Happy Birthday Granny Mary :-)

They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes...

I have some expensive and some very cool shoes, so let's leave that there!

Hands have always fascinated me, especially my own. They're pretty big in relation to many others I have shook, hi fived, held or kissed over the years...

I recall only meeting one person with the same hand span as mine in my lifetime, that was circa 2008 in Albuquerque New Mexico. I digress. Not like me I am sure you will agree! haha

Today is my granny's birth date. She would have been 98 today. A fabulous age, I am sure we would all agree a wonderful innings? But she had a right good crack at life, including outliving her first and last born of 6 daughters! Today however in 2020 we spend the first year without her. In fact I recall last year having tea and cake with her and family in the care home she stayed in. Many things she may have lost over the years but her independence and freedom was a source of comfort to us until the last almost 2 years she spent being cared for by a wonderful bunch of nurses and carers at Braeside, Liberton, Edinburgh.

Some of my earliest, happiest memories are of spending summers and other days visiting my grandparents and from time to time she would be baking something. A crumble, inevitably from my grandad Peter's apples or rhubarb from the garden, or scones, or shortbread. I've never been sure but she made shortbread once. It was an absolute delight! I'm uncertain if I ate anything else that whole day. I kept that recipe in my head and thought it would never be beaten. Well, I am older now, and going into my 24th year of chef life I have perfected it, but, also improved it... With the addition of vanilla.

I have now been cooking with it for so many years it is just second nature to add it to almost anything. Nothing ever got ruined by too much vanilla. Or just by adding it. It makes everything better. My hope is to welcome some of you to the Vanilla village and partake in a baked good or two from Vanilla from my own orchard. Wayan has been putting in such hard work over the last 2+ years but we are just at the beginning. The hope is that we can bring vanilla to the world, help people and spread some vanilla vibes from the "Island of the Gods" across the globe like an intoxicating whirlwind of delicious dishes.

For many years I have sought inspiration from so many wonderful people in my life. Fortunate by their presence, however brief, people have the real ability to influence you in sometimes the daftest of ways...

My grandad Peter was a wonderful man, a towering giant who never had the legs for a kilt apparently but short shorts was de rigueur.

After all avenues had been explored thoroughly, "Just hit it with a hammer, son!" was always his default position. And boy often he has been right!

They are now rejoined in holy matrimony which is a wonderful thought. Seeing them sat holding hands after so many years married is so seldom seen nowadays is a lovely memory.

Love, compassion, care, understanding, kindness, great patience, negotiation, support, loyalty, happiness, are all buzz words now with lockdown restrictions easing after our lives changing forever since the end of March.

I have all of these thanks to so many, but I fondly associate them with Peter and Mary most of all.

In life we have many choices.

Choose life as Ewan MacGregor once said. Choose happiness. Choose to be helpful.

Celebrate her birthday this bank holiday weekend with a slice of cake and a cup of tea. Heck, she wasn't averse to the odd sherry if the notion so took her! And rightly so.

So a glass of wine would be a lovely treat too. Albeit the weather at least in Glasgow today is somewhat dreich and miserable. A perfect day for baking.

I have been baking a lot during lockdown in fact I might refer to this as bakedown. Not being a fan of sweet things, much to the bemusement of many I know, I have been paying treats forward to neighbours, friends, delivery drivers and now I'd like to add NHS heroes to that list.

As a nurse in her day, a midwife if memory serves me right, Mary was a wonder to all who met her. She was devoted to her family and remaining daughters, my own mother included, have been dragged up well by all counts, and will continue without her to moan to.

I have often wondered if it was a family trait. A learned behaviour. Selective hearing. They all suffered/continue to suffer from. Perhaps? Grandad Peter had it. Actively selective. he could turn his hearing aids down or off without you noticing, like some sort of silent/prefers silence ninja. Often until I turned up. An injection of testosterone to even out the stifling oestrogen in the room. Auntie Sue was a nurse her entire career too so it must be in the blood, a continuation of the caring Mary we all knew and loved.

She didn't make it to 100 to get her telegram from the Queen, but she got an Xmas card wishing her magic and miracles from Will Smith for reaching 96 and I think that is basically the same thing!

"It pains me to leave you, but I'm ready to go and be with the Lord" is one of the last things I ever recall him saying.

If the world had more Marys and Peters then we would be in a more resilient position during crises such as this. If you have one choice, choose to be kind. Choose to help others, without the need for plaudits, choose to be a Mary or a Peter.

If somebody has fallen, reach out your hand to help them back up.

Please #bethedifference #bevanillaist

Happy Birthday Mary doll!

Click on the video below to see the thank you to the QEUH I have just uploaded...

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