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Here's to a very large amount of moderation

PERSONALLY, I don't care much for herring.

It's too slippery and I don't trust any creature with rubbery bones. Hence my reason for voting Yes in the referendum.

However, once, many years ago, I saw commercial merit in herring. In those days, when I was more imaginative and had hope, I mooted the idea of creating herring fish cakes and fish fingers for mass production.

It was my firmly wavering belief that folk would buy these by the lorryload on health grounds and that I'd be able to pay off my creditors and perhaps even buy a car with wheels.

Alas, I have always lacked two things in this cruel torture called life: capital and gumption. So I gave up the herring notion, along with another idea, for turnip-flavoured crisps.

I mention these short-lived ideas by way of introducing the subject of longevity, prompted by reading in the Guelph Mercury, a Canadian paper, about a Dutch woman who lived till she was 115. This column is nothing — and I'm coming under pressure to stop the sentence there — if not cosmopolitan.

The reason Henny van Andel-Schipper ascribed to her longevity: herring. She'd have bought my fish cakes, I'm sure, as I'd anticipated Holland as a major market. Or was that the mackerel-flavoured marijuana?

I don't read the Guelph Mercury every day, but it turned up in my fearless research after I read about a Herald reader who'd turned 100.

Mary McLullich, of Tayvallich near Lochgilphead, is having a birthday party this weekend to celebrate reaching 100. What's her secret? Moderation.

Not so long ago, I'd have looked upon that as grim news and would probably have got moderately sloshed to try and forget it. However, as wisdom slowly infiltrates the brick wall of my brain, I see that the moderation mantra might have merit.

Only this week, I reduced my coffee intake from seven cups a day to three, and these with only half-spoonfuls of instant. Ladies and gentlemen, in a surprise development, I've been sleeping like the proverbial koala bear.

So I believe Mary's moderation beats Henny's herring as sage advice. Of course, some people have no time for longevity. But most of us are keen to see the match go to extra-time, before that myopic referee in the sky blows the final whistle.

Moderation isn't as easy as it sounds, though, particularly when you're young and want to drink and eat as much as you can, often to the sound of unrestrained whooping noises.

Then there was the politics. If the ideals of my youth had been implemented, most of you would have been imprisoned. As indeed would I. Or was it that nobody would ever be imprisoned? We were never big on detail. But enough of the 1980s Labour Party.

Today, young people in Scotland, while vigorously energised by the referendum, have impressed me deeply with their moderation. Perhaps it's because they're just asking for normalcy in their country. But they have no rancour. They talk about their hopes and organise around art and social events.

They're always smiling in their pictures. We were always scowling. You'd take any of them home to meet your daughter or son, whereas you'd have kept us away with mantraps.

I suppose their ideals will be dissed come September, and they might turn bitter or sour like me. But, while an independence debate would hardly be necessary in normal countries, it'll run for 100 years here.

I don't know if I'd fancy sticking around for that. Nor will I get the chance. Herring and moderation aside, longevity is in the genes and, if you decoded mine, they'd say: when you get a minute, Rab, write your will.

I never knew either of my grandfathers. Both shuffled off promptly. The grandmothers and parents didn't do particularly well either.

An article in Arab News says you have to eat blueberries, spinach and other tripe to live long. But I do all that already and, apart from the depression, feel no different to when I ate pies.

Ach, what will be will be. And what I will be having for tea tonight is herring. But only a moderate amount.

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