Thursday 27th. March, 2014 – Making progress 

The barn is empty – well actually not, as a load of wood has arrived to form the supports for the new floor which we hope to install very soon

Up and walked the dog before breakfast and then Tom and I had a run-through of the music for Sunday in Church. As this is the fifth Sunday of the month the service this week will be in the village hall at Longformacus. Ann, the minister, is planning a meditative service with a number of items of classical music interspersed with readings. Tom and I have prepared the music to be played (and at the end of the service Tom will be admitted as a new elder – he is already an elder, but a new elder here).

After sorting the music to our satisfaction we completed the clearing of the barn and then started measuring up for the wooden floor we will install. The floor will provide the base for the loom which we hope to have installed quite soon. But there is a lot to do – we shall build a scaffolding tower and clean the inside of the roof and all of the beams; we shall fill in all of the holes in the walls, we shall replace missing slates on the roof and rewire the roof-vents. Once completed it will be an excellent craft centre and will include spinning as well as weaving, and perhaps a small kilt-making unit which Rachel will run in conjunction with her friend Anne.

At this point Tom and I went off for lunch at Pearson’s – I had leek and potato soup, sausage and mash and coffee. Then we went off to discuss wood. We were promised that the wood would be delivered by next Wednesday (in fact it arrived about half-past two)! Back at Mount Pleasant, we ran Mum to the guild at Gavinton and then, once we had loaded the wood into the barn, we set about moving furniture around in the farmhouse so that it was all done for Olive by the time she got home. Tom went off home (a hard day’s work having been completed) and I set off to take Rowan and Mix for a walk. However, Rowan slipped her collar and ran on to the main road. My heart was in my mouth – but just at that moment Mum returned from the guild, brought by her friend Annie. Rowan ran up to Mum and she had the presence of mind to grab her. I have never been so relieved in my life and my heart was still pumping away half-an-hour later.

Earlier I had a good chat with Digger about the work in the barn and he has suggested that he will provide levels for us for the floor. Rachel was away in Berwick all day at her stained-glass workshop. She collected Olive from her train just after four and brought her home (I was ever so relieved that Rowan was here to welcome Rachel). Just as Olive and Rachel arrived, so did Sue who had brought flowers for Mum for Mother’s Day on Sunday as she and Scott will be away on London over the weekend enjoying a show (the Christmas present to them from Nicholas, Katie and Amy). I showed Sue what we had been doing in the barn and in the Hen House before she set off for home.

Caught the final four overs of the T20 international between England and Sri Lanka. For once, after a fairly disastrous start (dropped catches, early wickets), England played magnificently and, against all the odds, pulled off a superb victory which keeps them in the competition (just). Wonderful innings from Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan.

Joined everyone (except Rachel) in the farmhouse for supper, after which I spent the evening watching a bit of television (Rachel was away back to Berwick, this time to attend her choir practice.) The film I watched was the final part of a spy trilogy starring Bill Nighy – I hadn’t seen the first two segments but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the programme. On Rachel’s return we walked the dogs before bed. It has been a pretty spectacular day.

[ view entry ] ( 3024 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 26th. March, 2014 – My goodness but it got cold today 

This afternoon, while I was working in the summer house, Mix just wanted to keep as close as possible to the heater

I was up extremely early and, after defrosting the car, was away to Berwick with Olive before six-thirty, returning to the summer house an hour later. First I walked both dogs and then settled in to prepare the music for Arrochar Church. Got that completed in time for breakfast at nine.

After breakfast I returned to the summer house where I worked on several emails which I had received and then did some more of the re-organisation which will be part of our plans for a few months yet. Rachel went off to get her hair cut and I set about gutting the spare room in the Granary, stopping to have some lunch – rolls and stilton – while I watched an old episode of Dad’s Army. I might claim that I hadn’t seen this episode before; more likely I saw it years ago and have forgotten all about it, but it was extremely good. (It was the episode where they have to guard a prisoner of war camp filled with sixty Italian prisoners.)

In the afternoon I tackled the boxes which had been brought into the kitchen when we had the big ‘un-load’ from the barn last week. I got them completed earlier than I thought – but there is also a pile of boxes in the lounge waiting my attention. Rachel had me put them in the lounge so that I could unpack them at my leisure, in the warm, while watching television. That will be a task for the next day or two.

That completed Mix and I went for a walk. One side of the bridge is now enveloped in a huge tent (last time it only had walls on one side, now it is complete – what fun they are having)!

Back at Mount Pleasant, after a short time doing more sorting out in the summer house (finding homes for bits and pieces I had uncovered in my gutting of the spare room in the Granary) it was time to take Mum to Dun’s Guild and afterwards, Rachel and I bought fish and chips for Digger and ourselves. Enjoyed them before returning to the Granary and watching an episode of Inspector Gently. It was good. Hasn’t the whole television experience changed? We are now always spoiled for choice. The sky box records programmes, the i-players offer you almost every programme that has been on any channel in the past month, Amazon provides even more. It is quite, quite incredible and gives us total freedom about watching what we want when we want to watch it and, as a result, I suspect that we watch less television but watch what we really want to see.

Rowan is extremely interested in the jigsaw which Rachel is about to start (Rachel can’t just watch television, she has to be doing something else as well: it is a woman thing.) In the background you can see tartan -- Rachel is in increasing demand to make kilts and has two to be completed this week

Tonight Rachel walked the dogs and I retired to bed to watch Newsnight and hear how the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage had gone – still don’t know because I fell asleep instantly. (I’ll pick it up on i-player later.)

[ view entry ] ( 3191 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 25th. March, 2014 – The best-laid plans ... 

Today’s picture comes from last night when I accompanied Rachel as she put the hens to bed. She has just provided them with their tea and so they are happy to be outside the their home eating the grain. Rachel will give them a few minutes and then come and shut them up safely in their home for the night

Up early (again before my alarm went off) and was out in the summer house before walking both dogs down the Duns road. Spent some time in the summer house before breakfast at nine. Tom arrived soon afterwards but we didn’t start work immediately on the final clearing of the barn because Ann, our minister, was coming to see us about the service this Sunday.

She and Jack (her husband) arrived and we put the world to rights before getting down to arranging how we would provide the music for Sunday. (It is to be a meditative service with seven items of classical music which we will fit in to the service.) It is also a special service because Tom is being admitted as an Elder, something about which I am absolutely delighted – both for the congregation and for Tom himself.

While Tom went through the service with Ann, I took Jack and showed him all that we were doing at Mount Pleasant – Olive showed him around the farm house and I did the rest (Mum was away at her weekly hair appointment). By the time that Ann and Jack left it was lunchtime so Tom also went off home. I started work on the music while I had my lunch. When Tom returned we got to blethering and sorting out music with the result that we didn’t complete the work on the barn – in fact we have postponed it until Thursday! (You are allowed to do things like that when you are retired.) I worked on in the summer house and by the end of the afternoon had all of the music arranged and also had explored some of the bits and pieces which I uncovered while searching for my tape recorder. By this time it was raining so Mix and I didn’t go out for a walk until the last moment – partly because of the rain and partly because I was waiting for a delivery of a ladder which I ordered to enable us to sort the roofs on the barns. I was told that it would arrive before six. (In fact it didn't arrive at all in spite of a text message telling me to wit in because it would definitely be here today.)

In the evening we dined in the farm house and then retired to the Granary where we relaxed in front of the stove and watched Shetland (partly because it is a good watch and partly because one of Rachel’s former students has a major part in it). Following the drama we watched the News and Newsnight before walking the dogs and retiring to bed – I have an early start tomorrow.

And after their evening meal the hens retired to bed!

[ view entry ] ( 3318 views )   |  permalink
Monday 24th. March, 2014 – Big steps forward! 

This is what a barn looks like when it is almost empty – it would have been completely empty but I had to spend the rest of the day in the summer house (and Tom had to re-fence his goats)

Up extremely early and was in the summer house with Mix by six o’clock, moving boxes and sorting books. I took Olive to the railway station at 6.30 and was back in the summer house less than an hour later, working through until I stopped for my breakfast at nine (having walked Mix down to the bridge in between times).

Ate a quick breakfast and retired to the summer house, bringing in new books and removing old ones (which will find a place in the library in the Hen House in due course). Tom arrived and we went across to the barn and all but emptied it by lunch time – it will be a gentle task to complete tomorrow. While Tom was home for lunch I enjoyed a cheese and bean pie in the summer house while I watched the climax of a superb T20 match between South Africa and New Zealand (South Africa won but right up until the very last ball it could have gone either way).

In the afternoon I worked through the summer house and by the end of the afternoon. while not complete, it was at least tidy and fit for use.

A degree of order had been restored to the summer house – there is more to do but it can now wait and take its place in the queue behind dealing with the barns, the plaster-boarding in the Hen House and so on

Mix and I went for a walk to the bridge in the late afternoon. There is now a canopy over one of the gantries – there was bright sunshine today but I suspect that it is more about the rain which is forecast for later in the week.

We saw this roof over the bridge on our walk today – it looks very smart

Work is obviously progressing on the bridge as well:

Back at Mount Pleasant, I put the gas oven on for the casserole and then went back to complete the tidy-up of the summer house. We dined at seven and then I watched University Challenge, recording Silk as I had to go off to Berwick to collect Olive from her train. On my return Rachel and I watched Rev which had also been recorded, after which we walked the dogs and retired to bed. We have made progress.

[ view entry ] ( 3049 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 23rd. March, 2014 -- The Third Sunday in Lent 

The sun was shining as we walked to the bridge this morning. Mix is always fascinated to see what has been going on

Rose early (before the alarm went off) and showered and dressed and then took Mix for a walk down to the bridge. The sun was shining and it was remarkably warm in the sunshine. I opened the blinds on the summer house so that it would warm up by the time I returned from Church. Breakfasted in the farmhouse and then set off for Church, leaving a bit early so that we could collect Digger’s Sunday papers from Duns on the way through.

The picture I forgot to take yesterday (it was the camera I forgot) showing that the parapet has been totally removed and will now be replaced

In the service we were introduced to Nicodemus, and Ann spoke about his visit to Jesus by night to discuss Jesus’ mission and ministry, leading to the great verse ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.’

After the service we joined everyone for coffee, Tom had to hurry off to collect his daughter’s in-laws from the Roman Catholic service and we returned home for lunch (actually I did some work in the summer house before lunch as well). Lunch was grand – roast beef with all of the trimmings, followed by rhubarb pie and custard. Then it was back to the summer house and more sorting out, something I did until quarter to nine in the evening (apart from a brief walk in the afternoon with Rachel and the dogs. We visited an ex-railway line and wandered along it for a way before returning to the car.)

This former railway line is very close to our home but we only discovered it by driving along one of the detours made necessary by the closure of the road between Duns and Mount Pleasant to enable the bridge to be repaired

From the track we saw this highland cow enjoying the better weather (although presumably she doesn’t ever feel the cold with all of that hair)

In the summer house there is still much to do, but after I stopped we had some supper and watched Mr. Selfridge on the television (Rachel had been into Berwick to attend evensong). This is going to be a hard-working week!

Walked the dog before bed – it is getting very cold and I have to be on the road to drive Olive to Berwick by 6.30 tomorrow morning. (Olive is happy because she has completed all of her Church audits and now has just three weeks to go until her retirement from University.)

[ view entry ] ( 3294 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 22nd. March, 2014 – Working in the Summer House 

Today was a day of emptying boxes

Slept in and by the time I awoke Rachel had taken both dogs out for a walk (last night's snow had disappeared). I got up and was across for breakfast at the farmhouse before Mum was collected for her day out at Paxton House at a women’s church do. I worked all day opening and sorting out boxes, mostly of books. Finding places for the books in the summer house and transporting into storage the books which were displaced by this exercise. Mix remained loyally with me throughout the day even although his bed was often overrun with boxes:

Even Mix’s bed became a depository for empty boxes

I stopped at lunch time to heat up a cheese and bean pie which Olive had made for me and I ate it in the summer house while I watched England’s first game in the T20 cricket competition (it was against New Zealand). When things are not going for you, they really do go against you: England posted a reasonably defendable total but were defeated early by the rain and the Duckworth Lewis calculation. It was bad luck and will be, I would imagine, very demoralising.

I worked through in the summer house until five when Rachel and I walked Rowan and Mix. Progress is really being made at the bridge – the whole of one side of the bridge has now been removed (I was vexed that I didn’t have my camera with me, but I’ll get a picture tomorrow).

Back in the summer house I got everything more or less back in order before dinner but, of course, it will all be disorganised tomorrow when I start opening still more boxes. But progress is definitely being made.

It may not look very different from before but progress is being made

We all dined together. Mum had a good day based on the story of Rahab (you'll find her story in the early part of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament), Olive has completed all of the Church accounts given to her so that everything is in order for all of her many churches (who have to have their accounts approved by the Church Trustees by the end of March), Rachel has made good progress on a kilt she is making, Digger is feeling much better, and the chickens produced two eggs today.

After dinner Rachel and I watched an old episode of Endeavour which was clearly screened because a new series is to start on ITV next Sunday. I'm looking forward to that. We walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3153 views )   |  permalink
Friday 21st. March, 2014 – Our friends move on 

I took this picture of the summer house from atop Ianthe in the courtyard of Mount Pleasant. There is still work to be done – not least the shingles, but these can’t be fitted until we get warmer weather and until the winds stop blowing

Up early and after sorting out some emails I took Mix and Rowan for a walk, meeting Bill, Cathy and Morag as they returned from their walk. It was still blowy and quite cold but as the sun came out it got gradually warmer.

We breakfasted in the farmhouse – Morag making the porridge while I kindled the fire – and soon afterwards our friends set off for home. I was sorry to see them go but they will be back soon. Before they left Tom arrived and we raised the mast on Ianthe so that we could close the hatch and remove the cover which has done well over the winter but which is no longer required. No sooner had our visitors left than Mum’s cousins, Linty and Meg arrived (with Linty’s husband, Keith). It was good to meet them and to show them around.

Tom on Ianthe, just about to raise the mast to allow me to slip in the hatch and close up the boat before the swallows arrive

After they left I retired to the summer house to prepare the music for Arrochar for Sunday and then to start on some more boxes. I’ve brought another table into the summer house. It would be very useful but I can’t work out whether it overpowers the place or whether it is a good addition; only time will tell.

Rachel and I walked the dogs and then I returned to the summer house. There is much to do and I hope to get everything sorted this weekend. I have nothing planned for the weekend so I should get quite a lot done: famous last words! Mum is away at her book club this afternoon, Olive is working on church accounts and Rachel is making kilts. Mix is sleeping on his cushion and Rowan is jumping up and down in the Granary. Heidi is sleeping in the farmhouse sitting room and Digger is resting in bed. Such is life this afternoon in Mount Pleasant.

We dined at seven, Rachel, Olive, Mum and I, and then Rachel and I repaired to the Granary where we caught up with two programmes we had missed during the week: Shetland and Mr. Selfridge. After the News, we walked the dogs ... and it was snowing! We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

[ view entry ] ( 2910 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 20th. March, 2014 – A windy day 

In the afternoon we gathered around the stove in the farmhouse – Digger (recuperating from his operation), Sue (my sister-in-law, come to see how he was getting on), Olive, Morag, Cathy, Mum and Bill)

Up early – had I slept much? I’m not sure, it was so windy that I was concerned for the property, not least for the summerhouse, but all was well as Mix and I discovered when we checked.

Lots of chores this morning, fires to build in the lounge and in the farmhouse, porridge to make for everyone’s breakfast, litter to be collected from the wind blowing over our refuse bins.

Tom ‘phoned. He had taken his daughter to the airport really early this morning to catch a plane to New York where she is meeting her husband to celebrate her birthday (perhaps with some serious shopping)! It was a surprise that she had only been told of yesterday but she is very pleased.

Bill and I retired to the summer house where I showed him my books and told him of all of our plans for Mount Pleasant and learned something of his adventures. It wasn’t a day to be out and about as, in addition to the wind, the rain had now started. However, we all – Cathy, Morag, Bill, Mum and I – went up to Gavinton Church hall for the soup and sweet lunch. It was excellent and the conversation was good as well. It is a happy congregation and I hope that that survives the changes which ministerial shortages will bring on the retirement of Ann, our minister, next year. I know that imaginative plans are being worked out about how to cope with the situation which will occur then. Our congregation will become part of a linkage under one minister of five churches: Bonkyl, Cranshaws, Duns, Edrom, and Gavinton. I’m told that this will entail 176 morning services each year of which the parish minister intends to conduct 100 (leaving 76 to be conducted by a combination of parish teams and retired ministers). Meetings are being held this month to explore all of the options – it sounds exciting, not least because the folk are prepared to be imaginative, innovative and adventurous in their planning. Mind you, as part of a Church with two hundred and fifty vacancies nationally, this is what is clearly required.

After lunch we all returned to Mount Pleasant via Duns (where we returned Olive’s library books). Once home we joined Olive, Sue and Digger around the farmhouse stove – it was that kind of a day. Bill and Morag came and enjoyed the quiet of the summer house with me and then we retired to the Granary to watch the News before dinner.

We all (except Rachel who had gone to Berwick to sing in her choir – having been in Berwick earlier in the day to take part in her stained-glass class) dined in the farmhouse. It is good to have so many people around the table. We all enjoy having guests with us – and Cathy, Bill and Morag are special guests.

After our meal, Bill and I retired to the Granary where we watched golf from Orlando in Florida. The others joined us for tea and coffee. We watched the News – still taken up by the missing airliner, sanctions against Russia and the Government’s pension plans – before I walked Mix and went to bed. This has been a very enjoyable day (and the wind has finally dropped).

[ view entry ] ( 3224 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 19th. March, 2014 – Jaunting around (as retired people do) 

We visited Henderson Park in Coldstream this afternoon. It had recently been set out with new plants – and they looked great!

I was up early this morning and away from Mount Pleasant by 6.30 a.m. taking Olive to Berwick to catch a train (Mix came with me as always). We were back home by about seven-fifteen. I was across in the farmhouse to make the fire half-an-hour later and found that Cathy and Morag were already up and in the lounge, so they came with me as we walked the dogs on the road down to the bridge.

We breakfasted before nine – almost everyone had porridge – and then we were about to set off for Berwick when Tom and Dorothy arrived. I had tried to phone them earlier but evidently I had also phoned them by mistake and Tom had been whistling down my phone trying to catch my attention. I had mentioned to Morag that I thought I had heard someone whistling and calling to me but she told me that it was probably the birds which were in full morning chorus!

There was a great deal of traffic at the gate into Berwick

Morag, Bill, Cathy and Rachel on the walls around Berwick

After lots of catching up, we set off for Berwick where we walked around the town walls before journeying back along the ramparts. It was windy and at least one poor gentleman had his hat blown clean off his head. We explored Berwick and bought rolls to have with bacon for lunch when we returned to Mount Pleasant. Bill and I returned via Duns so that we could buy a steak pie for dinner.

Morag, Rachel, Bill Cathy and Mum at the lunch table (after all of the bacon rolls have disappeared)

Back home we dined on bacon rolls (and caramel doughnuts and yum-yums which we had also bought). In the afternoon Mum joined Morag, Cathy Bill and me as we drove to Coldstream. I learned that the figure on the pillar in the town is Charles Marjoriebanks who was a landowner, an MP and a generally good egg who treated his tenants benevolently (all of this told to us by the proprietor of the chemist in the town).

In Henderson Park I photographed Bill, Mum, Morag and Cathy against the backdrop of the River Tweed

We walked through the Henderson Park which is beautifully kept and which contains memorials of the activities of the Coldstream Guards (which, of course, were raised from here by general Monk). We then visited the little shop which contains a world war two museum and has many items of memorabilia for sale.

Back home we settled down to afternoon tea in the farmhouse lounge and then turned our thoughts to dinner. The steak-pie was delicious and we followed it up with pears and peaches and ice-cream. Bill and I retired to the Granary to watch Manchester United play the Greek champions. (They won 3 – 0 which meant that as the two-leg score was 3 – 2, Manchester United progressed to the next round.)

I went off to collect Olive from Berwick (my third foray into England today) and when we returned we joined everyone else for a late coffee before bed.

Today was budget day and it appears that I am in the group of people who have been smiled on by the chancellor. Flexibility with my pensions, increased personal allowance, special savings bonds for older people. I don’t yet know all of the details, nor what has been done to help other more deserving groups and business. I shall look forward to discovering all of that tomorrow.

It is ferociously windy and the final walk with the dogs was treacherous. Rachel and Rowan spent ages collecting all of the rubbish from the farmhouse bin as it had been blown over and distributed down the road towards Sinclairshill. It was good to get to bed at the end of a happy day.

[ view entry ] ( 3965 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 18th. March, 2014 – Welcome Visitors from the West 

The garden at Mount Pleasant is just beginning to come to life. Some of it is wild like this bit in front of the farmhouse, but now the daffodils are coming through

I got up this morning to a telephone call from Tom saying that his plans had changed and that he would be along early to help me do more unloading from the big barn. I grabbed some breakfast while Rachel walked both dogs. Almost at once Tom and I were at work moving furniture from the barn. Some of it – a bookcase/desk and a china cabinet came into the Granary – others (including my desk and bookcase, our leather sofa and a bed) were transferred to the stables.

Midmorning Tom had to go off on business of his own. I took Mum into Duns to her hairdressing appointment, refuelled my car and went into the garage to pay for the repairs to Rachel’s Bongo. Back home I loaded another couple of boxes into the summer house and sorted them out – Great fun as I found a large part of my classical music collection and found a home for it. Then it was time to go back to Duns to collect Mum and bring her home, taking Rachel along to collect and drive home her Bongo. (Rachel hadn’t been around in the morning because she and Olive had gone into Berwick to do the weekly shop).

Other bits of the garden are going to be more organised. This little area in front of Mum’s garden room is her project and she has great plans for it

After lunch Tom arrived and we did a bit more moving (including a very heavy oak side-board) and then made some plans about what we were going to do with the barn when it was empty. The plan is to level off the floor and then to fit a wooden floor over the concrete. We’d like to fit a ceiling to the beams and, after repairing the walls, to coat them with something akin to Artex, the idea being to create a weaving, spinning and craft centre facility (as if we didn’t have enough on our plate at the moment with the Hen House project and getting everything unpacked).

Tom returned home and it wasn’t long before Bill, Morag and Cathy arrived from Luss to spent some days with us. It was really lovely to see them. We had coffee and tea in the farmhouse before going on a bit of a tour of what we had been doing. Of course we climbed the new staircase in the Hen House and I showed off the plaster-boarding work that was in progress. Of, course we looked at the stables and at the big barn. And, of course, we ended up in the summer house where we chatted for a while before getting them moved into their rooms in the farm house before assembling for our evening meal with Mum, Olive and Digger.

This is a picture of one of the pots in Mum’s bit of the garden. I took the picture because I liked the bright colours (and also because I had a new mini point-and-shoot camera given to me by Mum, Olive, Digger and Rachel for my birthday last week and this is the first time I have used it – it only arrived yesterday)

In the evening we watched the Referendum Debate from Kirkcaldy which both Mum and Morag were anxious to see. It sparked off our own debate which continued through Newsnight until bed called. Rachel had already walked both dogs so I was able just to go upstairs and fall into bed.

I do think that my new camera is going to produce better pictures for my blog!

[ view entry ] ( 3205 views )   |  permalink
Monday 17th. March, 2014 – Saint Patrick’s Day 

We were back at work today with a vengeance – here Tom is cutting sarking to make the Hen House swallow-proof

It was two in the morning before I was in bed and asleep last night and I was up at six to drive Olive to Berwick to catch a train to Dundee. Back home I walked the dogs and then had breakfast in the farmhouse with Mum.

Tom arrived and we moved the last of the boxes from the big barn into the stables – that’s right, there are no more boxes in the big barn. (However, there are boxes in the other large barn, in the Hen House, in the Granary and in the Summer House: but let’s celebrate with what we have achieved.)

At lunch-time, flushed with our success, Rachel, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s for lunch. It was extremely busy, but then we realised that almost everywhere else is closed on a Monday (that’s not a comment about Pearson’s: we love it there; just that we were surprised to find it so full.)

After lunch we started trying to swallow-proof the areas into which we have made big improvements – the stables and the Hen House. We built up the area around the temporary door in the Hen House and filled in some gaps in the walls of the stables – and by this time Dorothy arrived to take Tom home. Rachel collected Mum and set off for Kirkcaldy where she is to show someone around her flat. I went into the summer house and unpacked the boxes which we had deposited there this morning. Then it was time to feed the hens and put them to bed for the night, feed the dogs and light the stove for Rachel coming home. Things are gradually getting there and there is absolutely no doubt at all that we are making progress.

Rachel and Mum returned to Mount Pleasant and, almost immediately, I set off to Berwick to collect Olive. Her train was on time and we were back home a little after ten. Just time to have some fish pie before walking the dogs and bed. It was good to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2989 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 16th. March, 2014 -- A Stupendous Day 

I took this picture this afternoon while we were trying to discover where we were going to for the wedding reception

Up extremely early this morning, with both dogs walked by half-past seven and me in my kilt and wedding gear by eight. Spent an hour going over my wedding service (it’s amazing, only six months away from it and I had to ease myself into it all over again – but I really wanted it to be right for this afternoon). Breakfasted and set off for Church at Gavinton by quarter-past nine. The early start was partly because of the detour caused by the road closure, partly because we had to buy Digger’s papers in Duns, and mostly because Rachel was looking after the music at Gavinton Church.

The music sounded good to me and the service advanced us through Lent as Ann spoke about the need to spend time in the wilderness confronting the temptations which take us away from God and from the life to which we are called, and reminding us of the tradition of hermits in the early years of the Christian era.

Immediately after the service, Rachel and I set off for Perthshire. Mum hadn’t come to Church so there was no need to take her home (a little tummy bug, that’s all) but Tom brought the organ and the papers back to Mount Pleasant for us.

We arrived at Clunie Church in good time and the wedding was ;lovely – one of those weddings which you are really glad to have been part of. Bill and Peggy are both good friends of mine – Bill my colleague and friend during and since my years at Bishopbriggs, Peggy being the minister at one of the Clydebank Churches in the Presbytery of Dumbarton while I was also a member of that Presbytery. Both had been widowed and had now found happiness again. In an over-used but appropriate word: it was ‘special’.

After the wedding document was signed the wedding photographer normally takes a picture but the wedding photographer was nowhere to be seen so I took this snap which proves why I could never become a wedding photographer. The picture shows Bill’s daughter Alison, Bill, Peggy and Peggy’s daughter Jenny

After the service we all made our way to the Village Hall at Clunie where members of the congregation gave Bill and Peggy a real celebration tea. Bill had been minister of this church until he retired; Peggy is the current minister – hadn’t it worked out well?

Inside the village hall at Clunie with celebrations in full flow

The tea party over, we made our way to Dunkeld for the wedding reception at the Dunkeld Hilton – a glorious hotel, set in its own grounds. We were plied with drinks (Ginger beer, in my case) and then we shared in a magnificent wedding breakfast – haggis as a starter, followed by beef with potato and green beans, followed by cranachan, followed by coffee and wedding cake.

Cutting the wedding cake which Peggy had made herself

Another snap, this time of Bill making his speech. You can see what a lovely place we were in

There were a lot of speeches – and it was important that there were because members of Bill and Peggy’s families were anxious to share their welcome to their new family members – and my friend Robin, the Episcopal priest from those far off Bishopbriggs days spoke of Bill and of the times the three of us spent together (the Last of the Communion Wine – I don’t know which one I was meant to be). After the speeches, Bill’s son and Peggy’s son played some music; both are accomplished musicians and this rounded off the evening.

I had met many friends from times past, rekindled a number of friendships and had a thoroughly good day. It was left to Rachel to drive us home. We got back just after one in the morning to relieve Mum of the dogs and quickly get to bed. I have an early start in the morning.

[ view entry ] ( 3010 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 15th. March, 2014 – The Ides of March 

This morning we were at Gavinton Church and Rachel – the figure in the distance – had a good look at the Church from a different angle

Up (not too early) and walked both dogs before returning to the Granary, lighting the stove (it is really cold today) and making Rachel a cup of tea to drink in bed. Went to the farmhouse for breakfast and then Rachel and I drove to Gavinton to set up our organ to provide the music for tomorrow when the organist is on holiday. Rachel had a complete play-through; so we know that everything is working satisfactorily.

While Rachel went through the music I explored the Church, taking this picture of the rear of the church with the extremely fine organ loft and organ pipes.

Looking towards the rear from the front of Gavinton Church

I also took this picture of Rachel hunched over the organ reading what it said on the organ screen – she didn’t know I was taking the picture:

There is a screen on the organ which has a great deal of information. Rachel is reading what it has to say before starting her practice of the music for tomorrow

On the way home we called in at Duns to buy a paper for Mum and then, once home, we spent the rest of the day working through boxes: Rachel in the Granary, me in the summer house. I think that we are making quite good progress but it was very good to stop at five and walk the dogs. Rachel and I walked across the bridge and back again. Not only was it extremely cold but now the wind had blown up and it is very, very gusty.

We all dined together in the farmhouse (well, Digger ate in bed. He got up earlier for a little while but retired to bed after an hour or so feeling his operation wound to be quite sore.)

In the evening, I got a hair cut (I didn’t really need one but tomorrow we are off to a wedding) and we watched some television (Endeavor – to be honest I haven’t a clue who did the murder, but I had a very pleasant doze) before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

[ view entry ] ( 3132 views )   |  permalink
Friday 14th. March, 2014 – My Birthday Outing! 

Today Rachel took me out for lunch (because both she and I were away yesterday). We ended up at Eyemouth and saw the boats in the harbour and in the Eye Water

Up early (because the ‘phone rang and I had to answer it). Breakfasted in the farm house using my new (birthday) porridge bowl which didn’t overflow when I heated the oats in the microwave. While I was eating, Tom and Dorothy arrived with a birthday present for me: a shiny, new wheel-barrow. “Well”, said Tom, “a cement-mixer is no use at all without a wheel-barrow.” It was very kind of them but I have visions of getting aches on top of my aches and bruises on top of my bruises before too many more days have gone by.

Rachel took me out for lunch today. We set off, not really knowing where we were going and saw a sign for Eyemouth, so we went there. Eyemouth has a place in my story because when I was based in Genoa our congregation was linked with Eyemouth, or at least, we were their missionary partner. So it was good to be back there.

We walked the dogs on the beach:

The lovely sandy beach which is quiet at this time of year but which must be very busy in the summer

Having walked the dogs and explored the town, we put the dogs back in the car and went for lunch at The Contented Sole:

The Contented Sole overlooks the harbour and served delicious bar meals. Being in a fishing port I started with a prawn cocktail and moved on to Haddock, chips and mushy peas – Rachel had pate and chicken with onion rings, mushrooms and chips. It was a real feast:

A thoroughly good meal I would recommend to anyone

On the way home we drove through Reston, of interest to us because Mum had a cottage there many years ago. It is up for sale and doesn’t appear to be selling not least, I suspect, because one hundred and ten new houses are about to be built almost next door to it.

Back home I prepared the music for Sunday at Gavinton (Gay, the organist, is on holiday) and prepared a wedding service for Sunday while Rachel struggled with some of the boxes which we brought into the Granary last week. She found my Russian hat – I was particularly delighted about this because I was worried that it might have deteriorated (or even been attacked by mice) in the barn. But it is absolutely perfect.

I dined with Olive and Mum at seven (Digger is still in bed feeling a bit sore and Rachel had too much to eat at lunch time). Then we settled down in front of the stove and watched some television (Jonathan Creek which, in truth, I thought had become more than a little unbelievable; but I like the characters, so who cares?) Isn’t life absolutely great?

[ view entry ] ( 3000 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 13th. March, 2014 – My Birthday 

My birthday trifle (and yes, there were candles) – I love trifles and this one was made for me by my sister-in-law Sue

Up early, showered and walked Mix before breakfast at the farm house. Rachel joined us today because it was my birthday. Immediately afterwards, Dorothy arrived and she and Rachel set off for Berwick for their weekly stained-glass class.

I got my things together and then set off to drive to Perthshire where I met with my friends Peggy and Bill, and Ian whom I had met before a few years ago. We shared an excellent lunch in a farm centre called Gloagburn and then drove off to Clunie Kirk in the Presbytery of Dunkeld and Meigle for a rehearsal for a wedding in which I am participating on Sunday. Peggy and Bill’s service will be shared by Ian and me and the purpose of my trip was to have a run through of what will happen on the day. It is one of those weddings in which it is an absolute pleasure and privilege to share: Bill was my colleague in Bishopbriggs while Peggy was a minister in Clydebank while I was in the Presbytery of Dumbarton. Both lost their partners and have now met and fallen in love. I couldn’t be more pleased for them; they are lovely, lovely people.

A view of the interior of Clunie Church showing the baptismal bowl attached to the pulpit. Infants were passed to the minister in the pulpit to enable him to conduct the baptism without leaving the pulpit – the old Scottish way of doing things. Clunie Kirk was part of the linkage which made up my friend Bill’s last charge before retirement; Peggy has taken over from him and now they are to be married in front of their friends, family and members of their congregations here on Sunday.

I drove home in time to have a birthday meal prepared by Olive. Scott and Sue had come across to join in the celebrations and to gorge on the birthday trifle! We had a very happy evening. Digger shared some of the food – but from his bed. After his operation yesterday, today he is extremely sore (hardly surprising when you think that he has been cut open, reorganised and put back together again). While Digger is indisposed Rachel is on hen duty and Olive and Mum both took turns of walking Heidi. My body was delighted to have a day without heavy boxes to be moved – but we will be back to it all with a vengeance next week.

[ view entry ] ( 2952 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 12th. March, 2014 – Looking back, it was a very good day 

Berwick Station where I dropped off Olive at seven and picked her up again almost twelve hours later

We assembled in the courtyard at twenty-past six. I was to drive Olive to Berwick to catch an early train to Dundee, Sue (Scott’s wife) was to drive Digger to the hospital in Melrose where he was to be operated on for a hernia. We all set off on our allotted journeys, naturally everyone was a bit apprehensive for Digger.

I came back and heard from Sue that she had deposited Digger and that he was in good hands. I breakfasted with Mum in the farm house and then walked Mix with Rowan and Rachel. Because of the early start we were able to begin work on the barns early as well. So it was a back-breaking day as we slogged through boxes from morn until night (or at least late afternoon). In all we have now repacked and installed in the stables around two-hundred and fifty boxes (and everywhere else is filled with boxes awaiting a new home). There remain in the large barn twenty-one boxes and it wasn’t lack of time which led to their remaining there. Although I watched single removal men carrying each of these boxes, I find that these are too heavy for me to lift so I will need some help. Forty years ago I might have managed to move them, not now!

Almost all of our boxes now have a new home – next we shall start on furniture!

Only twenty-one boxes remain and I will need some help to get them next door

During the day, we had our coffee break in the farm house with Mum (who continued to potter in the garden clearing out flower beds), and we had a forty-five minute lunch break (during which I watched George and Mildred on television while eating beans and sausages). At five o’clock we walked Mix and Rowan and on our return, while Rachel fed the dogs, I walked Heidi (Digger’s dog). We had heard by this time that Digger was safely through his operation and that he would be back with us in time for dinner.

How’s that for scaffolding? This really is a major piece of work

I went off to collect Olive from the station in Berwick – her train was delayed. We picked up fish suppers (or fish and chips as it was in England) and arrived back just a little after Digger. It was good to see that he had suffered no ill-effects, quite the contrary, and will soon be on his feet and raring to go in this task of making Mount Pleasant into our vision of what it could be for our family.

Digger and Olive retired early. Rachel and I watched Law and Order UK, followed by the News, before walking the dogs – it was a lovely bright night with no need for torches at all – and getting to bed to rest weary bones. On every front – and from every angle – this has been a really good day. (And tomorrow there will be no more boxes.)

[ view entry ] ( 3186 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 11th. March, 2014 -- More of the same 

Walking the dogs in the sunshine this afternoon, a lovely blue sky and up there, smiling down on us, the moon

Woke early and was out in the summer house by seven trying to make some sense of all of the boxes with which it is filled. Didn’t have a great deal of success. I walked the dog (with Rachel and Rowan) and then breakfasted at nine before returning for another couple of hours in the summer house. Around eleven, Rachel returned from her physiotherapist and we started on more boxes. By the end of the day we had well in excess of one hundred and fifty boxes repacked and stacked in the stables and probably another fifty or sixty disposed of in some other way (the summer house for example). As with everything else this is proving to be a bigger job than I imagined but with a huge chunk of luck we may deal with all of the boxes by the end of tomorrow.

Apart from a lunch break from 1.45 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. we worked solidly until almost five in the afternoon. Then we walked the dogs (and saw the moon) after which I just wanted to sit with my feet up – boxes start off just heavy and end up enormously heavy by the end of the day.

These pictures are included as a record of how we have got on: (the before pictures, obviously, are the final pictures on yesterday’s entry).

There are now more than one hundred and fifty boxes packed in here but there is still loads of room for all the rest that is to come

There is still a lot to move but the boxes are certainly going down. The central area was stacked with boxes which all contained the heaviest books imaginable

Before we walked the dogs I went around to the front of the house where Mum had been doing her bit by tending the flower beds. She is delighted that daffodils are starting to grow. One of the excitements of being in a new home is that we have no idea what is going to pop up through the ground next!

Mum is looking her best as this morning she was at her hairdresser for her weekly session

Finally, while walking the dogs, we saw how well the workers had been getting on at the bridge – and why they required such strong scaffolding:

At seven we all dined together in the farm house. Tomorrow Digger goes into hospital for a hernia operation – my sister-in-law Sue will be driving him to hospital, I will be driving Olive to Berwick for her train to Dundee to lecture and Mum and Rachel will be looking after the farmstead. When I get back the menu will consist entirely of boxes – but we look forward to having Digger home tomorrow evening with the operation successfully behind him.

This evening we relaxed in front of the television, resting aching bones. (Watched Shetland, a new crime drama, of which, I think, a small part was filmed in Luss.) Walked Mix before bed. It is already very cold, the price we pay for the lovely sunshine this afternoon.

[ view entry ] ( 3100 views )   |  permalink
Monday 10th. March, 2014 – Saint Kessog's Day -- The big battle commences 

This is a picture of the empty barn – we call it the stables for no other reason than it used to have half-doors when we arrived here. Those who have been following this blog will remember that Tom and I made new doors to secure this barn. This barn has been prepared to store all of the boxes and furniture which we can’t use at the present time, but for which we will have a use in the future

This is a picture of the barn into which we decanted all of our goods and chattels when we arrived in the Borders (or at least our removal men did). The aim of this week is to sort out what is here and leave this barn as empty as the one in the picture above it

I awoke early – this is going to be a very big day. The weather forecasters have promised us three days when it will be fair and Rachel and my aim is to sort out as much as possible of the things in the corner barn and move everything to a new location. Some things will come into the Granary – we have been without lots of things we need (including some clothes) ever since we arrived; other things will be moved to the summer house (most of my books are as still unaccounted for); and many things will be repacked and moved in boxes into the empty barn we call the stables.

I breakfasted and then walked Mix, catching up with Rachel who was walking Rowan. We came home and started work. Moving boxes out of the big barn – I provided the muscle and Rachel opened each box, put a number on it and recorded its contents in a book, as well as marking where the box had been put.

By the end of the day we had dealt with around one hundred and thirty boxes. A little over eighty of them had been repacked, numbered and placed in the stables, the rest had gone to the Granary, the Hen House, the Summer House or had been labelled to be thrown out. The good news is that, even with eighty boxes in it, the stables look almost as empty as when we started; the bad news is that the big barn looks almost as full as when we started:

Even with eighty boxes in it the stables has plenty of room for all the rest which will follow

If you look closely you will see that we have made quite a difference

We worked from around ten until half-past one (having one coffee break with Mum in her Garden Room), started again at half-past two and worked until half-past four. We then had to load all of the boxes destined for the Granary into the Granary, all of those for the Sumer House into the Summer House ... and so on. I worked in the Summer House until seven when I went for dinner in the Farm House. Afterwards I watched University Challenge and then Silk on the television, returning to the Summer House at ten and working for another couple of hours. There is still a great deal to do but I am not working on tonight because in the morning Rachel has to go to her physiotherapist and I will get caught up then.

At half past four, before we continued with other things, we walked the dogs to the bridge, in fact we walked the dogs over the bridge and I took a picture looking back. Like us, the bridge repairers are involved in what must seem to them to be a Herculean task – I hope that they are enjoying themselves as much as we are.

I think that there will soon we as massive scaffolding on the other side of the bridge – but progress is clearly being made

Mix and I had a final walk before bed. The moon is shining brightly and the only reason I carried a torch was in case a vehicle came so that I could ensure that it saw us. Went to bed, tired: my back will ache tomorrow!

Back in Luss I expect that folk will have been celebrating St. Kessog's Day. I'll tell his story on this blog one day soon. Suffice it to say for today that Kessog brought Christianity to Luss and Loch Lomond-side in the year 510 when he was already an elderly (for the time) man of sixty years. He worked in and from Luss for ten years before dying at the hands of Druids in 520, becoming Scotland's first Christian martyr and leading to Luss becoming an ancient place of pilgrimage.

[ view entry ] ( 3109 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 9th. March, 2014 – The First Sunday in Lent 

I took this picture of the River Blackadder on our morning walk

Woke early and got up. Mix and I walked down to the bridge and back again before breakfast and then Mum, Rachel and I set off for Church. This is the first Sunday since the road was closed so we left in plenty of time to drive round to Gavinton via Fogo.

There were more people in Church than usual today and Ann spoke to us about the Temptations of Jesus, drawing a contrast between the ‘high experience’ of the disciples with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration last week and Jesus alone in the desert this week. We went for coffee after the service and returned home in time to continue with the tidying-up programme before lunch in the farm house. Chicken with a peanut and lime and curry sauce (satay, I believe), followed by pork and apple en croute with fried potatoes and mushy peas. Another lovely meal!

A whole beach stretches ahead – we have just got out of the car and Rowan can’t wait to get to the beach

Rachel and Rowan have reached the beach and are waiting patiently for Mix and I to catch up

After lunch Rachel and I drove to Berwick to do some urgent shopping and then we walked the dogs on the beach at Spittal. It was almost half-past five by the time that we returned and while we had been out a lamp-bulb had blown and dislodged the fuse. So I had to restart the computer and other electrical equipment.

Berwick is just across the River Tweed from where we like to walk the dogs

Rachel and I had a snack (in truth it was a bit more than a snack: we started with mixed anti pasto, followed by penne with pesto sauce and rounded off with pancakes) while I watched England’s most recent humiliation on the cricket field (in the T20 at the hands of the West Indies). Later we watched Mr. Selfridge on the television before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Not much to write about but a really splendid day. The good news is that the weather forecast for the next three days is fine and, as a result, Rachel and I are planning to start to empty the big barn. (However, it is actually raining at the moment, so we shall see.)

[ view entry ] ( 2833 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 8th. March, 2014 – A Total Tidy-up 

A view of the bridge from the bridge as we walked the dogs this afternoon

Slept in (quite deliberately) and by the time I woke, Rachel was up and about and had walked both dogs. Rachel brought me coffee in bed, I completed my book and it was after ten before I got up.

Spent the morning and first part of the afternoon tidying the summer house and taking more stuff from the Granary to store there. This work was relieved by a visit from two gentlemen of the constabulary who wanted to know if we had seen or heard a council vehicle being stolen from the bridge last night and driven past our home. As it happened, shortly before eleven last night, Rachel and I were walking the dogs and we saw a vehicle driving along the Mount Pleasant to Greenside Road and it had an orange light flashing on the top. It may well have been the vehicle which had been stolen. I gather the council have got the vehicle back but I hadn’t expected such crime in the Borders!

Olive and I watched Raith Rovers on television. Unfortunately they lost against St. Johnstone but they had done well to get to the quarter final of the Scottish Cup. Digger was up at Kirkcaldy to spur them on but to no avail. I completed my tidying of the summer house and then Rachel and I walked the dogs down to the bridge to see how work was progressing. There certainly seems to be something a little different every time we visit. On the way back a car came driving through obviously not believing that there was no way through but moments later they had had to turn and come back.

I spent the latter part of the afternoon tidying my upstairs room. It is a big job but I had got most of it done by supper time in the farm house. In the evening we (Rachel, Mum, Olive and I) watched 37 Days – a drama based on the lead up to the first world war. It was worth seeing and so much better, I think, for watching the whole thing in one go. The programme reminded me that it is individuals who shape events and sometimes just one person can change the shape of what happens – there were so many such ‘performances’ in the story we watched unfolding this evening.

All around there is a ferocious wind blowing which makes us glad to have such a strong house in which to live (and such a warm one as well). Rachel and I walked the dogs and went to bed. It has been another good day.

[ view entry ] ( 2884 views )   |  permalink
Friday 7th. March, 2014 St. Boswell’s Market and the World Day of Prayer 

The view as we parked our car at St. Boswell’s this morning – a lovely sunny day and hundreds of people raking around through the items to be auctioned

I got up and walked Mix, grabbed some breakfast and was ready for Tom and Dorothy when they arrived at nine. Today was the day of the market at St. Boswell’s and we were off to search for bargains (with Tom’s trailer hitched behind the car to bring them home).

I was surprised when we arrived at St. Boswell’s to discover so many people – and so many different things for sale by auction. There were three separate auctions: the one at which we spent our time which was small items with everything from tools and animal feeding equipment, through children’s motor bikes, dog kennels, wooden posts (for fencing), wire, logs and so on; another with extremely large items of equipment, trailers, combine harvesters (or things on that scale) and a third area with tractors and vehicles.

Everyone browses until the auction starts – these strange looking objects are used to feed hens (Tom and Dorothy keep their own brood of hens).

Although the crowds were large, the prices seemed to be extremely reasonable although Tom was beaten in bids for fence posts and a storage container for animal feed. He did buy a jelly pan filled with tools for £15 and then promptly sold one of the tools (which he didn’t want) to a rival bidder for a fiver – it was that kind of occasion. I made my first purchase of the market auctions – a cement mixer – mine for just £30 (plus £1.50p buyer’s premium and 30p VAT).

Crowds of people follow the auctioneer as he walks through the hundreds of items – you have to battle through to get near the auctioneer as he approaches the item in which you are interested

We had a fabulous breakfast of coffee and roll filled with sausages (Tom had a roll with sausage and black-pudding) and, once all of our purchasing was complete, we returned home in the middle of the afternoon.

My new cement mixer in the courtyard at Mount Pleasant. I will use it to point the stonework in the Granary and for several other projects which we have in mind

Mix and I went for a walk (down to the bridge, of course) and there I took this photograph of the ever-growing scaffolding work at the bridge. There is obviously a lot to be done but you can see that the pillar nearest to the camera has already been re-pointed. (That is how the Granary will look after I have got my cement mixer into use!)

The bridge as it is today

Back home, I fed Mix and then had a shower before an early tea. Then Mum and I set out for Gavinton Church and the World Day of Prayer service prepared by women in Egypt. There was a good attendance of folk from Gavinton, Duns Church of Scotland, Duns Episcopal and Duns Roman Catholic congregations. Our minister, Ann, gave the address and members of different congregations presented the readings – as there was one person who was unable to be present, I was asked to stand-in and read the part of Jesus in the dramatised reading from John’s Gospel about Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar.

After the service we all adjourned to the church hall for coffee and biscuits made to an Egyptian recipe for the occasion. We drove home and I joined Rachel in watching a new episode of Jonathan Creek but I am afraid that all of the fresh air of earlier in the day caught up with me and I think I slept through most of it, as I did with the News and Newsnight. Still tomorrow is Saturday and I can relax.

Mix and I went for a late night walk and then it was time to do my sleeping in bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3091 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 6th. March, 2014 – The staircase is completed 

It is quite difficult to photograph a staircase – but here it is: complete. Now we have access from the ground floor to the first floor and refurbishment can continue more easily than before

Woke and walked Mix with Rachel and Rowan. We made our way down to the bridge and back again. Breakfasted in the farm house and, around nine, Tom and Dorothy arrived; Dorothy to go with Rachel to Berwick for their stained glass class, me to accompany Tom to Duns where he was to leave his car and I was to drive him back to Mount Pleasant. While we were at the garage we learned that the Bongo needed a new radiator but that as Bongos are grey imports the garage didn’t know where to purchase a radiator. We asked them to remove the old radiator and to fit a new one once we had sourced it for them.

Back at Mount Pleasant nothing was going to stand in the way of our completing the staircase. There were risers to be screwed to the steps, and tidying up to be done at the top of the stairs. It took us a couple of hours but now we have a very fine staircase. We went for coffee with Mum to celebrate and then we came out to the summer house where we accessed a number of Bongo sites through which we succeeded in buying a new radiator for Rachel’s camper van.

Flushed with the success of our staircase, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s for lunch (vegetable soup followed by macaroni cheese). By the time we had completed lunch Tom’s car was ready so we returned to Mount Pleasant and spent a while in the hen house putting up plaster-board in the library. Then we gave everything up and had coffee in the Granary and put the world to rights, Tom sitting on a seat by the window and playing my accordion – a kind of tribute to our new staircase!

Tom sits by the window in the Granary and plays the curly-headed shepherd – perhaps it was relief that the staircase had been completed so successfully

Dorothy and Rachel returned and Tom and Dorothy set off for home. Rachel and I walked Mix and Rowan down to the bridge – we are going to make the most of this eight weeks during which the road has become our private dog-walking path – and we saw that progress is being made, not least because now a huge scaffold has been erected in front of the bridge.

A view of the scaffolding in front of the bridge – taken as we walked the dogs this afternoon

Back home I changed and Rachel, Mum, Digger and I set off for Berwick to attend War Horse at the Maltings. Mum, Rachel and I went for a meal in the theatre while Digger went to the station to collect Olive. (I ate Cullen Skink and Scotch egg salad with fried potatoes). The theatre production was a National Theatre production streamed throughout many theatre in the world. The puppetry was superb as were the production and the performances. The story contains an inevitable amount of sentimentality (we find ourselves lamenting the death of a horse while all around men are being mown down in their hundreds) but there are real morals in the story – it is the things which the hero did for Joey which saved his life (even the forcing him to pull the plough to win a bet) and the haunting song reminding us that we will be remembered for what we do. Life is full of coincidences (if you believe in them) and if you try to achieve the impossible, just sometimes you will achieve it. It was a good evening.

We drove home and were glad of the warm welcome waiting for us from Mix and Rowan (who have become such very good friends). We walked the dogs and retired to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3355 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 5th. March, 2014 – Ash Wednesday 

This picture belongs with yesterday’s entry. Rachel took it on her telephone and it shows me tossing a pancake while Mum looks on.
Rachel emailed the picture to me but it didn’t arrive until today

Woke early (I was actually awoken by a text message from Amazon telling me at what time my delivery would arrive). I got up and Mix and I went for a walk down to the bridge. On our return we went into the summer house where I completed the music for the World Day of Prayer service for Arrochar and got this sent off to Jamie. I also started on the music for next Sunday at Arrochar.

Even although we were early at the bridge, work had already started and others were getting ready to start their day’s activity

Just as I was completing the music, Tom arrived so I missed out on breakfast and we started straight off on the staircase – taking it all apart and then putting it together carefully, gluing all of the joints and screwing the whole assembly into the walls. We got the basics done by lunchtime when Tom had to go off with Dorothy and his daughter to Berwick to do some shopping. I took the opportunity to have some lunch and then to complete the music for Arrochar and get it sent off. It was lovely to have a bit of time and I spent quite a while on music practice (well, it is practice in the sense that I am learning; it isn’t practice in the sense that it is a preparation for something special or for some event or other. This is purely for my own enjoyment.)

Tom returned and we all but completed the staircase. There is a bit to do tomorrow but it will be done by lunchtime (unless we decide to do something else instead). I drove Tom home and then came back and had a quick shower.

We dined early at 5.45 so that we could drop Mum in Duns for the Duns Guild and so that Rachel and I could go to Gavinton Church to the Ash Wednesday service to mark the start of Lent. It was a good service with members of the congregation reading – the theme being our need for forgiveness as we set out on the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. Anne spoke about the alternative of ‘taking on’ rather than ‘giving up’ something during Lent (quoting from Matthew’s Gospel in her support).

Back home I subsided in front of the stove and dozed – Lewis was on the television (and the News and Newsnight) but to be honest I saw little television this evening.

[ view entry ] ( 2989 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 4th. March, 2014 Pancake Tuesday 

We used to catch sight of this doo cot as we drove into Duns – now the road is closed we can walk there with the dogs and have a proper look. It is rather smart

Woke and walked Mix down to the bridge – on the way we saw three deer. They weren’t in the least fazed by the bird-scarers which were sounding off but on seeing Mix they wandered off across the field and over the horizon.

Our staircase arrives, swathed in plastic, and almost the last delivery on this van which set out earlier in the day from Newcastle

Worked in the summer house for a while until it was breakfast time and then went to the farmhouse for my porridge. Tom and Dorothy arrived and we moved some plaster-board up to the first floor of the Hen House and then worked on the plaster-boarding of the library. While Tom and Dorothy were away for lunch the delivery van with our staircase arrived. Rachel and I helped the driver (from Newcastle) unpack the staircase bits and then, when Tom arrived, we had a dry run of erecting the staircase. We now know that it fits and tomorrow we will fit it together properly and fit it to the wall. We really are moving forward.

Tom and Rachel pose in the hole into which the staircase will fit (we hope)

Tom in action assembling the staircase

The staircase has been dry-assembled -- tomorrow we will disassemble it and fit it together properly with all of the fixings

Mix, Rowan, Rachel and I walked across the Blackadder Bridge to the doo cot and then returned to the Granary where we gave the dogs their evening meal. I came back to the summer house to look at the music for the World Day of Prayer service before dinner.

We ate in the farm house (a splendid meal which, appropriately, included pancakes) and then Rachel and I retired to the Granary for a leisurely evening watching Death in Paradise and sleeping through the News and Newsnight. I needed a leisurely evening because my body was aching after hauling the stairway into place and holding it up while the next bit was fitted. However, it seems to be a perfect fit – something we will know for certain tomorrow.

I walked Mix and retired to bed, to sleep, to dream of completed staircases and the next phase of our building projects and of my joinery apprenticeship!

[ view entry ] ( 2854 views )   |  permalink
Monday 3rd. March, 2014 – Our road is closed 

Our road will remain closed for the next two months

Woke and got up, with walking Mix first on my agenda. Discovered that the road outside our house running from Duns to here was in the process of being closed. It will be closed for eight weeks or so and, far from this being a bad thing, it will give us a splendid road to walk down as our own private dog-walking area.

Mix and I walked down it this morning and then returned for breakfast in the farmhouse. As I made my way back to the Granary, Rachel was coming out with Rowan – so we went for another walk with them, again along our newly closed road. It is great!

Tom arrived and he and Rachel put up the curtain in Mum’s Garden Room while I made some phone calls (Including chasing up the hammer I had ordered two months ago from HomeBase and which had never arrived.) I discovered too that our staircase had been loaded on to a lorry in Leeds and would arrive here tomorrow morning. So we set about clearing a space in the Hen House for the staircase and discovered a power supply while we were doing that. I ‘phoned the electrician to see if he will be able to use this supply or whether we will require another one.

The sun was shining today – that’s why we set about the barn – and Mix enjoyed the sun pouring into the summer house through the blinds

We stopped for coffee and then had a look at Rachel’s Bongo which is again not starting. Tom and Rachel went off to Duns to speak to the garage while I started to look at the music which Arrochar require for the World Day of Prayer service on Friday. Tom ‘phoned and I went to collect him (coming via Fogo).

Back at Mount Pleasant, we started Rachel’s Bongo and then Rachel drove it to the Garage with Tom and I driving behind to collect her. We drove to Duns via Sinclair’s Hill and then, after visiting Pearson’s, we returned by the same route (meeting Dorothy returning from her spinning class on the way).

When we got home I discovered that there had been a parcel delivery – my hammer had arrived!

At the start of today this barn was full – now it is absolutely empty

Now we set about the task of the day. We gutted the barn behind the new wooden doors which we made in January. This is a totally secure barn, inaccessible to birds, and now that we have gutted it, we will wash it out tomorrow and then start to load in all of the things which we want to keep but don’t yet have a place for. It will be a long job because we’ll do it slowly, opening every box and keeping a record of where everything is so that we will know for the future. Well, that is the plan – of course, tomorrow our staircase arrives and we also have to plasterboard the upstairs of the Hen House, so there are many competing demands on our time, but it is exciting.

The Blackadder Bridge which will be completely rebuilt over the next two months

Gutting the barn exhausted me – things are so heavy – so after Rachel and I had taken the dogs on a walk all the way to Nisbet Hill along the closed road, I enjoyed a hot shower before dinner. Rachel is so bushed that she declined dinner and preferred to remain in front of the stove.

After dinner we settled down in front of the stove. It was a hard job to remain awake but I watched Silk followed by the News and Newsnight before walking both of the dogs – Rachel had retired to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3109 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 2nd. March, 2014 – Transfiguration Sunday 

These yellow roses with pussy-willows were in Church this morning making the Church very attractive (or even more attractive than it normally is)

Woke and walked Mix. The Swinton Road was very quiet but then it is Sunday. From tomorrow the road from our home to Duns is due to be closed for eight weeks to allow for repairs to the bridge over the River Blackadder. That will make that road, which at present is quite busy, a really enjoyable walk for Mix and me. I wonder if it will be closed by tomorrow first thing or whether we will have to wait until later in the day? Of course, we will have to find a new route to drive into Duns but there will be several to chose between.

Breakfasted and set off with Mum and Rachel for Church where the readings, meditations and prayers were on the theme of Transfiguration – of Moses at Mount Sinai, and of Peter, James and John with Jesus as he was transfigured with Moses and Elijah on (?) Mount Horeb. After the service we went to the church hall for coffee and chatted with Tom and Dorothy who were setting off for Kelso to the annual potato market. We told them to look out for Digger who had set off earlier for the same destination.

Back home we went for lunch at the farmhouse (carrot soup followed by chicken and potatoes and kale) at which we were joined by Scott and Sue. They left after lunch with Olive and Digger who went along to grab the best of some of the books which Scott was throwing out. I sorted out my finances in the summer house and then, when Rachel went off to evensong in Berwick, I moved back into the Granary so that Rowan was not on her own. There I did some music practice while I watched the cricket from the West Indies. What looked like a walk in the park for England after they dismissed West Indies very cheaply, turned into a real struggle and it required a good partnership from Ravi Bopara and Stewart Broad to see England home.

As soon as the game ended, Rachel and I had an evening meal around our table in the Granary and then we settled down to watch Mr. Selfridge and the News before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. We have to clear the space for the staircase to go in the Hen House. Then, once the bits arrive, we have to get them into position and build them into a staircase. And then we will have easy access to the top floor! Can’t wait.

[ view entry ] ( 2967 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 1st. March, 2014 – St. David’s Day 

This morning the sun was shining -- it was if Spring had arrived and I felt good

This morning I slept in. Well, it wasn’t really sleeping in because I didn’t set my alarm and I didn’t plan to wake at any particular time. (One can do that when one is retired.)

It was after ten when I awoke. I rose slowly and then Mix and I went for a walk. It was beautiful, the sun was shining and all was right with the world.

On returning to Mount Pleasant, Mix and I made our way to the summer house and there I prepared the music for Arrochar’s Service tomorrow and got it all sent off to Jamie. That done I stopped for a snack and then Mix and I returned to the summer house to try to catch up with my diary. I’d taken notes while I was away so that was no problem. What was a problem was that my camera had given out and I had had to use my telephone. The pictures were caught on a micro flash card within the telephone but to get them on to my computer required an adaptor. I didn’t have one. Amazon could (and will) deliver one to me on Monday but I didn’t want to leave my diary un-updated until them. There was nothing for it but that I would choose the pictures I wanted from the thumbnails on the camera and email them to myself. However, here I get almost no reception .... it would have made a good episode for a family comedy and it took me all afternoon (and a little of the evening) to get things up to date. But up to date I am, and that’s great.

When I get all of the pictures off my telephone I will find that I have some which I would have wished to have shown the world (or at least kept to remind myself of where I have been) so in all probability they will appear on the pages of my diary in the days to come.

Mix and I went for a walk this afternoon: the weather was still very good and because it was very dry underfoot we were able to walk along Bramble Avenue. Mix enjoyed it. Later we dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse – a sausage casserole with loads of carrots and potatoes, followed by trifle and ice-cream.

In the evening Rachel and I watched Endeavour on the television and then we walked the dogs before bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Church for one thing and then I hope to get some sorting out done, and a little music practice as well, before the week starts and we continue with our building project. (This time next week I hope to have a staircase in the hen house and at least one room fully plaster-boarded: now there is a hostage to fortune.)

The good weather has disappeared – our final walk took place in heavy rain – and as I put these words into the computer the rain is getting heavier. And there was me thinking that Spring was just around the corner.

[ view entry ] ( 3032 views )   |  permalink
Friday 28th. February, 2014 – The long journey home 

Vadstena sits on the bank of a beautiful lake

I was woken by my alarm at 6.30 a.m. I showered and dressed and then packed my bag, stripped my bed and went for breakfast at 7.30 a.m. so that I could join the others in Church for the service of Holy Communion at 8 a.m. As it was Friday a painted crucifix with icons of Bridget ( called Birgitta in Swedish) and Katarina on the arms, was in front of the altar and we gathered around this icon for the service which was conducted by the vicar in whose home we had dined last evening.

