Category Archives: Scotland

Dear Deere – – –

Jack doesn’t quite make it on time with the Wednesday post – –

The story starts when I was asked/pressured by the Prinicipal of the college where I was working, to get an MBA. I had been teaching management courses for a while so hardly surprising. I enrolled for the part-time program at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. One of the courses was Economics and our lecturer focused on two case studies each week that we were meant to research before the following week. His favorite ploy was to march back and forward at the start of the day (which ran from 8am to 6pm) talking about the previous week’s case studies, twirl on his heel and point at some hapless fool. I always hid behind a pillar!

Most of the thirty or so folk signed up simply wanted to pass the exam, but our professor had announced at the start that he wasn’t interested in that. He would introduce us to ‘interesting stuff’ instead! There weren’t enough pillars in the room either.

Of course numbers dwindled until on the final day there were only two of us present so nowhere to hide. The previous week’s case studies had been Hewlett-Packard and John Deere. I’d had a very challenging week at the college (Head of two departments simultaneously), so no opportunity to do any research. He turned and pointed at me, so I was under the spotlight all day with no escape.

Around the same time Wendy and I were planning to get married so I visited her folks in Tennessee. I told this story to her mom, who couldn’t understand a word I said – except for two – John Deere. She imagined I was a fan, so for a few years all my birthday, Christmas and anniversary presents were of a theme – the mug, bath mat, bedspread, cap, model – – –

We lived for five years in a very small village in East Fife and got friendly with a farming couple nearby. When we finally moved away we donated some furniture to them. Alan came down in his tractor and cattle trailer to collect them. It was his brand new massive John Deere!

So I got my picture taken sitting on his tractor, wearing the hat, holding the mug, with the bath mat on my knee and the model on the mud wing.

We made our annual visit to Tennessee and Wendy needed her Walmart ‘fix’ but when we were wandering around we found to our horror there was a whole isle devoted to John Deere stuff! So I showed the picture to Wendy’s Mom and re-told her the whole story now that we could meet midway linguistically- I’ve never gotten a John Deere present from her since.

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Filed under between books, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch

I Was So Much Older Then – –

Jack keeps the home fires burning while Wendy is otherwise engaged – –

The ‘Round the World Trip to Bedford’

Me just after returning!

In (I think) 1961 I finished my apprenticeship as a painter and decorator. Two close friends also reached this landmark – John McDonald as an electrician and Bill Beveridge as a mechanical engineer.

I knew John through our shared love of folk music and Bill through our interest in left wing politics and anti-war sentiments.

For some reason we decided it would be fun to hitch-hike around the world. We had all, separately, already done this around Britain so it seemed like the next thing to do. But we were all still living at home with our parents so we reckoned we should dip our toes in the water first.

We jointly rented a small apartment in the center of our home town of Dunfermline which we promptly named ‘Dharma’ – we’d heard of Kerouak – – –

For about six months we hosted parties, piled up dishes and eventually got some kind of handle on things – ate regularly and even bathed regularly. When we made the decision to finally set sail we compared our savings and discovered we had twenty five pounds between us which seemed perfectly adequate! Before we set off I made the mistake of telling another friend who was a reporter on the local newspaper what we were going to do. He came and interviewed us and asked how we’d handle the languages we’d encounter. John jokingly said he knew Swahili as he could sing ‘Wimoweh’ – that wound up on the front page of the Dunfermline Press.

We eventually vacated the apartment and hitched to London where we knew two people who could give us temporary lodgings. Unfortunately they were on opposite sides of the city and tube fares and meals ate up our money. Reduced to a few pounds and desperate, Bill said he knew two sisters from Bedford who were due in court at the Old Bailey that day charged for civil disobedience. We met them and their parents outside and that’s when our plans changed.

The girls’ parents were very upper middle class and members of the Fabian Society (intellectual left wingers), and delighted to have three working class Scots to show off and take to parties.

We all got jobs and mine was with a high class decorating firm – I really appreciated the experience working for them. We wound up getting lodgings with a lovely Italian woman, Mrs Belfiore, who took us under her wing and really mothered us.

We frequented the Crown pub regularly and it had an upper room where we heard great music including, on one occasion Ken Colyer’s jazz band. Bill put down a deposit on a moped and I managed to almost cut off my heel with the pedal. We jointly bought a pre-war Austin 7 with cable brakes that hardly worked and needed early planning for traffic lights.

An Austin 7

We eventually got fed up and headed back to Dunfermline during a very cold winter in the Austin 7 with lots of scary moments and went our separate ways.

Life went on for all of us – – –

I had been working for my Dad before we left but he couldn’t re-employ me when we came back (maybe to teach me something?), so I moved to Edinburgh and hung out with art college friends for another six months. Got a job there with another very high class decorating firm and learned lots more.

I came home and fell right into the folk music scene – the rest is history.


Filed under between books, blue funks, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, Wendy Welch