Happy Birthday: Live your life and forget your age

January 30, 2023 on 4:46 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Pipe Bands, Stories | Comments Off on Happy Birthday: Live your life and forget your age

In my usual January Glasgow itinerancy I happened to meet up this late afternoon for a catch-up with a Scots friend, in this case, young Callum Wyndd. Callum, you may know, is a real up-and-comer in the solo piping world and a person I came to know as a member of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band (as the band was then known).

Anyway, Callum’s currently shining up his piping thanks to the tutelage of two greats, Willie McCallum and Pipe Major Ian McLellan, BEM. In meeting up with Callum and asking after both Willie and Ian – as you do – Callum mentioned that Ian’s 86th Birthday was tomorrow, the last day of the month of January. Straight away, I thought two things: that surely Ian was about 10 years younger – you may know he’s an especially spry feller (not suggesting that spryness is gone at 86) – and – the last day of January is also my mum, Joan’s, Birthday. She’ll be 90 and starting, of course, her tenth decade in this place (she’d be happy I mentioned that, I’m sure).

I’ve talked before about time and age and that our lives are short – even the longest-lived ones. I know that, as a deep and abiding truth, “life is short” is one of our most common human aphorisms. While waiting for a traffic light to change from red to green can seem like forever (forgetting the imagined interminable and crossed-legs eternity of waiting in a queue for your turn for a hospitality tent toilet), these trifling, ten-a-penny time-skewing moments just mask the truth of the stretch of time that is relative to humans: ours is not long; its under-sized [there’s a nun and Vicar joke here somewhere].

Still, remarkable – and, sometimes, miraculous – things are brought about in the course of our under-sized human lives. Sure, the Bowhead whale might live two centuries: many miles swum and a lot of fish suppers eaten but, with all due respect to the Bowhead whale, I can only guess – and say – there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot else on offer from a life lived in those deep waters.

And that’s where, I imagine, and I hope, we have the whales – and those of their ilk – beat. While the shortness of the human life varies greatly – and, yes, even with a lot of our “good dying young” – we know, when given the breath of life, a person can pack a lot of living in any time on offer.

Ian McLellan elevated the music of the national instrument of Scotland to the greatest of heights. And as a family man, too, set-out even deeper shades of greatness.

And, to my mother, Joan, married at 18 years of age to William Grey she set out on a life of family first – with, maybe a pinch of Ian McLellan’s pipe band world (well, hello, I was around the place). With ups and downs – and downs and ups – she made her way to, today, continuing to be a vital person, thriving in her century home, driving around a small southern Ontario town, in her Toyota Venza. She loves the Netflix (when not FaceTiming with grandchildren or great-grandchildren) and is a testament to another aphorism, it really is all about “time well spent”.

Joan Grey (L) with June Rollo [abt. 1985]

And time well spent usually means a well-lived life, or so it seems to me.

So a Happy Birthday this day to Ian McLellan.

And a Happy Birthday to my mum, Joan!

(And a thanks to Callum Wyndd making me think this day in January.)


Live your life and forget your age.


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