The crucifix around which we gathered

We all walked back to our base together and the morning’s programme began – a discussion about membership criteria and about funding and the different and considerable additional sources open to us. We broke for coffee (across the lawn in the students’ refectory) and then resumed our discussions, centering on future meetings and on their format.

We moved into groups – the British ‘chapter’: Caroline from Canterbury, Kevin from St. Albans, Peter from Norwich and me from Scotland – discussed our ‘to do’ list – the launch at Canterbury, the secular partnership at Norwich, the work in Wales (with Chris), in Scotland and in Ireland. New areas were targeted with me talking through the possibility of engaging with Jarrow, the World of Bede, Euromine and so on. At least we all know what we are meant to be doing over the coming months!

The minutes raced by and soon it was time to return to church for the noon service of prayer, followed by lunch in the refectory. I loved my stuffed tomato with a glorious salad and sautéed potatoes.

In the hour after lunch a number of smaller meetings took place – to arrange a European pilgrimage to Canterbury; to complete a funding application. As I wasn’t required I nipped out and walked around the town taking some photos; the sun came out and I was truly blessed.

I walked by the lake, visited the castle, popped into the old station (now closed) but with some rolling stock on the line. I looked at the old medieval streets and admired the buildings – and I was so glad to have had the opportunity of taking all of this in.

The Castle entrance

The courtyard

A view from the drawbridge over the moat as the water goes out to the lake

An old railway carriage

The white building is the original Town Hall

The first town chemist’s shop is still in business

These two buildings were built centuries apart. On the left a nineteenth century building, on the right a seventeenth century one

One of the little streets along which I wandered

and I walked across this square (which is under some degree of restoration)

This mark, made by Pilgrims over the centuries, is by the front door of the Abbey Church

I was back after an hour (having met up with Kevin who had also escaped for a moment or two. Back at base we had a round-up session where we were each reminded of our tasks. I have responsibilities in Scotland, northern England and Ireland as well as some research to complete and write up. Now I have my summer house it will be fun to get started on that.

At 2.45 p.m. – what a lot we had packed into today – we loaded ourselves into a minibus and set off for the airport. Kevin was staying on for an extra night in Linkoping, the rest of us got on the 5.10 flight for Amsterdam – and there we all separated and went our different ways: Alison and Berit (along with the vicar of Vadstena) to Bethlehem; Martin to Bristol; Peter to Norwich, Caroline to Heathrow and me to Edinburgh.

The flight was uneventful enough and Rachel was waiting for me at Edinburgh. I was glad to see her – I was delighted to be home. It has been a wonderful three days and I have learned a lot: but it is good to be home.

[ view entry ] ( 2976 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 27th. February, 2014 In Conference at Vadstena 

Some of the folk gathered around the table as our talks began

Up at 6.30 a.m. to shower and have a short walk before breakfast at 7.30 a.m. (egg, cold meats, cheese, coffee) and then it was off to Church (Bridget’s Church and, after a fire at the original one, the parish church) for Holy Communion. It was, of course, all in Swedish but I followed it fine (because of my knowledge of the liturgy rather than of the language).

Inside the church it is really quite dark – so excuse the quality – but this little corner of the Church is where we gathered for morning prayers

Back in our centre we moved into the conference room and started our discussions. The morning was spent in catching up; in hearing how things were developing in India, in China and in Japan.

In India they are gearing up for the Hindu Environment Week during which plans to green Temples will be shared, with a big meeting planned for the end of this year.

Bethlehem is now linked with Trondheim and there will be a conference to discuss the greening of Bethlehem next week.

Santiago de Compostela’s plans to join the network are advancing and there will be a conference there, possibly in September in conjunction with the World Tourist Organisation, or possibly early next year.

Work is progressing on the Canterbury to Rome to Jerusalem pilgrimage way. Work in Jerusalem is refocusing on representation of the different faiths resident there.

In China work is moving forward quickly. Six new organic nurseries, a new Green Temple and three new places to come on line this year.

Confuscianism has adopted Green Pilgrimage and in Japan the Shinto are also developing their programmes.

Some of the folk at the other side of the table

We discussed Etchmiadzin, the Haj (to Mecca and to the Suffi Shrines to which pilgrims travel in huge numbers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria). And then we heard a little about Sweden’s tourist routes: Bridget’s and the longer (300 km) Cloister route. Routes are now built around Youth Hostels and sleeping places because so many of the smaller churches have been sold. Local people stressed the importance of a good experience for the hosts of the pilgrims to enable routes to develop and grow. What a lot is going on!

We looked at developments in Green Pilgrimage in Europe where there is a great deal of excitement and interest in Green Pilgrimage with denominations making staff available to take advantage of the new opportunities which are being presented. I was enormously encouraged by the investment by the churches in Norway and Sweden and in England too, in pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage Centre in Vadstena now has six ministerial staff provided by the Church and has seen its work develop exponentially over almost twenty years – there is a Pilgrim chaplain at the Abbey Church and services are held several times every day; Pilgrim ministers are available to lead people on pilgrimage because this is seen as both as part of the service of the church and as a great means of mission and outreach.

A picture of part of the interior of the Church

At lunchtime we went first to the Church for the mid-day prayer service (fifteen minutes including a song from Taize) – this was one of the services provided by the pilgrimage staff, in this case a volunteer – and then we went to the former monastery, now owned by the state and run as a hotel, for a magnificent lunch as guests of the Town Council.

I took this picture of the restaurant after our tour – it had been put back together again – but look at the vaulted ceilings under which the monks slept in time gone-by

Again we ate cod with salad and vegetables – we started with an onion soup. (Cod is a favourite we discovered. It is extremely tasty and I think that Swedish people live on fish.) We were taken on a tour of the former monastery and then into the former convent/palace by an enthusiastic guide who spoke as if the events of long ago had happened in his recent memory.

Some of us are listening intently as our guide describes the changes which have taken place to this former monastery

Back at base we started to make plans for the future: the visits which will have to be made to assist new groups to join the network; major conferences which are to happen over the next year; a task force to take forward new opportunities and so on. It was all good stuff. I was just a little sorry that I was no longer going to be able to help Argyll grasp the opportunities which other people were reaching out for with such enthusiasm – but other people will pick up that baton.

We broke in the middle of the afternoon to go to the official Pilgrimage Centre to see their coffee bar (and drink their coffee), to visit their bookshop (and buy some of the books) and to take some of the pictures I had missed last night because it had been dark.

The large Pilgrim Rosary on the wall of the Church

I was given a pilgrimage rosary with beads to wear around my wrist – each bead stands for a part of one’s prayer cycle and, if I remember, it goes something like this: the gold bead stands for God (where all our prayers begin), a little bead for silence is followed by a small white bead for me and a larger white bead for my Baptism which makes me what I am; a silence is followed by a brown bead to give me the opportunity of bringing my worries to God (and sometimes the desert place in which I find myself). A further silence is followed by a blue bead to challenge me to count my blessings and to recall my happy times; a silence is followed by two red beads: the first for all of the love given to me and the second for the love which I give to other people (we love because we are first loved). Three white beads follow: they are for my secrets – the special things about me which I wish to share with God. A black bead enables me to bring my losses to God, for those who have died whom I miss, and then a silence followed by a white bead for revelation: what God has said to me as I take part in the prayer exercise, because the aim of the cycle is to enable us to place ourselves before God and then to listen to him in the silence and in the prayer. A final silence brings one back to the gold bead, brings one back to God.

One of the ladies of Vadstena with a Pilgrim Rosary Bracelet

Well, my beads weren’t quite like that. The first of my secret beads had been replaced with a green bead – signifying life, service and pilgrimage. It was a lovely gift and it originated here in this diocese twenty years ago. (The green bead is a much more recent alteration.)

Back to work to round off plans for the major conference this time next year and by the time that was done it was time to have a quick break before going back to the Abbey Church, this time to be shown round by a guide.

Look closely at this model and you can see the platform where the nuns used to come into Church and worship

The Abbey Church is an enormous building – and by Bridget’s decree a very plain and austere building. Between the six front pillars had originally been a platform at first floor height with a surrounding fence. This was for the nuns who entered at first-floor level and were thus unseen by anyone in the church – pilgrims and monks – the townsfolk were not allowed to come in. This platform is now long gone. There are many treasures in the Church – ancient altar screens, fabulous altars and sculptures.

How is this for a vicarage? – quite the biggest manse I have ever seen

Our hour just flew by and we were a few minutes late when we arrived at the two-hundred-year-old vicarage for our evening meal. It is a huge vicarage and wonderfully furnished. Again we ate royally. The salmon was in huge chunks as if it were fresh – but it was smoked and served with salad, vegetables, potatoes and a sauce of crème fraiche, mayonnaise, and caviar! This was followed by a cheese cake with cream and strawberries. Wonderful.

The conversation flowed until it was time to come back to base, to unwind, and to reflect a little on an exceptional day, before bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3852 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 26th. February, 2014 – Off on my travels 

Taken in the gathering gloom, this is a picture of the Pilgrimage Centre in which we stayed. My room is the one in the middle of the first floor above the room with the light on it. It was lovely and everywhere was surrounded by trees

I was up at five so that I could shower, get ready and still be on the road by 6 a.m. Rachel drove me to Edinburgh airport (Rowan came with us while Mix moved into the farmhouse). Our journey took around ninety minutes.

I didn’t have to check in – I had done that on line – and because I only had hand baggage I only had to walk through security and wait until my gate number was announced. This turned out to be quite some wait. My plane had developed a fault in Amsterdam and had to be replaced. As a result we were an hour late in leaving, but fortunately I had time to spare in Amsterdam and could wander to my gate for Linkoping without any problem at all.

In the departure lounge there I met up with everyone who was coming to the get-together: Peter, Caroline, Kevin, Alison, Martin from England and Berit from Norway. We were met in Linkoping by Per who drove us in his minibus to Vadstena – an important pilgrimage centre in Sweden. (The airport at Linkoping was interesting. It was tiny, just the two gates, and when we arrived we were the only plane in the airport. It seems that the airport was built by Saab for their near-by factory but that they allow the community to use it and it has become a city-airport. It was certainly very friendly and welcoming and reminded me of Genoa airport back in the early seventies when I worked there.)

Our base in Vadstena was in a Pilgrim building which is part of the local church facilities which enable the church to provide education, accommodation, meals and conferences for students. It is extremely comfortable.

No sooner had we settled in than it was time to leave the building to be taken on a walking tour of the town. We learned of a very interesting history starting with the creation of a royal palace in the middle of the thirteenth century. One of the ladies in waiting to the queen was Briget, a wealthy woman born in 1303, married at the age of twelve and becoming the mother of eight children before she was widowed on the death of her husband (who was quite a lot older than she was).

It was getting quite dark but here you can see the church rising above the building which was the palace and became the convent

This model shows how the Church and convent relate to each other

Bridget decided to form a new religious order – named after herself. She persuaded the king and queen to give her the palace for her order and then set off for Rome to confront the Pope to ask for permission to set up her order.

Life was not without difficulties for her. First, she wished to create an order which included both men and women (60 nuns and 25 monks) and second, the Pope had moved from Rome to Avignon.

Bridget never returned to Sweden, spending the final twenty years of her long life (she died just before her 70th. birthday) in Rome, first communicating by letter with Avignon and finally face to face once the Pope returned and gave her permission for her order.

Initially this was the Palace of Vadstena. Then it was higher with larger windows and was hugely decorated and elaborate on the exterior. Bridget required it to be made into a building more appropriate for nuns and so the building was lowered and all of the decoration removed

Messages were sent to Sweden through her daughter – the palace was converted into a convent, a huge Church was built, a monastery was constructed and everything was enclosed by a wall (a further wall divided the monks from the nuns). We saw the joining wall through which monks and nuns (or at least the senior monk and the Abbess) could converse but not see each other – and a turning half-barrel which could enable letters to be transferred.

This is a fascinating picture – among the excavations behind the Church you can see the wall through which monks and nuns communicated: the section with holes so that one could hear but not see; the half-barrel into which something could be place and turned round so that it went through the wall; and the box which could be shuttled through the wall for bigger items

The next phase was the growth, not connected with the religious community, of care for mentally ill people – large facilities for both male and female were created by a sixteenth century benefactor, and continued until comparatively recently.

Vadstena remains predominantly a medieval town – not large: today there are about 5,500 people living here (and, according to the local newspaper, 500 dogs).

However, to return to what we were told by our guide, a later king built a fortress which later became a castle. It is a fine looking building which now houses municipal records and a museum and is still surrounded by a magnificent moat.

This is the fortress which then came a castle once the King was convinced that security was no longer his foremost concern

Originally, we were told, the whole town was protected by such a moat. In fact Vadstena sits on the shore of an enormous lake 140 km long by 40 km wide and over 100 metres deep. It is clean, pure water, used as drinking water for most people in this part of Sweden.

The light is going but this is the refectory just across from our accommodation (and opposite the convent building). Here meals and coffee were always available – not just for us but for the hundred or so students who attend the courses facilitated by the Church

Our guide for our tour was an ex Army Officer, now retired. He led us through the streets pointing out medieval buildings and brimming over with enthusiasm for his subject. He returned us to our base and immediately we went across to the refectory for dinner. We were served with with cod, potatoes and mixed vegetables, followed by a lovely desert. It was a splendid meal.

Not satisfactory as a photograph (my camera has no flash) but excellent as a reminder of a superb meal in great company in a place I never expected to be

After a walk we came back to the centre for cheese and fruit and then retired to bed. It had been a long day. My only disappointment had been that my small camera (which I have used for years) chose today to finally give up the ghost. As a result all of my photos for this trip have been taken on my mobile phone, (which unlike many people’s phones is primarily just that, a telephone).

[ view entry ] ( 3174 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 25th. February, 2014 – Welcome visitors 

Enjoying a chat with Lorraine and Cathy in the summer house

Up early to walk the dog and have breakfast before getting my things ready for my trip away tomorrow. I drove Mum to Duns for her hairdressing appointment and when I returned Cathy and Lorraine had arrived to visit us, all the way from Luss.

It was really good to see them both. We had coffee (actually most had tea) in the Granary before showing them around the barns and outhouses which make up Mount Pleasant, ending up in the summer house where we shared all of our news about our Borders Excitements.

Rachel went off to collect Mum and when she returned we all went across to the farmhouse where Mum showed them around her domain before Olive gave us all lunch. It was a lovely day – and a lovely meal – and afterwards we explored the gardens, ending up again in the summer house because Cathy had upholstered a chair for me and brought it down as a present for the summer house. It was the chair which we had brought to Luss for my father when he was ill and it is lovely to have it all refurbished and looking as if it were brand-new.

Digger returned from the dentist and, after tea in the Granary, he took Cathy to see the dome he is building to house vegetables in the garden. Before we knew it, it was getting dark and time for Lorraine and Cathy to set off for home. Their visit was a real treat for us and we hope to see them again before too long has passed.

Didn’t manage to get Olive in the picture – not that she’ll mind – but here we are all gathered around the farmhouse table at lunchtime

I packed my bags for tomorrow and we all gathered around the table in the farmhouse for our evening meal. In the evening we watched a bit of television (Death in Paradise); I got to bed early as tomorrow I go to Sweden where I will be until Friday, leaving Rachel, Mum, Digger and Olive (along with Mix, Rowan and Heidi) to hold the fort in my absence.

Because I am away my diary will not be brought up to date until Friday evening at which point normal service will be resumed. I have never been to Sweden before and hope to have lots to report. I am going to a meeting of the Green Pilgrimage Movement to continue our discussions about the creation of a European Chapter. It will be exciting.

[ view entry ] ( 4197 views )   |  permalink
Monday 24th. February, 2014 A relaxing day 

It’s a dog’s life – and it is rather good!

Up and walked Mix on a fresh morning with just a smidgen of rain in the air. Breakfasted – I’m still on porridge -- and went back to the Granary to sort out some bits and pieces. Tom arrived and soon had our gas fire operational, making me feel a little foolish in the process.

I sorted out some of the paperwork which had built up over the last weeks and tried to pay some bills on-line.

Just before lunch time my friends Bill and Peggy arrived – I have known them both for many years and count them among my most special of friends – they are to be married soon and I am so share in their ceremony, something which I feel extremely honoured about. We went for lunch at Hugo’s – we were fed extremely well (and quite cheaply too). Back at Mount Pleasant I showed Peggy and Bill around and then we settled down in the summer house to talk about their wedding. I was sorry when it was time for them to set off for home.

I dined with Mum and Digger (Olive was en route from Dundee and Rachel was still full of lunch) and then I settled down in front of the television while a wave of contentment washed over me – friends, food, retirement: take your pick, but it has been a very happy day.

(I watched the tv debate about independence between Fiona Hislop and Annabel Goldie on an expanded Newsnight Scotland. I thought that this was much more informative than the usual television offerings because it was just two people having questions put to them by three questioners. As we have more of these debates the issues will become sharper because what people say will be analysed and examined and the starting point will move a bit forward with each successive debate.)

[ view entry ] ( 3018 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 23rd. February, 2014 – A Happy Sunday 

The flowers in Church this morning were given by my mother (today would have been my father’s ninety-third birthday)

Today must have been one of the most blustery days of the winter so far. Extremely windy, not a little rain and really quite cold. Mix and I walked and then I had breakfast before Mum, Rachel and I set off for Gavinton Church.

It was a special service today because, as visitors, we had Joan and Dawn from the Berwickshire Christian Youth Trust where both are members of the management committee. We learned that the Trust has two of a staff who work with young people (Mark and Stewart). They spend time in both primary and secondary schools in the area and arrange camps and other events to support young people who are trying to live out a life of faith in a secular world.

Joan and dawn used the initials of the trust to provide us with some insights into their thinking. B is for bread – a staple food throughout the world (life changing if you don’t have it) and faith is our staple food in a life of Christian pilgrimage – the trust exists to share faith. C is for candle. Even one candle in a dark room makes a difference. It gives hope of more light but a candle flame has to be protected else it will go out – the trust exists to protect the faith of young people who are learning to live a life of faith. Y is for yeast. Yeast makes flour and water grow into loaves of bread. Young people, properly supported, change their own communities. T is for torch – bring all the candles together and a great flame is produced. The trust exists to arrange events such as camps at which Christian youngsters can learn from each other and grow in faith.

Dawn spoke of the difference that the trust had made in the lives of young people over fifteen years – a boy had grown in faith and now works in forestry in India, helping the community there in a practical way and also sharing his faith; a girl had become a teacher and now runs a Sunday evening activity for young people at her church; another girl had trained and was now in Africa learning to be a missionary. Little things lead to greater things.

And how can we help? The trust needs people who are prepared to give their time, perhaps to go along to a Scripture Union event at a local school. It needs people who will bake cakes or donate tins of biscuits to be enjoyed at local events. It needs people to support its work in prayer; and it needs people to donate money as each year it costs something like £40,000 just to keep it going. Here in Gavinton Church there is a collection for the work of the BCYT on the final Sunday of each month.

After the service we joined everyone for tea of coffee in the Church hall

Our Bible readings were the Call of Samuel, the reading from the first letter of Peter about living stones, and the passage from the sermon on the mount about being salt and light to our generation. After the service we went for tea and coffee in the church hall and then we came back to Mount Pleasant where I did some accordion practice and watched the final of the Olympic ice-hockey (Canada 3 – Sweden 0) before lunch in the farm house. We ate well: tuna pate followed by chicken casserole and roast potatoes.

After lunch I settled down in front of the stove to watch some of the ice spectacular and then the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. It seems to me that it has been a superb Games. I was gobsmacked by the closing ceremony. I hadn’t known what to expect – I suppose something music-based like the London one – but, good as that was, this was superb. I loved the way that the Russians had handed the direction over to an Italian to look at their culture from the outside; I loved the themes which emerged – the sea, Russian music, Russian literature, Russian dance and, of course, the Russian circus. I loved the life and vigour and humour. I loved the use of the whole space (from massive floor to roof). I loved the huge cast and the involvement of children. I loved the giant puppets and the reference back to the last time that the Olympics had been celebrated in Russia. I loved the crowds and the enthusiasm of the chair of the organising committee and I really loved the appropriate words spoken by Mr. Bach of the Olympic Committee with his emphasis on peace and respect and tolerance – words which need to be heard world-wide because the picture of the athletes from all over sharing in an Olympic village is a powerful one for all of humanity.

Of course, it all cost a huge amount of money – but its legacy may be huge as well and I gather that the world cup will use some of the same facilities – but our Olympics cost a great deal of money as well and many people consider that that was money well spent. Still, all I started off to say was that I thought that the closing ceremony was immense and that all of the children who took part, and all of those who watched it in the arena and all of the competitors who were there, will have had an experience which they will never forget. Now bring on the Commonwealth Games!

In the evening Rachel and I had a snack together and watched Mr. Selfridge before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3218 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 22nd. February, 2014 – A day of some indolence 

“Are you coming?”

I meant to include this picture yesterday. I took it when Mix and I were exploring our woodland walk. I forgot, so here it is today.

I have been lazy today. I didn’t get up for breakfast (I told everyone I wouldn’t yesterday). In fact I slept in until half-past eight and then read for an hour before getting up. I would have read longer but I finished my book. I did then go across to the farmhouse for a leisurely late breakfast.

Soon afterwards Olive, Rachel and Mum went off to Berwick to buy curtains. I stayed at home to look after the dogs. I spent the time practising my ukulele and repairing the key-pegs on my ukulele-banjo (oh and in having some excellent cheese rolls while I watched the Olympics on the television).

The travellers returned and I went out for a walk with Mix. We passed the entrance to Bramble Avenue. We didn’t go along it because it was very wet underfoot and I was in loafing-around-in-the-house clothes. I remembered that we had been told recently that the locals don’t call it Bramble Avenue but Coal Lane – because evidently in times past the cottars with their coal used this path as a short cut when they were delivering coal to Bogend Farm. To us it will always be Bramble Avenue because it was filled with Brambles when we first arrived.

Coal Lane or Bramble Avenue – take your pick

On returning with Mix I spent a couple of hours re-learning to play my accordion. I say ‘relearning’ but in case you imagine that now I can play it what I mean is re-learning what I am meant to do, I still have to learn how to do it!

By now it was time to station Mix with Olive and Digger so that Rachel and I could go off to Berwick to attend an illustrated talk by Jamie Bruce, the son of my next-room-to-me fellow student in Sallies (St. Salvator’s Hall) all those years ago. Jamie had been on a splendid adventure walking in the footsteps of David Livingstone from Blantyre to Malawi (and including the Camino (Compostela de Santiago for good measure). He showed excellent slides and provided us with a wealth of information not only about his adventures but also about the charity Mary’s Meals as well. The talk was in the St. Cuthbert’s Church Centre. I hadn’t realised that and so we went first to the Church which was an absolute blessing because we met a splendid lady who was coming out of the church and who walked with us to the centre. She had met her husband at St. Andrews University in the fifties and was now clearly enjoying her life in Berwick.

After the talk we had a fish supper in the car (well, we had missed tea) and then made our way home, just in time to catch a bit of tv, walk the dogs and retire to bed. Didn’t achieve a thing but it has been a very enjoyable day!

[ view entry ] ( 2993 views )   |  permalink
Friday 21st. February, 2014 – Delivery day 

Bright and early the Pearson’s lorry arrived with all of our plasterboard

I was up early with Mix walked at the crack of dawn so that I was ready in case the plasterboard delivery arrived really early. In fact I had time for breakfast, after which Tom and I went into the Hen House to carry on with the plaster-boarding of the library. (Mix came too. He was so distressed at being left at the foot of the ladder that I put him in his harness and carried him up the ladder.) Tom started to cut some of the trickier pieces of plasterboard while I continued where Rachel had left off in filling in the insulation.

We hadn’t been at it very long when Digger arrived to say that the delivery lorry was in the driveway. Tom went off to see them while I carried Mix down the ladder and parked him with Olive in the farm house.

It took no time at all for the lorry to deliver the fifty sheets of plasterboard. It took a great while for us to carry the sheets into the Hen House and stack them ready for use. Once we had finished we were finished and retired to the farm house for coffee and chocolate biscuits (to replace our energy). A strange fact we discovered was that the further down the pile of plasterboard we went, the heavier the sheets became.

Finally, with a lot of help, we got the plasterboard into the Hen House – now all we have to do is to get it upstairs

At lunch time, when Tom had returned home to get something to eat and to see Dorothy, I dealt with our electricity tariff and spoke to the firm who have supplied us with plans for our staircase. There is a ten working days delivery but when I explained that we were two old codgers who were having to carry sheets of plasterboard up a ladder Paul, from the stair company, said that he would get the staircase to us even quicker. People are invariably helpful – I was glad in this instance as the firm comes from Yorkshire (where Rachel comes from) and we discovered in conversation that the firm is based just six miles from where Rachel went to school.

Tom and Rachel were by this time back at work in the Hen House. A parcel was delivered for Digger and I took it across to the farmhouse where I met Ray (one of our near neighbours) who was visiting Olive. I enjoyed meeting her very much indeed -- so much so that I had to make my apologies to Tom for being late on parade.

We worked through until it was time for Tom to go home. I did a bit of work in the summer house, walked Mix along the path to the River Blackadder, showered and then went for supper with everyone in the farm house. Afterwards we all, Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and I, adjourned to the Granary where we watched a recording of The Town which had been on tv comparatively recently. It was really good and I enjoyed it.

Finally I walked Mix around the policies – it is colder this evening, presumably because it is so clear – and then I went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2851 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 20th. February, 2014 – A day with a bit of everything in it 

A picture of the stage for Twelfth Night taken before the show began – it was superb

Set my alarm for seven and was on the go shortly afterwards, walking Mix and then meeting with Tom in time to be up at Pearson’s just as it opened at 8 o’clock. Pearson were having a 15% off day today – I suppose because they are stocktaking next week and want to get their stock down as low as possible. Anyway, there were things we were needing for our Hen House project and we were anxious to take advantage of their special offers. So we bought fifty sheets of plasterboard, a whole load of insulation material, a gas cylinder and some more tools and were back home before nine – we brought everything with us in Tom’s trailer except for the plasterboard which will be delivered tomorrow.

We breakfasted in the farmhouse, Olive and Mum were still not up and about, and then we set about making space in the Hen House for the plasterboard and for the creation of the staircase which is high on our list of priorities. We liberated three pine chests of drawers which we installed in Olive’s guest room and which will provide much needed storage space in the farmhouse.

Elevenses in the Granary

We stopped for elevenses in the Granary and then completed the work of getting ready for our delivery. While we drank coffee we watched some of the Olympics – the downhill skiing over jumps was incredibly exciting and led to a French one, two and three. Wonderful too to see the British women winning their curling bronze medal – the coolness of their final stone: amazing under such pressure. I hope that it bodes well for tomorrow when the men play in the final.

At lunchtime Tom, Mum and I went off and picked up Dorothy and then went to the Church hall at Gavinton for lunch – soup, and banana and apple cake. Delicious.

The tables are just beginning to fill up -- it was an excellent lunch

Back at Mount Pleasant we started trying to design our staircase, eventually discussing our plans with a professional company who have promised us more information. Tom and Rachel did some work on the Bongo which has a faulty fan, and I prepared the music for Arrochar for Sunday. I also walked Mix before showering, changing and setting off with Rachel for the Maltings in Berwick where first we dined – cullen skink followed by cheese soufflé with twice-fried chips and salad, washed down with ginger beer – and then we went to see Twelfth Night presented by the Filter Theatre Company in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. This was a rock musical version of the famous play and it was absolutely superb, utterly brilliant and huge fun. In fact it lived up to all of the superlatives which theatre companies often use about their own productions for the purpose of drumming up ticket sales. The production was full of vitality, incredibly funny and intensely dramatic. It probably helped to have known the story of Twelfth Night but there were moments when I was helpless. The night of drunken revelry was done better than anything I have seen before. (And we were served with pizza during the party!) I loved the conversation with the radio (during the shipping forecast no less). I loved the music; I loved the use of the telephone and the security door phone; I loved the slapstick but there were powerful performances as well – and the rapport between Sir Andrew and Maria and the audience was fabulous. The production moved quickly, the dialogue was snappy and the doubling up was crisp and entertaining. The best show I’ve seen in years and when Feste/Maria ended the show by leading the company in song (The rain it raineth every day) I was so sorry that the performance had come to an end.

How good it was to see something of such quality (and of such a scale) on the stage of the Maltings. I hope that there is more to come.

We drove home and had coffee before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. What a wonderful day – and how many different things we have done in it.

[ view entry ] ( 2935 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 19th. February, 2014 – All hands to the pumps 

By the time I had the summer house in order it was already dark outside

Tom was already here when I returned from walking Mix so he joined me as I had breakfast in the farm house and then Digger and Rachel joined us in the Hen House to see if we could complete the ceiling in the library. Well, there was a lot of cutting to be done because the ceiling is quite irregular but, thanks to Tom’s skill, we got it done:

The ceiling is looking good

But the ceiling isn’t just looking good, it is going to keep us warm as well. I took this snap of the insulation which we had packed in between the beams:

While we were putting this insulation in place, Rachel was continuing to fit insulation in behind where the walls are to be. You can see her continuing to work away (even although the light is fading) in this picture:

If you look carefully you can see that the wall behind her has largely been plaster-boarded as well – Digger and I did that (to Tom’s instructions, of course).

We stopped at lunchtime – we are almost out of plasterboard and we all went about our different activities. Tom went off for lunch and then shopping with Dorothy to buy, among other things, feed for his hens; Digger had work to do on his dome; Rachel took Rowan into Berwick to do some shopping before walking on one of the beaches there; Mum went for an afternoon walk, Mix and I tidied the summer house, breaking off half way through the afternoon to go for a walk. All in all it has been a very satisfactory day. (I might have got the summer house tidied a little quicker had not the British men’s curling team kept me on tenterhooks as they eventually won through to the Olympic final – the women have also done well to be competing for third place tomorrow.)

Digger went off to collect Olive from the railway station, I drove Mum to the Duns Guild and then Olive, Digger, Rachel and I had a meal in the farmhouse before Rachel and I spent a happy evening in the Granary, relaxing in the warmth, doing nothing in front of the television – well, I did nothing: Rachel did some work on her stained glass project. There is no class tomorrow because it is half-term but Rachel has brought her work home to keep her hand in. (I watched an old film entitled Above the Law which was a kind of Dirty Harry film, quite unbelievable but quite fun with the Good Guys coming out on top against impossible odds.)

We walked the dogs and went to bed with our books.

[ view entry ] ( 3037 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 18th. February, 2014 – In the Hen House 

Today both Digger’s hens were walking around the allotment

Today it was fair when I awoke – the rains came later. Mix and I walked, I breakfasted, Tom arrived and we recruited Rachel, all going off to the Hen House to start work on the library there. In particular our task was to start to plasterboard the room – not as easy as we had imagined because none of the beams are level and the angles are all a little odd (well, it is an old building).

Mix went off to the farm house because it was too frustrating for him to be at the bottom of a ladder while we were on the first floor of a building to which he had no access. We collected the brooms we could find so that we could hold the plaster board in place while it was screwed on to the beams to make a ceiling – but brooms were not terribly satisfactory so we made our own plasterboard holding devices – bits of wood with a cross piece: the length was just a bit longer than the height of the room so that they could be used to wedge the ceiling in place until we screwed it on. (Now these are the kinds of thing I should be photographing but when we were fitting the ceiling it was all hands to the pumps and no time for photos.)

Rachel looks on while Tom works out where the first cuts in our plasterboard will be made

We had three sheets of plasterboard up by lunchtime and while the rest ate I went off to Pearsons to buy rolls of insulation to put above the ceilings. Then we got back to work and fitted another sheet – it was hard because nothing fitted quite as we had hoped but we spent a great deal of time on it and then gave up for the afternoon. We’ll start again tomorrow. Instead we settled down and watched some of the Olympics on the television while we drank coffee and ate snowballs and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers – how good is it to be retired. (We watched some of the bobsleigh competition and some speed skating – as well as celebrating the British men’s victory in the curling.) We’ll complete our ceiling tomorrow and maybe get on to the walls as well (Rachel has been fitting insulation into the wall voids to enable us to get on quite quickly as our plaster-boarding skills develop.)

Tom has time to take a telephone call – the ceiling is taking shape

I spent a while in the summer house. I had intended to tidy but got waylaid into searching for staircase manufacturers. I may have found what we are looking for – but I will take advice from my journeyman tomorrow!

Rachel fits the wall insulation into place – all her jigsaw skills have finally found a practical use

We all ate together in the farmhouse in the evening – Mum had been out to have her hair done in the morning and had then been to lunch at our nearest neighbour’s home (Fiona, who lives in the Hermitage) where she also met Kay from Sinclair’s Hill (a tiny hamlet, a short walk away). Mum had had a great time and talked of nothing else for the rest of the day. Olive was off getting her hair done this afternoon while Rachel spent the late afternoon submerged in her bath. To complete the picture, Digger worked on building his dome and Rowan guarded the Granary.

In the evening we settled down in front of the stove and the television to watch the Referendum Debate from Kelso. Somehow the debate never really came alive for me. It was people sharing their entrenched positions even if the BBC had ensured that the entrenched positions were from both sides of the debate. What I mean is that people were making points instead of exploring the possible future inside or outside of the United Kingdom. I liked the lady who said that voting for independence was a leap of faith which if it came off would lead to a new kind of society, the inference being that it would be better and fairer. Of course the corollary of this is that the opposite could also be true. I would have liked to have heard more discussion around this premise: how could Scotland create a fairer society? And is there a will to do that? How could Scotland create more jobs by being independent? And why is that not happening under devolution? What is the alternative to independence ? because the status quo does not look to be very appealing? Maybe a debate is bound to be as this one was – what might be more enlightening might be a series of conversations – not arguments as normal interviews are, but conversations which enabled a number of people who had something to say to explain their own positions – we, the public, are capable of assessing what we are told for ourselves without the endless interruptions of a Newsnight-type presenter but helped along by an astute facilitator.

Still, it has been another good day.

[ view entry ] ( 3858 views )   |  permalink
Monday 17th. February, 2014 – The week takes off 

In the midst of all the chaos, one of Digger’s hens (a Scottish Grey, I understand) walked serenely around the compost heap

Today began early with the arrival of the men to re-point the chimney on the farmhouse. That meant the erection of scaffolding, the starting up of the concrete mixer and then the pointing work on the roof itself. It was a full day’s work but I was pleased that they managed to get everything done in a day (including the dismantling of the scaffolding. By tea time one would never even know that they had been.

The scaffolding was erected

The concrete mixer was turned on

and the chimney was re-pointed

No sooner had the chimney pointing got underway than our electrician arrived to start work on wiring the Hen House. By lunch time the cables were all in place and it is now down to Tom, Rachel and me to ensure that the plaster board is put up so that the electricians can return and complete their work.

An electrician at work

I dropped Tom off at home for his lunch and then spent a bit of time researching stairs – Digger has devised a splendid plan but Tom also wanted me to look at spiral staircases. Unfortunately we don’t have room to install one which would comply with building regulations as our only staircase but our electrician suggested that there is a local tradesman who could build to our plans (and who might be quite reasonable – we’ll see!)

With Mum, I collected Tom and we drove off to pick up the slate which she had ordered to go underneath her stove. We collected it, brought it back to the farmhouse and installed it. It is just the finishing touch – the bee's knees:

Tom and I spent quite a while in Pearsons measuring up and pricing the plasterboard and insulation we will require for the next stage of our project. Our work starts tomorrow – look out for the photographs. I drove Tom home and then Rachel and I walked the dogs before I got ready and set off with Scott for a meal at the Lindisfarne Inn with Kathy and Mike. They run Bede’s World in Jarrow which sounds to be like a cross between a growingly successful museum celebrating the life, work and importance of a hugely important ninth century hero of our faith and a themed community centre carrying the insights and priorities of Bede forward into our modern world and acting them out for all to see. What we learn from the past matters and some of its insights, such as the fact that each of us is important and has something important to contribute, can all too easily be lost in contemporary society. I enjoyed meeting them enormously and was challenged by their commitment – they were also fun to meet. (Oh, and I had a very satisfactory gammon steak with two fried eggs and chips.)

Back home, Rachel and I watched an episode of Inspector Gently before walking the dogs and retiring to bed – there is much to do tomorrow.

[ view entry ] ( 3463 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 16th. February, 2014 – A Happy Sunday with Holy Communion 

It was Communion Sunday at Gavinton Parish Church and the Ewer was sitting on the Communion Table when we arrived for the service

Got up, showered and walked Mix before breakfast. Then Mum, Rachel and I set off for church. It was communion Sunday and a happy service. Ann read from Deuteronomy and from the Sermon on the Mount. We were reminded that law is like a route map – Moses was anxious that his people understood what was required of them before they entered the promised land; but Jesus demanded so much more of his followers – the change of heart required by his sermon was beyond anything that anyone had ever suggested before; but then Jesus was leading his people into something quite different through his death and resurrection, nothing short of a new relationship with God and a totally new way of living.

After the service we joined the congregation for coffee and then came back home where I fixed up Rachel’s new computer printer while Rachel played patience on her i-pad and Rowan kept her company on the bed:

We all ate Sunday lunch together – fish pie followed by syrup sponge with custard and ice-cream – and afterwards Rachel and I took the dogs for a Sunday afternoon walk.

We looked down on this gateway to Duns Castle which is right by the site where Duns Scotus (a famous medieval theologian) is said to have been born

We drove up through Duns and then turned in towards the castle where we parked the car. Walking through an outer archway we set off up the hill and looked down on the Castle Gate where there is a monument to Duns Scotus who was born nearby. We climbed up through the woodlands until we came to a kissing gate which let us out on to some open moorland. Turning back towards the town we came to a vantage point from which we got a superb view of Duns (and we thought we could see our house in the distance).

The view of the town of Duns from the vantage point

Turning back on ourselves we walked north and came to the monument erected to mark the spot where the Covenanting army raised its standard in 1639. There is a lot of history which I have yet to learn (and which I will post on this blog as I learn it).

The Covenanters’ Monument

Retracing our steps, we came back down through the woods and noticed this signpost:

I was fascinated by the indication that the town was originally somewhere different from where it is today. I was reminded of Inveraray, moved by the Duke of Argyll in times past. I wonder what the story is here. As I have already written, there is much to discover. (You can see from the picture that we live in very beautiful surroundings.)

Back home, Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong and Digger took Olive off to catch the train to Edinburgh for the start of her working week. I looked after the dogs and, on Rachel’s return, we had a snack meal before watching Mr. Selfridge. It was very much milder tonight and it is fair as well and it has been a thoroughly splendid day.

[ view entry ] ( 2905 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 15th. February, 2014 – A Saturday in Retirement 

Mum and Rachel and finishing off their Parma ham and melon – Rachel's defence against my intrusive camera is to wave the wine bottle (a very pleasant sparkling white). The television is on in the background because we have become avid followers of the Winter Olympics

Slept in, quite deliberately and hugely pleasurably. Got up and walked Mix before immersing myself in the summer house where I spent most of the day – you wouldn’t know because it is much as it was when I started, just that I have moved everything around a bit.

Olive and Digger set off for Edinburgh at noon. They were joining friends to see the Buddy Holly Story at the Kings Theatre and then going for an after matinee meal at a nearby Thai restaurant.

Before they left, Digger took delivery of a large consignment of logs and Rachel went shopping in Duns. During the afternoon Mum went off with Scott to his home nearby, being returned at the end of the afternoon by Sue. My only time outside the summer house was spent walking dogs, Mix and Heidi. Soon it was time to light the stove and get ready for our evening.

In the evening Mum joined us for a meal in the Granary – Parma ham and melon, followed by penne in a cheese sauce and rounded off with tiramisu. Replete, we sat down in front of the television (armed with chocolates) and watched the film Hitchcock. It was absolutely excellent.

I feel relaxed. We walked the dogs and made our way early to bed, already looking forward to Sunday.

[ view entry ] ( 2693 views )   |  permalink
Friday 14th. February, 2014 – Saint Valentine’s Day 

I am often asked where exactly we are. This sign is outside our home and contains all the information you need to find us

Up, showered and breakfasted and then met with Mike, our financial adviser who had come to sort out some remaining matters to do with my pension. As a result of his latest efforts I am now getting more money retired than when I was employed and evidently for the last couple of years it was actually costing me money to stay in employment. I say that as if I am aggrieved, nothing could be further from the truth because I enjoyed working enormously ... but retirement has its compensations.

After Mike left I started on a three-day programme to organise the summer house – over recent weeks it has become a dumping ground for anything for which there doesn’t appear to be anywhere else. Mind you, while I am doing this in the summer house, Rachel is doing something similar in the bedroom. We do seem to create chaos wherever we go.

This is the beautiful little road along which Mix and I walked this afternoon

Digger told me that it was going to start raining this afternoon at ten past two. By twenty to three it was still fair so Mix and I set off for a long walk along the Fogo road – it is lovely and quiet, rural and tranquil and very beautiful: or at least it was until ten past three when the heavens opened and we got soaked.

Bogend Farm is our nearest neighbour to the west of Mount Pleasant. We passed the sheep pens on our walk today

We got dried off in front of Mum’s fire and then returned to the Summer House to do some more reorganising – working through until supper time at 7 p.m. Everyone was present this evening, so that was rather fine. Olive and Digger’s adventure had been that the scaffolding was delivered this afternoon for the re-pointing of their chimney stacks; work which will be done next week.

As well as sheep, Bogend Farm clearly does a roaring trade in turnips

In the evening Rachel and I had a quiet time in front of the television (we watched an episode of New Tricks followed by more of the awful – in every sense – news about the flooding in the south) while all around us the gales of earlier had subsided and everything was very quiet. It has been extremely wet here today although the up-side is that it has become a great deal warmer.

[ view entry ] ( 2905 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 13th. February, 2010 – A Day of Comings and Goings 

Mum in her new Garden Room – the plates are up and ornaments in place

Lots happened today: Rachel spent the day in Berwick at her stained glass class and then spent the evening in Berwick (again) this time singing with the Berwick choir. Mum was collected this evening by a new friend and taken to the meeting of the Women’s Rural Institute in the Village Hall at Gavinton. Digger went off in the late afternoon to collect Olive from the station at Berwick.

Alone, I spent the entire day here at Mount Pleasant. Started the day by walking Mix and, at the risk of being both boring and of repeating myself, it was extremely cold. I know that compared with many we are extremely fortunate to have avoided the flooding and the horrendous winds, but it is very cold.

I breakfasted on porridge and then Tom and I were at it once more. First we nipped into Pearson’s to buy some six inch nails and then we were up into the top floor of the Hen house to complete the task of stabilising the roof beams (we used a lot more than six-inch nails which were used as a temporary measure while we disconnected some previous remedial work).

Tom is checking that we have done everything properly

Once that task had been completed we abandoned the Hen house until next week when we will be joined on Monday by our electrical contractor. Things will start to move quickly then.

We moved across to the farmhouse where there were two tasks remaining. The first was to fit up a curtain rail to enable the washing machine and fridge to be screened off from the Garden Room. We had collected the rail from IKEA yesterday and this morning we fitted it. Secondly, Tom fitted a wooden angle -bar down each angle of the corridor leading from the Garden Room – just to hold it all together (aesthetically rather than physically).

Tom fits the curtain-rail into place on the ceiling

All that remains to be done is for curtains to be fitted and the door re-hung in its new position. What a transformation has been made and it hasn’t taken very long at all.

For the rest of the day I was largely left to my own devices and so the dogs and I camped out in the summer house where I did some ukulele practice, read my book and answered some emails. I dined with Olive and Digger (Mum and Rachel were both out) and I sorted out plans for tomorrow and the weekend.

I made a point of watching Newsnight and to try to understand what was happening with the debate about the future currency of an independent Scotland. I can see both sides of the argument. How can we be totally independent if we share a currency with England? Why should the rest of the UK guarantee our banks? But equally why wouldn’t the rest of the UK wish to have a system which prevented additional transaction costs between businesses both sides of the border? I also began to understand where Alec Salmond was coming from: of course, we must have our share of the assets and pay our share of the debts, but both do go together. It surely shouldn’t be beyond the wit of men and women to solve this particular conundrum but I suspect that it will only be after the referendum vote that minds will start to look for solutions to the problems which are being identified now.

I think that it is for this reason that Alec Salmond is wise not to allow himself to be forced into expressing alternative plans at this stage. His task is to articulate the plan which he and his campaign believe to be for the best; the task of the No campaign is to articulate the reasons why we are better off in the union as it stands and as it may develop in the future. Both sides need to be positive because the danger is that if they aren’t we will be pushed into voting against the negativity of one side rather than for the positive vision of the other.

Mix and I walked the policies and retired to bed

[ view entry ] ( 3230 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 12th. February, 2014 – We move on to big boys’ joinery 

First thing this morning Mum was in her new Garden Room

Up extremely early and set off with Olive by 6.30 a.m. to take her to the railway station at Berwick. Again it is extremely cold and when I came back home I climbed back into bed just because it was so very warm and welcoming!

Breakfasted at nine in the farmhouse and then ran Digger to the garage to collect his car, now back on the road with an MOT certificate. By the time we returned Tom had arrived. He and I were soon upstairs in the Hen house looking at the beams – one of which was in need of repair. We cut the new beam to size and held it on with clamps while we drilled through and bolted the top of the beam in place. At this point we stopped for the morning – Tom had duties at home and I came across to the summerhouse to prepare the music for Arrochar Church. Back in the Granary I helped Rachel unblock the drain in her bathroom sink and then, once Tom arrived, Tom and Rachel got the Bongo going – it hasn’t been used for too long.

Rachel, Tom and I were soon back in the Hen house where Tom used a jack to lift the new beam into place and sort out a slight sag in the roof. More bolts were used to hold it in place.

Rachel looks on while Tom checks that the new beam is in the right place – the light streaming in the window makes it almost impossible to photograph

There is more to do but that will wait until tomorrow. Tom returned home; Rachel took the Bongo for a drive and I got ready to go with Rachel to Edinburgh to visit IKEA to buy a curtain track for the ceiling in the Garden Room. It was a long way to go but IKEA had exactly what we required and we arrived back at Mount Pleasant just before seven. There was only time to wash our hands and hurry across to the farmhouse for our haggis, neaps and tatties.

IKEA Edinburgh is easy to find and extremely well-stocked – and they sell hot dogs and chips!

With what was left of the evening Rachel and I watched the one-hundredth edition of Midsomer Murders – a rather special edition with co-operation with Denmark, including an appearance by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen ( a star of Borgen) whom I had watched in Coriolanus just a couple of weeks ago.

I watched the News and Newsnight both of which were overshadowed by the flooding disasters in the south of England (and Wales) and by the forecast that the three major Westminster parties would announce tomorrow that the pound cannot be shared with Scotland in the event of a yes vote later this year in the independence referendum. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

We walked the dogs and went to bed. It is again an extremely cold night.

[ view entry ] ( 3025 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 11th. February, 2014 – Carpet laying 

By the end of the afternoon the carpet had been laid and the former scullery had become a pleasant Garden Room

Up and walked the dog before breakfast. I had expected Rachel and Tom to join me at this point but both were waiting for me to call them (unbeknown to me). So I cleared the Garden Room, removed all of the masking tape and nailed down the gripper boards. By this time Rachel arrived and we put down the underfelt (Rachel breaking off to take Mum to her weekly appointment with the hairdresser).

A picture of Rachel cutting the underfelt to shape.

Tom arrived and we battled with the carpet

It was easy to get it into the room but because of its shape it took quite a time to get it sorted out. But soon (after Rachel had gone off to collect Mum) we got it all in order.

Rachel reprised her role as a carpet fitter – she had her first performance in the Summer House earlier in the year

Tom took Mum off to the quarry to choose a stone slab to go under her heater and so turn it into a feature. We hope to have it in the next few days. Rachel and I continued fitting the brass accessories, cleaning the carpet of fluff and debris and setting the room out as it ought to be.

The job done, Tom and I put the new beam delivered by Pearsons into the Hen house so that we can start work there tomorrow.

Rachel took Rowan off for a walk and Mix and I walked as well. Digger met with a roofer who is going to carry out a repair to the chimney stack – nothing serious, just some re-pointing. Olive got a lovely gift of flowers and chocolates from some of her students: for the second year running everyone of her students passed their accounting examinations (this against a national pass rate of 30%). Well done.

After a short while in the summer house, Mix and I joined the family for supper. Have seen a bit of the Olympics today, particularly enjoying a tense men’s curling match between Great Britain and Germany – we won on the final end; and a women’s match between Great Britain and the United States in which Great Britain scored seven points on a single end, an Olympic record.

After supper we watched a little television before walking the dogs in the Baltic conditions. It was good to get to the warmth of our beds.

[ view entry ] ( 4702 views )   |  permalink
Monday 10th. February, 2014 – A busy day 

Duns Station – well, it was until the mid 1960s. This was the station building, now it is part of Thorburn and Sons where we shopped this afternoon

Up early and walked Mix before breakfast; even although it was Monday morning the road was extremely quiet. It is so cold that I can almost smell snow in the air.

The first task of the day was to fit Mum’s television to the aerial on the roof. Tom was up the ladder like a sprightly gazelle -- although he came down more like a frozen man of the north. But the television was working and that was the object of the exercise.

Tom on the roof crouched at the foot of the aerial (there are no limits to his talents)

While we were getting ready to climb on the roof, Digger suddenly remembered that he should have taken his car in for a service, so Tom and I followed him to the garage and then went with him to the Co-op for some shopping.

Meanwhile Rachel was completing the gloss painting in the Garden Room. There was a lot to do and Rachel worked steadily at it all morning:

Rachel has got the Garden room almost completed now

Next Tom and I went into the first floor of the Hen house to see what had to be done to get the project underway. First was a beam that will have to be replaced. We measured it up and then went into Duns to order a new beam from Pearsons (who will deliver it for us tomorrow). Then we crossed to Thorburn and Sons to buy huge bolts to bolt-through the beam. Finally we went looking, without success, for a curved curtain rail. We’ll get one at IKEA if all else fails.

Tom casts his expert eye over the beams in the Hen house

Back at Mount Pleasant we tacked up all of the television cable and then enjoyed coffee. Next Rachel, Mum and I went off to Tweedmouth where we chose and bought a carpet for the Garden Room. We brought it home with us and we’ll fit it tomorrow morning. Again we searched for a curved curtain rail without success – also looked for some reading spectacles, again without success.

When we arrived back at Mount Pleasant it was time for supper: mince and tatties followed by tart, custard and ice cream. Yummy! I worked for a short time in the summer house and then Mix and I set off for Berwick to collect Olive. Digger’s car has not as yet been released. Digger hopes to get it back tomorrow but until then I am the main form of family transport – which suits me fine.

So it has been a bitty day but we have achieved a lot – the hen house is underway, the Garden room is almost done and it is still only Monday. Did catch a bit of the Olympics -- it was mostly curling today and although the men beat Russia, both men and women lost to Sweden. Still at least in curling one gets a second chance.

It was even colder when I walked Mix this evening -- we were both glad to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3567 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 9th. February, 2014 – I am annoying with my camera 

On the way into Church I snap Rachel while she is in mid flow of ‘Oh, not again’

Up early and walked Mix in the freezing cold. Showered, breakfasted and Rachel and I went off to Church at Gavinton. Mum didn’t come today, being a bit out of sorts (put down to the fish suppers I bought last night).

The service was conducted by Ken and Veronica Walker because Ann is on holiday. Veronica lived in the St. David’s manse at Buckhaven where her father was the last minister before the union. She conducted the service while her husband preached on the visit of Jesus to Nazareth (during which I learned that Ken had had a summer job with the Edinburgh cleansing department while he was a student and that Ken admired Robert Burns having grown up just twenty miles south of Burns’ home). We also read the call of Isaiah and the beautiful chapter thirteen of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth. I used to hear it several times a week when I was in Luss as it is quoted often during wedding ceremonies. I realised that I hadn’t heard it for at least three months.

My annoying camera tried to snap Tom and Rachel as they sat next to me in the pew. It didn’t really work very well other than to prove that we actually were there!

Back home, Rachel and I put a second coat of parchment on the walls of the Garden room and then joined the family for lunch – vegetable soup, chicken, roast potatoes and turnip: Mum remembering that her mother-in-law had come to their home in Scotland, been given turnips and remarked, ‘Oh, in England we give that to our animals.’ I enjoyed it.

After lunch Margaret and John, friends of all of ours, arrived – John to see Rachel, Margaret to see us all. It was good to catch up on Fife news. When they left I cleaned the paint brushes and rollers and then watched some of the winter Olympics – Britain’s first snow medal on the snowboarding, won by Jenny Jones; and the 'normal hill' ski jumping (it didn’t look very normal to me). I also watched the women’s 7.5 kilometre sprint in the biathlon – again it was very exciting.

Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Choral Evensong while I remained with the dogs. On her return we had a snack and then settled down to watch Mr. Selfridge. It has been a lovely Sunday – a harbinger, I hope, of all that lies ahead this week.

Watched the News and then walked the dogs before bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2888 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 8th. February, 2014 – Painting and decorating 

Mix is in his office in the car as we get ready to take Digger to Berwick this morning

Up early and walked Mix before driving Digger to Berwick so that he could catch a train to Edinburgh to join friends and watch Raith Rovers against Hibs in the Scottish Cup. Back home soon after nine for breakfast and then Rachel and I spent the bulk of the day painting the first coat of ‘parchment’ on the walls and ceiling of Mum’s Garden room. Stopped for coffee mid-morning and then for soup and cheese in the middle of the day. After the first coat had been put on, I washed all of the rollers and brushes and then Rachel and I walked the dogs. It was really very cold but fair.

Rachel starts work on Mum’s Garden room

Rachel is making progress as the day goes by

Back home from our walk, we fed the dogs, found some more boxes in the barn and took them to the summer house. I sorted them out and turned the summer house into chaos. I’ll get it sorted out in the next couple of days.

Watched some of the winter Olympics – skiing (men’s biathlon sprint, skating (team short dance) and luge – it was very exciting. Learned that Raith Rovers had defeated Hibs by three goals to two: a superb result. (Dundee also went to the top of the Championship which is also good news).

Abandoned the summer house and drove to Berwick to collect Digger and to bring in fish suppers for everyone. Digger was meant to get off the 7.11 train from Edinburgh but he didn’t appear. I discovered that the next train from Edinburgh arrived at 7.45 so I went and collected five fish suppers and returned to the station to meet that train. He wasn’t on that either. As the next train from Edinburgh wasn’t due in until about ten to nine, I drove home with everyone’s supper and learned that Digger had phoned Rachel from Newcastle. He had fallen asleep and woken in Newcastle. I enjoyed my fish supper and returned to Berwick to pick Digger up ... just as well Raith Rovers don’t win very often.

Rachel and I settled down to watch the third and final instalment of Sherlock, after which we walked the dogs and retired to bed. Tomorrow after church we’ll hope to do a bit more to the Garden room and then on Monday we shall start on the Hen house. It is going to be a busy week.

A view of the Hen house – the two windows on the left (to the right of our back door which is just in picture) are part of the Hen house which also includes the area with the red roof; once completed it will be quite a large home

A view of the Hen house from the courtyard -- the makeshift door will eventually be a large window over the kitchen sink

[ view entry ] ( 3051 views )   |  permalink
Friday 7th. February, 2014 – A visit to Wooler and the Winter Olympics begin 

In the canteen at the Wooler auction mart – they serve excellent bacon rolls

I was up earlier than usual this morning so that I could shower, walk Mix and have my porridge before Tom and Dorothy arrived at nine. We set off for Wooler for the annual sale at the auction mart – there are regular sales but most are of livestock; this was a kind of a jumble sale day. Everyone brought what they had to sell and depending on its size they were either laid out in lines inside or else set out in the open ground beside the main mart. People appeared a little bit dispirited from which I gathered that there was not nearly so much to buy this year, and equally, there were apparently fewer people to do the buying. It was for this reason, I suppose, that the auctioneer started the sale by announcing that, in future, sales would revert to being held on Saturdays.

A view of people gathered around the auctioneer as he conducted the sale

The sale began inside. There were some items which were obviously of value and these were bought up for appropriate sums, but smaller less valuable items sold for almost nothing, several lots of things like two spades and a fork, or a set of quite smart flower pots, realised as little as a pound.

A one year old Border collie was one of the items on sale

I felt sorry for the little Border collie who was up to be auctioned. You can see her in the picture, the next lot after the concrete mixer (which sold for around one hundred and fifty pounds). The auctioneer told us that Floss was a year old and was half-trained, was happy to jump on the back of a four-by-four or ride in a land-rover. He told us that both the dog and the cage were to be auctioned and he proposed to start with the cage. The cage sold for £80 and he turned his attention to the dog. The highest bid was just £50 which was obviously below the reserve price. The auctioneer turned to the owner and asked if he wanted to accept £50, to be told, ‘You can’t even get a wife for £50.’ So poor dog, its cage was sold but she wasn’t. Still it was obvious that the owner, who I gather is a breeder, would take her home and look after her.

A view of the auction once it had reached the outside area

Tom made a couple of purchases – a gate and gate-posts for his estate in Gavinton and a couple of hay dispensers for Dorothy’s goats. I just enjoyed being with them. We loaded up Tom’s purchases and drove home to discover that while I had been away Mix had managed to unlatch the gate in the garden (Tom had moved the latch to the other side of the gate to make it impossible to do this) and had been picked up by a kindly motorist who met Mix while Mix was walking towards Duns. Rachel spent the afternoon going into Duns, buying wire mesh and reinforcing our defences. I was in the summer house where I got a ‘phone call from my friend Peter with whom I spent a happy hour blethering. Then, as the weather was beautiful, I went into the barn and found another three boxes to open. I had just started on that when Carol telephoned from Luss to tell me that she had a problem with the Allen Organ midi assistant. Fortunately I remembered that they had one at Bonhill Church (just down the road) and they were happy to lend their one to Carol. Panic over – but a worrying time for her.

At four, I gave up everything and went in and sat in front of our big tv to watch the opening of the winter Olympics from Russia. I thought the opening ceremony was splendid and the facilities look out of this world. I loved the fact that the athletes came in first and got a seat for the rest of the show. I loved the history of Russia presented in music, dance, drama, humour and spectacular effects. It was wonderfully done and it spoke to me of Russia and her culture.

Next we all got together in the farmhouse for dinner after which Rachel and I watched an episode of Sherlock on tv – the last episode we saw was in Barnoldswick on the boat, this episode was in the Granary; technology is wonderful. I’ve left the summerhouse in a bit of a mess but I’ve got the weekend coming up when I can put all that right.

Caught Newsnight and was quite taken aback by the attitude expressed by Kirsty Wark suggesting that Russia should in some sense be criticised for presenting a distorted, in her view, story of its history and also commenting on the one electrical effect which didn’t go quite right – it’s a wee bit like taking pleasure when something goes wrong for someone else (something which may actually be part of some parts of the Scottish psyche even if we usually see it in its corollary of not being too pleased when something goes exceptionally well for someone else) and, of course, we choose to present the view of ourselves which we want to present on such occasions. I don’t think that ordinary people watched the opening ceremony with political thoughts in their heads. I certainly marvelled at the spectacle, rejoiced in the dance (which I associate with Russia), recognised the allusions to War and Peace and hoped that this will be a really good games. It didn’t in any way remove the concerns which I have about some of Putin’s policies any more than enjoying the spectacle at our Olympics removed my concerns about the growing gap between those in our country who have and those who don’t, and the responsibility which our government has for allowing that gap to get ever wider. For now I am looking forward to the ski jumping and the skating and the bobsleigh events: and to seeing the heroes and the heroines who will emerge over the next few days. And wasn’t it good to see Valentina Tereshkova who, in 1967, became the first woman in space, escorting the Olympic flag into the stadium this afternoon? Now there is a real heroine.

[ view entry ] ( 3337 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 6th. February, 2014 – A day with the dogs 

Rowan isn’t used to spending time in the summer house but she made herself at home on this chair

Up and walked Mix. It is still very cold but at least it is fair. I breakfasted in the farmhouse and Rachel set off for Berwick to attend her stained-glass class. Digger set off for Edinburgh to visit the dentist (Tom and Dorothy were at the same dentist at the same time) but Digger had been to Kirkcaldy first to visit friends and to collect the post. Olive spent the day working on courses for next week and Mum read her book.

Mix prefers to spend the time on his cushion

I spent some of the time in the house and most of the time in the summer house, along with the dogs. Both quickly made themselves at home. I had paperwork to catch up on – bills to organise – and I had the music to do for the Arrochar Service on Sunday. I got that safely sent off to Jamie.

Rowan likes this chair too

Rachel returned just after four and we took the two dogs for a walk and then I came to look through the internet to try to discover more information about 3D films. Discovered that there really aren’t all that many. The reason for my search was that I watched ‘The Great Gatsby’ in 3D and it was amazing. I gather that the 3D experiment has not been a success; that’s a pity.

