Spring Catch Up

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This has been a week for being out and about. Spring has come and almost gone all in the space of a few days.  After a lot of faffing about we decided on a change of car and that has resulted in several Days Out getting used to it. We have been able to put aside the loss of the campervan and enjoy the relative freedom to go on smaller roads.  The photo above is of Loch Eck and you can see that the leaves are not even on the trees yet. The last few days have seen a difference, so the canopy of green will come soon. I’ve heard a cuckoo, another woodpecker and seen sand martins, so all bodes well.

Catch up:

  • The dreaded visit to the dentist went really well.  HBTW confessed he had never properly realised how nervous I was of any dentist, and as he had made the appointment he felt quite badly. However, I managed fine and was suitably reassured.
  • As well as a rural outing we did some retail therapy at a Dobbie’s Garden Centre. More to look than to buy, though we succumbed to some kitchen equipment in their hosted Lakeland outlet. The main point of the journey was to get an electric sonic scrubber to clean round difficult areas in kitchen or bathroom. Guess what? They had sold out.
  • Dance Class seemed to be more energetic than usual; what with the Cha cha, the Samba, the Quickstep and a Waltz my hips felt as if they belonged to somebody else and my knees felt as if I had left them at the dentist.
  • Household chores have been left undone for the last fortnight – Oops.
  • We had an unexpected visitor and caught up on all the news. All the better as there was no preparation to do except to add in another burger and some extra oven chips.
  • New project on the go is to think about how to write my Memoirs. That sounds terribly grand, but it is not really the case. I was interested in an article in a magazine which recommended organising one’s thoughts to leave as a legacy for coming generations. I have enlisted some help from a member of the second next level of family, so that there is someone with a listening brief who can try to keep me on topic. As you, Dear Reader, will know, I have a tendency to wander off into the byways of the mind.
  • Oh yes – I’ve been enjoying all the documentaries about the Queen who was ninety this week. She has been Queen since I was eight years old so has been the kind of background to most of my life.

Right – that is you more or less up to date with what has been going on in Dalamory. I do hope things are good for you and yours. I would love some ideas and thoughts on sharing memoirs and stories of old, particularly if you have had a go at writing your own.

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Tidy dog and other things

B2016 MistyheadclippedCome April I don’t so much think about April showers as I do about Tidy Dog. After the long months of winter the time comes when E of the travelling-groomer-fame comes to Dalamory. She is a talented and delightful person who adores animals, so I fail to understand why our little animal starts to shiver whenever the mobile salon pulls up to the house and gets plugged in. It’s all so attention-seeking, because apparently Misty is extremely good while the clipping and bathing happens. And you should see the delight afterwards – she runs and skips and preens and generally seems to say by her very demeanour that Spring is definitely here and we should go somewhere immediately so that she can show off her new look. For the sake of clarity, this all refers to Misty and not E.

The whole household benefits from this twice-yearly event. Us Oldies are smitten anew with the Little Girl, and it is not long till we devise some kind of doggy-centred outing. We are fortunate in this area because there are so many wonderful places to explore.  We all enjoy the oakwoods at this time of year as it is great fun to listen out for the hammering noise of the woodpeckers.  These birds only occasionally come to the garden feeders, but judging by the sound of them there are plenty around.

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B2012 BlackmountlochI’ve been seriously considering having a post-Birthday-Month extra time for treats this year, but to be honest it would be excessive because I have done very well for extras this year. Instead we shall celebrate the brief interlude of Spring and if any extra happenings occur during this time then all well and good. No doubt, Blog Reader, you will hear about them as and when they happen.

I’m having to face a new dentist this month, so with my kind of reasoning that means a compensatory something, perhaps along the lines of Pooh Bear’s honey jar.  The Story of Two Dentists is still in the making. Let’s just say that the fees of my dentist since 1997 have been increasing year on year and the recent take-over of the practice has been the last straw. HBTW suggested I switch to the newly refurbished practice he attends, and register myself as an NHS patient. More to follow . . . . . . . .

Thus life plods on in what I often think of as the Golden Years. These are times when I am well aware of the blessings of our little, ordinary lives. And I don’t mean that in a belittling manner, I am only too well aware of how often life can go pear-shaped for people. Much of my time as a Minister was spent in trying to make sense of the sorrows and tragedies of peoples’ lives. I guess that is why you’ll often get the odd snippet of bile in these posts, mainly when I think about injustice and violence. Having got that off my chest, I leave you with the blessings of Spring, hoping that all is well in your part of the woods.

