Wee road driving earned a Scots respect

Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

By Steve Stricker

Today, Wednesday, June 21 at 10:58 am marks the first day of summer, Summer Solstice – sun is furthest north, highest in the sky, and longest day of the year before rebounding south.  

Sunday was Father’s Day which invoked loving memories of my father who died when we were both way too young, my mom Gert who doubled as my dad, and an exceptional man who would have become my Scottish dad.  

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Although I had known my Scottish fiancée for years, by the time we began dating she had solidified plans to move home to Scotland but stayed because of me…which did not endear me with her father, Alistair, a retired Geology professor from The University of Glasgow who eagerly anticipated her move home.  

So, on our first visit of several weeks to Scotland in September 2009, he seemed to enjoy poking jabs at me, and perhaps somewhat disrespectfully – I jabbed back. 

From my first breath of that fragrant “heavy” Scottish air, absorbing the differentness of the ancient terrain and architecture, and listening to that lovely Scottish brogue, it felt as if my soul had always been there.  

I delighted in listening to Alistair’s history of their Clackmannanshire county northwest of Edinburgh, wonderful mum, Lord Lieutenant to Queen Elizabeth, and although driving and shifting on the wrong side was a wee bit tricky, was comfortable as we undertook my first lengthy drive to historic St. Andrews, Old Course and University.

In May 2010, we returned for another visit that extended into a month thanks to the Iceland volcanic ash cloud that closed airspace to commercial and jet traffic. On this trip, I drove us from Scotland down the A-1 motorway to visit her older brother and family in England an hour north of London.  Driving four hours, we stopped in York, England for the night, toured York Minster Cathedral, Choir, and a few pubs.

Being my birthday, her family lovingly had a cake (first in years) and champagne waiting for me.  The following day, May 10 actual birthday, we took a train to London where her brother who worked there navigated us through the “Tube” maze of underground connections, and toured London on double-decker buses, ferry, on and over the Thames.

Returning to Scotland on the M-6 motorway along the west coast of England flanking the Irish Sea, stopped the night in England’s illustrious Lake District, and she and I spent several hours at Bowness-on-Windermere, a beautiful resort area.   

Back in Scotland, I received a “well done” for my driving, but Alistair had another trial for me.  Knowing I loved old Land Rovers he challenged me to drive over their immense hills via an extremely twisting, steep, one-lane path dodging sheep, to a classic old Landy’s restoration shop near the renowned Gleneagles Golf Club. Once there the family applauded and over tea and crumpets, Alistair said, “Well done, Laddy!  There are few people I would consent to drive me over those blooming hills on that wee road.”

Alistair sadly died in October 2012 and although God had other plans for the engagement, he gave me a lifetime of encouragement and love and will always be my Scottish dad.  

Steve Stricker is an Oxford resident, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, and can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.