Took another picture of Mix but he was trying to pretend that he didn’t want to know

Rachel went off with Bridget to sing in Berwick while Mum, Olive, Digger and I dined in the farmhouse. Afterwards I settled down in front of the stove and spent a relaxing evening. I watched the new Inspector Gently (which I greatly enjoyed) and the News. Rachel returned home having had a good time and having spent a very profitable and busy day. I really haven’t done very much today at all – but I’m told that’s all right, occasionally, when one is retired.

[ view entry ] ( 2934 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 5th. February, 2014 – The long trek home 

Canal view

Again – it almost goes without saying on the boat in wintertime – we slept late. It is so cold outside and so cosy inside. Even the dogs don’t want to move. It was nearer ten than nine when I got up and walked Mix along the tow path, admiring the boats, greeting fellow dog-walkers, watching school children running along the tow-path as part of their PE programme. I walked past the Silentnight factory on the banks of the canal (the largest manufacturer of beds and mattresses in the United Kingdom).

The Silentnight factory backs onto the canal

Back on board we got everything ready to leave. I dealt with the toilet cassette, Rachel turned off the water, the batteries, the gas, the mains power and she closed down the engine which had been charging the batteries so that everything would start on our return. At eleven o’clock the heavens opened and it poured down, soaking us as we did all of our last minute checks and loaded ourselves, the dogs and our baggage into the car.

Walking along the tow-path – Mix and I love this walk

We got away a little after mid-day and had an uneventful journey to Mount Pleasant, breaking our journey at Washington and arriving home around four in the afternoon. Delighted to find that my tools had arrived; and there is some post which I will deal with tomorrow. I’ll get the opportunity of doing that because Tom and Dorothy are away to the dentist and Rachel will be spending the day at her stained-glass class.

We dined early so that I could then drive Mum to Duns to attend the Guild. On my return I went into the Granary to check that the tv had recorded a programme called The Town which Olive wished to see. However, on entering the lounge I discovered that water was coming through the ceiling. Rachel was getting into a bath. So I stopped that, phoned Tom to give me another opinion and soon the problem was resolved. It was nothing serious at all: no pipes to be exposed, no bath to be opened up. Rachel had left the hair washing attachment running water onto the bath surround, and this water had found its way through the unit, through, the floor and through the ceiling. Fortunately, we caught it in time and no damage has been done but we have been very lucky!

Tom and I chewed the fat for a while over coffee and then I came out to the summer house to see how it had survived without Mix and me. After checking emails, I walked Mix and decided to go to bed early. Driving is quite tiring and I have a very good book to read on my Kindle – and going to bed early is a luxury I am learning to enjoy in these post-retirement days.

Should report that today Digger’s wood supplies arrived, all cut to size for his Dome. I gather that work on the dome has already started and perhaps results will be seen on the ground fairly soon. You will see the results here first! While we have been away Mum has been to her book reading group in Duns – the group seems to be expanding and now has fifteen members, almost too large for such a group and it may be that it will have to split into two. Olive is back home, her week’s work complete and with just nine weeks to go until her retirement. So our plans continue to move forward and each of us gets busier as the weeks go by. . I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

[ view entry ] ( 2969 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 4th. February, 2014 – At Barnoldswick 

The idyllic bit of the countryside The Young Rachel calls home – ours is the boat which still has its front cover on

Slept late – it is so comfortable in bed on the boat. Got up about half-past nine and took Mix for a walk along the tow path, looking at all of the boats as we walked. Have discovered that about fifty percent of the boats at our end of the marina are live-aboards and that all of the boats at the other end are live-aboards: that’s a much higher percentage than I had imagined. I also learned that our bit – the marina as it were- has been open since 2008 and is actually quite difficult to get a berth in, so we were very fortunate.

A view of the boats from the tow path

While Rachel did her boat chores – not a lot really because the purpose of our quick visit was just to check that everything was all right (and it is perfect) – I read my book and enjoyed being here. I then had a lovely hot shower: the facilities on the boat are second to none. Breakfast was boiled eggs and French bread and we ate it late before setting out for the afternoon programme of walking the dogs along the tow path to Salterforth, a small village to the west of Barnoldswick with a fabulous old pub which we got to know on our very first boating holiday in the 1990s with Jean and Anne and Sandy. On the way we popped in and saw Wayne at the marina office and shop (Wayne owns and runs the marina and looks after our boat for us) and after the walk we drove into Barnoldswick and spent some time walking round the town and buying some bits and pieces. On the way home we discovered parts of the town which we hadn’t seen before. It was, however, absolutely freezing.

A view of the marina office and store – on the left is the poly tunnel in which narrow boats are serviced and painted

Barnoldswick is a very beautiful town

Back in the boat we luxuriated in the warmth of the stove, in reading and listening to the radio, and in enjoying a glorious break from – well, from relaxing at Mount Pleasant! This retirement thing has to be experienced to be believed. Both dogs clearly love the boat. Rachel thinks that Rowan is better behaved than at home, perhaps because of the confined space.

We walked the dogs briefly before supper – prawn cocktail, chicken pie, potatoes, peas and carrots followed by trifle -- and then we settled down to watch a Sherlock film. Spoke to Mum and Olive on the ‘phone. No news except that my tools, ordered from HomeBase on 1st. January, finally arrived today. In contrast, a book I ordered from Amazon late on Sunday evening also arrived today – no wonder Amazon win so many awards for customer satisfaction.

Once we get everything organised at Mount Pleasant it will be grand to come down here for an extended period both to explore this area and to do a bit of cruising. We have always said that’s what we will do when I retire – and now that time has arrived. A really good summer with no water shortages is what we require – and after the rain and the flooding we have had it must be inconceivable that there will be water shortages this summer.

After a final walk of the dogs, it was time for bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3529 views )   |  permalink
Monday 3rd. February, 2014 – Off on our adventures 

Rachel and The Young Rachel – just we left her and looking really welcoming with smoke coming from her chimney

Slept in – that’s a good start – and just made it to breakfast: my but it is cold! Walked Mix and by half-past ten we were ready to set off for Rachel’s narrow boat.

We were half-way to Berwick when I casually remarked, ‘You have got your boat keys?’ We turned around, returned to Mount Pleasant and set off again just after eleven.

Last time we took the scenic route through the Borders, this time we went via Berwick and the A1. I timed both journeys to the Washington Service Station (turn off for Chester le-Street and the cricket). Both took exactly 90m minutes.

We journeyed on, arriving at the boat three hours and twenty-five minutes after setting off (for the second time). We had enjoyed two Father Baldi detective mysteries on the way down. Here in Barnoldswick it was, if anything, even colder than in Scotland. We got the stove going and the boat engine started on the first turn.

Rachel enjoys a cup of tea and a game of patience – we haven’t even got things sorted out yet!

We settled in, walked the dogs and I for one promptly fell asleep. I was woken just about seven by a knock on the door. It was Karen and Charlie from the two boats next to us (Hazel and The Falcon). Both live on their boats (Karen works locally as a paralegal secretary, Charlie is a retired naval engineering petty officer.) We spent a happy couple of hours with them and then walked the dogs before a late supper of pasta with pesto, French bread and chocolate pudding.

Just look at that stove

There was just time to walk the dogs again before climbing into our Emperor-sized bed and very quickly falling asleep in our cosy boat. We filled the stove up full and then damped it down in the hope that it would still be warm in the morning. What a life.

[ view entry ] ( 2741 views )   |  permalink
Monday 3rd. February, 2014 -- Early! 

This is partly by way of apology and partly by way of explanation. Rachel and I are setting off this morning to check up on Rachel's narrow boat leaving Mount Pleasant in the capable hands of Digger, Olive and Mum. We'll only be away for three days but during that time I will not have access to the internet and so it is unlikely that this blog will be updated until Wednesday evening.

Of course, I will be writing my diary, but I will be using a pencil and paper (just like old times). I hope that you will join me again later in the week when I can share with you our adventures down south and the family's adventures here at Mount Pleasant while we are away.

Have a very good week!

[ view entry ] ( 2620 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 2nd. February, 2014 – Candlemas 

I pass this field every day walking with Mix – it looks so fertile and I’m looking forward to seeing how it changes over the year

Woke – and it was a lovely fresh morning with the sun shining. Went out with Mix – and realised that it was an extremely cold day. Breakfasted and then Mum, Rachel and I went off to Gavinton Church where the minister told us that we were to have two addresses – a meditation on Cana and then a meditation on Candlemas. For the first Ann read to us the story of the widow at Zarepath (one of my favourites) who learned through Elijah of God’s care for the widow and the orphan. This was followed by the story of the wedding at Cana with its wonderful message that wherever Jesus is, there wonderful things happen; the first great sign of John’s Gospel.

Today (2nd. February) actually is Candlemas and to mark it the story of Jesus’ Dedication in the Temple as described by Saint Luke was read before Ann shared a meditation about Saint Brigit of Kildare (whose Saint’s day was actually yesterday). I like hearing about the lives of the Celtic Saints.

There were snowdrops outside the Church this morning

After Church we shared in coffee in the hall before dropping Mum off at Mount Pleasant and driving to Berwick to buy paint for the Garden Room. Back home we dined – Sunday lunch with all the family around the table – and then Rachel and I set about giving the Garden Room its second undercoat. It is looking quite smart. We put the room back together so that Mum can use it while we are away this week.

Next we loaded the dogs into the car and drove up to the school where we parked the car and went for a walk around Duns Castle. It was a lovely walk and the views were splendid as the sun began to set behind the trees.

On our late afternoon walk

On the way back to the car I came upon a field of snowdrops under the trees. Even although it was too dark I took this picture:

Snowdrops at dusk

Unfortunately, snowdrops don’t last long enough but it is a real sign that Spring will come when we see them on the ground. We fed the dogs and then Rachel set off for Berwick to attend Evensong, closely followed by Digger taking Olive to the railway station. The dogs and I came to the summerhouse. No sooner was Digger back from Berwick than he learned that Olive had left one of her bags on the platform. After several fruitless phone calls, Digger returned to Berwick and found the bag – so all is well that ends well and Olive will be reunited with her bag when she returns home tomorrow evening.

On Rachel’s return we dined in the Granary and watched Mr. Selfridge before bed. It has been a thoroughly good day – but then, when hasn’t it been? (My adventure this evening was that Rachel and I were demolishing a tin of Cadbury’s Roses which we had been given for Christmas (so we can’t be as greedy as you were imagining since we have kept it intact for all of this time). I placed my reading glasses on the tin lid because I was wearing my distance glasses for watching Mr. Selfridge. However we also put all of the used sweet papers on the same lid and at the end of the programme I opened the stove to empty the papers in and keep the place tidy. Of course, I emptied in my spectacles as well. I quickly fished them out with a poker and they don’t seem to be too much the worse for their adventure – but I’m sure there is a moral there somewhere, perhaps about the perils of trying to be too tidy (or perhaps not).

[ view entry ] ( 2968 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 1st. February, 2014 – Getting on with getting on 

The beautiful view from the front drive of Mount Pleasant this morning

Slept in this morning – not hugely but by the time I emerged it was nine o’clock so Mix and I went across for my breakfast and it was only after I had enjoyed my porridge that I took him for a walk along the Swinton Road.

Back home I sanded down the Garden Room and then started to paint the walls with some paint which had been left over from a previous decorating project. Worked all morning until Scott and Sue arrived for late morning coffee and then, after a very welcome break, I returned to the fray.

Before too long I had run out of paint – well, that’s OK because I was only using up what was left over. Tomorrow, after church, I’ll pop into Berwick and replenish our supplies from HomeBase. Rachel – who had been out walking Mix – returned and took over the task of priming all of the woodwork in the Garden Room so between us we got a great deal done.

Just for the record I took this picture to record our progress

Back in the Granary (after taking Mix for another walk while the wind picked up and it looked as though the weather was going to take a definite turn for the worse) I had a welcome shower and read for a while.

We had an early tea this evening to enable Mum, Olive and I to attend the Gavinton Village Pantomime – Wind in the Willows. The hall is lovely and the show was a typical village show – with a thank you for the prompter from the stage at the end of the performance. I liked the imaginative animal costumes, some of which worked superbly; I liked the energy which a number of the characters brought to their performances, I liked the way that young and old were sharing on the stage and I liked the pleasure that the village audience got from watching their own in action. It was a happy evening (and Wind in the Willows is a lovely story).

A snap of the curtain call just before the final curtain came down

Back at home I watched a little television before retiring to bed with my book. It has got very stormy – wind and rain are rattling around the roofs, definitely not a night to be out and about. Even the dogs were happy to have the quickest of walks before bed. In fact Mix would probably have preferred to remain in the summer house relaxing on his big cushion.

Reflected on the different entertainments over the last three evenings: on Thursday we were at the Maltings for the streaming of the National Theatre production of Coriolanus; yesterday we were back at the Maltings this time for the film of The Railway Man; and tonight we were in the village hall at Gavinton for the annual village pantomime. We really are living the life of Reilly!

[ view entry ] ( 2796 views )   |  permalink
Friday 31st. January, 2014 – It has got extremely cold today 

Not a very attractive picture – but it is where we are today

My goodness but it has got cold today, positively freezing in fact and during the day there have been flurries of snow. It seems inconceivable that there is not more to come.

Mix and I went for our morning walk before my regular porridge. Tom arrived and we started on our tasks for the day. First we fitted up the bracket for the television in the Garden Room and then we installed the new skirting board and sanded down all of the areas which we had plastered the day before yesterday. Next we went into Duns to buy cable for a television aerial link and some bits and pieces to treat wood and start the painting – we had intended to start on the painting in the afternoon but, after lunch at Pearson’s we gave some thought to how the aerial cable would reach the television and the upshot of that was that we decided to cut into the plaster-board, install the cable and then plaster over it. We will have to wait until tomorrow before we can do anything else.

I drove Tom home and then Mix and I adjourned to the summer house where I enjoyed a coffee and Mix ate some biscuits. I read of England’s continuing cricket disaster in Australia and telephoned HomeBase to discover what had happened to the tools I ordered. Everything has been delayed because a claw hammer hasn’t arrived in stock. However they have now promised me that everything that is in stock will be delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday. I have to say that the lady who took my call was extremely helpful and I am sure that my order will arrive.

Went out with Mix for an afternoon walk and then returned home to get warm! Rachel had been away for the day with Dorothy. They were buying glass for their new hobby of stained-glass window making. Rachel has come back with some superb pieces of glass. I am looking forward to seeing the finished articles.

Went for a shower – my hair was filled with dust from sanding down the plaster this morning – and then we dined early because we were going off to Berwick to see ‘The Railway Man’, a film which was being given extra screenings in Berwick because it was written by a Berwick man (Eric Lomax) and reflects his experiences during the war and his response to those experiences after the war. It is a lovely film, not always the easiest to watch but one which rejoices in the human spirit and which ultimately makes one glad to be part of the human race – that ‘ultimately’ is important because the horrors of war drive one in exactly the opposite direction. Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman were superb. It was a good family outing, all five of us off together, and that is always fun.

The Maltings makes a superb cinema – and you can book your seats online as well

Back home, we walked the dogs, who were delighted to see us, (the sky was superb – clear as anything and so many stars on view) but soon we were back inside where we climbed into our warm beds. We are very lucky!

[ view entry ] ( 3071 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 30th. January, 2014 – Rowan’s sister Daisy comes to visit 

Daisy in the farmhouse kitchen

Today was a red-letter day for Rowan because today her sister Daisy came to visit. Fiona, a friend of Mum, brought her down with Linda when they both came to see where Mum had settled. Mum was delighted to see Fiona and Linda – Rowan was more than pleased to spend time with her sister.

My day began as usual with a walk with Mix as my companion. We breakfasted early so that Mum and I could go into Duns to collect supplies of food for Mum’s visitors who were due to arrive about eleven. We patronised the Co-op and Trotter’s Bakery (in both we were extremely well looked after by very friendly staff) and then we made our way back to Mount Pleasant and set out everything so that it was ready for later in the day.

On cue, Mum’s friends arrived. Daisy seemed as pleased to see Rowan as Rowan clearly was to see Daisy.

They ran in the garden together:

And after a bit of running around, Rowan introduced Daisy to the dog which appeared to be digging his way out of the garden – strange to tell it has been in the same position ever since she arrived at the Granary – perhaps it is modern art:

Of course, Mix joined in and at times the welcome Daisy received must have been quite overwhelming:

It wasn’t long before Rowan and Mix had become the best of friends and spent several hours together in the garden, sometimes resting and spending time looking out on the rest of the world together.

By the time it was time to leave, Daisy was climbing in through the window to tell us how much she was enjoying it here:

Before Fiona left, we made her promise to bring Daisy back again. Rowan is looking forward to it already.

Soon after Daisy and her entourage drove into Mount Pleasant, Mike, my new financial advisor arrived. Olive and I had an extended discussion with him. I was delighted to hear all that he had to say, not least because it turns out that much of the information which I have been given so far turns out to be misinformation or, at the very least, partial information. I explained what I hoped to achieve with my pension funds and Mike has gone away to try to ensure that he can make it happen. I felt really buoyed up by his visit – and I enjoyed meeting him as well.

We all picnicked in the farmhouse – soup, sandwiches, sausage rolls and cake – and then we took Mum’s visitors on a tour of the estate before settling down for a while in the Granary (from where we could watch Rowan and Daisy having a ball in the garden). Shortly before they left, Rachel returned home from her stained-glass making course. She had had a grand time but was very pleased to be able to share doggy experiences with Fiona – I liked hearing about Buckhaven and Wemyss from Linda.

Soon after they all left, Rachel and I had to get ready to go to Berwick to the Maltings Theatre for a production of Coriolanus which was being streamed from the National Theatre in Covent Garden: the Donmar Warehouse which used to be a warehouse where bananas were ripened prior to sale but which is now used as an acting space by the National Theatre. It seats 251 people so it is quite an intimate space. We grabbed a snack in the little cafe beside the theatre – egg, sausage and chips – and then went into the theatre for the show. I was very keen to see Coriolanus again because many years ago I was involved in a production of it in the open air at St. Andrews Castle. Tonight’s production was powerful with some excellent performances but I missed the spectacle – it was done with a small cast and considerable doubling-up, and it was done in fairly nondescript costumes with almost no set. But the play won through – the story of the general who was a genius in military matters but who just didn’t have it when it came to political matters seemed quite modern; the Tribunes of the people might just as well have been labelled as trade-union leaders, and the crowd was as fickle as crowds ever are. It was a dark tragedy because Coriolanus was the best example of humanity on show (except perhaps for his mother? – a towering performance this by Deborah Findlay; but then perhaps not as she revelled in death or glory in the first part) but even he, Coriolanus (played well by Tom Hiddleston), was flawed and it was his flaws which brought him down (one of the recurring themes of Shakespeare). I thought the second part was better than the first, basically because I didn’t really like the use of all of the seats and the way that they constrained the actors in the first part. I am so glad that we went (not least for the performance of Mark Gatiss as Menenius) – we are fortunate to have such a resource on our doorstep and this relatively new system of streaming performances around the country -- and around the world -- makes so many of the best productions so very accessible.

Back home, we were welcomed by the dogs whom we then walked before bed. It has been an exciting day for Rowan!

[ view entry ] ( 3256 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 29th. January, 2014 – Another great day 

Rachel is installing her new printer – a wireless one which for now is sitting on top of Rowan’s home

My alarm went off at 5.45 a.m. and by half past six I had showered and, along with Mix, was sitting in my car ready to drive Olive to Berwick to catch an early morning train to Dundee. On our return Mix and I went for a walk. It was dry but everything underfoot was extremely wet. In fact I had lain awake during the night listening to the rain lashing our home and pondering on how fortunate we were to have a roof over our heads and to live somewhere warm and comfortable.

After breakfast Tom arrived. Dorothy had dropped him off on her way to see a spinning demonstration (she came back later in the day with sandwiches for lunch and a spinning wheel which she had borrowed to start to develop spinning skills of her own). Tom and I went off to Duns with a shopping list, dropping off Digger at the garage to collect his car which now is equipped with a new alternator.

Our purchases were all for Mum’s Garden Room: a skirting board (or rather wood to make into a skirting board, a light rose to drop through the ceiling into the middle of the room once we had removed the existing spotlight system, electrical bits and pieces so that we could move one of the power sockets down to ground level to serve the heater, plaster to fill in the holes and prepare the walls for what comes next and several tubes of ‘no more nails’.

Back home we enjoyed a coffee and a wagon wheel – you don’t take things too quickly when you are retired – and then we started to fit the lighting: removing the existing spotlights and creating a central light which will be grand once a lampshade has been found for it. Next we blanked off one of the power sockets and refitted it at ground level. We had to cut a channel through the plasterboard so it took a bit of time. Finally we filled in all the holes in the walls, the first stage of their preparation for painting and decorating (a task which is in the hands of Rachel and Digger). The boxing-in was given some more tender care and sanded down and everything was tidied up – tomorrow we only have to fit the skirting board and our part of the work is largely done. I’ve ordered a tv mounting bracket which we will fit on the wall and we shall try to get hold of a curved curtain rail to screen off the washing machine at the end of the room.

It was about this time that Dorothy arrived and we shared sandwiches and drank coffee for a while. Rachel was away to Berwick with Rowan who is learning to do as she is told (perhaps). Later in the afternoon Mix and I went for another walk and when I returned I helped Rachel (who had also returned) to access her new email address and to install her new printer. It is a wireless one and can sit on top of Rowan’s cage which is in the bedroom. Well, it started on Rowan’s cage but I gather it will move to one of the window seats (we have several in the bedroom. In fact you can see one of these seats at the far right of the picture. Having equipment which was controlled by wifi always seemed a bit hit and miss to me but now that we have these cables which allow us to access our hub through the house electric power points everything seems very reliable. I will even be able to access Rachel’s new printer from the summer house. It will be wonderful to have a working printer again.

Digger went off to collect Olive from Berwick in his newly repaired car and Mum was collected to be taken to the local history group. We dined with Olive and Digger when they returned from Berwick. It was a relaxing meal and, just as we were finishing, Mum returned from the history group. She had enjoyed the meeting which was all about Duns Castle.

Rachel and I went across to the Granary and there we watched an episode of Midsomer Murders in the warmth created by our stove – I mention this because the temperature outside has plummeted. It is extremely cold. Still we all walked around the policies, Mix, Rowan, Rachel and I, and then I suspect that we were all glad to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2845 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 28th. January, 2014 – A thoroughly good day 

The boxing-in is now beginning to look very good indeed

I’m sitting writing this in my summerhouse. It is dark outside and I can hear the rain pelting down on the roof. It is all very cosy and beside me Mix is sound asleep on his huge new cushion.

The day started with Mix’s walk – it was blustery but not too wet and I love all the waves from the folk who have got to know me as they drive in and out to work each day. By half past eight I had breakfasted and was driving Olive into Berwick to the station. She has only one lecture today – to law students and later I drove back to Berwick just before supper time to pick her up again.

In between we were busy. After dropping Olive off I went to Halfords to buy a new lamp bulb for one of the front headlights; I also bought a little kit so that now I am equipped whenever a bulb blows (maybe a case of shutting the stable door or perhaps, better, learning from experience). Should say that in Halfords I met a man who was doing exactly what I was, buying a bulb because he had discovered last night that his had broken. The girl at the cash desk told me that every morning there are people in the store for exactly the same purpose and that bulbs were among their best selling items. From Halfords I went to HomeBase to purchase parana pine facings for the boxing-in of the water and waste pipes in Mum’s morning room – or Garden Room as she has now decreed that it is to be called. I also got some ‘no more nails’ and some blanking boxes for the electrics in the Garden Room.

Back home, Tom arrived. The light bulb was changed and the facings fitted to the boxed-in pipes. It all looks very good but we shall have to return to it once the glue has all set. We’ll need to have a bit of a sanding down and one or two other bits and pieces to make it all perfect. Tomorrow we start on the skirting boards and maybe look at the beams in the Hen House. It was a lovely gentle morning, we stopped for coffee and wagon wheels – still glorious but much smaller than I remember. Tom went home at lunch time, he has duties to perform at home and also Dorothy to collect from Berwick.

I had some lunch – rolls and cheese – and then I came across to the summer house and prepared the music for Arrochar and sent that and the music for Luss by email. By now the rain had started but Mix and I went out for our afternoon walk, each of us humouring the other (several folk wanted to know if the black and white dog was all right. I was able to tell them that she was. In fact she was away to Berwick (don’t we go to Berwick a lot?) to walk on the beach around the golf coursel. Rachel was a bit evasive when I asked if Rowan had behaved any better today. But she thought a little progress was being made.

I had intended to look for some more book boxes and to unpack them but the afternoon had run away with itself and in any case carrying cardboard boxes around in the rain is not best practice. So I puddled around in the summer house until it was time to drive to Berwick (again) to collect Olive (this time with a beautiful view of the road as it was illuminated by my new headlight).

Once we had returned to Mount Pleasant we all ate together and then, in front of our stove which I had lit for the evening as soon as I got home, we watched Death in Paradise and enjoyed the thought that there was nothing to do tomorrow but what we wanted to do. For me that’s continuing with the project to get Mount Pleasant into the place we want it to be, rehearsing my ukulele, revising my Italian and opening some more boxes. For Rachel it is continuing Rowan’s education process. I think I have the easier task.

When I retired I had planned to spend quite a bit of time in Italy and I still hope to do so but what has made it different is my dog, Mix. He has become such a super dog since I retired and have had time to spend with him (in fact he is with me every moment of the day) and I don’t think that it would be fair to leave him and go off abroad. However, nowadays dogs can have passports too and perhaps when Rowan has grown up a little we will see if we can drive to Italy and take them with us. The other part of my retirement plan was to spend time on Rachel’s canal boat. Other things being equal, we’ll travel down to see how it is on Monday – just a short visit this time in preparation for a longer cruise when the weather improves (and, of course, that this something in which the dogs can join as well).

It was already well past bed-time when Mix and I walked around the policies and made our way to bed. It has been a very good day.

[ view entry ] ( 3049 views )   |  permalink
Monday 27th. January, 2014 – Like the Curate’s Egg: good in parts 

Dressed for the task in hand

With a lot to do this week I was up early, Mix was walked and I was breakfasted in time to drive behind Digger to the garage in Duns where his car is to repaired – broken alternator by all accounts. (Tom suggested that he could treble the value of his car by leaving a bottle of Lucozade on the back seat but them he is rude about my car too until he remembers that I got it from him.) I drove Digger to the Co-op to shop and then returned by Pearson’s to buy face masks for the cleaning-out of the top floor of the Hen House – our first task of the week. Digger, Rachel, Tom and I set about clearing it out (the masks were because there were some dead birds around and Tom thought that we ought to be careful). With so many willing hands the task didn’t take long -- much to Mix’s delight because he really disliked his inability to climb up a ladder.

It was at this point that the day took a turn for the worse – somehow the gate got left open and the dogs escaped. Mix returned when called but Rowan was off like a shot. In fact it took us half an hour to recapture her and without a doubt she owes her life to the kindness and consideration of the cars and lorries who use the road. Traffic ground to a halt and when we eventually caught her (halfway to Duns) a very kind lady called Ashley insisted on driving us back to the farm house. I shook for an hour afterwards at how it might have ended! She is a very lucky puppy.

Tom measures up in preparation for boxing in the pipes in the Morning Room

And so we started work on Mum’s Morning Room. The task for today was to start to box-in the pipes which became exposed when we removed the sink and moved the water supply to the other end of the room. For framing we cannibalised the wood which had supported the order of wood for the summer house. Then we used a sheet of marine-ply which was originally destined for Ianthe (our boat) – we shall buy more later.

Meanwhile, Rachel had gone off to Berwick where she took Rowan for a lengthy run on the beach and started again to try to teach her obedience. She thinks that it will be a long job; Rowan understands perfectly but prefers to do her own thing. I am so fortunate that Mix just wants to be where I am.
By the end of the afternoon we had got as far as we could with the boxing-in. Tomorrow we shall get facings and fit the whole thing together permanently. But things are already taking shape:

The boxing-in is now half-done

Just as were complimenting ourselves on a good day’s work, Digger arrived with an egg. For those who don’t know, with the farm house came two hens and when we first arrived there was a regular supply of eggs. However, recently the supply of eggs has dried up. For this reason today’s production of an egg marks the return, hopes Digger, to normal service.

Digger with the egg which provides hope for the future!

While I fed the dogs (having walked Mix again) Rachel tried to lodge her tax return. By mistake she had gone on to one of the sites which helps you in return for a fee. (Tax Return Gateway it is called.) As far as I can see, Tax Return Gateway is deliberately quite misleading. It has a Home Page which clearly states that it isn’t the Government but when you type in Tax Return on Google it is the Tax Return Gateway which comes up first on the list (and with a name deliberately similar to the Government Gateway) and, which is worse, you aren’t taken to the Home Page (with the declaimers) but to a page which invites you to submit your tax return and includes forms very similar to those on the Government web-site. Of course, Rachel should have read the small print – it is all there to be seen – but we have heard of many other people who have been taken-in by the way that it is set out. Rachel won’t be taken in a second time. It is good to hear that the MP David Davis is raising concerns about similar matters in the House of Commons.

Rachel was, of course, dismayed to find that she had been deceived into using the site, but was slightly mollified when she got a text from the company to say that her form had been lodged successfully with the Inland Revenue. Just to be sure, on Olive’s advice, today she telephoned the Inland Revenue to check that her form had indeed been submitted and they immediately told her that no, it hadn’t.

This afternoon Rachel started to prepare her tax return again but she couldn’t get in to the proper web-page. So she telephoned the help-line. Eventually she got through. Rachel was told that no, there was another number she had to telephone. After much delay she got through and started trying to explain her problems. It was at this point (or possibly a bit later after more confusion) that the person she was speaking to said, ‘Oh, but your form was lodged on Saturday’. So the Tax Return Gateway had, after all, submitted Rachel’s return and the Inland Revenue were wrong this morning when they said it hadn’t been lodged.

It has left me with bad feelings both for the Tax Return Gateway as a result of whose web-site Rachel paid a fee she didn’t need to pay because she believed that she was dealing with the Government, and for the Inland Revenue who, by giving wrong information to Rachel this morning, made today an even more worrying one than it would otherwise have been. But we’ll look on the upside: the tax return has been completed and Rowan is well and in the Granary causing her usual mischief. Some things are more important than others.

We dined in the Farm House and later in the evening I drove to Berwick to collect Olive (Digger’s car is off the road at least until tomorrow). Discovered that one of my front side lamps isn’t functioning – no matter, tomorrow morning when I drive Olive back to Duns to catch a train I will continue on to Halfords and buy a set of bulbs for the car.)

On my return I watched Bletchley Circle which I had recorded from earlier in the evening. With time marching on and a busy week ahead, I walked mix and retired to bed. All’s well that ends well but it has been a bit of a Curate’s egg of a day from which we have all learned lessons.

[ view entry ] ( 2933 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 26th. January, 2014 – Rachel looks after the music 

Rachel has installed our organ and is providing the music for our service today

It is Sunday and we have to be at Church earlier than usual because Rachel is providing the music for the service (to allow Gay to welcome her brother home from Australia). Mix and I walk in the pouring rain before it is quite light – there didn’t seem to be a dawn this morning, it just went from dark to a little bit lighter. There was no sun appearing over the horizon; there was no dramatic lightening of the sky; no colour, no heavenly excitement. And as we walked, Mix kept turning and looking up to me as much as to say, ‘I’m only doing this to humour you. Back home I showered and changed and breakfasted and by 9.20 a.m. we were on the road to Gavinton where Rachel provided the music (and it sounded very good indeed).

Today was homelessness Sunday and Ann spoke quite passionately about the plight of those who were homeless and of those who were trapped in poverty, particularly highlighting the fact that so many of the most prosperous areas of our cities lie cheek-by-jowl with areas of severe poverty. From reading in Isaiah about ’the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light’ she moved to Matthew’s Gospel where the verse is picked up and referred to Jesus shortly before he started to gather his disciples. Together they set out to change the world. That task is as necessary today and the challenge remains for us – and, Ann reminded us, using Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth as her authority, that we are called to devote our lives to the important things (too often, she confided in an aside, it is the less important things which capture our attention). Appropriately, the money gathered at the morning coffee after Church went to help those working with homeless people in our country.

We returned home and shared in a communal lunch in the farmhouse (great, as usual – a fishcake starter followed by sausages with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots and turnip: full of goodness and filling as well).

Afterwards I unloaded the organ and set it up in the summer house again before we set off to Duns to do a little shopping in the Co-op. Next stop was the Duns Scotus Way. We walked from the Gavinton end of Duns through to the park in the centre of Duns and back again. I just loved the boardwalk areas of the path:

A view of the board walk on the Duns Scotus Way

Conditions were not ideal but it was certainly a lot better than this morning. Mix enjoyed his trip this time, although it was cold and damp and very wet underfoot (hence my appreciation of the extended areas of boardwalk).

Rowan also enjoyed her walk although she wasn’t at her most obedient and Rachel had her hands full!

Back in the Granary we loaded all of our Christmas decorations into the small attic above the master bedroom and I continued with the task of washing all my clothes. Unfortunately the power of the spin-dryer dislodged a bottle which smashed. Rachel and I cleared up and wiped up and were happy that it was only a relatively cheap bottle of white wine and not the ten-year-old whisky bottle which had been sitting next to it.

Mix and I spent a little while in the summer house (Mix loves his giant cushion and would happily spend all day here). Then it was back to the Granary to light the stove and spend a relaxing evening – sparing a thought for Olive who had to travel up to Edinburgh to stay with her son Jeffrey so that she can get to Dundee early in the morning to deliver a lecture. Never mind, she finishes in April and we are all looking forward to that.

Our relaxing evening was just that – fabulous. No thought of work to come; no work to come. Just our own adventures and while these involve toil they are the greatest fun imaginable. We dined on antipasto followed by blue cheese and then we enjoyed the froth of Mr. Selfridge and the exciting denouement of The Tunnel. The final episode lived up to the standard set by the previous nine episodes and I was left feeling that it had been properly rounded off and that the cinematic journey had been thoroughly worthwhile. It was also very exciting.

By the time we had got to the end of our watching, the wind had blown up quite alarmingly and we were blown around the policies with the dogs. It was good to get to bed with a thoroughly good week ahead of us. On Thursday evening we are to go to see Coriolanus (the last time I was involved I was a member of his army in a production in Saint Andrews Castle some forty-six years ago). The rest of the week we shall be working on our projects – the top floor of the hen house to clean out, Mum’s morning room to take forward, more boxes of books to find and then unpack and, eventually, the stables to empty and then repack. Of course, we still have the shingles to put on the roof of the summer house and some treatment to carry out. Lots of toil but no work at all. How fortunate we are and what a good day today has been.

[ view entry ] ( 3135 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 25th. January, 2014 -- Burns Night 

Domestic bliss – Rachel, Rowan and Olive around the stove before dinner

Woke and walked Mix – the first of two walks for later in the afternoon Mix and I set out for a long walk along the road to Fogo. Saturday is a pleasant day to walk because there is very little traffic on the roads around Mount Pleasant. It was an extremely enjoyable walk – partly because Mix now walks so well and partly because although it was cold, it was clear and bright and the rain of the morning had passed right over us.

But back to this morning: I breakfasted and then Rachel and I loaded up my organ and we went off to Gavinton Church where we set it up so that we can provide the music tomorrow. The organist’s brother is arriving from Australia tomorrow morning and our providing the music will allow her to go off and meet her brother. Tom joined us at the Church and we spent quite a while trying to ensure that we got everything right. Then we made our way to Tom’s house where we introduced our dogs to Spike – an older border collie (and perfectly beautiful). Rowan and Spike got on extremely well: I kept a close watch on Mix who was a little bit jealous of Spike’s attentions to his ‘sister’.

Back home today was a day of cleaning and tidying. I gutted and cleaned my bathroom and then tidied up my study. I also put at least three loads of dirty clothes through the washing machine. This done Mix and I had our walk. Afterwards we went out to the summer house so that I could set up a new email address for Rachel. She has been without one for quite a while and is discovering that for some things (completing her tax assessment for one) you really need an email address.

We went across to the farmhouse for dinner. First there was sherry as we sat around the stove. As the picture shows, Rowan is now quite at home and settled down to sleep on the sofa between Rachel (who was engrossed in a magazine) and Olive who was keeping an eye on Rowan. It was another lovely meal and again I ate too much. A diet is moving further and further up the agenda but I’m still at that retirement phase where I feel as if I am on holiday and that soon it will end and I will have to go back to work.

After eating we went back to the Granary where we watched more of The Tunnel. There is only one more part to watch and I am looking forward to the denouement enormously. I have enjoyed the joint French/English language nature of the film and I have enjoyed some of the performances greatly but everything hinges always on how things work out. If there isn’t a satisfactory ending then somehow I feel as if I have wasted my time watching the film. I’ve no reason to suppose that there won’t be a satisfactory ending but whatever happens I will remember some of the beautiful touches brought to their performances by the leading actors.

With Rachel watching a comedy programme (Mrs. Brown’s Boys)., Mix and I came out to the summer house to tidy things up before tomorrow. Then we all walked the policies together before retiring to bed. My days seem so long now but, when I think about it, that’s something I remember from holidays. Long may it continue!

I recorded in my title that today is Burns' Night. I had my celebration of Robert Burns yesterday with the folk of Our Lady and St. Patrick's High School, but I expect that tonight in Luss they will be celebrating, the village hall will be full to capacity and they will all be enjoying a riotous evening. It's the first time for many years that I will not have chaired the event -- not that I'll be missed -- but I hope they are all having a grand old time.

[ view entry ] ( 3052 views )   |  permalink
Friday 24th. January, 2014 – We celebrate Burns with the young folk of Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School 

Some of the young folk and invited guests at this year’s celebration of Rabbie Burns at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School

Rose immediately the alarm went off and walked Mix, showered and changed into good clothes, breakfasted in the farmhouse and then set off with Rachel to drive to Dumbarton.

The purpose of our drive was to attend the annual Burns celebration at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School but on the way we stopped off at the home of Grace and Maisie and Nina to hand in an accordion from Tom and to collect another from them to bring back to Tom. It was good to see them and they had kindly made us a small picnic to eat in the car on the way home – how very thoughtful.

We arrived at the school and were welcomed by Hugh who was the mainstay of the visits which young folk (under his guidance) made to Luss over recent years. The purpose of their visits twice a year was to take part in their own leadership training course. We loved their visits, we loved having them staying in the Palace and eating in the Manse and, over the years, we got to know them very well. I will never forget the music evening which they arranged in Luss Church during our year of celebrations in 2010 (we celebrated 1500 years of continuous Christianity in Luss). The church has seats for 222 but that night there were 364 folk in the Church and the music which they provided was out of this world – a happy evening enjoyed by everyone.

Well, today was like that too. It was a Burns celebration for the first year students at the school. There was a lovely meal. The haggis was piped in and addressed and then the entertainment began – well, almost. Charlie Rooney started by explaining what today was all about. He also introduced students to an understanding of what it means to be born in the image of God. It is a very special school and its ‘specialness’ starts at the top and works its way through all of the staff.

The programme involved all of the disciplines in the school. The art and the technology departments presented two animations, one on Burns’ poem ‘John Barleycorn’ the other an imaginary ‘To the Devil’ (in which, as you would imagine, good triumphs over evil).

I snapped this shot during the animation presentation

Next came some recitations (including ‘To a Mouse’), some rap versions of Burns’ work, highland dancing and a voyage through some famous Scots who had made an important contribution to our country and to our world.

Finally, Charlie said some words of thanks, especially to his staff – he must have the best staff of any school in Scotland – and introduced one of the special guests: an older lady of one hundred and one years. She had enjoyed the afternoon and the pupils had enjoyed entertaining their guests.

It was a special afternoon for one lady of one hundred and one – here being introduced to the pupils by the head-teacher

It was time for us to set off for home. It was absolutely bucketing down; Rachel fell asleep and I had time to reflect on the visit. I always end up raving about this school and to those who don’t know it, or who don’t know me, it must sound very over the top. But it isn’t. It is quite simply an exceptional school doing exceptional things. Its ethos – it is a Christian, a Roman Catholic, School – and it is unashamedly open about the faith base on which everything else is constructed. There are so many extra opportunities on offer all the time. One teacher I talked with today was setting off at dawn tomorrow to take thirty youngsters skiing in Austria. The school has a partnership with a school in Africa and several staff have been out there to help – this year they are paying for the provision of toilets in their partner school but there is so much more to the partnership which clearly benefits both parties. And of course, it was great to see Hugh again and the team who work with him – good to learn too that the leadership course which they run (and in which we shared at Luss) is gaining recognition and will be presented to representatives from several education authorities next week. I made so many friends at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s and I was touched to be invited back from retirement to attend this special event today.

A picture from my archives of some of the youngsters from Our Lady and St. Patrick's High School around our meal table in the Manse at Luss

It was after six before we got home. Mix was glad to see me! We dined in the farmhouse (tomato soup and fish pie) and then, back in the Granary, Rachel and I watched a bit more of ‘The Tunnel’ before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. What a lovely day!

[ view entry ] ( 3278 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 23rd. January, 2014 – Working on Mum’s Morning Room 

The Morning Room at the end of today’s work programme -- what an improvement, but you'll see there is still much to be done

After I woke I took Mix for a walk up the Swinton Road. It was fresh and a little warmer than yesterday, I think – although by the end of the day it was quite cold again. Breakfasted in the farmhouse (I am still on porridge) and while I was finishing Tom and Dorothy arrived: Dorothy to go off with Rachel to Berwick to their stained-glass class; Tom to work with me on the project of the day.

Our project for today was to start work on Mum’s Morning Room. For the folk who had the house before us, this was a utility room and one which housed the washing machine and the fridge. There was also a large sink and draining board along one of the walls. And yet, it was easy to see that this could be one of the nicest rooms in the whole house. It has windows on both the south and the east walls so that the room catches the early morning sun and the mid-day sun as well. In addition, the windows to the east look out over a huge expanse of garden: lawn first and then in the distance the little orchard and, off to the left, the place for bar-b-cues with the raised decking and the slabbed area around an outside table. The window to the south overlooks an area of rockery and plants growing among the stones with several bird facilities – so there is always something to watch.

Today Tom and I removed the sink, the draining board and the cupboards underneath. Then we set about moving the washing machine and the fridge to the wall just when one enters the farmhouse so that the morning room has much more room. It was quite a task as neither Tom nor I had done much plumbing before. But we got the bits from Pearson’s (who will be declaring record profits this year) and cut pipes and joined pipes and soon had the washing machine plumbed in to its new situation and the excess pipes removed. In fact the most difficult task was to find out where the water turned off. (It is outside the front gate at the side of the road. We’ll know next time.)

We’ll start on the next stage next week. We need to install a skirting board, build a shelf under the windows on the west wall and box in the pipes, we will move the light fitting to a more appropriate place, we’ll remove the wall tiles (appropriate for behind domestic equipment but now a bit unsightly), and then we shall decorate and put down a carpet. It will take a bit of time but it will be worth it.

This morning Scott (an electrician) came to visit and we went through our plans for the hen house and the barns with him. He has gone off to cost what we hope to have done and with a bit of luck we shall make a start there soon. Meanwhile we have to empty the stables and clean them out before using this secure building as a place to store everything, free from worry about whether things will be damaged by the birds when they return from their safari later in the year. It would be good to have the upstairs area of the hen house completed as part of our spring projects.

Tom and I visited Pearson’s twice during the day; on the second visit we stopped for lunch (soup followed by haggis, neaps and tatties – well, it is that time of the year). Mum had been driven to her Guild meeting at Gavinton by Digger.

Rachel and Dorothy came back from Berwick and I settled down to prepare music for Gavinton Church on Sunday. This took me until dinner (and a bit beyond). Rachel had missed dinner because she had gone off with a friend to sing with a choir in Berwick – she now has a very busy Thursday programme. With Rachel away this evening both dogs and I settled down in the summer house where I completed the music and sorted out some papers – got a letter from the Church of Scotland saying that my pension was to increase! Can’t be bad.

Rachel returned and we watched one episode of The Tunnel (which we started to watch last night). I guess we shall watch at least one episode each night until it is done. So one way and another, it has been a busy old day. I’ve started my antibiotics and already they are making a difference but most of all, I think this energetic life-style is suiting me: normally if it is daylight we are outside (or at least – as today – working manually). When it gets dark I am inside with lots of little projects to keep me busy: preparing music, revising my Italian, learning to play the ukulele and thinking about starting my book – all this and a pension increase as well.

We walked the dogs and retired to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2997 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 22nd. January, 2013 – A Visit to the Dentist (and the Doctor too) 

Rachel at the dentists – she has just had a tooth out, hence the lopsided look

Woke and walked Mix. By breakfast time Digger had already taken Olive to the train at Berwick so that she could set off to lecture in Dundee. I showered and set off with Rachel for Edinburgh to visit Andrew, our dentist (Rachel had a tooth out, I escaped on this occasion). Rowan came with us in the car, Mix stayed with Mum (and was very well behaved).

Next door to the dentist’s surgery is a mini-market with a pet section. I bought the biggest cushion I have ever seen for Mix and when I got home I installed it in the summer house. It was an instant success.

Mix explores his new cushion for the first time

I’ve been bothered by pains in my chest for a day or two. I haven’t thought much about it putting it down to either the remains of a cold or else my unaccustomed energetic lifestyle. But as the pain hasn’t gone away I telephoned the doctor’s surgery to see if I could make an appointment for later in the week. The receptionist asked why I wanted an appointment and I told her. ‘In that case you must come here instantly’, she said. I drove to the surgery where I was examined by the hospital nurse – our practice is a shared one: two practices and a local hospital. The nurse (who was fabulous) told me I had a temperature, confirmed that my blood pressure was normal and completed an ECG examination, the results of which she passed to the doctor who then came and examined and interviewed me. The upshot of it all is that I seem to have (I’m sure a mild dose of) pleurisy. I must say the name pleurisy made me break out in a cold sweat and I asked what I would have to do to get rid of it. The doctor grinned and said, ‘Get a friendly doctor to give you some antibiotics and you will be fine.’ By now it was a quarter to five so, armed with my prescription, I drove into Duns and got my medicine and the cure has begun. Reflected that we are obviously fortunate in our local medical staff.

I drove Mum into Duns to attend a Burns evening at the Duns Guild and then Rachel and I dined together in the Granary – Digger had gone to Berwick to collect Olive and we thought that we would all do our own thing. So while we were eating we started to watch a thriller which we had recorded from the television. Called ‘The Tunnel’, it was recommended by my brother and is a French/British collaboration. The dialogue is in both languages with the French being subtitled – I expect there will be a mirror image for French audiences. We enjoyed it so much that we watched the first three (of ten) episodes and we will be continuing to watch over the next few evenings. I also prepared the music files for Arrochar and sent them off by email.

And finally – Mix and I walked the policies before retiring to bed (we don’t have any water. It was turned off at 8 p.m. and is due to come on again at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Evidently all of the pipes in the local area were replaced a year ago and this is some form of maintenance check. I say we don’t have any water but in fact we have a bath-full, several sinks-full, a bucket full, a kettle full and five dog-basins full. We probably have more water available to use than we have ever had before.) Rural living is such an adventure.

[ view entry ] ( 3154 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 21st. January, 2014 – Another job done 

Tom checks that the new doors do actually open

Up and walked Mix before breakfast. Only when I went across for breakfast the farm house door was locked – everyone was still asleep. Out in the courtyard Tom was already at work so I went and joined him. We fitted door facings at the barn and then hung the first door – the one we made yesterday.

At this point, feeling rather pleased with ourselves, we went off to the farmhouse for breakfast. After breakfast and before lunch we made the frame of the other door and started fitting the tongue and groove flooring to it – getting about half of it done before it was time to stop for lunch. We had, however, completed all of the housing joints which involved chiselling sixteen half-joints.

At lunch time I made myself a pizza and then it was time to start again. By the end of the afternoon the doors were completed and hung to Tom’s satisfaction; the ironmongery was fitted and the doors looked well.

Mum, Olive and Rachel came out to expect the completed job and weren’t pleased to be lined up for a photograph

We went into the farmhouse and had a look at what needs to be done in the Morning Room. We’ll make a start on that this week, not least because, according to the weather forecast, we will be looking for inside jobs.

During the rest of the afternoon I practiced my ukulele, read some Italian and enjoyed the summer house, relaxing in the knowledge that progress has been made. The plan is to strip everything out of the stables and then to load everything which won’t be required for a while back into the stables which is now wind and water tight as well as being bird-proof. This will enable us to start work on the rest of the barns, particularly the henhouse and the loom room. There is a huge amount to do but it is enormous fun.

By dinner time the promised rain had arrived – still that doesn’t affect us in the farm house. We dined excellently and then I returned to the summer house to post this diary entry. It is, I know, very early tonight but as soon as it is done I am going to retire to bed to watch Death in Paradise and fall gently asleep.

[ view entry ] ( 2916 views )   |  permalink
Monday 20th. January, 2014 – I learn new skills 

Tom with the new door we made today

Woke early because Rachel had to get off to Glasgow where she was meeting Ann at the exhibition of crafts at the SECC. I walked Mix and then breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom and Dorothy arrived and we set about our task for today which is to start on building two new doors for the former stables. We already had the materials, all we needed was some fine weather – and that is what we got.

The first task was to build the frame of the first door – the doorposts were measured out and the cross-members. It was then a case of cutting the wood to size and putting in half-housing joints at the end of each bit of wood. Tom showed me how to measure down half-way through the wood, put in a cut and then chisel of the top section. I watched Tom performing this feat, but by the end of the day I was doing it myself – I really don’t think that I had ever used a chisel before.

Tom demonstrating how to make a house joint

Once the joints were all made we joined the wood together to make up a frame. It was about this time that we stopped for lunch and during the lunch break I loaded several of the cases which I had found containing Rachel’s clothes into the Granary so that they would be there for her when she returned home.

Tom with the frame of the first stable door

After lunch we filled in the frame using some of the left over flooring from the summer house. There wasn’t sufficient so we picked up Tom’s trailer and bought some more wood from Pearson’s (whose profits have increased enormously since I came to the Borders). While Tom hitched up the trailer I took a snap of Dorothy’s hens:

Dorothy’s hens seem in fine fettle

Soon we got the door completed and, if the weather holds up we will make a second door tomorrow. It shouldn’t take as long as the first as I now know what to do and will be able to be useful from the start. But what an education I am getting!

After Tom went home I did my ukulele practice and then joined Mum and Digger for dinner – Rachel was late home from Glasgow (she had really enjoyed her day) and Olive doesn’t get into Berwick from teaching in Dundee until nearly ten.

I watched University Challenge and later on I caught up with Bletchley Circle which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is quite an unusual premise – girls who worked at Bletchley Park during the war, meeting after the war and solving problems by using the skills they developed while working at the code-breaking centre. Also caught up on the news and Newsnight – I realise that I don’t follow the news nearly as much as I did when I was working. Life has centred in around our adventures here and I am kept totally occupied with trying to develop all of the new skills required for my new way of life – learning to become practical and to work with my hands. In the tiniest possible way, I’m beginning to understand what it must have been like for those who forged out into the New World and built their own homes and established new places to live – I know that is clearly ridiculous, all I have done is helped to build a summer house and half a door for a stable, but it is a different mind-set and who knows where it is going to lead.

Mix and I wandered around the policies and hoped that it would remain fair until we had made the other door for the stable tomorrow.

[ view entry ] ( 3098 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 19th. January, 2014 A real Sunday – and with Sunday lunch as well! 

Mum is clearly enjoying herself after Church in the hall over coffee at Gavinton

Woke to discover that it was raining hard, but that didn’t stop Mix and me from setting out on our early morning walk. Sunday’s walk is always special because there is nothing at all on the roads and we can daunder along as we wish without a care in the world. Got home in time to shower and change before breakfast and then we went off to Gavinton Church where Ann lead a service for the start of the week of prayer for Christian unity, reminding us that unity doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same (although our allegiances do). She spoke on Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and on the start of Paul’s correspondence with the Church at Corinth (as well as mentioning the letter to the Church at Colossae – one of my favourites as I can imagine Paul writing this letter with Onesimus by his side, encouraging him to stress the breakdown (in God’s eyes at least) of the division between slave and free. It was a good service and I was sorry that the inclement weather had kept some folk away (either that or the after effects of the local Burns’ Supper last night).

Back home, Digger had been off in his car to collect some manure! There is lots more on offer and we are going to try to get the little trailler into action to collect it, as well as finding an appropriate place to store it until it is ‘ready for use’ next Autumn.

We had a lovely Sunday lunch: chicken and all of the trimmings, followed by trifle. During lunch we had a chat about communications. It is no problem taking Mum places but we never know when to go and collect her. So she found her mobile phone and I put some credit on it (as well as our numbers) and I also put credit into Rachel’s phone so that now we should all be able to speak with each other, always supposing we can get a signal, of course.

Rachel and I loaded the dogs into the car and drove to near Gavinton where we went for a lovely walk in the gloaming.

The skyline near Gavinton where we walked this afternoon

It was a splendid walk – the rain had stopped and there was little on the road, a couple of dogs (with their owners), a couple of walkers (without dogs), a lady on horseback and a couple of cars. I loved this tree – Rachel and Rowan are also in the picture:

Back home, Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Evensong at the Parish Church. I would have liked to have gone as well, but as Digger was also out taking Olive to get a train – she starts work again tomorrow – I stayed to look after the dogs, both of whom came with me to the summer house where I read my book. What a wonderful life!

Rachel returned and we had some supper in the lounge. We had found the table during last week and tonight was our first meal on it. Rachel had gone to town with some smoked salmon to start, followed by antipasto Italiano, followed by penne with a Bolognaise sauce, followed by chocolate pudding. When Rachel said she had made some supper I had expected a sandwich, but it excellent and was our first proper meal in our own home after such a long time.

Rachel at our table

By the time we had eaten it was time to watch the first of a new series of Mr. Selfridge – fairly light and frothy and just right for a Sunday evening. We walked the dogs – it was very cold, everywhere was slippy but very bright and the moon was giving so much reflected light that we could see as if it was daylight. We continue to carry torches, even on nights as light these, so that an unexpected car can see us. Back to the Granary and off to bed. I have a new book on my Kindle and I’ll read for a bit in bed. Such decadence!

[ view entry ] ( 3062 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 18th. January, 2014 – A real Saturday at last! 

Mum in the room that will soon be her morning room

I’ve never had Saturdays before. For all of the years of my working life they have been the day before Sunday and a really busy day. At Luss, for the last fifteen years, they have usually been wedding days. So while other people have been having a day which is different from the working week, I have been gearing up for my special day or else engaged in weddings. In a sense my weekend started once the services were completed on Sunday and Monday was my more relaxed day – except that it wasn’t because everyone else had started work and so I had to be available as well.

Since I have retired all days have become much the same as any other (except of course for Sunday which has remained special). But this week has been different. I have had a working week. Working with Tom on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Off to Luss on Tuesday and away to Stirling on Wednesday. Today I had nothing to do and I really enjoyed it.

The day started wet and I slept in. Then I started reorganising the house, gently and enjoying it. I had promised myself that we weren’t going to empty any more boxes today. I drove Digger up to Duns to collect his motor bike which was having a tyre repaired. Rachel and I drove to Berwick where we walked the dogs along the headlands outside the town walls, past the golf course, and the tennis courts and the cricket club nets. By now it was blowing a gale but there were several people walking dogs and, we could hardly believe it, there were people on the golf course and people knocking up on the tennis courts. The wind had stirred up the sea and huge waves were breaking over the harbour wall. I was kicking myself that I didn’t have my camera with me – it was still sitting on my desktop in the summer house.

This weekend was the last weekend of the sales. We wandered around Currys (as you do at the weekend) and went into HomeBase. It was there that we saw the little stove in the picture at the head of this entry. As I described yesterday, we have started work on turning the little utility room in the farm house into a morning room. We had wondered about a log-burning stove but there just isn’t room – if we installed such a stove there would be no room for anything or anyone else. We saw this little electric stove which looks warm and friendly and which gives off quite a heat. As it was sale-time we bought the stove and installed it – and Mum approved. It was a good Saturday afternoon.

We all dined together in the farm house kitchen – it was a left-overs day. Olive had made a huge potato-cake with the ham and peas and everything ‘left over’ in it and we had baked potatoes with lots of toppings, and a stew as well. It was excellent. Then we made our way back to the Granary where we settled down to watch an old Taggart, an old Taggart with Taggart in it, not realising before we started to watch that, being an old Taggart, it lasted for three hours. Still it was warm and we were relaxed. How better to spend a Saturday evening in the middle of winter?

Finally we walked the dogs before bed. It has been a really excellent Saturday – and there is a fine Sunday to come.

[ view entry ] ( 3061 views )   |  permalink
Friday 17th. January, 2014 – What a lot we got done 

I took this picture of Tom and Dorothy’s goats when we stopped at their house to pick up the trailer

The alarm went off and I lept out of bed ready to walk Mix and start the day. I breakfasted on porridge and retired to the Granary, to the summer house, to complete the tidy-up which had started yesterday. All the rubbish was removed, the books which are not to find a place on the shelves were packed up and removed to the hen house and everything was tidied -- I even cleaned the carpet.

No sooner had I completed this than Tom arrived with the plan that the first task we ought to tackle was to fit a full-sized door on to the stable so that we could make it secure, wind and water-tight and even swallow-resistant as well. The measuring-up was done and then we set off for Pearson's where we bought the timber, the hinges and the padlock-hasp. We stopped off, on the way, to collect Tom’s trailer and while he was rooting about in his shed, I went and spoke to the goats (and, on my telephone, took the picture at the head of this entry.) We also bought a large masonry drill bit for use in the farmhouse.

Back at the farmhouse our first task was to drill through from Mum’s morning room to the boot room so that we could fit a lead for the freezer in the boot room. This needs a bit of explanation. The little utility room is being made into a morning room for Mum. It has windows which point south and east and so gets all of the morning sun but at present it houses the freezer and other domestic appliances. As part of making the conversion from utility room to morning room, we are moving the appliances to other situations. Today we moved the freezer to the boot room and the tumble drier to one of the barns. This is a work in progress and I will report on that progress.

While Tom went off for lunch, Rachel and I rescued our table from the hen house (it had surfaced once the book boxes had been emptied from the hen house) and I carried five boxes of crystal and crockery from the hen house – emptying these boxes became Rachel’s task for the rest of the day. Tom returned and soon afterwards Ann, our minister, arrived to visit. We all had tea and coffee in the Granary – Ann, Mum, Tom, Rachel, Olive and I – and afterwards Mum showed Ann the farmhouse before she and I had a chat with Ann in the summerhouse (what a good job I had tidied it up). Ann was generous with her time and after she left I did some paperwork at my desk before dinner.

Should record that Rachel had got the glass for the stove from Pearson’s this morning and so the stove was working well this afternoon. I really do feel that we are making progress – and I love my summer house.

We all dined together in the farmhouse – another excellent meal – after which Rachel and I retired to the Granary where we watched a film called The Ghost starring Ewan McGregor. It was quite unusual and really rather good. When we walked the dogs the moon was out and it was quite light. Of course, there are no street lights for miles around so it is quite different from anywhere I have ever lived before but already I feel so at home. This has been another very good day.

[ view entry ] ( 3084 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 16th. January, 2014 – Chaos 


I woke early and was out on the road walking Mix earlier than usual. In part this was because I had to ensure that Rachel was up in time to breakfast and walk Rowan before meeting Dorothy at nine o’clock when they both set off together for Berwick to attend a stained-glass-making class. They were away all day and had a splendid time.

Dorothy dropped Tom off with me and he and I had a hard working day. First we completed the skirting on the summer house – Tom did most of that, and while he did I carried box after box of books into the summer house. Next we climbed into the first floor of the hen house to see what kind of a state it was in. Our next project is to start work on this. We went into one of the barns and found the box with all of the plans and discovered the building warrant plans which have been used to do all that has so far been done. In fact a great deal of the work is already complete, the walls have all been partitioned off and the first floor, obviously, has been formed. The drains appear to have been put in and some of the electrics as well. I telephoned the electrician to get advice from him about all that has been done before we start to clear out the hen house.

Then we did an inspection of all of the other barns. One has no roof and we will have to replace that. Another seems in good repair and for now all that we will have to do is to make a new door. Then we will be able to seal this barn off and use it to store everything in – keeping it all safe from the swallows who will soon return and take up residence with us.

At lunchtime, Tom, Mum and I went up to Gavinton Church were we shared in the soup and sweet lunch. There was a good number of folk there; the soup and the crumble were excellent and I enjoyed the company.

Rachel and Dorothy returned and Dorothy and Tom went off to prepare tea for their family. I retired to the summer house to start on all of those boxes of books. It was absolute chaos and, in fact, I laboured right through the evening trying to create a little order out of the situation. (Rachel was away in Berwick singing with the choir there – what a gallivanting life she is leading!) I dined with Mum and Olive and Digger – a plate was kept for Rachel when she returned. She got back just before ten and had had a great evening.

With most of the books sorted out (most of the books which I have so far unpacked, that is – there are many hundred still to unearth) I gave up and prepared the music for Arrochar, sent the files to Jamie and then Mix and I went out for another walk (our third of the day) and both of us were pleased to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3032 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 15th. January, 2014 – A Good Day 

Springfield House in Stirling where I attended a meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum today

Today has been a good day – that’s not just a platitude, it’s what my father used to say at the end of almost every day, and I remember him when I say it. It is amazing that one can say this almost every day, and it reminds me of how fortunate we are.

