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I AM PARCA'S CHOSEN:
Parca is the Roman Goddess of Childbirth and Destiny and after you get to know me, you will see why I believe she has, without doubt, made me her Poster Child. I deal with the odd serious issue but for the most part, my posts are just some cheeky fun, reviews of favorite shows, and true stories that will make you laugh out loud (or run screaming...I don't know you well enough to predict your behavior). You'll find satire with the odd parody tossed in....and definitely a heaping helping of hyperbole.

I am Canadian so expect a bit of politeness too. Sorry.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Scottish Tale: Life Is A Boal of Cherries (Parts 1 & 2)



I met William Wallace last night.
Well…damn close anyway.


Amazingly enough, as Fate would have it, a couple came into my motel last night with an elderly gentleman and I thought they were a family: they weren't. The couple said this man knocked on their door, upset and lost. He was from a town about 10 hours away and had become confused and disorientated in the fog and dark, and stopped at the first house he saw to ask directions. 

They felt kindly towards him and guided him into town and to my motel. *He had actually come to my motel 6 hours earlier but didn’t recognize the new signage we had just put up and thought he was lost…and drove around all that time trying to figure out where he was!)

So, however unlikely, here it was, late at night on Sept 17th 2014, the eve of the historic Scottish vote, and I was talking to a tiny, sweet old man from Scotland who probably knew William Wallace personally (well, he was coming 90 so I MAY be exaggerating slightly). 

And if I paid close attention, I could actually understand him! 

He was spry and so funny and very opinionated and he had the BEST stories. A writer’s dream. I could have talked to him all night, but he was rather pooped out from his ordeal so I tricked him into telling me about his family and tucked him off to bed (older people do NOT like to be treated as such and this man obviously cherished his independence, like my own father had been, so I didn’t want him to become angry that I was checking on him). I then called his son to make sure his dad was okay to still drive etc…and the son was relieved and grateful to know everything was okay. His father left on the spur of the moment and should not have been driving at night.

So here I am now, sipping my morning coffee and whipped cream out of my Scotland mug and looking out the window, making sure that Scotty (real name Bob) says goodbye and is good to go on his next leg of his journey. He had mentioned briefly that he just may stay another night…and I sure hope he does.

I have a few stories to squeeze out of him yet…




I Met William Wallace: Part 2


I waited until the whipping cream was down to a thin ring of white hugging the inside of my coffee cup before I decided to check up on Scotty. Was he going to leave us this morning or stay another night?

I knocked on Room 31 with a gentle tap and he opened the door immediately, remembering my name and giving me his best lady-killer smile. 

He was just lining up his pills and was heading out for his morning routine of breakfast at a restaurant and then Tim Horton’s for a coffee and strudel. With a wistful gaze, he mentioned that his wife was usually part of the routine…and taking my cue, because I know my place in life, I asked him if he wanted some company. His eyes lit up and off we went. I drove, but not before my husband Peter told him he'd better have me home by 11. 

There aren’t many things sweeter than an 89 year old Scotsman giggling. 

And so it was that I found myself, on the day Scotland made their historic vote, sitting at Rolly’s Restaurant, eating a bowl or parrich with Robert ‘Scotty’ Boal, a perfect stranger that made my heart glow. 

The man was charm personified.

I asked him about the politics of Scotland and all I will say of that is his words: “Why break up a 2000 year old marriage? It may have been an arranged marriage but we got used to each other…and it works!” *I hope you said that to yerself with a terrific rolling R and a lovely lilt. And a grand twinkle in yer wee eye!

Scotty talked the whole way through his parrich. He was a storyteller, like all Scots, and the writer in me burned for a tape recorder or a nail to carve notes into the table top! I made mental notes instead:

He spoke of the war and how he joined the British Airborne Paratroopers at the fearless age of 18 and after hundreds of jumps, never broke a bone… until he was 87 and fell off a ladder;

He spoke of finding German soldiers who would have been shot dead without a second thought had the Americans or Russians found them, but who he let go with a few rounds shot in the air because "Ye dinna wont ta shoot thim if ye didna hafta!”, and how a Captain in full regalia, along with his 2000 men surrendered to him and his 15 men because “They were forced ta fight ye ken…nobody likes ta fight and all them billionaires and their sons sat back and watch the rest of us make their war.”

