Making sense of terror

Congratulations to Misty – today is her 10th Birthday – a milestone in any doggy life. According to a certain dog food manufacturer her age equates to 56 in human years. They take into account the dog’s age and weight to calculate the correlation. It has to be said, though, that she is definitely a senior in years. We celebrated with extra cuddles and a walk in one of her favourite places.

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How does one sum up what a dog means to its human companions? Any dog owner will tell you of the laughter, the precious joys of becoming close to a puppy and the daily sheer stress-busting presence of a doggy-person I would hesitate to call a pet. They take us out for a walk and out of ourselves when life is taxing. We simply love them to bits. We can stroke our dogs and feel the warmth and heaviness of their bodies close to ours and somehow we breathe more easily.

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Social media has been full of videos and stories about animals these last ten days or so. I think it is as an antidote to world events. The attacks in Paris and elsewhere have shocked and dismayed all reasonable and caring people. To be honest I have been thankful that I have not had to get into the pulpit and try to make sense of what has been happening. It is hard to understand any of the mindset that leads people to blow themselves up whilst causing as much damage and heartache to others that they can. One of the most important things is that we guard against becoming so frightened that we are driven into discrimination and thoughtlessness towards the moderate Muslim communities which form part of our culture. That would be to let the extremists win, for their goal is to alienate and bring forth anger and reaction instead of the principles of tolerance, peace and love.

In waiting to comment I have been able to be calmer about the awful scenes that join us in our living rooms and haunt our minds. However, the relatives and people who have lost loved ones must be hurting so much that we cannot expect them to be part of the call for tolerance and calm. Those who are left to mourn and those who are left to shake with fear at loud noises are the same people who need us to look after them now. And doesn’t the same kind of compassion need to be brought to bear on the situation with the refugees who end up fleeing those same horrors and coming to live in amongst us? In my part of the Highlands a group of Syrian families have been brought to rest and recover and I hope and pray that they help us all to understand the evils of Daesh as much as we help the settlers to understand that they are safe.

For now – I am going to go and give Misty a hug.
Blessings from Dalamory.

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Prisms and Orthoptists

Since my last post I have seen an Orthoptist – to be honest I had never heard of such a thing, in fact since the problem with my vision has gradually been getting worse I have been on a fast learning track, finding out about all types of eye specialisms.  It turns out that the orthoptist is the one who works with someone who has sight problems caused by things like stroke, TIAs, diabetes, glaucoma and brain injury, as well as dealing with correcting squints and such like. The medics are saying that my problems are due to the mini-strokes and are now at the stage of trying out different options.

I have had a temporary plastic prism fitted to one lens of my spectacles. Amazingly, this has reduced the problem whilst I am looking straight ahead. Turning my head to the side still results in an amazing plethora of images and the horizon still wobbles about. However, I was so excited that something was giving an improvement that I couldn’t sleep on the first night after seeing the specialist.

What actually happens is that the prism bends the light inwards towards the other eye so that the brain can resolve a double image into one. It can only work within set parameters so it is not a cure as such, but it does mean that life is not so confusing. Happily, I am now able to watch TV clearly for the first time in months. Even the colours look brighter.

I think the next step is to check on progress and to incorporate a permanent prism of the right size into my everyday glasses. I’m not quite sure how that will work out but am happy enough to wait and see. My next appointment is for early December so at the moment it looks like there is a crack across the lens in my glasses. If I am honest, I am still getting very tired presumably because my brain is having to try and make sense of the varying images and distortions, but things are improving.

It is very helpful being able to look this up online though it produces as many questions as answers. I am going to take the advice of a friend and write down progress, queries and so forth, and use this as a guide to speak to my orthoptist friend next month. Many thanks are due to our NHS for persistence and thoroughness in checking that there are no other hidden causes.


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Been East

This is one of the reasons I enjoy being away in the motorhome. The other one is that the housework is done very quickly.
The pitch was right on the foreshore at Crail, in Fife, so not only could we see the wildlife, we could also hear the waves. Lulled to sleep at night (and in between) and gentled awake in the morning. Magical. Near high tide a whole flock of cormorants flew in to balance precariously on the rocks along with oyster catchers and curlews. Presumably the birds were lured by the prospect of plenty of fish as the rock pools filled up and then the fish were stranded as the tide receded. On our last day the usual gaggle were joined by two eider ducks.

