This is a MashUp of the weekends activities which was going to be a couple of days off but as so often happens now when I leave the house, something extraordinary happens, that I simply have to tell you about.

I am taking my children down South this week to attend My brother Euan’s wedding to the delightful Gemma so Saturday was a day of dress shopping for Heather and hiring a suit for James. Heather was horrified at the very thought of dress shopping for the wedding with Dad and frankly I was terrified of trying to plough through the numerous shops in Stirling to find an appropriate dress for a 15 year old girl. For some reason Heather was not at all impressed with my suggestion of an ankle length tweed skirt, white blouse, twin set and pearls!! I arranged a phone conference between Gemma and Heather. Allie happened to be up for the choral concert in Killearn as well so we all four heard the refreshingly simple advice that Gemma gave. I felt slightly more comfortable about this task ahead of me and Heather seemed to have a fairly good of idea of what sort of shops she could find a dress in. But secretly I was slightly nervous about the task ahead of me. On the way back from the choral recital Allie very generously offered to come and do the dress shop with Heather, but only if Heather wanted her to. The next day I asked Heather, and her face lit up like a beacon with the broadest grin and look of relief. ‘Yes pleeeeeease Daddy’. I felt sad that I wasn’t a good bet for dress shopping but was secretly relieved because I struggle to cross a road sometimes. The very idea of trawling around copious busy dress shops searching high and low for dresses while managing both my own and my daughters expectations in order to find a nice happy medium was putting me into a flat spin. So Heather’s look of relief was reflected in my own face with an equally broad grin.

So Saturday morning arrived. Heather arrived. Allie arrived and we were off to start dress shopping in Stirling while I went to meet James in the centre of Stirling by a drop off point near Argos. I knew this drop off point well and as I made my way towards it I felt my bag of 10p pieces bumping against my chest in my handwarmer pocket. I couldn’t think of any particular moment in which I had passed a homeless person begging on the street in Stirling but carried them anyway for the inevitable eventuality. Lots of buskers yes, but Start Up Stirling seemed to do such a good job that I never saw a homeless person on the street in Stirling until today. As I came out of the Thistles shopping centre, sat, wrapped in his blanket right outside Argos, was a homeless person begging for money. I was stopped in my tracks some distance off because silhouetted behind him was the entrance to McDonalds. My mind turned back to the wonderful alternative suggestion from Kathy which I gave you on Friday. ‘You might want to consider buying hot take-away soup from Gregg’s, or even a cheeseburger and coffee from McD’s to go. The look of gratitude on the face of the person you give it to makes you fully understand how meaningful this simple act is.’

It was nearly lunchtime so why not but I was suddenly in a quandary. I could get him a McDonalds but that is going to cost an awful lot more than 10p. What if he doesn’t like McDonalds food? What if he has an allergy? What if he has already eaten? I spun around and around in my head hiding behind the telephone box as I tried to make a decision. I had never done anything quite like this before and yes it was more than my 10p but I was unlikely to see any more in Stirling and I could just forego my next Mocha and a flapjack to help pay for it. I decided to do it but could get around the problem of when to feed him and allergies by getting a voucher. I strode into the restaurant with a purpose but then, as I surveyed the scene around me, realized that this homeless person would possibly be not particularly welcome and be made to feel uncomfortable in this busying restaurant. I turned and walked back out on to the street in a quandary as to what to do then got a grip of myself, turned yet again on my heel and strode back into McDonalds. ‘A medium quarter pounder with cheese meal please with a black coffee and some milk and sugar sachets to takeaway.’ The food was assembled and as it was I was starting to feel quite good about myself but also quite nervous of all the ‘what ifs’ when I hand over the food.

I collected the food, turned, collected some napkins for him, strode out and walked up to the homeless gentleman and handed him the food. His face shone with gratitude as I placed the food in his hands and the coffee next to him. I asked him if he was tied in to all the agencies and charities that could help him but he spoke no English. It took a while but with some gesticulating and the word help he confirmed that he was getting help. I said a quiet prayer to myself asking that he could get the help he needs to get him on his feet then placed my hand on his shoulder, looked into his eyes and said, ‘Inshallah, God Willing.’ He nodded and smiled. I left him to his food and returned to my hiding place by the telephone box pleased that I had made the effort. Less than a minute later I heard a gentle voice behind me, ‘Archie here are two free tickets to the circus in Bridge of Allan for your children!’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I turned and there holding out this admit two people free ticket for me was a young man that I have seen occasionally on the bus to Callander but didn’t know and nor, did I think, new me yet somehow he knew my name and just the timing of the gesture; Just 1 minute after giving the homeless man food and saying a very quick and quiet prayer for his welfare flabbergasted me. ‘What goes around comes around’ is a phrase often heard but this moment in which it felt as if God spoke to me also reminded me of a quote I carry with me and try to live my life by in order to make the very most out of each and every day I am lucky enough to be given:

‘Take time to think, it is the source of power. Take time to play, it is the source of perpetual youth. Take time to read, it is the fountain of wisdom. Take time to pray, it is the greatest power on earth. Take time to love and be loved, it is a god-given privilege. Take time to be friendly, it is the road to happiness. Take time to laugh, it is the music of the soul. Take time to give, it is too short a day to be selfish. Take time to work, it is the price of success. Take time to do charity, it is the key to heaven.’

