Wednesday, November 18, 2009
As the rain slowly drips off the eaves and the wind slaps the windaes I find myself in reflective mood at midnight here in the village. Normally this would result in my reaching for the Bowmore but given my efficacious regime of 4 days off/3 days on and since this is only Tuesday, I make myself a camomile tea instead and sip it, pausing only now and again to think how minging it is.
There are many topics to think upon, of course, swine flu, Hibs splitting the Old Firm, Lydia's 5th Santa letter (this week) and so on, but the greatest of these of course, and the one that pushes to the surface at this silent time of night, is our place in the universe and, as Gerald Manley Hopkins would say, 'the doom that man was born for'.
Thinking about this kind of stuff with a clear mind unfettered by fine malt whisky brings no more clarity and satisfaction, actually, than thinking about it after a good session in the Tartan Bunnet. There are more questions than answers as that old Bodhisattva Johnny Nash used to say.
In the course of this self-indulgence, however, I suddenly realised that I had missed an important anniversary, for October 2009 marked my 30th year of service with Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council as District Pedagogue. Not continuous service (for I took a year off in the mid nineties to die) but 30 years nonetheless. I have a feeling this anniversary should be marked in some way, perhaps by public subscription or a small statue. But I suppose there is acknowledgement enough in the unerring and touching gratitude of all the young people who have undergone my tutelage.
This was brought home to me one day when I was standing in the Prancing Pensioner and noticed what I can only describe as a rough type standing at the other end of the bar. He was swarthy, scarred, and was, disconcertingly, carrying what appeared to be a dead chicken. The unwritten law is if you catch the eye of a nutjob or passing psycopath he will suck out your marrow, but while I was staring conscientiously at a beermat a fresh pint was pushed across by the barman, bought by this stranger and I was forced to raise my eyes. "Remember me?" he said, his face cracking into a louche kind of smile, "You taught me at Maxwelltown High School. You were a useless c... but we liked you."
Recollections like this, so reminiscent of that excellent film Goodbye Mr Chips starring Mr Robert Donat, almost bring a tear to my eye.