On one of the days we visited St Andrews -there have obviously been many changes over the last 25 years or so since I was a student there. Every time I turned a corner I expected to meet people I knew, but of course they were all in my head. The town is still pretty, and looks as if it means business due to the schools, university buildings, Halls of Residence, golf courses and multitudinous eateries of every taste. The only difference was that the students all looked about 12 years old. A serendipitous phone call meant that we were able to meet up with Son #1 and entourage for lunch. After that – it felt like old times.

I had to hold onto HBTW in order to be safe navigating the streets – my vision makes it hazardous to be around traffic and uneven pavements. However, it is perfectly possible to indulge in retail therapy with double everything on view. in fact, I can feel a little shopping coming on soon. Being on the 2:5 regime has meant that I have gone down by three to four dress sizes – though I hardly wear dresses these days. Methinks I need to visit an actual shop to try on trousers for fit. It’s too complicated to order up and return multiple clothes from online vendors.

It’s funny – when I restarted my blog I thought I would be concentrating on the great and the good, or the worthy and the meaningful. The fact that I am tending to talk about sunrises and wildlife and housekeeping would suggest that in fact I lead a very little life. There is no longer the weekly struggle to make sense of a text for the pulpit – (I mean for a congregation . . . . . . ) – indeed to be honest I would find it hard to tackle today’s big issues. Things like immigration, asylum seekers, violence of any kind, politics, capitalism . . . . . . .  and so it goes on and on. How on earth did I every manage?  I suspect, not as well as might have hoped when I graduated from St Andrews. And yet I carry something of the ethos of that time, for which I am truly grateful.

Maybe I shall leave the big questions for another day.
Blessings from Dalamory.

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Autumn Gold

A number of years ago the Scottish Tourist Board ran a season of advertising called – Autumn Gold . . . . . . .  That is what it feels like being in Scotland at the moment. We are just coming to the end of a period of several weeks of dry, sunny, frosty weather . . . . .  the results are all around us. Breathtaking.

IMG_1299Walking with Misty has become a delight of sights, smells and sounds. No wonder our friendly hedgehog has started to visit. He / She now comes to the front door around bedtime and obviously enjoys the food on the menu – it disappears fast. HBTW has discovered that a medium-soft boiled egg scooped out of the shell and mashed up, makes a delicious looking gooey mess. Prickly, is amazingly unfazed by dog, bright lights or our excitement – Misty just gives said hedgehog a wide berth. We are hoping for a photo opportunity in due time. Hopefully we can help him/her to put on much-needed weight to help out with the period of hibernation.

B2015 AutumnoakDays like these work wonders for the soul. This year has been so much about the Golden Times. . . . . . Shorter days, Yes, but long enough to savour the recreation that retirement brings. Some days I feel a touch of guilt about being so indolent – but it doesn’t last long. After all, walking is highly necessary for health. It doesn’t take much to persuade myself that doing nothing much is allowed.

I wish I could bottle the sense of well-being that comes with an autumn walk and share it. There are so many people I know who could do with a boost. Apparently the Scottish National Trust have been using google technology to photograph walks through their land. Up mountains, along paths, beside waterfalls and all in 360 degree splendour. People who can’t walk up hills and over rough land will be able to enjoy, in part, the experience of being out in the country.

Come to think of it, I am very often in need of some autumn gold myself. As I get older there are days when I feel a bit fragile. (It takes quite a lot of courage to admit that. Stubbornness, I guess is the reason.) The latest medical problem is diploplia – a fancy name for double vision. Investigations so far are suggesting that mine is linked to the number of TIAs or Transient Ischaemic Attacks that I have had over the last ten or eleven years.  There are still more tests to do, but in the meantime the specialist indicated that it was preferable that I do not drive. I had kind of worked that out for myself, though I am hoping against hope that something could be done to make driving safe for me.

If I get down all I have to do is to close my eyes and visualise the hedgehog or think of the autumn colours all along the river.

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Blessings to you and yours from Dalamory.




