocked into another couple. It was Mary and her escort. Their eyes met and their affection rekindled. They were soon courting (going out together for those too young) again and their love flourished. They got engaged and were married on the 21st of December 1963.

& The Time of His Life

Chris loved a laugh with his pals and certainly whilst out in the Far East enjoyed the sights, sounds, and food.

Time of Her Life.

Mary loved her time in the WRNS. Mary made lots of friends and travelled all over with the Navy.

Living the Dream.

Both Mary and Chris lamented the breakdown of their relationship for a while. Then like many others put behind them and got on with life.

Being out in the Far East was an adventure for Chris. The sights, sounds and tastes were all very different.

The Cardens' in Germany.

Stuart was posted to Germany October 1961 and Carol, with Frances, joined him in December 1961. The foursome Carol, Stuart, Mum and Dad were miles apart from each other but the friendships remained.

In September l962 Nana and Grandad went to Germany for a stay with Carol, Stuart, and Frances and toured all over Germany.

The Glorious 12th.

On the 12th August 1961 Carol and Stuart's daughter arrived. Frances was to be my cousin in a few years time. Frances and myself were very close for many many years and then as life moved on we slowly drifted apart.

Service Tradition.

My Mum, Mary had set her sights on different pastures than a factory. In early 1961 Mum joined the Women's Royal Navy (WRNS). Mum took to the life like a duck to water and eventually rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.

There is a long history in my family of service in the Armed Forces.

1960 What a Year.

1960 was an eventful year. My dad being posted to the Middle East, Carol and Stuart got married (August) and my mum decided to join the WRENS, something she had wanted to do for a long time. The picture shows my grandad on the left and my nana 2nd on the right, my mum (Mary) was maid of honour

The Split.

Chris and Mary had a break up of their relationship when in 1960 my Dad went on a posting out to Hong Kong. They tried for a while to keep their relationship going however being on the other side of the world did not help. Chris went on to Malaysia, Singapore and Bahrain.

Stuart on Lightnings

Here is an early photo of Stuart working on a 11Sqn British Electric Lightning. Stuart had signed up as a RAF Apprentice and like Chris served for many many years all over the world.

The Working Man.

Dad (Chris) had joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraft engines mechanic. Dad completed his 22 years engagement retiring from the RAF as a Flight Sergeant. Dad like many others in the forces saw service all over the world.

Gabby as he was nicknamed in the RAf can be seen here with Geoff working on a Javelin.

Off on the Bike.

Mum and Dad travelled miles all over the country, far and wide on his motorbike. They enjoyed the cinema and going to the dancing although the dancing was very different in their day.

Their First Meeting.

My Dad, Chris, was posted to a RAF station near Ripon. He and his friends loved going out to the dances that were held in the area. At one of those dances in 1959 my Dad and my Mum met. The start of a wonderful romance and many years together. Like all marriages, some great times, many good times and the occasional bad times.

It was at the Dance Hall (when with my dad and mum) that mum's sister Carol met my dad's friend Stuart. The two sisters and the two RAF lads (Chris and Stuart) became firm and everlasting friends, and my grandparents home became the home they all kept returning to.

Duty in Dishforth

You can see my Dad, Chris, kneeling second on the right and Stuart his mate right in the center just above the knee. They worked hard and they played hard. Both had bikes and toured the area.

Family Tradition.

My Dad, Herbert Cawthorne Haines, (Chris)' left home as early as he could and following his family tradition joined HM Forces. Dad, (Chris) joined the Royal Air Force. He served in the RAF for 22years.

My family are very proud of our service to our country. It means a lot to this day.

Dad was posted to RAF Dishforth and met a Stuart Carden - became friends and like many of the Airmen they both loved to go dancing in Ripon

The Move to Ripon.

On 2nd Jan. 1959 the whole family moved to Ripon a market town in Yorkshire. Ripon was the family home and, not only being close, my mum and Carol were also then best friends enjoying dancing, music and reading. The photo was taken in 1958 a few months before the move.

