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.

B2016 Snowmistydog

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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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.

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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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