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Animal doings

B2015 HedgehogfoodTake a guess what this is?  The straightforward among you might say that it is water or maybe vodka or maybe gin, and possibly marzipan sweets or boiled egg. But – the glass is overly large for spirits so it is probably water and if it is a snack then chopped up egg is the most likely. You might also fear for my sanity or wonder if there is a miracle of birth at 71 coming along. On second thoughts, nobody would think that – except perhaps somebody who has had a clutch of children and is getting well into their dotage.  Ahem . . . . . . . .

Does the next photo help?

B2015 HedgehogsetupDead of night – the shadow gives it away. HBTW (Him Behind the Wheel) is pouring water into a shallow tray. Aha! whatever it is cannot drink out of a glass. So if it is not escaped monkeys, dexterous pine martens or squirrels then the chances are that it is food fit for a hedgehog. Indeed that is the case; we have in fact been seeing a happy little hedgehog shuffling about the garden during the dark evenings. This is the time of year when these delightful little animals need to stock up their fat reserves in readiness for hibernation next month. I have it on reliable information that they like hard-boiled egg. And appropriately sized helpings have been disappearing. A whole egg is too much – it seems that about a third of an egg is about right.

So much for our friends the slug-eaters.
Misty has been in a photo-shoot as well.

New tartan collar – not always easy to photograph. And brand new raincoat. (Excuse the background, when taking pictures of Misty it is a case of grab your camera and grab your chance when you can. Moments don’t last long.)

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Diva dog

Version 2

Misty has had an afternoon of pretending to be a Diva Dog. She has effectively outworn her fourth collar – there have been two puppy-sized and two adult-sized red ones in her lifetime, but then she will be 10 years old next month. She will now be sporting a tartan collar in predominantly red. I haven’t yet photographed her in it as she has indicated that it needs to be worn in a tad.

We have a box of doggy odds and ends in the cupboards underneath the food store and I am a bit ashamed to confess that on investigation I discovered that there are a total of 8 new collars of various sizes and designs therein. It looks like we have gone through the Oh-dear-this-collar-is-just-about-falling-to-bits scenario followed by a not very successful trip to the pet shop for a replacement.

I am now in the process of looking for a new raincoat that she will like and will do the job. Our autumn weather is usually rather wet. Let’s face it our spring weather is wet, our summer weather is certainly wet and and our winter weather is either wet or snowy and windy. The difficulty with cairn terriers is that though they are tough little dogs, they are very low to the ground so are susceptible to the aches and pains caused by the cold and wet. We perhaps should whisper the next bit – Misty is getting a little bit less agile and needs plenty of TLC.

Don’t we all!

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End of sabbatical

Version 3

My six-month sabbatical has come to an end and I am getting myself into more of a routine for autumn and the computer activities that come with impending winter. Lest you think I have been off travelling somewhere exotic or holed up on a tropical island let me put paid to that. This, being our 50th Wedding Anniversary year, we chose to do a grand tour of friends and family – often in the motorhome, always with Misty and inevitably with a bottle of bubbly or two. So there have been barbecues, hot-tubbing, concerts, meeting new people and generally having fun. So – no time for the poorly blog which has languished here unattended and largely unviewed.

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Excuse the poor quality of the scanned photo but here are The Happy Couple cutting the cake made by a friend. It was a very small gathering of a dozen guests. When we got to the hotel it turned out that they had forgotten we were coming. Just as well then that we were so few and that they could rustle up a good meal in what seemed like no time at all.

Memories of the day are like snapshots in my mind: a face that was sore from grinning; a bouquet trembling in my hands as my uncle walked me down the aisle in the church;  the Minister’s kindness; the drive to Loch Lomond in the pouring rain; a feeling of having come home. And thereafter a few days honeymoon in Argyll, the county where we are now enjoying the retirement we thought about all that time ago. There is a photo I would love to share of the two of us side by side – we really do look like children. Unfortunately the scanner has taken against it, so that’s something else to sort out.

A confession now. Setting up this blog post has taken me over 2 hours. Apple have updated their operating system to Yosemite which has taken some getting used to, and of course I have been hopping and skipping through life instead of sitting in front of my trusty imac. I find myself somewhat deskilled, simply by a combination of factors. What I am sure of is that it is worth keeping going with the technical side of life. Over this summer we have seen the advance of computer-speak, as it were; bank cards have become touchy feely, indeed all you need to do is wave them near the appropriate terminal and money up to £20 a time is whizzed from your bank account. (Memo to self, keep my wallet away from counter tops.) Apple TV is another innovation – it does lots more than is on the box. New phones are getting more and more tempting and digital cameras are a whizz.

