When is Autumn?

B2016 ApplesontreeThey are getting bigger everyday. And there are nineteen of them. The above is one of those presents that brings special pleasures every year. Son #3 gave me this apple tree a number of years ago. The only trouble is that the presence of these beautiful apples makes me think about Autumn – again. No matter the fact that the Autumn Term has started in Scottish Schools, in my heart summer is June, July and August; while autumn is the latter part of September, October and part of November –  the time when the leaves turn gold and start to fall. That is what comes of having been brought up in the South of England. And I have never got used to HBTW‘s attitude of Autumn being in August, because in southern England temperatures are still in the twenties centigrade. I know that the opposite is true in the north of Scotland, but I feel like stamping my size four and a half, and shouting, “Oh no – summer can’t be over already.” Still, this is what happens every year after our Wedding Anniversary – I should be used to it after 51 years.

So I suppose that rant is over and I can go with the precious summer days that are in my heart. At least I can today, because it has been a warm sunny day with swallows still swooping and peacock butterflies lazing on the wildflowers.

B2016 FredaStAndrewsWe have been making the most of the weather to enjoy several outings. This was a day out in St Andrews, spent along with reminiscences of my time there as an undergraduate – rather a mature one, but someone who was pleased to make the most of the gift of three years of study and research. It was a busy time and I knew at the time that it would pass all too quickly. To be honest, I looked forward to being qualified and becoming a full-time Parish Minister. The only thing that really surprises me is how quickly the years have gone since I have been retired.

B2016 RobinGlebeGardenIn fact, we don’t have to go far for days out. The above is Himself with a glass of lemonade in the Community Garden. Less than a mile away from the house. Other treats and outings have included the following:

  • A day to the Kelpies at Falkirk.
  • A tour of Fife on a wet day.
  • A few days spent with Son #1 and his family and the Olympics on TV.
  • Loch Lomond and a picnic at Luss.

Time seems to rush past and I am grateful for the health and energy to be able to enjoy living in such a beautiful part of the world. On wet days I dream about all those indoor pursuits I am intending to catch up on; there is the ongoing task of writing up my Memoirs – it is coming on slowly because I keep getting diverted into ever more detail. Housework is not quite at the bottom of the list, but dusting is never a priority.

B2016 KelpiesAfter all, who wouldn’t rather wander round these iconic sculptures than stay indoors with a mop and a duster?

If asked to sum up this rambling blog post, I reckon it would be about making the most of the latter days of summer, though in truth we would do well to always make the most of the here and now whenever possible. I spent so many years writing sermons that I am tempted to go into the range of possibilities of all the things that come along, good and bad. But this isn’t a sermon, and the last thing I want to do is to preach at you, Dear Reader, what I want for you (and me) is more happy summer days and a gentle acceptance of the crisp beauty of autumn, when it comes.

I just don’t want it to be too soon.
Blessings from Dalamory.

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Positive vibes

B2016 BettyJaniceSandyIt was a fine day as far as I remember. I was eight years old and sitting in the back of a car. That was unusual enough, because our family had no vehicle and we only knew two people who did. We were in a neighbour’s car and I sensed that this day was one I would remember all of my life. Funny how such a young person can know momentous when it is simply there before them. I looked out of the window at the blue-grey sea and saw the ship sailing down Southampton Water. My Aunt and her two children were on the vessel bound for the other side of the Atlantic. They were sailing away to a new life, looking forward to joining my Uncle in Canada.  I felt lost, missing them already.

They had spent the last few weeks with us, waiting for confirmation of an embarkation date. It had been a special time, especially as I was an only child; being one of a gang of three all of a sudden was a revelation. Auntie B was my Mother’s older sister and during those few weeks there was more laughter ringing out than I had ever felt in my short lifetime. She devised special tasks and games for us three children and we somehow knew we were blessed. After the potatoes were peeled – the mainstay of any meal in the 1950’s – we were all allowed to stand round the basin and peel the peelings all over again. I can remember self-righteously saying that my Mummy would have peeled the peelings so thinly that  there would have been no chance of peeling them all over again. My cousins looked at me pityingly and my Aunt simply laughed knowingly.

