When I first arrived at Heathrow as an eager 18 year old ripe for adventure, I was part of a group bound for Enrichment at Oxford. To help us overcome our jet-lag, they herded us from plane to coach and on to Windsor Castle. I got out, had a look, realized we weren’t going into the castle and went back to chat with the coach driver. I have no memory of the castle itself, only that I was tired and wanted to stay with the coach and that I liked the driver.
So my experience of castles was limited to an elementary school field trip to Casa Loma which isn’t even a castle. Stirling has a proper castle. Set up on a hill, it was not difficult to find. We didn’t have a map but figured if we just kept walking uphill, we’d get there eventually. After a few rest stops along the way, we came to the castle grounds … and the stairs. My poor mum, still a bit wobbly from her fall, looked at those stairs as if they were Everest.
But my mother is a very determined woman. She once quit smoking for two years and was apoplectic with rage for every waking second of those two years. (She returned to smoking when there was no improvement after two years. And the sun emerged from the storm clouds to everyone’s immense relief. There are very few people who I think should smoke but my mother is one of them. The elevated blood pressure that accompanied the fury of her non-smoking phase would have killed her far sooner than the smoking ever could…) So yeah, the stairs were no match for my mama.
Now that she has retired, she has quit smoking again and is in her second year. She is not on a perpetual rampage, which is fantastic. However, within a couple of months of quitting she began having a lot of difficulty breathing and she wheezes after very little exertion. She is extremely annoyed by this as she had been in the habit of rising early and taking a long walk each morning. The wheezing won’t allow her to walk for much longer than 15 minutes and often a lot less. The combination of not smoking and not being able to get as much exercise as she would like has resulted in her gaining some weight which only exacerbates the problem. Woe betide the person who wonders aloud what recommendations her doctor might have made. Her doctor makes vaguely soothing noises but has no answers. Nevertheless, she continues to not smoke and for the first time, I think she might have the butts beat! Go mom!
And also? I quit smoking the morning of our flight to Edinburgh. So … lots of fun. But there was no escaping it. Crazy rage lady would have emerged if I smoked around her and I could not have hidden it effectively enough. Besides, even though I desperately wanted cigarettes a lot of the time, it was more than usually difficult to be grumpy while wandering through a beautiful old city or an impressive castle or even sitting on a train through lovely countryside. I had a choice between travelling overseas or smoking and there was no contest. Now that I’m home, though….