He showed me his tattoo, a silhouette of an airplane that represented the British Paratroopers braced atop with the word India on one side and 1945 on the other, and a thick blue bar under it all that represent the Rhein River in Germany (where my husband was born, oddly enough). He had been stationed in many countries and they were probably beautiful he said, but he hadn’t seen them as a tourist and they didn’t eat well there, so that ‘taints yer view of things’.

Then we talked about the Vancouver Canucks and the twinkle in his eyes grew bigger. The man loves his team. Luckily, I am a hockey mom so I could talk without embarrassing myself in front of my date.

Pills and parrich done, Timmy Ho’s beckoned. Scotty offered to pay, gentleman that he was, but it was my treat…the entertainment factor alone was worth a hundred times the cost and I gladly paid the ticket price. 

Scotty was the best show it town.

We scooted off to Tim's where we enjoyed our strudels and coffees and he told me how he moved to Canada in 1957 and found out one of his neighbors was a German named Fritz. When they met while mowing their respective lawns, the man asked Scotty if he was in the war and after saying he was, the man said “I sink you shot me down!", to which Scotty replied, "Looks ta me like I missed!"  They became very dear, lifelong friends.

Scotty had been born with bowed legs and as an adult, with a good Chrome plating business underway, he underwent extensive surgery to straighten his legs. The surgery was a success but the business wasn’t. He was taken advantage of whilst in hospital and ended up losing his business. Tough little fighter that he is though, he survived that calamity and has had a comfortable life with a loving wife and family nevertheless. How tough was he? Well, he told off a ‘mean bastard’ Hell’s Angels member who tried to scam him out of getting free chrome work done for his bike, but after telling the ‘big strappin’ fella’ that he would earn a ‘punch right in the windpipe’, the guy backed down and paid for the service.  

If you could have seen the fist I saw, you would believe it too.

We covered a lot of territory over strudels, and I never stopped laughing, and then we headed back to the motel where I dropped him off at his room. He decided to stay another night and we invited him for a cold beer after he was done watching wrestling on TV which was ‘the best acting ye’ll ever find!’.

He arrived in our manager’s suite and was very pleased to see that we had bought some ‘real’ beer: Guinness Draught from Dublin. Scotty came in at 7 and didn’t stop telling stories until 11, when I reluctantly told him that I had to close up shop and call it a night. I could tell you most of them but I will only repeat a few briefly as they are good examples of how the night went:

Talking about the war, Scotty said that being tested to get into the Paratroopers was hellish. They gave punishing physicals and intrusive psychological tests, and finally, they would take a bellows (the big pump fans for blowing air into fireplaces) and pump it in one ear. Then, if air came out the other ear, you were accepted. *yes, he had me going with that one too!

Then at one point, he said he remembered a car he once saw in Singapore. He looked past us and relived his memory: the car was beautiful eggshell blue and a blonde was at the wheel…but the nose of the car was in a foot of water under a bridge and the blonde was slumped over the wheel. Running to see if she was alright, they saw she had a slit throat from ear to ear. The Japanese had killed ‘fer no good reason and without a blink’. Piling body parts and seeing death up close became the norm and he saw it in his mind’s eye every day. 

I found it hard to swallow my beer.

To change the subject, I asked about his schooling in Scotland and he laughed and said his mother would bring him lunch at noon and squeeze it through the bars so he could eat it. Seeing our quizzical faces, he explained that the schools were fenced and locked up tight when school began and nobody got in or out until school was over. The parents would bring sandwiches to their children and pass it through the bars. He had a laugh at the memory and shook his head. I asked him why they needed protection but I’ll be damned if I can remember what he answered. *I curse my addled old brain! 37 years older than me and I wish I had Scotty’s memory!