I got up early and Mix and I walked along the Swinton Road, happily waving to all the motorists and lorry drivers who share our morning ritual. Back in the farmhouse I breakfasted for the second day running on porridge and then went back to the Granary to print out the papers for the meeting I was to attend today. Washed and changed and discovered that, even in spite of two days of porridge, I have continued to put on weight . I will soon be on a no-food-at-all diet.

I set off for Stirling and had a very pleasant drive guided by my trusty Tom-tom, arriving in plenty of time at Springfield House for the management meeting of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum. In fact, Luss was a founder member of the forum but now I attend as an associate (individual) member and in particular I am there to act as a link between the forum and the Green Pilgrimage Network.

I enjoyed the meeting enormously, from the sandwich lunch to meeting the members (all of whom I already knew) and working through the business. (I was very abstemious at lunch time, I promise.)

The forum is tackling some interesting projects – thinking through some form of accreditation for Pilgrim Paths, planning a road show to advertise its work, working with other bodies to establish new Pilgrim Paths and to support existing paths. Thought was also given to the second Pilgrim Gathering which will be held later in the year. It was good stuff and I enjoyed it enormously.

The meeting ended before four so I was able to drive back home in a leisurely fashion – just as well because the traffic on the Edinburgh ring road was really quite severe (in total contrast to my journey north this morning). What wonderful roads we have – I started thinking about the roads when I first learned to drive. I remember setting off from Dundee and driving to Southport to visit my Godmother (I was in an old Morris 8 which my father and I had constructed from three old cars. The roads were small and narrow but also there weren’t very many cars around, quite unlike today. I remember being stopped by a policeman who told me that my off-side brake light wasn’t functioning. ‘It was when I left home’, I told him – and it was too, because this was such an adventure that I had checked everything before setting off. The policeman’s response was to offer to have a look at it for me. Out came a screwdriver, the lamp cover was removed. The policeman smiled, removed an old-style three-penny-bit from his pocket and forced it between the bulb and the lamp spring. Immediately the lamp started to function again. ‘There you are,’ he said. ‘Take care’ and off he went and didn’t even ask for thruppence from me. Those were the days.

Back home, I got myself organised and chatted to the dog before dinner. My sister and Digger seemed to have spent the day doing a jigsaw and Rachel had been up to collect the glass for the front of the stove only to discover that the wrong size had been ordered. Never mind we will have it operational by the weekend.

Dined – it was good to be home after two days away, and then spent the evening in the Granary watching television and, as an old assistant of mine used to say, ‘chilling out’. We watched the final film of the Montalbano series (set in Sicily). It was very, very good. Once it was over there was just time to walk the dogs before bed. It has been a good day.

[ view entry ] ( 2904 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 14th. January, 2014 – And it’s back to where I started! 

Some of the folk in the Pilgrimage Centre at Luss this evening

Woke and started on the new regime to lose weight by having porridge for breakfast instead of egg and bacon. Then tried to walk that little bit faster with Mix (who seemed to quite enjoy it).

Back at the Granary, Mix and I loaded several more boxes of books into the summerhouse and then started to unpack and sort them. This is a fabulous task as I get to meet so many old and much loved friends and every so often come up against a book I bought ages ago and never quite got round to reading. Unfortunately the shelves are beginning to fill up and I have hardly scratched the surface of the book-box mountain.

Showered and changed and then took Mix for another walk before handing him over into the care of Olive and Digger while Rachel and I (with Rowan – nobody wants to look after Rowan!) set off for Bill and Morag’s home in Kirkintilloch where we were given a great welcome and a wonderful tea. We set off together for Luss for the Guild meeting there and, although we set off in very good time, we only just made it because of delays on the Erskine Bridge.

It had been arranged months ago that Rachel would show our holiday pictures ‘Prague to Prague in Five Years’. I had assumed that when we left, the invitation would have lapsed, but last week we got a lovely letter reminding us that we were expected. Well, we had a very pleasant evening with old friends and I was so glad that we were there, even if it did remind me of how much I miss them all. And the Guild supper was bigger and better than ever.

It was about twenty to ten before we set off for home and almost half past midnight when we got home. Mix was delighted to see us. We walked around the policies and were glad to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2775 views )   |  permalink
Monday 13th. January, 2014 – Cold, and frosty as well 

Mix has found a way to keep warm

It was another cold and frosty morning. I got up and walked Mix before returning to the Granary – no breakfast at the farmhouse today because Olive and Digger were away in Dundee for the day. My task was to go into the farmhouse every hour or so and ensure that the stove was stocked up with wood to keep Mum warm.

My task for the day was to start unearthing books from the barns and bring them into the summerhouse. I searched for the missing table without success but then unearthed a whole lot of boxes of books in the Hen House. I spent the rest of the day bringing boxes into the summer house and unpacking them, trying to dispose of some where possible. (There is something really unnatural about getting rid of a book – I have started a store of those I know I will not require and they will go back into the barn until I can find someone who might want them. I hope that it is not because I am a hoarder, rather that I appreciate the value and importance of books and want to treat them with respect.)

There was a major distraction in the middle of the afternoon when Rowan escaped through the gate when Rachel was letting Mix out to come and join me. Rachel and I went running down the road, waving down cars and, of course, with our hearts in our mouths but, fortunately, all ended well and we will be even more vigilant about the gate from now on.

I had ordered two new sets of 3-D glasses so that Mum and Olive could come and see our 3-D film. Amazon emailed me at 8 a.m. to say they would be delivered between ten past three and ten past four this afternoon. They arrived at 3.15 precisely – no wonder that Amazon are putting so many people out of business. They are just so efficient. (I'm not supporting them, merely stating the obvious.)

A Wintery View -- the Farmhouse from Bramble Avenue this afternoon

Stopped work in the afternoon to walk Mix along Bramble Avenue and took this picture of the farmhouse from the ‘avenue’. It really is becoming quite wintery. I also took this picture of the sky – although it was not yet four in the afternoon, the moon is clearly visible:

I also took a picture looking south-west from Bramble Avenue. I am so taken with how different it is here from anywhere I have lived before. I love the rolling fields, the hedgerows and the trees separating the fields. I love the colours and the silhouettes. I love the smell and the huge openness which is the Borders – no hills towering over us just quite distant horizons and a sense that everything is so fertile and that the fields are just waiting for the chance to help some crop grow as soon as it is planted.

Looking south west from Bramble Avenue

Back at the Granary I sorted another couple of boxes of books and then went across to the farmhouse for another excellent meal. Then it was quickly back to the summer house to unpack a final box before returning to the Granary to relax for a little while before bed. We watched the second part of the thriller based in the aftermath of Bletchley Park and caught up with the News and Newsnight. Then I walked Mix around the policies (Rachel had already walked Rowan and retired to bed) before getting to bed myself. It is still an extremely cold night – the sky is clear and there is no need for a torch, such is the brightness of the reflected light from the moon.

[ view entry ] ( 3184 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 12th. January, 2014 – It’s cold! 

Just before the sun came up on the Swinton Road

I awoke and was out on the road with Mix before the sun rose. The sky was spectacular and I took a number of pictures as we walked. I rather liked this one – we are deep in the countryside but power cables are passing overhead carrying electricity to nearby towns. The trees are bare but are none the less beautiful and the colours in the sky even on a foggy, misty morning like today are wonderful.

Mix was cold and was glad to get home! I showered and breakfasted and before long we were setting off for Gavinton Church for an Epiphany Service on the theme of Jesus’ baptism as recorded by Saint Matthew. The very significant moment which Ann concentrated on was the moment after Jesus’ baptism when ‘the heavens opened’, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and he heard God’s voice ‘This is my son whom I love, and with whom I am pleased’. It was this affirmation of Jesus which led to the start of his ministry and began the journey which was to lead to his death and his resurrection. It’s an affirmation which others felt too – we looked at Peter’s discovery that God has no favourites and loves all people; we were reminded that the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah were taken by some to refer directly to Jesus and by others to the whole servant people. We are certainly called to be a servant people, following the one affirmed by God as his son and sharing in the affirmation that each of us is loved by him. As always, I enjoyed being part of the congregation at Gavinton.

Back home, I grabbed something to eat and then worked in the summerhouse getting my new printer set up before Rachel and I took the dogs into Duns and went on one of the beautiful walks which have been created there. Rowan thought that a stream was actually firm grass (there was grass in the stream) and jumped on to it, only to discover that she had jumped into it. She got quite a surprise and it must have been very cold. She didn’t learn, as a couple of minutes later she wanted to come back to where we were and did the same thing all over again. Fortunately we were almost back at the car by this time so we towelled her down and brought her home where she soon got heated up in front of the stove.

I continued working in the summerhouse – Sundays are so wonderfully long – until it was time to join everyone else for dinner in the farmhouse. We enjoyed a lovely meal (my favourite cheese and bean pie dispelled all of my resolutions to eat less and try to lose the weight I have gained since retiring) and then retired to the Granary where we spent the evening relaxing in front of the stove and watching a bit of television. It may be cold outside but inside our little house it is very comfortable indeed.

We had intended to watch a film but when I tried to access it my application was denied. I think it is because we don’t have a telephone line attached to the Sky box, but we do have an internet connection. I will telephone tomorrow and find out what went wrong. Instead we watched an episode of New Tricks which we hadn’t seen before and I continued on to watch an episode of Miss Fisher Investigates (from Australia). The only event during the evening was when Rachel attempted to alter the settings on the stove with the poker and ended up dropping the poker which fell and smashed the glass front. No harm was done and we had plenty of heat for the whole evening but tomorrow we will need to find a replacement glass (and discover how to fit it). Country life is really rather exciting.

[ view entry ] ( 3013 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 11th. January, 2014 -- Spring Cleaning has begun 

Mix loves his new home

Slept in today and only just managed to get across to the farmhouse for breakfast at nine. Then I lingered long over breakfast and it was half-past ten before I had walked Mix and returned to the Granary – and this was to be such a hard working day. Well, in fact, it was.

Mix and I carried much stuff across to the summer house. Unfortunately for me, Mix saw his role as being a supervisory one. Having delivered a deal of bits and pieces, I then set about making order out of the chaos of the former study. By dinner time I had succeeded. Clothes had been given a home, tools had been tidied away, papers had been sorted and letters put in order to start to reply to at the start of the week.

So, all in all, a lot was achieved today but there is little to record which is why, perhaps, Rachel asks me if I really should continue to record my life on a blog. I told her I did it really for my own benefit; her response was to wonder why I put it on my web-site. It has certainly started me thinking. Initially I did it when I was working so that the people for whom I worked could know what I was doing and equally, why I was doing it. There is not the same need for that now, of course, but I know that lots of people do follow our adventures. But, says, Rachel, you don’t know who these people are, do you really want them knowing all your business? I’d never really thought about it, I suppose. Perhaps I shall.

I do know that some people were very upset to discover my blog. They had enjoyed a lovely holiday in the Granary when it was a holiday let and had decided that they would like to return here for another break. They put Mount Pleasant Granary into Google and came up with my blog through which they realised that the holiday let was no more and that it was now a private home. After good experiences for them when it was a holiday cottage, no wonder they were disappointed.

Hearing this led me to go on line and look at the web-site through which the Granary was marketed. I read through the reviews by those who had come to stay. They are incredibly good – this must have been a really wonderful holiday venue. I just hope that those who come to visit us (as guests, I hasten to add) have as good an experience. Reading the web-site also made us realise how fortunate we are to have the Granary as our home.

We dined in the farmhouse – another lovely meal and then, back in the Granary, we watched a Blue-Ray 3-D movie, the first I have ever seen. It was the Great Gatsby; the performances were superb and the effects absolutely spectacular. I don’t suppose that the overall impression is more real than traditional filming but it is certainly more spectacular. The 3-D effects add an enormous depth but it is a depth a little bit like the addition of more and more wings in a theatre set. In real life we see depth, in 3-D we see several layers, is what I think I am saying. To start with I found myself revelling in the 3-D; by the end of the film I was just revelling in the film. It was superb and I can’t wait to find both another 3-D film and also a film which is as good as this one was.

Time had flown by and it was now late. We walked the dogs – the moon is getting bigger and reflecting a lot of light on us so it really wasn’t very dark at all. It is, however, quite cold and crisp: just as it should be at the start of January.

[ view entry ] ( 3130 views )   |  permalink
Friday 10th. January, 2014 – An evening of wonderful music 

A view of the early morning sun as Mix and I walked the Swinton Road this morning

Got up and walked Mix. It was crisp and clear and the sun was just beginning to shine through the trees in that wintery, watery way which is so unique to this time of year – turning so many trees into silhouettes because the sun is so low in the sky.

Invigorated, I breakfasted in the farmhouse. Tom arrived. I hadn’t expected that, but in fact he had come to collect his tools because he was going to make a new gate, the previous one having been vandalised by his goats who have come into season and as a result are particularly frisky.

I worked on organising (or rather continuing to organise – it will be a long job) the summer house and, in parallel, to tidy my former study. I got on well and now, indeed, have a coffee machine installed. Got involved in a number of phone calls, mostly sorting out orders and things of that nature. In the middle of the afternoon Mix and I went for our afternoon perambulation and when I returned I got ready to go to Berwick with Rachel. I got photos taken in a machine in ASDA so that I could send one to have my driving licence renewed. It seems that after a number of years one’s picture has to be replaced. I must say that I think the picture on my licence looks more like me than the one I had taken today. Still, they say the camera cannot lie.

After a visit to Curry’s to buy a computer printer and some ink, Rachel and I had something to eat at Marks and Spencer before making our way to the Maltings in Berwick. This is our local theatre and it is really doing rather well. We arrived at six for a seven o’clock performance to discover the place awash with young people who had come to see a Disney film called Frozen. I gathered that the performance was a sell-out. We went to the bar for a drink before making our way to the studio theatre. This, too, was a sell-out and was, we were told by the Director, the first time there had been classical music played at the Maltings for seven years. It was absolutely excellent, The Royal Northern Sinfonia have the only salaried Chamber Orchestra in Britain and they did not disappoint. The group who entertained us played three of Dvorak’s Cypresses (love songs) and followed this with Mozart’s quartet in Bb major – The Hunt.

During the interval the ‘cellist came out and chatted with the audience (he actually came to take a picture of the venue – so I thought I could do the same)

The second half was taken up with Dvorak’s string quintet in G major. The acoustics of the studio are marvellous and the playing of the quintet superb. I was taken with the clarity of each of the instruments and the ease with which the different parts came soaring through. There is a beauty in the form and order of a quintet as well as the opportunity for virtuosity which is different from full orchestral pieces and this was a superlative performance. I loved it.

As we drove home from Berwick there just happened to be a ‘Points of View’ essay in words by John Gray. His thesis was that it’s not the things that we don’t know we don’t know that harm us so much as the things we do know but choose not to know. He built his argument from the invasion of Iraq and the ‘decision’ not to know about what would happen after the invasion, through the collapse of Wall Street to our present failure to face up to the changing financial situation in which we live today. It was well reasoned and argued and really quite compelling. As we drove through the gate at Mount Pleasant a Professor from Princeton (which made my ears prick up) starting a series on the similarities and differences between the peoples of the United Kingdom. I heard only the opening moments of the programme but I heard enough to think that tomorrow when I am having lunch I might try to catch it on the BBC I-player – isn’t technology wonderful?

I watched Newsnight which was a real reflection of the world's woes as it concentrated first on the police admission that some of the evidence against Andrew Mitchell in the Plebgate row had been fabricated. That's a shorthand summary and some would argue with it but it is a bad day for the Police and regardless of what people say it must undermine confidence in the Police. That is nothing short of tragic. Then we were taken to Paris and an alleged affair involving the President, and a magazine editor's decision to publicise it in spite of the rigid privacy laws in that country. I walked Mix before retiring to bed – the music of Dvorak (rather than the frailties of human nature) ringing in my head. What a wonderful day.

[ view entry ] ( 3119 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 9th. January, 2014 – Success! 

Lunch time at Pearson’s

I’m writing this entry, as planned, from the summerhouse. That doesn’t mean to say that the summer house has been completed, far from it, there are still a number of tasks to complete: but I have moved in. My desk is here, my armchairs are in place and just a few books grace the bookshelves. Tom spent much of the morning fitting the window furniture while I acted as his assistant.

Having completed the task by lunchtime, Rachel, Tom and I went off to Pearson’s to buy some bits and pieces we required and while we were there we stopped for lunch. It was good: cauliflower and cheese soup, followed by macaroni and cheese with salad.

Back at the summerhouse we sorted out the door (which needed re-hung) and then installed beading to cover the electric cables which have been put in. We also now have both telephone and an internet connection. So we are ready to go. As the afternoon wore on and our tasks had been completed, Tom returned home to feed the goats and check on the chickens. I went into the barns and found a little table which is just right for the corner of the summerhouse. By tomorrow it will have the coffee machine Rachel bought me sitting on it and we will have advanced another step towards civilization. I spent the rest of the afternoon (and into the evening) installing the computer and now you are seeing the results. I can communicate again.

I dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse (this too was excellent -- sausage and potato wedges followed by winter fruit crumble with custard and ice cream); Rachel missed out as she had gone off to Berwick with Bridget (a lady from Gavinton) to join a choir who are, if I have got this right, going to sing the Chichester Psalms. Rachel enjoyed her evening and is already missing the Festival Chorus of which she was a member for very many years. She made up for missing supper with two baked potatoes and a panettone for desert. I had spent the evening starting on reorganising the study in the granary (which will soon not be the study). It will be a long job. Then I came back over to the summerhouse to prepare this entry before walking Mix around the estate and retiring to bed. There is much to do and, even in retirement, the days are too short! Now who would have thought that. I haven’t a clue what is on the agenda for tomorrow but it will be fun.

[ view entry ] ( 2712 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 8th. January, 2014 – Rolling along 

We gathered around the farm table for an early tea this evening

Woke early and went out with the dog. After two weeks when there has been no traffic at all on the roads, things are now quite busy between 8.30 and a quarter to nine: I suppose that it is people driving into Duns for work or for school. Discovered today that quite soon all traffic down the Duns road will stop for eight weeks because repair work is to be carried out on the bridge over the river Blackadder. We will have to find alternative ways of getting to Duns and to Gavinton. We’ll do some experimenting this week so that we are prepared.

I was just finishing breakfast when Tom arrived and we spent a chunk of the day fitting the catches and so on (it’s called window furniture, I’m told) to the summer house windows. There are so many windows that there will be more to do later in the week but we stopped at lunchtime because Tom was taking Dorothy into Berwick to catch a train to visit her folks.

I started work in one of the barns, identifying boxes with books in them and taking them to the summer house and putting the books on the shelves. This is going to be a really long job as I am trying to sort them all out as I go, but once it is done it will be superb. Carried on by torchlight once it got dark and then found a table to bring up to my study so that I can clear the desk before taking it out to the summerhouse tomorrow. It was tiring stuff and I was ready for our early tea at the farmhouse. Tomato and coriander soup, followed by fishcakes (with Thai chilli sauce) and then apple strudel with custard (and ice cream for those who wanted it – Digger and me).

After tea I ran Mum into Duns to attend the Duns Church Guild – it was her second trip of the day as earlier she had been to the local reading group at the Duns Library. Mum’s good news is that she has sold her flat in Kirkcaldy so that everything that we set out to do in terms of moving here has now been achieved.

Back in the Granary I started work on dismantling the study. Heavens, I’ve only been here for a couple of months, how can it be such a big job? And why is it that everything today has wires attached? After I post this entry I shall be disconnecting my computer. I hope that it will be working again by tomorrow – I have taken the precaution of doing the music for Arrochar this evening and sending it off already. But with a bit of luck I will be operational by tomorrow night.

Once all that was done, and feeling as if it has been a very long day, I walked Mix before bed. He has become such a very good dog, happily sitting for hours while I sorted out books; equally happily making the most of it as I dismantled the study around him and as I write, lying sound asleep on his cushion under the table I have brought in to store everything that was on my desk. If only the Dog’s Trust could see him now.

[ view entry ] ( 2959 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 7th, January, 2014 – Life resumes after a wonderful Christmas holiday 

Relaxing in a fully carpeted summerhouse

The title of this entry is, I suppose, accurate, except for the fact that now I seem to be on holiday for always. Certainly it feels like holiday and, not only that, but a really good holiday as well.

Today the task was to turn the summer house from a project into a building which could be used. We met at nine – by that time I had walked Mix and declined breakfast on the basis that I seem to have put on a stone and a half since retiring. By the middle of the afternoon we had laid a carpet with underfelt and a lovely chocolate top covering and we had installed the bookcases and fitted them to the walls and to each other. We had found two armchairs in the barns, excavated for a small octagonal table and also located the small library steps which were part of my study at Wemyss. Rachel did a great job of restoring the furniture and just as darkness was falling I was able to get a picture of Tom and Rachel sitting in the summer house with a carpet on the floor (and a glimpse of bookcases behind). Rachel is clutching triumphantly the carpet fitting tool which I bought off the internet last week and which proved to be a wonderful addition to our collection of tools. It really made stretching the carpet so much easier than would otherwise have been possible. So if you know of someone who needs a carpet fitted, I know of a team who could do it for you!

As darkness fell I came back into the Granary and showered before spending some time on my Italian revision and some in learning to play my Christmas ukulele. We all dined together in the farmhouse: fish-pie with broccoli, followed by apple pie with custard and ice cream. Very Yummy.

Back in the Granary I spent a bit more time with my ukulele before joining Rachel to watch Murder at 1600, an American thriller, filmed in 1997, which was really rather good. We walked the dogs – it is fair, not too much wind and just a small moon meaning that the night sky was really quite dark. It has been a fabulous day.

[ view entry ] ( 2678 views )   |  permalink
Monday 6th. January, 2014 – The Twelfth Day of Christmas and the decorations have to come down 

Mum and Rachel

Mum and Rachel have gathered before dinner for a preprandial sherry. Of course, as it is Twelfth Night all of the Christmas decorations have had to come down and Mum is sitting re-reading her collection of Christmas Cards. Every year she seems to send more than ever before but it is something she really enjoys doing. Today was also the anniversary of her wedding to my father sixty-nine years ago. They were married in Glasgow and travelled by train to Skipton for an onward journey, the following day, to Ilkley Moor.

Today was the day of the deliveries here in Mount Pleasant in 2014. The carpet for the summer house was delivered in the afternoon and the furniture for the summerhouse windows arrived in the same van. A small start to my collection of tools also arrived as did another book from Amazon, so we are keeping the van delivery system busy. Everything is now ready in the summer house for an early start to carpet-laying tomorrow morning. Rachel and Tom are on stand-by and I am really quite excited.

Today we worked on the electrics and also on some of the finishes. I learned how to use a saw. That’s true. I’ve had a saw in my hands many times in the past fifty years but I have never really known what I was doing with it. Today Tom taught me and I’ve got quite a sense of achievement in my little steps forward. I got quite cross that my own saw hasn’t yet arrived!

After dark I spent some time practising my ukulele and then in revising some of my Italian grammar (my two frivolous resolutions for this year). In the overall world view they are frivolous, but for me, newly retired, they are anything but and I am enjoying having time to devote to such things more than I can express. I have also decided to relearn the different parts I have sung in Gilbert and Sullivan – now I am really going back to far off days -- but singing is good for you, and I used to get so much pleasure from taking part in shows in our local theatre. It is easy to see why for so many people once they retire there is no time to do all that they want to do. It is quite easy for me just now because I get outside ‘to work’ in the daylight and then come in when it get dark and have a couple of hours before dinner to enjoy these new hobbies. What it will be like in the summer when the nights are light and the pull of cricket draws me down to Chester le Street I really don’t know; and there will be boats and barges to be sailed and dogs to be walked. Retirement has so much to recommend it!

After supper at the farmhouse Rachel and I watched Bletchley Circle – a mini-series set in London in the 1950s and based on a group of former code-breakers who have got together to try to save a colleague before she is executed – yes, we used to do things like that in our country too. The programme was very good.

Afterwards I walked the dog and was glad to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2778 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 5th. January, 2013 – Epiphany, the eleventh day of Christmas and a day of working in the summer house 

Mum visits the workers at the summerhouse – it was cold as evidenced by Mum’s woolly hat (look carefully and you will see my reflection in the window)

Rose and walked Mix before showering and enjoying breakfast in the farmhouse. Mum, Rachel and I drove to Gavinton to attend morning service. Today was Epiphany Sunday (Epiphany itself is tomorrow) and Ann presented her final service in three parts (during Advent and the Christmas season every Sunday service has been in three sections). Her themes this morning were entitled ‘The dawning of a new day (or year)”, ‘the light of God’s justice’ and ‘the light of the new baby’. During her first meditation Ann read from the prophet Isaiah reminding us that he was the first prophet to look forward to God intervening personally in the story of the world – a prophecy which was eventually fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the light of the world. We too are called to be light to the world and are challenged today to reach out to others using our gifts to share in the ‘showing forth of who God is’ which is the meaning of this season of Epiphany. In her second thought Ann reminded us that there is a difference between power and justice. When we pray for our political leaders, our prayer is that they will use their power justly and for the benefit of those who stand in need of that justice. The Magi were non-Jews from a far country -- God's love is for everyone, our faith is a universal one. Finally Ann read a meditation on the Magi and their gifts – quite inappropriate gifts for a young child were it not that they pointed forward to all that he was: a king whose sacrificial death would destroy death itself. We sang Christmas carols for what I suspect will be the final time this season and the young student playing the organ, Valerie, played a lovely Irish folksong as the offering was being gathered.

Following the service we went for coffee in the Church hall and then returned to Mount Pleasant. My first task was to collect some of the bits and pieces from the summerhouse in preparation for all that was planned for this week. Tom arrived and we fitted the skirting board and then, having visited Pearson’s to buy some more bits and bobs, we started to fit the main light. Meanwhile Rachel was fixing the final positions of the blinds and filling any small holes which remained.

We were finally defeated by the dark with the wiring not completed. We’ll pick that up tomorrow when we also hope to take delivery of the carpet and the fixings for some of the windows. I’m excited already!

In Church this morning, Ann spoke briefly about resolutions for the New Year. I have never made many resolutions, probably because I have always been too busy and I’ve known that I would be too busy all year. But this year is different. I have decided that during this year I would like to rediscover my Italian language. Once upon a time I was proficient, but that was many years ago. I thought I would like to attend a course in one of the Borders Colleges but I can’t find a course in Italian anywhere – Polish, French, Chinese, German and many others, but not Italian. I explored the idea of an internet course but I can’t really find anything I like. Rachel thinks that I should order a regular Italian magazine and read it from cover to cover. I’ll work on it and see what I can come up with.

I have also resolved to learn to play my new ukulele with some degree of proficiency – that will take practice, so I’ll need to devote a bit of time each day to that. And I am going to learn my building skills. The summer house will soon be completed and then we shall move on to the Hen House which will involve real building skills. I’m collecting the tools, I’ve got Tom as my instructor and I’ll record my progress on these pages: retirement really is great fun!

Rachel went off to the evening service at the Anglican Church in Berwick while I looked after the dogs and got things in order for tomorrow. On her return we dined in the farmhouse and then Olive and Mum joined us in the Granary for the second part of Death Comes to Pemberley. We all enjoyed it so much that we sat tight and watched the final part as well. It was a pleasant way to spend the first Sunday evening of a New Year.

Unfortunately, I must also record that England lost the final Test match in Australia today and that even although Ben Stokes did well and Scott Borthwick didn’t do too badly for his first Test, the series has been a disaster for England. And all this just when I finally have time to watch the matches on television and spend time at the cricket down at Chester le Street. Ah well.

We walked the dogs; by now there was snow blowing through the wind. I don’t expect that it will come to anything but we are certainly aware of the elements down here. I’m getting to bed early again tonight – tomorrow will be a big day.

[ view entry ] ( 2927 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 4th. January, 2013 – The Tenth Day of Christmas 

Four generations of the Whiteman family who worked Mount Pleasant Farm and lived in the farmhouse a long time ago (pictured at the then front-door of the farmhouse)

It is in the Pirate of Penzance by WS Gilbert that the Major General comes to humble himself before the tombs of his ancestors for the crime of having told lies to escape the clutches of the Pirates. It is pointed out to him that as he has only bought the property a year before, these ancestors can hardly be his. His response is that as he had bought the property he had inherited the ancestors with it. He was, in a lovely turn of phrase, their ‘descendent by purchase’.

In as much as there is any truth in that nonsense, the family at the head of this entry are our ‘ancestors by purchase’. All I know is that they are described as being four generations of the Whiteman family and that they farmed and lived here in times gone by. I would love to know more about them.

Back to the present day. I rose and breakfasted and then Mix and I walked before moving to the summer house where my task for today was to fit blinds in all the windows. The first one took me ages, largely because I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. But I worked it out and eventually became quite proficient at it. Practice and experience, it seems, are everything.

Digger arrived to say that his motor bike wouldn’t start. As if summoned like the genie from a magic lamp Tom and Dorothy arrived and it wasn’t long before Tom had the bike started and Rachel had pumped up the tyre which was flat and off Digger went, only to return quite quickly because it seems that the tyre has a puncture.

I returned to blind-fitting and soon had the task completed. Rachel joined me and did some filling in of tiny imperfections with wood filler. Everything is starting to look very good.

Mix and I went for another walk and soon afterwards we set off, Rachel and I, to join Olive, Digger and Mum at Scott and Sue’s home where we ate extremely well. The others stayed on for a game but Rachel and I returned home to see that the dogs were all right. Rowan had attempted to do a jigsaw and had emptied an old cushion, but otherwise things were fine (which is more than can be said for the English cricket team – today was another day of disasters, the only ray of sunshine was the 47 runs scored by Durham’s Ben Stokes who also took another wicket to raise his match tally to seven so far).

I haven’t mentioned the weather which is because the wind has, temporarily at least, dropped. We had some rain (but no snow). More gales are forecast but we shall enjoy the respite while we have it.

Read my book (on my new Kindle – a retirement gift from my Godmother), walked the dogs and retired to bed early. My goodness, it has been another lovely day.

[ view entry ] ( 2713 views )   |  permalink
Friday 3rd. January, 2014 – The Ninth Day of Christmas and a very windy one 

When I awoke our fence had all but disappeared

I was awake from early this morning – not because I wanted to follow the cricket but because of the wind which was whistling around the Granary. (The cricket was a bit of a parson’s egg: Durham players took seven of the Australian wickets with Ben Stokes claiming six of them, but Australia have a healthy first innings score.) The wind was the loudest I have ever heard. I had no concerns for the house and I wasn’t concerned about the fence because I knew it would go, but how would the summer house fare? In the event it was perfect and, as I expected, the fence was blown away.

Tom and Rachel supply the finishing touches to the library shelves

After breakfast Tom and I started work on the completion of the bookcases in the summerhouse. Rachel came and joined in and the task was completed in time for a late lunch. In the afternoon we set about sorting the fence. Well, that’s not really true. We decided to abandon the existing fence we have repaired several times in the last three or four weeks. Instead we built a new fence using posts and wire designed to keep in sheep. We built it in a new direction so that it was no longer face-on to the prevailing westerly wind. How it will survive we shall have to see.

After a bit of time learning to play my ukulele, Rachel and I went across to the farmhouse for dinner and following dinner, Mum and Olive came back with us to the Granary to watch the first part of Death Comes to Pemberley. We’ll watch the second part tomorrow evening but by that time I hope to have fixed and hung all of the blinds in the summer house.

We walked the dogs. It is still extremely windy but evidently the winds will ease before returning in force next week. It is also extremely dark with no moon and few stars on view but it has been another satisfying and fun-filled day.

[ view entry ] ( 2839 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 2nd. January, 2014 – The Eighth Day of Christmas and the fun just goes on 

How things used to be

When we came to Mount Pleasant, the Websters had left us a number of old photographs. This is one of them. It shows the farmhouse before the extension at the side (to the right in the photograph) had been built. The doorway is right in the centre, quite different from how it is today. No one is quite sure when this picture was taken – is it Victorian or Edwardian? And I wonder who are the people in the picture. From what we can gather Mount Pleasant has had an exciting past. It has been a changing post where carriages refreshed their horses on the journey from Kelso to Berwick (and vice versa). That’s why there are stables, I suppose, and it is also why the building became a place where travellers stayed and were given hospitality (Robert Burns twice, by all accounts). Later it became a farm with the Granary equipped with a ‘modern’ steam engine to drive the milling equipment. More recently the lands were sold off and Mount Pleasant became what it is today: a farmhouse with a steading including the Granary now converted into a home and with endless scope for other development.

This morning we rose and walked the dogs and were ready for Tom and Dorothy when they arrived at nine. In Tom’s car, with the trailer behind, we made our way to Edinburgh to visit IKEA. Rachel and I bought some more bookcases, Tom and Dorothy were into storage equipment. Once we had completed our purchases and loaded up the trailer we went back into the store for a late brunch. It was good. Then we drove to the nearby retail park so that Rachel could buy some dog supplies and Dorothy could discuss clipping her goats – both of these at a thoroughly excellent pet supply shop.

Dorothy and Tom checking that our purchases are safely in the trailer on the way back home to the Borders

We made our way home and loaded one of our spare washing machines onto Tom’s trailer. His family washing machine has packed up and by taking one of ours he has helped us to create a bit of space in the barn. I took Mix for a walk and then relaxed in front of the stove until it was time for dinner in the farmhouse, after which everyone came back to the Granary to watch the DVD of Lincoln and his fight to pass the thirteenth amendment putting an end to slavery.

It was an engrossing film, beautifully filmed, which brought out the political machinations and intrigue of the time, all against the background of the horrendous civil war. I realised that there was much in the film that I hadn’t known and I am really glad to have seen it. If only someone would now fight as hard to pass a further amendment banning the taking of life by judicial means or a still further amendment to restrict the owning of firearms by all and sundry, the United States could really claim to have come of age. That’s not a clever comment, but grows out of the film because if there is one thing that came across to me more strongly than anything else it was that one man fought to introduce the thirteenth amendment and it was because he was so absolutely resolute, determined and politically savvy that slavery was brought to an end. All of us went away from the film thinking about what we had seen – you can’t ask for much more than that.

Rachel and I walked the dogs and came to bed. England have won the toss in Australia (there’s a first) and have chosen two Durham players in their eleven: Ben Stokes and Scott Borthwick. Already an Australian wicket has fallen but what will be the picture when I tune in tomorrow morning?

[ view entry ] ( 4321 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 1st. January, 2014 – New Year’s day and the seventh day of Christmas 

For the first time we are gathered around the table in the lounge at the farmhouse

Happy New Year! If every day this year is as good as today then we are going to have a really wonderful year. I went back across to the farmhouse last night – everyone was playing a card game which I enjoyed as a spectator for quite a while before retiring to my bed.

Rachel got up early and set off for Bamburgh where she walked Rowan – a tradition for Rachel (setting off early with the dog on New Year’s day) which has been going for many years. I got up and joined the clan in the farmhouse for a hearty breakfast and no sooner had I finished eating than Tom and Dorothy arrived to wish us a Happy New Year. I showed Jeffrey around, even climbing into the first floor of the Hen House, and shared our plans for this year. Later his friends all came on a tour as well. Tom and Dorothy and I made our own plans as well. We’ll meet tomorrow morning at nine and the work will start again! I went out with Mix for a lengthy walk.

After an early lunch Jeffrey and his friends set off back to Edinburgh; it had been good to meet them all. By now Peter and Veronica, old established friends of Olive and Digger, had arrived. They went for a walk in the afternoon and then settled down in the lounge. It was good to see them both again. Scott and Sue also arrived to wish us a Happy New Year – the place was a-buzz with folks coming and going. I came back to the Granary and watched The Plank – I did see it all, it was a very short film, but no sooner had it ended than I fell asleep in front of the stove; well, it was New Year’s Day.

By the back of six we were all together again for a drink in the farmhouse and then we sat down for the first time around the table in the dining room – Olive, Digger, Rachel, Mum and Veronica and Peter. It was good to be around the table which had been in Luss for a while when we first went there and was afterwards in Wemyss. It’s been part of our household for many a long year.

Later in the evening, leaving everyone else to have some peace in the farmhouse, and to play a game of Trivial Pursuit, Rachel and I came back to the Granary to watch another Montalbano film (Italian detective film set in Sicily – fabulous, atmospheric and totally catching the spirit of the country). I should have gone to bed when it ended but instead I got caught up in a Law and Order UK programme before walking the dogs and coming to bed. New Year’s Day has long passed – but it was a good one and, even if the alarm clock is already warning of stormy weather, my own internal clock tells me that this is going to be a wonderful year! I hope it is for you as well.

[ view entry ] ( 3758 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 31st. December, 2013 – Hogmanay and the Sixth Day of Christmas 

Tom and Rachel at work

Woke for the last time in 2013 – a year which has been supremely eventful for me. I started the year in work with two parishes to look after and ended it retired and with only myself and my family to look to. I’ve always had projects – doing things with the boat or whatever – but the wonder of being retired is that I can now devote myself to the things I want to do. I don’t have to grab time from something else to do what I want to do. I don’t have to do what I want to do with one ear for a telephone which may call me to something more important. And so today I always knew that I would be working on the summer house – and that’s how it turned out.

I got up and walked the dog, breakfasted in the farmhouse (a leisurely breakfast is something I was never able to experience pre-retirement, now I almost take it for granted) and then Tom and Dorothy arrived and together with Rachel we set about building bookcases in the summer house. We were at it all day, or at ;least all the day-light hours (Rachel broke off to drive Mum to the hairdresser and also to collect her; Tom and Dorothy went off for lunch) but by the end of the day we had achieved a great deal with two large bookcases, one in each of the two back corners of the building.

Dorothy, Tom and Rachel (with Mix wandering into shot) in front of one of the new bookcases

Back in the house I prepared the music for Arrochar for next Sunday and spoke to Cathy on the phone before wandering over to the farmhouse where Olive’s son Jeffrey had arrived with several of his friends to celebrate Hogmanay. We enjoyed a drink with them, and then an excellent buffet meal, before I returned to the Granary to have a shower (must go into the New Year clean) and tidy up my study (must go into the New Year tidy) and make sure all of the bills are paid (must go into the New Year owing nothing). As if the change from one year to another makes any real difference – yet still doing these things is engrained in me. I must say, that with more time, it is much less of a frenetic rush than it usually is and I am looking forward to next year enormously.

Some of Jeff’s friends counting down the minutes to 2014

Back in the farmhouse we joined everyone for a drink before the Bells, another drink afterwards (and some shortbread) and then Rachel and I set off to walk the dogs. We’re back in the Granary now. It is 2014. Rachel is off to bed and I think that I will go back and join the party.

If you are reading this, I wish you a very peaceful New Year. May all your desires be fulfilled and all your wishes come true. Most of all may this be a year of peace and one in which we learn to share with those who are less fortunate than we are; a year in which the hungry are fed, the homeless are housed, refugees are welcomed and all are made to feel that they matter. It's in our hands.

[ view entry ] ( 2994 views )   |  permalink
Monday 30th. December, 2013 – The Fifth Day of Christmas 

A picture of our family

This picture was taken just over a year ago at the wedding of Nick (my nephew) and Amy. But I only saw the picture for the first time when we all got together for Christmas on the 27th. of December. I thought it would be good to put it up here because it allows me to introduce everyone in the family: from the left Devon (Jeffrey’s partner), Mum, Rachel (my wife), Jeffrey (my nephew and Olive’s son), Digger (Olive’s husband), Nick (the bridegroom, my nephew and Scott’s son), Amy (Nick’s Australian bride), me, Olive (my sister), Sue (Scott’s wife), Scott (my brother) and Katie (my niece and Scott’s daughter). Now I hope that is all very clear! I’m in my clerical collar in the picture because I conducted the wedding ceremony. It was a happy occasion.

Today I got up and breakfasted before walking Mix. Then I spent all day – or at least all of the daylight hours of the day – varnishing the inside of the summerhouse (particularly the roof – which I suppose becomes a ceiling when it is inside). It was fairly unpleasant as tasks go, the varnish running back down my hand and dripping onto my hair and into my eyes. But now that it is done, it is done and the rest of the tasks will be far more fun.

I walked Mix in the twilight and then had a pleasant shower to try to become human again before relaxing in front of a screen and watching the Titfield Thunderbolt, an old 1953 comedy from the Ealing Studios: extremely gentle and a product of its time.

We all dined together in the farmhouse and then, in front of a warm stove in our lovely front room, Rachel and I watched an episode of Montalbano. I really enjoyed it and would love to be out in Italy again. In total contrast, we walked the dogs in the icy cold, admiring a clear, clear sky and all of the stars, before coming back home and going to bed. I feel that I have achieved a great deal today.

[ view entry ] ( 2849 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 29th. December, 2013 – The Fourth Day of Christmas, the First Sunday of Christmas and our Forty-fourth Wedding Anniversary 

Dorothy, Tom and Mum outside Abbey St. Bathan’s Church

Today was another great day – but it didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I got up and walked the dog. After all of the winds and bad weather it was as if spring was just around the corner, not at all cold, no wind and the sun was out – a thoroughly beautiful day. I breakfasted in the farmhouse and then we set off early (9.20 a.m.) for Abbey St. Bathans, a small village to the north-east of Duns perhaps eleven or twelve miles from our house. There used to be a Church of Scotland Church here but it was sold off and a member of the community bought it and did it up. The congregation of Gavinton, in whose parish it now is, holds services here occasionally and as this was a fifth Sunday of the month the service was held here. Almost the whole worshipping congregation had come along from Gavinton for the service and a large number of folk from Abbey St. Bathans, local folk and visitors, attended. In all there were fifty-eight of us which made this comfortably the largest congregation I have been part of since I came south.

Ann, our minister, continued her programme of three-themed services, our themes for today being St. Stephen, the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents. Ann sketched out Stephen’s life, reminding us that he was a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian, one of the seven deacons chosen to organise the care of the widows, orphans and the poor of the early Church community. But he was much more than that – a powerful preacher and debater who fell foul of the religious authorities, was tried and stoned to death – the first Christian martyr whose saint’s day falling immediately after Christmas day points forward to all that is to happen to God’s son. He was not only born into our world to live our life, but to die our death as well.

The second theme picked up Joseph’s dream which led to the holy family’s flight to Egypt. Jesus’ family was poor – they were also refugees. Ann read a meditation of Mary’s thoughts as she struggled to come to terms with the turn her life was taking. She had expected to give birth to God’s son, something which would be celebrated and would lead to great things. Instead she is now fleeing the country under the blanket of darkness.

Her third theme really ran in parallel with this as we were presented with the story of the massacre of the innocents, both through Bible reading and a meditation in which the wife of an innkeeper (not the one who welcomed in the weary couple) told the story of the massacre from her perspective. The arrival of the couple from Nazareth and the birth of their baby was not good news for the innkeeper's family nor their community. Instead of celebration and happiness, it led to the death of their children and the destruction of their community.

It all gave me food for thought because I have come to understand the flight to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents as being a device of Matthew to tell his Gospel as a parallel of the Old Testament Moses story of redemption. But it is a reminder of how horrific humanity can be and a reminder that that cruelty is not something which is only a part of ancient history. Perhaps even a reminder that challenging evil can have difficult consequences for the good and the bystanders as well as for those, like Stephen, who put their heads above the parapet.

Forty-four years ago today: Rachel and I climb into a car to be driven to our reception

We didn’t stay for coffee this morning because we had to get back to Mount Pleasant. At noon Aunt Agnes (my God-mother), Martin, Jill and Eric (Jill’s Dad) arrived at Mount Pleasant. It was really good to see my cousin and his wife again. We drank coffee in the farmhouse and then toured the ‘estate’ before coming to the Granary for lunch. It was a happy time and the afternoon just flew by.

Forty-four years ago today: a family group outside St. Mary’s Church in Beverly

The plan had been that we would have a family meal this evening to celebrate Rachel and my wedding anniversary, but a phone call from the estate agent put paid to that. Someone wanted to see around Mum’s Kirkcaldy flat; Digger and Mum set off for Kirkcaldy and Rachel and I went into Berwick where we attended Evensong at Berwick Parish Church. The Church here is without a vicar (Dennis Handley will be inducted on 19th. March) but there seems to be no shortage of substitutes. The service this evening was led by Canon John Ward who spoke from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, reminding us that in arguments and debates about important things we can never be sure that we are right (the Church condoned slavery for many years). Debates must be conducted in love and with respect. I guess this was an apt message for the Church which has a number of important internal debates going on at present. It could equally be applied to the referendum debate on this side of the border. It is an important message because all too often disagreement leads to walls being built, so the emphasis has to be on the learning to love each other, because each of us is one of God’s children. The Christmas message just goes on and on.

The crib in Berwick Parish Church

On the way home we stopped and enjoyed fish suppers (well, actually I had a two-sausage supper) and on our return we watched a 1992 film ‘A Few Just Men’ – a court case film involving marines from Guantanamo Bay. I enjoyed it very much indeed. Mum and Digger returned from Kirkcaldy. They had liked the gentleman who came to view the flat – now all we can do is hope that he liked the flat! Rachel and I walked the dogs (the wind is beginning to get up again) and came to bed. What a fabulous day!

[ view entry ] ( 3014 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 28th. December, 2013 – The Third Day of Christmas: we go to the Pantomime 

Enjoying a pre-panto drink in the theatre bar

Up and breakfasted in the farmhouse before walking Mix on largely deserted roads – the local area is clearly still on holiday. Back home I started to learn how to play my ukulele. Tom arrived and I switched role to that of apprentice joiner as we set about rebuilding the fences which had fallen down during the most recent storm. Tom was in fine form for this as he had done the same at his own home before coming to see me.

After lunch we set about hanging the door in its final position in the summer house and also experimented with a blind on one of the windows there as an alternative to curtains. It looks super. We can’t deal with the other windows as we are still awaiting the ironmongery for six of the windows which didn’t arrive with the windows.

We had an early tea at the farmhouse, eating up the leftovers from yesterday and then we all (Mum, Olive, Digger, Rachel and I) went off to Berwick to attend the pantomime Cinderella at the Maltings. I really enjoyed it. It was a real family pantomime, fresh and clever, with imaginative performances obscuring any deficiencies in the script. I missed the professional dancing chorus (such a part of the pantomimes at the Pavilion which we used to attend with the young folk form Arrochar) but the individual performances of Buttons and the Fairy Godmother, to say nothing of the other characters who were all good, more than made up for that. It goes without saying that the theatre was filled to capacity and we enjoyed a drink before the performance in the friendly theatre bar.

Olive and Mum had clearly enjoyed the show

Came back home and caught up with some bits and pieces before walking Mix and going to bed. Yet another lovely Christmassy day.

[ view entry ] ( 2618 views )   |  permalink
Friday 27th. December, 2013 -- Christmas just goes on and on 

Exchanging presents in the farmhouse

What winds we had overnight! I awoke to discover that one of our fences had been blown totally over and another had a section missing from it. The wind was so strong that there was nothing we could do about it – so there was no garden for the dogs today.

In fact they didn’t miss it. We took them for a walk down towards the River Blackadder through the trees and when we returned they accompanied us to the summer house where Rachel and I spent the morning and early part of the afternoon varnishing the inside of the summer house. We completed the interior walls and the plan is to tackle the inside of the roof tomorrow. It is all great fun, especially with the wind rattling around outside.

Came inside and showered and then went across to the farmhouse where Scott and Sue, Nick, Amy and Katie had arrived laden down with Christmas gifts. It was so good to see them. Christmas toasts were drunk in champagne, gifts were exchanged, a lovely buffet meal was enjoyed by all, and there was much exchanging of news and the occasional debate (about whether Scotland should seek independence – every possible view is represented within our family) and family fun. I did rather well out of the generosity of my brother and his family returning to the Granary quite late on (the wind was still howling) with tickets for the athletics at the Commonwealth Games and a big black hat!

Back home I dealt with the music for Arrochar on Sunday and forwarded it to Neil and Jamie and then caught just a little of the cricket before bed. I could scarcely believe it when I got up this morning to discover that England had had such a good day in the field. I look forward to seeing how they get on today.

[ view entry ] ( 2642 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 26th. December, 2013 – Boxing Day and a wonderful one at that! 

Christmas sunrise – taken yesterday but I forgot to put it up

This morning I slept in. Rachel got up a little after eight and even invited Mix to go out to the garden with Rowan but Mix is his master’s dog and preferred to sleep on at the foot of the bed until about ten. By that time Rachel was in Berwick for the communion service in the Anglican Church.

I got up in a leisurely fashion – it was my first really long-lie since retiring and, truth to tell, I did very little except make the fire up, fill the coal bunker and bring in logs and just potter about in a happy dwam. (I don’t care if the spell-check doesn’t recognise it: it is a perfectly good word.) In the afternoon Rachel and I set off for our Boxing Day walk. It was back to Berwick for Rachel and we wandered along the beach at Spittal. We had expected the beach to be busy but it was really quite quiet.

Rachel and Rowan on the beach at Spittal – the tide is right out

We went from Spittal to the retail park at Tweedmouth where we visited first HomeBase and then Curry’s. At HomeBase we got some bits and pieces to enable us to start on varnishing the summer house (perhaps tomorrow); at Curry’s we bought a new printer for the computer – we seem to go through printers at a tremendous rate; but once they go wrong no repair seems to last any time at all.

Back home I decided to check on the carpet that I intended to buy for the summer house with a view to popping into Duns to see if it was available at the local shop (it’s good to buy locally) but when I went on line I saw that if I bought the carpet on-line today there would be an additional twenty percent discount (off already extremely reasonable prices). I ordered the carpet and it will be delivered in a couple of days time.

Candles in the Granary lounge

Rachel lit the candles and Mum, Olive and Digger arrived to spend the late afternoon and evening with us. We exchanged presents and I was thrilled to be given a set of cricket stumps with a difference. Made by Digger, they are designed as a bathroom fitment to ensure that we never run out of toilet tissue. I also received a miniature camping gas stove (we are all electric in the Granary) to enable us to cook when the power cuts come. (Almost on cue the barometer began to drop and our clocks started ringing out storm warnings.)

The Granary is looking extremely Christmassy

Rachel had prepared all kinds of party food and we spent a long time eating and drinking. I was able to enjoy some champagne, some Madeira, some wine and some grappa without any fear of the telephone ringing to say I was required. It was such a relaxing evening. To round it all off we watched the Christmas Downton Abbey (recorded yesterday) and then, after Olive and Digger had gone off to bed, Rachel, Mum and I rounded the day off by watching the reprise of ‘Open All Hours’ which really was a tribute to Ronny Barker, and quite nostalgic.

We walked the dogs – it has got very cold – and went to bed. What a fabulous day.

[ view entry ] ( 3124 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 25th. December, 2013 – A Happy Christmas Day 

Guess what I got for Christmas

Woke and it was still very windy – we had been promised that the wind would drop overnight but here it was still exceedingly blowy and I was relieved that we still had all of our slates, the boat was still covered by its tarpaulin, the roof was on the summerhouse and the fence was still more or less in place. I showered and then walked Mix with Rachel and Rowan – everywhere was deserted and it was very quiet. Came home and changed and we set off for church.

It was a good service and the folk who were there seemed to be in families, as if parents had brought those staying with them for Christmas along to church for the service. Ann retold the manger story from the standpoint of the baby – the purpose being to underline the wonder of God choosing to be born into our world as one of us. Of course we sang all the old favourites and came out of church feeling that Christmas had arrived and that the world was a better place as a result.

A view of Holyrood Palace from Carlton Hill

Back home, Rachel and I had a snack and opened our Christmas presents. Rachel gave me a ukulele (a retired person should take up a new interest and what better than learning to play a new instrument); Tom and Dorothy gave me a tool bag (clearly they foresee a more useful outlet for my new energies)! I gave Rachel a jacket which she really fancied from the awfully posh Tweedside Tackle (which we had visited in Kelso last week). Presents opened – the dogs had their own gifts, as well – we set off in the car for Edinburgh to join the family at Jeffrey and Devon’s home.

Jeffery is my nephew. He met us when we arrived and to settle the dogs we walked up Carlton Hill which is just minutes away from his home. It was busy, lots of folk were out for a Christmas walk. We overlooked Holyrood Palace and at the other side of the hill got a grand view of Edinburgh and the Forth behind.

Custer and Jeff -- a dog and his man

In Jeff’s home we were treated to a feast – turkey, goose, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, sausages wrapped in bacon, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, two kinds of stuffing, gravy and all in such huge quantities. Afterwards there was an extended break – we needed it – while presents were exchanged and then we started again with a huge Christmas pudding which flamed for fully three or four minutes before the brandy was consumed, and a glorious trifle (my favourite and made with me in mind). It was wonderful. It was also wonderful to meet Steve (Devon’s Dad) and Nicole and Nicole’s daughter Torri, as well as Jeff’s special friends Keith and Lee – along with Mum, Olive and Digger that provides a complete rundown of everyone present.

Looking north from Carlton Hill

We set off home just after eight. Rachel had undertaken to put the chickens to bed to allow Digger and Olive to stay overnight in Edinburgh. It was a good journey home, eighty minutes door to door. I lit the stove and we watched Mrs. Brown’s Christmas on tv and a bit of Michael MacIntyre whose discussion of a visit to the dentist made me laugh out loud so much that I still have a sore chest more than two hours afterwards – I laughed, I wept, I rolled on the floor. It was so funny – the humour turning on his inability to speak properly with his mouth numbed by a dentist’s injection.

We had intended to watch the news and come to bed but before we knew it we got caught up in the Vicar of Dibley. The writers have a wonderful knack of presenting ridiculous humour but bringing it all around to something quite profound and I went to bed, having walked the dogs (the wind has now dropped), feeling that I had got a lot out of today. It has been quite, quite special and everything has contributed to that: the service in Church, the family celebration in Edinburgh, the television we watched when we came home (there was a lovely five minute slot on the BBC where the Gospel was read and ‘On Christmas night’ was sung), and the texts I received during the day from important friends. And to add to it all, Mix was on his best behaviour everywhere we went. He has become a real star.

I hope that all those who read this diary have had a really special day. Don’t let Christmas stop when the clock strikes midnight. Let’s keep it going as long as we can! I also hope that the message of the need to make our society a fairer one -- both in terms of our own country and the world as a whole -- a message proclaimed by the new Archbishop of Canterbury and also by the Archbishop of York is not lost amongst all of the celebrations. Mary's song, which we read in the lead up to Christmas, presents a vision of the world as it is meant to be and we can't welcome the baby without working for the dream.

[ view entry ] ( 3042 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 24th. December, 2013 – Christmas Eve 

Now the Christmas Tree in the farmhouse has baubles as well as lights

It is Christmas Eve and, for the first time since I retired, I feel a little strange, a little bit like a spare part. Last year I was up early with shopping to do and then so many services to get just right. I would conduct the Christmas Eve Service at half past eleven in Arrochar and a huge number of the village would come. The Church would be lit entirely by candle-light and there was a lovely feeling in the Church enhanced by the mulled wine served at the door! I would ensure that everything was ready for the Luss service as well, although it would be conducted by Bill and Rachel and I would get back from Arrochar just in time to greet some of the folk from Luss (their service lasts longer than Arrochar’s because of the Guild Choir items just after midnight). There would be no time to relax for on Christmas morning there were services at Arrochar and Luss – in Arrochar this was the best attended service of the year with few from Arrochar but loads of predominantly English folk staying in the local hotels. At the Luss the service would also be made up predominantly of visitors as the tradition there as well was to attend on Christmas Eve – but how can Christians not want to mark Jesus’ birth in their congregational family home? It has always been important to me to be in Church on Christmas morning.

The crib is out in the farmhouse lounge as well

Well, this morning I got up and walked Mix – there was snow in the air and it was quite chilly. The wind was also starting to blow. I breakfasted on bacon and egg and then went out to Duns to do some last minute shopping. To be honest I really didn’t need to, but it is what I have always done, and I’m a creature of habit particularly at this time of the year. I also had to go to Duns to pick Mum up from her hairdresser – before I set off, Tom and Dorothy popped in to see how we were. We’ll join them later in the evening for the Watch Night Service.

Back at Mount Pleasant, Scott arrived with Nick and Amy. It was a flying visit and by a little after three we had the whole complex to ourselves: Mum, Olive, Digger and Heidi the dog having left for Edinburgh to Christmas with Jeff and Devon. We will drive there tomorrow after Church.

A lovely Christmas tree – but not too many people

I visited Duns again just after three. The place looked beautiful but it was practically deserted. Normally on Christmas Eve I am jostling with last minute Christmas shoppers, or with those who are looking for last-minute bargains. I feel so sorry for shopkeepers this Christmas, the weather, the internet, the shopping malls and the recent recession have all conspired to hit them really hard.

Normally there isn’t a parking space to be had

Back home I wrapped up all of my presents – the Lessons and Carols from King’s College was on the radio. Rachel preferred to watch on television later in the afternoon. I spent the time tidying my study and wondering when I had ever had time to do something like that on Christmas Eve before. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this year enormously: it just doesn’t feel real. At any moment I expect the telephone to ring and tell me to get back to work. Mind you, with gales roaring all around us – the wind picked up dramatically over the course of the afternoon – it is very pleasant to be able to stay indoors.

Gavinton Church by candle-light before the service began

We dined in the Granary and watched a bit of Morecombe and Wise, followed by a new Midsomer Murder and then we cleared the kitchen as best we could so that we could leave the dogs while we went to Church. Walked them, left them comfortable and set off for the Church. The wind was howling but still there were twenty-one of us in Church for a lovely carol service during which Ann spoke of the reality and humanity of Jesus’ birth. It was really God born into our world -- a fact which was ‘as much about midwifery as it was about theology’. It was good to be with members of the congregation as we moved into Christmas 2013 – although I have to confess that my mind did drift off to Arrochar and Luss as I wondered how they were getting on and hoping that they were having as good a celebration as we were down here.

Wished Tom and Dorothy good night and wished them well on their drive south to Dorothy’s folks tomorrow (well, later on today). Drove home and discovered that the dogs had been very good indeed – things are looking up! Well, it is Christmas.

If you are reading this, I hope that you have a very happy Christmas and may God bless us all.

[ view entry ] ( 3125 views )   |  permalink
Monday 23rd. December, 2013 – A Wet and Windy Day 

It is mid-day on the day before Christmas Eve and Berwick in the rain is almost deserted

Got up and pushed the dogs into the garden. I wasn’t going to the farmhouse for breakfast this morning because Olive and Digger were setting off early to do their shopping. And I wasn’t walking the dog because the plan was to take both dogs off in the car for a walk before we did our shopping. In the event the dogs and I were ready but Rachel slept in. However, we got on the road and drove first to Duns for Rachel to complete some medical and financial transactions and then we drove to Spittal where we walked the dogs on the beach. Today the beach was huge (because the tide was out); it was also very cold and with a driving wind and pouring rain (so we had the beach to ourselves). Mix was very glad to get back into the car.

We drove to Berwick to complete our Christmas shopping. Berwick was deserted so we had the pick of the shops. I spoke to several shopkeepers who felt that the weather had affected them badly. Last week it had rained and so people took to the internet to do their shopping; this week in the final run up to Christmas the rain had struck again and people were going to shopping malls or retail parks where they could shop without walking down the street and getting wet and where they could park right next to the shops. To be fair the council in Berwick had lifted all parking charges in an attempt to lure the shoppers, but it was largely in vain. One shopkeeper said to me – "I wouldn’t mind if it was because people had decided to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas but I suspect that it is just the weather". I’m sure that she was right.

We went to the Town House for brunch (remember I missed breakfast). Normally it is hard to get a table but there was plenty of room today. I enjoyed 'pigs in a blanket' and a glorious hot chocolate. Afterwards we continued with our shopping and then it was back to the car and a drive to the retail park because Rachel wanted to buy food at Marks and Spencer. Here, right enough, at the retail park the shop was crowded and we had to queue.

We drove home and Rachel set off at once to Duns to buy our ‘ordinary food’ while I talked to Mum, Olive and Digger. I discovered that my Godmother had sent me a present and, as I prepared to put it to one side to open on Christmas Day, I was told that it wasn’t a Christmas present but was a retirement gift. So I could open it! It was a Kindle – what a delightful present. I got it up and running and linked it to our broadband with the result that I can now read any book I want. Some I can buy from Amazon and with a single click they appear on the Kindle; others I can ‘borrow’ for nothing because I am a member of Amazon Prime. What a kind present and what a super present.

Rachel returned and I set off to buy some last minute things – we hadn’t gone together because someone had to look after the dogs. Again there was this Marie Celeste feeling – the Co-op was deserted, the town square was empty, it was really hard to believe that this was the day before Christmas Eve.

The farmhouse tree is up and has lights on it – the other decorations will follow tomorrow

Back home I sorted out my finances and reconciled all that I had spent and then we went across to the farmhouse for supper.

Afterwards, back in our lounge we watched an old Inspector Gently which neither of us had seen before. It was good. Then it was time to walk the dogs – the wind had blown up again and there was snow in the air. Part of our fence is down again – we’ll fix it tomorrow. It was good to get back inside. England appears to be suffering terribly from wind and storms with many trains cancelled and those that are running, are compelled to keep below fifty miles an hour. We are to share some of the bad weather tomorrow, if the forecasters are to be believed. I was glad to go to bed and read a chapter on my Kindle.

