“The Queer Folk O’ the Shaws”

Pollokshaws Townhouse (1803) and the Memorial to James McIndoe the poet

Pollokshaws is a district on the southside of Glasgow (A Burgh in its own right until 1912) and was our home for 23 years, and is still the lifelong home of our church in Leckie Street. This blog will recall past and recent memories of life here, and the huge changes that have taken place throughout my lifetime. There is a poem on a plaque in the old part of the ‘Shaws, which always brings a smile to my face, but please don’t take the words too seriously! 🙂 The poem on the plaque reads:

The ‘Queer folk’ O’ the Shaws – “Wha’ ne’er untae the Shaws has been – Has surely missed a treat – For wonders there are to be seen – Which nothing else can beat. – The folks are green, it’s aft been said, – Of that you’ll find no trace; – There’s seasoned wood in every head – And brass in every face. – Look smart and keep your eyes about – Their tricks will make you grin; – The Barrhead bus will take you out -The folks will take you in. Thank you James McIndoe, that poem still makes me laugh!

Pollokshaws has a history going back to the 17th century, but ‘The ‘Queer Folk’ was the name first given to some Flemish weavers brought to the Shaws by the Maxwell family in the 1800’s, and over time became a ‘byeword’ for all those living in the area. (‘Queer’ in the poem had the meaning of ‘strange’ or ‘odd’) McIndoe the poet, it has been said liked making fun of folks, and it says something of Pollokshaws people that they chose to remember him by this ‘cheeky’ poem in the ‘town square’. Being able to ‘laugh at ourselves’ is surely a special virtue.

The changes that have taken place in the Pollokshaws landscape in my lifetime have been quite phenomenal! In the 40’s and 50’s it still had that close community, working class, yet small town / village atmosphere. It has to be said however, that the housing was basic, and in some parts quite deplorable and rightly described as a slum. But development was coming! (See on-line – ‘Pollokshaws – Wikipedia’ for some amazing resources)

In the 60’s Pollokshaws was designated as a redevelopment area, and in due time we were given the sum of £1.00 in exchange for our two apartment flat in Harriet Street, plus the keys to a brand new flat in the Shawholm Cresent tower block, with a rent payable to Glasgow Housing Department. Wow, were we pleased? YES we were! The up and downstairs apartment had underfloor central heating, two bedrooms, bathroom, a lounge with a verandah, a fitted kitchen, and our own lock-up garage. Pollok Park was just across the road, the neighbours were great, together we polished the communal corridor and as the proverbial saying goes ‘you could have eaten your dinner off the floor’ it was so clean.

We had many happy days at Shawholm Crescent, but life moves on, and as the family grew we too moved on. But now we look back and wonder why all those hopes and dreams that the new revitalised Pollokshaws brought, would within our lifetime come to ruin and decay? The many factories and businesses in the area also closed over that period of time.

But another revitalised Pollokshaws is arising from the ashes, so time will tell if it is more successful than the last redevelopment effort. I am surprised however that expensive new houses are being built, whilst it seems little effort is going into preserving and maintaining landmark buildings, monuments and the once attractive river bank.

Our Church at Greenview.

Greenview Church, was established by some men in the Shaws away back in 1873, as they were keen to introduce to people a simple form of Christian worship. They met to pray, study the Bible, have fellowship with one another as believers and hold communion. They were also keen to share the good news about Jesus with their fellow citizens in Pollokshaws. First they met in a rented hall off the Main Street, then built a wooden hall in Wodrow Street, (Wodrow Street ran from Cogan Street past what is now Pollokshaws Parish Church – The tree now standing in the ground near the Parish Church was in the grounds of the Hall) before moving to Greenbank Street and finally to Leckie Street, where they have been since 1933. The building there has been changed and extended on umpteen occasions.

