Saturday, 6 July 2013


This, I suspect, will be a bit of a ramble.


I had written a blog midweek about Falkirk, reflecting on my own efforts at trying to be the Labour Candidate for the Scottish Parliament there in 2007 and drawing on my experience of various other selection processes I have, invariably unsuccessfully, been involved in over the years.

I knew, as I wrote it, that it could never be published but I kinda thought that in an expurgated version it might form the basis for my Sunday effort. I've decided even that might be unwise but in the process I did turn up this this bit of history which was just too good to be ignored.

Anyway, Falkirk has not really been the main thing on my mind this week. That has been my holiday.

I read a lot of carers' blogs. I find many of them them moving, inspiring and helpful. But I was never really sure about writing about my own situation and I haven't done so since. I don't really write a carers' blog. I write (mainly) about politics and it seems unfair on my critics if they feel constrained in responding as robustly and offensively to me as I write about them because of some "off stage" element.

But your political, or working, life can't be entirely separated from your real life either. The personal is political.

Caring for somebody with Alzheimers is like bringing up a wean in reverse. They can do just a little less for themselves every day.

People like different types of holidays. Good friends of ours, every year, take a touring holiday where they set off with a rough itinerary involving a different stop each night. Other people like hotels or campsites where they can meet other people in abundance. Some others like to be as alone as possible with their loved ones on some far flung Scottish or Greek Island. Others still to be in an organised setting on a cruise or in a hotel. For some people the weather is imporant. For some at least (anybody who holidays in Scotland other than by reason of financial necessity) the weather doesn't matter.

I could go on with numerous further examples before even starting on the other considerations involved if you've got kids, never mind kids of divergent age.

Anyway, what I like, first and foremost, is the sun. But I also like somewhere where the food is good; and where there is something to see; and where you can go independently but where when you arrive you are settled in one place and where you can do as little or as much as you want to do once you are there.

And, creature of habit that I am, I also like going somewhere familiar or at least culturally familiar.

So, in the twenty five years we've been married, wee Mo and I have had precisely three Summer holidays, none of which were entirely satisfactory, anywhere but in Italy. And they have all followed the same pattern more or less: a car; a house not too far from civilisation and......well that's it really.

But I've kind of skipped past the most important bit of any holiday. You need somebody to go with. And this year Mo isn't well enough to go.

The first year her illness impacted on our holiday was 2006. I can be so certain because it was the year Italy won the World Cup. We were in the Salento, in the very South of the heel. And it was, such, early days. I needed a haircut, Mo needed shoes and the market was in town. So I headed off to the barbers, she to her shopping, and a Bar in the fishing village we were living in was identified as a later meeting place.

Only she didn't appear. Not there, not back at our accommodation, not for hours. Not anywhere until after the various levels of Italian Policing had required to be notified and she was eventually found, lost and dehydrated, wandering in a back street. Which is why, by the way, anybody ever dissing Southern Italians in my presence can expect a pretty direct riposte.

But that ruled out, in future, going anywhere completely new. So we retreated for two years to more familiar territory around Lake Trasimeno until her increasing habit of engaging complete strangers in conversation ruled out the usual set up of one apartment in larger accommodation shared by others. But then we found a house, miles from anywhere, in that same area, until the second year signalled to me that I couldn't cope with no logical conversation of any sort for two or three weeks.

So, for the last two years, we've gone away but asked friends or relatives to join us for shifts to help me out.

But now, even that is not a solution. I kind of knew last Summer when we came back but things have, in any event, got significantly worse since.

But I need a holiday. One year, when I was much younger, "political necessity" dictated that I did not go away and in the depths of the following Winter I realised the error that had been. If that was the case when I was twenty whatever then how much more would it be today.

So Mo's going into respite for three weeks and I'm at a loose end from 19th July.

(Don't think the respite thing is dismissive, I just can't bring myself to write about that)

But what kind of holiday can you have as a not even single man in his mid fifties?

When I was much younger again I did go off myself alone a couple of times to the Greek Islands but that was a different age. There were lots of travellers of similar circumstance and similar age. I never had much luck with the girls myself but you could always dream. On reflection, my recounting to them at the time of various Scottish Labour Party selection process outrages was probably a mistake. Today however, even without the politics, I'd be scared of being taken for a dirty old man.

Lisa, my colleague at work, found a website offering "Singleton Holidays for Guardian Readers" where, as she put it, even I'd struggle to get a shag. I don't know what that says for her opinion of the liberal intelligentsia but anyway I'm not interested.

Other friends have suggested I join their holidays, although frankly with the same enthusiasm as I would have had in making a similar offer to them had the roles been reversed. As the proverb has it, who really wants a spare pie at a wedding? (I think that's right)

So I'm a loss. I even toyed with just getting a car and a house in Italy and appealing for other people to join me.

And that's all I have to say.


  1. ian,
    if it's of any use/interest at all, I've got a wee flat in tighnabruaich, argyll.kate h knows how to get in touch with me, s xx

  2. this is such great information, really nice to read about solo ski holidays