My name is Denise Sevier-Fries (nee Buchy). 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. Come here for some serious issues, but mainly just some cheeky fun; satire with the odd parody tossed in, and a generous helping of hyperbole, with a dollop of facetiousness.

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


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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Scottish Tale: Life Is Just A Boal of Cherries

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

Quite late in the evening, a couple and an elderly man came to my motel and I thought they were a family checking in: they weren't. The couple said this gentleman had 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. After some small talk, we discovered that he had actually come to the motel 6 hours earlier, but not recognizing our new signage, had thought he was lost and ended up driving around for hours trying to figure out where he was!

So, however unlikely, here I was, on the eve of the historic September 17 2014 Scottish Vote, 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 ever so slightly). 

And if I paid very close attention, I could actually understand him! His thick native brogue refusing to be thinned by decades of Canadian influence.  

"The name is Scotty. Scotty Boal. Real name's Bob..." 

He was spry, 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 tired out from his ordeal so I tricked him into telling me about his family and tucked him off to bed (seniors do NOT like to be treated like children and this man obviously cherished his independence, so I didn’t want him to become angry that I was checking up on him). I then called his son to make sure it was okay that his father could still drive, and the son was relieved and grateful to know his father's whereabouts; he had left on the spur of the moment and should not have been driving at night.

Next Morning

So here I am now, sipping my morning coffee and whipped cream, out of the Scotland mug I had dug out from the back of some cupboard, manning the window vigilantly to make sure I catch Scotty (real name's Bob') so I can say goodbye and to make sure he is ready for the 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 waited until the whipping cream was down to a thin white ring hugging the inside of my coffee cup before I decided to check 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 wearing his best lady-killer smile. 

He was just lining up his pills on the table, and was heading out for his morning routine of breakfast at a restaurant, and then on to 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 of parrich (or porridge, as we mere mortals call it) with Robert ‘Scotty’ Boal, a perfect stranger that made my heart glow. 

The man was charm personified.

In step with the politics of the day, I asked him about the politics of Scotland. All I will write about that topic is his direct quote: “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 in his voice...with a terrrrrrrific rolling R, a lovely lilt and a grand twinkle in yer wee eye!

Scotty talked the whole way through his parrich, barely taking the time to swallow. Like all Scots, he was a natural storyteller, and the writer in me burned for a tape recorder or a nail to carve notes into the table top! But I made mental notes instead:

He spoke of the war and how he joined the British Airborne Paratroopers at the fearlessly immortal 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 whom he let go after shooting a few rounds in the air to let them know who was in charge. "Ye dinna wont ta shoot thim if ye didna hafta!” He spoke of how a German Captain in full regalia, along with his 2000 men, surrendered to him and his 15 men almost gratefully because “They were forced ta fight ye ken…nobody likes ta fight and all them billionaires and their sons sat back and watched 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 (my husband was born next to the Rhein, 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 brighter. The man loves his team. Luckily, I was a full blown hockey mom so I could talk intelligently about the sport without embarrassing myself in front of my date.

Pills and parrich done, Tim Horton beckoned. Scotty offered to pay, gentleman that he was, but it was my treat; the entertainment factor alone was worth a hundred times that cost!

Scotty was the best show it town.

We scooted off to Timmy'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, 'this Fritz fella' asked Scotty if he'd been in the war. After saying yes, he had been, the man said “I sink yu shot me down!", to which Scotty replied, "Huh... looks ta me like I missed!"  They would become 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 everything. 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 that I then saw, you would believe it too.

We covered a lot of territory over strudels, and I never stopped laughing. 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 went to the trouble to buy him 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 with unblinking eyes 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 up 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 previously, he was always found exempt because 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 inherited 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. Here is my favorite that I took: Scotty and my husband Peter looking at the photos:

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

I stayed awake long into the night, unable to focus very long on any one of the myriad pictures that dear man painted for us. I wanted him to enjoy his trip, but a part of me wanted him to stay. I was sure that parrich would never taste the same.

We said our farewells the next morning and got a fierce hug goodbye, and after another joke or two, off drove Scotty (real name's Bob) Boal, dual small Canucks flags whipping in the wind over his hood. 

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 in his own right.

Like William Wallace. But funnier.