He came late into the war as a Paratrooper as he was always found exempt previously as he was a welder. They needed his sort at home in the seaside town of Greenock (25 miles from Glasgow). He welded battle ships together, balancing 80 feet in the air, welding like a Scottish Leonardo DaVinci on his back on a wooden plank, cramped so his face was only a foot away from his task. He one-handed his torch because the other hand was used to hold up a wee mask on a stick that protected his face. His assistant Willy crouched near him with the sole purpose of patting out the embers of fire that fell all over his body. Endless hours of wiggling over planks on his back, hands held overhead to weld, being patted down as to not catch on fire…and when he got home, there was no need to wash his overalls as you could hold them up and see right through the hundreds of holes burned through. His hands were so black that his wife made him hide them under tables when they went out. “They couldna’ ever get clean”.

The HMS Colossus 1945


The drudgery was lightened by a noon hour soccer match on the pier. That helped a lot he said, because every day someone died there…either from falling off a plank, getting a rivet drilled in the head or eye, or burning to death from an oxygen leak near a torch… like his assistant. He had heard a scream and a thump and there was ‘not much more thanna couple'a feet lefta poor Willy’.


We drank our beers and he showed us pictures he had with him of The Boys having a cold beer in a pub in Palestine, he recalls with a grin (Scotty is seated first), but the back reads 'June 10th 1947 Italia'. I didn't correct him;


...one of his lifelong neighbor and pal: (ink on back said: Captured in Palistine, German sailor; Afrika 28/9/47. "In remembrance of your friend Fritz");


...and one of himself when he enlisted at 18. The inked inscription on its back reads: Singapore, 7th Parachute Battalion 6th Airborne Div LOST HALF BATTALION


Such a happy and innocent face, but the penned notation brought tears to my eye. But I hid it. I didn’t want to spoil his fun: pictures of his RCMP son, Robert Jr. of whom he is exceedingly proud; great granddaughters with familiar twinkly eyes; his ‘good lass’ wife and many shots of wartime prisoners and his mates. As a photographer, this was the icing on a beautiful cake for me. He allowed me to copy them and gave permission to share a few with you (above). Here is my favorite that I took: Scotty and my husband Peter looking at the photos:


Peter walked Scotty to his room after fond good-nights, and as he left, I heard him tell my husband as they melted into the night “I like ta walk, but in the British Airborne, we had ta make 124 steps per minute…” 

We said our farewells and got a fierce hug the next morning, and after another joke or two, off went our sweet Scottish Scotty (real name Bob) Boal, Canucks flag whipping in the wind over his hood, and I couldn’t wait to come and share him with you all and make his words as immortal as I hoped he would somehow magically prove to be. He deserves to be remembered as a hero.

Like William Wallace. But funnier.

12 comments:

  1. What an amazing gift you were given by meeting 'Scotty'. Your memories will stay with you forever and I just know you made the sun a little brighter for this man. Please tell me that he made or back home to his son. Thank you for sharing this story!!!!

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  2. Thank you for your kind words...and yes, he made it home fine. He was a blessing, and I am thankful for being able to recognize a gift when I get one. :)

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  3. What a wonderful encounter, you were blessed.

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    1. Indeed. We all agreed that our Guardian Angels arranged the meeting. :)

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  4. I'm so glad to have read this. You really brought him to life. The wee man.

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    1. A wee wonder he was. And is. Glad you liked meeting him too. :)

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  5. That was great Denise and I am going to share it with the 'man downstairs'. See .. my husband and I moved from Scotland ( I am a sassenach English mind you!) to norther Portugal in 2009. My father in law, ie 'the man downstairs' decided on the eve of the Referendum last year that he was going to sell his house in Edinburgh, and come and live with us in Portugal with us. Which is what he did! AT 90 YRS OLD !! He'd never visited Europe. His only time being outside of Britain was in WWll when he was a Royal Marine and was on the Artic Convoys, and then later in the war fighting the Japanese.

    Thanks for sharing this !!!

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    1. You are very welcome! Thank you for sharing your story too...your FIL sounds like a sweetie too! Cheers!

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  6. I am so happy he shared his stories with you. My Dad would not share his WWII experiences on board a ship in the Pacific, but would get a faraway look on his face as if reliving in his mind.

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    1. I am honored he shared with me too Marlene. So many elders keep their stories buried...such a shame.

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  7. Thanks Denise, as usual you left us smiling, a tear or almost but. Happier for having read it. 💗

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