Skip to main content

Taking a long view

Today's that annual reminder of my comparatively modest academic achievements. The day when school students across our country receive the formal record of how they have done in their studies.

I suppose I am a living example that exam results less than you hoped for are not "the end".

But most receiving results today will be demonstrating achievements. And using them to move on to, more study at a higher level, the world of work, or the mind-expanding experience of a few months or a year off.

Alas, the choice of a year's travelling around the globe is all but shut off for the time being. The world will still be there in years to come.

It wasn't really an option for us after school. None of my classmates packed up, and hopped away. We were a less confident group than today's youngsters. The education system rigidly prepared us to pass exams, to be able to demonstrate that we had acquired knowledge.

Few of us had learned how to learn. Even fewer had the confidence to, in proper and effective form, challenge the world around us. None of us had even a nodding acquaintance with the meaning of innovation.

And yet curiously my contemporaries at Bell Baxter in Cupar did go on to make significant impacts on the world. What I have yet to work out, since only one of those I am about to talk about were obviously at the top of the tree in studies, is how that happened. I have no answer.

The first is one I shall not name as he is not a public figure despite a significant contribution to public life as a very senior civil servant. He alone has no Wikipedia page.

He was "top dog" academically at school and went on to study chemistry at university where he graduated with a "First". But concluded that that subject held no attractions for him as a career. Instead, he entered the Civil Service, I suspect as a "fast track" graduate. And ended up in charge of a major department.

When I became a Government Minister in 2007 he had, on reaching the normal retirement age of 60, left his position. He felt that I would benefit from some advice and allowed me to buy him lunch. It was good to catch up, we had many years ago been at his wedding and had met intermittently over the intervening period. His advice was sage. I took account of it but did not always use it.

There are five others of my school contemporaries, all with Wikipedia, or similar pages, I will identify.

When I was Captain of Bell Baxter's second rugby fifteen, mainly because I was the one least likely to be promoted to the "firsts", Artie Trezise was one of the team. He and his spouse Cilla Fisher were the founders of the Singing Kettle. A group of itinerant children's entertainers. So successful dear reader were they that I venture to suggest that you will not have to spend much time searching before finding a family member who attended a theatre to see them.

As an aside, I only became Captain of our 2nd XV because the original Captain, who was the civil servant I referred to earlier, dislocated his shoulder at one of the early season matches and played no more rugby.

Returning to the Singing Kettle, Wikipedia reports (;

"The group were awarded a BAFTA for best children's TV programme and Fisher, Trezise and Coupland were made MBEs for their services to the entertainment industry."

Actor John Bett is next up in my Bell Baxter hall of fame. He was someone I knew much less well, there were over 400 in my school year, and he was in my brother's year rather than mine.

I do seem to recall his being in some of the school's theatrical productions. And is the only one I write about here who may have given a hint about their future career.

He makes the cut as he appeared in the iconic film, Gregory's Girl. And in Rab C. Nesbitt and Rebus. The actor's "wiki" is IMDb. John's career recorded there is long and distinguished (

Lynda Myles was the first female Director of the Edinburgh Film Festival and has a distinguished career as a writer, director, producer and actress. Wikipedia reports that she got started on her career with films after writing a letter to the "The Scotsman" when a student. (

Rab Noakes continues to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with in the world of music in Scotland and beyond. In 2020 – The Expedition Continues for Rab. He'll be out-and-about with a variety of line-ups, solo and collaborative. (

Since the foregoing is a direct quote from his website, it must be true. Of all those I write about today, he is the one who seems most obviously still actively engaged in his chosen profession. The Wikipedia list of his albums is wondrous long (

The last in my somewhat arbitrarily chosen list is Nina, we knew her at school as Janini, Myskow. She was the first female editor of D.C. Thomson's "Jackie" magazine (

I last bumped into her while we were in a queue to go into a theatre in Edinburgh. That's certainly thirty plus years ago.

She appears on quite a few TV programs I don't watch. But on "Grumpy Old Women" she has my full attention. That's because although I am not one of the "Grumpy Old Men", I am certainly getting to be a grumpy old man. Just read some of my previous diary essays.

Now, most families have a disgraceful old uncle who is a nuisance at family christenings, weddings and funerals. Among the alumnae and alumni of my old school, we have someone who attended decades after I left - Willie Rennie MSP. 'Nuff said.

If your results are everything you hoped for today, hurrah! Now go and build on it.

But if like me, you wanted more, remember my fellow students from more than fifty years ago and me. We trod our own paths and enjoyed the journey.

And I have not a single award on my shelf; well, I have only ever had one nomination, and that was only because my staff were annoyed at my being overlooked.

Other's opinions don't matter.

Think well of yourself whatever your day brings.

You deserve it.


Popular posts from this blog

Train time

After one hundred and seventy-four days, I resumed sitting in our Parliament's debating chamber. It was the first time I have seen how members dialling in by video-link look and sound at the "business end". I found that I was a bit rusty. My only oral contribution this week was to ask a question. As I approached the end of it, a sound from a mobile phone totally distracted me. Worried that it was my own phone, I paused and for about a second, lost the thread of what I was saying. I wasn't that pleased with my neighbour when they returned to their seat. Their phone, not mine. It just shows that one can travel backwards in one's abilities. Like an athlete who has had an extended layoff and loses muscle tone, my brain had retreated from its previous peak of perfection. Next week will be our first proper three day week. I think I will ease myself in by participating in the two Member's debates scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. That will be about eleven hu

A public debate about privatisation

Yesterday I tweeted from the Financial Times. I subscribe to the FT, so perhaps that's not too surprising. Martin Wolf is their Chief Economics Commentator and has seen sufficient economic shocks during his life as a journalist to deserve to be listened to when he writes as he did; "We almost certainly [...] need to take the provision of at least some essential public services out of the hands of privatised businesses." He has also commented, a week ago, on some of the effects of the pandemic on countries already struggling, saying; "in emerging and developing countries, the crisis threatens severe underfunding of important health and welfare programmes" I am not here to heap peons of praise upon his already "be-jewelled" shoulders. Others can do that. But he does alert us to the need for radical public policy and practice shifts. I have not seen him commenting on the merger of the UK's Foreign Office with the Government's internati

End of an Era 2016-2021

Written for  Holyrood magazine's "The End of an era 2016-2021"  published 07 April 2021.    Neil Findlay is the man who loves you to hate him. As he rises from his habitual place in a distant corner of the Parliamentary Chamber, a snarl as firmly attached to his face as he is disconnected to any symbol of middle-class values such as a tie, tension flows as he selects his target for the day. Is it dapper John Scott? The record-holder for the shortest time between his being sworn in and making his first speech in Parliament; a mere twenty hours. Does Willie Rennie attract his ire? Confession; we went to the same school. Almost anything liberal is bound to attract this Labour very-back-bencher’s contumely. Greens rarely attract his attention but he should remember that John Finnie, another member of this year’s escape committee, can efficiently direct a canine arrest. Now of course, I have sought to avoid any engagement with the fellow. I never, just never, even acknow