[ view entry ] ( 3276 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 22nd. December, 2013 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent 

During the service this morning the fourth candle of Advent was lit

It was really cold when I got up this morning and, walking the dog, I saw lots of snow by the roadside and flooding in the fields. After breakfast, Rachel, Mum and I set off for Gavinton Church – there was more snow in Gavinton and the minister spoke of real snow and icy conditions on her way to Church.

The service was well attended (thirty-four folk, I think, which is one or two more than normal) and it was a good service. The theme, continuing on the triple theme of previous advent Sundays, was Magnificat, Joseph and Immanuel. We looked at Mary’s Song of Praise having been confronted with the angel and his message about her impending pregnancy and her willingness to respond to God’s will (a model for our own response) which in turn leads to a changed world – for it is as we respond to God’s will that the world becomes a different place. Ann read the scripture about Joseph’s dream and a meditation about his experience – the Christmas story is also a story about Joseph’s response to God’s challenge. Finally we looked at the passage from Isaiah where the birth of a child will foreshadow the salvation of his people, Ann set this passage in its historical context and explained how the mystery of the virgin birth had been created in part as the story made its way from Hebrew through Greek to the people of New Testament times. We sang some good carols and afterwards joined everyone else for coffee in the Church Hall.

There were beautiful flowers in Church this morning

Back home we set about moving furniture in the farmhouse, most notably taking a sofa from the lounge into one of the barns to make room for the dining table to be used in comfort and to make way for the Christmas Tree which Digger was to buy later in the day. I went off with Mum to a ‘cheerful Carol Singalong’ in Gavinton Village Hall. There must have been about forty-five of us, congregation and village folk (including quite a few children) in the hall and we sang carols (the words projected on the wall), watched a short nativity film from New Zealand, and enjoyed mulled wine and mince-meat pies. Later in the afternoon, after some games, Santa visited the hall with a present for each child.

Back in the Granary, I responded to an email from Neil from Arrochar and prepared additional midi files for some extra carols which they will sing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Rachel went off to Berwick to Choral Evensong and on her return we all ate in the farmhouse. Back in the Granary we dozed in front of the stove (our home is so very warm) and then, after walking the dogs in the freezing cold, it was time for bed. It has been a lovely weekend.

[ view entry ] ( 2995 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 21st. December, 2013 – Christmas Shopping 

Rachel and Rowan on St. Cuthbert’s Way at Newtown St. Boswell’s

Woke this morning and felt sorry for all shopkeepers. The wind had dropped but it was raining hard and it was a thoroughly nasty day on this one of the most important shopping days for those with shops on the high streets up and down the country. Mix and I went for a short walk – it was much too wet for a longer trek. I breakfasted and then Rachel and I set out to do some Christmas shopping. We had heard that there was a fine bookshop in St. Boswell’s but of course we went to Newtown St. Boswell’s, not the same place at all. However, our loss was the dogs gain. (Should report that I unloaded Mix from the back of the car and went to get his lead. Rachel volunteered to hold on to Mix while I sorted out the lead. The next thing I saw was Rachel flat out on the ground as something nearby had attracted Mix’s attention – but Rachel hadn’t let go!) Even so we took the dogs for a decent walk down to the river and across the bridge until we found ourselves on St. Cuthbert’s Way. We will certainly return on a better day to do more of the walk.

We made our way to St. Boswell’s and found the bookshop. There it was on the little Main Street complete with parking behind. It was an excellent shop, a little independent bookseller, with loads of choice, and an excellent display to suit all tastes. We spent ages in the shop and enjoyed it immensely.

Refuelled in the village Garage (and bought a couple of sandwiches) before continuing to Kelso where we did a bit more shopping and also found time to have a look at the Abbey – another place to return to when shopping is not so high on the agenda and more time can be spent on more important matters.

We were able to have the quickest of looks at the Abbey in Kelso.

Having visited some very interesting shops including Tweedside Tackle (a fishing shop, I understand, of some considerable renown) and a lovely little jeweller called Bridget of Edinburgh where the lady made everything herself on the premises, mostly out of silver, we set off for home allowing the TomTom to devise an extremely interesting scenic route which took us down several unmarked minor roads on our way to Mount Pleasant.

Back home we unloaded Rachel’s car of yesterday's purchases (all of the book-shelves and so on) and Scott and Sue arrived to steal some ivy for their Christmas decorations. We sat over coffee with them and Mum in the Granary, and longer with Mum after Scott and Sue set off for home. The rain continued to pour down but we are snug as bugs in our little house and couldn’t be happier or more content if we tried.

Joined the family for a lovely evening meal of ham and roast potatoes with carrots, followed by apple pie, custard and ice-cream. Back in the Granary, Rachel wrapped presents while we watched the second part of the Train Robbers film: A Copper’s Tale. It was very good: no, it was excellent, made so by good writing, a wonderful cast and an exciting tale to tell. While we were watching the drama our first snows arrived; nothing too serious but, as Google reported on its front page, winter has now arrived!

[ view entry ] ( 2901 views )   |  permalink
Friday 20th. December, 2013 -- Off to Edinburgh 

There was a warm glow from the summer house as we walked the dogs last thing at night

Coincidences. I tend not to believe in them as they effect daily life, affirming the belief of the late George MacLeod that if you believe in coincidence you will have a very boring life. But some things are strange. A couple of nights ago we were talking around the table about music and old songs and someone mentioned ‘Right said Fred’ as an example of an old song which they had enjoyed. I had forgotten all about it but back in my study the next day (yesterday) I typed ‘Right said Fred’ into Spotify on the computer and up came the song, along with the information that it had been sung by Bernard Cribbins. As soon as I was reminded of the fact, I realised that I knew it (if you know what I mean). But it was such a long time ago and I hadn’t heard of Bernard Cribbins for years and years and years. Later in the afternoon while I was having something to eat, and having no book to read, I turned on the BBC i-player and accessed the most recent episode of ‘Have I got news for you’ and who should be a guest on the programme? Bernard Cribbins. Strange: what a coincidence!

Walked the dog and breakfasted in the farmhouse and then Rachel and I set off for IKEA in Edinburgh leaving Mix in the farmhouse with Olive and Digger. I was amazed at how busy the roads were, although IKEA itself wasn’t overly busy. I bought some bookshelves – the heartbreak of having to leave my wonderful library shelves behind at Wemyss – and we also bought some blinds for the windows of the summer house and then we set off for home. Rachel driving and Rowan and I cramped into half a seat: the rest taken over by shelving. We had gaily bought quite a lot because we had determined that it would fit into the Berlingo, forgetting totally about the accumulated weight of so many shelves. We drove home slowly, stopping at Asda at Dunbar so that Rowan could be walked and I could buy a sandwich for Rachel and myself.

By the time we got home it was already dark and the day was almost over. I had an email with the hymns for Arrochar for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so I spent the time before dinner preparing the music for those services and sending them off to Jamie by email. Then we ate in the farmhouse – another lovely meal – and by the time the meal was over and we returned to the Granary it was blowing a gale, again!

We watched the first part of the dramatisation of the Train Robbers tonight – it was good, well written and tightly acted. Tomorrow we plan to watch the Policeman’s Tale and see how it all unfolds. Memory plays tricks over the years and it is good to be reminded of what actually happened. Tomorrow I gather that we are going Christmas shopping – I hope that the weather has died down.

It is getting close to Christmas -- I have never looked forward to a Christmas as much as I am looking forward to this one. In the past I have been 'in charge'. It has been my responsibility to ensure that all the services and activities happen and happen as they should. I have taken that responsibility very seriously and I have felt the weight of it on my shoulders. (I do understand that God is in charge but I am sure you know what I mean: God entrusts these responsibilities to us.) This year that is gone. I am a member of a congregation and am enjoying taking part in what others have prepared. That's not to say that I don't have responsibilities, but my responsibilities now are different from before. I have made my Christmas plans so that I can be in the little Church here for the Watchnight Service and for Christmas Day -- because being a member of a congregation brings responsibilities as well. In a small congregation just a few people missing makes such a difference and I want to be part of the celebrations here. There has been a lovely lead up to Christmas -- the actual celebrations will be wonderful.

[ view entry ] ( 2772 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 19th. December, 2013 – It is bright, cold and calm 

Carol singing at Longformacus – lousy photo of a grand occasion

I think it was in ‘As Time Goes By’ that we were for ever being given the weather forecast (or rather the shipping forecast) in the English Chanel by Geoffrey Palmer’s housekeeper. I seem to have become her spiritual successor. The storm of last night has all passed by. It is bright and cold and calm and everything in our estate has survived – but the wind was really noisy during the night and I see from the BBC website that many people are without power this morning.

As I lay in bed listening to the wind I found myself thinking about what I had (or hadn’t) written in my diary. As I waited last evening for Lucan to start there was a rather sentimental programme called Surprise on the channel I was waiting for. The reason for commenting on it was that two of the guests were Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean. I remember so vividly when they won their Olympic medal in 1984, twenty-nine years ago, and they really didn’t look old enough on the programme yesterday to have been champions so long ago. Skating must be good for you! It was good to watch them again.

The other thought was about the difference between crime and white-collar crime. Train robbers, rightly, get bundled into jail for lengthy periods, but those who run institutions which arguably cause far more misery through corporately doing bad things seem to survive. Can’t be right.

Walked Mix but didn’t go across for breakfast because Olive and Digger had set off early for Dundee where Olive is to pick up some examination scripts to be marked. Tom arrived and announced that the task for today was to lay the floor and that I would be doing my fair share of the work. Trembled as I have never laid a floor before but Tom is a good teacher and showed me how to hammer the boards together, nail through the tongue of the plank and then hit the nail with a nail punch to push it into the wood. It was a long, but an enormously satisfying job.

The task for today was to lay a floor

By lunch time it was almost completed so we adjourned for lunch and returned after lunch to do the final stretch – I learned a great deal more. There was still a bit of time in hand so we installed the electrics and when Rachel came home from having had her hair done, there was a lovely glow coming from the summer house. There was also a real glow of achievement coming from me!

Haven’t we done well?

Yesterday Rachel went to Dun s five times, today she only made the return journey four times. First following me as I took my car to the garage to have a new seat belt fitted, second to take Mum to the Gavinton Guild Christmas party, third to get her hair done, ands fourth to take me to collect my car. She is becoming quite a taxi service! As you’ll have gathered I got my car back with its new seat belt (£156 caused by Mix). Once I got the car back I was able to pack away all of the excess wood from the summer house into the hen house by the light from the summer house. We will not get anything major done to the summer house now until after the Christmas festivities. But what progress has been made.

After an early tea I drove up to Longformacus for the street carol singing (Tom provided the music on his squeeze-box). Longformacus is one of the congregations within our parish linking. Until very recently there were services in the church here but those have now come to an end so it was good to have carol singing around the doors here. After the carols we all went off to the Village Hall where we enjoyed mincemeat pies and cake.

The Village Hall at Longformacus

As well as congregational and village members there were several folk from a Christian Centre which works with young men who have been disadvantaged or suffer from an addiction. I enjoyed speaking both to them and to some of the staff from the centre.

Longformacus struck me as being a very odd name. It is a tiny little village six miles or so north of Duns, along a windy and lonely road. The name comes from the gaelic Longphort Mhacais and the village’s main claim to fame is that Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor is set here. Two walks – the Southern Upland Way and the Sir Walter Scott Way – both pass through Longformacus.

Back home, Rachel and I watched Where Eagles Dare. It is an old film but special to us because on the evening of our wedding, after we had set off on honeymoon, many of our guests went off to see this new film at the local cinema. (I was married in England where the celebrations were at lunch time and we left by the early evening – I dare say it is different now.) Enjoyed the film (although I was a bit taken aback at the indiscriminate killing -- were we more violent back in the 60s?, and walked the dogs before bed. Am I stiff after all that kneeling and hammering? I expect to be sore in the morning.

[ view entry ] ( 3166 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 18th. December, 2013 It was meant to be horrendous 

And now the door is hung: Digger and Tom at work

Awoke and thought how good the weather looked – the forecaster last night had said that it was all downhill for the rest of the week, with today as the worst of all. Well, it was really rather pleasant (a little bit cold, perhaps) as I walked Mix. Came home and breakfasted at the farmhouse and as I was drinking my coffee (having scoffed the bacon, egg and fried bread) Tom arrived and demanded that I went back to work on the summer house. ‘There’s lots to do, and the weather is OK.’ So we set about fitting all of the windows (albeit in a temporary fashion because the ironmongery for six of them was missing. I’ve reported it and am waiting for it to arrive.) We also hung the door and did all that was necessary to ensure that everything was plumb. Actually that short sentence took a long time to achieve. It was mid afternoon, with darkness already beginning to fall before we had everything done. All that remains (apart from the window fittings) it to fit the shingles on the roof (no hurry now that we have it all covered with roofing felt), the laying of the floor, the electrics and the varnishing. It will be done by the end of the year.

Looking back over my diary entries for the last few days I realise how fixated I have become on this summerhouse. I suppose that is a real novelty for me. I've never had the time to become totally engrossed in something like putting up a small building; of working away at something which in itself is quite trivial, which isn't part of work but which is just absolutely great fun -- and as Tom said today, we're getting quite a sense of achievement as we see the little building taking shape.

Came back in and found an email with the list of music for Arrochar’s Sunday service. Got it all prepared and emailed to Jamie so that he has time to test it all before Sunday. Then I drove Mum into Duns where she is attending the Dun’s Guild Christmas party which she will enjoy. Back at the farmhouse, I enjoyed sausages, broccoli and roast potatoes followed by rhubarb tart and custard with ice-cream. I think that I probably over ate. Came back home in time to watch the second part of ‘Lucan’ – the events surrounding the disappearance of Lord Lucan in 1974 – events which I missed because I was working in Italy at the time.

The weather is starting to turn nasty after all – a wind has blown up and there is rain in the air but not nearly as bad, so far, as I had been expecting. Found the second part of the play about Lord Lucan quite disappointing except for the fact that one of the minor characters in it was played by one of Rachel’s former students from Fife College. All the play said was he could have committed suicide, he could still be free or perhaps he was murdered – well, even I could have worked that out; but perhaps there was nothing else that could have been said.

I recorded the first part of the Great Train Robbery play in two parts – The Robber’s Tale tonight and tomorrow the Policeman’s Tale. What a strange coincidence that Ronnie Briggs should die today. Of course, as Tom reminded me today, Ronnie Biggs had a very minor role in the Train Robbery. I know that some people admired the audacity of the train robbers, I find it hard to have any sympathy for them because of the what they did to the guard on the train, hitting him so hard that his life was destroyed – still the jokes have already started: In those days people stole from the banks, now the banks steal from us! Which leads me to my final musing, why do authorities fine banks for doing wrong? And who benefits from the fines which are collected? Surely it would be better if the money confiscated was distributed to those who have been harmed by the wrong-doing, but in fact if our bank treats us badly and is fined, then we are affected for a second time by banking with a bank which now has less resources and so can provide us with less services. The world has become a strange place.

We walked the dogs and by now the weather had turned really stormy. It was still dry but the winds are very strong. The promised horrendous weather looks as if it is arriving – hope the summerhouse is still there in the morning!

[ view entry ] ( 3020 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 17th. December, 2013 – Things never go quite to plan 

Men at work on the Summerhouse roof

Woke early because I had to get Rachel off to the doctor (although the new pills she got last night mean that she is in good spirits this morning). I walked both dogs and breakfasted in the farmhouse and was ready for Tom when he arrived about 9 a.m. The task identified by him for today was to put the roof shingles on the summerhouse. However we weren’t quite sure how to do this so I was despatched to look up the maker’s instructions (rather than the summerhouse manufacturer’s instructions). The first thing I discovered was that the shingle-maker felt that it was essential that shingles were fitted on a bed of mineral felt, something the summerhouse manufacturer did not think was necessary. So I went off to Pearson’s (who are now making record profits since my arrival in Duns) to buy thirty square metres of best mineral felt and some roofing nails. Soon we were hard at work installing the roofing felt and although we worked exceedingly hard it took most of the daylight hours – we did stop for coffee and a roll – and Tom and Digger did manage to fit two of the windows while I was left hammering in nails on the roof. We discovered that although the summerhouse has eight windows, we had only been sent ironmongery for two of them; so six will have to wait until the missing bits arrive.

Digger and Tom on the roof – Digger sits and contemplates the universe while Tom deals with the affairs of the day on his telephone

In fact Rachel ended up making no fewer than five separate journeys to Duns today – to visit the doctor, to take Mum to her hairdresser, to Pearson’s to buy another ten metres of roofing felt (yes, we miscalculated), to return a damaged roll of felt to Pearson’s and get a replacement, and to collect Mum from her hairdressing appointment. As darkness fell I came back into the Granary to get warm and was caught by a number of phone calls.

The first windows have been fitted

Soon it was time for fish-pie and rice pudding (with pineapple) and afterwards a family discussion before returning to the Granary just in time to walk the dogs under a full moon before bed.

And I have to report that today we lost the ashes. It has been a series in which almost everything went wrong which possibly could. Does this mean the end of England being one of the best teams in the world? Of course not. It is a setback but England have the players to bounce back and already Ben Stokes (of Durham, of course) has started to emerge as a player to watch for the future.

[ view entry ] ( 3000 views )   |  permalink
Monday 16th. December, 2013 – We start thinking about Christmas Gifts 

Berwick High Street: not as busy as I expected in the run up to Christmas

Got up and walked both dogs as Rachel is not feeling very well. Enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then spent some time in the Granary expecting a phone call which never came (when one is retired that really doesn’t matter). Went across to the farmhouse to meet some friends of Mum who had come to take her away for a day out (they went to Eyemouth and lunched at the Golf Club there). We also had to deal with our balloon booking with Virgin Balloons. Rachel was really keen to go for a balloon flight and so, way back in 2008, I ordered and paid for a balloon trip. We duly arranged the day and the site from which we would fly but then, when the day came, the weather was unsuitable and our voucher was extended for a further six months. Well, we have been making bookings which the weather has cancelled and having our voucher extended now for more than five years. Having had more than five cancellations we could have our money refunded and walk away from it but that seems like giving up. So today we discussed with Virgin a trip from either Kelso or Selkirk sometime early in 2014. We hope to have a definite date by tomorrow evening. Incidentally, Rachel has now flown in a balloon – we flew over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt almost five years ago. It was such a good experience that Rachel can’t wait to do it all again.

Balloons below us -- from our balloon in Egypt

Rachel and I loaded the dogs into the car and went off to Spittal again to run the dogs by the sea. We now have a cage for Mix in the boot and he is very happy in it because he is with us in the car. We have gone through two dog guards (or rather, he has gone through two dog guards – straight through); and he has destroyed one seat belt (which is being replaced on Thursday by the local garage). So we had little choice. But it is a big cage and Mix is only in it when he is in the car.

Mix travels in style

At Spittal Rowan loves to race alongside the sea, charging the waves as they break on the sea shore and loving it when she gets taken by surprise and ends up extremely wet. Mix prefers to walk more sedately, attached to me, but exploring everything. It is a lovely place to walk the dogs and not many people will nip across to another country just to walk their dogs!

Rowan charges the waves

From Spittal we drove into Berwick and visited the shops there on the look-out for Christmas presents. I was surprised how quiet the town was, and how empty the shops were in this the week before Christmas. Yes, it had been extremely wet overnight but today was beautiful, with the sun shining, although it was getting much colder as the day went on. We didn’t stay too long because Rachel wasn’t feeling at her best and instead we drove on to Duns where Rachel had medicine to pick up. It wasn’t ready so we drove back to Mount Pleasant and had something to eat (I used my new microwave) before Rachel popped back into Duns to get her medicine. It still wasn’t there but the chemist phoned the doctor, the doctor spoke to Rachel over the telephone and five minutes later Rachel left the shop with her medicine. Pretty good service!

Dined in the farmhouse – celery soup, chicken and roast potatoes, rhubarb pie, custard and ice-cream: no wonder I have put on six kilos since retiring. Then came across to the Granary to watch the first-quarter final of University Challenge before starting work on finding addresses so that we can send some Christmas cards. Watched the News, walked Mix and came to bed. Tomorrow we are promised a little window of good weather and I hope that we shall roof the summer house and maybe even install some windows and a door – we’ll need all the daylight we can get. But that would be progress.

[ view entry ] ( 3381 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 15th. December, 2013 – The Third Sunday in Advent 

The Christmas Tree looks good in Gavinton Church

Got up as soon as the alarm went off. I had two dogs to walk as Rachel wasn’t feeling well and had wisely decided to spend the morning in bed. Back from the dog walking I showered, breakfasted and went off to church at Gavinton with Mum. Our minister, Ann, had intended to be on holiday today but family illnesses had prevented that and she was in control of the service. Over the Sundays of Advent she has been presenting us with three-stranded Sunday addresses or rather, three small addresses throughout the service. Today continued that pattern.

We started with John the Baptist and his question, sent by his disciples to Jesus, ‘Are you the one we have been waiting for?’ Jesus response was to point at what he had been doing and to put the onus back on John to make up his own mind. As followers of the one for whom the world had been waiting, the onus is on us to ensure that what people see when they look at us, reflects the Lord we follow.

From Isaiah chapter thirty five, Ann spoke of the wilderness turned into a place of plenty and the road to holiness running through it. Sometimes we are frightened of having too expansive dreams for fear that we will be let down. This passage is an antidote to those feelings – dream big, Jesus is coming, God’s Son is about to be born into our world and now all things are possible.

Finally we thought about waiting – and about how we wait – the passage used was from the letter of James, and the two classes of people used as role models were farmers and prophets. Farmers plant the seeds and they then have to wait for the harvest. But they don’t sit idly by; they tend the ground, water it and weed it and in good time the crop appears. Prophets have a message to share but they too have to work on their ‘crop’. We are waiting for the promised return of our Lord – how we wait matters. Wait with expectation and wait sharing that expectation with others. That’s one of the important themes of Christmas and one not to be missed this year. I came away with a lot to think about.

Back home I was delighted to find that Rachel was feeling much better. So much better in fact that we went out and filled in some of the little holes in the summer house with wood filler before loading the dogs into the car and setting of for Spittal near Berwick where we walked the dogs on the beach. The sea was quite wild and Rowan loved attacking the waves and cavorting in the shallow water at the edge. From Spittal we drove to Tweedmouth where we visited first HomeBase (Rachel bought a scorpion power saw with a thirty percent discount) and then Curry’s (where I bought a small microwave for just £39. We do already own more than one microwave but although we have been searching for them for close on two months we still have not identified where they are (that is the scale of the problem our removal has set us). But this little ultra basic machine will do the job until we successfully locate our own ones.

Rachel made us afternoon tea and then she set off for Berwick to attend choral evensong while I rearranged everything to find a place for the microwave and I looked after the dogs, both now wonderfully docile after their long run on the beach. On Rachel’s return we joined the rest of the family for our evening meal – and chatted a long time around the table. Coming back to the Granary, we watched an old episode of New Tricks and the news before bed – taking in Andy Murray’s appropriate accolade (after winning Wimbledon) of Sports Personality of the Year. As we walked the dogs it was almost light, such was the illumination coming from the moon. The wind is breezy (there is more to come) and there is rain in the air, but just now it is a lovely light, fresh night. It may seem a strange observation but the hours of daylight seem very short now that I am retired. I suppose that I was always so busy at this time of year that it didn’t really matter whether it was light or dark but, now that I have time to go for walks and to work on building projects and want to be out and about, darkness falling at 4 p.m. is a bit of a nuisance.

[ view entry ] ( 3086 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 14th. December, 2013 – Progress before the storm 

It’s only 9 a.m. but fear of the weather to come has got us started

Woke early and for the first time found the overnight cricket score heartening rather than disappointing, just one wicket down with 85 runs on the board. Walked Mix and got ready for a nine o’clock start on the summer house with Neil, Tom, Digger, Catriona and Dorothy. There was a window before the storm of about four hours and much to do. As the wind began to blow, we completed the bodywork of the summer house, got the roof joists installed and even managed to completed the cladding of the roof. Everything is now packed inside and we shall resume operations on Tuesday.

It is all beginning to take shape

Interested observers – Rowan and Mix look on from behind their gate

We did get a coffee break – to warm our hands really

So it was real progress and I was pleased we achieved so much because, as forecast, the storm arrived and it was ferocious. Neil and Catriona left at lunch time to drive back to Yorkshire. But after work was completed around 2 p.m. those of us who were left gathered in the farmhouse for a hot drink, a filled roll and a cake. There was a real sense of achievement in the air.

The roof joists are fitted

By the time the storm arrived, progress had been made

Back in the Granary as the storm began to reach its height: would the summerhouse be OK? Yes, of course it was, but the fence behind wasn’t and we will have to rebuild part of it after Church tomorrow. Dined with Olive, Mum, Digger and Rachel in the farmhouse and chatted for ages so that by the time we returned to the Granary there was only time to catch an old ‘New Tricks’ before walking the dogs and bed. By now the storm had totally blown itself out, but the weather forecasters tell us to expect more very strong winds over the next few days and it will get very cold. Well, what do you expect? We’re building a summer house!

[ view entry ] ( 2909 views )   |  permalink
Friday 13th. December, 2013 – After a slow start .... 

The lorry carrying our summer house

Arose early to walk Mix and to be ready for the delivery of our summer house. Went across for breakfast and enjoyed a hearty one with an ear cocked for a phone call to say that the summer house was approaching Duns. In fact Tom had phoned to say that he was having lunch before the lorry finally arrived; the driver’s mate arriving at the front door of the farmhouse and asking my sister if she was expecting a shed. A shed indeed! This is our summer house, bought with the gift given to us on our retirement by the folk of Arrochar and Luss – the place in which I am going to write my book, the place to where Rachel and I will escape to raise a champagne glass when the sun is shining down on the Borders.

Tom, the Clerk of Works, discusses part of the delivery with Neil

Dorothy and Catriona assume I must be photographing them rather than the materials

The driver’s mate was a real Glasgow gentleman who knew Bowling well and shared my interest in boats, so we got on like a house on fire. It wasn’t long before everything was unloaded, the lorry had left and work started on building the summer house. I had a great team: Tom, Digger, Neil, Rachel, Catriona and Dorothy. First the floorboard joists went down and then the building began to rise around them. I do believe that if we had had a full day at it then we could have completed the building but days here are very short at this time of the year and we didn’t get started until the afternoon. So I was delighted with the progress we have made. However, the forecast for tomorrow is not great: we have been promised a window without rain between about nine and one in the afternoon and then, not only will the rains come down but the winds will rise. I am hoping that we might have the walls completed and the roof on before that happens. We shall see. But what fun it all was and how clever the kit is – each of the pieces fits together like a jig-saw puzzle and, while I am helped by having some real tradesmen here, it would be possible for people without their skill levels to build the summer house: at least that’s how it looks so far, but then we haven’t reached head-height yet.

Work starts

Catriona has a thing for picture frame windows – much to Digger’s amusement

In the evening we all dined in the farmhouse before retiring to the Granary. Mum produced an article written by a former minister of Glamis recounting the story of the Kirk there. I am going to try to type it out, it's a rather faded carbon copy, because these things are too important to be allowed to disappear. Congregations are the sum total of their story, their story shapes their future and folk need to have access to that story. I suspect that is true of families as well.

Darkness falls – we will return tomorrow

Watched an episode of Rebus before bed and walked both dogs because Rachel was already in bed. I should have recorded that this morning she went off and bought chicken-wire to secure the garden (I had to stay in case the lorry arrived) and then completed the wiring up of our fences. We are secure once more.

[ view entry ] ( 3060 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 12th. December, 2013 – Not quite as planned and a little disappointing 

My team (Tom and Neil) are hard at work installing services for the summer house

Today did not work out as planned. Not in any way at all! I had expected to be in Sweden taking part in a Green Pilgrimage Planning meeting – and the added joy of being in Sweden today was that I was to stay over for tomorrow and take part in the celebrations for Saint Lucia (Saint Lucy) – a festival of light and a preparation for Christmas. However, the diary commitments of other people led to the urgent business being dealt with by a conference call and the meeting itself has been put back until the New Year – which will be fine (but just a pity to have missed Saint Lucia and all the girls with garlands with lighted candles in their hair. I’ve seen so many pictures but have never seen it for myself.

All over Sweden, Norway and in some parts of Finland and Italy St. Lucia’s Day will be celebrated tomorrow. There will be processions led by one girl with a wreath of candles on her head and followed by other girls each carrying a single candle. In part it all goes back to the days when we used the Julian Calendar which had 13th. December as the day of the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. There are several stories about St, Lucia. In one she is a Sicilian Saint who was executed around 310. In another she was a kind woman who helped Christians hiding in the catacombs during the persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian – in order to carry as much food as possible to the Christians she wore candles on her head so that both of her hands would be free. I suppose she was the patron saint of all those who wear torches fitted to their heads so that they can work in the dark with their hands free -- when we are down at the narrow boat we see lots of runners pounding the tow path at night all with their head torches looking like disciples of Saint Lucia. Clearly the festival predates Christianity in Scandinavia and centred around the winter solstice, but the story of St. Lucia has been a way of Christianising the tradition and using it to bolster the new faith in those far off days.

However, not having to make the trip enabled me to be on site for the delivery of the summer house for which we have been waiting for several weeks. Early this morning, after Mix had been walked, Tom and Neil arrived to start getting things ready for the delivery, particularly to prepare for the installation of the services. All went well and we were congratulating ourselves on the excellent day – dry and warm. However, while we were sitting having coffee the phone rang – the delivery van had broken down (its diesel tank had split) and the delivery would be delayed until tomorrow.

Workers’ Playtime

So that was a second disappointment; but I was able to do other things working around telephone calls. I went into Duns and ordered a new seat-belt to replace the one vandalised by Mix before we got him his secure cage to transport him at the back of the car and I took Tom to collect his chain-saw which had been professionally sharpened.

Mum had three friends from Galashiels to visit. They all went off to a lunch at Gavinton Church and when they returned they saw round the farm steading before setting off for home as it got dark. With unexpected time on my hands I went into the barn and found some of the furniture which Rachel had been looking for – two small desks (and the inserts for the table which Olive was wanting).

We dined together as a family in the early evening, enjoying a sherry as we gathered in the farmhouse family room and then back in the Granary I watched Question Time from Johannesburg in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death. It was interesting and reflected both the enormous distance which South Africa has travelled since Mandela became President and the enormous distance which South Africa still has to travel in the years to come.

We got a fright during the evening as Rowan escaped from the garden. Fortunately her joy was in completing the escape and having succeeded she just sat on the other side of the gate wanting to be back with us. I was surprised most of all that it was Rowan and not Mix who had identified the weakness in our defences – it was a little bit of fence which had been covered by foliage which has now died off, exposing a tiny way out of the garden. Tomorrow it will be secured!

[ view entry ] ( 2938 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 11th. December, 2013 – Christmas is getting closer 

There were crowds of people at the farm sale I attended today

Got up and walked Mix and then came back to the Granary for a shower to ensure that I was read for Tom when he called to collect me at 9.45 a.m. In the event he arrived with Dorothy and a couple of friends from Yorkshire who are staying with them for a few days. Together we all set off for the farm sale which was being held not far from here. We drove up to the farm and the first thing we saw was a field set out with items to be auctioned. There were piles of fence posts, feeding troughs, equipment for use on the farm and several tractors and other vehicles, including a very smart Landrover and a combine harvester. The auction, however, started in a huge barn in which were piles of smaller items including chain saws and lawnmowers and many items which I haven’t a clue what they were. The auctioneer moved quickly through the items getting them sold and moving on.

I liked the picture – it seemed to me to evoke Thomas Hardy

In the barn next to the auction barn there was a coffee stall where we enjoyed excellent coffee and glorious sausages in rolls. And, of course, we sat on bales of hay. I caught Dorothy and her pals enjoying the seat:

We came home, dropped Dorothy at home while Tom, Neil and I went into Duns to buy electrical cable for the summerhouse which will arrive tomorrow. I returned to the Granary where Rachel was preparing to go to Duns. So we loaded the dogs into the car, drove to Duns and visited the post office and the chemist before driving down to the town park and walking the dogs. It is an excellent park, lots of walks – some of them leaving from the park for quite long distance ambles – three tennis courts, a bowling green and as well as the war memorial, a memorial to twenty seven Polish servicemen who trained in Duns and lost their lives during the second world war. I suspect that this is why Duns is linked with a city in Poland. I will have to find out more about this. There is also a statue of Duns Scotus erected by the Francescan Order in 1966 on the seven hundredth anniversary of his birth here. John Duns Scotus was one of the great thinkers of his time. I will return to the park with my camera and at that time will write more about his life and thought. So quite a bit of homework to be done!

We went from the park to Pearsons where Rachel selected a Christmas tree. Then it was back home and on with the putting up of the Christmas decorations. Rachel always likes to ensure that our home is filled with decorations and the fact that we are not yet fully moved in has not stopped her this year. It is little short of miraculous that, unable as we are to find clothes and other important items to make ourselves at home, Rachel has succeeded in laying her hands on our Christmas decorations.

Rachel has been busy with decorations

We dined with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse and then came back to complete the decorations and tidy up the mess which putting them up creates (more so this year with Rowan anxious to lend a hand by chewing up any left over Christmas tree branch which was going a-begging). We watched the first part of a film about Lord Lucan. It presented pretty unsavoury times: I was only vaguely aware of the Lord Lucan story because in 1974 Rachel and I were living in Italy, working at the Sailor’s Rest.

Finally we walked the dogs – the lights in the windows reminded me that it will soon be Christmas and that this is going to be a very special Christmas for us all down at Mount Pleasant.

A Welcoming Window

[ view entry ] ( 3102 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 10th. December, 2013 -- A Good News Day 

Our old family favourite Christmas decorations are starting to reappear

Got up and walked Mix before breakfast and then came across to the Granary intending to finish my book (which I did this afternoon). However, on checking my emails I found the request for music for the service at Arrochar so I spent a bit of time preparing that. I enjoy doing that and now that I am retired there is no pressure of time and I have rediscovered the pleasure I got from doing it in the early years when it was all new to me.

I can’t quite remember when we started controlling the hymns at Arrochar by midi file but I’m guessing that it would be around 2002. Davina had taken ill; there was no one to play the organ and it was Christmas time. On Boxing Day I drove down to Newcastle to my brother’s home. He took me into a Boxing Day sale in the biggest organ shop I had ever seen and there we got a real bargain – a Yamaha organ that could be controlled by midi file with a floppy disk player on it. I had only the vaguest idea of what to do with it. I thought at first I would have to play each tune onto the machine (but that I could do this at home over and over again until I got it right). Then I thought I might be able to download midi files from the internet and use them. But the great breakthrough was to get a computer programme which allowed me to write hymns onto disks and play these through the computer. Nothing was too much of a problem now, no hymn was too difficult to reproduce and I thanked my good fortune in having been made to wade through so many musical theory examinations when I was young. It was being put to good use some fifty years later on. Here in my study I still have that same organ sitting behind me – the Church has progressed to an even more sophisticated one – and when I am not producing hymns then I produce Gilbert and Sullivan and sing along with the organ. (If only these machines had existed in the days of our Gilbert and Sullivan theatre group.)

In amongst my clothes, the organ I wouldn’t be without

No sooner had I prepared the music and sent it off to Jamie than the phone rang. My summer house is arriving on Thursday. Contacted Tom who said that he would be here to help unload and who told me that we would be drinking tea in the summer house by Sunday. I can’t help thinking that this might be a tad optimistic but who knows?

Went into Duns to sort out my money at the bank and when I came home I walked Mix (he had been with me in the new cage in the back of the car and behaved perfectly). After the walk I finished my book before dinner.

We ate together in the farmhouse – our little community coming together to eat, as it does every evening – and then Rachel and I came back to our home in the Granary. I spent some time in the study tracking down some information about the cutlery my mother got from America more than sixty years ago. Her Aunt, in the days following the second world war when my parents were recently married sent one place-setting every so often until they had accumulated a full set. It was really appreciated because in those days in Britain such luxuries were neither available nor affordable. The cutlery is called Queen Bess and is Tudor Silver Plate. You can still get it on ebay although it is almost always to be found in the United States.

Stopped to watch a Midsomer Murder which I hadn’t seen before and carried on to watch Law and Order UK which I really enjoy. Should really have been watching the reports of the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life from South Africa – I caught bits of it on the news. I thought that President Obama spoke well but I was sorry that there was no European to speak about the anti-apartheid campaigns which were hugely supported here and which in part contributed to the regime change in South Africa.

Walked the dog and was surprised to discover that the wind has blown up again. This certainly seems to be rather a windy spot to live.

[ view entry ] ( 3107 views )   |  permalink
Monday 9th. December, 2013 – A Long Sleep-In 

Duns looks splendid with its new Christmas Lights

Digger was taking Olive off to the station at Berwick later than usual this morning – and afterwards was continuing on to the Duns medical practice for a consultation – so Rachel and I decided last night that we wouldn’t go across to the farmhouse this morning but would instead sleep in. In the event Rachel did that better than I did. I awoke at about half past nine, got up and walked both dogs – they walk really well together now -- and when I came back Rachel was still sound asleep. She eventually woke up around half-past ten.

At the weekend Rachel had identified her large sideboard and our task for today was to liberate it from the barn, bring it into the Granary and then take the other sideboard (which we have been using) back to the barn in its place. With help from Digger we successfully achieved all of this and Rachel spent quite a bit of time transferring all of the kitchen ware from one sideboard to the other. I brought in the box containing all of our cutlery and (to get ahead of myself) spent the evening sorting it out while watching University Challenge and Panorama. The News and Newsnight were also on but honesty prevents me for saying that I saw them – the warmth of the lounge is very conducive to a little nap.

In the afternoon Rachel went to Berwick. I walked Mix here because I had to be in to receive a package from Amazon – the delivery firm here is terrific. I put in my order yesterday, I got a text yesterday to say it would be delivered today and I got another text this morning saying that it would be delivered by ‘John’ between 1.50 and 2 .50 this afternoon. It was delivered at 1.55 p.m.

The article in question was a dog cage to put in the back of my car. We have experimented with dog guards but Mix always manages to break through them and so, as a result, I have been tending not to take Mix with me when I go out in the car. He is perfectly happy getting into the cage (which is the same size as the boot in any event). In fact I had ordered a cage a little bigger than the one Rowan has but it wouldn’t fit into the car – so Rowan’s cage is now in the car and she has the new even larger one as her sleeping accommodation in the house.

I used to believe that these cages were not very kind but Rowan loves hers. It provided security for her when she was a very young puppy and now she wants to go into it at night. The rest of the day the door is left wide open and she often goes and sits in it – especially if we go out. But then she has so much freedom that I don’t suppose she bothers. Different for Mix, I don’t think that he will ever sleep anywhere other than at my feet. The dogs are getting on so well now. When Rachel is out it is quite common for both of them to crush in under my desk and roll up together – those who have known Mix over the last year will know what a change that is. He really does now treat her as his little sister (she is now quite a bit larger than him as well).

Paid for the road tax on Rachel’s Bongo today and also booked tickets for us all for the Christmas Pantomime in Berwick. Just ordering the tickets made me realise how near Christmas is – and how different it is this year with me being able to plan to go to the theatre! Rachel sent me one of these Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendars on my computer and every day I open the next page and enjoy the scene and the music and the little message which comes from the book you can find and read in the library of the Stately Home (Downton?) in which the advent scene is set.

When we walked the dogs tonight it was extremely dark and then, after we had been out for about five minutes, the moon reappeared from behind a cloud and the whole of the night sky lit up. I don’t suppose we have a street light for several miles around us and so we are more conscious of the sky than ever before. Somehow it is all very friendly.

(Should have recorded that I sat up last night and watched the end of the cricket match against Australia. England got well and truly trounced but it was good to see Matt Prior finding some form with the bat. Ever an optimist, I will be hoping for better things when the third test starts on Friday.)

[ view entry ] ( 3007 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 8th. December, 2013 – The Second Sunday of Advent 

It may be damp but Rowan and Rachel are having fun as the Duns Christmas lights are turned on

Arose, walked the dog and breakfasted before travelling with Rachel and Mum to Gavinton Church for the service for the Second Sunday of Advent. Met Tom and Dorothy on the way and walked with them to the Church. The theme was John the Baptist, The Bible and Vocation Sunday. Ann, the minister, spoke about John the Baptist – somewhat of a scary man dressed in strange clothes who called people ‘snakes’ and other less endearing names – who pointed the crowds away from himself to one who was to come after him; about the Bible – translated into 2,551 languages (I think I remember that correctly, but I could be half a dozen out), and translated into 400 modern versions in the English language: perhaps we could spare a few of our many versions for the 4 – 5,000 languages into which the Bible has still not been translated? And while we are on questions, perhaps if we have several Bibles ourselves we might pass one on to someone who has none? Ann also spoke a little about the different ways in which people treated the Bible, nailing her colours to the mast (in my view, and in my words) to the more liberal wing of the Church of Scotland. Under the theme of Vocation Sunday, Ann spoke of her work with the Church of Scotland Selection Committee explaining how difficult she found it to make a judgement on other people’s calls; hardly surprising as some people were so sure of their Call while others were resisting it fiercely. But Call, she reminded us, isn’t only to the full-time ministry of the Church of Scotland but to membership and parish activity.

I found myself remembering that when I presented myself to St. Mary’s College (in the days before selection schools) Matthew Black, the Principal of St. Mary’s, spoke to me but briefly on the first occasion I met him. ‘So you want to be a minister. Well come here and stick in and we will make you into a good minister.’ I don’t know how much they succeeded. I do know that they took the task seriously but the point of my recollection is that the basic premise has changed. Now we select, then we accepted those who offered themselves and did all we could to make them into appropriate vessels for the conveying of God love through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Over the years I recall many, many discussions with Matthew Black as he took seriously his initial commitment. If I didn’t succeed it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort on his part.

Back home to minor disaster. The dogs had removed the curtains from the kitchen. I don’t know why – were they trying to get out? Were they angry at being left? I don’t know which dog it was – Mix or Rowan or both? I do know we can’t allow this to continue so I stayed at home while Olive, Digger, Mum, Rachel, Tom and Dorothy all went to Paxton House to their up-market craft fayre. They all enjoyed it very much and found lots of suitable presents for girls but few for men (it was always thus). I read my book and also caught up with the musings of the press about England’s Australian debacle, how sad is that?

I should say a little about my book. It’s called Saint’s Rest by Keith Miles who has written many, many books. Some he has written under the name Edward Marston, some Martin Inigo and some Conrad Allen. In all he has written getting on for seventy and once I have completed the one I am reading now I will have read them all. He writes a series about a golfer who stumbles into crimes to be solved; about a sports writer who does the same, about an architect from Wales in 1930s America; about an Elizabethan Theatre Company; about Commissioners of William the Conqueror investigating irregularities in the Doomsday Book; a Restoration series set in London in the 1660s and 70s; a Railway detective series set in the 1850s; a military series set during the War of the Spanish Succession; a series set during the first world war based on a police inspector in London; and a series of detective books written around the great liners which sailed around the world in the early years of the twentieth century. I found the first one I read knocked down to almost nothing in the remainder shop at the outlets in Alexandria and ever since them I have read through his canon and have enjoyed them all. They are light, well written, knowledgeable and firmly set in their different periods. The stories are also well constructed with all the twists and turns one expects from a detective story (some are more of ‘who-dunnit’ novels than others). I’m well on the way to completing the final one today and I will miss not having more to read.

The Christmas Tree lights look great

Set off with Rachel and Mum to see the Christmas lights being turned on at Duns. We were able to park in the main square, I thought that we were early but just as we walked into the centre of the square there was the sound of pipes and the pipe band came up the street, everyone dressed as Santa Claus, everyone with a full beard and moustache, and playing ‘We three Kings of Orient are’. It was magnificent. Suddenly crowds began to appear and for almost half an hour the band played – Deck the Halls, We wish you a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells and more traditional carols as well.

The Band of Piping Santas sounded superb

Just before the time for things to start, the bank marched off, returning to lead in the ‘real’ Father Christmas in his sled pulled by a farmer’s four by four and with Lucy, the winsome lass, sitting beside Father Christmas. The President of the Rotary (I guess that’s who he was) thanked everyone who had made everything possible and Lucy pressed the plunger which turned on the lights on the huge Christmas tree in the centre of the square – the other magnificent lights around the square were already illuminated and looked superb. All the while, members of the Rotary and friends were handing out cups of mulled wine to the large crowd of local folk who were enjoying the event. In the corner of the square there was a children’s round-about doing a good trade. Everyone was having fun. I was so glad that we had gone. It was a magnificent occasion.

Lucy, the winsome lass, arrives in style with Father Christmas

Regarding my entry yesterday when I recalled the efforts of Frank Tyson in Australia (it was actually in 1955), my brother identified the calypso which was written to celebrate Tyson’s success. It can be heard here:

We all dined in the farmhouse and then, later in the evening, Rachel and I watched an episode of New Tricks which we hadn’t seen before. It was very good. We walked the dogs – the wind is getting up again, that will test our remedial works. But for now, bed calls.

[ view entry ] ( 3749 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 7th. December, 2013 -- Make and Mend 

An awful photo (I must learn to use flash and to aim properly) of Digger (almost), Tom, Bill, Mum, Olive and Morag

I am going to start presenting some pictures of the different parts of Mount Pleasant. The farmhouse kitchen is undoubtedly the heart of the complex. When we came to meet with the previous owners we met them in the kitchen around the kitchen table -- and they left the table and its chairs when they moved on. There are two ways into the farmhouse. Both require you to go through the kitchen before accessing the lounge or the upstairs area of the house. It is cosy, welcoming and friendly -- and all of us meet to share our meals here. Breakfast around 9 a.m. and dinner, normally served sometime between 6.30 and 7.30 p.m. This room embodies all that we sought to achieve in our experiment in communal living and it is a very happy one.

Rose and walked Mix. It is really cold this morning. Tom arrived during breakfast: our task today is to try to put right some of the damage done by the storm a couple of days ago. First we enjoyed our breakfast and then we said good-bye to Bill and Morag; it has been wonderful having them both with us and we all hope that it will not be too long before they return.

Tom started work by fixing a baton onto the exterior wooden gate. That should hold it in place no matter the weather. Next we re-erected the fence between the Granary and the Hen House gardens. The wind had not just blown down the fence but had uprooted the posts which were embedded in concrete! We got it all re-assembled and then we screwed it back together before adding a whole battery of reinforcing posts to ensure that it won’t get blown down again. It would be good to think that this was overkill but, given the way the weather has been changing throughout the country as a whole, perhaps it is just common sense.

There was still more to do but before we could do it we went up to Pearsons to buy more fence posts and some extremely strong masonry rawlplugs. Having loaded everything into his trailer and dropped me off at the farmhouse, Tom went off for lunch and I helped Rachel who was unearthing and then unpacking and then displaying her Christmas decorations.

Soon Tom was back and we re-fixed the little gate to the farmhouse wall and then provided reinforcing for the main Granary fence. It was still standing but it had taken an awful battering.

After coffee, shortbread and lots of chat, Tom set off for home. I came up to the study having first prepared my own lunch (reheating a cheese and bean pie made for me by Olive). I am having terrible trouble with my email. I can’t even access it at present because I am getting sent so many spam messages – sixteen thousand today (that’s the figure: 16,000) and because my other (new) email address is linked to my existing address, I can’t use it either. I have contacted Andy asking him to break that link but for the present I am not able to be contacted by email. I am actually not sure that this is a problem now that I have retired. The Royal Mail works, and my telephone when I am in, and nothing is dreadfully urgent now anyway – important, yes, but that’s not the same as being urgent.

Got my study tidied and wondered why I was so very warm: I still have two large sweaters on! Read the cricket reports. We are not doing well in Australia and it all seems down to a superb session of fast bowling by Mitchell Johnson. Well, that happens. I remember (at second hand) how in the years just after the second world war, Frank Tyson did something similar to the Australians in Australia. He took seven for twenty-seven, I think it was from memory, and really shook the Australian team up. Now, it seems, the boot is on the other foot. However, Ian Bell, whom I had tipped at breakfast yesterday to make a hundred, ended up unbeaten on seventy-two.

Dined all together in the farmhouse and afterwards Rachel and I retired to the Granary where we watched an episode of New Tricks which we had missed, followed it with a short one-hour Taggart, quite reminiscent of old times. Walked the dogs and came to bed. Tomorrow is Sunday and I am looking forward to the Advent journey continuing. We are also planning to visit a Christmas Fayre at Paxton House and going in to Duns for the turning on of the Christmas lights – maybe I’ll get a chance to read my book as well!

[ view entry ] ( 3033 views )   |  permalink
Friday 6th. December, 2013 – We have a very good day 

Dr. Dorothy provides reassurance to Digger and his hens

I was up early to walk Mix and when I returned Dorothy and Tom were here at the chicken run with Digger. Dorothy is something of an expert in hens and she was giving Digger’s hens a once over because he was concerned that their moulting might not have been natural. Dorothy was able to give him (and them?) reassurance.

Bill, Morag, Mum, Rachel and I (along with Mix and Rowan) set off for a day out in Rachel’s Berlingo. (Mix was in Rowan’s cage in the back – at least we had him under control).

Our first port of call was Holy Island where we visited the Priory and the Church and then we took Bill, Morag and Mum to the Heritage Centre to see the exhibition about Vikings, Lindisfarne and the Lindisfarne Gospels. They enjoyed the exhibition and the film which they saw. The dogs also enjoyed a long walk.

We drove to the Barn at Beal for lunch – another good meal (they had fed us well when we were here with Cathy a few weeks ago) but a real surprise was awaiting us when we returned to the car. Mix had escaped from the cage and was happily sitting in the front seat. He had pulled inwards one of the ends of the cage and then climbed over it and made good his escape. We put the cage together again and installed Mix once more.

At several places on our travels, flags were at half-mast to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela

We drove first to Bamburgh and then on to Sea Houses which is a mixture of real tourist shops and some very attractive shops as well. I liked the National Trust Shop and another which had some really quite interesting paintings and prints. We also saw the Christmas lights as darkness was starting to fall. We made our way home and had a drink before dinner in the farmhouse after which we retired to the Granary where Bill, Morag, Mum and Olive joined us for coffee and happy chatter until bed-time. As we walked the dogs before bed it was snowing gently. It is not forecast to last but it is really rather attractive. What a truly lovely day!

[ view entry ] ( 2805 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 5th. December, 2013 – A Mighty Storm and some Sad News 

There was a fence here yesterday

I slept fitfully – not least because there was a huge storm raging around the farm steading; but also because our alarm clock has a storm warning on it and this seemed to bleep every few minutes during the night. I got up and was taken aback at the damage which had been done. Our back garden fence had been blown out of the ground and the little gate through which one moved from the courtyard to the front of the farm house had been blown off its hinges. Walking Mix I found part of the exterior fence lying in the middle of the road. I wondered how it had survived the traffic until I realised that there was no traffic. Trees had fallen and we were almost totally cut off!

One of the casualties was the chicken house -- total destroyed by the storm: but not before the hens had got out. Digger spent much of the morning rebuilding their home and trying to ensure that it was warmer than it had been before, now that the really cold weather is arriving. He filled it with fresh wood-shavings and tells us that the hens were extremely grateful.

Back in the farmhouse we had visitors: a lady with three children from Bogend Farm had parked her car in our drive and was in the farmhouse with Olive and our guests. Keri had been driving the children along to catch the school bus when a tree fell, narrowly missing her car, and also cutting off the school bus. So although Bogend is only a few hundred yards away it was totally inaccessible. We enjoyed meeting Keri and the children but while we were chatting the power went off and we were without electricity for a couple of hours or so. I realised how fortunate we are to have gas in the farmhouse and that both buildings have wood-burning stoves.

Eventually the road was cleared and we said good-bye to our neighbours. Bill, Morag and I set off for Duns so that I could show them around and also buy some bits and pieces that we were requiring. We also bought some cream cakes for the snack lunch we were to share. We all gathered around the farmhouse kitchen table for ham sandwiches, cream cakes and coffee. After sitting and enjoying the warmth of the lounge – it is very cold outside (if not snow then certainly sleet) – we set off for Gavinton for afternoon tea with Tom and Dorothy. Morag saw the goats – of interest to her because she and Bill had kept a goat earlier in their lives. We saw around Tom and Dorothy and Tom’s daughter’s home. It is a conversion of a former Free Kirk and a splendid building especially after all of the work which they have had done.

Back home, it was soon time to join everyone in the farmhouse for drinks before and then the evening meal with lots of chat and good humour. I came back to the Granary around ten to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela. The news would have saddened me because I have always admired the way he responded to the opportunities of bringing his country together after he was released from prison. But it hit me harder because of my visit to South Africa a bit more than a year ago. So many people then spoke of Nelson Mandela, we visited museums which told his story, we visited his home in Soweto, we saw how there were still huge divisions in the country but that these were now largely between the haves and have-nots, rather than between black and white. He was a true reconciler and Nelson Mandela and reconciliation will often occur in the same sentence as history records his achievements. Yes, there is still a huge way to go but the achievements so far and the manner in which these achievements have been made will only be fully understood as time passes. He was a man with great qualities.

As I walked the dogs tonight (Rachel had retired to bed) I reflected that Nelson Mandela was someone who really had changed the world. If he had urged recrimination instead of reconciliation then the whole world would be a different place today. He was a man of peace -- but that is not to say that he was not a man of strong views, stubborn and forthright. He understood that lasting peace required something for everyone, black and white and his success can be measured for me by the fact that when we were in South Africa all of the white people we met accepted that the changes which had been made were for the best -- and that further change had to come. It is a journey which has only begun: but what a journey.

I found myself remembering that when I was at St. Andrews University, in my very first year, Winston Churchill died. Our Professor of English, Professor Falconer, walked into the lecture theatre at 9 a.m. to lecture to the General English class. On this morning he came in, set down his papers, looked at us (there must have been a hundred in the lecture room) and then spoke without notes and with passion about why Winston Churchill was the greatest man of our time and of how the world would have been so very much the poorer without his life. Tomorrow morning, somewhere, I hope that someone does the same for Nelson Mandela and that those who hear will recall what was said as vividly as I recall Professor Falconer after almost fifty years. (Of course, in today's world, the television does that for all of us and there will be many tributes over the coming days.)

I should record that I was meant to meet with a lady from the BBC this morning to record an interview for Christmas. This didn’t happen as there was no transport in this part of Scotland this morning: trains were cancelled, roads were blocked and the storm raged. I don’t know whether it will be possible to be recorded at a later date. We shall see. We have planned to go to Holy Island and Bamburgh tomorrow but the weather forecast tonight suggests that the east coast should be avoided and that much of it is being evacuated. So we still plan to do something special with Bill and Morag but we are not yet sure what that will be.

[ view entry ] ( 2926 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 4th. December, 2013 – Special Visitors and a lovely meal 

Digger has been making progress with his small holding

Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse. Then while Rachel drove Mum to her reading group and walked Rowan, I loaded a whole lot of boxes back into the barns – these were boxes which have been unpacked to discover what was in them and have now been packed again because we don’t have room for them in the Granary. Getting things sorted is going to be quite a performance.

Rachel returned, Mum had enjoyed her reading group and now Rachel and I set about cleaning the Granary. I thought wooden floors got dirtier than carpets but Rachel tells me that it is just that the dirt is more noticeable. Got the whole place clean and everywhere is now tidy except for the landing at the top of the stairs. Walked Mix in the fading light – the silhouettes of the trees against the sky line are absolutely magnificent. It’s not something I noticed in Argyll because of the hills all around. Here we seem to have so much more sky and you can see for miles.

The skyline from Mount Pleasant

Bill and Morag arrived to spend a few days with us. Life was made so much easier for me at Luss because of Bill and Morag – Bill, a retired minister, always was there to stand in for me when I needed him and took the initiative on many occasions; Morag ran so many of our special events, working in the kitchen or the Church or the Pilgrimage Centre as required. They are also, and more importantly, very special friends. I am so pleased to have them with us here. Tom and Dorothy, our other special friends, came along for the evening as well.

We had a splendid meal prepared for us by Olive in the farmhouse and afterwards we all sat together in the Granary in front of the stove and talked about submarines and football teams, about our adventures here in Duns, about keeping goats (Dorothy does and Morag has), about chickens and, once Mum joined us, about the History Group – Mum had been away at their meeting this evening.

Once everyone had gone to bed I stayed up to watch the start of the Adelaide Test match on television. The pitch looks flat and slow and it will be a hard slog for either team to get a result from it – at least that’s how it looks after one hour’s play!

[ view entry ] ( 2876 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 3rd. December, 2013 -- An Expedition (without going very far) 

Having climbed over many boxes, Dorothy and Rachel have found the table

Woke, walked Mix and went for breakfast – I was locked out of the farmhouse. Went back to the Granary assuming everyone had slept in. Had a banana and got ready for the day’s work: finding the dining room table and extricating it from its home in one of the barns. Just as I was about to start, Mum came looking for me to enquire why I hadn’t come for breakfast. It turns out the door had been locked inadvertently and my breakfast was waiting for me. So I went and enjoyed a late breakfast.

Then it was time to start work on finding the table. It is a special table which belonged originally to Professor Forester of New College. He wanted it to live in a manse and so he gave it to my father. (I think the truth of it was that he came to Dad’s induction at Newtyle (my father’s first charge) and was taken aback to discover that my parents had so little appropriate furniture so he gave them this table and a matching sideboard.) They graced the manse in Luss for many years until we got the huge table which had seen service in the Royal Navy. Then our table was transferred to Wemyss – it travelled in our Subaru and on the way there the rear axle broke and that was the end of the Subaru (and almost of the table as well). It travelled down to Mount Pleasant in the first removal and all that we knew was that it was somewhere in one of two barns. Tom and Dorothy arrived and all of us set out to find the missing table -- not only were there many boxes to circumnavigate but everything was covered with blue tarpaulins, and it was very dark.

Dorothy and Rachel managed to uncover it and then Tom and I joined in and succeeded in lifting it over many other items of furniture – desks, a harmonium, bookcases – and out into the light of day.

Tom and I went up to Pearsons to buy screws to reassemble the legs – the screws had been put carefully into another item of furniture with a drawer but we have no item which item of furniture or where that item of furniture might be.

Tom gets ready to lift the table top as Rachel looks on – Dorothy is horrified that I am taking a picture

Finally the table is assembled and now sits looking really good in the front room of the farmhouse – reunited once again with its sideboard.

The table where it belongs

Tom and I spent much of the rest of the day ensuring that Ianthe is wrapped up against the winter storms. It was good to be back on board. She is looking good but with so much to do it will be next summer before we are able to start work on her again. By that time we will have built the summer house, completed the hen house and created a loom room in which Sandy and Rachel can ply their weaving craft skills.

Ianthe is ready for winter

I got a telephone call from the BBC who wondered if I would agree to be interviewed about being retired. I think that their angle is speaking to folk for whom this Christmas will be different from last Christmas. I said I would be happy to take part and the presenter is coming to see me later in the week. I also got a call from the lady who plays the organ at the local church, wondering if the system we used in Luss and Arrochar might function here. She had spoken to us earlier and that was why we went to the church to experiment on Monday afternoon. I was able to report that in an emergency we would certainly be able to ensure that they were not without music although there were still things which we needed to work out to get the best from the organ.

Soon after this the Amazon delivery van brought me my purchase of a beard trimmer. It had only cost £7 .02p and I had ordered it yesterday because I still haven’t found my own one. It is somewhere in the barns but as it took a day to find a dining room table, you can imagine how long it would have taken to find a beard trimmer.

Dined in the farmhouse with Mum and Digger and then returned to the Granary to tidy – while we had been releasing the table we found all kind of other things. These got brought into the house and now we had to find places to keep them. The walls are already beginning to bulge. I found a box which said ‘Dane’s clothes’ on it. Opening it excitedly I discovered that it contained my Princeton doctor’s hood, my sea boots and my dressing gown – I could have wished for items which were a little more useful.

With enough done for this evening we stopped and watched ‘Lewis’ in front of the stove. It has got much colder today and it is lovely to relax in this way. How fortunate we are.

[ view entry ] ( 3139 views )   |  permalink
Monday 2nd. December, 2013 – Technology 

The main lawn at Mount Pleasant -- Digger has cut it and today has collected all the leaves

Arose and walked Mix before breakfast and then spent this morning in a conference Skype Call with Martin and Alison from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and Chris, a notable conservationist. The purpose of the ‘meeting’ (and what a green way of meeting this was) was to take forward our Green Pilgrimage plans for the European Chapter of this now world-wide network. I have agreed to represent the network in Scotland and I will be attending the meetings of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum and making myself available to meet with pilgrimage places who would like to become involved as well as helping places already involved to develop their pilgrimage plans. I have also agreed to help to bring in a representative of pilgrimage in Wales, working closely with Chris – a meeting will be called early in the New Year and a team of interested people have already been identified. And so that I am seen to be entirely Celtic, I have undertaken to attempt to open up links with Ireland as well. There is the possibility of considerable European Funding for this project and Chris and I will try to work something up before we meet our colleagues in Sweden at the end of February. It was underlined to me again today just how much these projects tick all of the boxes for large-scale funding from Europe – they bring together so many different strands of community involvement, they involve faith communities and secular authorities, they are conservationist, they enable other activities to grow out of them, they create employment and so on. It is a wonderful opportunity and I am happy to be given the chance to be part of it. I also believe that it is a colossal opportunity for the Church – something which the church in Wales has already grasped and has appointed staff who will work to develop these opportunities.

