I have a new favourite phrase, which seems to require a southern American drawl. I can't beat about the bush with a whole paragraph about using it on the hill walk with Is and Katrina, and how funny I thought it was. I will instead get straight to the point. I learned this phrase from my brother, along with the fact that the QI Elves have their very own podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish. Two weeks ago I thought I had two brothers. I don't believe in half measures. Do something, do it the best you can. If you really like something, show it. My American brother has never been called my half-brother, even though I can count on my ten fingers the amount of times I have seen him in his 26 years. I hate that term. It sounds like you're saying half a person, or half-heartedly that that is your sibling. I have two brothers, no halves. I thought I had two brothers. I actually have three. We had always known that we had a sibling somewhere, it came up frequently when we reminisced. An unhappy time in a largely unhappy marriage.... Due to a name shortening, we thought it was a girl, Nicola. But Nicky was Nicholas. Nick got in touch thirteen days ago, out of the blue. So where to start? I was 14 and I remember the bombshell. I remember the loud tears of Dad, the crying and the hurt of Mum, the phrase 'Dad's bastard' being shouted angrily about. At 47, which is what I am, you can jump on that angry bandwagon, you can ignore it and make it go away, or you can accept that 'Dad's bastard' never chose to be born. At 47, I am surprised, but pleased, happy, intrigued - and I embrace the prospect of having another brother. That's the last time I use that term, even in quotes, to describe him.
Nick, at 33, had spent time every couple of years looking through social media, for the R.... E with connections to a Suzanne, a Sharon and a Michael. He had found the right one a couple of years ago, but dismissed it, as it seemed to be an American profile. He trawled again after his daughter was born, this time including all R...... E's, even those who seemed implausible. He found him two weeks ago - a photo of Dad on one of our Facebook pages looked like a photo Nick had seen of him, and he plucked up the courage to get in touch with us all. I think Mike will not write back. Not because of any hatred or bad thought - when you have a vasectomy at 26, so you don't make the same mistakes with your own offspring, you have strong, emotional thoughts on family, the past. He also has his routine - Nick is not in his routine. However I do know that if they were to meet, Mike would be fine, interesting, witty, funny, thoughtful, compassionate. He would have a lasting impact. Shairen, like me, is going to embrace this whole new familial adventure.
People respond differently to the prospect of finding a parent or two parents they did not grow up with. I have a friend who never sought the parents who gave him up for adoption at birth. The mum and dad who brought him up were the only ones that mattered to him. I understand and respect that. I have another friend whose world was shaken when her older sister turned up, when my friend was in her twenties; her sister had been born to her unmarried, catholic mother in Northern Ireland. This girl had a not uncommon need to know who she came from. My friend and her sister forgave their mother. I am not sure how forgiving I could be if one or both of my parents had given me up, given up on me. I suppose it would depend on the reason for them giving me up, what they did with my finding them and what my life had been like.
I said I would get in touch with Dad to make sure he knew that Nick had been in touch with him - I know it is possible to miss a message on Facebook. I made a complete balls-up of it. Not knowing who, in dad's American family, knows what about Nick, I wanted to talk to just dad. I didn't want to write a message because I know they share an account, and so I Skyped. I Skyped and said I had news, and then I asked if Dad's wife was there. Yes, she was listening in. Suzanne without a plan..... I blustered something about having a friend who wasn't a friend until two days before, and then, when I couldn't see any way out of it, I pressed the 'End Call' button and wrote a message about the crap internet at Garden Cottage. It was excruciating. Then to cover that up I messaged 'Sorry, I will get in touch when I have sobered up.' I wasn't drunk. I don't really get drunk. I certainly don't get drunk and Skype Dad.... I just needed to give him a very important and private message..... In case that ballsed-up Skype message did not make it clear enough, I sent a written one saying there was something really important and personal I had to tell him. Since there was no reply to that message either, I eventually sent him a full one, apologising for the aborted Skype and explaining all about Nick. I do understand that if Dad has not told his American family then that might be difficult, and I am genuinely sorry for that. But at the same time, there is this boy still seeking contact with his father. And he is from an earlier chapter, long before their time, and anyway, my American brother is grown up now. If it were me, I would want to know - I would feel cheated if I found out later on in life that everybody else had known. Anyway, I am still waiting for an answer from Dad.