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More Treats

B2016 OrchyriversmallWhat a wonderful treat to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and admire the view – and all within five minutes of home. I’ve not done too badly this week and am pleased to have found a replacement for the wind chimes – not perfect, more a work in progress, but what that does mean is that I get to look at gift shops for a while longer. There is always a way to work things round to best advantage. That is one of the things you learn as you get older. Or perhaps that should be something about second childhood. Either way I can’t believe how quickly March is passing by, every day seems to be turbo-charged. Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to me. I am in a kind of slow down and look around mood. Thoughtful is better than being called the Melancholic, as one of my readers dubbed me.

The Birthday, itself is now over and I thoroughly enjoyed getting lots of comments on facebook – must remember that when it comes to wishing other people Happy Birthdays. There are 9 days left to fathom up treats, today’s is to unwrap a Willow Tree Angel of Miracles and place her next to a companion near to where I sit and dream dreams.

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It is hard to dream happy dreams when the world seems to be in such turmoil. The terrorist attacks in Maiduguri, Ankara, Istanbul and now Brussels are horrific. . . . . . . so many lives ruined and so much misplaced violence.  The prayer, here, says what is both an entreaty and a way of thinking about terrorism that is helpful.

People who are not closely involved have to find ways to make sense of their lives in the face of extremism, and I believe that one way is to combat negativity with a determination to pray actively and then to live well. That involves helping others as and where we can.

What do you do to keep on living well?

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Three Mothers

B2016 ScanthreemothersYou had no thought of me, for this is well before I was born. You look so happy sitting being cuddled by your smiling mother with your big sister on the other side of her. It looks like you are on the beach, though your sandals look too flimsy for sand. So you had your carefree frivolous times too. I like to think of you being glad. I wonder who was taking the photo, perhaps Grandpa, your Dad, your favourite so you always told me.

Gran was always especially kind to me, as if she knew that the effort of having me had all but wiped you out. But let’s not think of dark days on this day before Mothering Sunday, instead let’s imagine your life in the early 1930’s. Treats beside the sea were all too rare. Your father’s life down the pit didn’t leave much time, and in those darkening days before the War you must have taken your fun where and when you could.

Did you ever dream of the future? I wonder if you thought of a pair of dark eyes, a quiff of brown hair and a slim white shirt tucked neatly into a pair of slacks? I know he mattered to you, for I was the one who found his photo tucked into the back of another one in the family album. You told me his name one day and said he cheated on you. Then your eyes looked into the distance and you sighed. I was scared to ask any more questions. But I do know he was not my Father. My Father made you sigh more and more as the years went by, then you cried, then you shouted, then you cried some more and he was gone.

You died in 1992 full of tears and sighs. I am older now than you were then and when I am having a fragile day I often think of you. But things are going to be different. When I remember you – on your birthday, or Mother’s Day, or the day of your death – I am going to remember your own grey eyes and the happy face on the beach, there for always with your special people.

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Birthday Treat today was bathing Misty. She really enjoys a warm to middling hot shower. And another treat has been to find and think about the above photo.  My Mum is the one in the polka dot dress on the right. My Gran is in the middle and her oldest daughter – my favourite auntie is on the left.

Happy Mother’s Day thoughts and dreams to everyone.

B2011 Snowdropcrocus

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Marvelous March

B2016 GlencoeThis is a special month in more ways than one. Firstly, it is the month when spring begins. When I was growing up I was told that my birthday (21st March) was the first day of spring. However, things have changed and the astronomical day of spring is widely used (20th March.)  The second thing about March is that the light comes back with a flourish at the end of the month when we put our clocks forward by one hour. Thirdly, and of most note in the Dalamory household, is that March for many years has been celebrated as my Birthday Month. That means as many treats as I can dream up, the more innovative the better. The pressure is on year by year to think of special, but inexpensive treats, often outings like the one above – to Glencoe. It is just a taster as it happened at the end of February but it shows you the type of outing that I thoroughly enjoy.

I can’t think of Birthday treats without remembering all the trips in the campervan, so this year needs more effort than usual now that it is gone. Any ideas will be gratefully received. So far I am working along the lines of more than I can possibly manage:

  • Retail therapy to include new trousers and a neutral shade of body warmer.
  • Catching up with Family and Friends
  • Lots of outings with Misty
  • Visiting craft shops to find a replacement set of wind chimes to replace the one that has been blown to bits in a hooley.
  • A weekend away to stay with friends, to include lunch out somewhere nice.
  • A Chinese takeaway – see above.
  • Spending some time learning to do pastel sketches – (I have a how-to book.)
  • A new pair of dangly earrings.
  • Clearing out the garage. Yes – that would be a treat. But I might just direct operations.

