20 September 2013

she (5minutefriday)

Joining with the writing flash mob that is Five Minute Friday at the home of the lovely Lisa Jo Baker. #FMFparty

Five minutes on She

We often have the pleasure of knowing some remarkable people (we as in anybody, not just us personally.) One particular person in our life was Vi and she was already old when we came to know her, the sort of age that always made children gasp in disbelief.

She loved Jesus first and foremost and everybody loved her. Her face lit up when she was with other people and that joy spread infectiously, melting the meanest. Her prayers were like desert rain even though she was very self deprecating.

With failing health, at events she would often upstage everyone else by needing medical attention, either from a doctor friend or sometimes an ambulance would be called due to her advancing years. She often forgot to drink enough anyway and in her excitement of being with people, she would frequently eat too fast, or have just a little too much wine..

On the weekend of her 100th birthday, she joined with us, her Jesus family at church. After the service we were to troop across the Car Park into the little hall to light the gargantuan birthday cake and sing our birthday wishes to the lovely Vi.

As we rose from our seats after the final song to make our way, music started. There was only ever going to be one song that could be played that encapsulated the moment and the person so perfectly.

17 September 2013

#3goodthings [15 September 2013]

In honesty I find some aspects of the summer months on social media difficult, especially seeing those who only appear at these times because they have exotic holiday photos to share (and really how do they have the budget to take adult children with them too?)

Needless to say this now launches straight into pot-kettle-black because a bumper week for #3goodthings is based mainly round a few days holiday in Scotland, including landscape, the Scotsman's family history, local social history and some cake.. #grateful

9 Sep

afternoon tea at cloud 23 (a very late birthdays celebration)
watching the panoramic views while eating
seeing another rainbow


10 Sep (in Scotland)

colourful architecture in Kirkudbright (a town of artist studios and a Scottish St Ives)
Wigtown, place of fifteen second hand book shops (and not much else), home to the Wigtown Book Festival and dwelling of the Scotsman's shoemaking ancestors

stones at Cairn Holy


11 Sep (in Scotland)

driving past loads of fields of cattle and sheep and finally finding a whole family of 'belties' in a field by themselves (a breed local to Dumfries and Galloway only)

rain on the roof of the Leadhills Miners Library making the roof shine (it is the oldest subscription library in Britain, established in 1741 by a group of local Lead Miners)

Rab, the genial hotel owner and friend you never knew you had


12 Sep (Leadhills, in Scotland)
being able to look inside the beautifully renovated cottage that used to belong to the Scotsman's grandfather (we happened to follow the new owner down the street)

sitting in the peaceful and beautiful cemetery at Leadhills, in untypical weather

exploring the site of an abandoned Lead Mine outside the Leadhills where many of The Scotsman’s ancestors once worked


13 Sep (in Scotland)
a walk to another abandoned Lead Mine at Woodhead where more of The Scotsman’s ancestors once worked

totally unspoiled landscape on the walk with beautiful natural colours 
seeing an artisan stone mason at work restoring headstones in a churchyard


14 Sep (in Scotland)

chance to take reflective water photos in Douglas
meeting ‘Jean’ who was at school with The Scotsman's father, her body is full of stents but her mind is sharp as a tack

and leaving Leadhills knowing we will return soon

270 gifts

15 September 2013

stranger at the stones

When on holiday if we are driving with no time constraints and something looks interesting on the map we like to pull off the road and investigate. Cairn Holy caught our eye last week whilst in Dumfries and Galloway (Scotland.) Cairn Holy is the site of two Neolithic burial chambers situated on a hillside overlooking Wigtown Bay, a short drive up an unmade single track road.

I spent time lining up artistic shots with the camera, to frame the view with the bay in the background, lying on the grass, trying to avoid the plentifully scattered sheep poo, the wee timorous beasties (midges) and other flying insects. 

While we read the information on the display board, taking in the details on age and purpose of the stones, another man had noiselessly parked up and joined us in the enclosure. As we were about to continue up the hill to investigate the second cairn he approached us and asked a question ‘What do you perceive?’  

All those lessons about how much do you engage with strangers flooded in at once. But we quickly realised he was an earnest sort of facially hirsute fellow, armed with nothing more threatening than a notebook and pencil, so we stuck with him. Although his delivery was a little irritating and pendantic and he used those types of closed questions designed to make the answerer look a bit dim if they get it wrong (a teacher that likes to show off his knowledge), he actually had really interesting perceptions to share. This is the short-winded version.

If you stand directly in front of and facing the tomb on a particularly spot of grass that is well worn, you will see the sun set as follows on these days:

winter solstice – sun sets at the point of the stone on the far left

summer solstice – sun sets at the point of the stone on the far right

on the days of the equinox and those days only - sun sets exactly in the centre of the middle two stones

None of this information was available on the tourist display board nor does it seem to be readily available on websites. The tangible sense of history with the landscape was quite moving. That people could have stood on the spot we did for thousands of years and watched the same sun setting had brought an extra dimension to the place, because of an encounter with bearded bloke unknown.

Once we had returned from investigating the second cairn the stranger had disappeared down the road, gone as quickly as he had suddenly materialised.

more here on cairn holy

9 September 2013

1001 fragments

You know when you see the title of a blog post that it is going to stir 1001 things even before you read it. Beautiful words but they still stir too deep.