After the conference I wrote up my notes before setting out for Gavinton Church with Rachel to have a look at the organ. It seems that the congregation sometimes struggles to find an organist and it was one of the organists who asked Rachel if we would see if it could be controlled by midi. It can – but we haven’t yet worked out the best way of doing this. In an emergency we could do it tomorrow but if it isn’t as much of an emergency as all that then we will have time to work out the best way of doing it!

Back home I started to plan some of the Green Pilgrimage activities I hope to generate in coming weeks and before I knew it, it was time to walk the dog and go for our evening meal: steak and mushroom pie with potatoes and carrots followed by ice-cream and brambles. I love brambles.

Back in the Granary we walked the dogs and went to bed very early – we have a great deal to do tomorrow. (While I was busy in the ways described, Digger was working on the garden. The lawn has been cut and today all the leaves – and there were many of them – have been collected up and added to his collection of compost.)

[ view entry ] ( 2865 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 1st. December, 2013 – The First Sunday in Advent 

Gavinton Church in the winter sunshine where we celebrated the start of a new church year today

Rose, walked the dog – it had been raining but it was beautiful now – and I didn’t see a single car on the roads the whole duration of my walk. Came back and showered before breakfast and then with Mum and Rachel I set off for Gavinton Church to celebrate the first Sunday in Advent, the start of the journey towards Christmas and the beginning of a new church year. Ann, the minister, was back in post and she conducted a service on the theme of Advent, Aids and Andrew with three smaller meditations in place of the normal address. The first Advent candle was lit and the meditation centred on the promise of Jesus return but the impossibility of knowing when that was to be. Jesus didn’t know but trusted his Father, and that in turn taught the disciples about how to trust. In any event the message of advent is not about waiting but about living the faith now trusting that God will return to claim his world for his own. So the candle becomes a symbol of hope for the future and trust in the here and now. We were reminded that today is world AIDs Day – a marking day which goes right back to the 1980s. Too many people continue to suffer from AIDs, but progress is being made if only the medicines which are now available could be made accessible to all. The Church of Scotland is playing its part but there remains much to do. And, of course, yesterday was St. Andrew’s Day. Andrew, the apostle who brought his brother to faith – perhaps we all think too big and want to evangelise the world: if we all just brought our brothers to faith how the world would change. Andrew it was who brought the little boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus and enabled the crowd to be fed. Faith and food – not a bad patron saint; not a bad role model for those of us who seek to walk in his footsteps as we seek to be disciples of Jesus. The journey to Christmas has begun.

Back home Rachel learned that her ‘cello had been repaired and went off to Tom’s house (where the repairer had delivered it) to collect it and bring it home. She was delighted. I spent part of the afternoon finding out about some of the special facilities which televisions seem to have nowadays, I can access my computer and even make a Skype call through the television. After six weeks I finally got round to reading the instructions!

Saw that my friend Laurence Whitley, the minister of Glasgow Cathedral, had conducted a special service for those who had died in the helicopter tragedy on Friday night, and, of course, for their families and friends. I have a huge admiration for Laurence who is an example of all that is best in the Church of Scotland and who, from the bits I saw on television, spoke the words which needed to be heard on this difficult occasion.

In the late afternoon Rachel went off to Berwick to attend Choral Evensong. I stayed to look after the dogs and to visit with Olive, Digger and my mother. We all dined on chicken with roast potatoes and cauliflower, followed up with ice cream and brambles. In the evening we luxuriated in front of our wood-burning stove. I read my book and dozed in front of an old episode of Lewis. Soon it was time for a final walk with the dogs before bed. What a lovely day!

[ view entry ] ( 2960 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 30th. November, 2013 -- St. Andrews Day 

A picture of the skyline, taken by Rachel, as daylight disappears

I awoke, walked Mix along Bramble Avenue and returned in time for breakfast. I set out this morning to discover the whereabouts of our big round table, our gate-leg table, our microwave and Rachel’s desk. I was almost totally unsuccessful. I have ascertained, I think, that none of them are in the Hen House and that therefore they are all probably in the corner barn. I have located the big round table but it will take several hours of burrowing to reach it and release it and I am supposing that the other items of furniture must be in roughly the same area. So that will be the task for the start of next week. We shall burrow deep into the corner barn and find the tables.

Rachel and I went into Duns to buy some food and ironmongery for the house. Got some light bulbs as well and came home and fitted them. Had some lunch and walked Mix again in the, by this time, gloaming. Everything is changing. The trees have all but lost their leaves, the hedges are (mostly) bare and much more of the landscape is suddenly visible as it is possible to see so many things which until now have been hidden by foliage. It is also definitely colder – not a nip in the air but just chilly. Everything remains extremely beautiful and the skies are usually spectacular. It is a time of year for trips out and then for enjoying the warmth of the fire-side.

Unfortunately we all prefer the same sofa (from the left) Dane, Rowan, Mix

You’ll see from the picture how friendly the two dogs are now – just like brother and sister and even into sharing Mix’s bed under my desk: how unthinkable was that just a month or so ago? We had intended to return to Duns tonight for the turning on of the Christmas lights; however, this has been delayed until a week tomorrow. So we shall plan to go along then.

We all dined together – our St. Andrew’s Day meal: leek soup followed by Haggis, neaps and tatties, and then by trifle. It was lovely. Digger was celebrating Raith Rovers victory over Dundee, but everyone was saddened by the helicopter crash in Glasgow. Following the meal we returned to the Granary. Rachel went to bed – her painkilling pills are tiring her – while Mix and I watched Foyle’s War. It is just as good second time around and, truth to tell, now that I am retired I have much more time and attention for television. It is like a new world.

I watched the news, naturally dominated by the crash in Glasgow, and then I walked both dogs before bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to the services we will attend – that is the real joy of retiring: looking forward to attending worship which will be led by other people, being part of a congregation, concentrating on worshipping rather than on leading other people in worship. And tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of a new Church Year. For us I can feel that if it continues as the old one has ended it is going to be a very good one in our new home with so many opportunities stretching out ahead.

Can't help remarking on how Italian our lives have become. We go about all day long engaged in our activities and ploys and then we all gather together for a lengthy evening meal during which we put the world to rights and catch up on all that everyone else has been doing before going off and doing our own thing with the remaining part of the evening. I could just have arrived in heaven!

[ view entry ] ( 3277 views )   |  permalink
Friday 29th. November, 2013 – A Wonderful Day! 

Crowds begin to arrive at the Kelso Race Track

Where to start! I had set my alarm for seven – an hour earlier than retirement-rising time. Got up and washed before walking Mix and then got into appropriate clothes for standing around on a cold race track for the twice-a-year auction of farm equipment. Tom and Dorothy collected me at 8.30 and we were at Kelso soon after nine. All the items for the sale were just beginning to arrive. There was everything from tractors and four by fours, to feeding troughs and sheep pens, farm gates, lawn-mowers, chain saws, generators, wood, doors, strimmers, motor cars, sacks of logs, office furniture, cable, ploughs, harvesting equipment, wood-burning stoves and much more. Having arrived, we learned that the actual auction didn’t start until 11 a.m. so we went off to Kelso and enjoyed a coffee and a scone.

Sunshine on the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso

I took this picture of the square in Kelso with the early morning sunshine on the Cross Keys Hotel and I include it here because later in the day Olive, Digger and Mum came to Kelso and enjoyed morning coffee in the hotel. By that time we had returned to the race course and the auction had begun. I was fascinated. The auctioneer was smartly dressed with a white coat over his collar and tie and with a deerstalker on his head. He carried something which was like the top of a walking stick in lieu, I suppose, of a hammer. He was accompanied by a number of staff – one with a list of all of the items for sale and details about these items, another whose task it was to get the details of people who bought the different items. Once it started, everything happened very quickly. The auctioneer, who was in good spirits and remained cheerful throughout, explained to us that unless he said differently at the start of an item, everything was subject to VAT and also to a 5% Buyer’s Premium. And with that we were off. We started with a ton of logs which Tom bought for a little over thirty pounds. Normally with each item the auctioneer started high and then the request for a bidder came lower and lower and lower but once someone had bid then it went straight back up again in two pound and five pound jumps – the auctioneer never stopped talking and he generated an enthusiasm which encouraged people to join in. On occasions bids were made by people with telephones strapped to their ears and always when something was sold the auctioneer rapped it with his stick and immediately moved on to the next item. Sometimes, having talked the bid up, the bidding came to a stop and the auctioneer just moved on to the next item without using his stick. These were the instances where the item had not reached its reserve price and no sale was made. Some of the items made thousands of pounds, others sold quickly for just a few pounds. Tom had hoped to buy the stove and had set himself a maximum bid of £200 but it went for £260 so he lost out on this one. The logs were loaded onto Tom’s trailer and we set off for home.

I couldn’t get a picture of the auctioneer for fear that he would think that I was offering a bid, but there were large numbers of people taking part

Back home I dealt with my post and then Rachel and I took the dogs off to Tweedmouth. This was a dual purpose outing. I needed to visit Currys to buy a small webcam for my computer because I am to share in a conference discussion relating to green pilgrimage on Monday morning and I have not as yet unpacked my old webcam (I have absolutely no idea where it might be). The second purpose was to walk the dogs at Spittal on the extensive beaches there.

Rachel walks the beach deep in thought

There were few other walkers – the light was already beginning to fade but we had a happy walk and Rowan must have run for miles happily splashing in and out of the sea. Back in the car, we drove to Mount Pleasant where soon it was time to get ready for this evening’s outing. For Rachel’s birthday Olive and Digger had bought a meal for two at the Siamese Kitchen. Tonight Rachel and I were having that meal. Neither of us had ever eaten Thai food before. We were in for a treat. Digger drove us to the restaurant just off the main square in Duns and he introduced us to the restaurant and to the extremely welcoming proprietrix. We started our meal with a mixed starter – a Thai fishcake, sati chicken, spring roll and prawn toast. We then went for a curry. I had a red curry (I had chosen well, it was delicious), Rachel had a green curry (she was equally happy). I continued with a sweet rice and mango desert while Rachel settled for jasmine tea. And all was washed down with white wine. It was a lovely evening and once we were replete, Digger arrived to drive us home. I could get used to this!

A Belated Birthday Cake

The restaurant even brought Rachel a birthday cake – and to her chagrin everyone in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday! Back home at Mount Pleasant we thanked Olive and Digger for such a splendid evening and shared a drink together. On our return to the Granary we discovered that a small bird had got into the house and – because it was so small – it took us more than an hour to find it and help it back into the wilds. I don’t know whether it or we were more relived once it had found its way into the outside world. It was very small and there it was making its way in the world all on its own. We are very fortunate to grow up and live in families with friends – though sometimes I guess we all feel like small birds trapped in big houses with no idea of how to get out.

[ view entry ] ( 3271 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 28th. November, 2013 – The Journey Continues 

In Duns preparations are gathering momentum for Christmas – soon the lights will be switched on

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast and then went out to the barns to search for today’s booty. The box I chose turned out to contain my set of Punch and Judy puppets – something I hadn’t seen since we left Buckhaven almost twenty years ago. I also unearthed a bookcase which we managed to carry up the stairs and install in our bedroom. I also unearthed a large, heavy box which said ‘crystal’ on the exterior. I brought it in carefully for Rachel to unpack. It contained our collection of decanters – and with each of them a memory: one a gift from Rachel’s father to her mother before they were married; one a gift from HMS Glamorgan to Rachel and me after a successful visit to Genoa; one a ship’s decanter given to me for Ianthe, and so on. They are now sitting proudly on a tray on the grand piano – the only problem is that we haven’t as yet unearthed any glasses. At this rate I will be thoroughly moved in by 2015 – but I will enjoy everything I find.

If all of this sounds like a pretty light day, it was – partly because I went with my mother to Gavinton Church at lunch time for the congregational lunch of soup and bread and butter (and cake). I enjoyed the opportunity of getting know some of the folk from the congregation. I left Mum there for the Guild which followed the lunch and I came back to walk Mix before darkness fell and then to continue with the sorting out.

Not for long, however, because this evening we were all invited to Scott and Sue’s for our evening meal. My brother lives at Polworth, ten minutes drive from here. It was a grand meal and a happy evening. We got home just in time for my mother to catch Question Time from Falkirk. I walked the dog and went to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a first for me as Tom is taking me to my first agricultural auction at Kelso and in the evening Rachel and I are going to the Siamese Kitchen for a meal.

Thursdays are still the one day during which I feel a little bit restless. The reason without any doubt is that for many years I have spent Thursdays preparing for my services on Sundays. I looked forward to Thursdays for that very reason. I don’t mean that I started from scratch on Thursday morning and got everything done by the end of the day. I read the texts on Sunday night and then let them percolate though my mind as I walked the dog and drove the car. But Thursday was the day I put it all together. That is something I do miss – not enough to make me volunteer for pulpit supply, I am enjoying sitting in the pew too much for that. But I do miss my working Thursdays. I got an email today inviting me to a fiftieth anniversary celebration of leaving school. It’s not until next year – but that really is quite a thought: fifty years since I left school. That’s not just quite a thought – it is quite an achievement as well.

[ view entry ] ( 3061 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 27th. November, 2013 – A New Chapter Begins 

Rachel starts work on cleaning up the brass log box I unearthed in the Hen House

Rose and walked Mix before breakfast of bacon, egg and fried potato – my first breakfast of the working week as for the last two days I have been off early to the Borders Hospital. Today was different. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I have now achieved my target for November and my responsibilities for getting the Granary ready have been achieved. So today I could embark on pastures new. I emailed the summer house company to see how my order is getting on – got a reply to say it would be a few days yet before I could expect news of a delivery. I went out into the barns to see what I could find. Under piles of boxes I identified the little fridge which we had brought with us from Luss. I also saw the old brass log box which has travelled with us for years (I think it came from Rachel’s home originally) and I saw several leather boxes which Rachel is keen to bring into the Granary and to use for storage in the bedroom. So my task for today was to liberate these items. Easier said than done for all were deep down under piles of boxes and for much of the morning I felt like a miner delving for treasure. But by lunchtime I had brought them out of the Hen House and got them into the Granary. Rachel set about cleaning the log box which will take up its position beside the stove once it (the log box) is gleaming as only polished brass can do. I got the fridge upstairs to the study – there is no room for it in the kitchen – and it will be used primarily for drinks and snacks. I had to scrub out the fridge and get it all set up but it was a satisfying task and it is now loaded up with Ginger Beer (and one bottle of Champaign).

Spent most of the afternoon chatting with Mum and then set the stove so that the lounge would be warm for the evening. We all dined together in the farmhouse – Olive is home so there were five of us around the table. We ate sausages and potatoes and followed them up with rice and jam (and Digger and I added ice-cream as well). Back in the Granary Rachel and I watched an episode of Endeavour. It was one that I hadn’t seen before and it was excellent.

I walked both dogs before bed (Rachel is still very stiff after her fall). Not much moon but the stars were shining really brightly and there was no one to be seen for miles around. It was absolutely beautiful. I have enjoyed today – particularly having reached the stage of starting to liberate things from the barns. The plan is to build the summer house as soon as it is delivered and to use it to store books. This will free space in the Hen House to enable us to convert this into another useable building – the work has already been started by the previous owners who actually got planning permission for all of our barns to be converted into holiday accommodation. I have no desire to have holiday accommodation but it would seem sensible to restore the barns and enable them to be used. I have no doubt that as the days go by we will come up with some ideas of what to do with the buildings but for now they are all being used to store boxes – and all of them have to emptied!

[ view entry ] ( 3033 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 26th. November, 2013 -- Continuing my week as a Chauffer 

The local Co-op in Duns where we buy our food

Up early in time to give each of the dogs a walk and Rachel a cup of tea in bed before setting off with Mum for the Borders General Hospital in Melrose so that she could attend the eye clinic there. To think that at the weekend I had never been to the Borders Hospital and now I have been there twice! Read my book in the waiting room while (appropriately) waiting for my mother. The wait was not a long one but it was nearer to mid day when we returned to Mount Pleasant.

Spent a while on the telephone with Mike who has been having a problem with the print machine at Luss. It really seems (as I have noted before) that so many of the machines at Luss have been waiting for my departure to give up the ghost – or it could be that I had learned over the years how to nurse them along and keep them going. Of course, it could also be that even the machines are just crying out for their retirement -- they have been well-used over many more years than their normal working lives. I also got an email with a list of the hymns for next Sunday at Arrochar and I transcribed them, prepared the music files and sent them off to Jamie.

At 2 p.m. I drove Mum into Duns for her regular hair appointment (moved to the afternoon this week because of the trip to hospital in the morning). Having dropped her off, I went to the Co-op to buy some fruit and cheese and to replenish my supplies of Ginger Beer. It is a small Co-op but the staff are helpful and friendly. Olive and Digger do the main shopping for our meals and they go to Berwick for this but the Co-op here is more than adequate for my needs. Came home and walked Mix (there is so little daylight at this time of year) and then drove back to Duns to collect Mum at 3.45 p.m. by which time today it was almost dark.

The main square in Duns looks very welcoming

Back home again, I went into one of the barns and brought out another box by torch-light. Discovered that it contained the games for an old Atari games machine which I must have bought more than thirty years ago – Space Invaders, Asteroids and many more. Set the machine up and ensured that all of the games were working – you’ll remember, perhaps, that I had found the console last Saturday and just a couple of the games; now I have around twenty with my particular favourites ‘Super Breakout’ which involves bouncing a ball back against a wall and dislodging bricks – the deeper you penetrate the wall, the faster the ball rebounds, and ‘Circus Atari’ which involves a see-saw which bounces a man into the sky to burst balloons – of course, you have to have the see-saw positioned below his fall to prevent him ‘splatting’ onto the ground. It was a journey back in time to an age when this was cutting-edge technology – and it was fun.

Rachel at her workstation

Rachel has taken today easy; most of the day she has been reading her book although I did snap her at her workstation. Those with keen eyesight will see that what she actually has on her computer screen is a game of patience. We dined with Mum and Digger and then came back to the Granary where we watched an episode of Montalbano – the Italian detective series set in Sicily. The programme is in Italian and it is good to hear the Italian language, even if much of it is in dialect.

Watched Newsnight, much of which was given over to the White Paper on the subject of Scottish Independence. As usual I thought that Gary Brewer wasted his opportunity of interviewing the First Minister by having too rigid a view of what he wanted to get out of the conversation. Frankly I am not much interested in what Mr. Brewer thinks, I want him to draw out what Alec Salmond believes. The interview was, it seemed to me, a missed opportunity. I found it interesting that so much of the White Paper sounded as if it were an election manifesto – a menu of offers for an independent Scotland. My first thought was that this was not what I had expected because that will be the business of those vying for power should Scotland become independent. But as I think about it, I am coming around to the view that this was quite an appropriate thing to do. The response, of course, is that many of these ‘offers’ could be delivered under devolution but that is only partly true. I was taken with the childcare plans which would enable huge numbers of women to get back into work, and who by being in work would generate the tax revenues to pay for the provision; tax revenues which in an independent Scotland would come to the Scottish Treasury. Such a move would be important for women but also tackles the real problem which Scotland has which is that we need a higher percentage of our population to be generating wealth to support an aging population. So there is much to think about and I would love to get a copy of the six-hundred-and-some-more page document and read it – something which, now that I am retired, I will have time to do! Somehow the debate has got a new edge to it for me now that we live so close to England and cross to Berwick sometimes several times a week.

Walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3338 views )   |  permalink
Monday 25th. November, 2013 – Really Good News 

A helicopter takes off from the Borders General Hospital after delivering a patient at the Accident and Emergency section

Rachel woke extremely sore and very stiff. I say ‘woke’ but in reality she hadn’t slept at all. I telephoned the doctor at 8 a.m. and an appointment was arranged for 8.50 a.m. Rachel was seen at once and after Rachel was given strong pain killers, we set off by car for the Borders General Hospital (who had been told that we were coming and so knew to expect us). There Rachel was x-rayed and examined. The fear had been that she had got a stress fracture (which would have meant immobilisation for six weeks) but the hospital was able to confirm that nothing was broken. They gave her more pills and instructed her to take things easy, not to bend down and not to lift anything – and not to go horse-riding again until she was totally recovered!

While waiting for Rachel, I saw what a busy place this hospital (based in Melrose) is. Ambulances and also the air ambulance (pictured above -- caught on my mobile 'phone) brought patients to the hospital while I watched. Happy that no serious harm had been done to Rachel's back, we drove back to Mount Pleasant, made some lunch and I finally managed to complete the sorting out of my clothes and removed some (which will have to wait until later) to one of the barns. Progress is being made. Rachel sat in front of the stove and read her book.

We dined with Mum and Digger in the farmhouse and afterwards returned to the Granary to enjoy the heat of the stove in our lounge (it was minus two outside earlier today). Caught University Challenge and part of a Two Ronnies repeat before walking both dogs – Rachel is still taking it easy – and getting to bed in time to watch the News in comfort.

Today has been a good one: Rachel has done nothing serious to her back and I have got both my study and my part of the bedroom into some kind of order, the deck has been laid for the summer house and the outside of the premises are fully dog-safe. My targets for November have largely been achieved. As in all the best computer games, I can now move on to level two. Exciting!

[ view entry ] ( 2866 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 24th. November, 2013 – Could have been better! 

This is what is waiting for me at the farmhouse every morning

Rose early and walked Mix. I love walking on the roads around Mount Pleasant on a Sunday morning early, there is nothing on the roads and everything is wonderfully quiet. Went across to the farmhouse for breakfast (decided to let you see how well I am treated: bacon, egg and fried potatoes with two slices of toast and plenty of hot coffee. No wonder I have put on five kilos since retiring here).

Set off with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church. It was a lovely service conducted by members of the Guild and was, appropriately, on the theme of ‘Whose we are and whom we serve’ -- the address picked out two servants: Mary, the hand-maiden of the Lord, and Paul who had penned the words of the theme, a servant of the Lord. But the challenge, of course, is for us all. Enjoyed the hymns, prayers and a little sketch which added to the theme as well. Following the service we all adjourned to the hall where the Guild served brunch, the proceeds being devoted to two of the Guild projects – the Cross Reach project and Comfort Rwanda. The Guild here provides support for all of the six projects but as the project duration is for three years it concentrates on two of them each year. Seems like a good way of doing things. The service, too, was a good way of marking Guild Week.

A snap of the inside of the Church as folk began to disperse

It was good to see Ann, the minister, back after her recent cold – and I did enjoy the brunch. Back at Mount Pleasant, Rachel got ready to go horse riding for the first time in many a long year. Dorothy arrived to take her along to the riding school and I set about sorting the clothes in the bedroom. It is a task which has been hanging over my head for several days and I had promised to do it all today. In fact I got started but that was about all because Rachel returned having been thrown by her horse – she said that it was down to over-confidence on her part as she kicked the hose to try to move it from a trot to a canter and then lost a stirrup as she rounded a bend: gravity did the rest. But falling to the ground when you are sixty-eight is very different from the regular knocks which we took as children and she is very shaken and has a very sore back. I’m hoping that is all it is; we gave her frozen chips (in the packet) to try to take down any swelling and she has been lying down ever since.

Dorothy arrives to collect Rachel

Well, that’s not quite true because she staggered across to the farmhouse for an evening meal (toad in the hole followed vegetable soup and preceded ice cream and stewed apples – fabulous). I got Rachel off to bed with an electric blanket under her back and we will review the situation in the morning. I never did get the clothes sorted and even the disastrous defeat suffered by England in Australia has paled into insignificance with thinking of what might have happened when Rachel, with her history of back problems, fell off her horse. Thankfully her legs seem fine but, at the very least, she is going to be very stiff tomorrow.

[ view entry ] ( 3046 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 23rd. November, 2013 -- A Day in Reverse and a Roaring Stove 

A Roaring Stove

I woke early this morning and was out walking Mix soon after eight. I got back to Mount Pleasant and wandered across to the farmhouse for breakfast to discover that the door was locked and everyone was still asleep. So Mix and I came back to the Granary and planned our day before returning for breakfast a little later on.

Up until now life has been about emptying boxes but, even although only a tiny fraction of them have been opened, we are now in the business of repacking boxes and stacking them in another barn until later on. I suppose it is inevitable two large homes into one much smaller one will only go with the greatest difficulty and there will be lots of getting organised. So today I must have packed and carried around twenty boxes and packed them into a barn, all clearly labelled and waiting for the next stage of our operations. It is actually quite exciting.

Mum and Digger went into Duns to shop and, in the late afternoon, after walking Mix, I joined the others for sherry before dinner in the farmhouse. Much later on Rachel and I returned to the Granary where our stove had created a beautifully warm living room for us to relax in. Rachel had chosen an old episode of Foyle’s War for us to watch and afterwards we got caught up in a reconstruction of the killing of President Kennedy. Then we walked the dogs and retired to bed.

A relaxed dog – Rowan takes it easy on the mat in front of the stove

I tend to make all of this dealing with boxes sound rather tedious. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Today I found the old, old (ancient really) Atari games console which plugged into the TV so many years ago. The console on which we played Space Invaders, Asteroids and Frogger and so many more. So I lost an hour ensuring that it still functioned. It did but I’m afraid I have lost all my old skills and dexterity. Will have to spend more time with it in the coming days! I also found a box with midi files of all of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. Plugged them in and sang through the Contrabandista (that was another hour lost – no, not lost. Greatly enjoyed in a way that I would never have dreamed of doing when I was still working.) Retirement is great – there is always tomorrow and today is about grasping the moment and doing things as they occur. I also found my old Stellarscope and, you guessed it, spent time examining the sky and identifying the stars – really nostalgic because when I was small my Dad used to take me out to the garden and identify them for me.

Top Dog – the Dogs’ Trust would be hard-pressed to recognise Mix as the terror he used to be

Got a letter this morning from the Session Clerk of Gavinton Church to say that we were now members of their congregation. It is good to belong and it will be good to worship there again tomorrow morning (by which time, I expect, England will have surrendered the first Test – well, it would be greedy to expect that absolutely everything would go my way).

[ view entry ] ( 2966 views )   |  permalink
Friday 22nd. November, 2013 -- Into a Routine 

My window on the Gabba at Brisbane -- this morning was not a happy one for England

Got up and breakfasted with Olive and Digger before walking Mix and then coming back to the Granary to start work on boxes. The way it works is that I find a couple of boxes and open them. I then bring the contents to my study and in the process totally disrupt the study. I then spend ages getting the study back in order and the items from the newly opened boxes become absorbed into the house. Then I go and get another few boxes from the barn and start all over again. It is a long slow process!

Tom and Dorothy arrived to collect some of Tom’s tools and then Rachel set off for Berwick. I spent quite a while searching for some of the boxes which had my clothes in them. I found four and got them emptied and sorted. Then walked Mix in the last of the daylight.

Rachel and Rowan

Back at Mount Pleasant I continued with the sorting and then went across to the farmhouse for a sherry before dinner – we ate cheese and bean pie (one of my all-time favourites) followed by ice-cream with bramble sauce and coffee. Back in the Granary I watched an episode of Midsummer Murders while Rachel started her Christmas letter on her laptop and Rowan sat on the sofa and took an interest in all that was going on. Mix, older and more sensible, went to sleep. We walked the dogs and I went to bed. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to watch the cricket, and it wasn’t that I had lost interest after England’s dramatic collapse during last night – it was just that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So bed calls – however, I will listen to Test Match Special and hope for something better. I likened the experience of last night as going out of the room when your football team was two nil ahead and coming back a little later to discover that your team is now losing ten two. The collapse was as dramatic as that. I wrote yesterday that you can never tell what is the state of a match until both teams have batted – those were prophetic words. Australia’s failure to reach three hundred looked bad when England marched into bat. Once they had bowled England out for a hundred and thirty odd, it looked very different indeed! It is hard to see how England can recover from here.

[ view entry ] ( 2868 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 21st. November, 2013 – Wind and More Wind 

If it is too windy or wet to go for a walk, Mix and Rowan are happy chasing each other around our courtyard

It was a really blustery night – I went to bed about 2. Australia had just lost their second wicket for something in the seventies. I slept until 6 when I checked the score again and found that they had now lost six wickets. When I woke at 8 the cricket was over for the day and Australia had lost eight wickets for 273 runs. One would have guessed that this had been a good day for England but you can never tell until both sides have batted.

The rain was streaming down and the wind was still blustering, so I breakfasted before walking Mix and then I settled down to do the music for Arrochar Church. This done, I started on the clothes in the bedroom but no sooner had I started than we discovered that a few boxes which Rachel had covered with a couple of tarpaulins had lost their tarpaulins in the storm, so we brought the boxes into the house and emptied them. No harm has been done except that we now have items to deal with which we had intended to leave until later.

The rest of the ‘working’ day was spent dealing with these boxes (and quite a lot remains for tomorrow as well). We dined in the farmhouse – Olive has now returned from Dundee so we were all together which is great. I sorted out some of the finds from the boxes in the evening. This included an mp3 player with a recording of an half hour radio programme about Luss made by the BBC in either 2004 or 2005. I listened to it and would love to share it with my folk back in the Church. I had forgotten all about it but it was incredibly prophetic with great contributions from John Sinclair, Lorrain, Robbie and John and Margaret MacEachern. At the time the recording was made the Pilgrimage Centre had been recently opened but the bridge across to the glebe was still just a dream.

I had intended to watch the news and Newsnight but instead I fell asleep, waking in time to walk Mix and settle down to watch the cricket in front of a roaring stove. England polished off Australia’s tail quickly and Australia did not reach 300 which I had considered to be the least they required. However, England had only advanced to 55 for two wickets by lunch and we will need a good afternoon session if we are to gain from all of the bowlers' good work.

[ view entry ] ( 2820 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 20th. November, 2013 -- Retirement as I always imagined it 

Rachel has just added the final screw and the decking is complete

It rained all night and I wondered, as I lay in my warm bed and listened to the rain, whether we would be able to complete the decking as planned. But when I got up at eight, the sun was shining and there was a blustery wind. I walked Mix and breakfasted with Mum and Digger and while I was eating my toast (having enjoyed egg and bacon) Tom arrived to continue my apprenticeship as a deck builder. By lunchtime we had all of the decking cut and had installed the fencepost anchors at the four corners and we had ensured that everything was absolutely level. After lunch we screwed down the final lengths of decking and then were glad to get inside as the rain began to fall – in any event we were beginning to get extremely cold. But what a sense of achievement!

While Rachel went off for a hot bath, I walked Mix along the Kelso Road, back along Bramble Avenue, and back to the house by the Swinton Road. I cleaned my drill (and recharged the battery) and then packed everything away. Spent the next hour on the telephone as a number of friends caught up with me and then It was time for an early tea (mince and potatoes) before Mum was collected by a friend and set off for the Duns Guild. I came home and promptly fell asleep – partly because I have been out in the fresh air all day and partly because I was keen to have some sleep so that I could stay awake later in the evening to watch the start of the Ashes Test Series from Brisbane. I enjoyed the build up and watched the first hour in front of the stove by which time we had captured one wicket but Warner was scoring quite freely.

But this is how I imagined retirement to be – a day in the fresh air doing something I wouldn’t normally get to do and then being able to sit up and enjoy the cricket from Australia without worrying about whether I am fresh to do my job tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the whole of the Test Series and I’m looking forward to the next stage of my apprenticeship when the kit arrives and Tom, Rachel and I start work on constructing our summer house.

We have so many plans. Next to the Granary is our hen house. Eventually it will house a library and some more accommodation for those who come to visit. And then we will start on the barns .... Meanwhile Digger is developing the small holding and will soon start work on building the first of several domes which will be used to grow crops which require the assistance which such a dome will give. Life is incredibly exciting.

Should say that I am getting less aware of all that is going on in the world – watching the news and Newsnight is becoming less important – but I have been fascinated by the story of the Rev. Paul Flower, a Methodist minister, who became Chairman of the Co-operative Bank, and has got into trouble partly (according to what we are told on TV) through personal failings and partly through the failings of the bank. What has amazed me (and this will seem extremely trivial to many who read this) is that everyone is calling Mr. Flower ‘Reverend Flower’. I mean everyone: BBC presenters and reporters, people interviewed, the Prime Minister and so on. It is absolutely incorrect. ‘Reverend Paul Flower’ is OK but otherwise it really should be ‘Mr. Flower’. I know that the response will be – how inconsequential compared with what he is accused of having done – well, perhaps, but I have a thing about it and retired people have to have hobbyhorses.

All in all, today was a mixed day for the Church. The Scottish Parliament took the decision to allow same gender marriage (I believe that same gender relationships should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as mixed gender ones; but I cannot believe that this is marriage nor that parliament has the ability to redefine something which is so integral to human life around the world). However, today the journey towards women bishops in the Church of England took a big step forward at the meeting of the General Synod. It seems that this matter may finally be resolved in the next couple of years – I know it is still a long time, but at least things are moving forward. Talking about a couple of years, as I move from someone who has been working at the coal-face for such a long time to an observer with a growing element of detachment, I do seriously wonder if there is much of a future for the Church of Scotland. I am sure that there is a real future for Christianity in Scotland and I am sure that God has great plans for our country but now that I have time to look around I am surprised at how many ministers are on the point of retiring and at how tiny are so many congregations. There are, however, some really good things happening and these need to be celebrated by all of us. I’m looking forward to getting my summer house which will also be my office and where I hope to write. Another bonus of retirement for me is that things start to buzz around my head: fresh ideas and an enthusiasm to start work on the book I hope to write and, who knows, maybe that will make a contribution to the debate about where we are going?

[ view entry ] ( 2928 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 19th. November, 2013 – My Apprenticeship begins 

Rachel and Tom have done a grand job of creating the frame for the decking on which our new summer house will sit.

Up early, walked Mix along Bramble Avenue, breakfasted with Mum and Digger and then Tom arrived, brought here by Dorothy – and my apprenticeship began. I started the day the proud owner of a drill (bought yesterday from Pearsons), I ended up with a drill, a metre rule and a level (one of those things with a bubble in it). Our task was to build the decking platform on which the new summer house will sit. We set off for Pearson to buy more screws and knee-pads (I forgot to mention I now owned a set of knee-pads) and some back plastic to place under the decking platform. Tom set up his bench saw and along with Rachel we created the framework on which the decking would be built. It was perfectly right-angled and also totally level. We were ready to begin – but first Tom went off home with Dorothy for lunch while I completed the task of sorting out the study. It is now really quite organised.

Tom soon returned and we set to work cutting the decking to size and fitting and screwing it to the frame. After an hour or so I had almost got the hang of screwing the decking down, holding the lengths of decking as Tom fed them through the saw, and ensuring that there was an appropriate gap between the different lengths of decking. By the time the light failed we had completed half of the decking and – providing the weather holds tomorrow -- the task will be completed. Of course, if the weather doesn’t hold, then there will be other days – that’s the beauty of retirement. Now that I can see that the job will be done, and buoyed up by the realisation that we will probably be able to complete the whole project ourselves (well, Tom and Rachel are really quite skilled) I went ahead and ordered the kit for the summer house – even although I remain quite miffed that the fact that we are five miles over the English border means that I have to pay a transport surcharge. No wonder that some people are so violently nationalist. However, not to buy the summer house I want because of this would seem like cutting off my nose to spite my face; so I have paid up and put it behind me.

Dorothy, Tom and Rachel on the decking so far created

As the last of the light was fading, Rachel and I walked Rowan and Mix. Back at the Granary we fed the dogs and I cleaned the study to complete its make-over. Then we joined Mum and Digger for a delicious fish-pie followed by stewed (home-grown) apples, custard and ice cream. Later we made our way back to the Granary where we watched an episode of Midsomer Murders which we had missed when it was first shown, walked the dogs (the wind had got up and it was really cold) and were very glad to get to bed. I am already extremely stiff and I hate to think what my body is going to have to say to me tomorrow morning.

[ view entry ] ( 2975 views )   |  permalink
Monday 18th. November, 2013 – Family Visitors 

Mum with her sisters, Agnes and Jean

Slept incredibly well. I’ve always slept well, the moment my head hits the pillow I am asleep; but since we moved down here I have slept even better. I suppose that it is because I am no longer on call and no longer have the responsibilities I had before. Some say that it is the change of air and perhaps it is but our bedroom is also incredibly warm – even with the heating turned off and the windows wide open: our house is marvellously insulated. Whatever the reason I am sleeping so well.

Woke, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before driving Mum into Duns to get provisions for a picnic around the farmhouse table when Mum’s visitors arrived. We bought from the Co-op and then from the Bakers and hurried home to welcome Mum’s sisters Agnes and Jean who had been driven down by Jean’s son-in-law, Peter. After coffee (with snowballs and wagon wheels) they went on a tour of the entire premises – a tour of the house with Mum, of the Granary with Rachel, of the allotment and gardens with Digger and around the barns with me. It was time for a soup and sandwich lunch and prolonged chat before Mum’s guests had to leave (Peter had an appointment in Edinburgh at 4 p.m.). Mum had enjoyed having her sisters to inspect her new home and we had all enjoyed their visit – good to get a blether with Peter as well. (Agnes, as well as being my aunt, is also my God-mother -- a role she has always exercised extremely diligently and lovingly -- and so is doubly important to me.)

I set off for Pearsons in Duns to get the bits and pieces required for the start of our project to create a summer house tomorrow. As usual, Mix travelled in the back of the car behind the deluxe and extra-strong grill supplied by Halfords. When I came out of Pearsons, Mix was sitting happily in the driving seat as much as to say, ‘Well, I don’t think much of those prison bars.’ Back home Rachel set about a temporary repair – I think that we are going to have to have the whole of the back of the car welded.

We walked the dogs and then came back to boxes before dining with Digger and Mum in the farmhouse. Back to the Granary in time to watch University Challenge (it was a dead-heat -- what a shame that one side had to lose) after which I did some more tidying before the News and Newsnight. We walked the dogs again. The moonlight is so bright that we didn’t need a torch except to have in case a car appeared on the road. This really is a fabulous place to live and we are so very, very fortunate.

[ view entry ] ( 2685 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 17th. November, 2013 – Sundays are Good! 

Bamburgh Castle from the beach

Woke again after the most amazing dreams. I was in London when I got a call to say that I was needed to come and conduct a service at Luss because there was no one else. (Well, that’s easy – I spoke on the phone to Bill last night and he was telling me that he was conducting two weddings at Luss.) It was too late to catch a train from London so I went into a garage to hire a car. Simon (from SAS in Helensburgh) was working at the garage in London. He didn’t have a car but he offered me a bicycle – only it was one you stood on, like the machines you see in some of the tourist spots around Europe. I had to find a map and then to be sure, I went into a small hardware shop where a delightful old lady sold me a compass. I set off for Luss (which for some extraordinary reason was now in Fife). I arrived just in time for the service to discover that the church had been united, not with another church, but with a lifeboat station. The congregation was upstairs in a kind of horseshoe gallery which I addressed from the pulpit (there were only six people present, two ladies and four children). No sooner had I announced the first hymn than people rushed in and launched the lifeboat and everything was drowned out in the sound of the boat descending from the church into the sea. Alarms were going off everywhere and I awoke.

Got up, walked Mix and breakfasted in the farmhouse before driving Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church where we joined Tom and Dorothy for the morning service. It was conducted this morning by Bill Paterson, a retired minister, as Ann is still suffering from her cold. I enjoyed Bill’s service which was based on the Call of Moses: called to something he didn’t want to do (he saw it was necessary but could someone else not, please, be chosen for the task?); speaking to our generation is as important and we are often chosen for a special task. So watch out for burning bushes!

After the service we had coffee in the hall and met more of the congregation and once we had returned home we quickly set off for Bamburgh where Rachel and I walked the dogs on the beach. Rowan is so taken with the sea and loves nothing better than to frolic among the waves. Back home I lit the stove and went back to working in the study on the next stage of the sorting out process.

Rowan is fascinated by the sea

In the early evening we all (Olive, Digger, Rachel, Mum and I) piled into my car and went to Duns where we ate at the China Palace. It was absolutely excellent and we received a great welcome. Good food, huge portions and well looked-after. We came back replete and I started again on the study. Remembered it was the weekend (!) so stopped and watched some TV before going to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2778 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 16th. November, 2013 – I learn that progress means upheaval 

Nick, Amy and David

Up and breakfasted before walking the dog – this is getting to be a habit! I was so sleepy this morning and woke in the middle of a very vivid dream: I was back in the Sailor’s Rest in Genoa (my first job). I’d been sent to look after it until someone could come and run the place full-time. A whole crowd of Dutch sailors arrived looking for a film (the big 16mm films in their tin containers). They had handed one in last time they were in the port and now they needed a new one to watch on their voyage. I was in the middle of contacting British ships in the port to see if anyone had a film to give them when I woke with a start because I remembered that a friend of Mum’s was coming to collect her just after nine o’clock.

Had breakfast and saw Mum off before walking Mix. Rachel set off for Berwick to buy some hardware for the house and I started opening more boxes with clothes in them. There are far too many clothes to fit into the limited space we have so I had to start sorting them all out, which meant trying things on and making difficult decisions. And, of course, turning my room into an absolute tip once again – and only yesterday I had finally got it looking good. Ah, well!

Drove across to Scott’s home to have afternoon tea with my brother and sister-in-law, and with my niece, Katie and my nephew Nick and his wife Amy and her Dad, David, who had flown in from Australia to attend the 100th. birthday celebrations for his aunt. It was really good to see them all and to hear how well they are getting on and how much they are all enjoying life. It was especially good to renew contact with David whom I had so very much enjoyed meeting at Nick and Amy's wedding just a year ago -- the trip which brought me to the Borders and which started this amazing adventure which has resulted in us living in the Granary at Mount Pleasant. Mum had also been dropped off at Scott's home by her friend and after afternoon tea and lots of chat I drove Mum back to Mount Pleasant.

The picture at the head of today’s entry is of my nephew and his wife and her father. I had intended to include a picture of my delightful niece, Katie, but when I checked the photo I discovered that she had put her tongue out as I took the picture, presumably to prevent me being able to use it for my blog. So I have included it below in any event.


Back home, I cooked the supper which Rachel, Mum and I ate around the table in the Granary kitchen. Olive had been speaking at a conference in Aberdeen today and she and Digger had met up in Edinburgh for a meal with Jeffrey, my other nephew, and Devon. After the meal we watched the final Poirot which we had all missed on Wednesday evening. In the best traditions of the ‘who done it’ there was a real twist in the tale and I enjoyed it. There was just time to walk Mix before retiring for the night.

On the sporting front, I watched the rugby -- England against New Zealand -- as I worked on my clothes. England did well, I thought, but new Zealand won. And Sachin Tendulkar brought his Test career to an end with a resounding victory for India against the West Indies. He scored 74. I was sorry that he didn't get a century but he did well and his retirement marks the end of an era of Indian cricket (not least because he has been ever present for such a long time).

[ view entry ] ( 3059 views )   |  permalink
Friday 15th. November, 2013 – And another great day. 

Our decking is delivered

Rose, breakfasted and walked Mix (yes, the order indicates that I slept in, but Oh, am I sleeping well). Then it was hard work all day to sort out clothes, emptying boxes and delighting in being reunited with old friends. Unfortunately we have a lot less room than with our two previous houses, so down-sizing can be quite painful – but all of this is spurring us on to see about developing one of our barns.

This afternoon the decking arrived for the base of our new summer house. It may seem strange to be contemplating a summer house as we approach winter but I’m using to use it as the place in which to write my book and I want to get started on that before I lose the urge (and before my publisher loses interest).

In the late afternoon I walked Mix and had a shower before setting off with Mum and Rachel for the theatre in Berwick. The sky was spectacular and I caught this picture from the bathroom window.

November sky

In Berwick we dined in the theatre restaurant – pea soup followed by fishcakes, chips and salad, followed by meringue with fruits of the forest and ice cream. Loved it. We joined the Friends of the Maltings – well, we have been here four times in the last two weeks – and went into the performance of Royal Flush. It was a one man show in two parts. The first told the story of Thomas Crapper, in his own words and told of his work in the toilet industry and his royal patronage; the second was set in more modern times, in a care centre, and, you’ve guessed it, centred around the toilet.

The little studio Theatre

Two very different performances by one talented young actor and the only thing which marred it was that we could hear the sounds from the main auditorium where a tribute band was paying homage to Bruce Springsteen – I was surprised both that the sound proofing was so inadequate and that, given that it was, such a clash of programming had been permitted. But I loved the performance of Matthew Booth who is evidently a performer in Emmerdale where he plays Paul Marsden. Sorry that there weren’t more people present. I counted just seventeen in a studio set up with seats for around fifty-five (and that included the ushers).

Drove home to Mount Pleasant and got home about eleven. The dogs were really pleased to see us. Mix had continued with the tidying up theme while we were out by emptying a rubbish sack and setting everything therein in a neat orderly row for my inspection just to make sure that nothing was being thrown out which really should have been kept. It was another good day.

[ view entry ] ( 2782 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 14th. November, 2014 – First Phase completed! 

Bramble Avenue in the autumn sunshine

While the rest of the country seems to be suffering from rain, storms and high winds, here it is beautiful. I got up and walked Mix along Bramble Avenue – the sun is so low in the sky that it is very picturesque: sunshine, shadows and beautiful autumn colours.

Back home, I breakfasted and then worked all day in the study and by dinner time I had completed all of the boxes with ‘things’ in them for the study – as distinct to clothes, for this is my ‘dressing room’ as well. Tomorrow I will start on unpacking clothes but I feel that I have achieved a great deal. (I also spent a while in the farmhouse retuning Mum’s TV which lost the ability to receive ITV last night. All is now returned to normal.)

Realised that I have stopped carrying my mobile phone around with me – and I don’t seem to have the same need to check for emails every day. Well I do have a telephone landline and the post is delivered every day. I really must be unwinding!

Dinner was good. Olive is back from teaching so we were all around the farmhouse table this evening: Olive, Digger, Mum, Rachel and me. Afterwards Rachel and I watched an old ‘New Tricks’ before I walked Mix (his third walk of the day) and came up to bed. I’m raring to get at those clothes boxes tomorrow – and in the evening we are going back to Berwick to attend the theatre: the studio theatre this time, rather than the auditorium, but we are going to have a pre-performance meal at the theatre to try that out as well.

[ view entry ] ( 2639 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 13th. November, 2013 -- A Day of Two Halves: from the commonplace to the absolutely sublime! 

The dogs are always the first out of the Granary

Slept in, and so I breakfasted before walking Mix; not that he seemed to mind because he enjoys breakfast in the farmhouse. Came back to the Granary and found an email with the hymns for Sunday which I duly prepared and sent off to Neil and Jamie and then I started work on the boxes in the study. I worked at them all afternoon and actually made progress. I say I worked at them all afternoon: there were interruptions. I stopped to renew my car insurance and discovered to my delight that my premium is one third lower now that I have retired and live in the Borders (and no longer have that dreaded Glasgow post code). I also took Mix off for a substantial walk – rejoicing in the fact that we have good weather, unlike so much of the rest of Scotland. It seems to happen often – in fact maybe this little bit of Scotland is like America’s Florida: the place to come when you retire to get the best of the weather.

Stopped boxes about four thirty, had a shower and changed and an hour later Rachel and I set off for Berwick. We had a fish supper in the car and went into the Maltings to attend the first ever streamed live performance of a Royal Shakespeare Company production from Stratford. We were sharing with people all over the country and all over the world and it was stupendous. I had no idea what to expect but it was wonderful, just like being there – better really, because we got the advantage of all of the best angles and real close-ups. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, what a blessing it is to be retired! (And to have the wherewithal to go off gallivanting – my Old Age Pension arrived in my bank account today. I still wonder that every four weeks I get such a sizeable payment into my bank account just because I am old – and I get my proper pension from my employment at the end of each month as well. It is, of course, too early to tell, but first impressions are that I am much better off in retirement because when I was working we had two homes to run -- one in Wemyss and one at Luss – and because so much of my income got spent on the Manse and on my work. That’s not a complaint, just an observation as why now is so good!)

But back to tonight. The setting, the staging the casting, the acting, the play, the performance: all were superb. Our theatre was comfortable, full and happy. David Tennant made an excellent Richard II, Oliver Ford Davies was superb as the Duke of York and Michael Pennington was magnificent as John of Gaunt but, in truth, everyone was great and the play was quite modern as it discussed regime change, or the role of supreme power in a country under the guise of examining the purpose of medieval monarchy. The introduction and supplementary features provided by the Royal Shakespeare Company were as good as one would have expected from them. It was a tremendous evening and we are told that the new director intends to work right through the entire canon of Shakespeare’s work over the next six years and that every production with have one evening on which it is streamed. I can see that even in retirement a diary is going to be a sine qua non. A really happy day – tomorrow it will be back to boxes!

[ view entry ] ( 3063 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 12th. November, 2012 -- Autumn Sunshine 

Our home – bathed in Autumn sunshine

Rose, walked the dog, breakfasted and went back to the Granary. It was a glorious morning with everything bathed in autumn sunshine. My morning walk was an absolute joy – and people have started to wave to me as they pass in the car. I am beginning to feel that we belong.

Digger, Rachel, Cathy and Mum taken just before Rachel set off to drive Cathy back to civilization

This morning Cathy was setting off for home, driven there by Rachel. I ran Mum to Duns to get her hair done and then worked in the study. I have now unearthed the bunk bed! Collected Mum and brought her home and then Tom and I fitted up the bell outside the Granary and repaired the little gate. We then went off to Pearsons to buy (or rather, to order) decking for the summer house to sit on and while we were there we had a coffee and a cake (that’s what retired people do – you see I am learning quickly about this new way of life). Back home I continued with the clearing up – don’t get the impression that a great deal has been done, it is a long, slow business but I am enjoying it.

Digger has had his car at the garage today, getting new heaters for the diesel engine; Rachel has been driving all afternoon – she stopped for lunch with Cathy in Balloch and Mum has been in her upstairs sitting room. Once Rachel returned, we all dined – mince, carrots and potatoes (definitely a favourite), followed by apple pie and ice cream. I returned to boxes in the evening (and there will be plenty more waiting for me tomorrow as well). Stopped to watch Newsnight before walking Mix and retiring to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2630 views )   |  permalink
Monday 11th. November, 2013 – A day doing this and that 

I took this picture of a stone on the exterior of Fogo Church yesterday. I have no idea what it signifies -- it is a very old church. But I hope to find out!

According to my new routine, I rose, walked the dog and breakfasted in the farmhouse (on egg and bacon prepared today by Cathy). I started work on the study (that’s where the first boxes are for my attention) but soon Tom arrived to help with some of the other priorities. We went off to Pearsons to buy various different rawlplugs and screws and also to enquire about decking (on which we can then position a summer house – I know that it is the winter but I’m retired and can do what I like)! Pearsons didn’t have decking but promised more information for the afternoon. We returned to the Granary and did some calculations about the amount of decking we would require. We also hung another television screen before Tom returned home for lunch. I set about the study with gusto and also helped Rachel start the Bongo with leads from my car – she had allowed the battery to run down. When Tom returned we hung the bell by the big outside gate so that people could let us know that they wanted to come in. Then we set off to meet a friend of Tom who is a maker and repairer of stringed instruments (Martin). Rachel has a problem with her ‘cello (the sound post has fallen) and Martin will be able to fix it for her.

In the Bongo, now fully functioning again, we all (Cathy, Rachel, Tom and I) continued on to Pearsons who unfortunately did not have the information I required. Instead we went for afternoon tea/coffee and cake before returning home. Tom went off to collect his grandchildren from school and I returned to boxes. The computer was on and so was Skype and during the late afternoon I chatted first with Sameh from Egypt and then with Brian from Germany before finally speaking on the telephone to Bill and Morag. It was good to hear of the progress which Bill is making – he now attends the local gymnasium every Monday and Wednesday. I hope that they will both be down to see us soon.

Later we dined with Digger in the farmhouse and then in the evening watched University Challenge and an hour-long Poirot with Mum and Cathy while we enjoyed another cup of tea, accompanied by snowballs. After watching Newsnight and the horrific events in the Philippines, we walked the dogs (there wasn’t a car in sight the whole time we were out) and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2626 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 10th. November, 2013 – Remembrance Sunday 

Rachel, Cathy and Mum make their way to Gavinton Church

Rose, walked Mix, showered and changed, breakfasted and set off for the service at Gavinton Church. The minister, Ann, was indisposed and so the service was conducted by Ken Walker who was to have been sharing in a joint service elsewhere with his wife. He had been called in at the last moment to cover for Ann. I enjoyed his service which presented the contrasts which different places experience – the plain of Jezreel for example which saw great battles and also prosperity and harmony. The world is like that. We stand on history – I reflected that over this last week we have crossed back and forwards into England to visit Holy Island, to go to the theatre at Berwick, and yet, in times past this was a little bit of Britain which was fiercely fought over (as the recent Flodden commemorations record). When will we ever learn? Ken reminded us of the importance of our remembering those who had lost their lives and those whose lives were different as a result of war.

The service was followed by a simple ceremony at the war memorial at 11 a.m. and I found my mind straying to Arrochar where (I still think of them as my people) will have been standing silently at the memorial there.

Ken read the poem which was always part of our Luss remembering:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Back home we set about ransacking the barns to find Rachel’s ‘cello – eventually discovering it deep in a barn, inside one of the wardrobes there. I did a little tidying in the study and soon it was time to change back into my Sunday clothes to go off to Fogo for the Remembrance Service there at 3.30 p.m.

Fogo Kirk in the late afternoon sunshine

The Church at Fogo is a delightful old building – the pews are high and compel one to sit very upright; the congregation is small (well the population of the village is just twenty-two) but since we discovered that we belong to its parish we determined to attend today. The service was conducted by Alan Cartwright, the minister; it was quite different from the morning service, but just as meaningful with a message based on the importance of remembering and with the wreath being laid at the memorial after the service by Alan’s son in his RAF uniform. We read from Ecclesiasticus ‘Let us now praise famous men’ – which to me is always part of a remembrance service.

After the service we drove home and walked the dogs as it was just beginning to get dark. As we arrived home, Scott and Sue arrived with Sue’s parents and we all shared in afternoon tea in the farm house.

Later, after our visitors had left, we dined on home-made fishcakes and fried potatoes and beans, followed by ice cream and banana; and later still, in the granary, in front of the roaring stove, Rachel and I, with Cathy and Mum, watched the final part of Downton Abbey and the news before walking the dogs and retiring to bed. It had been a very special day.

[ view entry ] ( 4509 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 9th. November, 2013 – I start to unpack 

Rachel and Cathy in the Granary kitchen -- next time I'll use flash!

Rose, walked Mix and breakfasted with Olive, Mum and Cathy in the farm house. Digger had set off for Kirkcaldy and Rachel was walking Rowan. Then I made my way to the study and started to unpack. By the end of the day the study was in total chaos but I had unpacked three boxes and the unpacking has begun. Rachel, Mum and Cathy went off to Duns, did some shopping and had a coffee at Pearsons. I took delivery of two tons of logs and filled the log bin for the winter before returning to the unpacking.

In the mid afternoon I walked Mix and then showered and changed for an early tea before driving Mum, Cathy and Olive into Berwick where we attended the Maltings to see the amateur operatic presentation of the Vicar of Dibley. We arrived early, parked outside the theatre and then had a drink in the bar before the performance began. It is a lovely building and a warm and atmospheric auditorium – the theatre has been going since 1990 but the auditorium has an older feel to it. I liked it. And I enjoyed the show as well – the play won through although I always feel that it is a bit of a shame when the intention of the cast is to imitate the performances of the television cast, to be impersonators rather than actors, but there is no doubt that that is what the audience both expected and wanted and it was a very happy evening. We were in the second front row, having only decided to get tickets at the last moment, near enough to hear the occasional prompt, but also near enough to appreciate how good some of the performances were – and I did enjoy the musical items.

We drove home and had tea and coffee in the granary before walking the dogs and going to bed. Retirement just continues to roll on – I booked tickets on line for next Friday before going to bed: a professional performance in the studio theatre at the Maltings, Royal Flush. More about that next week!

[ view entry ] ( 2699 views )   |  permalink
Friday 8th. November, 2013 -- A Trip to Berwick and Dinner with Tom and Dorothy 

Berwick from the City Walls

I had intended to work on unpacking today but Rachel and Cathy decided that they would like to go to Berwick and Mum and I decided to go along as well – isn’t it good being retired? Mum and I explored a book shop (Mum had presents to buy) and then we met up with Cathy and Rachel who had been exploring charity shops for bargains. We lunched at the Maltings (I had Cullen Skink – and much of Mum’s salad) and Rachel bought tickets for a streaming from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre of Richard II on next Wednesday evening. (We got a discount because we are retired!) We visited the Town House – a gift shop and a cafe which Mum remembers from trips here with Gran in times gone by – and then we walked along the city walls getting a superb view of the Tweed and of Tweedmouth beyond.

Outside the Maltings

Now why did they drag me up here?

We drove back to Mount Pleasant and I walked Mix while Rachel delved into one of the barns. I am going to leave opening boxes until tomorrow, there really is no rush at all!

In the evening Rachel and I were taken out to dinner by Tom and Dorothy. It was a wonderful evening! We dined in a little restaurant in the middle of Duns. My starter was cauliflower fritters in a mayonnaise dip. I went on to a leek crumble with vegetables and followed it up with a raspberry crème caramel. Wonderful food and superb company. After the meal we went back to Tom and Dorothy’s home. It is looking great and they have done a lot with it. It is one of the homes that quite by chance, Olive and my Mum looked at when they were house hunting; of course, Tom and Dorothy had it off the market long before we were at the stage of making a purchase. But they have really made it their own – a cross between a family home and a depository for guitars! Tom and Dorothy gave me a wonderful painting of a steam locomotive – the Sir Nigel Gresley – they know what I like. How kind of them to want to mark my retirement! They are very special friends -- we are lucky to have so many of them.

We drove home in time to catch Newsnight, walk the dogs and collapse into bed. I am definitely getting to like this retirement thing!

[ view entry ] ( 2805 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 7th. November, 2013 – A Visit to Holy Island 

St. Aiden smiles kindly at Mum

Awoke, showered, walked the dog and breakfasted before loading Mum, Cathy, Rachel, Mix and Rowan into the car and driving to Holy Island. We arrived there just before eleven and discovered that we had almost a four-hour window to cross the causeway and enjoy the island. In fact we didn’t use all of that time partly because the island was incredibly windy (Mum was left clinging to a lamppost) and partly because most things were closed because the season had obviously ended at the 31st. October. However we walked into the village and saw the Church of St. Mary which is next to the remains of the old Saxon Church and the remains of the Priory which is now looked after by English Heritage.

Inside the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin

The parish church stands on the site of the wooden church built by St. Aiden in 635 AD and it was this church which during the Anglo-Saxon period was replaced by a small stone church. It was the Benedictine monks of Durham who established this as the parish church in the twelfth century. Since the Reformation the church has been an Anglican one. Outside the priory is a statue of St. Aiden – I had initially confused it with St. Cuthbert because of his association with this place. In fact, inside the church there is a sculpture in elm called ‘The Journey’ which shows six monks taking St. Cuthbert’s body from the island on a journey across the north during the time of the Viking raids.

The leaflet in the church says that the famous saints associated with the island are Aiden, an Irish monk and remarkable missionary from Iona who founded the monastery and a school on Lindisfarne; and Cuthbert, a solitary leader and healer who struggled with the conflict between demands of the world and his calling – but there is also a bust of King Olaf of Norway who sent a letter apologising for the Viking raids which terrorised so much of this part of Britain.

A view of the Castle from the Priory ruins

We also saw a facsimile of the Londisfarne Gospels and admired the Reredos with pictures of Columba, Oswald, Aidan, Wilfrid, Cuthbert and Bede. Outside the little church the wind was blowing and we all helped each other back to the car, noticing on the way the sign outside the National Trust Shop telling us that the castle was closed. We drove as near as we could so that we could get a look at the castle and then set off for Bamburgh again aiming for the castle.

Inside the Barn at Beal -- well worth a visit

On the way we stopped at the Barn at Beal, a rather splendid restaurant for walkers and holiday makers. We were served an excellent meal (I had scampi and chips) and then we continued on our way to Bamburgh Castle. This castle too was closed – off season it is only open at the weekends – but we were able to walk around it and get a good look at it from the outside. It is so familiar not least from all of the many films in which it has appeared. (We passed the Lord Crewe Arms where Rachel and I stayed during our honeymoon.) From here we drove to Seahouses, seven miles south of Bamburgh. Mum had stayed here for a week with Dad when they were at Galashiels and came to visit their Boy’s Brigade camp.

A view of the Farne Islands from Bamburgh Castle

Having toured Seahouses – it seemed larger and more prosperous than I remembered – we drove back to Mount Pleasant. It is really good having so many places so near to where we now live.

Olive had returned from her teaching at Dundee and we all dined together in the evening. Then, Cathy and Mum came over to the Granary and we watched ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ and an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ (one of my father’s favourites) while we had tea, coffee, snowballs and wagon wheels for supper. It had been a really good day.

