These days, now I am 65, I count myself fortunate if I am still walking and talking at the end of a year, and I am, fortunately! Years seem to get busier as time goes by, though this may be, I suspect because it takes longer to do anything. Memories and pleasures of the year include:

The wedding of John’s daughter, Kerri, to Nigel in Cornwall and the subsequent birth of their son, James.

The pleasure of spending time with Darren, John’s son and his family, at that wedding and the days around it.

A long and lovely holiday in great heat in France, partly with our friends Nan and Steve; wonderful meals we had together; enchanting towns we saw; adventures we remember with laughter.

Spending time with our delightful grandson, Ewan, and learning that Sarah and Rory, his parents, are expecting another child.

Seeing Elisabeth and Robert’s elegant house emerging from the building project Robert had overseen, and enjoying staying in it. Welcoming their dog, Milo, into our family.

Assisting Joanna and Lawrence and their children to settle into a comfortable, larger home and enjoying seeing them there.

Being in Scotland at the time of the Referendum and our delight at how our country conducted itself.

Being received kindly and hospitably by many old friends in Scotland, and having a family meal at Joanna’s with Eugene, my brother and Susan; and another with Lawrence’s family.

Sailing on Ullswater with John.

A few days spent in the historic and beautiful Winchester where the crypt was knee deep in crystal clear water as if you were in a temple of Neptune.

Spending time in the Cotswolds in the unique and delightful home of our friends, Elizabeth and Jonathan.

Having coffee, meals, shared outings with friends locally.

A delightful weekend in London at Elisabeth’s, with Joanna and Sarah.

Christmas at our home, with Rory, Sarah and Ewan.

When we are young, we feel entitled to all that we receive; but as we get older we realise how blessed we are to be here at all, and in receipt of such riches. And I have not counted the pleasures of watching the sun rise in the morning, and the wind blowing through the trees, and the beauty of the clouds as they pass overhead, or the joyful music of the birds who sing in the garden.

May the year coming bring you your heart’s desire and peace in the enjoyment of it.



I’ve been reading ‘Swiss Watching by Dicca Bewes’, lent me by my daughter in law, Sarah, and was horrified to learn that (according to him) it is the custom in Switzerland if you attend, say, a party, to introduce yourself immediately by name to each and every person in the room, not stopping to chat while doing so. Worse, on departure, you are supposed to say good-bye to every person, using the name you were given in the opening introduction. These may be old fashioned manners. Neither Sarah nor I had encountered this custom, but then neither of us moved in such circles (she was part of the international school community, and the family I briefly lived with was German.) I suspect this etiquette is as a result of Switzerland’s famous neutrality, which when you reflect on it is an unenviable role and one very difficult to maintain. Presumably if you were participating in a negotiation you would want to know at once who was there and where they were from.

But as a social custom it fills me with horror.

I am not at all shy. I have no problems meeting new people – never did – and I don’t find small talk – or even big talk – difficult in any way. But introducing yourself on arrival to everyone in the room? What ever for? Why should you exert yourself trailing around a room announcing yourself to people who after all are just someone else’s guest? If you see anyone you know, or notice someone you fancy speaking to; of course – no problem. But otherwise, people who want to talk to you are welcome to come up and do so. You’ll receive them with every courtesy.

But I’m not at all keen on surrendering my name. People might use it! I jest of course, but only partly. When people shoot out their hand and announce, John Smith, I don’t at all have a favourable reaction. Did I want to know their name? Maybe after ten minutes of interesting conversation I might do – but then I could ask for it. As for giving mine, I don’t know at that stage if I’m going to want to see them again, and frankly I’d prefer to reserve my position. From time to time I have taken complete strangers to my heart, escorted them past the guards and barriers and given them access to my inner chamber, on which intimate footing they’ve remained forever. I’ve never regretted any of these impulses. Occasionally people have declined the invitation. Not many, but a few. That’s OK; that’s their choice. I like there to be choice.

And it’s not especially that I crave formality. I don’t require to be addressed as Madam, Mrs -. Miss -, or Anne. I don’t really care about one over the other. I’d rather a stranger didn’t use any appellation at all.

Finally, there’s no possibility whatsoever that I would remember someone’s name from a collection of persons I’ve recently met in a room. I probably will remember their psychic imprint for decades to come, but it won’t be labelled. Anyway, perhaps they’re people like me and don’t want to hear their name carelessly employed!

So if I ask you your name, I hope you’ll give me it, for I don’t ask very often. And should you ask mine, of course I will give it, and I doubt if you’d ever guess what I thought. No doubt the fault is mine.