Kerry and the Missionary

Kerry aged 18 snuggling with the beleaguered boyfriend

Kerry aged 18 snuggling with the beleaguered boyfriend


The title of this anecdote is suggestive, as is the tale… When I was 19, I was very annoyed with my first serious boyfriend. He had asked me to marry him and I accepted but I am not sure we were really engaged; just young and in love. It was a tumultuous relationship, mostly because of my bad behavior. On this occasion, he had to study for his architecture exams and he suggested that if I stay at home all weekend he would visit if he got an opportunity (we had no telephone). I was incensed at the idea that I was at his beck and call, so packed my rucksack and went off alone for the weekend, youth hostelling at Loch Lomond. My mother was given instructions to tell him exactly where I was. We had recently got back together and one of the conditions was that I remain faithful. As soon as he said it and I agreed, I knew that it was a lie.

I got on the train to Balloch and hiked the 5 miles along the loch side to get to the youth hostel. It was spring so it was almost full. Girls and boys had separate dormitories and I was sharing my room with a group of people who had Down’s syndrome, including the little girl in the bunk above mine. She was a Chatty Cathy and I had great fun with her. In the kitchen area I spotted a group of young men and women and heard their American accents. I got chatting to them and the leader of the group was a handsome young man in his early 20s. They were a Protestant Missionary group traveling through the UK. I was a little perplexed because I had been brought up in a strict Roman Catholic family and two cousins were missionaries with the White Fathers in Africa. Were they trying to convert us? The Leader, let’s call him Joel, because I can’t remember his name, was fascinated by my history (an American brought up in Scotland) and frankly, obviously fancied me.

Perhaps sensing the predatory danger of a young cougar, he told me that the all the members of the group remained celibate until they married (and that included kissing). Surely he noticed my pupils dilate with the anticipation of the hunt? He asked me what I was going to do that evening and I told him I was going to walk a mile or two to the lovely bar/restaurant/dance hall on the shores of the loch. Despite the narrowed eyes of the female members of his group, he insisted that he should accompany me because it was pitch dark and potentially dangerous for me to go alone. Who is the cougar in this tale? I politely acquiesced, so I didn’t embarrass my chivalrous Lancelot. As we walked to the bar, he told me that he didn’t drink alcohol either. When we got there, I ordered a whiskey and he asked if he could taste it, “Sure”, said I. Several whiskies later we were up dancing various Scottish dances. I should have felt guilty about leading him astray but he was having a wonderful time. Finally, we had to head up to the hostel before they locked the doors.

It was a beautiful, moonlit night and you could see the Orion constellation above us. Suddenly, he grabbed me and kissed me very passionately. He kept saying that he shouldn’t be doing this but that didn’t stop him. We stumbled and laughed all the way up to the door where the Warden was waiting to lock up. Halfway up the baronial stairs (the hostel had previously been a stately home), he kissed me again before he went to the boy’s dormitory. Lights were out in the girl’s dormitory but the little girl with Down’s syndrome must have been out in the hallway as we came up the stairs. She asked, “Is he your boyfriend?” “No, go to sleep”, I replied. “Why were you kissing him, then?” Fortunately, one of her group leaders told us all to be quiet and the inquisition stopped.

The next morning I woke up with a whiskey hangover, feeling guilty about seducing the missionary and being unfaithful, yet again. Sheepishly, I went down to breakfast and bid good morning to my lover and his missionary group. The girls glared at me and he looked guilty. Only he and I knew what had happened, however, so it was going to stay a secret. Until, that is…my little bunkmate came down for breakfast and announced to the whole room that she saw Joel and I kissing on the stairs last night. I blushed furiously, as did he, and I made a very swift exit. In those days you had to share the chores of cleaning the hostel so I did something suitably penitential like cleaning the toilets before hiking down the road home.

I shared all my stories with my hip, single mum and she was delighted with how naughty I had been. She was suffering from Schadenfreude because she didn’t like my architect boyfriend. Inevitably, our relationship fizzled out some months later and he never knew about my American Missionary (unless he is reading this now and will realize what a lucky escape he had). Every so often I think about Joel the Missionary and I hope he enjoyed his fun dalliance in the moonlight before he married a much more suitable lady. Just in case the Missionary is reading this, “Hey Joel, if you have a Mega Church now and are really rich, click the follow button”.

The Surprise at the Wallace Monument

I borrowed this free image which shows the hill below the monument (full of surprises)!

I borrowed this free image which shows the hill below the monument (full of surprises)!

Many, many years ago I was addicted to youth hosteling all over Scotland. That was the start of my travel bug… I went with various friends and sometimes solo but on this occasion I was with the two girlfriends who became my bridesmaids. We all lived in Glasgow and decided to stay at the Youth Hostel in Stirling. It was a lovely youth hostel in the center of the city and we had easy access to antiquities such as Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. A couple of years before we had been on a school trip to the Wallace Monument and had some fab photographs of us dangling our feet over the edge with bell bottoms on. There is a long steep windy path up the hill to the Wallace Monument. I Googled it to remind myself of the history and was astonished at the changes. I don’t remember either a coffee shop or a bus up to the tower? Maybe it’s the menopause… http://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/the-monument.html
Briefly, William Wallace is a Scottish hero with his defense of Stirling in medieval times and the monument commemorates him and also gives a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside. I am sorry I am not more excited about this but I didn’t enjoy Scottish history at school and don’t get me started on the inaccuracies of Mel Gibson’s ridiculous portrayal of Braveheart. Anyway… we three friends, about 16 years old, were at the base of the hill leading to the monument. There were now public toilets and one of us needed to use them. She came out a few seconds later, appalled that they were charging sixpence for the privilege of using their restrooms. Bear in mind that there are very few public bathrooms in the wilderness of Scotland and we had been used to squatting behind bushes on previous hiking trips. We laughed at her but she insisted that she could go in the bushes further up the trail. About halfway up, there was a bench and some nice thick bushes to hide behind. Our friend went into the bushes and we sat down for a rest. A few minutes later she came running out, screaming with her trousers around her ankles. We were panicked, not knowing what the problem was. Eventually she calmed down enough to tell us that she had squatted down, placing her hands on the ground to balance herself. Unbeknownst to her, another miserly person had the same thought as her and had dumped something solid on the ground and her hand squished into it. Through our hysterics, we managed to pull her trousers up and fastened them (she couldn’t do it because of the disgusting mess on one hand). The punchline is that she had to spend sixpence to both wash her hands and urinate in the appropriate place. I am sure there is a wonderful moral in this tale but really it’s just gross and funny.