The Church from its beginnings had a strong missionary interest, and Norman MacRae one of the founding fathers, went out in 1876 to Narsapur in the Godaveri Delta, India. Up until today a long line of men and women from Greenview Church have followed Jesus’ command to ‘go into all the world to preach the gospel’ both by word and deed. I remember as a youngster the Pollokshaws Burgh Hall being packed to the door for ‘Farewell Meetings’ followed by trips to the Central Station where we waved off our friends as they made their way to Tilbury Dock in London, before sailing to Africa and South America. Many country names come to mind – Northern Rhodesia, Argentina, Brazil, East Pakistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania and other nations in the Middle East. Alex Simpson of Pollokshaws died in Brazil, and an orphanage there is called after him. Men and women with a wide variety of skills from the Shaws have left our shores and used their gifts and skills to help folks around the world, and to build, plant and support the Church.

No space here to expand on all the activities of the Church over the years – suffice to say they have been exhaustive. Not including the main Sunday morning and evening services, there has been Bible studies and weekly prayer meetings, Summer ‘Tent’ Campaigns, Choirs singing at Churches around Scotland’s Central belt, Christian conferences, Sunday Schools (Pollokshaws and Thornliebank) with summer trips and children’s prizegivings, Childrens meetings galore, Christian Youth Centre during and after the war, with 2 week summer camps around Scotland and winter craft making and games nights, Youth Bible Classes and special weekends away, Womens tea meetings, Sewing classes, mens meetings, a football team, white water rafting, golf outings, and much more. Some Greenview pics from the ancient past, and from more recent times follow.

During the pandemic the church services were on-line with the help of Zoom, but that gave the opportuniy to upgrade the church building and its fittings. Now services are back in church, and whilst we practice social distancing and wear masks, it’s great having the live band for our singing, and to see friends old and new in person.

Life has changed dramatically in Pollokshaws in my lifetime, and our church too has had to deal with many changes. But thankfully God does not change and the good news of Jesus does not change. In fact the Bible says of Jesus, that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. An anchor to our souls in our increasingly chaotic world. Our community cafe has started again on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and many have already come to enjoy the friendly welcome and excellent food and coffee. Tot’s and Co. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are seeing lots of local mums making friends and finding support there, and our ‘Christians Against Poverty’ Centre is up and running, helping folks escape the debt trap. We also have a programme in partnership with ‘Hope for Glasgow’ that deals with those who have destroying addictions. Sunday School runs in parallel with our morning service at 11am, and there is a thriving Youth Group.

If you are coming to Glasgow we would love to see you, and of course if you stay in Pollokshaws there is always a welcome awaiting you!

We look forward to following the ongoing development of Pollokshaws and its Churches, so with this picture of the Burgh Hall, I wish all my fellow bloggers and my Pollokshaws friends at home and abroad a ‘Happy Christmas and God’s blessing in the New Year!’

Pollokshaws Burgh Hall

Matthew

The Trossachs and Argyleshire – and the sound of Silence!

The ‘Trossachs nature reserve’ in Scotland is an area east of Loch Lomond, famous for it’s lochs, rugged hills, forests and glens, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Scotland in Minature.’ It lies within the ‘Queen Elizabeth National Park’ and is a 30 mile, one hour drive from Glasgow. We normally like to visit in August when the heather is in full bloom, but this year it was an October’s day-trip. Aberfoyle is a little town within the Trossachs where there is a ‘Scottish Woollen Mill’ shop, and we often stop there to view their wide range of clothing and enjoy a coffee. Within a mile of Aberfoyle is the ‘James Marshall Lodge’ sitting on the hill at the entrance to the ‘Duke’s Pass’, and this offers magnificent views, easy and challenging walks, and there is a ‘Go Ape’ high wire adventure to be tackled if you are fit!

Half-way across The Duke’s Pass you can access a ‘Forest Drive’ by paying a few pounds, and moving onto a dirt road, which winds its way through the forest. It passes three lochs on the route – Loch Reoidhte, Drunkie and Achray.

Our favourite part of the drive is the approach to Loch Achray. Passing the old homestead, you can view Ben A’an across the loch, only 451 m high but a spectacular little hill to climb with a rugged top and a splendid view down Loch Katrine. Then on the near side of the loch you have a view of Ben Venue at 729 m, another easy but magnificient climb.

