Today has been a most wonderful day of administration and shopping with the children. I survived Black Friday. Perhaps I should get a T-Shirt!

The day started with a wonderful 1.44 miles walked along the Argaty Road circuit while climbing 76.77 feet and collecting a bag of rubbish followed by some my upper body circuit. It was another beautifully crisp and clear morning with a bright orange and golden sunrise.

After breakfast I met up with the children for a frozen wait at the bus stop for the bus that never came. We were going to see the wonderful Emma Drewery, a friend and optician, to have the children’s eyes tested. With a missing bus it was clear that we were going to miss our appointment, but a quick phonecall solved that one. Get to them and they would see what they could do to slot us in. Awesome. Next it was on to traveline scotland on the mobile to work out the new plan. Gordon in the No.1 bus clearly wasn’t coming. But the No.59 did so we jumped on that. A quick run down the road to the train station for a train to Dunblane stopping at Bridge of Allan and then a quick march through Bridge of Allan to the opticians. We were at least 30 minutes late but Emma squeezed them both in. Sadly Heather has inherited from me some of my worst features. My big nose and my astigmatism and with it my short sight so Heather needed glasses. Suddenly a moment of panic. How was Heather’s 43 year old terribly unfashionable Father going to be able to help his 15 year old, terribly fashionable daughter pick glasses. It was the equivalent of shopping for a dress for a wedding! But my initial panic was quickly quelled when one of Emma’s team stepped in and became Heather’s advisor and my saving angel. We had a great time trying on so many pairs of glasses and were led to the perfect pair of glasses. As soon as she put them on we all knew, including Heather, that they were the perfect pair of glasses. Result. James’ eyesight was a little short but not so much that he needed glasses. So we all left happy and ready for some shopping.

A cold 12 minute wait for the bus and we were off to Stirling to get Heather’s second piercings done in her ears and doing some Christmas shopping with James while Heather shopped with a friend. On the way we ate our packed lunches prepared by me that morning of another tuna mayonnaise sandwich with spinach, rocket and watercress salad and my every day veggie pick and mix bag. So fed, we were ready for some shopping, then a piercing in each ear, and some more shopping. Heather was super brave getting her ears pierced opting for the just do it approach rather than the countdown approach from the piercer. I was saddened by this. I thought that I could try and recruit some Black Friday Shoppers for a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown to Heather’s piercing just to see how big a crowd we could gather to shout 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. I guess that Heather had guessed that much so went for the sensible option.

Another beautiful sunrise
Another beautiful sunrise

Then we were off shopping. Heather with her friend and James with me. It was a wonderful afternoon. James had grown up enormously and had clearly thought long and hard about what he wanted to buy for his Mum and Heather. I was touched by how deeply he had thought about it. How he had budgeted for it and how he was trying so hard to do his very best for them. As we walked around the Thistle centre talking and shopping, a deep love for my young son welled up inside me, and the temptation to whisk this young 12 year old up in my arms was strong but I knew that that was not cool. So instead I quietly wiped the tear born of a deep pride and respect for this young man from my eye and settled for a hand on his shoulders.

Some winter running gear bought from Sports direct and next on the agenda was a haircut. We had one hour before the bus home which we had to catch so Heather could get to dancing in Callander. James knew exactly where the barber was so took me straight in. It was mobbed and I was about to turn and try another day but the lady on the desk called us in. When I explained that I only had an hour she reassured me that we would make it. Sure enough the barber was working incredibly fast and before I knew it James was in the hot seat thanks to the kindness of the gentleman who was in front of us in the queue. I briefed the barber and stepped back. I lost sight of James behind the bulk of this enormous great man, dressed in black cutting his hair. With the whirring of the clippers for a grade 4 on the backs and sides followed by the clickety click of the scissors all I could see was this enormous man bent over James and huge chunks of blond hair flying through the air at all angles on to the floor either side of him. It was a comedy moment and I feared for James. I had no idea how this was going to shape up and I had no idea that James had quite so much hair on his head!! The barber stepped back and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was a good cut done in record time and we were going to catch the bus. I paid up. We bumped into Heather and made it back to Doune in time for her lift to dancing.

Now it was time to feed James and I. Tonight it was one of my Mum’s recipes. Smoked Mackerel and Green Beans cooked in double cream with a bay leaf and parsley sprinkled over the top. Incredibly simple. Really quick and delicious. And although Mackerel is a bony fish it got another thumbs up from James. Thanks Mum.
We said Grace then tucked in and talked. We talked and James started to ask about my Army career and how close I had come to the enemy in battle. James had just started in the Army Cadets so was hoping I think for some juicy stories. Sadly I had to let him down in that while I had been shot at, once, I had never been tested by the enemy. In fact I would even go so far as to say that I had had a blessed career. Despite many circumstances in which things could have gone so horribly wrong and in which I was stood, fit, well trained, well armed, well equipped and ready to fulfil whatever our mission required of me, over 20 years, I have never had cause to shoot even a single round in anger. I am so very thankful to God for that, having lost 5 friends between Iraq and Afghanistan, and heard many first hand accounts from friends locked into a ground holding role with the austerity, hardship, anguish and fear that came with it. I was able to tell him with some pride how a friend had won the Military Cross for his work in Afghanistan as a Rifle Company Commander in the face of the enemy. But then I came back to me. While I had not been tested in action by the enemy my courage had been tested on several occasions over two tours of Afghanistan as I attempted to achieve what were on both tours big, but distinctly unique missions set to me. The stories of both tours are for the book but for James today the lesson in recounting the stories to him briefly was one of how much could be achieved just by talking. By embracing the culture and traditions in which we were operating and finding a common purpose. James asked many excellent questions which showed a deep interest in what I was telling him and the wider issues we were discussing. It was a wonderful father and son time which for me could only end in one way.

After washing up while James made music on the keyboard I asked him to join me for evening prayer. It was a lovely moment as I played some organ tunes on the keyboard and read out the liturgy and the readings for evening prayer as James chilled in the background listening deeply.. James joined me for the Lord’s Prayer and then I finished with my favourite prayer for the future of our children.

‘Lord of all creation, we stand in awe before you, impelled by visions of the harmony of man. We are children of many traditions – inheritors of shared wisdom and tragic misunderstandings, of proud hopes and humble successes. Now it is time for us to meet – in memory and truth, in courage and trust, in love and promise.

In that which we share, let us see the common prayer of humanity;

In that which we differ, let us wonder at the freedom of man;

In our unity and our differences, let us know the uniqueness that is God.

May our courage match our convictions, and our integrity match our hope.

May our faith in you bring us closer to each other.

May our meeting with past and present bring blessings for the future.


Afterwards we sat and talked through the prayer line by line in order to help him to understand it in the context of the modern threats we face. So it was a wonderful day started in a wonderful way in the golden glow of a dawning sun, and then finished in a wonderful way with my son.

Thank you

Yours aye