Yesterday, my brother Ian visited West Yorkshire for an overnight stay at our mother Maggie’s home on the Leeds/Wakefield border. The journey from his home in Gateshead to the threshold of the maternal residence around two hours in duration. A sojourn taken on the Pelaw to Newcastle Central Station Metro train, Newcastle to Leeds locomotive, pedal boat*** and taxi.

*** – The pedal boat wasn’t an essential element of the odyssey. However, our kid finds it hard to pass Roundhay Park lake without first taking a ride on the Sammy Swan paddle wheeler.


On his arrival at maters home I was busy utilising a weeding stick, part of preparations for garden maintenance the pair of us were due to undertake later on Saturday afternoon.

For the uninitiated, a weeding stick is……. well, a stick utilised to dispose of weeds. The manufacturers clearly not wanting to spend much of the products development budget on thinking of a moniker for the tool. Failing to underpin its marketing strategy with a more inspirational brand name; a glorious label such as a Dandelion Destroyer or the Burdock Blaster.

I became aware of Ian’s arrival when mum opened the garden patio doors, yelling “Did you know our Ian’s at the front door, Gary?” I was slightly confused why, instead of allowing our kid access via the front door, she first felt it necessary to leave him at the door, walk to the house rear, open the patio door and inform me of the situation.

Anyhow, after a slightly longer than scheduled wait on mum’s front doorstep, my younger sibling was granted access. Not that Ian was fazed by his wait, possibly a consequence of the fifty-something man’s euphoria levels still elevated following the earlier pedalling of Sammy Swan.

It was great to see the sibling two years my junior. An affable, caring and selfless man I’d not seen my lifelong best mate at all in 2019; our only contact in recent months via a weekly phone call, texts or social media postings.

On seeing each other in mum’s garden, my brother and me embraced, exchanged greetings and he commented “If I’d have known you’d plans to get me gardening I’d have stayed home.”

Before I had the opportunity to respond, mum swiftly interceded with “We know!….. That’s why we didn’t tell you!”

However, mater’s and my subterfuge didn’t genuinely perturb Ian, who went on to put in a heavy shift of garden maintenance. Digging out scores of weeds from the borders where my cardio rehab nurses have advised my not to tread….. Well, dig!

Due to Maggie’s second eldest offspring’s horticultural endeavours, the woman we nickname Perchy**** now has borders of brown alkaline soil bereft of unwanted self-seeded plants. Thankfully, our Ian knew enough about flora and fauna to ensure his cull only incorporated unwanted plants.

**** – Perchy a nickname I coined in my mid-teens for mum. Sadly, unlike my brother Ian’s long-standing nome de plume of Cheesy I can’t for the life of me think how the pseudonym manifested itself.

Following the conclusion of his hard graft in the backyard, Cheesy cooked a splendid dinner for the three current residents of chez Strachan senior. I’ll be honest and admit I’d no idea how flavoursome cuisine could be when infused by fingernail soil and gall mites.

Seriously, though, after washing his hands my best buddy prepped and cooked a delicious dish of chicken breast in a mustard, garlic, white wine and creme fraiche sauce. Accompanying the main course with sides of new potatoes, salad and home-made salad dressing.

During the meal, Ian, mum and me debated on a spectrum of subjects. These including religion, world politics, sport and how our Ian wanted Sammy Swan to replace Theresa May as prime minister.