Birthday reflections

So it’s the day after my 68th birthday, and I’m thinking back on the past – as you do – and I thought I’d write a bit about my personal past. I was born during the war, in a city centre tenement in Edinburgh, with my father in Egypt with the RAF. He’d served his apprenticeship as a watchmaker, so the RAF had him making and repairing instruments for aircraft. My mother was left to bring me up, with the help of friends, aunts, and an Aberdeenshire-born grannie.

It was a working-class family, and it was also a strongly left-wing family. It won’t be a surprise to those who know the period and the people that, like most working-class parents, mine were ambitious for their children, and the route for that ambition, as so often in that society, was through education. So I was encouraged to learn from an early age. Reading by six, my mother took me to Edinburgh’s Central Library, and persuaded a reluctant librarian that although I was below the regulation age of eight, I could indeed read – demonstrating that fact with the aid of a Beatrix Potter book.

Study and hard work have been the guiding principles of my life since then, self-help and indepedent thinking the ways I’ve worked it through. I’ve got an Open University degree in maths and science, gained while I was working as a librarian in West Lothian, and, much later, a PhD from Strathclyde in information science, again done while I was working. Indeed I started my research when I was librarian with the British Geological Survey, and finished it as librarian at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, working on it most evenings and weekends over a six-year period.

Since obligatory retirement at age 60, I’m still working, and I often think I’m working as hard now as I ever did. I’m every bit as ambitious for my kids as my parents were for me and my siblings. And I’m still left-wing. Some things don’t change.

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About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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4 Responses to Birthday reflections

  1. marion says:

    Aye, you certainly don’t look like someone who is slowing down! Hope you had a great birthday!

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    Christ! I wish I’d had a mammy like yours. I never saw either of my parents pick up a work of fiction till the day they died. My mum never even bought women’s magazines. It’s a wonder I learned to read at all let alone became a writer.

    Glad to see you’re still soldiering on. I can’t imagine not writing till the day I die but my great fear has always been that I’ll end up like Larkin though perhaps a more sober version. Although perhaps that’s just the shove I’d need to turn to drink.

  3. sunnydunny says:

    Thanks Marion.

    Jim: Your book arrived today. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. BarbaraS says:

    I’ll think of you here, in Donegal, when I’m raising a glass – hopefully not before too long.

    Reading is so essential; I’m delighted to see all six of mine are into books. Children do what they see, not what you say, after all.

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