Tears prick

You are cooking tea and it is a miracle that it ends up tasty and on the plate because your head is at once all-of-a-muddle. And the things that are routine all of a sudden need more effort and culinary wrestling.

The soundtrack while you are cooking is all the good music - the fat Rachmaninov chords that are the invisible, undefinable super glue for those messy breaks in the soul, the surety of father Bach. Then the nationalist pride of the Dam Busters March the sound of which instinctively makes your spine more upright. 

The nudge that reminds you that some bright spark set the words of Psalm 42 to that very tune
God the Lord of hosts is with us EVERmore.

The tears mingle with the tears from chopping the shallots

How we long for the soul to be fixed and for the stirring not to start. To not wrestle with the dark thoughts whilst chopping the vegetables and slicing the chicken.

You sit in front of the piano and play out Salvation's Song over, because it is technically challenging for this pianist (despite years of training.) The five sharps at the start of each line of music look like flies that are squished up on the paper, but more readily recognised as hashtags. Words that are so heavy with goodness each. and. every. single. one. 

And you want to use every last breath you have to pour completely into the meaning and yet there is still more to be given from the Maker. How did that song get under the radar?

We are frail and we break. 

The words of some of the old hymns come flooding in. And they become the stones which pile up and we can climb up and out towards the daylight once more.

In those moments you know you are known, precious 

Even with the 1001 things stirred, all clamouring for attention 

Just as fine rays of sun reach tentatively through the mist 


Loved before the dawn of time
Chosen by my Maker
Hidden in my Saviour
I am His and He is mine
Cherished for eternity

When I'm stained with guilt and sin,
He is there to lift me
Heal me and forgive me
Gives me strength to stand again
Stronger than I was before

So with every breath that I am given
I will sing salvation's song
And I'll join the chorus of creation
Giving praise to Christ alone

All the claims of Satan's curse
Lifted through His offering
Satisfied through suffering
All the blessings He deserves
Poured on my unworthy soul

Singing glory, honour, wisdom, power
To the Lamb upon the throne;
Hallelujah, I will lift Him high.
Hallelujah I will sing 
with every breath that I am given
I will sing salvation's song
And I'll join the chorus of creation
Giving praise to Christ alone

Stars will fade and mountains fall
Christ will shine forever
Love's unfading splendour
Earth and heaven will bow in awe
Joining in salvation's song

Stuart Townend 2007

8 September 2013

#3goodthings [8 September 2013]

2-4 Sep
ikea meatballs with #2 son
meal with daughter & a good chat
the share of our house is finally sold (after over 2.5 years)

7 Sep
meal to celebrate with our friends their 25th wedding anniversary
seeing people we'd not seen for 25 years
a brilliant rainbow enhanced by dark grey skies on leaving our friends house

252 gifts

silver celebration (a letter to the fly on the wall)

So, yesterday friends of ours celebrated their Silver Wedding. We, a small crew of friends and family assembled in the gloriously named Dog and Hedgehog. While we were arriving from the different places we call home, we broke and ate hunks of bread that had been dipped into bitter olive oil and sharp balsamic vinegar.

Not long after we sat down at the long table, flies started to appear. It bizarrely made eating indoors feel more like we were eating al fresco. But wine was flowing and beautiful food was beginning to arrive and so the insects were relegated to the league of minor occasional irritation.

'A day to remember all the good things' said my friend in her later speech, quipping that she had not had the opportunity twenty five years ago and was sure as anything going to make up for it. They had chosen to gather us, we who have weathered good times and bad, sometimes together, sometimes in our separate lives. To sit with them, break bread, drink wine and share delicious food. Applaud, cheer and celebrate all the goodness.

Flies on walls over the years have witnessed the joy and sad of the years of the collective; the illnesses, the births, the bereavements, the weddings, the broken relationships and the enduring.

Most particularly with our friends we have shared the goodness and pains of times in church leadership. Times of difficulty are more recent and therefore in sharper focus. Things go inexplicably wrong and are horribly messy, the wailing that no-one else understands, periods of dark doubt, and baggage of unmet expectations. At times closing in like hordes of insects, the overwhelming noise of buzzing is too hard to bear and their sheer numbers close to snuffing out the Light.

A short nod to those things too, in the conversation at the table, but an acknowledgement that they have shaped us over the years, not defined us. The fact is that the ones that matter are the ones who have remained.

Later when leaving our friends house the sky had darkened, the weather had closed in and a short, torrential downpour had started. As we drove west the Scotsman was momentarily struggling to see clearly through combination of heavy rain on the windscreen and the bright sunlight shining through ahead onto the wet road. He glanced in the rear view mirror and commented that I might like to look behind at the rainbow. Right over the place where we had just driven from, enhanced by the darkest of brooding grey skies was the most brilliantly clear rainbow.

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #LettersTo (at Sabrina’s place this week)

1 September 2013

#3goodthings [1 Sep 2013]

30 Aug
watching the film Babel and realising that I don't fear 'mess' as much as I used to
extension of work contract
brilliant percussion by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms

246 gifts