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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No arguments – Christmas is coming

B2015 TreesconansThere is no argument now, Christmas is really coming. A week tomorrow to be exact. I first started getting into the mood when we visited one of our nearby churches, St Conan’s, Lochawe – where there was a display of Christmas trees. Each tree was designed by a local organisation, hence the stunning variety of shapes, sizes, colours, materials and design. What you cannot see from the photos is the temperature inside the church – cold right through to your bones; no wonder they are in the middle of a fund-raising campaign. The roof is leaking and thieves have stolen lead from the cloisters at least three times.

B2015 Treesconans2The Christmas cards are all written and are either posted or waiting to be delivered by hand. Some friends get an ecard and this year we chose to send one featuring a small girl making a snow-angel. It led me to muse that I first learnt to do that when I was around 50 years old. It was at a traumatic time in our lives when we were coping with the fallout from a car crash. That same year the water pipes froze and even the wc’s shut down. (Don’t ask, it is a long story.)

Anyway, I digress, so back to the plot as it were. The snow silently fell all night until there was at least a foot of pristine, sparkling softness . . . . . . . . . too magical to resist. I went for a walk with the dog, (a retriever with very long legs,) she had her long shaggy coat and I was wrapped up in waterproofs. Down I flopped onto the puffy snow and made the regulation flapping of arms and legs. I couldn’t jump up, so the final effect wasn’t quite perfect, but it was good enough. And Oh how much better I felt.

Christmas is a time for remembering, for allowing ourselves to enter the mystical and to take time to breathe and to heal in the depths of winter. Right now in Argyll there is no snow. The temperature is around 11 or 12C during the day and not much colder at night. Primulas are blooming and crocuses have started to peek through the ground, but it is still time to unpack our Christmas memories and decorations and send good wishes to friends and family here and passed on.

This year, all being well, I will be leading a service at our local church. The first time in a while that I have taken Christmas Day worship. I’m looking forward to it and grateful for the way it has helped me to focus on the reasons we celebrate at this time of year. It truly is a time of hope, and in the face of all the darkness around, we really need it. For all the people who are fleeing violence and for all those welcoming them I pray for peace.

Christmas Blessings to you and yours from Dalamory.


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Still Me Still You

B2015 Dvdstillalice I sat and watched this film last night with Misty as companion – paw to paw as it were. It was every bit as emotive as expected, for in case you haven’t heard of it, the subject is early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Julianne Moore deservedly received an Oscar for Best Actress and harrowing though it was, I was totally absorbed and it was as if I was living the story with the family.

Alec Baldwin played the husband admirably and the way in which the scenes were set gave all viewers a point of identity and empathy. At times the unfolding story is seen through the eyes of Alice, and at other times through the mindset of one of her three adult children, or through the eyes of her spouse. The use of different styles of filming techniques further enhanced the action. Basically, Alice is diagnosed when she is aged 50 and a successful College Academic with worldwide success and recognition in the field of language – all the more poignant because of what happens to her.

All the while there was another person with me – my Granny, for she suffered from what was unidentified as to type but recognised as a form of dementia from the age of around 65 or so. She was intelligent enough to hide what was happening to her for some considerable time. But as the disease progressed my family moved to live near her and to be on hand to help out as the need arose. It took a long time for my Gran to become so ill that she could no longer be safely managed at home and to be honest I wasn’t fully aware of what was actually happening. However, as I grew older and became the mother of four children myself it started to become inescapable. She was never coming back – the self that was her, had disappeared into herself.

Over the years my Granny has always been with me, from the happy times in my childhood when she always stuck up for me, to the sadder days when she seemed not to know who I was. But after last night I realise that she was always still my Gran, Still Marion. Her essence was there at the back of her eyes and probably hidden somewhere in the shrinking depths of memory that were once her very self. Knowing that helps a bit. But Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, and what I hope more than anything is that people come alongside sufferers, as well as supporting research and development so that one or more treatments and cures can be found. For there is no doubt, it is a complex and cruel illness evoking emotions from families and friends at the deepest and most basic of levels.

As part of my work I spent a lot of time with people at varying stages on the progressive route of decline that is a characteristic of this disease. I learnt to live with them in the moment, to share in their memories and to accept them as they were. When they became so ill that little mental interaction was possible, I asked to hold their hands and sometimes when it seemed right, to say a prayer or sing a song. I grew to learn that staff and families have a hard time dealing with decline and what can seem stubborn aggression, but above all, my mentors were those who were suffering themselves.

If you are facing or have faced such illnesses with a Loved One, (and the truth is that most of us have,) I wish you blessings and strength and a peaceful resolution. By the way, my Gran is still with me as I write this, though goodness knows what she would have made of the whole act of typing on a computer, using the internet and reaching people across the world. I like to think she would find it magical, much better than spending days cleaning stairs for others or tidying up big houses that she could only dream of owning. For her days were hard days.

From Dalamory on this cold December day. Greetings to you and yours.

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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.

B2014 Glenstrae

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.

B2015 Mistybirthday2

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.

B2015 Mistybirthday2

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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.

B2015 Autumnriver1

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.)

B2015 MistycollarB2015 Mistycoat

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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.

B2015 F&RCuttingcake

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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