[ view entry ] ( 3245 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 6th. November, 2013 – We travel to Coldstream 

Mum emerging from the library

Awoke and walked mix before breakfasting on bacon and egg made by Cathy in the Farmhouse. Dealt with some emails and got my blog up to date as well as preparing the music files for Arrochar’s Remembrance Service this Sunday before taking Mum into Duns to attend the reading group at the local library. Collected her an hour and a half later and noticed that outside the library there is a point to enable electric cars to be charged while their owners visit the library – that’s pretty good!

An electric car charging point outside the library

Tea at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Room

Back home we decided to go for a short outing to Coldstream which is about nine miles south of here on the banks of the river Tweed and therefore right on the boundary between England and Scotland. Cathy, Rachel, Mum and I went into a little cafe themed on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and enjoyed cream of onion soup and a sandwich (in my case cheese and pickle). We visited an Army surplus shop on the main street. In addition to selling ex-army equipment and clothes it had a splendid little museum of the second world war. We wandered around it and even sat inside an Anderson Shelter. Cathy bought a breathable and waterproof army fleece so that she is set up for the winter!

The Army Surplus Store in Coldstream

We explored the streets of Coldstream and, as the light began to fade, we returned to the car and made our way back to Mount Pleasant. I walked Mix and gave him his tea and played with some of the photographs I had taken while we were out (you can do that when you are retired)!

The Square at Coldstream

Digger had prepared an excellent dinner – pork, potato and leek ‘briquettes’ and ‘black cabbage’, followed by banana splits.

Afterwards we sat in front of the tv and watched David Suchet as Poirot in his penultimate performance in the role. Managed to stay awake for the news and Newsnight which tonight were dominated by job cuts on the Clyde and at Portsmouth, with the suggestion that the Clyde can continue to build British warships but only if it remains within the United Kingdom.

[ view entry ] ( 2959 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 5th. November, 2013 -- Fireworks 

Fireworks at Mount Pleasant -- just like when I was small

Up and walked the dog and then enjoyed breakfast with Mum and Cathy in the farmhouse. Started sorting out my finances and then drove Mum into Duns to have her hair done, returning to collect her an hour later.

Worked on my papers, getting everything in order for my retirement during the afternoon, and then, after walking Mix, we all dined together in the farm kitchen: sausages, potatoes and carrots.

In the evening Digger set off some fireworks:

Digger silhouetted against the fireworks

It really was just as I remembered it from childhood days. Afterwards we watched the concluding part of a Lewis which we had started to watch yesterday and I haven't a clue what happened as I promptly fell asleep -- I think it was coming from the cold of firework-watching to the lovely warmth of the granary lounge!

[ view entry ] ( 2623 views )   |  permalink
Monday 4th. November, 2013 -- Tom takes me in hand 

Enjoying the farm house

Up and walked Mix and then breakfasted. Tom arrived and we took the big TV off the wall in order to fit extra connections behind the screen. Got the TV connected to the internet and discovered that I can now access the internet on the TV – including the BBC and ITV i-players. I spent some time on the internet: we were given a very generous cheque by our congregations when we left Arrochar and Luss. We’ve thought to spend the money on a summer house – so I wanted to see what was available and also what planning permissions were required. I discovered that as long as our summer house fulfils certain conditions about its size, position and use, no permission is required.

Tom arrived and we went off to Pearson’s to see what they had on offer in terms of summer houses. We also enjoyed coffee and chocolate at their restaurant. Then it was into Duns itself to post letters. From there we went on to Tom’s home to see his zoo – four goats, many hens – some hand-reared – 10,000 bees, two cats and one dog. Dorothy (who had been busy making coats for the goats) came back with us to Mount Pleasant to see Mum and Cathy.

Mix enjoys the farmhouse too!

Did some more research and then we dined in the farm kitchen on mince, carrots and potatoes followed by birthday cake and ice cream. In the evening we all watched a BBC2 programme in which a group of folk from P & O were moulded into a choir and then the news and Newsnight before bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2697 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 3rd. November, 2013 -- I love our country Sundays 

Digger blowing out his candles -- caught by Scott on his mobile phone

Up and walked Mix on the Swinton Road, had breakfast in the farmhouse and then Mum, Cathy, Rachel and I went off to Church at Gavinton – the minister spoke about Saints, appropriately given that this is the season of ‘all saints’. After the service we had coffee in the hall before making our way home to get the Granary ready to provide drinks for everyone at noon to start the celebrations for Digger’s birthday. At noon, everyone arrived – Digger and Olive, Mum and Cathy, Peter and Veronica, Scott and Sue. Rachel had prepared an aperitivo and some nibbles.

Then we all moved to the farm house for a buffet meal: curry, sweet and sour, cheese and a large chocolate birthday cake.

Later in the afternoon Rachel and I went into Duns to walk the dogs around by Duns Castle. We got some cash from the machine to make our food contribution (it’s just like the TV series ‘Bread’ – we even have a china hen under which the cash is kept). We bought Digger’s present (a voucher from the Garden Centre to go with the books about vegetable growing given by Mix and Rowan).

While we were all sitting round the fire in the farm house, Alan Cartwright, the minister from Swinton (and also Fogo) arrived to visit. It was really kind of him and I enjoyed meeting him. It seems that we are in Fogo parish. Next Sunday there is a service at Fogo Church at 3.30 in the afternoon (it is Remembrance Sunday) and I will try to attend.

Later we enjoyed a snack meal before moving back to the Granary with Cathy and Mum to watch Downton Abbey. And then, after walking Mix, and everyone had gone to bed, I watched ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ – and enjoyed the throwback to my younger years! Realised that today is the first day that I have felt retired – I suppose that it is because I have completed my duties at Luss and also because I will now be at home in the Borders for more than just two or three days. It is going to be good! Even although it was late when I went to bed I read for quite a while, starting ‘Five Dead Canaries’ by Edward Marston. I think that I have read just about everything he has written, it is light but it is also fun and catches the mood of the period – in this case the first world war – excellently.

[ view entry ] ( 2840 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 2nd. November, 2013 -- My Final Wedding in Luss Church 

Lindsay and David

Up and set the fire in the manse, checked the heating in the Church, walked Mix around the paths of the glebe which are not flooded and then got ready for the wedding. Just before it started my bridegroom from last Saturday arrived. What a panic! It seems that last Saturday after the wedding the best man had lost the marriage certificate. It was later found by Cathy on the road, but not before it had been soaked by the rain and run over by several cars. The registrar was not best pleased but had issued a second certificate for the bridegroom to get everyone to re-sign and then return to her. I suppose that it could have been worse!

David and Lindsay’s wedding was special – a bit damp, but special – and I was glad that it was so because this was my last ministerial function. By 1 p.m. – the wedding was at noon – I was retired! I caught a brief word with Morag and Bill (it was so good to see then both and then Cathy, Rachel and I, along with the dogs, set off for Luss, arriving soon after 5 p.m. We met up with Olive and Digger’s friends, Peter and Veronica, and we all shared in a lovely meal in the farm kitchen. Later in the evening Mum and Cathy joined us in the Granary where we enjoyed just relaxing in front of the stove in the drawing room. I walked Mix before bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2688 views )   |  permalink
Friday 1st. November, 2013 -- A Day in transit 

Shipboard Chores

Got up about nine and after breakfast we started getting the boat in order. I took the toilet cassette off and emptied and cleaned it so that all was fresh for next time. The engine was run for two hours to ensure that the battery is full for when we return. The water and power was turned off – the taps left open to ensure that if things froze nothing would break. The stove was cleaned out and reset – I went off and bought two more sacks of coal briquettes so that there is plenty in hand for when we come to the boat next.

We set off for Luss about 12.30 and arrived around 5 p.m. It was an uneventful drive, the only hold up being at the Erskine Bridge.

At 6 p.m. we conducted the wedding rehearsal for David and Lindsay’s wedding tomorrow at noon – this will be my final ministerial act (although I will conduct a couple of weddings next year as a friend – but not in Luss Church). After the rehearsal we shared a Chinese take-away and Rachel got on with all of the music preparation which took her most of the evening. I watched an episode of Frost which I hadn’t seen before. We walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2581 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 31st. October, 2013 -- Hallowe'en 

Ilkley Moor

Slept in again before walking Mix and counting 97 boats in the marina today. Went about the ship-board chores. I emptied the toilet cassette, while the engine was charging the batteries.

We drove to Ilkley where we walked the dogs on the moor – around a pond which Rachel remembers from childhood. I ’phoned Mum because she spent her honeymoon here.

The pool at Ilkley

The town of Ilkley

On the way back to the boat we stopped at The Bull for a meal: cauliflower fritters followed by fish and chips.

Back on board, the weather turned nasty – it rained and rained so we settled down with our books. I read ‘The Treasure Hunt’ by Andrea Camilleri, and beautifully translated by Stephen Sartarelli. It is one of Camilleri’s best Montalbano books and I would recommend it to anyone. Walked the dogs and got to bed around half-past ten.

[ view entry ] ( 2469 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 30th. October, 2013 -- Getting used to canal life 

Looking down on Skipton

Really slept in! It was eleven before I got up and, after breakfast, we took the dogs to Skipton where we climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the town. It was mid afternoon before we got down to the car and drove into the town. We found a shop with all walking boots and shoes half-price, with today an extra 20% off. We each bought a couple of pairs and felt that we were really getting bargain. The market was in full swing in Skipton. I bought some licorice but one could have bought almost anything.

Climbing a style

We got back to the boat just before it got dark, for afternoon tea – well, in my case, for Pineapple juice and Eccles cake. Great!

We dined on board and then watched ‘Now you see me’ – a strange thriller based on a group of illusionists. Quite fun. Walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2612 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 29th. October, 2013 – In Barnoldswick 

Emerging from The Young Rachel

Got up and walked the dogs to Greenberfield and back – a walk of about an hour and a half including an exploration of where the locks had originally been and chatting with a Mr. Logan on the tow path about the virtues of different sorts of dogs.

Breakfast on Board

Back at the boat we breakfasted while the engine charged the batteries. I went along to see Wayne and to pay our mooring fees for another year – remarkably these have remained constant over the three years we have been here, must be one of the best buys around.

Rachel and I, with the dogs, went off to Skipton where we found a public bridle path which we explored and from which we got a glorious view of the town.


Back in Skipton I bought Rachel’s birthday present – a pendant and ear-rings of amber – and we did some shopping before returning to the boat where we settled down with a drink and listened to the news (all about the prices of gas and electricity and discussions between the companies and a parliamentary select committee).

It was dark here by 5 p.m. and it is still only October. Admittedly it is an overcast afternoon but if it is dark at 5 p.m. in October, what will it be like by the end of December?

After dining on board, we watched a DVD bought in the afternoon – all snug with the stove burning brightly and the dogs settled down comfortably. The DVD was called Argo and told the tale of how some of the Americans from the Embassy in Iran were smuggled out of the country back in the siege of 1979/80. I remember the events well because one of the consular staff from Genoa – Bob Ode – was caught up as a hostage and was held prisoner for 444 days. I remember seeing him walk down the steps of a plane when they all arrived back in the USA.

Walked Mix and counted 43 narrow boats with people – or at least lights – on board. For a Tuesday in October that seems like a very large number. Tomorrow I will count all the boats.

[ view entry ] ( 2708 views )   |  permalink
Monday 28th. October, 2013 -- We set off south 

From the Other Side of the Canal

Woke early and turned the bedroom tv on at once to see how the projected storm had developed. Confirmed gusts of 99 miles an hour in the south and five deaths (two from falling trees, two from a gas explosion caused by a falling tree and one swept out to sea); massive travel disruption and, as the day developed, 600,000 homes without power.

Olive had been driven to Berwick to catch a train to Dundee but, as it was cancelled, Digger had to drive all the way to Dundee. We footled around and I had coffee with Mum before, at 12.15, we set off for Barnoldswick and Rachel’s narrow boat, arriving at 3.40 – I was surprised that it was still such a long journey from the Borders. However, I discovered that Chester-le-Street is just 90 minutes from our house, so that bodes well for the summer.

Found the boat well, lit the stove, turned on the engine to charge the batteries, walked the dogs and settled down for an evening in the boat. We dined and then watched the latest ‘Three Musketeers’ on DVD. Based loosely on the Dumas story but with flying galleons suspended from balloons it was a great romp.

Walked the dogs and retired to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2500 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 27th. October, 2013 -- Another great Sunday. 

Rachel, the mechanic, at work on my car

Got up refreshed after that extra hour in bed. Rachel awoke with a start not realising that the clock had gone back and convinced that she was late. On discovering that she wasn’t, she went back to sleep.

I walked the dog, breakfasted and then we all (Mum, Rachel and I) drove to church at Gavinton where we met up with Tom and Dorothy and enjoyed morning service which centred on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. (I remember preaching on the story at an induction in Riverside Church years ago). This was a parable that my Dad really didn’t like (largely because he didn't think that it was fair) and I remember arguing with him and trying to make the point that the one basic rule about parables is that they are stories designed to make one point and one point only. (of course he knew that -- but he still thought it was unfair!) It can be fun to read into parables but that’s not really why they were told. Having said that, I really enjoyed Ann's sermon and the way that it brought out what Jesus was saying in this extended passage of teaching about prayer, in fact I loved the whole service. I am constantly amazed at the depth of Luke's perception about what really matters and about what he wants his readers to understand about the Christian pilgrimage. It seems so simple; it is so deep.

Back home, Rachel fitted the dog guard and then we set off for Spittal which is the beach and village just beside Berwick. We walked the dogs along the beach and were quite surprised at how sheltered it was – the winds are strong today (in preparation, perhaps for the storms forecast for tomorrow). We went on to the shopping area where I collected my sound bar from Curry’s and bought a lawnmower from Home Base, not least because they were having a 15% off weekend. How domesticated I am becoming – and I am quite looking forward to cutting the grass when the weather improves.

The light house from the play park at Spittal

Back home I set up the sound bar and then we ate with Olive, Digger and Mum in the farmhouse and returned to the Granary so that I could deal with some emails and prepare the wedding for next Saturday and the music for Arrochar for next Sunday. That done, we watched Downton Abbey and the news which was dominated by fears about the heavy weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning, walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 3176 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 26th. October, 2013 -- Rachel’s Birthday and We’re Working! 

Autumn in Luss

I slept in until nine and then walked Mix, lit the fire and packed Rachel’s car. Then we planted the four signs (little plaques, really) we are leaving behind – the first to the dogs buried in the garden: Kim, Radar, Fang, Juno, Skye and Holly; then, by their trees in the glebe to Rachel’s Mum and Dad, to my Dad, and to Anne. Luss has been a happy place for us both but there have been real sadnesses as well. I suppose that Luss and Arrochar and their people have carried us through them and that life is about good and about sad times as well. Planting these little plaques brought home to me that we are moving on and also that we are leaving something of ourselves as well.

Our loving and much loved friends

I showered and got changed for the wedding, relieved that the weather is fair although there are warnings about mighty storms to come – the worst to hit England, but our new home is only nine miles from the border: can we trust the wind to know where the border is?

Remembrance Trees on the Glebe

The wedding was another really special occasion and with all the rain around, the couple were extremely lucky to get in and out in the dry before setting off for their reception at the Lodge on Loch Lomond. Today the photographer was Henry who lives in the same road in Cumbernauld in which Rachel and I lived when I was a probationer assistant at the start of my career so many years ago.

Gemma and John

Rachel and I set off for Duns as quickly as we could. It is Rachel’s birthday and we wanted to have time to celebrate it at home. It was an interesting journey: road works on the M8 held us back but the radio was good. Enjoyed an episode of The Bottom Line hosted by Evan Davis with John Timpson of the Timpson Shoe and Key business as a guest. There are 800 branches (and another 300 which deal with photocopying etc). John Timpson runs it as an upside down business. Decisions are made at branch level and it is all about providing service for the customer. There is flexibility in pricing and discounts and anything that goes wrong is encouraged to be sorted out at branch level. The area managers are there primarily to ensure that the right staff is appointed and then to support them. The central headquarters (John Timpson wouldn’t care for the title I expect) is there to support the rest of the organisation. Imagination is used in the appointment of staff and opportunities are given to ex-offenders. John Timpson was challenged about giving ex-cons the job of cutting folks’ keys! But he explained that their records showed that if you gave someone a chance and trusted them that people responded to that and that the record of things going wrong was no better or worse than with folk appointed from other backgrounds. He went on to say that he thought that much of the present compulsion to have systems and rules to safeguard against the one or two bad apples prevented so many good things from happening and that this was something which society as a whole had to learn.

I found the programme entrancing. Of course I was transferring in my mind the situation to the Church. If we truly turned it upside down and left the decision-making to the parishes and saw the centre as purely a small support organisation and presbyteries as only there to provide support and enable congregations to do what they wanted to do, what a different church we would have. I’ll be turning this over in my mind for some time to come.

Back home we found that Scott and Sue (my brother and sister-in-law) waiting with Mum, Digger and Olive for a birthday meal. We enjoyed a drink, toasted Rachel in Champaign and ate well before retiring to the Granary, walking the dog and going to bed. We will get an extra hour in bed tonight. Wonderful!

(Got a phone call from Cathy to say that after the wedding she had found the marriage document on the road, soaked and run over by passing cars but, thankfully, still legible. I always make quite a thing of handing over the document to the best man -- I guess that there will be some explaining to be done to the registrar on Monday, but our registrars are kind folk and I am sure that it will be all right!)

[ view entry ] ( 3062 views )   |  permalink
Friday 25th. October, 2013 -- Mexico comes to Luss 

Felipe and Rachel

Up and walked the dog around the river path – it is very wet. Lit the fire in the manse and met with Mike to show him how to work the print machine and tell him what I used to do for Remembrance Sunday – because he asked, I hasten to record, I am delighted that now I am no longer there that they do their own thing. Chris and Cathy had got the church looking beautiful and it was warm as well.

After a shower and changing into my wedding uniform I conducted the wedding ceremony – the rain eased and then stopped as the bride arrived and it remained fair for photographs afterwards. (Graham was the photographer – it is always good to see him, and his photos are always worth seeing as well.) It was a really lovely wedding, one of my favourite weddings, I think; although to be honest I love them all – but there was something special about the small numbers and the fact that the couple have waited and waited for their wedding. (A very excited couple of Chinese girls on holiday were delighted to photograph the bride as she arrived.) After the wedding everyone set off for the Duck Bay Marina for the reception.

After the wedding Rachel and I drove down to the Alexandria library so that Rachel could return all of her books; then we continued on to Dumbarton to buy a dog guard for my car, a tom-tom from Mix and Rowan for Rachel for her birthday tomorrow, and a £10 dinner for two from Marks and Spencer for tonight.

Back to Luss in time to walk Mix around the river path before conducting the wedding rehearsal for John and Gemma whose wedding will take place tomorrow. It is going to be a big wedding – another lovely couple. I’m looking forward to it already! Went back to the manse and reflected on both the privilege of sharing in folk’s weddings and on the opportunity which each wedding presents. Discussion so often tends to centre on the financial importance of weddings for the local economy or the stress and stain it places on the church but it is really about the opportunity of placing our faith right at the heart of one of the most special moments of peoples’ lives. It is quite simply what we are here for.

I watched the News and Newsnight (it is good that matters at Grangemouth are resolving)and then got caught up in a programme about magical illusions – so I went to bed late.

[ view entry ] ( 2781 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 24th. October, 2013 – Back in Harness Once More 

The Borders are so very beautiful

Rose and walked Mix down the Swinton Road and along Bramble Avenue, returning by the Kelso Road. Breakfasted on fried potatoes and freshly laid egg with Mum and Digger. Olive is still not home as Dundee University has prevailed upon her to teach an additional course to their law students.

Back in the Granary I dealt with some emails and started to organise my computer now that I am again on-line. In fact I discovered that much of my new internet connection is still not functioning properly (emails etc.). I telephoned BT and they told me that it would be another two days before everything was functioning as it should. Ah well!

I drove Mum to Gavinton Church so that she could attend the monthly congregational lunch before the Guild meeting. I would like to have stayed myself but we had to set off for Luss. Mum is now thoroughly into the Guild, attending the meetings at both Gavinton and Duns and enjoying them both very much. I do not think that it will be very long before her diary is as busy down here as it was in Kirkcaldy.

Rachel and I set off for Luss. It was a good drive with both dogs behaving well. Cathy was waiting to greet us when we arrived and soon we had a fire roaring in the grate – the central heating is still not functioning. I conducted the rehearsal for the wedding of Felipe and Rachel which will be held tomorrow. Felipe is from Mexico and tomorrow’s celebration has been delayed from earlier in the year because of visa difficulties. I am so pleased to be part of this wedding.

While I completed the rehearsal, Rachel went off to collect a Chinese take-away which we enjoyed while watching an old Poirot which we had seen before but the pictures are superb, and later I watched the News: I was delighted to see that there was just a glimmer of hope for Grangemouth before we walked the dogs and went to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2659 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 23rd. October, 2013 -- The Granary Goes On-line 

Wonderful apples growing wild in Bramble Avenue

It dawned fair – a nice surprise after all of the rain of previous days. I had given today up to the installation of our telephone as I had no idea how long it would all take. In fact after I had walked Mix and joined Mum and Digger for breakfast I had time to start on the spare bedroom, moving furniture around and, just when I had things in the greatest guddle imaginable, the telephone engineers arrived. It is always thus!

There was an immediate question: the lines to the farmhouse cross the road from a pole to the farmhouse, but was the line high enough? If not there was a problem. This became a little strange when I discovered that the join for the telephone connection came from a box beside one of our barns. From there the cable went underground to the other side of the road, went up a pole and came back over the road to our house. Would it not be easier to take the connection from the box by the side of the barn and lead it into our house? This was not possible. However the cherry-picker was able to ensure that the height across the road was adequate (5.9 metres) and once a hole had been drilled through our wall (it is more than a metre thick) we had not only a working telephone but an internet connection as well. Immediately emails regarding weddings started flooding into my system – I forwarded them on to Luss!

As the telephone engineers left, my friends Robin and Helen arrived. Robin was my Episcopalian colleague when I was at Bishopbriggs. Now they are based at Dumfries but were staying near here on holiday. It was really, really good to see them both and to hear of all that is going on in their church community. We had afternoon tea with giant cakes from the local baker in Duns.

Later, I walked the dog and had a first tidy of the bedroom before we dined and then settled down to watch the new Poirot on TV, followed by the sad news about the Grangemouth petrochemical plant and its imminent closure (unless something can be done at the last moment to save it). Finally, in the moonlight, Mix and I walked around the policies before going to bed and spending some time reading before sleep.

[ view entry ] ( 2802 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 22nd. October, 2013 -- Today I really did make a start 

Everywhere something is growing – these are berries in the hedges by the sides of the fields

Up and walked Mix – it is a rotten day and I was woken by the smoke alarm going off. It was a false alarm caused by the battery having expired. After breakfast I took Mum into Duns to get her hair done. I went off to the Golf Club to collect my membership badge. I learned that there is a driving range very close to Duns and that there is a golf professional who gives lessons – maybe that’s where I’ll start.

While Mum was getting her hair done I went and bought some bits and pieces at the Co-op where I was served by a very friendly and chatty lady – it makes a difference and I will be back. On arriving back at the Granary (with a new battery for the smoke alarm) I saw a team of BT engineers working in the road outside Mount Pleasant. I spoke to them and it seems that everything is ‘on’ for our telephone services tomorrow. I hope so!

We lunched in the Granary on bread and smoked ham and salami with grapes. I cleaned and tidied my bathroom as a precursor to starting on unpacking boxes but then Rachel wanted to go into Duns so I went with her and on my return I took Mix for a walk to Crunklaw and found a really quiet road which goes either to Gavinton or to Fogo – the Fogo trip, a very nice lady who looks after horses at the farm told me, is five miles. Sounds like a good walk for a fairer day.

Back home I really did start on my room but no sooner had I made that start than it was time to eat and afterwards I continued for a while before watching an episode of Doc Martin before catching the end of Newsnight, walking Mix and retiring to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2629 views )   |  permalink
Monday 21st. October, 2013 -- Getting Sorted Out – well just starting really 

Autumn is drawing in

Up a bit later, around 8.30 a.m. and walked Mix along the Swinton Road before breakfast with Mum and Digger. Spent the morning getting my blog up to date and dealing with lots of emails. Even here, having been away for a few days, the email programme was absolutely jammed full. I can only access them through my mother’s internet connection so I don’t like to disturb her too often. However, we are due to get our own telephone line and internet connection on Wednesday so it won’t be too long before we join the real world once more.

The seat given to us by Luss Guild

Rachel now has the Guild seat given to us by the Luss Guild on our retirement sitting outside the door of the Granary in the courtyard. We haven’t really had the weather to enjoy it yet – but it is very much admired and we never pass it without thinking of all of our friends. Sitting next to the seat is a bird bath. It was the only thing my father wanted to take from the garden of his home in Buckhaven when they left. It came to Luss and now it is here with us in the borders. I am sure that it won’t stay here: Mum would like to have it where she can see it from her morning-room window; so once the weather improves we’ll move it there.

Had some toad-in-the-hole with Digger at lunch time and then, in the afternoon, Rachel, Mum and I set off for Berwick. Mum wanted to make some purchases from W H Smith (diary for 2014), Rachel wanted to buy some bits and pieces from Tesco (brush and dust pan and other odds and ends) and I wanted to pop into Curry’s – when I bought our television a couple of weeks ago I was given a voucher for £200 provided I used it within thirty days. As we are unlikely to be here much during the latter part of this month I thought I had better spend it before it expired. I bought a sound bar for the television and a blue ray DVD player. I also bought three films: Les Miserables, the latest James Bond and the film about Abraham Lincoln. In the evening we watched Les Miserables on the new television and blue ray player. It was absolutely out of this world. When I think of the tiny black and white television on which we watched the coronation all those years ago, how the television experience has changed!

In between we dined with Mum and Digger – Scotch Broth and fish-pie, very yummy. Later we walked the dogs – no moon tonight (too many clouds) so it was very dark and I read some more of The Unusual Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in bed. I am going to get to love this new way of life.

[ view entry ] ( 2892 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 20th. October, 2013 Sundays are Good 

Abbey St. Bathans from the bridge over the Whiteadder

Got up and walked Mix – the roads are totally deserted and we could be on the moon. I just love the isolation here. The fields have already changed since last week as crops are starting to grow even although we are well into the Autumn. Breakfasted in the farmhouse and then went off to Gavinton Church with Mum and Rachel.

Counting the organist and the minister, there were just twenty of us, but numbers don’t matter and it was a lovely service on the theme of the ‘unjust judge’; Ann, the minister, using her past experience as an advocate to revel in the story which is all about the contrast between human authority and God. It is good to be reminded both of God’s unceasing care and of the importance of prayer. Back home, in these now endless days, we loaded Mix and Rowan into Rachel’s car and drove to Coldingham where we walked the dogs along the beach, returning through Reston where we saw that the house which Mum used to own has been all done up and is now for sale.

Inside the Church at Abbey St. Bathans

Collecting Mum, we set off for the tiny village of Abbey St. Bathans (in the parish of Gavinton) where we attended the reopening of the little village Church. It wasn’t really what we had expected – there were no pews but it was a lovely building. It seems that a few years ago the Church felt that it could no longer afford the upkeep of the building and so it was sold to a local couple who, with help from the community, have turned the building into something quite special which will be used for community events and, from time to time, as a church. The building was full and there was a lot of enthusiasm – so things look bright for both the community and for the wider church parish.

Back home – it was still only half-past four – Scott arrived and we all sat and chatted in the farmhouse before dinner at seven, after which we retired to the Granary and watched Downton Abbey and the news before walking the dogs in the moonlight before bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2687 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 19th. October, 2013 -- Wet, Wet – and a Wedding 

The Luss Water imitating the Mississippi

Up and walked the dog around the glebe. It is very, very wet and the river is running fast. Already many of the paths are flooded and it is a thoroughly nasty day. Back at the manse I popped over to the church to sort the heating, lit a coal fire in the manse (where there is no other heating) and I checked that every room was still clean and tidy. I got the apple tree (given to us by the Luss Sunday School) ready to put in the car and chatted with Alison and Elspeth as they stapled the orders of service. Cathy got the church ready for the wedding, florists arrived to do their thing, Rachel practised the music and then we loaded her car so that we could set off as soon as the 2 p.m. wedding was concluded.

Emma and Clive

It was bad luck to get such awful weather for their wedding but Emma and Clive were having a day to remember with a lovely service at Luss Church followed by a reception at the Loch Lomond Golf Club. After the service the weather eased a bit to enable photos to be taken; we got into Rachel’s Berlingo and made excellent time back to Mount Pleasant, arriving just after six, joining Mum, Digger and Olive for a splendid meal and then retiring to our new home and luxuriating in the fact that we were here – and how cosy it is. Stayed up quite late just footling about: it is good to be home.

[ view entry ] ( 2666 views )   |  permalink
Friday 18th. October, 2013 -- We Get Quite a Lot Done 

Apples on the Glebe

I walked Mix around the glebe and snapped these apples growing in the little orchard. Then I continued with the manse clean-up. It is now all done and looking clean, ship-shape and quite attractive. Rachel photographed every room, they all looked so good. I met with Mike to run over some of the questions which had inevitably arisen since I had left. How can the heating system in the church be set? How does the central heating in the centre operate? How do you change ink in the Riso machine? We worked through the list and at least one person now knows as much as I do.

In the afternoon Cathy ‘dog sat’ while Rachel and I went off to the library (Rachel to return books), the Outlets (Rachel to buy shoes), Antartex (both of us buy ‘bargain – sale’ clothes, Lomond Shores (Rachel to buy dog-walking shoes) and then it was back to Luss where I walked Mix around the glebe before tonight’s wedding rehearsal for the wedding of Emma and Clive.

After the rehearsal Cathy came back to look after the dogs and to allow Rachel and I to go down to Alexandria for an evening meal with Jessie and May. It was a wonderful meal with all of my favourites – smoked salmon followed by roast beef and then raspberry pavlova with a very pleasant Chianti, and coffee to end. It was a gloriously relaxed evening – one of the most enjoyable of my retirement.

I’ve been reflecting on time. Until I retired every day, every week, every month just rushed by. No sooner did I get up then it was lunchtime and after a few moments or so it seemed it was the evening. I never had enough time and there was so much to be squeezed into each day. Now, just three weeks into retirement, time has slowed right down. I seem to have so much time. Days go on and on. There is time to think. Time to read. Time to plan. Time to walk the dog and time just to be. I want to savour this stage – for fear that it will not last.

I sat and read ‘The Unusual Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ for an hour before bed – it was already late, but so what? I have time and energy to do these things now.

[ view entry ] ( 2749 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 17th. October, 2013 --- Cleaning, a Wedding and a Shopping Trip 

A Happy Wedding Couple

I walked Mix along the river path – it was wet and everything was very quiet. Then I started in earnest on the manse, cleaning the top floor and working down to the middle floor. Cathy was here and it was great to see her.

Conducted the wedding of Patricia and James – that’s their picture at the head of this entry. It was a lovely wedding and afterwards the couple and their guests set off for the Duck Bay Marina for their reception. Rachel and I set off for Braehead. Rachel needed some bits and pieces to enable her to hand over copies of all of her music files and slides for use during the services and I wanted to speak to the folk at Apple about buying a computer and a printer which will see me through my retirement. I discovered that Apple was filled with school children so I will go back next week.

We had a snack, bought some books and returned to Luss to discover that the central heating in the manse had broken down. What a good job I left a full coal bunker! We were really quite warm as we watched Poirot on television and enjoyed another snack in the evening.

[ view entry ] ( 2505 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 16th. October, 2013 -- And Off We Go Again 

The Granary as we set off again

Walked Mix and showered. There was still quite a bit of fog around and the roads were quite deserted. I spent the morning getting things done for Luss and Arrochar – preparing an order of service for printing, creating the music files for Arrochar – and soon it was time to set off for Luss. Rachel drove, Rowan slept but Mix was very restless. Still it was a good journey and we arrived in good time for the rehearsal for Patricia and James’ wedding tomorrow. While I completed the rehearsal Rachel went down to Balloch to collect a Chinese meal which we enjoyed in the Manse. It was strange to be here!

[ view entry ] ( 2502 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 15th. October, 2013 -- Canterbury Tales 

Canterbury Cathedral

Up early to attend morning prayers at the cathedral at 7.30 a.m. and then went on with Kevin to St. John’s Chapel in the cathedral for the morning communion service. I enjoyed both and realised again how much I would like to have spent time in a religious community where everything is based around the daily times of worship. Back in Italy, forty years ago, I spent time in a Benedictine monastery and developed a hankering which has never quite left me.

Where morning prayers were held

We breakfasted in the cathedral dining room – this was a really splendid breakfast: bacon, egg, hash-brown, sausage, tomato, black pudding and all washed down with orange juice and black coffee.

We met in the cathedral board room and took forward our remit to work towards the creation of a European Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network. We learned of other pilgrimage places within our area who are anxious to become part of the network and we started planning towards a full chapter meeting in a about a year’s time. In the meantime there is much to do and this will include promotional work within our different areas.

The meeting broke up in mid afternoon – we had been served a sandwich lunch and then we had a look around the cathedral before Chris, Kevin and I caught a train back to London.

King’s Cross Station

I had time in hand so I walked along Tottenham Court Road and down Oxford Street before returning to the station and catching the train at 7 p.m. It was an uneventful journey and the train arrived on time a little after half past ten. Rachel met me and we drove back to Mount Pleasant through quite a bit of fog. I walked Mix, had another snack, and was glad to get to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2672 views )   |  permalink
Monday 14th. October, 2013 – Back to Berwick for another Adventure 

The Market Square in Canterbury

Up early this morning to walk Mix, have a shower and be driven to Berwick in time to catch the 9.11 train to London. This train was an ‘East Coast’ and compared to last week’s ‘Cross Country’ felt extremely old. One had to open the window and lean out to open the carriage door. It was also less well cared for. Last week, every hour or so someone came along collecting rubbish (mostly generated by the very welcome refreshment cart); this week there was no such collection and refuse gradually built up as the journey progressed. Interestingly, the food on the trolley was more expensive as well -- £5 .25p for a BLT sandwich and Fanta as compared to £4 .95p. On such differences are reputations built.

The train was twenty minutes late (point failure at Peterborough -- I feel like Reggie Perrin) but I still had plenty of time to walk from King’s Cross to St. Pancras Station which is the height of luxury and more like an airport terminal than one’s everyday station – shops, restaurants and wide boulevards.

St. Pancras Station

I recollected that many years ago my father’s first job was in an office within the wonderful frontage of St. Pancras. My father started in the property and land department of the railway company which was based here and if it hadn’t been for the war then this might have been his base for many years.

The train from St. Pancras deposited me in Canterbury in the middle of the afternoon. I navigated to the cathedral using the tower as my guide – it was only ten minutes walk through the little streets and alleys of the medieval city. The picture at the top of this entry shows the city square. This picture is of the entrance to the cathedral:

The entrance to the Cathedral

I was surprised to discover that it cost £9 .50p to enter the cathedral precincts as a visitor. As one who was expected I didn’t have to pay but it is quite a hefty charge for a family to have to pay to visit church (of course, no one has to pay if they are going in to the cathedral for a service).

I checked in and as I was a bit early I went for a wander around the town. I saw one of the city gates:

One of the city gates

I also bought fish and chips which I ate leaning over this little bridge:

In the centre of Canterbury

Back at the cathedral conference centre I met up with my colleagues – Alison from the Green Pilgrimage Network, Berit from Norway, Per from Sweden, Chris – a very distinguished environmentalist from England, and Kevin from St. Albans. We were hosted by Caroline from Canterbury.

After sorting out our accommodation we went into the cathedral to share in a service of Choral Evensong led by a choir of twenty boys and twelve men. It was a very lovely service. We were then taken for a very superb meal in the cathedral dining room, beautifully served and an excellent meal: salmon and vegetables, followed by a desert and washed down with wine and coffee.

In the evening we all went out to one of the old public houses and enjoyed a couple of beers and incidentally got much of the work done for tomorrow while we sat with our beers!

Walked back and I caught this picture of the flood-lighting on the walls of the cathedral:

The Cathedral by Night

Was soon fast asleep.

[ view entry ] ( 2961 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 13th. October, 2013 – A Rural Sunday (mostly) in Gavinton 

The view from the bathroom window in the Farmhouse caught my eye.

A lovely sunny Sunday morning and the wind which has been quite ferocious over recent days has disappeared. I walked Mix – there was hardly any traffic on the roads; showered and breakfasted before going with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church for the Harvest Festival Service which I enjoyed. Helen, the session clerk and, I believe, the presbytery clerk, spoke about practical help for those in poverty overseas and used as an example of practical help a Heath-Robinson (I don’t mean that in any derogatory way) fish farm created out of netting, bamboo poles and four empty plastic lemonade bottles. Ann, the minister, spoke about choices between eating and heating being faced in our own country. At harvest we share what we have – food and faith. It was good.

After Church we went for coffee and visited the flower festival (which was in the Church). The theme was creation – I loved this depiction of God creating human beings:

The final work of the sixth day – the creation of humanity

In the afternoon I opened my first box and started on my room. However, Tom arrived soon afterwards and set about installing our washing machine – or at least, altering the unit to allow it to fit.

Tradesmen at work

Once this was completed I set off for a walk with Mix, taking advantage of the quiet Sunday roads to walk to Fogo and back – a distance of a little over five miles. Fogo has a beautiful little church which evidently traces its history back to the eleventh century. There is a service there every third Sunday of the month. I’d love to go next week but already I feel quite committed to Gavinton.

Back home we dined early so that Mum and I could go to the Songs of Praise Service to mark the end of the flower festival. Another good service and good hymns as well. The Church was a riot of colour:

One of the colourful displays

After the service we drove back to Mount Pleasant and I got ready to go to Canterbury tomorrow. At nine we watched Downton Abbey after which I walked Mix before retiring to bed. I’m looking forward to next Sunday already.

[ view entry ] ( 2860 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 12th. October, 2013 -- Our Quiet Rural Idyll 

Working on the fields opposite the Granary

The roads are very quiet on a Saturday morning so Mix and I walked along to the neighbouring farm on the Kelso Road. We admired the farm with its stock of hay and lots of pens for sheep. We looked at the ten little cottages presumably for farm workers (with what had obviously been the three outside privies) and the two new detached houses which didn’t look as anyone had as yet moved in, and we wandered down the quiet road towards Fogo.

Back home we breakfasted and then we waited for the delivery from Curry’s which arrived on time and they delivered our new washing/drying machine and our slim-line deep freeze. The washing machine didn’t quite fit – so much for them all being the same height and we had to send for Tom who was busy building a goat house for his herd of four goats – their latest acquisition. Ah, this rural life! We really are very rural here, far more rural than anywhere I have lived before. All around us are fields which are being cultivated – most of the traffic on the roads is gigantic tractors and farm implements, the purposes of some of which I can only guess. The farm workers work hard – they are in the fields as soon as it gets light and are often still hard at it long after it has got dark. Today is Saturday but that made no difference: when I walked Mix at 5 p.m. two tractors (you can see them in the picture) were still hard at work in the field across the road from where we live. We got a friendly wave from one of the drivers and it made me feel at home.

We have got the television fitted up in the bedroom now. The aerial is directed towards Berwick so we get English television upstairs and Scottish television downstairs – that way we will get every opinion on the referendum!

After a chicken dinner (with garlic bread), we retired to the Granary where we watched the Young Montalbano before bed. It had been a lovely day.

[ view entry ] ( 2720 views )   |  permalink
Friday 11th. October, 2013 -- A Day of Getting Sorted Out 

Mount Pleasant from Bramble Avenue

Up and walked the dog before enjoying breakfast of bacon and egg in the farmhouse. (Walked down the road to Swinton and then turned off along a track between two fields – we call it Bramble Avenue because of the Bramble bushes there. Took a picture from a long way away of the farmhouse.) Tom arrived to erect our freeview digital television aerial and take a lead in through the bedroom window for the small television we are fitting up there. Tom has the tool for every occasion and I can see that if I am going to try to do things for myself here that the first requirement will be a set of tools. The task continued into the afternoon and involved a trip into Duns to purchase (from Howard’s Electrical Supplies) a metal pole on which to erect the aerial.

Later in the afternoon I walked Mix and then Rachel and I went into Duns to get forms to sign on at the local medical practice. We also went into Pearson’s and bought some fuel for the stove in the Granary. After a magnificent meal in the farmhouse (which included some of the cake given to us by Arrochar Church) we came back to a very warm Granary and watched an episode of Lewis – at least, Rachel watched the episode. I realised once it had finished that I hadn’t a clue who had done what to whom – but I had enjoyed the doze in the warmth on the sofa. And so, after a brief walk around the policies with the dog, to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2545 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 10th. October, 2013 -- Back to Berwick 

Rainbow over Mount Pleasant this morning

This morning I rose and walked Mix before settling down to do some chores for Luss and Arrochar. I prepared a draft Order of Service (because I have a file with the words of all of the hymns on it). I prepared music files of the hymns for Arrochar and started transferring files to Mike so that he can take over. This has been delayed because my email account (operated through my mother’s internet because we won’t have a telephone or internet until the 23rd. of October) has not been functioning as it should. Andy, however, has managed to get it all working again.

In the early afternoon, measurements having been taken, we returned with Mum to Berwick and visited Curry’s where Simon was awaiting us. We bought a new washing machine with a tumble dryer included. It cost rather more than we had intended to spend but we are getting the Granary ready for the rest of our lives. We bought a slim-line freezer and also a small flat television for our bedroom. There will be no further purchases for a long time to come but we should now at least begin to get sorted out. Back home I walked the dog.

I started trying to get a bit organised in the short while before dinner and then after a lovely meal with the whole family in the farm house, Rachel and I watched an old episode of Spooks on television. The News and Newsnight followed and then it was time for bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2573 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 9th. October, 2013 -- Travelling Home 

The View from my Bristol Bedroom

After breakfast David drove me through Bristol back to the railway station for my journey back to Berwick. On the way I again grabbed a few pictures from the car window.


There is lots of graffiti in Bristol which I learned is the home of Banksy, a famous and apparently unrevealed graffiti artist. This has encouraged other artists and many buildings are now painted as the one in the picture:

I loved seeing the old buildings as we drove past.

This is the site of the old market.

Soon we were at the station where, without any fuss at all, I caught my train and enjoyed the five-hour trip back to Berwick. I had the double seat to myself except for a brief period when I was joined by a lady journeying to see her daughter. She told me of all of her holidays cruising. I put her down as someone with a great deal of money until she told me that she and her husband were retired and had their names down for all kinds of last minute offers. They had recently sailed the Atlantic to New York (and flown home again) all for £400. Decided to explore those possibilities when I get my own telephone and internet connection later in the month.

Rachel was waiting for me when I arrived in Berwick and we went off to Curry’s to see about a washing machine with a built-in tumble dryer (our kitchen is very small) and a small upright freezer which we might squeeze in. Found another very helpful and knowledgeable assistant (Simon) who helped us and we set off for home to do some measuring.

Enjoyed a meal with Olive, Digger and Mum after walking Mix and soon it was time for bed. Who would have thought that sitting in a train reading a book could be so tiring. (By coincidence I discovered that the book I was reading ‘Pure’ was written by an author from Bristol, Andrew Miller.)

[ view entry ] ( 2698 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 8th. October, 2013 -- Setting off for Bristol 

Rachel seeing me off at Berwick Station

After walking the dog and showering, I set off for Berwick Station for a five hour train journey to Bristol. I had never been to Bristol so it was all quite exciting. The train took me through Newcastle, Durham, York, Leeds, Birmingham and Cheltenham and I arrived at Bristol in the mid afternoon. The train run by Cross Country was, I overheard one gentleman remark to his wife, ‘a superior one’. Well, it was certainly very comfortable. I had a booked seat and it was waiting for me on my embarkation. I noticed that many folk got on to the train and didn’t look at all to see if the seat they sat on was booked or not. Other people examined the signage in great detail to make sure that they were doing what was correct. The folk who didn’t bother were often the ones who then got quite annoyed when the rightful ‘owner’ of the seat arrived!

At the station in Bristol I was met by David, a friend from University days at St. Andrews.

The Station at Bristol Temple Meads

The name of the station comes from the Church of the Knights Templar – mead is a word for fields. David drove me to his home.

We drove under the Brunel Bridge ...

... and saw the ‘new’ cut which was dug by prisoners of war during the Napoleonic war. The tide was obviously right out! (These photos were grabbed through the window of David’s car and I know they leave a little to be desired as photographs.)

I was welcomed to David and Diana’s home and, after something to eat and a walk around the area to get my bearings, we set off for the evening meeting of the Bristol Anglo-Italian Circle held in the British Aerospace Workers Association building. I enjoyed meeting all of the members and spoke (and showed pictures) of my time in Genoa as minister between the years of 1971 and 1976. Back home at David’s, we dined and then I retired to bed in a lovely room in their three-floored terrace house. It had been another good day.

[ view entry ] ( 2704 views )   |  permalink
Monday 7th. October, 2013 -- A Day of Gate-Building 

A gate waiting to be hung

Up and walked Mix and then back to the Granary where Tom arrived around nine. With Tom taking the lead, we erected the new farm gate to keep the dogs in the courtyard and then dismantled the small gate and Tom re-hung it with a spring to keep it closed. This all took a lot longer than it takes to write and was a real precision task – thank goodness for Tom!

We have a gate

In the afternoon I went up to Duns to visit the bank and to do a little shopping. I’d hoped to get onto my emails through my mother’s account but the system didn’t appear to be working so things will have to wait until service is resumed. I fitted up my Mum’s digital picture frame so that she can relive past holidays and then I worked in the study on a talk that I am to give in Bristol tomorrow evening. Walked Mix and soon it was time to eat again. Retirement does have its advantages!

While walking Mix (with Rachel and Rowan) watched two tractors driving along in tandem – one had a huge device for gathering potatoes and then it had a conveyor belt which delivered them into the truck being pulled by its neighbour tractor. It was all very efficient and brought back memories of the days when we got two weeks of holiday from school in Dundee so that we could gather tatties. I have many happy memories of those days – but it was very hard work.

Rachel and Tom – Experts at Work

Dined in the farmhouse and then retired to the Granary to get everything ready for my trip to Bristol tomorrow. I have never been to Bristol before so it will all be rather exciting.

[ view entry ] ( 2716 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 6th. October, 2013 -- My First Retirement Sunday 

Mum and Rachel outside Gavinton Church

Up and walked the dog and then had breakfast in the farmhouse before setting off with Mum and Rachel to Gavinton Church (just four minutes up the road and recommended by Tom and Dorothy). We were made very welcome and I loved the service conducted by the minister Ann Inglis and based on the lectionary readings for today: “We have Mums and Grandmums – we need more Timothys.”

Joined the congregation for coffee in the small hall beside the Church and learned that we are probably not in Gavinton parish (the boundary seems to run down the middle of the road which passes our door and we are on the other side). But we are welcome nonetheless!

Outside the Church Hall

Back home Tom and I got the television set we had bought assembled and fitted on to the wall. Just before two the Sky engineer arrived and by half past two we had television again. I walked Mix and watched television (!) before doing some tidying in the study – I still haven’t started opening boxes – and then we all dined together in the farmhouse (toad in the hole – my favourite).

Everyone came across to the Granary to watch Downton Abbey on our new television set and afterwards it wasn’t long before we went to bed. A really lovely Sunday.

[ view entry ] ( 2574 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 5th. October, 2013 -- Weddings, as usual. 

Our first couple – Louise and John

Up and started to clear up the Manse. Rachel and I had intended to start at the top of the manse and work our way downwards but there is a big event happening on Monday – a meeting of the executive of ACTS (The actions of Churches together) and so it was more important that we set about the ground floor. Everyone pitched in to help – Cathie, Rhoida, Mike, Alison, Elspeth – and by the time we left in the late afternoon the ground floor was immaculate.

The first wedding was at noon. Louise from Helensburgh to John from the United States of America, with guests from Scotland and from the United States. This was followed by the wedding of Maura and Ryan – another lovely occasion with, on this occasion, both bride and groom coming from this country, and bringing with them many guests.

Our second couple Maura and Ryan

Our third couple, David and Rhona, had travelled from Canada to be married, although Rhona is from this country and met her 'husband-to-be' at the base camp on Mount Everest. Now they live in Winnipeg where David is a surgeon.

Rhona and David

Rhona had arranged for all of her guests to arrive by boat so that they would not be at the church too early and risk arriving before the guests from the previous wedding had departed. In fact it all worked out perfectly. Everyone kept to their allotted times; all of the weddings were really happy occasions and it was a joy for me to be part of them.

Rachel was in charge of the music as usual. However, given that we will not be around in future, Rachel has been giving Carol lessons in controlling the organ. Carol sat in for two of the weddings this afternoon and is making great progress.

Carol at the organ

Once the weddings were over Rachel and I set off for Beth’s home at Muirlands where we were treated to a meal with the family. It was a special occasion on a day of special events and ever so kind. We dined in the farmhouse kitchen:

Beth, Jamie, Emma, Hannah and Katie (the arm is Rachel’s who just missed being in the picture)

After an excellent meal, Rachel and I returned to the Manse where we loaded the dogs and some bits and pieces into our vehicles and drove down to Duns, arriving around eleven at night, just in time to climb into bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2913 views )   |  permalink
Friday 4th. October, 2013 -- And Back to Work! 

Mount Pleasant from the Swinton Road

I got up early and walked Mix along the Swinton Road – on the way back I took this picture of the Mount Pleasant Farmhouse with our Granary to the right and barns to the left. Today I had to return to Luss in order to conduct three wedding rehearsals, with the three weddings tomorrow. I’m happy to do that to help out, particularly now that Bill who was to look after these events has been taken unwell. I was on the road by about half-past eleven, arriving at Luss about 2 p.m. and then going off to Helensburgh to have a session with my physio. Back in Luss the wedding rehearsals started at five and ran through until eight, after which Rachel and I enjoyed a Chinese take-away before getting off to bed.

It seems incredibly odd to be back in Luss. In one sense I have never been away but the decisions are made by other people now and my responsibility is only to do the things that I have been asked to do to the best of my ability. Phone calls, emails, people with requests get forwarded on to other people and, after forty-three years of being the person with whom the buck stopped, that is quite a strange feeling.

Lorraine is the beadle for tomorrow but both Robbie and Mike came along to see me, and it was very good to see them both.

[ view entry ] ( 2678 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 3rd. October, 2013 -- My first trip across the Border 

Tom and Mum on Berwick Station

Up early and walked the dog, showered and then breakfasted at eight before setting off with Mum and Tom for Berwick at 8.30 a.m. We drove just along the road and past signs announcing that now we were in England. Mum caught a train to Edinburgh where she is going to the theatre with friends (to see The Fiddler on the Roof). Tom and I went to a retail outlet where we bought a television. There are so many different televisions and we were shown them all by Chris, a very helpful assistant from Curry's who, while working, is also studying computer game design at the Open University. Chris helped us to make our choice and, as the television was not in stock, arranged for it to be delivered to the Granary on Saturday. Now Tom went off to see a friend (for a music rehearsal) and I met up with Cathy and Rachel. We had a morning coffee and then went into Home Base to work through Rachel's shopping list for the new home. Home Base had everything on the list -- pretty good! Back at Mount Pleasant we grabbed something to eat and soon afterwards Tom arrived and we mounted the wall plate for the television so that everything is in order for when the television and then the Sky engineer arrives. I then went off to the study to get things ready for the weddings I will conduct at Luss on Saturday (with rehearsals tomorrow).

Olive gave us a super meal -- vegetable soup (home-made) followed by home-made fishcakes with roast potatoes. Rachel discovered that she had lost in the removal the power cables for her laptops so panic ensued. We have made provisional arrangements for the Church music at Luss but hope to find that the cables have been left at Luss! Walked the dog and so to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2716 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 2nd. October, 2013 -- Now I'm an old hand at this Retirement Business 

Rachel's country alarm clock

Woke early with a phone call from Morag and then walked the dog before breakfast made by Digger -- sausage and French toast. Then I borrowed Mum's phone and started trying to see about a telephone and broadband for the Granary -- and a television system as well. BT have arranged that we will be connected to the telephone system on 23rd. October -- we need to have a new line installed and we will have BT internet as well. I spoke to Sky and they were keen to get us connected to their television service. I had thought that a few weeks would have to pass but no, they will be with us on Sunday afternoon. That's great except for the fact that we don't have a television so I will have to go out tomorrow and buy a television set to which the Sky can be attached. Also spoke to the Church of Scotland who told me that they have now sorted out my pension so I can look forward to being paid for my life of leisure!

Just after lunch time Tom arrived and we set off to see about a gate for the farm courtyard. We went to a farm nearby where the farmer was obviously an agent for gates -- he had hundreds of them in what had obviously been a grain storage building. He knew exactly what we required and it will arrive to him tomorrow night and be delivered to us on Friday morning. We bought all of the fittings and brought them here so that we will be ready to fit the gate soon after it is delivered. Tom then took me on a tour of the industrial estate, the garden centre and other places which he thought I would need to know about -- we met a builder and saw the local MOT garage and eventually ended up back at Tom and Dorothy's home. What a lot they have done to it and how great it looks.

Came back to Mount Pleasant and had some afternoon tea/lunch -- Olive had now returned from her two day teaching stint in Dundee. I worked in the study sorting out many of my clothes which are now hanging on rails for the first time in several weeks. Walked Mix and then we all shared in a meal -- fish pie and stewed apples and brambles with ice cream. It was superb. Sat and talked with Mum and Cathy in the lounge of the farm house before returning to the Granary for a final burst on the clothes before bed. I can get to like this retirement business!

[ view entry ] ( 2939 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 1st. October, 2013 -- Retirement: Day One 

Tom at Mount Pleasant

It seems that this is a busy place! I was determined not to get up this morning but Bill caught me on my mobile at 8.30 and so I got up and walked Mix -- a very pleasant walk -- and what struck me at once was that I saw no people at all while I was out. For one who has been surrounded by people for the whole of my life, that was really quite remarkable. In Luss I never walked Mix without meeting and greeting at least a couple of folk.

Back home, plans were being made for the day. I found my approach to these plans quite remarkable as well. You see normally when I have been away from my parish it has been for a snatched day or two or a brief holiday but, while days remain enormously precious, now my diary is almost empty -- so I am happy to do whatever anyone wants and I won't feel that if I haven't actually achieved something of importance that the day has been wasted.

Tom arrived and I snapped him going up the stairs with his tools. he didn't feel that the folk who were decorating Mum's new upstairs sitting room were doing the work around the sink (for her cups of tea) as well as was required. So now Tom himself is on the job. He also fixed another area of fence to prevent Mix and Rowan from setting out to explore the outside world.

My job was to drive Mum to Duns to have her hair cut. It is a tiny journey -- four minutes at the most -- and when I got back to the Granary everything was as I had left it! Rachel was unpacking boxes, Cathy was in the barns rooting about for a lawnmower to attack the back garden. Cathy and I went back into Duns to collect Mum and to have a short look around the shops and we brought back with us a snack lunch which went down very well. In the afternoon I had a short siesta (and read my book) before taking Mum back into Duns to sign on at the local medical practice. There are two practices which both share the same building. One is called the Duns practice and the other the Merse practice. Mum signed on at the Duns practice and really liked the doctor (who said that he couldn't believe that she was really ninety -- who says bedside manners are a thing of the past)? Back home I unpacked a couple of boxes to show willing, and installed a big cushion for Mix to settle down on when he is in my study. I should report that Mix is settling in very well. Even after a day his barking is stopping and he is extremely happy. With Rowan he loves to run around the garden and he has accepted this new study as his place to be.

In the evening we all went off to Scott and Sue's house at Polworth Rhodes, about a ten minute drive from here. Sue gave us a magnificent meal -- salmon followed by fruit flan with cream and ice cream, and we were regaled with all that had been happening at the recent Berwick Film Festival at which Scott had been involved. It sounds like we have come to an exciting place to live.

It was good, too, to be in a home that wasn't upside down with a removal going on!

Rachel, Mum, Scott, Sue and Cathy

Back home -- and glad to go to bed after my first day as a member of the retired generation.

[ view entry ] ( 2861 views )   |  permalink
Monday 30th. September, 2013 -- Our Day of Departure 

Outside the Wheatsheaf at Swinton

Awoke and walked Mix and then set about dismantling my study and cramming all of the leftovers and all of the presents we have been given into our two vehicles. It just wouldn't go and we shall be back in Luss on Friday to complete the task and also to clean the house from top to bottom. (We shall also be conducting three wedding rehearsals and, on the Saturday, three weddings.) Finally, about one in the afternoon, we set off for the Borders, Mix and I in one car and Rachel, Cathy and Rowan in the other.

I arrived just after half-past three. I unloaded my car and that was it! (Rachel didn't even unload her car.) We sat and chatted with Mum and Digger (Olive was in Dundee and Fife) and then in the early evening we set off for Swinton (three miles south) and had a meal in the Wheatsheaf Hotel dining room. It was a very pleasant meal.

Back home I checked my emails to ensure that any which came in before I retired were dealt with. (I had to do this on my mother's computer because I have no internet access, no landline -- and no television.) I got a lovely message to say that Jackie Baillie had put down a motion of congratulation to me on my retirement in the Scottish Parliament. How kind!

Rachel was filled with the joys of getting boxes unpacked and the kitchen cleared. I decided that I would wait until I was properly retired and went to bed with a book.

[ view entry ] ( 2584 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 29th. September, 2013 -- My Last Sunday 

I tried to take this surreptitiously while folk were arriving in Arrochar Church this morning -- and, as a result, I missed one half of the church!

Up at seven and started my final Sunday by walking the dog. Back to the Manse to shower and soon it was time to set off for Arrochar. It was a lovely occasion for me -- intensely sad because I was leaving, but warm and loving and very, very kind. Tom and Dorothy had come to the service as had John and Annette Christie and so many Arrochar friends. The Sunday School had asked to make a short Christian Aid presentation. It was an impressive description of what they had done to help other people with the money they had raised at a recent coffee morning but then it turned into a thank you to Rachel and me from the Sunday School and from the congregation. Rachel was given an olive tree which she will treasure and nurture down in Duns. And there was a cake!

The Cake!

The picture was taken at an Easter morning service by the pier at Tarbet -- just another of the million or so memories bouncing around in my head. Made my way down to Luss with tears in my eyes. Everywhere was awash with cars and we had quickly run out of orders of service. It was a special service during which six new elders were ordained and admitted along with Morag (who was already an elder) to the Kirk Session. The six were Muriel, Ray, Lorraine, James, Donald and Nick. They will be an enormous addition to the Session and congregation and there will be photos of all that happened at Luss when I get them from Drew, our resident photographer!

The service ended with the Sacrament of Holy Communion -- and then, totally unexpectedly, the children of the Sunday School led by Andy, who spoke beautifully, presented me with an apple tree to remember them all by. He reminded us all that the church in Luss was not about all that we did but about each other -- and it is each other: all the folk in the pews Sunday by Sunday -- who have made our adventure so exciting and so memorable. I'll love the apple tree but I don't need anything to remember our folk by.

Across in the Centre everyone had tea or coffee and soon I had to make my way back to the Church for the wedding of Greg and Catherine, a happy affair. In the Manse we then sat and talked with folk who were still around. My friend Brian's daughter Alison had travelled from Edinburgh. Earlier Sang, now minister at Alloa, was in Church, as were Rachel's cousins Mary and Donald. Mike and June were up from the Borders and so many other people. I was also delighted to see that Will, the little baby who had endured a difficult birth and for whom we had prayed for as a congregation over the last two weeks, was this week with us in church with his parents and grand parents. And just yesterday our Session Clerk had become a great grandfather again! It was really very special. The last to leave, appropriately because they do so much for me, were Bill and Morag, May and Jessie, and Cathy. Rachel and I walked the dogs and then came home and had something to eat. We watched Downton Abbey and were glad to get to bed. Today had been a difficult day but one in which we have been shown so much love and kindness. It is a day I will never forget.

[ view entry ] ( 3092 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 28th. September, 2013 -- The Final Furlong 

Ben Dhu and the Strone

I snatched this view of the twin peaks of Ben Dhu and the Strone as I walked Mix along the river path early this morning. I always think of the Strone as being 'my' hill because for many months I climbed up it five times a week in order to lose weight on the instructions of my doctor. (My doctor didn't instruct me to climb the Strone, you understand -- she did tell me to lose weight and this was a very successful way of achieving that.)

This morning Drew, John, Martin, Mike and I set about clearing our many of the nooks and crannies in the church and other buildings and piling almost everything we found into a skip. Everything was soon looking very much tidier and what we have kept will be much easier to find. In the afternoon I returned to my own tidying. We won't get everything done by Monday but Rachel and I will be back in the Manse next weekend for three weddings and we will get everything finally cleaned out, tidied and vacuumed at that time.

Later in the afternoon, Tom and Dorothy arrived -- I could hear the gales of laughter from downstairs and went down to join the party. Soon, with help from Mike and Lorraine, I conducted a wedding rehearsal for Greg and Catherine who will be married tomorrow and then Dorothy and Tom came with Rachel and me for a meal at the Village Rest. I had an excellent Finnan Haddie in a white sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes and surrounded by garden vegetables. It is no wonder that the Village Rest is always so busy now, with such excellent food. I was really hungry so I also had a haggis starter and followed it all up with an ice-cream desert. I'll be needing to renew my acquaintance with the Strone very soon!