Perhaps that is enough for now, after all there does need to be room left for spontaneity. And just to start me off, here is another photo from the lochan near Glencoe village.

B2016 GlencoelochanMarch Blessings from Dalamory . . . . . . . .

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End of an era

B2014 CampervanblogOne thing I have learned throughout life is that things change. In fact I’ve always considered myself fortunate in that I usually enjoy change and even thrive on it. However, this is a sad post for me as it concerns our dear old motorhome. Those are appropriate adjectives – the dear and the old, for it was showing signs of wear and was costing more and more to keep it roadworthy.

Of course the dear and the old apply to myself and HBTW too.  We have found it increasingly difficult to do the cleaning and maintenance. When the Other Half took it upon himself to scale the ladder and balance up top for cleaning, I more or less had to stay out of the way as I couldn’t bear to watch.  We waved the campervan goodbye last week, with the hope that someone fitter and more agile would be able to do the necessary.

It has been a most enjoyable 12 years of travel, holidays, visiting family and having Days Out. During that time we have got around a lot, including the following:

  • An autumn trip through the Yorkshire Dales
  • Northumberland
  • All the way round Ireland
  • Somerset, Chester and Bath
  • A week near York
  • Right round Scotland in various stages
  • Regular trips to Ayrshire, Nairn’s Sunshine Coast
  • A holiday on the Isle of Mull
  • Kintyre
  • The Mull of Galloway
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . and many more than I can remember right now.

In the process we had several accidents, though none of them serious or involving other vehicles. The main problem was that there was a tricky overhang which could cause trouble when going on and off ferries. Contact with the slipway kinked or broke the waste water pipe (from the grey water tank,) on more than one occasion.  Eventually HBTW had a brainwave and got our local plumber to re-route the pipe so that it was further forward. There were no more incidents.

Colonsay sunriseWe have camped in the snow and sat and watched many a beautiful sunset.  And we haven’t seen all of Scotland yet, so I am hoping we can still continue to travel – though it will be in a more sedate fashion. B&B’s, hotels, lodges, static caravans . . . . . . all of which need to be dog friendly for you-know-who.

B2011 MistybabyMisty has travelled in the van from being a very young puppy. Truth be told, she has made the whole experience even more fun.

B2011 MistyhomeoctShe was sad and a bit confused to see the campervan drive away with a stranger at the wheel. And as to the emptying out of the said vehicle on the previous day – well, I really should have taken a photograph. Where on earth did all the stuff come from? There were blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, cushions, dishes, pots and pans, art materials, books, tins and packets of food, and a multitude of tools and things we carried “just in case.”

Most of it is packed away or assimilated into the cupboards in the house or garage. Some friends helped by taking a whole load of gubbins to the Charity Shop, which was much appreciated. At the moment there are a couple of (difficult) boxes to tackle and after that it will be a case of scouring the internet for some likely places to visit. No wonder friends think of us as having itchy feet.

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Come to think of it, maybe change is good when it comes to the later part of life. There are projects galore to think of doing round about the policies, as it were. And new ways to enjoy a change of scenery are not beyond us. The most important thing is to have a flexible mind and not to get stuck in a rut. Moving out of one’s comfort zone is no bad thing. Thus, I look forward . . . . . . . . .   now where are those suitcases?

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Gender Equality

2012 TalltreesThis will be post #2735 which I found hard to believe. I was playing around with the admin side one day and discovered how to go back to the beginning, so I have had many a happy half hour re-reading posts of long ago. I started to write towards the end of 2003 – the early offerings were little more than a paragraph or in some cases a sentence. More like a comment on life, a brief anecdote or even a tweet. The sorts of things we might put on facebook these days.

The early years cover a time of my life which was quite difficult for me, though it was clear I was pretty good at covering things up.  It could have been that I had a glass kind of half full attitude. In any case, I have found it salutary to reminisce over what I was thinking at a time when I was working and then  through a  period of illness leading eventually to retiring early at the age of 61. The posts remind me of how hard it was to come to terms with retirement.

There have been 4314 Comments to date and these have been retained along with the text of the entries. Unfortunately the photographs from the early days have become corrupted and lost. Of course nowadays, blog posts in general, have evolved into longer commentaries on life or even short essays on topics important to the writers, which brings me rather nicely to the point.

