Tattie Howking

Its Baltic. I scrape the ice off the pharmacy van, ready for a shift. Suns just coming up, dazzling. Check: juice, apple, headtorch all there. Short days in Scotland in late November, dark by 4. An I’ll be on til 5 at least.

Turns out a glorious day, everyone loves a sunny day, wants a blether. “Stay warm” I tell the auld yins. The chat turns to the past, something I’ve noticed over the past year as pharmacy driver: “cant remember what I had for breakfast, son, but ask me about my childhood…”. Today its tattie howking.

October school holidays were for tattie howking. Kids would lift the potatoes from the farmers field. “Aye son, they had a Clydesdale horse and cart and we used to fight over who would go in the cart”. Hard work, sore back. I worked at Hillside Farm in Dunblane, now converted into luxury housing.

The auld dear continues “I mind the farmers wife would walk down the hill with a tea urn in one haun, pieces in the other”. She says the family was Bryce and it was near the old station?

Later on, theres an old boy, hauf blind. Hes watching the racing, won 2 out of 3 he says. Started work in 1946. I try to compute that. 1946!” Stay warm, I tell him, its gona be minus 5 tonight. ” Thanks, son”.

I’m wearing my Russian hat. Got it in Russia when I was over for the football in October. Rabbit fur, our Shitzu loves it. The auld yins love it. “Love her hat, son” they cry ” ye look like a Russian!” One auld dear (Glesca) is in stitches, she shakes uncontrollably the poor soul but she loves the hat, claps her hauns..” aw you’ve made ma day son”.

It’s good for the soul this job, good for the soul. I deliver to the house next door to where my gran used to live. Shes remembers my gran, my mum too. I tell her we went to grans in 1977 for a Scotland match, the night we qualified for Argentina: a colour television! It was probably 8 inches wide…but colour!

It’s dark and I make my final deliveries. A bar of tablet! Back in the high street pharmacy, I share it out. It’s good, we’ve done our shift and are winding down, clearing up – the weekend ahead.

Ah, the weekend ahead….

PS This is for the girls (and boys) in both pharmacies. They keep me right.

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