Importance of our Scottish trips

“Daddy, are we going home?” asked Conor, the moment the car made its way up the ramp and onto the Stena Line ferry at Belfast port in recent days. The wee guy has timing.

In many ways we were. Our trips back to Scotland each year are hugely important. For daddy it’s like getting his fix. Scotland is a country where I’ve spent almost half my life between stints in Stirling, Edinburgh and Troon. These days for Conor and me, it’s about keeping the connection with family and our extended family; the people we shared our lives with on a day to day basis, especially in recent years when based on the beautiful west coast in Troon.

It’s a natural feeling of family adventure, mixed with a tinge of sadness. Where once Gill and I drank coffee, read a book, shuffled newspapers and relaxed in the Stena Plus lounge planning our days ahead, now I spend 2.5 hours chasing a hyper two-year-old around the boat. Little pit stops here and there, soft play, cinema, dancing with fish, lunch, a lap around the bow of the boat outside, anything to tire the wee guy out. Changed times.

In so many ways I feel as though our angel is never far away on these trips. I’m not remotely religious, a quiet faith perhaps. Even if it’s rubbish, the thought of Gill smiling down at her excited son looking forward to seeing Scottish cousins and familiar faces creases a subtle smile on my weathered face.

Typically, we pack these trips with as many visits as possible. It’s a small window, and Conor is star attraction. Gill’s pals and former colleagues all reflect on how quickly the wee guy is growing up. It’s true, they don’t stay babies for long. That’s why we try and cherish every moment, every adventure. Create the memories.

To see Conor in full flight with his cousins; Eilidh, Niall, Ruairidh and Aonghas is great craic. In terms of age, he’s the runt of the litter but he holds his own, he has no option.

Gill’s sister Lorraine and I held Gill’s hands until her final breath in Station 15 at Ayr Hospital. I have always been grateful for the strength Lorraine possesses. It’s a quiet resolve, emotions rarely on show, not in public anyway. To this day Lorraine and I don’t speak a lot about Gill, we just know how she is missed – by us all. As sisters they were thick as thieves, two messers in fact. They lived for each other, and always about family.

Today I sense Lorraine gets her fix, her link to Gill through Conor. The loving glances to her nephew, the reassuring ways, it’s clear to see.

But perhaps the most important reason of all for making our trips back to Scotland is to work on Conor’s accent. To a person, everyone we met on this trip asked what’s happened to his Scottish accent? What accent I protest, knowing full well there’s a wee nordy twang easing its way into his vocabulary!

The time was short, but we maxed it out. We caught up with as many people as we could. And those we missed, we’ll endeavour to make time on the next trip.

Leaving Loch Ryan port on the edge of darkness we were headed back home. Or had we just left home?



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