That was the essence of the difference. My Mother was the serious one, always worrying, always trying to scrape the last bit of margarine off the paper, always wanting to make things right. Yet, even she melted in the midst of the sunshine of Aunt B’s smile. There was a softening and a whole summer – or so it seemed – of visits to the playpark, picnics in the garden and dancing to the tunes on the radio. Of course, Auntie B was full of the knowledge that she would soon be setting off to join her much-loved husband. . . . . . . and a new beginning in a new land.

There were tensions around the enlarged family that summer, possibly to do with the younger sister seeing evidence of a love of life that she had somehow lost. My poor Mother had married on the rebound; her decision to marry my Father was to mean moving away from home – Scotland – going 400 miles south to the big metropolis that was London. Unfortunately her marriage was clouded by stresses that I could not even begin to understand. In the main, she focussed on a wish to return to her homeland, and I guess that this featured in the evening talks the two sisters were able to have whilst my Father worked late. There would have been comparisons drawn between Auntie B and 3500 miles distance and the relatively easy commute between Glasgow and London.

No wonder it was such a significant summer.

Over the years, the Canadian cousins became five – four sisters and one brother. Letters were the only means of easy communication, and my parents split up and eventually divorced. In the fulness of time Aunt and Uncle came to Scotland for a visit, spending time with my Mother and then with my own family. Perhaps B’s example helped us on our way to growing a family of four sons. The youngest was only weeks old when the Canadians came to the backwoods of the Outer Hebrides. How we landed up there is a whole other story, and at the rate that my Memoirs are coming on, I may never get it written up. B was still the special person I remembered and her spouse was as complicated and charismatic as ever.

Over the years and now into the internet age and through easier travel, the Canadian cousins feel very much part of my life. The photo above, taken aboard the ship in 1952 was sent to me recently by one of my cousins. I cannot possible overstate the joy it gave me. Somehow it filled in a gap and showed me how my memories squared with reality. Sadly, those two sisters born before World War II are no longer with us. Their legacy remains.

When I posted at the end of June I was much occupied by Brexit – the vote to leave the European Union – and the shock it had engendered. Politically things have been changing fast and furious. This beautiful photo has been like an antidote. Much needed and greatly appreciated.

May you find your own form of positive vibes.
Blessings from Dalamory.

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Sunset to soothe the soul

B2016 SunsetThis sunset is an anonymous one – to be honest I can’t even remember where it was taken or when. My suspicion is that it is out of the front window at Dalamory and judging by the lack of leaves it might be winter. So why put it centre-place on my blog today? I have the feeling that a lot of people in Britain are feeling bewildered, confused and upset – as many as those who are triumphant, relieved and empowered. The papers and news media are wall to wall with analysis and downright mischief and unless I switch off from it soon, I shall end up ill. The sunset is an illustration that the world is still a beautiful place.

If that sounds a tad dramatic, then please excuse me. You see I have been very quiet on the blog front, in the main because I have been getting more and more disturbed at the tone of the campaign to leave the EU. It is such a momentous decision that I ended up thinking it would be better to write about it after the vote. Then, when the result was that we are to leave . . . . . . . . .  well to be honest I was absolutely gob-smacked. Excuse the language. But – it is a totally unexpected outcome, one which I never even thought likely. Of course, Scotland had an overwhelming result to remain part of the EU. But – the way that democracy works we are supposed to mutely accept that the great majority have voted otherwise and so shall it be.

Scotland being Scotland, things are not quite like that. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has already set in motion the permissive legislation that would make a second Referendum on Independence possible on the grounds that there has been a significant change in circumstances. I listen to all the arguments and counter-arguments and start to get all wound up . . . . . . .   and then pick up the crochet squares to make some more blankets for charity. I pray that bridges can be built and fences mended and that Scotland will be able soon to build the kind of society where everyone is valued and looked after, one where resources are shared more equally. If that sounds like a Utopia, I make no apologies.

Blessings from Dalamory.

