AT THE weekend our granddaughter rang to say she had some sad news for me. And sad, indeed it was. She was telling me that Steve Robertson, one of the splendid Scotland the What? group, had died.
I’ve been an admirer - yes, a fan - of STW? for years. I freely admit bias, but the trio has given me more laughter and pleasure, over forty years, than any other Scottish comedy act. Bias, of course - we share north-eastern roots and were 1950s contemporaries at our alma mater, Aberdeen University.
Sadness at Steve’s death was deepened with a sense of guilty regret. For some months I had been meaning to write to him in gratitude. The letter wasn’t written and now the opportunity has gone; a good intention has been frittered away.
My would-be letter of thanks had an amusing background - in one of STW?’s most memorable sketches, The Sleeper. There, Steve’s character is on the Aberdeen-London overnight train, having a miserable journey, sleepless, foodless, drinkless and, eventually, trouserless. Two years ago, on BBC Radio 4’s Prayer for the Day, I used the sketch as a trigger for a thought and prayer. I later discovered that Steve had made a most generous reference to that broadcast in his delightful book about Scotland the What?
This week, in the Christian calendar, we enter the season of Advent. Even amidst the clattering and crazy preparations for Christmas, Advent is offered as a time for quiet reflection on what the fuss is really all about.
This year I’m certainly thinking afresh of the need to act on good intentions, before the moment passes. To remember those I may have forgotten and neglected too easily. To lighten the way for those whose path is burdened in darkness. Whatever one’s Christmas faith or doubts, each human being has the spirit to add to the light of the world.
And I cheer myself with a merry image. At the door, it’s not dear Steve Robertson saying for the umpteenth time, “Are ye nae comin’ in?” It’s St Peter speiring Steve.