Hopefully, this is me back in the world of blogging. I want to catch up with blogging friends from all over the world and make the most of my faculties while I have them. It really is true to say that if you don’t use it you lose it. One question for anyone who does find their way here – is there anything you would like me to blog about? My tastes are quite eclectic, but I freely admit I get terribly anxious about many of the wrongs in the world. I’m not really sure whether worries are better ignored or shared. But I don’t want to spread sleepless nights or alarm abroad, as it were.

It’s fun to mither1 on herein, therapeutic in fact, so thanks for reading and please do share your thoughts and ideas. Blessings to all from the wilds of Argyll.

1, “mither” an old Scots word used by my Granny to mean fussing on about something, rather like a dog with a bone.
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Easter Treat

A Tea Dance – a 10yr Anniversary of being retired treat. (10-ABR)

The dancers are all away dancing!

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Special Day

Today is a special anniversary – one which helps me recover from the fact that the Birthday Month is well and truly over, (for another year.)  Today, I have been retired for 10 years. That I have lasted as long is a great delight and somewhat of a surprise.  The original Consultant Doctor who told me to “re-think” my life was obviously not expecting such a healthy recovery, and to be honest I cannot believe how quickly these last few years have whipped past. Providing I take life at a relatively gentle pace I am well enough to enjoy most activities. . . . . . . . .   not hang-gliding of course, but walks in the countryside and pottering about are fine. I like to think of these elder-years as being golden years, and I realise how fortunate I am.

So I have come up with a good idea.

How about a 10yr-Retirement Anniversary Month?

That means more treats, more adventures and absolutely no guilt. Come on Misty, where shall we go?

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Many treats

B2015 AshbudsThe Birthday Month is nearly over again – in fact the birth date itself has long gone. Here are some of the Treats in the past nine days.

  • Picnic by the Crinan Canal looking at the buds nearly ready to open out
  • Afternoon tea in an organic restaurant: – Earl Grey from a pot
  • Watching The Proposal again on dvd – a real feel-good film.
  • Walking by the river in the sunshine
  • Reading a novel in a day and a half and not feeling guilty.
  • Pretty birthday presents in small boxes
  • Nearly managing to dance the Salsa
  • Helping to tidy HBTW’s computer space – Yes, really, this is a treat!

And this evening it is Dance Class again, only this week we will be concentrating on ballroom rather than Latin. There is a countdown involved in getting ready to go out, which is watched rather suspiciously by Misty. First of all, out come the silver dancing shoes to be packed, along with a bottle of water. Next comes choosing the “outfit” – black trousers, t -shirt and floaty top. . . . . .   all designed for comfort. I doubt I could manage a so-called ballroom dress. It is difficult enough with one and three quarter inch heels.

After the necessary ablutions and getting changed comes the real challenge – putting on some eye make-up. To think I used to wear this every day . . . . . the secret being for it to look as if one was not actually using any at all. The trouble now is that I need a 6 x magnifying mirror to have any chance of getting any approximation of subtlety. If my hands are still steady enough I find a pair of drop-earrings . . . . the final touch. Then, we leave a mournful little dog and set off the 300 yards or so to the Community Centre. There is something about the combination of exercise and music that lifts the mood. There is also the tendency to forget the steps, trip up, tread on one another’s feet and collapse in laughter. Any wonder I call it a Treat?

The whole of life can be about searching out the little happinesses. In fact it is a good way to live. A combination of enjoying life and recognising it. As a Minister I am only too well aware of how suddenly happiness can be swept away. Indeed the recent plane crash in the French Alps illustrates this all too starkly. And I tend to focus on the negatives in life far too much. Politics tends to depress me rather than invigorate me, in direct contrast to HBTW. Poverty, injustice, violence, war . . . . . . .  so many problems. But then there is the beauty of the daffodils coming into flower again as promised.

I hope you see the happy things in life today, and if that is too hard, know that the prayers of others will be there for you at times when there seems to be no hope.

B2014 Daffodilsvase

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