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The Essence of Retirement

B2016 BenmoreRedwoodsIt is a truism that people often say, “I don’t know how I ever had time to work . . . . .”  The days slip by so pleasantly that I find myself thinking the same, however, this past week is a good example of how time can be expanded to achieve goals and objectives as well as treats and fun-time. My main concern right now has been to actually sit down at the computer and get writing. Perhaps I should say Writing with a capital W. I think it has been a surprise to those who know me, that the promised book has never appeared. Today I found myself explaining to someone how eleven years of retirement had passed me by with very little to show for it, other than the blog posts and a few facebook entries.

Retirement was thrust upon me due to ill health. I’ve told people that so often that it kind of trips off the tongue. But the point is, that now I am feeling better than many a long year. Ok I know that could be seen as tempting fate, but it is worth saying it again. I have space in my head to gather thoughts and form words and actually get serious with my trusty computer. And it is a lot more healthy than concentrating solely on newsprint and other media, especially with so much vitriol and nastiness to add to the awful fact of war, violence and crime. I know it is important to be well read, particularly with the decision we all have to make in the UK about Europe and the EU, but. . . . . . .. life is about good things as well as difficult and dark things. I know several people right now who are determined to make the best of really hard situations. The least I can do is to write the wretched book I have been promising for years.

Of course, I expected to write the grand novel, the one that everybody is supposed to have in them. But a bringing together of memories for those close to me, is every bit as good. As well as being easier. For instance I sat down today and two hours disappeared as I flew back in my mind to rationing and postwar London. And I realised I am grateful to have had the life I have had.

B2016 BenmoreEckriverAnd today’s life is pretty good too. During this past week, HBTW Misty and I took advantage of the good weather and declared a Day Out. This pretty river is at the boundary of Benmore Botanical Gardens where we wandered, very happily like the three old codgers we are, for several hours.

The Redwoods at the top were planted in 1863 and are already 40 metres high, well on their way to becoming enormous guardians of the garden. There are over 300 species of rhododendrons, many azaleas and a huge variety of trees. But the restored Victorian Fernery was, for me, the icing on the cake. By the way I had an iced empire biscuit at the cafe and very good it was too – that and a pot of Earl Grey tea.

B2016 BenmorefountainMy point is, that life is a mixture of all sorts of things: good, bad, indifferent, hurtful, disappointing, joyful, wonderful and all sorts more. To take enjoyment in the day and to live it to the exclusion of everything else is a rare gift, one which is to be celebrated. I remember so well how difficult it was when my sons (4 of them, by the way,) were young. But the secret then was to do things that they could not help but enjoy. Things like, jumping down giant sand dunes, damming streams, collecting hens’ eggs, playing with puppies, all the sorts of things we used to do before computers and social media. I’m not saying technology is bad – but it is different.

B2016 BenmoreferneryBack to Benmore Gardens – I had to struggle up some very steep and winding steps to actually get to the Fernery. And it meant braving a dark and forbidding looking entry which was the equivalent of being at forest-floor level beneath the high canopy of trees in the rain-forest. Himself and the dog had to wait outside, though HBTW had his own tour while I recovered in the sun with Herself.

B2016 BenmorefernerystepsThis week has been a lesson in how to make the most of life. I know I am in a fortunate place health-wise and that others are less able. I know that the weather has been incredible. And I know it is easy to be cheerful when the sun shines. The hope is that if and when a dark day comes along, we will have built up a reservoir of spare capacity. And more than anything, I hope we can share some of the good experiences with others.

What’s been good in your life this week?

Blessings from Dalamory

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Homecoming

B2016 GardenThis is just to prove that when we get good weather in Dalamory, we really do get good weather. Indeed Argyll – mountain, glen, loch and seashore becomes a magical place. It is only a week since we came back home after a 6-day break in the pretty Border village of Newcastleton. We used to live there back in the 1980’s.  Our sons went to school and uni and for six years we enjoyed the slower pace of a village that has a mind of its own.

The photos on the link above are much better than any of the ones I tried taking; my excuse is that the weather was a bit iffy though it didn’t spoil our enjoyment. It was our first proper foray into Holiday-Cottage-Land and we had a great time, (so did Misty.) There was also a family garden-party to attend, so we met lots of friends and relatives.

