A Scottish wedding and a Swiss sojourn

A wedding in Glasgow, uniting Malaysian and Scottish families, the Ongs and the Macphees.

I HAVE just returned from two long-awaited family celebrations, which had taken part in far-flung off places – one, a wedding of a niece in Glasgow Scotland; and the other, an overdue visit to my sister in Zurich, Switzerland.

It had to be done in a period of two weeks as due to my current capricious health issues, I needed the aided assistance (especially with luggage and at the airports) of my son Dylan and his wife Felicia.

Plans were already afoot for more than a year for the wedding of my brother Prof Edmund Ong’s youngest daughter Emily to Stuart Macphee in Glasgow, Scotland.

I had also planned to visit my sister Edrea in Zurich, whom I have not seen in a number of years as well.

The columnist (left) and his siblings (from right) Edwina, Prof Edmund, Edric and Edrea.

I haven’t travelled long-haul long distance by air since before the Covid-19 pandemic; the last time I was in Switzerland was in 2016.

We flew Malaysia Airlines from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur to catch the Emirates flight to Glasgow with a layover at Dubai. The journey took 15 hours, with a two-hour transit in Dubai.

Flying westwards is always fine as we would gain time and seldom have I ever had any jetlag at destination.

Airport terminals, however, have changed so very drastically in the past seven years.

The number of passengers has increased many folds – it’s as if they’re all taking to the air now in sheer vengeance for having been cooped up over the two-plus years of the pandemic!

Imagine the masses of bodies all offloading off full-capacity aircraft and dispersing into the many newly-opened boarding gates to board into other flights going elsewhere.

This was happening at all the airports that we had landed at – KLIA, Dubai, Glasgow, Amsterdam, and Zurich.

Certainly everyone seems to be able to afford long-haul fares ranging from a minimum of RM5,000 from point-to-point of less than five hours: as an indication, we had paid almost RM8,000 round fare for our tickets per person, with Emirates being considered one of the more reasonably priced carriers.

Within the airport terminals, if you’re changing flights and aircraft, there was the hassle to go through security and even take buses or change buildings, which could take both long walks and lots of time.

If you do travel, please ensure that your allowance time period for any layover would ideally be at least two hours to allow for this – any flight delay of more than an hour would certainly jeopardise your onward journey.

We had arrived to a somewhat sunny, yet slightly wet and very chilly (it was 12 degrees Celcius) Glasgow.

Members of the Ong and Macphee families at a bistro in Glasgow, the night before the wedding.

I had gone to Edinburgh in 2011, for Edrea’s 60th birthday. We had spent a week enjoying the Edinburgh Fest in August that year.

Our serviced apartment was ideally located right in the centre of the city, and we could frequent the supermarket to buy groceries to cook our own breakfast. The currency exchange rate when we had arrived was £1 to RM5.84.

For those who drink, a mug of ale or beer in the pub costs £4, equivalent to RM23.36, with which you can get six cans in the MJC ‘kopitiam’ in Kuching.

On Saturday, July 15, Emily and Stuart’s wedding was blessed in the Troon Old Parish Church, a beautiful quaint and typically Scottish church, and the reception including dinner and ceilidh were held at the Lochgreen House Hotel, a beautiful old mansion resort by the seaside where we were lodged.

We were greeted by bagpipes playing at the church’s entrance and a bridal train, which had included my young grandnephew Cedric Tian-Kai (son of my niece Lynette and Tobias); and Chloe (Coco) the daughter of another niece Claire Gremli and her husband Clifford Binder.

They had done their duties beautifully.

On the day preceding the wedding itself, we were all treated and honoured by a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, which was set up in a special function room at the Lochgreen Resort, with my wife Doreen being the emcee aided by son Dylan and daughter-in-law Felicia.

It was for the newly-welcomed Scottish side of the family quite the experience to behold – not sure how they had felt about having to give away angpows to the bride and groom though.

Just kidding!

I must admit that although I had found the thick Scottish accent of the new in-laws hard to ingest and translate, when it came to the youngsters giving their speech, especially the best man, I was totally blown away – might as well be Greek to me!

Anyway it was all good, and at the end of the night after dinner, we were treated to a proper full-blown ‘ceilidh’ (wedding with Scottish folk music, singing, traditional dancing and storytelling) from Bahookie Scotland’s No 1 rock ceilidh band.

The newlyweds had left for their honeymoon in Costa Rica by the time we had flown to Zurich next to visit Edrea and her family of Lynette (Lulu) and Tobias, and Claire (Clairo) and Cliff.

I have always loved Switzerland, and this was my sixth visit since the mid-1980s.

When we landed, the weather was perfect at 20 degrees Celsius, all warm and sunny.

The overall aura of the place has not changed – the people, the traffic and the ambiance. There were many new buildings erected after 2017; the traffic was slightly heavier, but in all other ways, nothing much has changed.

They must be the most stable nation on earth! (Oh yes, did hear about the Credit Swiss being now taken over by UBS).

It was almost 8pm when we reached Edrea’s residence at Uetikon, on the hillslopes facing Lake Zurich and about 12 minutes to the city centre. It was still bright sunshine (it got darker by 9.30pm) and we had dinner/supper on her front lawn under the shade of the tall trees.

The temperature had only dropped a couple of points by then. There were neither mosquitoes nor houseflies nor bugs to contend with – the grass was finely cut and one could actually walk barefoot in and around the house if one wanted to.

Even the air smelled clean and crisp – there was quietness suspended in the air with the slight whiff of the scent of some floral plants or herbs floating about.

“This is the life!” I was thinking aloud.

The columnist in a selfie, with Lake Zurich in the background at his sister’s hillside residence.

Plans were afoot for the next few days. We were to have dinner at Lynette’s on a Thursday night, and on Saturday, Doreen and I were to cook a ‘by-request’ Ong family dishes for all.

Cliff had kindly taken the week off to be our tour guide.

As Cliff also part-owns a vineyard, which he had taken me to in 2017, I wanted to make a second visit but there was nothing new happening then.

Besides I’ve already had my share of visiting such places (in Glasgow, we had visited the Auchentoshan Single-Malt Distillery there, which was quite the experience).

So mostly it was food, places and some shopping. A day trip to Luzern was also in the programme.

Dinner taking place in the garden of Edrea’s residence in Zurich.

I’ve actually seen quite a fair bit of Switzerland from my past visits, even managed to stay thrice at Klosters, the alpine resort where then-Prince Charles and Diana used to frequent, and other popular sites in the countryside.

As age creeps up upon one, when we travel, we find that personal bonding and time spent with each other over small and trivial matters, or just sitting together and shooting the breeze, beats any scenic view or new foodie experience; although during our younger days, it was just go-go-go and always be on the move, onto the next location or the next new experience.

After a while, personal and human relationships are the values and the truisms that last and will be remembered as we sit rocking away on our chairs, or lie in bed looking out at the stars and reflecting on what life has taught us and what we have come to love, honour, value and respect.

I shall end with this lovely passage I found about life and happiness: “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life.

“Be happy now.

“Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future.

“Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savoured.” (Earl Nightingale)

I shall treasure these moments that we had all spent in the company of one another in Scotland and in Switzerland; and to my traveling companions, my gratitude and love always.


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