Friday, January 26, 2007
Getting The Old Sod A Present
It is Martin's 50th birthday today. Tonight is his surprise 50th birthday party (mind you it won't be a surprise party if he reads this blog during the next seven hours). Most of the morning has been dedicated to trying to find him a suitable present. I accept that I have left things late, but from an actuarial point of view forward planning is not a wise move when you pass the big 50. So what do you buy the man who has almost everything? Martin is already rich in most things : a beautiful wife, two smashing children, a lovely house, a signed photograph of Tony Blair. The one thing he hasn't got is the ability to beat me at chess, but that you can't buy that, and even if you could I wouldn't. The fact that I normally demolish him on the chess board is the one factor that keeps me from murdering him in a jealous rage. My first thought was to buy him a new chess set. We have been playing chess for decades and the set he owns (which I gave him years ago I seem to recall) has got a pawn missing which is usually replaced by a pepper pot or some such object. But it is practically impossible to buy a chess set in this twenty-first century world. The assistant at JT Sports looked at me with alarm and said "A chest set?" whilst reaching under the counter for the panic button. In another shop the assistant - in reply to my supplementary question "if you haven't got any can you think of anywhere in town which will" - said (and this is the absolute truth) "You could try Byrom Arcade, there are some shops selling occult and black magic stuff there". The best I could come up with was a small tin containing miniature wooden chess men from Waterstones. Somewhat dispirited I made my way home with the tin of chessmen in my pocket. On my way home I called into the supermarket to stock up on microwave chips and Tetleys Smooth Bitter (two of any healthy person's five a day). Whilst I wandered the aisles I thought of Martin. It must have been something like fifteen years ago : he and a friend had decided to walk from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland taking in as many mountains as they could find. As they didn't pass any civilisation en route there was a need to re-stock on the essentials at some stage. I agreed to take a train up to Scotland carrying a large bag of food and clothing and dump it at Dalwhinnie so that they could collect it when they came through. The gods were smiling on us all and my arrival at Dalwhinnie just coincided with their descent from the high mountains. They abandoned their tent for the night and we all booked into the luxury of the Dalwhinnie Hotel. As well as food and clothing I had carried a chess set up, so after a meal we sat and played chess and drank... and drank .... and drank. I still don't know how I found my way back to my room that night. The next morning with a head like a granite set I watched Martin and his friend head east into yet more mountains. I had a couple of hours to kill before my train arrived so I went for a walk down by the side of Loch Ericht. It was a glorious spring day, the sun was shining and there was still snow on the tops of the mountains. The whole place was deserted. It was one of the most memorable mornings I have ever spent. Thus it was no contest when, this morning, I walked down the supermarket aisle and saw the bottles of 15 year old Dalwhinnie Single Malt. Happy birthday Martin.