Over the past couple of weeks I have been out and about travelling around our beautiful country in the autumn sunshine. I spent the night at Airth Castle Hotel at the end of October looking after my grandson while my daughter and her partner attended a dinner dance in the hotel organised by SPOA (The Scottish Plant Owners Association).
For a crawling one year old, a hotel bedroom offers unrivalled opportunities for exploring, playing and generally getting up to mischief. But a hotel room in a real castle was something else! Sleep, of course, was the last thing on his mind but we had lots of fun.
SPOA’s mission is “working together to drive mutual benefit”, but unless you are actively involved in the industry, it is easy to take for granted the contribution its members make to both maintaining and developing our roads, our buildings and the general infrastructure the length and breadth of the country.
This thought struck me as I was driving to Argyll the following week. My daughter has settled there with her partner, so I am now familiar with every twist and turn of the A83, including the infamous Rest and Be Thankful. For most of the summer I saw work taking place at “The Rest”with a view to mitigating the frequent landslides. I also experienced road repairs and resurfacing at various stretches from Tarbet to Tarbert, in the main carried out with care and concern and minimum disruption to traffic.
The top of the Rest and Be Thankful
Thanks to new phone masts along the route, mobile phone coverage is available for my entire journey, providing a security blanket should any roadside assistance be required.
I have mentioned before that I like to listen to audio content while I am driving, and on my recent journeys I started Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming”. Hers is an amazing story, and her own narration truly brings it to life. Beautifully and eloquently written, she shares personal events and her own reactions to them in a bravely honest and candid way. I found the description of her childhood particularly touching and enlightening.
In one section she mentions her strong cadre of female friends who have bolstered her through school and college and on into her professional and political life.
This struck a chord with me, and made me reflect on my own experience of female friendship and also that of my daughters. Michelle Obama writes movingly of losing a close friend to cancer at 26. In a strange twist, I also experienced the loss of a school-friend to leukaemia at 27.
On a happier note, I still have a friend from school whom I’ve known for over 50 years. Despite living at the other end of the UK, when we get a chance to see each other, time melts away and we pick up effortlessly from when we last met.
Similarly I have a friend from my student days who lives in Dundee and we keep in touch via WhatsApp and very long phone calls!
RSS Discovery, Dundee
My two closest friends live nearby and we have known each other since our children were babies, so over the years we have shared the ups and downs of parenting, work, and now the joys of grand-parenting.
I am pleased that my elder daughter is beginning to make friends in her new home in Argyll, mainly through playgroup and toddler activities. She still has a strong network of school friends and keeps in touch with them by Facebook and WhatsApp and catches up face to face when she is visiting us.
My younger daughter has a close group of friends also from school and university, but a new puppy is introducing her to another set of like-minded pet owners.
Molly - the new labradoodle puppy. How cute is she?
This has been a slightly rambling blog, but as we say on our webpage, our blog is about thoughts, musings and ruminations. So I guess I have nailed that one!
It has meandered a bit like my frequent journeys along the A83 in Argyll, with quiet reflection and beautiful scenery.
Turning back to the SPOA link at the beginning, I think close friendships are the equivalent of those plant hire companies. They are there - just when you need them - for as long as you need them, covering emergencies, driving new growth and development, raising quality, or simply keeping things going, life would be virtually impossible without them.
And taking another meander, geese flying in formation like those in the title image are frequently cited as a mental model for leadership. Having a strong sense of purpose and direction, but equally of community and support, they mirror the traits of a close friendship.
Having a friend and being a friend is one of life’s precious gifts. It requires commitment and kindness, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Kenny Rogers captures the spirit of friendship in his evocative song – You Can’t Make Old Friends. Extract below.
"What will I do when you are gone?
Who's gonna tell me the truth?
Who's gonna finish the stories I start
The way you always do?
When somebody knocks at the door
Someone new walks in
I will smile and shake their hands
but you can't make old friends..."
Take care. Lead well.