Canavan’s column - March 28, 2013

SNOW MISERY: Working to restore power near the Isle of Arran
SNOW MISERY: Working to restore power near the Isle of Arran
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IT has been awful to read about the plight of those on Arran, a little island off the west of Scotland, which has been hit by record snowfall and left the population of 5,000 without power and freezing cold.

I say read. I didn’t need to read about it for I was there.

The snow has drifted to 10 feet in height in places, all the electricity cables have been brought down, and most people are still without power five or six days on.

I was just glad to get there after being involved in an unfortunate moment at the ferry terminal on the outward journey. There was a hand soap dispenser in the ticket office with a notice asking customers to ‘please use soap before booking tickets to limit the risk of cross-infection’. It instructed customers to put their hands under the dispenser, at which point, by the wonders of a sensor, it would release soap into one’s palms.

I duly did this, but the big blob of foamy soap which came out missed my hand and dropped onto the floor.

It looked like a big puddle of saliva.

A miserable looking woman behind the ticket desk (she worked in sub-zero temperatures at a remote Scottish ferry terminal; I’d be miserable too) glared at me with sheer hatred.

She bent down, reappeared with a mop and bucket, then preceded to march towards me - glaring all the while and whispering something which I’m pretty sure wasn’t complimentary - before stopping in front of me, leaning to within an inch of my face and spitting: “I’ll just clean this up then”.

She had a look of Eva Braun.

This near-death experience was worth it though, for Arran is lovely.

We were lucky. Our hotel was on the south side of the island, not in the north, which has taken the brunt of the bad weather, so we were largely unaffected.

We went on some terrific walks, constantly looking skywards as Arran is one of the few places in the UK where you can see Golden Eagles. Or at least that’s what all the leaflets in the local hotels tell you. I walked six and a half miles to what was described as “the optimum eagle point” but, three hours later and with frostbite in several fingers and other extremities (the details of which I’d rather not go into right now) finally had to concede defeat. On the upside I did see about 1,000 seagulls - what a treat for a fella who lives in Blackpool.

The snow, though a nightmare for those who live on the island, made the place even more picturesque and myself and Mrs C - when she wasn’t complaining about the cold - had a terrific couple of days.

We’re due back to Blackpool later today, if we can make it past Eva at the ferry terminal.

Humanist league of own

I ATTENDED my first humanist wedding this week.

For the uninitiated, this is basically a couple tying the knot without any religion involved.

It took place not in a church but at Glasgow Arts Club, a lovely Victorian building in the centre of the city, and I’ve got to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m not anti-religion in any way. I was raised a good catholic boy with good values, always, for instance, apologising to the neighbours after shattering their greenhouse with my football.

Despite having absolutely no idea what the fella on stage dressed in white and black was on about (the priest I think they call him), I attended church every week until the age of about 13, though this was mainly to do with the fact Karen Battersby, a pretty brunette in my year at school, sat in the pew in front.

I lost interest in the whole religion thing when Karen not only stopped going to church but started going out with Lee Pennington (a double whammy), but my grandma – a devout Catholic – didn’t know this.

As far as she was concerned I was still a diligent church-goer well into my 30s. I’d phone her from the bath on a Sunday morning. ‘Hi gran, how are you?’ “Fine,” she’d say, “I’m on the ring and ride bus on the way to church. Are you going this morning?”

‘Yes,’ I’d lie, lathering shower gel onto my back, ‘just setting off now’.

Though my faith has lapsed and I’ve become a non-believer, I don’t have a problem with anyone else believing.

Sometime I envy them: I imagine it is very comforting to have faith in whatever it is you’re into.

But back to Glasgow and the humanists.

Conducted by a Humanist minister who was a dead ringer for Eddie Large (a bit off-putting; I kept expecting Syd Little to wander on from stage left), the vows had been written by the groom and his bride themselves.

The most touching section was when the minister read out five things the couple had secretly written about the other.

It was beautiful, sentiments like ‘he makes me feel whole, he is always on my side’ and ‘she makes me the best version of myself that I can be, she is my port in stormy weather’.

At this point seven-eighths of the women at the service were in tears, while nudging their better halves and hissing things like ‘I’m your port 

Though a lovely idea, I think this is the part of a Humanist wedding I’d struggle with. I think I’d use it instead to try and make a point, get things off my chest that have been bothering me.

Asked to give the minister five things to read aloud about Mrs Canavan, I’d go for the following.

1. When brushing her teeth she never rinses away her spit so I have to do it with my hand.

2. Appears to be allergic to both emptying the kitchen bin and taking out the recycling.

3. Seems incapable of cooking a meal without using 27 different pans, even if we’re just having beans on toast.

4. Cannot put the lid back on anything. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken a carton of orange juice from the fridge of a morning, shaken it, and been drenched in orange.

5. Made me agree to get a cat on the condition she’d always clean its litter tray. We’ve had the cat 18 months now, she’s cleaned the litter tray twice.

Another awkward part of the Humanist ceremony came when the couple announced ‘we promise never to go to bed on an argument’.

What? The best kind of arguments are those which go on for ages. I once went seven days without talking to Mrs Canavan after she forgot to buy a carrot. On day seven she cracked and apologised, and after work that day came home with three bags of carrots. Another war of attrition won.

So, on reflection, I am a big fan of Humanist weddings but maybe – despite my lack of religion – it wouldn’t be the right choice for me.

For the sake of the long-term success of my relationship, singing a hymn or two is probably a wise option.