Sunday 1st. September, 2013 -- D Day Minus Three 


It is Sunday the first of September, 2013 the start of a month for which I am paying the Church of Scotland £500 to be allowed to work as Parish Minister in Arrochar and Luss. Strange? Yes, of course it is -- but as you read my daily diary and get to know me better you will discover that many things are strange: but many are really good and quite exciting as well.

I suppose a word of explanation would do well as a start. I am a sixty-seven year old Church of Scotland parish minister (so I am well past my sell-by date). I have been working at Arrochar and Luss (two lovely little parishes, one on Loch Long and one on Loch Lomond, both in Argyll) for more than fourteen years. I expected to be working for longer (but that really is another story).

A year ago my sister Olive and her husband Robert (usually known in the family as Digger) decided with my mother that they would seek a home in which they could live together and the ideal place for this communal living was deemed to be the Scottish Borders, not least because my brother Scott and his wife Sue had recently moved there and Mum fancied the idea of having all her family around her. Rachel (my wife) and I were down at my brother's home, in part in preparation for their son Nicholas' wedding (to Amy). I had been told of this house which both Sue and my sister had seen and really quite liked. 'It's a farm steading,' I was told, 'or at least it is a farmhouse abutted by a former granary which has been converted into a luxury holiday home and the rest of the courtyard is surrounded by barns -- it would be just ideal for you.' It was with an open mind that I allowed my brother to take me along to have a look over the fence at this property. And that's what we did. But while we were looking over at the farmhouse, Lothian (the owner) was looking back at us. 'Would you like to come and have a proper look,' he said. And so we did. However, as we talked it became apparent that Lothian and his wife Maureen were just about to take the house off the market. It hadn't sold and they disliked the uncertainty of not knowing if the house was to be sold.

I wondered if they might be prepared to work with us on a long term deal to buy the farmhouse? We certainly weren't going to be in a position to buy his lovely property for a while but if Rachel and I went in with my sister and my mother and we all managed to sell our houses, it just might be possible. Lothian suggested that it was certainly something that they would consider.

And so the adventure began. My sister put her home on the market and we put our West Wemyss home on the market. This was a bit of a wrench because we had got our home just right for our retirement and my study was a dream study with bookcases lining every wall. But there was clearly no way that my sister and my mother could buy the house on their own and the idea of us all living together in a commune with my brother just ten minutes away was really rather exciting.

There were many moments during the year when I was convinced that our plans would come to nothing and there were moments when I thought that Lothian and Maureen would give up on us but we nursed it along and things began to happen. First my sister's home in Kirkcaldy sold and this was closely followed by the sale of our West Wemyss home. Mum's house hadn't sold but we managed to put together a financial package to make it all work. It involved me drawing down some of my lump sum from my pension, generated by my savings over the last twenty-five years. I had thought that there wouldn't be any problem in this, after all I was now well past sixty-five, but I discovered that although the government had relaxed its rules to encourage pension trustees to be flexible in allowing folk access to their pension funds the Church of Scotland had decided not to take advantage of this flexibility. If I wanted my lump sum I had no option but to retire. And so that's what I have done. There is no way that I could stand in the way of this wonderful family opportunity. My retirement is at the end of September and the Church agreed to advance me my lump sum for twenty-seven days and charged me £500 for the privilege! So that's how I come to be paying £500 to work for this month. But it will be worth it.

And in just three days we shall get the keys of this new property and my mother, my sister and her husband will move in. And, of course, we shall be there along with our two dogs -- Mix a nine-year-old rescue dog (you'll learn more about him as time goes by) and Rowan -- a sixteen week old Border Collie belonging to Rachel.

Oh, and the picture at the head of this entry, it's the entrance to Mount Pleasant. It didn't seem quite right to show you the property itself until it is ours. So watch this space.

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