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Friday, 28 December 2012

The Old Angus and Alice

It was three decades ago in Scotland; Alice’s family lived in the west coast, in a town named Ayr, situated on the Firth of Clyde in south-west Scotland. As a kid Alice used to run out to the west coast with her cousin Alana. In the west coast there were so many magnificent views of the Islands and Arran. Breathtaking islands are Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig.

Isle of Arran, also referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’ is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde and has been a centre for religious activities since the 6th century. It is a well-liked destination for geologists. Its intrusive igneous landforms are cynosures to the geologists who often troop off to the island to view an overwhelming God’s piece of work displayed in a magnificent way. Though Keith Montgomery saw it as one of the most famous places in the study of geology, it is divided into highland and lowland under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream and both create its mild oceanic climate.

Ailsa Craig used to be a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, but has become today a ‘bird sanctuary’, sheltering an enormous number of gannets and puffins. It displays a triangular mountain jutting out of the sea in bravura vividness.

 Alice’s father was nick-named Old Angus; a local farmer and a veteran butcher. At this time of the year Old Angus would be found well into the night and the rest of the next day plucking chickens, geese and turkeys. That was how Old Angus eked out a living for his family. He did that for other local farmers and butchers and got paid afterwards. He later became an inspiration to plebs who could not pass college. Alice’s nostalgic vista of his father is always re-freshened at this time of the year. That was when Old Angus was found dead in his butcher hut. He had toiled so hard in his life that he seldom rested. Alice loved her father so much that even when her parent’s marriage were in crisis as a result of their frequent loggerheads, and her mother, Alison, was squeezing down on her father like a giant Anaconda, she would stand by his side. Alice understood her father; she understood what and how it felt like when a man worked his ass out 24/7 to ensure his family’s needs were well taken care of and his inconsiderate and nagging wife wouldn’t do nothing but constantly breathing down his neck that his bests were never enough.

Alice sat in a corner of her father’s outbuilding in rumination of the last amazing and memorable days she had with her father before the Grim Reaper squeezed out the already weakly life in him. In the building were two long walls, covered in gray tiles with about six rails with meat hooks running across in front of them. On one wall, there were chickens or whatever hanging, waiting to be plucked. On the other wall, there were chickens in the nude waiting to be taken. She would recall her father holding a chicken or turkey or whatever on his lap in that astonishing dexterous way of a veteran, and she would stand, knee-deep in feathers, watching her father pluck the chickens or turkeys in no time at all. For her, the dexterity and legerdemain exhibited by her father and the resilient efforts to provide for them were enough reasons to be proud of him.


As a teenager, Alice could not tolerate the smell of cigars of any brand. As she sat in solitude in her father’s outbuilding, she recalled at his time of the year when her father and her uncle, Allen would sit at the balcony expecting to find in their Christmas gift boxes packets of cigars. They would even anticipate that someone would be so kind to put in the box a box of cigars as presents. Both loved smoking as Jesus people love crucifix. None of them was a better smoker than the other. Asking them to quit smoking was like asking Hitler to give up his powers. The cigars they smoked were habitually Robert Graham’s. They felt like Lord Advocates as they sat down in the Adirondack chairs after Christmas sumptuous dinner and smoked their Robert Graham Cigars. Never-to-forget were times when Alison would suggest both men lit up their cigars because she knew Alice would never stand the smell and thus would leave the balcony to flee from the smell. It was Alison’s gimmick to get Alice out of the way whenever she wanted to rant and rave to her husband and poor Allen who always took the fall for everything done by Old Angus. Allen could do anything to save his only brother’s ass, but the only thing he could not do for Old Angus was to take his place when the Grim Reaper came with his great caravans.

Alice did not only reminisce about his never-wanted-to-end moments with her father, she also flashed back to never-a-good moment with her mother. When she was in her teen, like any other teenager living with her parents, she was expected to do some house chores at home. She did not quite mind doing them, but not the kind of job her mother often ask her to do. She loathed being asked to clean the brass and was always loath to execute the task whenever she was asked to do it. It took her ages to clean up the brass. But it was not really about the time cleaning the brass consumed; rather it was about pride. Brasso is used to clean the brass and it makes the cleaner’s hands black, and smell sour. There were no rubber gloves available in their house. If a guy asked her out for a drink on a Friday, which was usually the day her mother thought wise to ask her to clean the brass, she felt so embarrassed having black fingers on a date with a guy when she should have a neatly manicured fingers. May be that was why Alice was never on her mother’s side on any feud between her parents.

At this time of the year, apart from sitting in the outhouse in reminiscence of her father’s absence, one of the jobs Alice always adored doing was making and icing cakes. She often experimented with varieties of decorative patterns that never failed to yield geometric designs of what looked like the ancient tried-and-true snow scenes. She had just produced, though in the rough, an iced cake with a picturesque petite hydrangea and an ornament at the center. Old Angus looked in spine-tingling at the captivating object presented to him by his adorable and lushly looking daughter and all he could barely utter was I love you my angel. Old Angus, in great awe, wondered how long Alice had spent in working on those decorative twisted cords with convoluted designs brandished in stars. The iced cake displayed at each point a beautification with miniaturized silver balls. Old Angus thought him and Old Angus would all break their dead-and-alive tooth on them as they were as hard as rubbles and as crusty as crusty breads. They did not know that would be the last flurry moment they would ever share as living humans. May be they would have another one, but as mortals. Her tears flowed torrentially as she got up and walked back to the main building to spend the rest of the day with her kids.

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/Ailsa_Craig2.jpg

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