Over the last few weeks I have been absorbed with reading different views on equality, gender and Islam. I’ve tried to look at the whole question of Women in Islam from a neutral point of view, but have discovered that even academics tend to favour one polemic or another. I have to be honest here and say that I find myself pulled from one idea to another and end up none the wiser. As someone who woke up to inequality between the genders in the late 1950s it has taken me a while to include within this the whole range that is nowadays encompassed within the definition of gender.

At first I thought that Do Muslim Women need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod, an academic immigrant now based in the Netherlands, would be impartial, but she is so keen to prove that Western Governments should not interfere in Islamic countries that she has her own bias inbuilt. And The Caged Virgin, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is keen to promote the view that Islam urgently requires a Reformation now. This latter book has a recommendation by Salman Rushdie but I found myself struggling to maintain objectivity. As I am not in the market for a degree or research into Women’s Studies in Islam I just have to content myself with reading as much as I can, online and in newspapers.

During my historical reading of my blog I found a post in November 2005 at a time when the world was absorbed mainly by the Taliban. It seemed to encompass some of the thoughts stirred up in me by all this research. In particular, I still find the poem written by the victim, incredibly moving – so I am reprinting it here. I would be really interested to here any of your views, even if you simply cannot engage with the subject at all. (And thank you for reading this far.)

From Dark Flower: by Nadia Anjuman

There is no desire in me to open my mouth to sing
Whether I sing or I do not sing, I am condemned to be hated
What should I say about sweet things when I have bitterness in my mouth?
What should I say about this cruel blow to my mouth?

I am caged in this corner, full of melancholy and sorrow,
Thinking that I was born for no purpose and must keep my lips sealed
I know that it is spring and a time to rejoice
But my wings are closed and I cannot fly

I dream of the day when I open my cage,
When I put my head out and sing a Ghazal with joy
I am not weak like a willow that shakes in a breeze
I am an Afghan woman and must wail.

 

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Island wife

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It is a while since a book has gripped my imagination and inner world the way that Island Wife has. The author Judy Fairbairns beguiled me into a world of countless possibilities yet all with a dash of wisdom and common sense. That is not to idealise the book into sentimentality, merely that I want to explain why I am giving it a nine and a half out of ten. It is one of those books that one doesn’t want to put down and yet there is also a longing not to come to the end.

That explains why I would give it a nine out of ten. A nine and a half even. . . . . .  Now to give you a flavour whilst at the same time avoiding the sin of spoiling the narrative.

I should own up to the fact that I relate to this autobiographical adventure cum love story in a special way, mainly because I lived in the Outer Hebrides for almost ten years. Years when I watched my four sons grow happy, healthy and confident in near idyllic conditions. We all like to identify with either a character, a place or an event in books. It is what makes them unique as a way of sharing with others in the world. The adventure that is setting out into marriage, parenthood and learning new skills is one with which it is easy to find common ground, and so a conversation is set up internally with the writer. Whether you identify with one of the Oldies or long to be like a butterfly emerging from the chrysallis of childhood I defy you not to be moved.

At times I was intrigued, worried, excited, tearful and empathetic. I even found myself getting cross with some of the players – but the whole point is that I was never ever bored and certainly not unengaged. My difficulty in writing this review is that I hope you might get the chance to read the book, so I don’t want to reveal the twists and turns of a life. For this is a story wound round Judy herself. And Judy is more than a survivor, she is clearly someone who grasps life and twirls it round your heart and soul.

So, there it is, a review that says far less about the topic than I would usually divulge. Let me know of any books that help to make sense of your own journey

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Monochrome

IMG_1552The world is now more monochrome than wet. Wet is to come I suppose, when the snow melts. For now, the garden looks more like a Christmas scene and Misty dog is dancing about as if she is 10 months old rather than 10 years.

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I wasn’t quite up to making a snow angel myself, in any case the snow is not yet deep enough. I’ll store that away for the wish list later on. However, the walk outside in the crisp air did brighten me up sufficiently to think about a new Things to do before . . . . . . . . list. Of course I’ve missed the Before I’m seventy – It’s nearly the birthday month prior to being seventy-two; and Things to do before I am eighty has a kind of other-worldly feel to it . . . . mainly because I cannot imagine being eighty.

It seems somehow kind of frivolous to be thinking like this, what with all the troubles in the world, the government, wars, terrorism, famine, politics in general, austerity, cuts in particular etc etc. However I plead the excuse that several readers have questioned my mood in my blog posts over the last few months. Of course I am only gradually feeling my way back into more regular writing and like many other bloggers I am struggling to find my new position in this new world of social media, twitter, instagram, the cloud and so forth. Some bloggers are fast establishing themselves as niche journalists and the best (or is it the most annoying and persistent?) of these tend to be picked up by newspapers who are increasingly looking for free copy.