Ripon was to change my mum and Carol's lives - both loved dancing and it was at the Dance Hall, that my mum met my dad for the first time.

Ferryhill Rebuild.

The post war years in Ferryhill were good for the Richards family, although as with everyone money was tight. Both Mary and Carol grew into their teenage years with both their parents. Both the sisters were capable, independent young ladies.

Mary went to work in a factory helping to bring money into the home. Carol was able to go to college to study secretarial services when she left school.

They both had their own friends and with 5 years between them different 'social' pastimes, but were very close with my mum 'keeping an eye on Carol'. This picture shows them shoveling coal (which had been unloaded on the road) into buckets and carrying the coal to the coal house.

Destination Durham.

After losing almost all their possessions my Nana Barbara and Carol went to pick up my Mum Mary, from Wellingborough and headed to the mining village of Ferryhill in County Durham. When my Grandad Jock returned from Burma, where he served in the Army, he was de-mobbed in 1946. The family was reunited in Ferryhill.

My Mum had been with my Grandad and Nana from when she was born in 1934 until grandad went into the Army but Carol was only a few months old so did not remember him at all. When he came home and my mum very excited went to tell Carol (who was playing outside) that daddy had come home, she did not want to meet a strange man and was not impressed

Blitzed and Bombed

My mum Mary stayed in Wellingborough when my Nana Barbara, returned to London with Mary's baby sister Carol. Mum always said the Cooper's treated her as family and whilst missing her own family, it could have been much worse.

Back in London after a night spent in the London Underground sheltering from a Nazi bombing raid. Barbara and daughter Carol returned home, only to find they had nothing left. Their home had been destroyed.


Thousands of children were evacuated from London during The Blitz during World War 2. My mum was one of the many. Mum ended up in Wellingborough with the Cooper family. Mum was with the Coopers for nearly two years.

Carol, Mary's younger sister stayed with Barbara in London.

Burma Bound.

After Dunkirk and then the Japanese entering into WWII, Jock was shipped out with his battalion to first India and then onto Burma. Whilst in Burma he fought alongside the Chindit hill tribes.

Barbara Richards, Jock's wife, my Nana, started working in a factory for the war effort. Barbara, her daughters Mary, my mum, and Carol, (born 25.12.1939) were living in London near Finsbury Park.

Back from Dunkirk.

It's 1939 and like many young men of the time my Grandad, James Ballantyne Richards, (Jock) volunteered. He served in the Army and was shipped out as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France in response the the Nazis.

As you can see he was safely evacuated from Dunkirk to his family's relief.

Sowerby Bridge 1937

My Dad was born in 1937 to Lillian and Frederick Haines in the town of Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. My Grandpa a fireman, died during a Second World War bombing raid. I never knew my Grandpa, my Grandma Lillian died in 1980. We had many family visits to her in Devizes.

Not long after this photo had been posted, I received an email from a cousin I never knew I had. It seems that all I knew of my Dad's family was pretty much wrong. Dad never talked much about his family and asking him questions about his folks always felt like prying.

Way Back When. 1933 London

I am often asked about my family's story. So this is the start of a series of posts all about my family. Below is the first photo of my Mum in 1935. Mum was born In London in 1934. My grandparents at that time were in service to gentry. Jock (James) my Grandad was a butler and my Nana (Barbara) was lady's maid.

My grandad and Nana often told stories of their time in Service.

Their employer often gave parties and hosted events. At one such party The Lady decided to wear her very very expensive necklace of black pearls. They returned from the party very late and she gave the necklace to my nana (Barbara) and told her to keep it under her pillow until it could be returned to the bank the following day. Just in case they were burgled!!!

Another time the Lady gave a party at the Savoy Hotel. She arranged with the Manager that James (my grandad) have access to the kitchens so that he could make his delicious potato crisps for the party as she only ate the crisps he made.

After Mary (my mum) was born they left their present employment, Grandad to work for the Post Office and Nana to be at home with Mary


Ferryhill to Rebuild.