MY RECIPE FOR A GOOD LIFE
I have always been lucky in life. Thus far, I have enjoyed reasonable health that until now offered no serious challenges, a great and loving family, the ability to travel extensively, enjoy my work and career, play an active and involved life in politics and most important of all make a wide range of quality, great friends in Scotland, America, Estonia and elsewhere abroad who have provided such interesting and fun times over the years.
I started off well with great parents, supporting and encouraging me even when I probably didn’t deserve it, a sister who remains close to this day and her children and my own who are also regularly involved in each other’s lives. My wife has been a constant support and ally in everything I do. I think she would say the same about me. We are a CLOSE family.
When we got married we chose Paisley as our home. I lived in Clydebank at the time and Celia’s home was in Edinburgh but we discovered we could buy a better flat in Paisley than in the other areas we looked at. Paisley has been good to us, I started my business there and while it spread throughout Scotland, then Estonia, then Cyprus there was never any doubt Paisley would be the centre of the operation. Also Paisley provided me with my business partner of over thirty years standing, my next door neighbour from my first home in Paisley, the late Davie White, husband of our Sandra White MSP. So it’s fair to say that wee “close” in Paisley contributed a fair bit to the SNP, including Celia becoming the first ever SNP Provost of Renfrewshire in 2007.
Travel has also been important. It is hugely educational. Regularly visiting European countries showed me early on that the UK was failing to keep up with the advances these other countries were making. I developed through this an interest in politics and economic issues and it became increasingly evident to me that Scotland was ill served being part of a declining UK.
In business I had one target. To make sufficient money to allow me to live my life as free as possible. To make as many decisions about my own life as was possible. Nobody is totally free of course, everyone has decisions made for them by others but the trick, I believe, is to minimise those opportunities as best as you can. Strangely enough that freedom, which I largely achieved, often caused me political problems.
I was hard to control. I didn’t live for a well paid seat, politics did not provide me with a penny, so I was always free to follow my conscience. People like that are often not popular with those “in control”. Politics however is a lot more fun when you are not under someone else’s thumb! I could work well with others and did often on many campaigns but I was sufficiently confident that I was able to avoid the downfall of many in being only able to “hunt in packs“. So my advice to anyone thinking of a political career, try and earn enough money before you get too involved. The Parliament would benefit if you did this, there are not that many people in Parliament who have known real jobs outside politics, particularly in the private sector, and our Parliament is the poorer for that.
I have been lucky with my friends. In politics my best friend is Gil Paterson we hit it off from the first minute we met and Gil shares my delight in putting together great campaigns, campaigns we won like the Fair Fares Campaign and Stock Scottish Campaign where great victories were secured for activists. These were important, election victories were difficult at the time and delivering victories for activists was crucial for morale. I hope we both have campaigns left in us, one in particular comes to mind, if only we can get the game organised and a park to play it on.
In Estonia I have two great special friends Dr Toomas Trei who was the General Director of Public Health in the country and who eventually became my business partner there. A more genuine, honest and hardworking person it would be impossible to meet. Just a great guy and also great company, my whole family love him. Also John Ross who originally hails from Port Glasgow who set up his own engineering business in Estonia using his redundancy money from Scotland. He has been hugely successful but has never lost his pleasant down to earth outlook on life. Success has not changed him and he has always been a great friend. Again he and his Estonian wife Ilona are loved by all in my family.
Likewise at my second home in Clearwater I have a great many American and Canadian friends who make it a pleasure to visit each year. Many are Scots who emigrated and are now enjoying retirement at their holiday homes in sunny Florida. It’s like being in Scotland, but with the sun! Sadly Covid is ruling that out. I was booked to fly on the 1st October but it’s not going to happen.
At home in Paisley my best friend is Stefan Garczewski, who was born in Paisley of a Polish father and Scottish mother. A gentle giant of a man he describes himself as a humble carpenter and concert pianist ( he cant play a note!) but not only should that read talented and hardworking he is also just brilliant company. In normal times Friday nights would see us out every week, sadly, not at the moment due to Covid. Stefan like me has now joined the ranks of those happily retired.
So somehow, by a combination of luck and a little planning I have been able to live a good and happy life and have now reach the retirement years. It only took a working life of around fifty years. Don’t worry, I will write again in the future and let you know how the second half of my life goes lol!
Why did I write this? I was needing a break from serious politics and wanted to write on happier subjects and relax a little bit. I hope my readers enjoyed the break as well. Beware mind…I will be back tomorrow!
I am, as always
YOURS FOR SCOTLAND.
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