And just before the month of October ran out, we enjoyed a couple of nights break at the Park Hotel in Dunoon, Argyleshire. We left Glasgow in the rain, headed for Loch Lomond and reached Arrochar at the top of Loch Long just before lunch time. Then over the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass where we turned down ‘Hells Glen’ before following the road to Strachur. From there it’s an easy trip down to Dunoon on the banks of the Firth of Clyde, but we chose to divert through Ardentinny also on Loch Long, then around the Holy Loch and on to Dunoon just as the rain decided to stop!

Dunoon was once a favourite holiday destination for Scottish holiday makers prior to the arrival of ‘the package holiday’. But it is still a beautiful place with lots to see and do.

The following day we made a visit to Glen Masson for the first time, and also a trip back to Benmore Botanical gardens to see them in their autumn colours.

Benmore Botanical Gardens

The drive back to Glasgow was via Tighnabruaich, Portavadie, Otter `Ferry, Strachur, Loch Lomond and Glasgow. That is quite a drive.

Reflection -The beauty of silence!

The photographs displayed show something of the wonder of our planet, and were mostly taken in the beauty of silence. Sometimes it’s so hard just to find a quiet spot to sit quietly and meditate, in this very noisy world. As COP26 proceeds in Glasgow with thousands gathered to address the climate change crisis, there have been many speeches, proposals and demonstrations and lots of noise. Since we have evidently messed up, perhaps we should also confess and seek the help of the Creator don’t you think? Two thoughts come to mind, the words of the prophet Habakkuk, and the beautiful words of John Greenleaf Whittier’s hymn (1807 – 1892).

“The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
– Habakkuk 2:20

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways:
reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives your service find,
in deeper reverence praise,

With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works, that drown
the tender whisper of your call,
as noiseless let your blessing fall
as fell your manna down,

Drop your still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of your peace,

Video – Loch Fyne – The sound of silence

The video above has been posted in full volume and lasts for just 10 seconds, but I stood there for quite a time taking in the wonders of God and His creation. Enjoy the silence and take time to call upon God.

Matthew

Autumn’s coming on!

The electric blanket is on the bed, the central heating has been turned on for a few times in the evenings recently, and there is condensation on the car windows early in the mornings, so we can expect to be scraping the ice from the windscreens anytime soon! Yes Autumn is here, and the greenhouse has now been emptied of its plants, the leaves are changing colour in the garden, the apples are starting to fall and the picnic season is almost over for another year.

Saturday was a damp drizzily day, so we headed for Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, which is always worth a visit, but with far too many exhibits to see in one day. All Glasgow museums are ‘free of charge’ although in fact we contribute to their upkeep through local council tax.

There is a huge variety of things to see and no matter your taste, you are sure to find something to catch your interest.

The galleries themselves are a work of art and provide the perfect backdrop for the paintings and sculptors. I think how amazing it must be to have the gift and talent to create things of beauty, just starting from scratch! Here are just a few of the paintings I admire.

So now it’s time to get the daffodils and tulips potted up for Spring 2022 , and hopefully I can get started to that this week. When we arrived home from Kelvinside the rain had stopped so there was time for a quick look around the garden to see the flowers and plants still showing colour. Here are some pics.

Reflection

Thinking about art and gardens, don’t you think Autumn wonderfully displays the artistic hand of our great creator God? There are also a number of songs and poems written about “Autumn coming on” which highlight how swiftly life passes. I remember ‘the Gaithers’, singing this one which is rather sentimental and filled with pathos, but none the less captures the moment, especially as in life we face trials and sorrows.

