Getting there?…or are we there now?


Today is the first day of one of the sections of the Church’s calendar..Advent Sunday, and was traditionally when we start talking of, and preparing for, Christmas. One of our great Carols, ‘O Come all ye Faithful’, has a final verse ‘Yea, Lord we Greet Thee’, which we do not sing until Christmas morning. So we are prepared to wait.

The world is somewhat different however. We don’t need to wait until the end of the month to buy something- we can always borrow money, Seasons all run into each other, Sales are an all-year event, holidays away are occurring most weekends during the year, international sports events can be seen on TV at any time, central heating has meant that we can keep warm right through winter (money permitting), and the idea of ‘seasonal’ fruit and vegetables doesn’t exist now.

So we seem to have lost the ‘order of things’. I remember the song ‘The Green Leaves of Summer’ which told of the fact that there are specific times for living and dying, sowing and reaping etc. But we seem to have lost this concept. Do you remember in youth when the football would be put away and the cricket bat or tennis racquet would suddenly appear? But now we can see these sports on TV from any part of the world. The coming of indoor pitches also means that many sports can be played through the year. The mixed-up weather patterns has also meant that we have already had snow in November and birds have been migrating at different times.

Will we ever see see a return to a more ‘ordered’ system, or I am living some kind of dream which never really existed?

PS….for those, North of the Border, it is also St Andrew’s Day…Patron Saint of Scotland

Look for the hidden gem

One of the downsides about living in beautiful countryside, with beautiful places to which we can travel is that we very often miss places we drive through or pass many times, without visiting.

One of our lovely runs is to Oban or over the Connel Bridge. This first area is well-visited by the coach tours and in itself is quite an attractive town and also can lead you on to Mull and Iona. The Connel Bridge takes you to Rob Roy country and on to Glencoe.

Connel itself is a pretty village with lovely views across water, and a gorgeous church dedicated to St Oran. (the header is an interior view) We were priveledged to visit there recently and look inside a building I had passed many times. It is of cool grey stone  with flecks which sparkle in the sunlight, giving it an almost-translucent air, and is based on the shape of Iona Abbey, with a square tower. The Minister is a very competent organist and the Church is well known locally for its music.

So, sometimes, it is worth stopping in life to admire what we are passing, and not just seek some ultimate goal. Maybe it is ‘better to travel than to arrive’.

I think that size DOES matter!



I detest shopping….let’s get that straight!

The thought of wandering-about in faceless malls/shopping centres looking at the same things as can be seen in any of these great cathedrals to consumption, does nothing for my mind. I can vividly remember going-into the St Enoch’s Centre in Glasgow for the first time some decades ago. It looked like a large railway terminal with an enclosed glass roof. Several levels of shops looked for all the world like cells or places where monstrous hens would go to lay eggs! I uderstand from those who know these things, that this is where people come for retail therapy…..good grief!

Within the hour, I had seen representatives of all the major shops with household names, selling clothes, mobile phones, coffee, sports gear, holidays, computers etc, etc……

After an hour of this, I had had enough! I felt cooped-in, trapped in a world of jostling people, bored children, even-more-bored shop staff. I think the problem was that there was too much choice. ‘Let’s try next door, they’ll have a better-designed/slightly-cheaper/more-colourful/better-quality/newer-style, example’ was the cry of the dearly-beloved Lady of the House…..and all I needed was a pair of grey socks, or a pair of underpants!

Going to a large DIY store or furniture warehouse brings the same amount of displeasure!

Where have all the small specialised shops gone? We had a very-good local butcher, whom everyone admired, too-few patronised, and then all sympathised when they heard he was closing up due to lack of business. ‘His quality was very good, but he was not as cheap as Sainsbury’.  Of course he couldn’t beat any of the major stores, where the meat comes from anonymous farms, killed in anonymous abattoirs, prepared by rows of anomymous butchers, packaged by clanking machines and stacked in neat rows in polystyrene containers. But that was not what he offered. He would supply a very small amount of meat for an old couple, give advice on how to prepare a stew, and could tell you where the animal grew up.

