The Long and the Short when we were not so Tall !

Brian MacLeod, suddenly at Winchester on 16th Feb 2018, aged 63. Loving husband of Carrie, father to Mary and Graham. Brother to Peter and Kevin. Originally from Bruar. Funeral arrangements to follow.

Most Fridays I read the Bruar Courier on line, particularly the death notifications. Almost half a century has passed since this place, where I was born, was my home. Despite the years names of the deceased occasionally bring back thoughts of my childhood and teens there. Brian Macleod was one that resonated strongly with my past. The mention of brothers Peter and Kevin confirmed it was the right Brian. Sometimes a name remains entangled in your memory for life.

Brian Macleod and me. The summer of 1965. Holidays. We were eleven, our days were spent playing football with others on the rough ground behind our houses. At the start of the holidays we’d cut the bushes back expanding the size of the pitch and for the next eight weeks most days we’d play from early morning til dusk apart from going in for dinner.

A few of us had left primary school at the end of the term. It was a strange feeling that final day, the first time I remember something having a last time. After the holidays we would be moving to secondary schools. Some were going to the one on the west of the river, others like Brian and I were headed east across the river to the Academy. Normally the move to secondary school was accompanied with the replacement of short school trousers for long ones. A rite of passage.

Brian had been an acquaintance, we were in the same class and sometimes we’d walk home from school together, but you couldn’t say we were mates. He lived in the block further down the road and during summer we’d play one block against the other or mixed teams. I gradually got to know him. One evening after the rest had gone and following a game of one against one we sat on the grass.  Our backs were against the two large boulders found in the undergrowth and dragged into place as goalposts at the beginning of summer. Suddenly he asked?

“Are you wearing long trousers to the Academy?”

“Nah, my father says I can have them when I’m twelve, so I’ll have to wait til November. “

“Either am I,” he continued. “My sister said you get hit across the back of your legs with rulers and people say you’re in the wrong school that the primary school is further up the road if you go in short trousers.”

I wasn’t too upset for Brian, just relieved to be honest that I suddenly realised I wasn’t going to be the sole wearer of shorts on my first day. But we kind of shared our worry without saying so.

In those moments we became friends, an allegiance cemented in facing a similar adversity. We hatched a plan to see if we could get our parents to change their minds. Brian came to my house and told my mother that his mother had just been out and bought him long trousers. Then we went to his house and I told his mother that my mother had just bought long trousers for me.

Later that evening my mother had weakened a little and mentioned to my father about Brian’s visit.  He was immovable, I would get them in November when I was twelve. I sensed that Brian’s visit had converted my mam, but my father was being harder work.

Tuesdays my mother went to town, this was the last Tuesday of the holidays, school started on the Thursday. As she reached the door I gave it a last shot, reminding her of Brian’s visit. She didn’t say no. Hope prevailed. The bus was early and with me holding her up at the door she missed it and had to wait half an hour for the next one. It was now in the lap of the God’s. I went and played football.

She’d returned by the time I came in for dinner. I looked around for any evidence of the trousers. Nothing to be seen.  I asked the question.

She answered.

“I was speaking to Mrs Macleod when I got to the bus stop. She told me her Brian is going to the Academy in shorts, so you wouldn’t be on your own. She also told about your visit to her. A bit like Brian’s visit to me, “she smiled knowingly.

Caught and devastated I accepted defeat but initially I felt fate had played its hand. Would it have been different if she hadn’t met Brian’s mother at the bus stop? If she hadn’t missed the earlier bus? Had I caused my own downfall?

Thursday morning arrived. Dressed in a new blazer, shirt, tie and short trousers I left the house. I felt there was a huge gap between my shorts and socks. Reaching the bus stop my heart sank and hit my stomach. Brian bloody Macleod was standing there wearing long trousers.

Forgiven.

RIP Brian.

Don Russell    17/3/2018

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