James arrived and we set off for Slaters to hire him a suit. We were looked after beautifully by two assistants. I discovered that it was only 6 pounds more to buy a suit for James than it would have cost to hire one and they don’t do hire for children so I was going to be happily buying one for him and as I was buying it for him I was going to be fussy about the material and the cut. The two assistants completely understood, in fact encouraged my enquiries and we quickly narrowed it down to the best we could for a young man his size. He was measured for the adjustments and all was done and ready for collection on Monday. A Hi Five to James and we were off to find the girls.

They were at New Look. Allie met me outside looking tired. As she led James and I into the shop I discovered that they had been around 7 shops because it was proving really difficult to find a suitable dress for a young 15 year old girl who was tall and therefore sizing in the middle aged woman category. Many were far too short or too girly or too long or too frumpy but with a smile on her face Allie said, ‘Heather’s in the fitting rooms waiting for you, come and have a look, it has been a long, hard morning, but she has done really well and I am sure you will like what you see. Just remember that she is only 15’ reminded Allie and as she did so Heather stepped out from the fitting room with a broad grin. My breath was taken away. Heather looked amazing in this very simple but elegantly fashionable dress. I did look at the length though and before I could utter a word Allie was there with a metaphorical tennis racket volleying off any attempt to say anything. Heather was giggling as I went, ‘I’, ‘Don’t,’ ‘Gosh,’ ‘Awfully,’ ‘ripples,’‘Blue,’ or whatever nonsense words were attempting to come out of my mouth. I just couldn’t get a word out. Allie the great defender was there for Heather and as it turned out for me as well because as I gathered my senses I heard Allie explain that the length was perfect for a 15 year old girl and wasn’t nearly as short as many of them had been. I was gobsmacked. I was looking at this beautiful young woman that was once my baby daughter and saw a warm heart, a giving mind and a happy girl. I was mentally tiring quickly after the intensity of the morning’s suit fabric and tailoring options, my indecisiveness with what to do about the homeless gentleman and the raw emotion of the concern about what to do if I didn’t like it, but I loved it, Heather loved it and we were both hugely thankful to Allie for coming and being such an excellent shopping partner and advisor for Heather, advisor for me and peace keeper for both of us!!

The job done it was hometime followed by Heather going for a sleepover with a friend in Killearn and James going out to play with his friends, a 2 mile walk in the fresh air for Allie and I around the castle and the river and then me cooking Pasta, Courgette and leek in tomato and basil Cream. Delicious and a thumbs up from James. Awesome!!

Today consisted of a delightful church service in St Modoc’s Doune, followed by a brilliant fast walk of 4 miles carrying 17 lbs along the river, up past the beautiful old Kilmadock parish cemetary and round and back again via the old railway track and lots of mud in 66 minutes. Then 4 pull-ups followed by 17 press ups and 17 sit ups. This was followed by a late lunch of the usual then a frustrating couple of hours in which I tried to work out why I couldn’t get any sound on a video I was trying to record of a reading of Day 1 of the challenge. I was flummoxed until James came over for tea. ‘James help’ I asked and once he had stopped and seen what I was trying to do he spotted the problem very quickly. I had to disconnect the microphone I was using in order to engage the speakers!! It was so simple and I felt so stupid but he sorted it so thank you James and as the video uploaded, James played on the keyboard and I cooked Spaghetti Arrabbiatta from the Jamie Oliver 15 minute meals book. Very tasty and with only fresh red chilly, garlic, chopped tomatoes, and basil served with wholemeal spaghetti it was healthy and simple to make and with a little parmesan grated on top came with a thumbs up from James.

So a great weekend which saw a simple act of kindness rewarded, a brilliant shopping trip aided by Allie and the assistants in Slaters, a great walk and some delicious, healthy food.

Tomorrow we are packing, picking up the suit and any last minute panic purchases in preparation for our trip South on Tuesday. I am not planning to write any posts while away for the wedding next week but you know me. Who knows what might happen!!

Yours aye