It was heart-warming for me, unable to visit James in his last weeks, that Tom and Karen managed to see him, to be with him and report how he was latterly – Tom’s description was a real eye-opener because I had no idea that he was in some suffering, quite ill on all kinds of drugs, up and down, betimes befuddled and incoherent, and strangely also completely normal and lucid … if I can use these words for one of the most eccentric people I’ve known.
James had a quick turn of phrase that verged on the weird and eccentric, tossing in a solid dash of the vulgar, even filthy. I hope the wee stories and memories here exemplify his distinct character and personality. Also that they help to highlight his goodness and kindness, certainly his eccentricity. You could call some of it potty humour!
I’ve emphasised sides of James’s character and personality verging on the eccentric, the daft, the humorous, the quirky, also the huge friendliness. I remember as young lads we walked often in the hills, especially around
Pitlochry in Scotland. James loved open country and hill walking, going to the likes of Ben Nevis, the Pentlands and Arthur’s Seat, also to Aviemore for skiing. He was in his element getting out in the open, up on the tops, appreciating the freedom and the views. I will remember him keenly when I look at mountain tops (Not from them!) whether in the French and Swiss Alps, the South Island of New Zealand or the Bens of Scotland.
James loved Scotland, all things Scottish, especially the Scots songs by the likes of Kenneth McKellar and the Corries – he loved their “Braes o’ Killiecrankie”. I sometimes thought he saw the world through tartan-patterned spex, certainly the bagpipes seemed to skirl in his lugs. He would dress up in tartan, mostly for a bit of fun, and I could hear suitably playing the likes of “Haste ye Back”, “No’ Awa’ Tae Bide Awa’” or “Keep Right on to the End of the Road”.
Note the plastic apron and the Tam O’Shanter with false hair.
Then there was Country music – he loved Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash – in their day, C&W of course. And the comedians: one of his favourites was Chic Murray from Greenock near Glasgow, a genius of stand-up comedy, with that crazy ability to laugh at himself. James would have loved the likes of, “A Scot is a man who keeps the Sabbath, and everything else he can lay his hands on,” or “My father was from Aberdeen, and a more generous man you couldn’t wish to meet. I have a gold watch that belonged to him. He sold it to me on his deathbed. I wrote him a cheque for it, post-dated of course.”
He enjoyed simply and often jokily speaking in the Scots dialect, emphasising the rhotic “r” and the lilting style for extra fun. I can hear him now using expressions like “Whit’re ye sayin’?”, “Piece o’ piss, man”, “Yer bawzarra mince”, “Ur ye fu’ yet?” and “Get it doon ye!” all oft used, always raising a laugh.
He would often say as the evening wore on well, “Aye, this is braw!” This was usually on the second or third large dram … after the lager aperitifs and wine with dinner.
When we “talked Sco’ish” and recalled the great guid times back “hame”early on, a faraway almost tearful look would cross his face.