We’d been looking forward to it for months – a chance for the whole family to get together for the first time since 2019. In the end 19 of us gathered at a holiday home in Argyll, within shouting distance of the west coast. As the lone Scott I was outnumbered – like the lone Lawson – by 17 Muntuses. Not that I minded.

The weather was not our friend – it rained almost the whole time, though for the first couple of days lightly enough for a little outdoor activity. That meant a relatively easy hill walk at the Benmore Botanical Gardens, with a view from the top somewhat veiled by mist and rain clouds – followed by a somewhat tougher hill walk just outside the house where we were staying, to investigate the source of our water. (A natural spring.)

On both occasions I was fit and well enough to climb as far and (almost) as fast as everyone else. Which – as several people remarked – wasn’t bad going for a man pushing 70 and fighting terminal cancer.

But then – and for the first time – my stoma started acting up. And believe me, diarrhoea when you have a stoma is a whole new experience. I was convinced I hadn’t packed the tablets my team had given me for precisely such an event. Right up to the moment, about two days into a truly shitty experience, when I found them exactly where they were supposed to be. By then the condition was well established and stayed with me – off and on – right through the trip.

Rosemary and I still took the opportunity to explore Argyll’s allegedly ‘secret’ coast, making the most of a brief spell of clear weather. And very lovely it was. And on the last day we’d booked a meal at The Lorne in Dunoon for the whole family to celebrate my upcoming 70th, Rosemary’s even more upcoming 75th, and 33 1/3 years of marriage. (We’d missed out on celebrating our 30th anniversary thanks to the wonders of lockdown. Strangely enough we thought the prohibition on parties might actually apply to us…)

It was a joyous evening, and the staff at The Lorne didn’t seem to mind our somewhat noisy gathering. (Greatly enlivened by some of the younger grandchildren…) But the following morning, just as we were leaving, my digestion took its revenge, and I had to make an emergency trip to the loo to deal with the messy consequences. Inevitably our farewells were somewhat perfunctory – something which came back to haunt us.

For the next few days, as planned, we spent time with Deb Rohan, one of my oldest friends (and a fellow enthusiast for all things Old and Middle English – among many other shared delights). We enjoyed an Impressionist exhibition and a trip to Rosslyn Chapel, but then learned that our sister-in-law, Wilma, had been admitted to hospital with a chest infection. Because she had a number of serious underlying conditions the hospital said that in the event of cardiac failure they wouldn’t resuscitate – so we drove straight back from Roslin to visit her.

She was clearly very ill indeed, and barely conscious (if at all), so we were shocked but not entirely surprised when we learned of her death just two days later. She was a beautiful, loving person, and her passing leaves a huge hole in our lives. God rest her beautiful soul.