After coffee in the Manse and a bit more time in the study I retired to bed. I had intended to have a really early night but it was still eleven before I got there. It had been, as my father used to say, a good day.

[ view entry ] ( 2717 views )   |  permalink
Friday 27th. September, 2013 -- Gathering Momentum 

Olivebank sets out on the start of her journey to Duns

Got up and walked Mix and by the time I arrived at the Manse, folk had arrived to take Olivebank off on the first stage of her journey to Duns. It took them no time at all to pull Olivebank onto the back of their truck and to set off for Helensburgh where Olivebank will stay with Simon while work is done on the trailer before she completes her journey to the Borders.

I went back into the study and worked through some of the tasks which were awaiting me -- and a number of people came to see me and to say 'good-bye'. I have been touched by how many people have wanted to say things to me. Roy popped in today and gave Rachel a horse-shoe from Rosa who has pulled the wedding carriage to so many ceremonies at the Church, and Bob popped in to say good-bye to Rachel because he had missed her earlier in the week when he came to visit. In the early afternoon we had the Luss School Harvest Service -- they had brought it forward so that I could share in it and I enjoyed being part of their service. They gave me a lovely Bible signed by every child (and member of staff) in the school. I appreciate their kindness.

Then it was back to work before it was time to change and go along to the Lodge on Loch Lomond for a bit of a party. I hadn't known what to expect. I had been told to be there just after seven but when we arrived we discovered that there were about one hundred and forty people present all gathered in the big function room at the Lodge and that the event was a full-scale dinner. As with everything the Lodge does, it was a superb evening, good food and a glorious company drawn from both congregations -- in fact I think that the total present was larger than the number in the combined congregations! Everything was chaired by Robbie with speeches by Jamie and by Robbie -- and we were showered with gifts: Rachel was given flowers, as was my mother. Rachel was given a chimnea (a very beautiful one at that) and I was given a hugely generous cheque. But it was the words which people spoke to me which pulled hardest at my heartstrings.

I was amazed at how far some people had travelled to be part of the evening. Hannah had left work at four and travelled from Carlyle where she is on placement as part of her training, Ross and Anne had travelled from deep in the wilds of Argyll, Isobel and Maggie had travelled from the east, Allan and Flora had travelled up to their caravan, Tom and Dorothy had travelled up from the Borders. And there were folk I didn't expect to see out tonight: Davina, and John MacEachern. Judy was there and there were so many children -- it was special to have Hannah, Katie and Emma who seem to have been part of everything that has happened while I have been here.

I sat at the table with my mind in a whirl. So many people so sad to see us going -- but it didn't matter how sad they were it was nothing at all compared to how sad we are to be leaving them: not to be leaving the place (through that is pretty fabulous) but to be leaving the people. All of them have become our very greatest of friends and we will miss them.

I guessed too that there was an element of confusion in amongst everyones' sadness. They knew what was going to happen to us -- we would be sitting in the garden at Mount Pleasant on the garden bench presented to us by the Guild by the chimnea in a garden environment which had never experienced the invasion of the west-coast midge, but what of them? It is natural to have misgivings but there is clearly no need. I have never seen two congregations which both individually and together wouldn't know the meaning of disharmony and which are totally united in being a Christian family with a place for everyone. Both congregations also have a very clear view of where they want to go. In Arrochar the aim is to be a village congregation serving its community. That's a massive objective, already fulfilled -- but it wasn't always the case. I remember going to see the Presbytery Clerk soon after I arrived and saying, "Well, I expect that you'll want us to start rebuilding the Church," only to get the response that the little hall was quite big enough for any congregation that Arrochar was ever likely to attract. The congregation proved them wrong -- a wonderful restoration job and a fabulous congregation which now has a thriving youth group and Guild and I am so proud of the young folk who have come through our Sunday School.

I remember, too, all that the rebirth of the congregation did for the village -- the building of the village hall, the winning of the Village of the Year award and so much more, all of which is now part of the story of Arrochar.

Luss too has a clearly worked out statement of where it is going and how it is going to achieve it. Important strands of the Church's mission here are welcoming the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Luss each year, the development of the church's youth project with youngsters from all around the world, from Prince's Trust teams and from secondary schools, the work with those who come here to be married -- not because of the economic importance of weddings to the community (five million pounds was a recent estimate) but because of the missionary opportunity of being alongside people from all over our country and beyond at such a crucial time in their lives, the streaming of our Sunday services to people throughout Scotland and throughout the world as well, of course, as continuing to serve the needs of our local congregation and community.

I got a lovely email today from one of the staff of Our Lady and Saint Patrick's High School. He wrote: "Being involved with you and the community of faith in Luss has enhanced my time in Our Lady and St Patrick's and has been significant in the lives of our young people and the school. We hope that this connection will continue beyond your retirement (and indeed mine in the not too distant future) as it has been too valuable for it not to."

We were also commended for all that we do for visitors here. It started with the creation of the Pilgrimage Centre (built by Jimmy and his Arrochar team) providing a heritage centre for those who come to visit but which also provides a place for local groups to meet -- the Guild, the Cinema, the Heritage Group and so much more. It went on through the building of the Luss Bridge by the Royal Engineers and the opening up of the Glebe with its pilgrimage pathways (which in turn led to the Green Pilgrimage opportunities). Now, of course, the Church -- beautifully restored in 2002 -- is equipped with a superb sound and light show which is the envy of many churches and visitor attractions much larger than ourselves. It has become fashionable to talk about the need to 'do up' the village but the Church was engaged in doing it long before anyone else!

With all of this background the Church has little to fear. The services will continue in Arrochar and Luss just as they do today, the Glebe will continue to be open for those who come in large numbers to explore, youth groups will continue to come to stay with us in the Palace -- so proudly named after Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Rothesay's visit in 2010 during which she planted the tree which sits in front of the building. The services will continue to be streamed and people will continue to be welcomed. There will be services of Sunday worship, of baptism and marriage, there will be funerals and the Manse will continue to be the hub of so many of the activities at the heart of local community life.

I am just so sorry that I will not be part of it -- so sorry that it actually hurts! But the start of our second fifteen hundred years will be years to remember. (I think that 2010 was probably the best year of my life -- all of the celebrations, the wonderful guest preachers each with something special to say, the Rossdhu Book of Hours in our care for four months, the musical events, the pilgrimages, the historical addresses -- and most of all, the fun and the friendship of a colossal adventure.)

As I sat at table I found myself thinking too of some of the folk who weren't with us because they now celebrate on a different shore being separated from us by death. Separated yes, but sometimes they feel so close. My father was so pleased that I had come here to serve and he helped me enormously during those first months of my ministry here. Eric worked so hard for Arrochar Church -- when the presbytery tried to sell it, he insisted on 'helping' by showing prospective purchasers around. Somehow they were never so keen after Eric had told them about the graveyard, about things that went bump in the night and the feelings of the community about the prospect of losing its church. Marion raised so much of the money single-handedly for the Arrochar Church knocking on every door in the village and demanding that everyone contribute! We have some good fund-raisers in Luss. Bettie (from Arrochar) and Val (and it was really good to have both of them with us tonight) made up a ferocious team in the days when they looked after the Church and the Centre together.

I found myself thinking of Margaret and Elma, of Hamish (who spear-headed the Luss Restoration), of May Lumsden and of so many more (I knew that I shouldn't have started on this reminiscing because someone always gets left out.) I also thought of Bob who came to see me this week and who worked tirelessly on our youth projects for around five happy years. Then there are all of the folk who arrived when we needed them -- Andy with his IT skills, Bill with his communication abilities, Drew who takes the best photographs and the team of folk who have made the Manse a happy place for so many: Morag and May and Jessie and Cathy and so many more besides. And Chris who looks after the Glebe.

It is a wonderful charge -- Arrochar and Luss complimenting each other perfectly -- and in Luss in particular with such a continued influx of new blood, often as a result of weddings or of the welcome which they have received when they visited. I have been fortunate not only in having two lovely congregations but also in having two special Kirk Sessions.

So many thoughts going through my mind as I sat and looked out on the assembled company. Rachel and I have been so very, very fortunate and everything we have been able to do has been made possible in very large measure by the love and kindness with which we have been surrounded. God has been very good to us.

Having shared my thoughts, here is a view from where I sat. So many friends!

The evening was brought to a close by an unexpected visit from the Minister of Glasgow Cathedral -- our mother Church. The Reverend Doctor Laurence Whitley spoke generously about the lives of our congregations and about my ministry. He saw our parishes as being a centre of excellence and his words of encouragement were greatly appreciated by everyone present.

Must just say that Robbie had an excellent evening in the chair. He was superb, and along with Jamie, who surpassed himself in his carefully crafted speech, and with the care of the staff of the Lodge on Loch Lomond, and by some great singing from Beth Street with music provided by the organist from the United Reformed Church in Helensburgh, ensured that we all had an evening to remember.

I walked home in a dream.

[ view entry ] ( 2891 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 26th. September, 2013 -- Catching up with all the last minute jobs! 

This tree in the Remembrance Garden caught my eye

It is Thursday and I have become ever so aware of how much there is still to do. I did manage to complete the paperwork -- just as well because no sooner had I done that than the computer packed up! It seems to me that everything is closing down with me. I'll take it away and see if I can get it all working again; it surely can't be just me that isn't suffering from built in obsolescence: perhaps I am but I just haven't noticed it.

Worked on all of the paperwork and could just about manage with where I have got to at a push. It took all day and then in the evening we stopped for the final meeting of the Community Council. It is the final meeting, and not because Rachel and I are moving, but because tomorrow nominations close for the new Community Council, our four year stint is up, and I am glad to have completed it. With the benefit of hindsight is it something I would like to do again? Probably not. But four years ago someone needed to do it and no one else wanted to. There were people who needed the Community Council to speak on their behalf and it gave me satisfaction that at least we were able to do that. We were joined at the meeting by Andy, our local policeman, and by George and Robert, two of our local councillors and it was a happy meeting (as they have almost invariably been).

After the meeting I watched an episode of Doc Martin before walking Mix and going to bed. Tomorrow is another day!

[ view entry ] ( 2548 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 25th. September, 2013 -- Back to School for a really happy Day 

Alison with a photograph of what the school was like when she first arrived

I awoke with much to do, and truth to tell, much of what I had hoped to do is still not done at the end of the day. After walking Mix around the glebe I started to work through the service for Arrochar on Sunday and soon afterwards Mike arrived and wanted to see around the different places at the church, centre and so on in case there was anything he needed to know for the future. Was happy to break of for a couple of hours and do that. We also planned to have a massive clear-out to the skip which is now sitting in front of the Manse.

At lunchtime Rachel and I had been invited up to Arrochar Primary School. There we were treated to a wonderful good-bye assembly by the children. Songs and memories and one, by William, I managed to get a copy of: 'My memory of you, Dane, was when you asked me to read part of the Bible at Christmas time in the Church. I was five years old. It was part of the Christmas story and it had a lovely picture of Joseph and Mary travelling on the donkey at night time. I felt really special being chosen to read. Thank you for making me feel so special.'

William's memory relates to the giant Advent Calendar with stained glass windows made by Rachel and, on the back of each door, a little Bible verse. The calendar will stay at Arrochar and I hope may be used again in the future so that it can 'tell the story' and make other children 'feel special' as well. Certainly the assembly made me feel special, and Rachel and I were given two lovely pictures chosen with great care -- one a view of Loch Lomond, the other a view of the Strone, the hill I used to trek up and down every day in an attempt to lose weight!

After the Assembly Rachel and I were given afternoon tea with cakes and we reminisced about all that Alison had achieved since she had become head teacher. I was on the selection committee which chose her and so I take special satisfaction from all that she has done! Alison showed Rachel around the school and also showed a picture of how things used to be. What a wonderful transformation -- and so many memories for me, especially of school assemblies and end of term services in the Church.

Back home, I set off for the bank to do some more sorting out of finances and then some pastoral calls before returning to the Manse and working through until seven when it was time to meet with the new elders and with Robbie and Mike in the Church to plan for the Ordination Service. Once that was done I went off to collect fish suppers for Rachel and me. We enjoyed them while watching an episode of Doc Martin then Rachel went to bed while I returned to the study to deal with more paperwork before walking Mix and retiring to bed. So much to do and so little time to do it -- how different it will soon be!

[ view entry ] ( 2921 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 24th. September, 2013 -- So busy I've almost forgotten Mount Pleasant! 

Mike, Ian and Robbie

I got up and walked the dog. Came back to the Manse and showered and it was still not eight o'clock. Got some things done before setting off for Helensburgh for my physio appointment. Came back relaxed to meet Robbie and Mike (from Luss Church) and Ian who is the interim moderator appointed by presbytery. It will be his job to look after the congregations of Luss and Arrochar after I have left and the purpose of the meeting was to sketch out some of the things which I have been doing so that Ian had some kind of an idea of what he will pick up. Early in October I expect that there will be a meeting of the two Kirk Sessions under Ian's chairmanship and they will start to make plans together. I have agreed to help with the weddings in the interim and I will be conducting all three of those scheduled for Saturday 5th. October. Mike and Robbie indicated that they would really like to have Bill appointed as their locum minister and also that they wanted services to continue the congregational participation which has been built up over the past years.

Mike set off and showed Ian around the Church and our other facilities including watching the sound and light show and admiring our Pilgrims' Palace. I set off with things to do and people to see. I also popped into the bank in Helensburgh to sort out some of the financial things I need to get in order. Back in the study I worked on the services for Sunday -- both will be very different: at Luss we are ordaining new elders and will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I would have liked to have had communion at Arrochar but as the Session Clerk is away this would have been difficult. But both services will be special for me. Then, after the Luss service, there will be a wedding.

Worked well into the evening only stopping for something to eat and while we ate we watched the Young Montalbano (because when we move the recorded programmes on our Sky machine will be lost). Rachel walked Rowan and I returned to the study for a bit longer before walking Mix and falling into bed. It has been a very busy day -- but then retirement looms and, at least for a while, it may be quite different.

[ view entry ] ( 2724 views )   |  permalink
Monday 23rd. September, 2013 -- Monday, and things don't go quite my way! 

One of the nicest cards I've ever received

I intended today to be a day of really hard work but it didn't turn out that way. I walked the dog, settled down at my desk and it wasn't long before Robbie telephoned to say that he and Mike were on their way to see me to talk about some of the arrangements for when I have left (how I hate even the words, never mind the concept). They arrived and we spend quite a while in discussions. May and Jessie arrived to count some of the cash which needs to get paid into the bank. Cathy arrived and opened the church for visitors. Bob arrived to say hello (well, I suppose it was really Good-bye). Whatever it was, it was particularly good to see Bob. He and I worked closely for several years building the glebe pathway, developing the Pilgrimage centre and making a go of the international youth programme. It's true to say that none of these things would have happened without Bob's efforts and I was touched that he made time to come and see me today. I hope that he, and others too, will come and visit us at the Granary when we have time to welcome them and show proper hospitality.My friend Peter arrived and took me for something to eat. He is off on holiday to Portugal tomorrow so will miss my final days here. I am sorry about that.

No sooner had Peter left than Rachel returned from seeing her cousin Mary from Comrie. We walked both of the dogs on the Glebe and then we went down to the Boat House at Cameron House to join our good friend Judy and her friends Janet and Roger. I say 'her friends' but I hope that they are really our friends as well. We've known Judy for many years and I was so pleased that she had come up from the Lake District to be in church yesterday and had brought Roger and Janet with her. Roger and Janet farm mushrooms and many years ago when we held a garden party in the manse grounds to raise funds for the new church organ they arrived laden with mushrooms which they sold to help our fund-raising efforts.

Roger, Janet, Judy and Rachel in the bar at the Boat House

It was Judy who gave me the card at the top of this entry. It was from Vivien, a friend of Judy's and a friend of ours who comes to Luss from time to time and who joins us regularly on lussonline. I've been given so many cards and letters over the last few days and I have appreciated every one of them -- I'll keep them and treasure them for ever -- but this one pulled a chord inside me. It is a lovely message 'Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, their world will change for ever.' You won't need me to tell you that Vivien is a doggy person and the message is powerful because it doesn't just transfer to other people but contains a universal truth as it is the antidote to the suffocating feeling of why should I try to do anything because anything I do will make such a little difference? Everything we do makes a difference for someone.

So now I am off out to take my rescue dog, Mix, for a walk before bed. It's not the day I expected but it has been a very special day.

[ view entry ] ( 3090 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 22nd. September, 2013 -- A Lovely Sunday 

It didn't start out that way, in fact it was a really wet and nasty morning when I walked Mix along the river path. It was still wet when I arrived in Arrochar and it was raining when I stood at the door to shake hands with folk as they left the service at Luss. But none of that stopped it being a thoroughly lovely Sunday -- and it is the Sunday mornings with my folk in Arrochar and Luss that I will miss most when I retire. I enjoyed the service at Arrochar and there was a good turn out. In Luss the Church was virtually full and in both churches there was a super friendly atmosphere. At Luss we had a party of Canadian and American pilgrims who were journeying throughout Scotland spending time at the important Christian sites. After the service Bill and John told them our story and showed them our sound and light show before they were given soup and sandwiches in the Green Room by Morag and May. You can see from the picture that they had a good time.

My friends Simon and Eileen joined us in church and then, with a little help from Drew and Martin, Simon prepared Olivebank for her journey later in the week from Luss. Allan, one of our removal men, came back to Luss with his wife Stacey and his daughter Danielle, to show them around Luss -- the site of his three days of hard work last week. It was good to see them.

Stacey, Danielle, Allan and Rachel in the Manse Garden

Meanwhile some of the folk who live a bit away from Luss were planning the party for next weekend. It seems it will start on Friday and run through to Sunday afternoon. I think that what our folk do best is to party -- and, before you condemn it, remember that this is really quite a Biblical picture. 'What is Church like?' 'Well, it is a bit of a party and everyone is always welcome.'

John, Carol, Martin, Drew and May

Sorry that I caught John with his eyes closed! It was late in the afternoon before everyone left. It had been a lovely day and in the evening we watched the first episode of the new series of Downton Abbey before walking the dogs and retiring to bed.

[ view entry ] ( 2767 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 21st. September -- A Quiet Saturday! 

The organ class in full swing -- Carol, Lindsay, Nick, Rachel and Morag -- admiring the fine sounds emanating from our organ.

Up early (well, not too early) and walked the dog. Today is one of those real treasures: a Saturday without a wedding. We did have a wedding arranged for today but serious illness in the family led to a quicker wedding nearer to home. Actually we have had three weddings cancelled within the last month, a quite unique experience -- in a couple of cases it was because the couple had decided not to get married. I suppose that it really is a blessing that they discovered that they weren't for each other before they got married -- that's a truism, everyone says it: but it really is true.

Took advantage of the day to try to work through all of the financial papers which I have relating to the Church and the different organisations with which I am involved. Discovered that many of my papers have disappeared down to Duns so things were more complicated than I imagined, but hey! in the overall scheme of things these are minor problems. I'm still celebrating in my heart about a little baby who has had a difficult birth and had to be rushed to another hospital for serious treatment and who is now making good progress. That's something important -- and praise God and be grateful for the skill of doctors and nurses, for the relief which his parents and grandparents are feeling today.

Worked through to the evening, stopping briefly for a snack with Bill and Morag who were through so that Morag could attend Rachel's organ class. Like so many things, it is not exactly as it seems. We have a wonderful organ but the keyboard is controlled by a computer, making it, I suppose, a little bit like an old fashioned pianola (you remember: a paper roll was inserted into the piano and this 'played' the keys according to a succession of holes in the roll). So the keyboards of the organ are controlled by computer leaving the operator to choose the organ stops (instruments), control the volume and the speed and turn the keyboard notation into a work of art. Rachel not only operates the organ but prepares all of the files -- the instructions for the keyboard -- and includes descants and other appropriate embellishments. But Rachel will be leaving for Duns in just a few days. The team pictured have agreed to take over the organ. To begin with Rachel will send the files by email but eventually that will be taken over in house as well.

We ate about eight and then watched the second in the series of the Young Montalbano (while the third episode was recording -- so we will be able to watch that tomorrow evening. Too much happiness!)

Realise that I have never recorded my pleasure in Durham's victory in the county championship. It really was a spectacular achievement and once I am retired I will be able to join all of the old buffers sitting watching the cricket from the pavilion and explaining to everyone that it isn't as it was in my day. They have done well.

[ view entry ] ( 2852 views )   |  permalink
Friday 20th. September, 2013 -- Where has everything Gone? 

Mix has found the one comfy spot in the house!

Today has been one of the strangest days of my life. What's more, it has completely taken me by surprise. I haven't allowed myself to think past the removal and now that that has been successfully (?) completed, I can turn my attention to getting everything here in order so that I can leave my Churches in a good state for someone to take over.

Only nothing ever quite works out the way it should! Because I got stranded in Duns on Monday and had to stay the night there, I wasn't here to supervise the removal at Luss. As a result (and it is no-one's fault but mine) everything in the Manse has ended up in Duns. That includes the things that we intended to remain here; it includes the things we intended to go into the rubbish bin, and it includes the papers and so on I intended to work on during the next ten days. So I started the day in absolute consternation! Gradually some kind of sanity emerged. I will just have to work through the chaos! Started by walking the dog.

Then I got stuck into preparing the services for Sunday -- printing the Orders of Service, preparing the music for the organ, preparing the service itself and all of the scripts for those who share in the leading of the worship -- in fact all of those tasks which are such a part of my life but which will very soon become half remembered parts of a distant ritual. In the late morning Robbie and Mike arrived, closely followed by Neil and Jamie, to talk through who will pick up all of the different tasks which have been mine over so many years.

Soon it was time for a wedding -- that of Daniel and Katrina. The weather yesterday was shocking but today all was calm and fair and it was a splendid wedding. I enjoyed being part of it. Then it was back to work. The services to complete, weddings to sort out -- I have agreed to return to conduct the three weddings which will be held on 5th. October. It would be too big a baptism for whoever takes over from me and I will be delighted to share with these couples in their special day.

Rachel and I had a nostalgic walk around the glebe -- it really is looking good -- and then I went off to Balloch to collect a Chinese take-away. Once we had enjoyed that we watched the Young Montalbano on television (it belongs to the Church and was screwed to the wall, otherwise it would have been away as well) and then, after walking the dogs, we went to bed. It has been a day I will remember!

[ view entry ] ( 2801 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 19th. September, 2013 -- Back to Luss 

Got taken to task by someone who reads the blog (and hasn't met me) for not putting a picture of myself on the web-site so that they can see who is writing all of this stuff. So here I am! Sixty-seven and a half-years old, retiring in eleven days time and moving from Arrochar and Luss (where I have been enormously happy) to Mount Pleasant in the Borders (where I expect to be happy as well).

Awoke on Thursday and breakfasted in the farmhouse before spending the morning starting to sort out our new home. It was bucketing with rain which made us realise just how lucky we had been over the last three days having been given a window of really good weather to complete our removal. I had the task of trying to organise our second bedroom. We have a desk and a cupboard and a small bunk-bed unit in it -- all of this is quite temporary and will be sorted out once we are back in the Borders on a more permanent basis. Rachel, meanwhile, worked in the kitchen and in the main bedroom. Around one we stopped for lunch and soon afterwards I set off for home with Mix in the back of the car. I got hopelessly lost and ended up driving through Edinburgh in the rush hour and then through Glasgow in the rush hour and arrived back in Luss about 6.15 p.m. to discover that Rachel had started the wedding rehearsal (for which I was very thankful). Once that was over we drove down to Helensburgh to spend the evening with Simon and Irene and with their friends John and Marlene from the United States. It was a lovely, relaxing evening with a glorious meal and we returned home around eleven fifteen in time to walk the dogs and go to bed. The back of the moving has now been broken and, although there are many things still to sort out, I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel (even if it is still quite dim)!

[ view entry ] ( 2633 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 18th. September -- The Third Day 

Ian, Malcolm, Stuart and Allan -- job done!

Awoke early in Luss and by 8 a.m. the second load of furniture was being loaded into the three removal vans which were at the Manse -- having returned the previous day from the Borders. There wasn't a huge amount to do but this was because so much had already been taken down and because a great deal of work had been done in the latter part of yesterday.

Soon after ten the vans were on their way. Rachel, Cathy, Rowan, Mix and I loaded ourselves into the car and set off about half an hour later -- Mix travelled in the back with Rachel, Rowan sat happily on Cathy's knee and was as good as gold. We had an uneventful journey arriving at Mount Pleasant around one in the afternoon. Olive had baked a cheese and bean pie (well several) and she fed the removal men first with pie and with bacon sandwiches and then she fed us. Rachel and I were on duty directing boxes here there and everywhere -- all kinds of things which weren't meant to come down here have arrived and there will need to be a sorting out and returning of bits and pieces as well as a getting of some skips for a total throw out as well. Rachel and I have downsized from our home in Wemyss with seven rooms and a Manse in Luss with seven rooms to a new home with three rooms -- fourteen to three, so clearly it doesn't go! So the last thing we needed was for some things which don't belong to us and some things which belong in the skip! The removal team -- who have been fabulous -- left for home about seven in the evening and afterwards Rachel, Cathy, Mum, Olive, Digger and I enjoyed an evening meal in the farmhouse with all of the ingredients of the meal from the small holding and chicken run itself.

Went to sleep (in a bed) after walking Mix.

[ view entry ] ( 2634 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 17th. September, 2013 -- The Removal Day Two 

Malcolm outside the door of the Granary and it is not yet eight o'clock!

Awoke early and was just coming to when I realised that four removal vans were driving in to the courtyard. I was panicking because I realised that I should have been going to my physio but it had gone out of my head when I discovered that I couldn't get back to Luss last night. I had no phone number for my physio but I got Rachel who managed to get my apologies to Lorna.

The removal team had left Luss before five to be down at Duns so early. At once they set about unloading their vans. The first problem was that the side-board which Olive and my Mum really wanted to have in their front room wouldn't go through the doors. Before nine a joiner was on site and a window had been removed.

It seemed that only five minutes later the side-board had been passed through the hole in the wall

and five minutes after that the window was back in position.

By now Tom the painter and decorator had arrived to continue work on Mum's new upstairs lounge, work was also continuing apace on emptying the removal vans and then Ianthe arrived on the back of one of Alan Galt's lorries.

I was enormously impressed by the skill with which the driver and his mate controlled the crane and manoeuvred Ianthe in the relatively confined space of a small courtyard filled with vans and cars.

It wasn't long before Ianthe was parked up by the wall in the corner which is to be her home for the next little while.

Soon afterwards I set off with Malcolm in his van for Luss. We joined the others at Costco for lunch and were back in Luss sometime before four in the afternoon. There were more boxes to be loaded and furniture to be carried out to the vans and then Simon arrived to pump out Olivebank who will also be moving from Luss within the next week or so.

Just about eight the removal team, Rachel and I, went up to the Village Rest for a lovely meal -- made the more delicious by how hungry and tired I was -- and then it was back to work once more before a final coffee, a walk around the village with Mix and a welcome collapse into bed.

I have to say what a wonderful team our removal men are. This could have been an horrendous experience but they are turning it into something quite special -- and how everyone is rallying round to help!

[ view entry ] ( 2954 views )   |  permalink
Monday 16th. September, 2013 -- The Three Day Removal Begins 

Vans started to arrive early for the Removal Van Convention held at the Manse -- we managed five by the middle of the day!

I was up early today anxious to walk Mix before everything started to happen. I was glad that I had because the first vans arrived early -- four of them, driven by Allan and Malcolm, Ian and Stewart. Soon afterwards Sandy arrived to dismantle and collect his loom and to drive it down to the borders -- Sandy lives at Melrose and, with Rachel at Duns, they hope to do some joint projects in the coming months. Alastair -- who helped Sandy move the loom from Tarbet all those years ago, came to help with the dismantling and then it was all hands to help load the loom into the van which sandy had driven up from the borders.

Sandy with Alastair

Sandy wields a hammer while Chris looks on

Once the van was loaded I set off for the borders to help Sandy unload at the other end. Meanwhile Rachel, with help from Cathy, worked with the removal team -- Rachel took them all out for a meal at the Village Rest and everyone had a good time.

I arrived down at Duns just before 4 p.m., just a bit ahead of Sandy. Tom was waiting for me and I told him about a problem I was having with Rachel's Berlingo (which I was driving because it was filled with my clothes). It seemed that the rear off-side tyre was always just a little bit flat. Tom discovered that there was a nail in it. We thought about changing the tyre but couldn't find the tools. We even phoned the Citron dealer to ask where the Berlingo tools were installed. The dealer (in Kirkcaldy) promised to phone back but didn't. So it was decided that Tom would take the Berlingo away to get the tyre repaired and I would stay overnight and travel back to Luss with the removal men who were setting off from Luss at 5 a.m. to do a first unload before returning to Luss to pick up more items.

Sandy arrived and with help from Digger and me the loom was unloaded and then we all joined Olive and Rita (Sandy's wife) for tea in the farm kitchen. Later on we enjoyed an evening meal -- mum, Olive, Digger and me -- and after that I was happy to get my head down in the Granary. It had been an eventful day!

[ view entry ] ( 2905 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 15th. September, 2013 -- The Calm before the Storm 

A view of Arrochar Parish Church

What a lovely day! It started at Arrochar where I conducted the ten o'clock service -- the lectionary presenting us with the fifteenth chapter of Saint Luke's Gospel, without any doubt my favourite chapter of Scripture. Having conducted that service and grabbed a cup of coffee with the church folk, we drove down to Luss for the morning service there at 11.45 a.m. After coffee in the Pilgrimage Centre and a chat with Bill and Morag about the week's activities (what would I do without them), Rachel and I spent some time packing boxes -- surely the end is in sight?

In the early evening Jonathan and Vivienne took us for a meal to the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel. It was good to have a chance to sit down in peace and chat with them both. This week has been so busy that we have been like ships that pass in the night. Back home we had a coffee before bed. Tomorrow the removal vans arrive!

Spoke to Mum on the telephone. She had been taken to Gavinton Church by Tom. The service had been conducted by the Minister, Ann Inglis, and Mum had enjoyed it very much -- particularly as it was a service of Holy Communion and because the common cup was offered to the congregation. She had found the congregation to be very welcoming and she was even given the church flowers for her new home. That's the way to win new members!

[ view entry ] ( 4522 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 14th. September, 2013 -- A normal Saturday at Luss! 

A typical Luss Wedding scene.

It wasn't really a typical day for us because we had our usual appointment with boxes which had to be filled. But for Luss it was a fairly typical day -- a wedding in the Church (often there are two or even three) and loads of visitors who have come to explore our beautiful little village.

I got a break from 'boxing' when my friend Peter arrived for coffee -- he was actually out looking for peat for his fire but popped in for a chat as well. The wedding went well and after some more time spent working through the house I drove down to Balloch to collect a Chinese meal for Rachel and me -- and soon after eating it we went to bed.

Spoke to Mum on her telephone -- it was a new phone which she had bought today and was trying out -- now she will be wearing it out! Mum told me that she was going to one of the local churches tomorrow -- evidently there are two local churches, one in Duns and one in Gavinton. Mum has friends in both so hasn't yet decided where she will go. I suspect that we are in the parish of Gavinton so I expect that there is where I will go. I can hardly have spent the whole of my ministry extolling the virtues of the parish system and then go elsewhere! However, we will see.

Some superlative cricket results -- Durham with an incredible win over Derbyshire which takes us well clear of the top of the Championship (you'll gather that I am a member and a supporter of Durham County Cricket Club) and England with a last over victory over Australia which sets up the final decider on Monday beautifully. I do hope that game is not affected by the weather.

[ view entry ] ( 2774 views )   |  permalink
Friday 13th. September, 2013 

After yesterday's blitz on boxes I thought that today would be easier; but I woke with my body telling my brain that it really couldn't cope with another day like yesterday. Well it was never going to be that way anyway because there were a number of duties which had to be undertaken today. I now begin to understand why they say that retiring is quite stressful -- I have to work right up to the 30th. September, but I also have to have moved out by that date and as my job (shorthand for calling) takes every minute of every day, this is really quite hard!

Today I did fill some boxes but I also conducted a funeral at Cardross Crematorium. It was the funeral of Robert Fulton who was for many years the village joiner in Arrochar. I also conducted a wedding rehearsal for tomorrow's wedding at Luss and then I had a conference meeting to discuss the moving of my boat 'Ianthe' from Bowling to the borders. Tom has been active on my behalf and Jimmy who has been working on the boat delivered some spare marine timber to the house to be taken south. It seem that Ianthe will be in the borders before I am, and Simon is also arranging for 'Olivebank' to leave the manse in the next few days -- what a lot of really super friends I have. In fact I'm getting letters all the time from people who want to tell me how they will miss us when we have gone -- and even to say that we have added to their lives while we have been here. It is quite humbling.

Bill and Morag arrived this afternoon and decided that we were both looking tired so they took us out for a meal and absolutely wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. How fortunate we are!

Meanwhile down in the borders Mum, Olive and Digger continue to get the house into some kind of order. Mum is delighted with her new upstairs lounge and even more pleased to have a telephone again. I tried to get through many times but she was always engaged. I think that speaking on the telephone is her favourite activity. I'm reminded of the old BT advert, 'It's good to talk'.

[ view entry ] ( 2890 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 12th. September, 2013 -- Boxes! 

Boxes, boxes, everywhere -- and scarcely a place to sit!

There is little to write about today. There was to have been a wedding but the couple decided not to get married so today Rachel and I filled boxes and carried them around the house. I ended up more tired than I can ever imagine and there is still so much more to do. After twelve hours hard at it we flopped down on a vacant piece of furniture and had a snack, walked the dog and went to bed.

The glebe continues to look good -- yesterday I took this picture of the tree planted by our friend Anne in memory of her father. She has since died herself but she would be so pleased to see all of the berries on her tree. As well as the memory garden (which is getting ever larger) we have now designated a little bit of the glebe in memory of pets. It has come in response to a request and it is alongside a new pathway which will tell the story of Saint Francis, so it is really all very appropriate.

Anne's Dad's Rowan Tree

Down in the borders, Mum, Olive and Digger continue to get things in order. They have done their first large shop in Berwick and Mum now has her computer up and running. Continuing on the theme of trees, Digger harvested his plums today and Olive is looking for interesting ways of serving plums. I suggested plum crumble (served, of course, with ice cream). I include the suggestion here in the hope that when we are down next week that it may have been acted upon and that plum crumble is on the menu!

[ view entry ] ( 2832 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 11th. September, 2013 -- Pilgrims from Kirkcaldy 

Some of the 'over-flow' from the dining room into the lounge!

We had a lovely day in Luss today. I rose early and walked the dog and was concerned that it really was rather wet. Normally this wouldn't have mattered but today it did because today we were being visited by around forty members of the Guild of Bennochy Parish Church in Kirkcaldy. No ordinary Guild this, for Bennochy was the Guild to which my mother belonged before she set off for Mount Pleasant and, had she not just moved, then I am sure that she would have been with us today.

For newcomers to this blog, Guild visits are very much a part of the activities of Luss Parish Church. After our celebration year of 2010 we decided that we would keep the celebrations going for a little while longer by inviting Guilds from all over Scotland to come and visit. We would provide afternoon tea, show them around our Church, our Pilgrimage Centre, our Glebe Pilgrimage Walks and share with them something of our pilgrimage adventure. So many Guilds have come to join us and take advantage of this invitation that what was intended to be part of our programme for 2011 is now still going strong in 2013!

After afternoon tea at lunch time because later in the afternoon our ladies (and one gentleman) were going to dine at Bannockburn, everyone came across to the Church where we told them our story and showed them the sound and light show which seeks to tell the story of Luss Church in just seven minutes.

Some of the ladies gathered in the Church for the sound and light show -- I forgot to ask everyone to smile!

Everyone is doing better in this picture -- I must have remembered to ask everyone to smile

After time in the church, we set off in three groups to visit the Loom Room (where Rachel demonstrated the weaving of the Luss (St. Kessog) tartan on an old, 1820 Armstrong loom), the Heritage Centre in the Pilgrimage Centre, and the Green Pilgrimage Room. We also visited the Pilgrim's Palace (home to our young folk when they stay with us) and, of course, the Glebe where we walked the Kessog pathway together, returning to the car park in time for everyone to board their bus and set off for Bannockburn where their high-tea awaited them. All my fears about the weather had been proved to be unfounded as no sooner was lunchtime past than the sun came out and everything was beautiful -- and warm as well.The sun was still shining as we waved our friends off on the next stage of their journey. It had been another good visit.

I returned to the manse where all of our helpers had coffee together after the activity of the day and then, once they had left, I retired to the study to catch up on work which had to be done, before stopping for a meal with Rachel, and with Jonathan and Vivienne who had been out for the afternoon on their sailing boat.

Down at Mount Pleasant my Mum got her new telephone-line and she is once more back on broadband: so look out world.

[ view entry ] ( 5092 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 10th. September, 2013 -- Through a Glass Darkly 

I was out in front of the Manse at Luss saying good-bye to Robin and Glenys who have been with us for a few days when I saw the two dogs, Rowan and Mix, looking through the window. I knew the sun was shining on the window and I knew my reflection would appear in the picture but still I thought I would snap the dogs before, seeing me, they rushed for the front door -- and I rather like the result.

Both Rowan, the little border collie puppy of around four and a half months, and Mix, the nine-year-old rescue-dog mongrel with a bit of Doberman in him, have, of course, already visited the Granary and have inspected their new home. Both seemed to be pleased with what they saw but here in this picture they are watching as Rachel and I said good-bye to Glenys and Robin whom we met last year when we were in South Africa so that I could deliver the annual Saint Columba lecture, first in Johannesburg and then at Capetown. It was a good experience and it has been good to catch up with Robin and Glenys. The real surprise for me occurred last night as I was walking with them around the village. They were talking about their niece and her husband, a dentist from Kirkcaldy, and I suddenly realised that they were talking about Donald who, many years ago when I lived in Buckhaven, was not only my dentist, but my golfing partner and a fellow member of a local Gilbert and Sullivan company in which we both sang. It really is a very small world!

Rachel (centre) with Glenys and Robin.

Before saying good-bye, I had been in Helensburgh at my physio -- what a difference she is making to my tired old body. My posture is improving and I feel so much better. After the departure of our South African friends, I dealt with some pastoral matters, answered emails, prepared services, went down to Balloch to meet Jonathan and Vivienne who have come up to Loch Lomond with their boat and who will be staying with us for a few days. Then it was off to see folk before returning to the manse to continue with work in the study.

In the evening there was a meeting with some of the congregation of Luss at which we discussed the role of an elder in the Church of Scotland and looked at the challenges and opportunities facing our congregations in the coming months and years. It was a good meeting. Rachel, meanwhile, was out searching the highways and byways of Luss, along with half the population of the village, for a missing dog (not one of ours on this occasion). There was a happy ending to the story as the dog ran by (and then into) the manse and was able to be reunited with its by now distraught owners -- and in true Biblical fashion, there was general rejoicing at the return of the lost prodigal.

Down at Mount Pleasant the work of moving-in has continued apace. Mum is now happy in her upstairs sitting room and tomorrow is the great day when she gets her new telephone-line and her broadband and will be able, once more, to be in touch with the world.

[ view entry ] ( 2998 views )   |  permalink
Monday 9th. September, 2013 -- Making Things Safe! 

A view of the Granary back garden now securely fenced and dog-proof!

While I am up in Luss Tom has taken charge of having the back garden at the Granary securely fenced in. This means that once we get down to the Granary the dogs will be able to wander in and out of the house without any worry about them running away, getting caught on the road, or disturbing animals -- and there is clearly lots of room for them here. The photo was taken by Dorothy and sent to me by email.

Meanwhile I continued to work in Luss -- there are lots of people who have issues they think I can help with and who would like to speak with me before I retire. I started work on the services for Sunday because there will be little time later in the week and I started tackling some of the paperwork which has to be done before I retire. Of course, there were boxes to be filled as well, and so the packing marathon continues.

In the evening we went out for a meal with Robin and Glenys from South Africa -- they took us to The Stables in Alexandria and I enjoyed Cullen Skink followed by a beef burger covered in blue cheese (with ice cream and chocolate sauce to help it all down)! It was a pleasant evening. Spoke to Mum on the telephone. She is enjoying her new upstairs sitting room (and her television). A friend of Tom is coming at the weekend to see about painting her new sitting room. Things are beginning to take shape.

[ view entry ] ( 4485 views )   |  permalink
Sunday 8th. September, 2013 -- Another Busy Sunday! 

This is a picture of one of the Churches which is in my care until the end of this month. I have actually been minister here for almost fifteen years -- and they have been happy, happy years.

Luss Church sits in the village of that name, on the banks of Loch Lomond. The tiny village welcomes around 750,000 visitors each year and the role of the Church community is to share in that welcoming and to help those who come merely as visitors to leave as pilgrims.

That isn't as fanciful as it sounds because Luss has long been a pilgrimage place. Its story goes right the way back to the year 510 when a Celtic missionary called Kessog came to Luss to bring Christianity to the people who lived on the banks of Loch Lomond. He didn't come because Loch Lomond was a beautiful place to be but because this was where three of the ancient Scots Kingdoms met and if one wanted to be a missionary this was the place to be.

As well as teaching the folk of Luss about God's love for them, Kessog set out on a number of missionary journeys, one of which saw him travel around the south of Loch Lomond, north through Callander and Comrie and away up to the north east of Scotland were he visited Elgin before making his way to Inverness (where North Kessock remains as a reminder of his journey).

In 520 Kessog was murdered by druids a mile and a half south of Luss and buried here. It is hardly surprising that Luss became a place of pilgrimage as people came to the burial place of such a great man to seek his help in reaching the ears of the Almighty. That dark age pilgrimage seems to disappear into the mists of time but it emerged again in 1314 after the battle of Bannockburn. King Robert had come to Luss to pray at the Church before the battle and had appropriated Kessog's bishop's staff to carry before his troops on the day of the battle -- he had also come because there was wood for his archers on one of the local islands. The battle was, of course, a huge success and on 18th. March, 1315 King Robert returned to Luss and gave thanks for his victory at the Church, also awarding a three-mile girth of sanctuary around the Church -- three miles in every direction (over land and water) in which people were free from the rigours of the law unless they had committed a capital crime -- in recognition of the importance of Kessog to the Scottish troops. It is little wonder that Luss became again a place of pilgrimage. In fact so many people came to Luss on pilgrimage that in 1429 Luss Church was raised to the level of a prebend of Glasgow Cathedral -- a mark of its growing importance.

Of course, pilgrimage died out at the time of the Reformation in Scotland (it reached Luss in 1562) but it quickly became clear to us that Luss today with its thousands of visitors would be not dissimilar to Luss then with its thousands of pilgrims. The only difference is that today we welcome tourists, then they welcomed pilgrims. Our task was clear -- to help present day visitors become pilgrims. How we have set about that over the last ten years is a story in itself but it is one which I will share as this diary progresses. Suffice it to say for the present that we have built a Pilgrimage Centre and designed a series of pilgrimage walks on the twenty-five acre glebe which sits behind the church and across the little river known as the Luss Water. With these facilities we welcome visitors, run an international youth project, work with local secondary schools and Prince's Trust teams, conduct weddings for couples from around the world and from the church we broadcast our Sunday services to a congregation drawn from more than fifty countries each week.

But I really set out to describe today's activities. We started with our two morning services -- first at Arrochar at 10 in the morning and then at Luss at 11.45 a.m. At Luss there are always lots of visitors; in Arrochar this is rarer although today we did have a couple who were celebrating their sixty-eighth wedding anniversary and were on holiday in the village. It was good to have them with us. After the Luss service, while everyone was having coffee in the Pilgrimage Centre, I met with couples who were planning to be married here -- four couples this week and two couples who had been married here and had come back to tell us how they were getting on (one couple bringing with them their lovely little baby).

As soon as I was finished with wedding couples I met a family for whom I will be conducting a funeral later on in the week. Together we drew up a service and we worked out the life-story which I will relate as part of the celebration of Robert's life.

As this family left a party of pilgrims from the Roman Catholic Church community in Cardross arrived. We shared in afternoon tea in the Pilgrimage Centre, went to the Church for prayers and to see the sound and light show telling the story of our Church and then we set out to the glebe to walk one of the Pilgrimage routes. The weather was far from kind and the pilgrimage journey was shorter than it would otherwise have been. But that didn't matter because our visitors will return for a full pilgrimage adventure later on.

Bill, Morag, Cathy and I got everything tidied away and as they all left Robin and Glenys from South Africa arrived at the manse. We all went off to the Village Rest for something to eat -- I had haggis followed by haddock and chips, washed down with diet coke -- and then we came back to the manse for coffee and chat.

Walked Mix and went to bed. It had been a full day and a happy one!

[ view entry ] ( 2957 views )   |  permalink
Saturday 7th. September, 2013 Back in the Parish with twenty-three days to go. 

Here is another view of the Granary from its garden.

I'm back in Luss and you can read that 'twenty-three days to go' in two ways, both of which are true. Twenty-three days and I will be able to start to do some of the things that I'm looking forward to doing down in Duns -- but only twenty-three more days to continue with the work which has been my life and which I love and continue to love! So no wonder I am a little confused.

This morning I prepared services for tomorrow in Arrochar and Luss. Then there was a wedding to conduct and after that I went up to Arrochar to see a couple in the congregation who are really good friends of mine. Back to the Manse to arrange a funeral for next week and then just a bit of time before a couple arrived from South Africa -- Glynis and Robin whom I met at St. Columba's Church in Johannesburg where I delivered a lecture last year. We dined with them and then, after I had walked the dog, it was time for bed.

Spoke to the family down at Mount Pleasant. Mum has decided to have a sitting room upstairs -- it's a lovely, light room and not only does it have a water supply for teas and coffees but it has a working television aerial point so she can start to catch up with 'Neighbours'. The three of them (Mum, Olive and Digger) joined Scott and Sue at the Siamese Kitchen for a Thai meal this evening. By all accounts everyone had a very enjoyable meal.

[ view entry ] ( 2706 views )   |  permalink
Friday 6th. September, 2013 -- 'Things that go Bump in the night'. 

We all breakfasted together in the farm kitchen. I should say that by this time I had taken Mix for a very lengthy walk, had enjoyed a glorious shower and had been to the Duns Golf Course and joined! (I'd seen a web-site advertising the fact that they were having an open day tomorrow with a special rate for those who came along to join. So I contacted them and said I couldn't come tomorrow because I was still working but could I take advantage of their special offer and they said, 'Yes'.) I explained that I hadn't golfed since I lived in Fife but I think that they are desperate for members and I would love to learn to play again. The lady in the office who welcomed me -- and I did feel welcome -- was called Lorraine and she told me that pensioners day was Wednesday (it might have been Tuesday I didn't take it in as I haven't really got used to think of myself in those terms). The golf course is nine minutes drive from the Granary.

Anyway here we are around the breakfast table. Mum was extremely sleepy because she had been woken at 3.15 a.m. convinced that there was a prowler in the house. After an hour of listening and worrying she got up determined to confront the nocturnal visitor who turned out to be a cat! She hollered for Olive and Digger who evidently sleep soundly and it was some little time before they could be raised and the cat evicted from the property -- by which time Mum was ready to move back to Kirkcaldy.

We spent the rest of the morning moving in a wardrobe for Mum, setting up her computer -- broadband arrives with her new phone line next Wednesday -- and carrying furniture around. By the time we left at lunchtime Mum was almost organised.

Rachel and I drove back to Luss in my car with both dogs in time to conduct a wedding rehearsal, have something to eat, walk the dogs and retire to bed. Just now it doesn't matter which bed, all are equally comfortable and it is really good to climb in and fall asleep!

[ view entry ] ( 2667 views )   |  permalink
Thursday 5th. September, 2013 'Starting to Get Organised' 

This isn't a very good picture -- I took it on my telephone -- but it summed up today. Mum sitting in one of her rooms in the farmhouse emptying boxes. The farmhouse is a very large house and is being shared by my sister and her husband and my mother. The ground floor centres around a large farm kitchen, a huge lounge and a bedroom, a morning room and a very attractive bathroom with all of the facilities. My mother has taken over the bedroom and morning room as her domain and although she has another bedroom upstairs she is adamant that in general she wishes to remain on the ground floor.

Upstairs there are no fewer than five bedrooms as well as a study and, of course, all of the bathroom facilities. They will all have plenty of room and there will be loads of room for visitors as well.

While Mum toiled with her boxes, Olive and Digger moved furniture, and Rachel and I met with Tom and a local handyman to arrange to have additional fencing installed in order to ensure that one part of the garden was totally secure so that Mix and Rowan could be allowed to enjoy the garden without fear of them going walk-about. The work will be done on Monday.

We also started to bring furniture into the lounge. It wasn't the carrying of the furniture which was the problem. It was the finding it first -- raking through barns until we had identified the things we were looking for. In fact it was well into the evening before we had the lounge as Rachel wanted it to be. In between times we had been on a shopping expedition to Duns -- it really is just five minutes away -- and had enjoyed an excellent meal in the farmhouse kitchen.

Afterwards we all went back to the Granary for coffee and after everyone had left I took this picture of how the lounge had ended up. Doesn't that wood-burning stove look inviting?

It was good to get down onto our futon and fall asleep.

[ view entry ] ( 5120 views )   |  permalink
Wednesday 4th. September, 2013 -- D-Day! 

My sister has been counting down from sixty-two days (the time she sold her home and became homeless) and now the great day had arrived. Mum travelled down in the removal van with Malcolm and Allan; Olive and Digger drove from Luss, setting out in good time to be at the Borders before 2 p.m. (the hand-over time) and Rachel and I set off in our own vehicles laden down with bits and pieces (and loads of food) as well as with a dog each and arrived about quarter to three.

Mum's removal men, Allan and Malcolm, were fabulous and I would recommend them to anyone. It really didn't take them long to unload all of Mum's possessions and furniture and move her into the farmhouse -- her bit of the farmhouse is the bit you see at the right of the picture above. Meanwhile Olive and Digger started unloading their furniture from one of the barns (there are four big barns)while Rachel and I contented ourselves with unrolling a matrass and setting it out on the floor of our bedroom.

Once Mum's furniture had been dealt with Malcolm brought our grand piano from another of the barns and set it up in our lounge:

That's all the furniture we had for day one -- a grand piano and a matrass. But we were happy as pigs in muck! (which I've always thought was very impolite to pigs).

At seven our first guests arrived -- in addition to my Mum, Olive and Digger, we welcomed my brother Scott and his wife Sue; and Tom and Dorothy who live just a few moments away from Mount Pleasant. Our home -- the granary -- is the building in the photo at the head of this entry.

Here is a view from the other side:

All we had in our lounge was the grand piano but Rachel had made a lovely meal of Italian antipasto, followed by pansotti and several different sauces, followed by cheese and birthday cake (it was my sister's birthday, just to add to the celebrations) and my sister-in-law, Sue, had brought along a superb trifle. We drank German prosecco brought to us by our friend Brian when he was across recently and had a great evening. We had arrived and my mother, sister and her husband had now moved in -- and we were in the Granary and it is wonderful.

Just to tell you a bit about the Granary: there is a lovely kitchen, a very large lounge and a shower room on the ground floor and on the first floor there are two bedrooms both with their en suite facilities, one with a shower and one with a bath. Once we get them furnished I'll post pictures but that will be a little while yet. It was good to collapse onto our futon and soon I was asleep.

[ view entry ] ( 6368 views )   |  permalink
Tuesday 3rd. September, 2013 -- D-Day Minus One 

Mum standing outside her home after most of her possessions have been packed and put into two large removal vans in preparation for the journey to the Borders tomorrow morning.

Today I drove across to Fife to be with my mother while the removal men moved in to pack up and take away her furniture and possessions. The removal firm is a fabulous one. It is called 'AM Moving' and is local to Fife. Of course, you can read the name in two different ways: first of all it is a description of what is going on and the second makes sense only when you know that the names of the two partners are Allan and Malcolm. Both are just great and made everything so easy for Mum. I took a picture of her with Malcolm in the kitchen. You can see the boxes behind them, filled with all the kitchen utensils -- the cupboards really are bare:

Meanwhile, next door Allan was carefully packing all of Mum's ornaments. You can see part of the bubble-wrap in the right of the picture. Nothing was too much trouble and everything was done with such care:

There was time for several cups of coffee. One of Mum's neighbours had brought in sandwiches, chocolate biscuits and a large apple tart. Eventually everything had been packed into boxes and the boxes had been packed into the two removal vans. Allan and Malcolm set off for home promising to return tomorrow morning to ensure that the final items (Mum's bed and so on) were carefully stowed before the convoy set off for the Borders.

I loaded Mum into my car and took her first down to Buckhaven to have a look at her old home -- the sun was shining and it really did look good:

and then back to Kirkcaldy to the hairdresser to ensure that she looked her best for her arrival at Mount Pleasant tomorrow morning.

I got a message from our solicitor, Grant, to say that all of our funds had been transferred to the solicitor for the sellers and so we are all set to go. Exciting? You bet -- it has been a long time coming but now we have just about got there. One more night and then we all set off for our new home. (Rachel and I will return to Luss, our home for the rest of the month, but at least we will have seen what our new home looks like and Rachel will be able to plan where everything will go.)

[ view entry ] ( 2973 views )   |  permalink
Monday 2nd. September, 2013 -- D-Day Minus Two 

It's Monday and we become the owners of our new home on Wednesday at 2 p.m. I got confirmation from our solicitor today that all of the money was sitting in his account just waiting for him to press the button and it will transfer to the present owners. I understand that happens sometime tomorrow to enable them to complete their purchase in England.

Today we continued to put things in boxes -- well Rachel did, as I was kept busy dealing with the telephone and with all kinds of people who needed to speak to me. We managed to get my mother's telephone transferred to the new house and my sister and her husband also have a telephone line; we shall make do with our mobiles until we get settled.

The picture at the top of this entry is of the farm complex from a distance. In front you see the farmhouse itself where my mother, my sister and my brother-in-law will live. The building to the right (you only see the end of it) is our granary. That's what it is, a former granary now converted into a lovely little house just right for the two of us. Mind you, we also have the rest of the barns which will be used for storage (although we have some grandiose plans as well). The small-holding area is behind the barns and belongs to Olive's husband -- he has promised us that we won't have to buy vegetables ever again: we'll see.

Back in Luss I am still coping with the good-byes. Not just the good-byes to folk I know but also through the newspapers. The Lennox Herald printed a kind good-bye to me. I quote it here:

Luss minister Rev Dane Sherrard announces retirement
Aug 30 2013 by Jenny Foulds, Lennox Herald

A popular minister — who has married more than 1,000 couples at his quaint church — has announced his retirement.

Rev Dane Sherrard will conduct his last service at Luss Parish Church at the end of next month after 42 years as a Church of Scotland minister and nearly 15 years leading the congregations of Luss and Arrochar.

The 67-year-old told the Lennox Herald of his joy at being part of the community — which he calls the best days of his life — and sadness at leaving it all behind for a new life in the Scottish Borders.

Speaking from his home before announcing his retirement to his congregations on Sunday, he said: “I am going to write a letter and give it to each person in the church because I won’t be able to stand up and talk about it — this has been my life and it will be difficult to leave behind.

“It has been an adventure and if there was any way of me not having to retire, I would do it.

“However, we are moving to a farm steading with my mother and sister and I need to pay the sum required now to buy the property which means I have to retire.

“I am going to miss many, many aspects of life at Luss. The weddings have been very special and every day I get messages from the people I have married.”

He added with a smile: “But I am not going to miss brides who are late. Last year, I spent the equivalent of two working weeks waiting for them to arrive.”

Now he fears what the future may hold for Luss and the businesses which rely on weddings at the church as he predicts these nuptials in the village may come to an end once he leaves.

He said: “The new minister will take on the congregations of Luss, Arrochar and Kilmaronock which is a big task and means a lot of things are going to have to stop.

“I doubt it will be possible for a minister to look after another church and conduct weddings. If that disappears I will be sorry.

“I am also sorry for the local businesses which will lose out. People come here from all over the world.

“This afternoon, half of the visitors at a wedding I conducted were from Greece and they will stay for a few nights, eat at the local restaurants, go for a ride on the seaplane and go home with souvenirs, wearing their kilts.

“I know that’s not church business but the task of the church is to help to create the kingdom of God where it is and that’s all about people having jobs and in a rural economy, that is desperately important.”

As well as the weddings, Dane has been an influential and integral part of the community, helping to shape Luss as a tourist and pilgrimage destination. The story began on a rare day trip to Inveraray in 1998, whilst a busy minister in Bishopbriggs.

The outing changed his and wife Rachel’s life forever. The couple made a stop in Arrochar and Dane was drawn to the once dilapidated parish church.

He said: “The closer we got to the church, the more run down it was until we were able to see holes the size of footballs in the windows.

“The pews were piled on top of each other and the organ was covered in a plastic bag.

“We bumped into a woman walking her dog and she mentioned there wasn’t a minister at the church and the presbytery was considering knocking the church down.

“When we got into the car, Rachel said, ‘we will be here by Christmas won’t we?’”

Dane took up his post months later and never looked back.

He reflected: “I have seen an enormous amount of change I have been lucky to be part of. It has been wonderful here.”

Dane has helped put Luss on the world map and, amongst other projects, he shaped the celebrations in 2010 for the 1,500 year anniversary to mark St Kessog bringing Christianity to Luss and has welcomed thousands of pilgrims from across the world.

He also set up an internet broadcasting service at the church allowing people from across the globe tune into Sunday services.

Now he is looking forward to taking a back seat and intends to write a book as well as indulging in his love of sport and opera.

He added: “I am going to watch cricket. I’m a member of Durham Cricket Club so it’s no accident we are moving closer!

“I hope to do some sailing and I am a Gilbert and Sullivan fanatic too so hope to find more time for that."

The Sunday Post concentrated more on the future of weddings at Luss:

Threat to weddings on the bonnie banks

Reverend Dane Sherrard, of Luss Church, who is about to retire. He fears for the future of the church, as there are fewer vicars nowadays.

More than 100 couples a year tie the knot at scenic Luss Parish Church on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Celebrity marriages in the past have included Deal Or No Deal presenter Noel Edmonds, Scots supermodel Kirsty Hume and former STV presenter Sarah Heaney.

But the retirement of the parish minister may pose a threat to the future of weddings at the scenic kirk.

Pension rules mean Rev Dane Sherrard, 67, is having to quit his job at the end of this month.

He fears a shortage of ministers will mean his successor will have to take on an extra parish, slashing the time available for marriage ceremonies at Scotland’s most popular wedding venue.

“I’ve had two churches to look after — Arrochar and Luss,” said Rev Sherrard.

“If they are linked to a church in another parish then that’s going to make it very difficult for the weddings to continue.

“I would certainly be very sad about that.

“When I came here we were only allowed to marry people who came from the parish. But so many people from all over wanted to wed here we persuaded the Presbytery.

“Now it’s not unusual to have three weddings a day and 40% of the parties come from abroad.”

Such is the scenic beauty, two years ago Rev Sherrard banned “cuckoo” newlyweds who were disrupting ceremonies by showing up outside to have their wedding photos taken.

The village, formerly location for STV’s Take The High Road, attracts 750,000 visitors a year.

“The economic impact of the things the church does, in terms of welcoming visitors and pilgrimage as well as weddings, runs into millions of pounds,” said Rev Sherrard.

“All of the accommodation in the village and round about is involved in big weddings, as well as restaurants, kilt hire, photographers, florists and much more.”

The church is so famous Scottish Enterprise helped fund its own TV system to broadcast weddings to viewers abroad.

People in more than 50 countries now tune in for the regular Sunday services.

“I would have been happy to carry on working, my congregation would have been happy to have me and there’s a shortage of ministers in the Church of Scotland,” added Rev Sherrard.

“But I chose to save through the pension fund and the rules are that I have to retire to get my savings.

“It will be a wrench, although I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Wedding photographers would be among those hard hit by any major cutback in numbers.

“The weddings have done a great deal of good for the area,” said photographer Graham Wilson, who was himself married at Luss Parish Church.

“I don’t think for one minute there will be the same number of weddings.

“A survey a few years back said the average wedding brought £34,000 to the area so there is a lot of money to be lost.

“It would be much missed.”

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing a minister at Luss and our forward plan indicates that it may be linked with another congregation.

“It will be for the Interim Moderator to make the necessary arrangements to conduct those weddings which are currently scheduled for Luss Parish Church and to develop a policy for handling new enquiries.”

Again it was kind, but I doubt that it will endear me to the Presbytery! Both of the papers published rather nice photos of me -- I mention it here because normally Rachel says that I take a very bad photo because I haven't yet learned how to smile at a camera (when she is feeling more generous she says that it is because my beard makes me look glum)!

Anyway, Olive and Digger have arrived back at the manse where they are staying until Wednesday morning. Tomorrow I expect to drive over to my mother's to ensure that her packing goes smoothly and the next day is Wednesday. What an adventure -- but the newspaper articles got it right: I wish I was having this adventure but was still able to return to my vocation here in Arrochar and Luss; that would be to have everything and I suppose that folk are seldom so lucky as that.

[ view entry ] ( 5893 views )   |  permalink
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.

[ view entry ] ( 2980 views )   |  permalink

<Back | 1 |