Tuesday, 29 September 2015


There's a time in every young person's life when they assume, without ever really thinking about it, that they're not only invincible, but also immortal.  Usually it's around the teenage years and early 20s when we labour under this delusion, and I have to confess that I was no exception.  When we're young, we think we're going to be young forever, and old age and death seem so distant as to be unimaginable.  Then one day we wake up and realise that, not only are we 'over the hill', we're also actually halfway down the other side and somebody has cut the brakes.  What's more, we don't even recall getting to the top of that hill to begin with.  Shouldn't we at least remember the view?

When we're young the world is ours for the taking, and everything seems geared towards us and runs in perfect synchronicity with the pace of our lives.  Then, one day, it dawns on us that we're no longer participants in life's race, but merely observers, sitting on the sidelines, watching younger people revelling in a world that appears to have been created exclusively for them.  How one can be relegated to the benches without being aware of when it happened is a bit of a mystery, but trust me, that's the way things go.

Now, believe me when I say that I'm not the kind of person who revels in anyone's death, but I sometimes wonder if younger people's untimely expiration is Nature's way of reassuring us 'oldies' that being young isn't necessarily an indication of being accorded favoured status, and that, young or old, we're all equally subject to termination at short (or even no) notice.  If being 20 is no guarantee we'll reach 50, then perhaps 50-year-olds shouldn't feel so threatened by the passage of time as they do.  Life's a lottery and our numbers can come up at any moment.  Not quite a 'lucky dip' - but you get the point, I'm sure.

I feel that I should somehow find the above notion reassuring, but for some reason I remain unconvinced.  How about you?


                                 I lingered by a gate a little while
                                 and watched some children play in fields of green.
                                 Their joyous voices gave me cause to smile
                                 and filled my troubled soul with thoughts serene.

                                 If only I could once again be young
                                 and join them in their happy escapades,
                                 then all my years would be a song well-sung
                                 and I could claim I've lived my life in spades.

                                 I leave the gate - alas, my mood turns low,
                                 the chills of age envelop my frail frame.
                                 I know I have not very long to go
                                 'til he who wields the sickle calls my name.

                                 But I have lived and loved, both lost and won,
                                 and now the course of my life's race is run.

(Harvest Gate by Iain Osborne.)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


Alas, alack, woe is me!  I am cast down and utterly despondent.  Oh, despair!  And what is the reason for my melancholy mood, the more kindly amongst you may wonder.  I'll tell you.  As far as I'm aware, I've only ever been to Largs (in Ayrshire) three times in my life.  At least, that is to say I've holidayed there three times, but perhaps I've passed through or near to it over the years without being aware of the fact while in a friend's car en route to somewhere else.

The years I'm specifically referring to, however, are 1968, '69 & '71, when I was 9, 10 & 12 years old respectively.  On at least two occasions, my family attended The VIKING CINEMA in Largs, once to see Those MAGNIFICENT MEN In Their FLYING MACHINES and also, I think, The MAGNIFICENT SEVEN - though I can't recall which of the two we saw first, not that it matters.  (However, come to think of it, it's strange that both movies had the word 'magnificent' in the title.)

The Viking Cinema was a truly, er... magnificent art-deco establishment, with a sturdy mock-up of the prow of a Viking longship protruding from the front of the building.  I recall standing on it and thinking what it must've been like to sail the seven seas in days of yore, doing a spot of pillaging and... well, I was just a boy, so I was probably ignorant of the other activity for which Vikings were infamous, so we needn't go there.

Over the years, I've often thought back to those holidays, fully intending to revisit Largs again and once more stand on the deck of that prow and relive my boyhood memories.  Imagine my dismay then, when I learned only an hour or so ago, that The Viking Cinema closed on August 4th, 1973 (a mere two years after my last visit to Largs) and was demolished in 1983.  (Apparently it had been turned into a bottling plant in the intervening years between closure and demolition.)

Now, not only is it devastating to learn that a childhood landmark no longer exists, but that it ceased to exist so far back in time as to be separated from my actual experience of the place by only a metaphorical hair.  All the years that I've imagined it still functioning as a cinema (or, if closed, only having done so relatively recently), have all been based on nothing more than the ghost of a memory - a fantasy even.

Alas, alack, I may never again be able to stand on the deck of The Viking in actuality, but, in the coming years, I'll do so - often - in the evergreen and eternal land of memory.


And, in case you were wondering why a Scottish town would have a Viking-themed cinema, it's because the long-haired rascals tried to invade us a few centuries back (October 2nd, 1263 to be exact) and we gave them a good gubbing.  (Thor's hammer, in the guise of a stick, must still have been lying in that cave in Norway, which is probably why he couldn't help them out.)  The cinema was in tribute to our well-deserved victory and their defeat - not that we like to rub it in or anything.


Apparently, after being removed from the building, the ship's prow was taken to the Isle of Cumbrae and remained there for years.  If anyone has any information as to whether it's still there or not, feel free to get in touch.


Update:  I finally revisited Largs in 2014.  You can read about my return to my three-time holiday haunt here.

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