Through changing seasons, We’ve shared life’s little days, It seems unreal, Our souvenirs still look so new! We reminisce, And must confess that this is true, We sang lullabies to babies cries, In the springtime, Oh, how the time seemed to fly, We had scarcely put the crib away, When, like magic, We looked up the aisle, And beheld a lovely bride, We waved goodbye as, one by one, They joined life’s parade, Then at a bugle call, He stood proud and tall, There went our baby! Tho’ seasons change, Hand in hand, we’ll travel on, Still in love, Tho’ autumn’s coming on. by Bill & Gloria Gaither

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes finishes his dialogue in chapter 12 with the well known words: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”. He then brilliantly goes on to poetically describe old age, by speaking of a time when legs shake, there is a fear of heights, eyes dim, teeth are few and hearing is a problem. I always smile when I read that chapter, for even although the message is to be taken seriously, I am so grateful for our National Health Service which provides health care free at the point of need. Now old people here are provided as needed with ‘Zimmers’ to help them walk, cataract operations to implant new eye lenses, false teeth and hearing aids! And am I glad! 🙂

But in spite of our National Health Service life moves inexorably on! At Church recently we were looking at a verse from 2 Samuel 14.14 which says “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” So what plan did God devise that we might escape banishnent from Him and the finality of death? One word answer – JESUS! His name you see means ‘Saviour’. By His substitutionary death, the sinless Saviour bore our sins on the cross at Calvary, was buried and rose again to God’s right hand. Now he offers forgiveness and new life – FREE. That’s why He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25

It’s good to remember our Creator while we can, it’s never too late!

Matthew

Whew! What an Historic September!

The month has now closed and what a month it has been! This year we looked back 20 years to the horrifying and tragic events of 9/11 and remembered that almost 3000 innocent people died when four commercial airlines were highjacked by Islamist terrorists. Two aircraft deliberately crashing into the twin Trade Towers in New York causing their complete collapse, another into the Pentagon in Washington and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew valiantly tried to stop the plans of the terrorists. Our hearts went out again to families and friends who mourn the cruel loss of their loved ones on that fateful day. Later we will reflect on the conseqences of that event.

So where were you on 9/11 is a question often asked? Well, we were on our way to Papua New Guinea , where ‘MAF’ the organisation I worked for had a base at Mount Hagen Airport. Mission Aviation Fellowship serves the widely scattered communities there, and the many missions and relief organisations who serve them. PNG has a population of about 7 million and is the most linguistically diverse nation on earth with 832 languages in this one small country!

We had stopped off at Melbourne in Australia on our outward journey, and on 9/11/2001 we rose early in a colleague’s home to make our way to the airport for our onward travel, and there watched on TV with unbelief the events unfolding in New York. Later at Melbourne Airport there was a hush amongst the crowd as they too watched the developing drama, sensed also in our group for the next few days as we refllected on what had just happened.

But PNG was to us another world! We spent five days flying around the Western Jungle, the river Fly basin and the Western Highlands, and other days flying to different locations out of Mount Hagen. In PNG almost 90% of people live in rural areas where over 60% have no access to clean water. Truly one of the remotest regions of the world. What impact, if any, would the 9/11 event have on the peoples of this remote nation we asked ourselves?

So here are some photos that marked that adventure for us, and yearly reminds us of 9/11.

PNG has a hot humid tropical climate which is experienced all year round. The average monthly rainfall is said to be 250-350mm and the average temperature ranges between 26-28 degrees Celsius.

Visiting the jungle hospital at Rumginae was an amazing experience as the doctors there trained health workers from a wide surrounding jungle area. They were taught how to diagnose minor and major health issues and report them by radio to the hospital. Serious cases were carried to the nearest jungle airstrip where the MAF plane picked them up and conveyed them to the hospital. It was fascinating seeing this in practice. On one of our flights we had on board a women miscarrying, but managed to get her to hospital in time to save her and her baby.

Visiting the hospital at Telefomin we met Hui Thai Tan a Glasgow trained doctor from Singapore, whom we had previously met on a number of occasions in Glasgow. He and another young doctor were dealing with every kind of disease and injury on their own. Walking round the wards with him and being introduced to a great variety of patients was a very rewarding experience. And flying to Telefomin was also somewhat exhilerating, as the plane has to rise above 14,000 feet to skip over the ring of mountains that surround the hospital.