It all set me off thinking about family folklore and stories from those days. One of those tales was the subject of some hilarity with Son #3 recently, so it is worth the retelling. Will I say which son was involved in servicing his bicycle with a car foot pump? Of course I will, it was indeed #3 himself. He was about 8 years old at the time and no doubt thought it would be a good wheeze to acquire Father’s foot-pump from the car or maybe garage, to lessen the work of pumping up his bike tyres.  He leaned the bicycle up against a tree in the village square right outside the house. Grandma and Mother happened to be looking out of the window and were watching proceedings with interest. He fiddled about a bit and managed to connect pump and tyre with relatively little bother. Then, he proceeded to pump his foot vigorously up and down with a look of intense concentration on his face. I can see him now in my memory – what a pity there were no handy mobile phones then.

Suddenly, there was an almighty BANG . . . . . . . . .  Said Son leapt in the are and then ran away, looking extremely frightened. Eventually, when he realised he had not blown up the village he wandered back sheepishly. Mother and Gran collapsed in giggles. Of course the best bit was that he had no idea he was being watched.

These are the kinds of tales that have to be included in the Memoirs. Now I simply have to get on with the task of somehow setting them in context. I’ve not settled recently to any serious Writing, we have been far too busy. I know, I know, I have to make the time or the days will slip away. I actually enjoy sitting at the computer sharing stories, thoughts and dreams, so I do believe it will happen. If I’m spared and well as my own Granny would often say.

It is good to have lots to keep body, mind and spirit occupied.

Blessings on you and all your activities. By the way, has anyone got any good memoirs stories to share?

 

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Bluebells and other things

B2016 Mistycarbackseat“Ok,” says the Little Dog, “where are we going today?”  It is amazing how quickly she has adjusted from travel in the motorhome to travel in a car. The same goes for us Oldies too. Maybe the novelty will wear off soon, but right now all that has to happen is that someone says, How about a Day Out . . . . . . .?   and we are soon ready and off with a picnic to follow our hearts. After all, we have to make the best of the weather.

B2016 RobinkylesviewSo far we have covered around 1200 miles, so projects at home would be put to one side you might think. Sort of right – I’m not so inclined to sit at my computer or do blog updates – sorry about that. But I have managed to do some work on my Memoirs and the standard housekeeping tasks are more or less up to date.

Re the Memoirs thing – it has surprised me how much emotional energy it takes. I am discovering new things about myself and the whole process of writing. I had always intended to take up a writing project when I retired, but the time just didn’t seem right. Attempts at novels have fallen by the wayside and the years roll by. It led me to think what we all wanted when we set off with trepidation into the world of blogging. Way back in the early part of the century – yes, it nearly is that long ago – a blog post was usually a short paragraph, in my case, about what was going on in Dalamory. Sometimes it was a thought, sometimes more serious and at other times it was simply designed to amuse. As the years passed, changes took place. The style evolved into longer stories or homilies. I tried to avoid sermonising, at least in a negative way, and yet I also wanted to be reflective and honest about life and the universe.

Ten years ago in May I simply posted a photo of you’re-bound-to-guess-who   – and felt no need to add in any text at all.  Five years ago on a Wednesday in May I published under the heading of Wordless Wednesday and if you click through you will see another photograph that could almost have been taken today. (Except that thankfully I am a couple of stones lighter and probably in better health.) Thus it seems that my themes are often the same in a recurring pattern of spirals and pictures. Just over a year ago it was a post about Dancing and a photo of a tea-table. Photos therefore are important in the production of a post.

Nowadays many blogs are opinion pieces. Serious bloggers have been taken notice of by news media, and some have a regular slot. Many are unpaid of course and that has enabled the genre to explode. My own blog, though dear to me, is not read by a huge audience and in a way I am quite relieved. I have little need to worry about trolls or cyber-bullies. Come to think of it the WordPress anti-spam programme probably takes care of that. Long may it do so. Thus, it is likely this spot will remain a snapshot of a life lived in rural Scotland in the early decades of the 21st Century. Did you notice the way I said – decades – thereby inferring a long life?  I hope it is merry too.

B2016 Bluebellwood

Happy Bluebells and Blessings from Dalamory.

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Spring Catch Up

B2016 Locheck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

B2016 Kiasoul

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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.

B2014 Woodpecker

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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