So with that out of the way I make no further excuses about the hopefully lighter mood of this post.

First things first – and over to the A retiree’s list of things to do – originally, this was Things to do before I am sixty – and I updated it along the way. So the new one is rather different in that it reflects the reality of where I am now. It is going to be called Ever onward in the present. (Unless it changes before I get round to writing it.) It is going to include some of the following.

  1. Learn to do the tango all the way through without forgetting the steps.
  2. Make a snow angel and take a photograph of it.
  3. Tidy the study to reflect present interests.
  4. Sort some stamps just to enjoy the designs and photos.
  5. Spend adult time with adult grandchildren.
  6. Laugh with younger grandchildren and yes, their children too.
  7. Stop fretting about things I can no longer do. Let’s face it, driving the campervan is aff.
  8. Be proud of myself for reducing weight and being a healthier BMI
  9. Laugh every day.
  10. Pray God’s Blessing for all the broken places and hurting lives.

There – as I said, a start.  What sort of things would you put on a list? And by the way it works for any age.

 

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New Year Resolution 2016

Web MistysnowywalkHogmanay has meant the customary house cleaning – and an emergency call to our plumber. Thankfully, it turned out to be a condensation problem. So I gave myself a talking to for being uptight over a few ruined bathmats, when thousands of people are totally submerged under feet of dirty water. The solution for us is going to be a small amount of extra lagging on a few feet of copper pipe. We are indeed fortunate – especially as the local plumber was willing and able to turn out within 5 minutes.

On a more philosophical note, I turn to other things. As usual at this time of year I have been thinking a great deal about my Gran. She lived until 1976 and never had a television. She was kept busy doing her crochet or knitting or walking to the shops to hunt for bargains in brightly coloured wool or yarn. I’ve been a bit limited in what close work I can do, because of my double-vision, though I suspect that such an inconvenience would not have stopped Granny, for she could crochet and knit in the dark simply by feel. Her fingers were gnarled and red but they flew back and forth as the needles clicked and clacked.

One of the problems highlighted by this afternoon’s incident of finding the unexpected puddle in the hot cupboard, is the way I get so anxious over the simplest of things. I have been assured that this is the result of the TIA’s as is the diplopia.  Despite being aware that anxiety is a symptom and not a fault in myself I still beat myself up for not seeming to be able to control it. Somehow I tell myself, this has to stop. What better time than Hogmanay? I have tried many a time to think it all through – especially relating over-anxiety to faith, or the lack of it. And I find myself remembering a lecturer at university who tried to instil in us some sense; his premise was that no-one is super-minister/vicar/priest/whatever. One of his favourite phrases was that we should never refer to ourselves in a way that started with I should / ought / must . . . . . . . .  In other words, the advice was not to load ourselves with unrealistic goals.

To be honest, one of the things I learnt through my first job, was that it was useful to lower my expectations of myself and others. Looking back I wonder whether this was not the result of a difficult time trying to please too many people as I learnt the tools of my trade, as it were. Let’s face it, we learn as we age that it is impossible to please all the people round us all of the time. If we manage to please others some of the time, then we are doing well. Come to think of it, this could be applied to our politicians, after all surely most must start out with the urge to make things better.

OK – maybe not, though I like the honesty of some of our elected representatives who are willing to accept that they don’t always get it right, but will try to do better. Come to think of it – these ramblings might have reminded me of some strategies which might help me achieve at least the partial resolution of my problem.

Being an older citizen has its perks. After all we can lie abed, get up in the middle of the night, watch tv or gravitate towards the computer whenever we feel so inclined. I can even plead the onset of old age and illness for my anxiety disfunction. The fact that I choose not to, has to be progress of a kind. So here is the New Year Resolution for 2016 – when overwhelmed with anxieties and the urge to run around saying, Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army, take a deep breath, step back and say, Stop! 

If I can manage to intervene in what has become a psychological loop-in-the-brain, I have a good chance to change things. If the worst comes to the worst I can resort to my blog to have a grumble or to share whatever aspect of life is getting to me. I hesitate to say, Watch out. . . . because you might not come back to read or share your lives with me.

All that remains is for me to send Blessings to readers and friends and to wish you a portion of common sense and good luck in making, or not making New Year Resolutions of your own.

 

 

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