Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A silver anniversary

After a lovely weekend with family, we finally arrived just after midnight and fell into bed. Today we evicted the spiders that always take up residence in our absence and have just finished unpacking. Giving thanks for the fact that the weather is dry, if rather cool, I've even made a start on trying to turn the hayfield that greeted us back into something vaguely resembling a lawn. Now we are both tired and ready for bed, but before I go, I can’t let this day end without mentioning that it has a very particular significance for me.

Twenty-five years ago, on Saturday June 25th 1988, I was ordained deacon, together with five others, by the then Bishop of Bangor. For me it was the culmination of a long process of discernment and part-time training, alongside my full-time work as a public librarian, and it was an extraordinarily happy and enjoyable day. It wasn't a historic occasion like my later ordination to the priesthood. Instead it was a family occasion, as our families, friends and church congregations came together to celebrate this new stage in all our lives. 

I have no photos of the ordination service itself, nor any formal posed portraits. What I have is a series of snapshots which I think give a good flavour of the happiness that permeated the crowd outside the cathedral west door after the service.  Twenty-five years on, I’m still profoundly grateful for that day and for the joys and satisfaction of the work it made possible for me. It has been sheer privilege. 

With our two children, who put up with a lot during my training

With my next-to-youngest sister, then and always a great support.

And with my dear Baby Sis. Why do big sisters always have to hold forth?

With DH, without whom I'd never have done any of it.

You've heard of Flying Bishops. Meet the flying deacon....

All the images have been scanned from the hard copy originals of those long-ago pre-digital days.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

As the old saying goes….

….it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and this woman has just done exactly that.

As many of you know, I’m facing cataract surgery this year, as my right eye is now very badly clouded. Today DH and I drove across the Cambrian Mountains to Aberystwyth for my pre-operative assessment, which entailed a raft of tests and measurements to enable my consultant to plan my operation.

When I finally saw him for our discussion he was very frank that the detailed measurements of my eyes had shown that the operation would unfortunately not be simple and straightforward, but instead really rather tricky and the risk of complications greater than average. He is still very willing to do the surgery, as otherwise I will soon have no usable sight in that eye, but he was also frank that he wasn’t sure that it would be advisable to operate on the other eye unless absolutely necessary, since the difficulties and risks would also apply to that eye.

What this means is that if I opt for vision correction in my bad eye, I will make it necessary to have a similar operation on my other eye, in which the cataract is as yet very minor. However, if I simply have the lens replaced with a similar strength artificial one, I won’t need to have the other eye operated on until the cataract interferes with my vision, which could be many years down the line at the present rate of progress.

Interestingly, although I had been looking forward to the idea of discarding my glasses, or at least needing much weaker ones, I found it very easy indeed to come to the decision that I would simply have the clouded lens replaced and forgo any possible improvement in my vision. This way, once the operation (provisionally scheduled for September 17th) is over and my eye has healed, I can treat myself to some spiffing new varifocal glasses and get on with my life for the foreseeable future, without the prospect of a second operation hanging over me.

After all, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t short-sighted and needed powerful glasses, so I’m not losing anything I already have, I’m simply not gaining something I might have had and I feel completely at ease with that decision.

With all the discussion and decision-making behind us, DH and I can now relax and get on with the preparations for our rapidly-approaching journey to France. The ferry is booked for next Monday and on Saturday the very small campervan will head across to my mother-in-law’s house for overnight visits to her and to DS, before taking us to Portsmouth and the beginning of what will hopefully be another quiet summer at our little cottage in Normandy. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A dizzy social whirl

You might be forgiven for thinking that life in a tiny Highland community would be quiet, even boring, but not a bit of it. I’m writing this on a grey and rainy Thursday evening, on the only day so far this week that I haven’t actually been out somewhere. The reason I have unhindered access to my laptop is that DH is out at the moment at another meeting about the community transport database he’s been working on.

Sunday morning saw me making the short but beautiful walk along the road to the local parish church, where we had five rousing hymns and an enjoyable sermon from a visiting minister. As if that weren't enough singing for one day, after lunch I walked across the road to the local community centre for a meeting of the newly-established music group which meets every Sunday afternoon for impromptu singing and music-making. It was a very hoarse Perpetua who made her way home for tea two hours later, after singing a wonderful variety of Scottish and Irish folk-songs, together with a sprinkling of good old parlour and music-hall ditties. Our beautifully crisp rendering of “My Grandfather’s Clock” almost raised the roof!

The recycling centre with a view!

Monday was another gloriously sunny day, so after an early lunch we filled the back of the car with a variety of stuff destined for the local recycling centre and drove across the causeway to what must be the most beautifully-positioned council utility in the country. Once we had offloaded everything into the relevant bins, we set off on the wonderful drive around the Kyle of Tongue, stopping every few minutes to take yet another photograph of the stunning scenery.