We still have a sweetie shop, where we can recall the flavours and odours of yesteryear, and perhaps pass on to the next generation some appreciation of the subtle tastes of rhubarb-and-custard sweets, or the black sticky mess on your teeth when you have some licquorice! He will be busy over Christmas but let’s hope he is still there this time next year.

Over much of my working life I have been involved with small independent businesses. These are often made up of one or two people who have a speciality knowledge, who know a lot about their customers, and are able to give advice. Also, a £100 order to a supermarket may not mean much, but spend that in a one-man  business, and you will make a very-happy shopkeeper, and let him (or her) live another day.

But if you don’t use them, you will lose them. Why not see if you can buy some of your Christmas presents (and maybe even the turkey, or licquorice comfits) locally. You will be saving petrol, hassle, putting back some money into the locally economy, and perhaps saving a local business and his family from ‘going-under’!


P.S. The photo at the top is a Russian supermarket….exciting isn’t it!

Drink up…you need it!


So our beloved experts, the leaders of the free world, are meeting in the States, to discuss, and hopefully sort out, the economic mess which has lead many businesses and families to see disaster visit them. The economic crunch has been all-pervading and few people have escaped. ‘Heat or eat’? has been on the minds of a large percentage of people as the spiralling energy costs have heaped misery on misery.

So it is nice to see that these same leaders can have their energy-expensive journeys to the Summit, and then indulge in lavish meals, including some wine at £250 per bottle.

We wouldn’t want them suffering like us, would we?

Remember, remember…..

Recently, we have had the local noises of fireworks, as people, for some strange reason, let off excessive numbers of fireworks. Is it to ward-off evil spirits, or just some kind of ‘last-fling’ at the end of Spring?  Why should we want to remember the Fifth of November, anyway?

This morning, at the Cathedral, we remembered the fallen, in a very gentle way, with no blazing trumpets, but a simple selection of hymns, Peter Maxwell-Davies’ moving ‘Farewell to Stromness’ played on the piano, and Frikki Walker’s ‘Prayer for Peace’.

This afternoon, with the foul weather, we started to clear out some old photographs. No easy task! We thought we would get rid of a lot, but it feels rather uncomfortable to destroy images of ones we knew, and maybe even more so, those we didn’t know, as they were before our time. So we compromise by getting some destroyed, some scanned-into the computer, and others to be sent-off to relations who might not have copies, and would welcome them, and even more to be passed on to the Glasgow’s People Palace. This is because the Lady’s forebears were famous in the Glasgow East-End Ministry, and were great supporters of the working people of the area. 

And so we have had a period of recalling those who at various times have passed-on. And what memories will we leave behind, and how will people sum-up our attitude to life and others (as they will)? Happy, pleasant, annoying, snobby, short-tempered, truthful, reliable, patient?

So it behoves us to remember this whenever we interact with someone we love, or someone we have just met for the first time…because we are laying down how we will be remembered long after we are gone. How would you like to be remembered? …..maybe I will just go down as a long-winder old blogger!!

Top of the pile



The problems which have beset Gordon Brown,  and now the pending workload facing Barack Obama, has set me to wondering why anyone should want to place themselves in such a position.

They are both different of course…Brown with his involvement in the detail over a decade as second-in-command. He had of course been jealous, and it was blatantly obvious that he felt he should have had the position much earlier. When Tony Blair stepped down, Brown simply became the leader. He was never selected by competition, and so there was the question as to whether he should have accepted the post without going to the electorate. Things looked reasonably good for him, but as we all know, his desk has been littered with major problems, internal to the party and now the world-wide financial situation. He cannot claim that he was un-involved or could not have had any idea about the fiscal storm which has been brewing for a long time now.

Obama, on the other hand has appeared from relative obscurity, to arguably the most important position in the western world. With no experience in diplomacy, he can also claim no involvement in the history of politics or finance which are now causing problems. He comes with a possible fresh approach, and was selected by the (strange to us) voting system in the States.

So why do these folk, knowing what it involves, wish such a post, especially with both having young children who should be having their attention?

Is it power, and control they can wield, whatever the sacrifices?

Is it the money?

Is it an ego-centric thought that ‘You need me’?

Is it an altruistic wish to serve one’s country and the world?

Is it a wish to go down in history?

Are they pushed or encouraged into it by colleagues, friends, or spouse?

Please tell me!