Meanwhile, twenty questions, random facts, thoughts and histories. Favourite foods; shrimp. So he approved of our dinner last week.
Haggis, blackpudding. Also a yes. Like me, he is more savoury than sweet. Unlike me, he will go for a sweet anyway, whereas I will always go for the cheese. He also enjoys making bread. Music, Films, Books..... He likes tattoos and can crochet very well. He and his partner are drinkers of gin.. He has been in the army, a driver of lorries and was a fireman, but his favourite job is his current one, on the trains. He sent me a link to Tim Minchin's Nine Life Lessons when he discovered that I like Tim Minchin. That one is the one I listen to at least once a year, and press others to listen to it too, in case it neatly and humourously rounds up how they are thinking about life.
He has a partner, Gemma, who likes doc martens. He has a son from her previous relationship, and a nine week old daughter. I have a nine week old niece! An emotional man, he takes photographs (good ones) and loves mountains. Having established that he is not a weirdo, or a psychopathic revenge seeker, we are keen to walk up some mountains with him when he visits in August. He is looking forward to meeting Katrina and Is and Ian, as much as he is to meeting me.
I do realise that people have a tendency to get jealous when the people they love start a close relationship with someone else. They feel somehow pushed out, partly replaced. I hope this is not the case with Dad's American family. And Shairen, Mike - you do do know that what we have cannot be replaced. We go back 44 and 43 years. Our bond is cemented in the toy attic in Lever Road, compacted on the track through the golf course up to Glen Fruin. I have learned though, especially over the last few years, that the more you love, the more you are loved back and the more love you have to give. Love is not finite.
Katrina asked if we could go on a long walk last weekend, so Ian drove the three of us, Katrina, Is and me, half an hour round the coast to the start of the Kenmore Walk. When we had arranged it the previous evening, we were not expecting the downpour we woke up to. Geared up and backpacks packed with sugary coffee and a surprise hot chocolate for Katrina - Is is good at looking after, I ignored Katrina's subdued talk. The Kenmore Path, through the glen from the northerly coast of the Applecross Peninsula all the way back here, is billed as a nine mile walk, but due to use of the ancient Scots' Mile to measure it, it is, in fact, over ten (It varied from place to place what exactly constituted a mile in Scotland until the 18th century). There is also a part of it where the end seems to get further away as you walk towards it. I mentioned to Nick the likelihood of impending complaints. He suggested that is where Gemma would use the phrase, 'Suck it up, buttercup.' In fact, Katrina hardly complained at all, was good humoured company for the first six miles, and then ran way ahead of us for the last four - she has fast legs that girl. But I used it anyway, at every vague opportunity, to Katrina, to the cows, to my feet in the mud. It was funny, a lighthearted walk. Katrina has been much in touch with Nick and is delighted that he is coming up soon.
We stopped near the end of the walk at the cairn Isabelle's family had made for Is's brother who had died on the hill opposite the cairn four years ago, at just 60 years old. I wish I had known him. I feel connected to him, and from everything Is has said about him, I think we would have liked each other. It was my reaction to his death that made my feelings for Isabelle startlingly clear to me. It is short, life. 'Fill it' as Tim said..... with compassion, ideas, learning, love, mountains.....
I thought erroneously that this post was going to be about the exciting news that the cat had been outside for the first time.... I thought, too, that I would mention the cuckoo, heard for some weeks now, but seen for the first and perhaps only time this year, on the fence post behind the horse field.... But no. This post is about a new podcast, swapped interests and shared likes.
I HAVE ANOTHER BROTHER.
Suck it up, Buttercup.