Ben Loyal from the causeway across the Kyle of Tongue

Turn round and this is the view down the Kyle to the sea

The road goes ever on....

At one point we parked the car and walked up a gentle slope to a headland overlooking the lovely Lochan Hakel and the magnificent peaks of Ben Loyal. The hill was dotted with aromatically-blossoming gorse bushes, interspersed with the last of the bluebells peeping through the heather and a mass of daisies among the shorter grass. This is one of our favourite local spots and it was lovely to see it in the summer sun, rather than on the freezing cold February day when we first discovered it.

DH on a peak in Darien....

Ben Loyal across Lochan Hakel

Lovely Lochan Hakel

The road home from Lochan Hakel - with trees!

Tuesday morning brought a very different kind of outing for me – a short walk along our street for coffee with a neighbour. She is the wife of the painter and decorator who made such a good job of the house in our absence and being German and knowing that I once studied German, she invited me for a good old German Kaffeeklatsch. It was an immensely enjoyable hour, as my ageing brain dredged up the rusty remains of my once very fluent German, and I felt very pleased that I only had to drop into English a couple of times, when I simply couldn't find the words I wanted. But oh boy, was I tired by the time I went home to make lunch! 

Yesterday was Wednesday and Wednesday of course means Knit and Natter and we did a great deal of both, on what became a very cold, grey and wet day. Indeed I was so late home that poor DH was starting to think he wouldn't get any lunch at all, but at least he had had four uninterrupted hours on my laptop to edge his project closer to completion. Now we are looking forward to lunch with a friend tomorrow and our return to Wales on Saturday, ready for my hospital appointment (pre-op assessment!) next Wednesday. It’s all go! 

The view at bedtime

Monday, June 10, 2013

North coast journey

Since I last posted, the weather here on the north coast of Scotland has been truly glorious. Warm sunny day has followed warm sunny day and it’s been a joy to be outside. Weather like this is too rare to waste, so on Saturday DH and I headed to Wick on the east coast and then meandered back, stopping again and again to capture yet another view of this very different landscape.

The countryside of Caithness is very similar to that of Orkney, which those of you with longer memories may remember I visited a year ago. In stark contrast to the wild, rugged mountains of the north-west Highlands, the north-east corner of the Scottish mainland boasts wide, gently-sloping and treeless vistas – far views indeed. The Orkneys lie only a few miles off the north-east coast and can be clearly seen, though getting there takes time.

Orkney ahoy!

Dunnett Head - the most northerly point in mainland Britain

This is a remote agricultural landscape, which has in the past suffered severe economic depression and hardship and marked depopulation, as can be seen from the many ruined croft houses dotted across the landscape.

This was once a family home

This too - a long time ago

A drift of cotton grass

As one travels back towards the centre of the north coast, the mountains begin to appear again in the distance. Once the familiar outlines of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal can be distinguished, DH and I know that we are getting close to the wonderful landscape where we feel so at home. It’s good to see something different, but only for a day….

A lochan - a very small loch - with the Sutherland hills in the background

The Kyle of Tongue with the Rabbit Islands and the Melness peninsula 

The cottages of Coldbackie, looking out over the Rabbit Islands

The end of a beautiful day

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Just saying hello….

I’m glad to be able to report that after a very pleasant stay with DD, we arrived safely on Sunday evening at the end of a breathtaking journey up through the sun-drenched Highlands. Sadly, with so many miles to do and so much furniture to move before we could get to bed (remember the redecoration?) there wasn't time for the photo stops I would have liked, except for one of our favourite viewpoints over the Dornoch Firth.

Since then we've been sorting out the furniture, admiring the newly-painted rooms and tackling the garden, all of it without rain and, thanks to the very cold spring, without midges! Since we arrived it has been warm (out of the northerly wind) and quite sunny and there is even better weather forecast for the weekend. I've been to Knit and Natter, where I caught up with all the local news, and tomorrow I'll attend the local monthly Eucharist service, taken by a priest who has a 120 mile round trip to do so. Episcopalians are thin on the ground in the North-West Highlands.

A walk by a Yorkshire river

Last but not least, DH and I are sharing a computer for this visit, as there was only room in the car for my laptop. I think you’d have to know us in person to realise just how momentous an announcement this is. J DH is busy developing a database for a local community transport group, so my blog-reading and other online things are having to be fitted around this project. Hence, while he tears his hair when things don’t go right, I've been busy pruning the buddleia and the roses (not the right time of year, but needs must) and trying to rediscover the rockery.

The very small car overshadowed by Varich Castle

The Kyle of Tongue and another of 'my' trees - our silver birch

All very domestic, I know, but as I've tried to explain before, we don’t think of our visits to Scotland and France as holidays, but as picking up our life and temporarily putting it down again in a different place. It works for us and we love every minute.

The always breathtaking Ben Loyal

Apple blossom in June! It's been a very cold spring.