It was Alexander Pope who wrote the ninth beatitude – “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” And Robbie Burns who a hundred or more years later penned the immortal words –“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley; An’ lea’e us naught but grief and pain, for promised joy.”
I make no apologies for linking the two – or for using Burns un-modernized because I believe that however “gang aft agley” is pronounced it’s meaning is clear; even the best prepared plans can be derailed by fates unexpected fickle finger. At such times those expecting much launch into a spiral of disappointment, feeling “naught but grief and pain for” anticipated joy” while those who followed Pope expecting nothing remained untouched in spirit by sudden fateful change.
So, there we were, experienced travel partners planning another trip to flee the rigors of Christmas, New Year and a venerable birthday celebration. Instead of an endless procession of family gatherings we would flee, as we have fled before, and celebrate quietly while cruising south sea waters while someone else plied us with gourmet food, did all the cooking and, far more important, all the cleanup operations home festivities demand.
On December 14 we had tickets booked for flights to Los Angeles where we would spend four days lolly-gagging in a five star hotel and finding shady spots on Long Beach sands. On December 18 we would board a cruise ship and head for Hawaii. Christmas, New Year and my 92nd birthday would be celebrated on board.
It would be the perfect holiday.
But, ah, yes, there’s always a “but” isn’t there? – My partner Anne had a routine eye-check appointment due to be kept about the time we were sailing around the Hawaiian Islands. She asked if it could be re-scheduled.
December 9 was agreed on and Ophthalmologist Dr. Malcolm Orr murmured as he checked the right eye “I don’t think you’ll be travelling for Christmas” as he diagnosed a serious bacterial infection and ordered a rugged anti-bacterial eye-drop solution – one drop every 60 minutes during waking hours “and come back tomorrow.”
On the 10th he reported modest progress with the antibiotic but strongly recommended cancelling travel arrangements until it could be declared the infection had been defeated. That afternoon – our plan “gang afta gley” – I requested our travel agent to strike our colours. We shall be home for Christmas waiting with everyone else for the next gale to subside; New Years Eve we shall retire after watching Jeopardy which we refer to as “the late show.”
We shall continue subdued rejoicing because as Anne said when she got the travel ban news: “That was lucky break to ask for a change for my routine check. It would have been horrible to have discovered a serious eye infection half way across the Pacific – or worse in Los Angeles.”
So, even when things “gang aft gley” we should be able to find a bright spot
My 92nd on December 27? The less said about that the better. I just intend to keep reciting Pope’s Ninth beatitude for the next two weeks and thus avoid all disappointment.