Meeting such a variety of indigenous people as we travelled around was very special, and we were impressed by those employed by MAF in Mt Hagen, right up to management level. Everyone seemed so grateful for the help being provided by MAF, for truly they are a lifeline to these remote communities. MAF fly in Medical equipment, Building materials, school supplies, and transport coffee beans, and vegetable produce to and from markets, but most of all PEOPLE! 36,728 people flown 649,831 miles in 2018 alone, including 291 life saving medical evacuations. The ladies of the Church of Scotland Women’s Guild were greatly encouraged to see what their generous funding was helping to support.

All this while the world reeled from the events of 9/11!

Reflection

So what has happened in the last twenty years?

Statistics will vary, but one report records that in Afghanistan/Pakistan during the ‘war on terror’ 241,000 people have died. 71,500 were civillians (including 8000 children), 78,500 Afghan military and national police, 3,600 US and Nato forces, 84,000 opposition fighters. In addition 2.7 million have fled as refugees, and another 4 million have been internally displaced. Wow! The US spent $2.7 trillion dollars during this period, not counting the cost to NATO, of which the UK’s commitment alone was £30 billion.

Not surprising then that it was with incredulity that we watched on our tv screens the Taliban sweep through the country late Auguust / early September, only to set up again the government displaced 20 years ago in Kabul.

The chaos, death, sadness and sorrow at Kabul airport as the US and NATO forces and their Afghan employees scurried to leave by President Biden’s deadline was too painful to watch. .Over and above all this the Taliban has now inherited all the military equipment and armaments given to the Afghan government, plus the mountain of equipment left behind by the US and NATO forces. The value has been estimated in the region of $85 billion dollars.

The IMF in April ’21 in its world economic outlook ranked Afghanistan amongst the poorest countries in the world, coming in at 21 out of 194 nations, and the UN has just asked the international community for $600 million dollars in urgent aid for Afghanistan. In comparison PNG was rated at 42 out of the 194 nations. (GDP based on purchasing power parity per capita)

So amidst the doom and gloom of our national and international news bulletins the work of MAF continues, and its always a pleasure when their magazine drops through the door, with stories of hope and good news of those helped, comforted and rescued in the world’s neediest places. Over 2,000 aid, development and mission organisations are helped by MAF to bring such assistance to thousands of communities in the world’s remotest places. It was a privilege to work with them for 10 years, they are doing an amazing job, you can check them out here http://www.maf-uk.org

Don’t we all long for a day when the world and it’s people will live in peace and harmony? Personally, I look forward with hope to the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, when he says in chapter two of his book verses 2-4

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

That day will surely be the brightest and the best!

Have a great October!Matthew

Scotland – Coast, Castles, and Cathedral

Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast is a National Trust for Scotland property and is a place that we love to visit each year in late summer. It is beautifully situated on the edge of the cliff with magnificient views over the firth to the Isle of Arran, and Ailsa Craig. The top floor apartment was given to President Dwight D Eisenhower after the last world war in appreciation of his leadership as the Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe. It is said that he visited on four ocassions, once while President of the United States. Other apartments are available for rent today from the National Trust. Nearby is the village of Dunure with a more ancient (1256) castle. The remains seen today however are from the 15. -16th century. Both these castles are associated with the Kennedy clan, although the Mackinnons are said to have held Dunure Castle at some point after the battle of Largs.

We love to stroll in the quietness through the woods, and visit the walled garden and the castle gardens as well. This year the fountain unfortunately was under repair, so we didn’t see that operational.

This month we made an unplanned return trip to the Isle of Cumbrae. We had driven down to Largs on a beautiful sunny day, but found the resort very busy, so hopped on the ferry which was awaiting at the quay. We were so glad we did as the island was was so beautiful and we took the opportuniity to visit the Cathedral of the Isles and College of the Holy Spirit for the very first time. This is a Scottish Episcopal Church building.

Reflection

When we are out and about we often stop and stand in awe at the greatness of God. Last Sunday at church we were reading from Paul’s letter to the Church at Colossae in Chapter 1 which speaks of the supremacy of Jesus Christ. It reads

The Supremacy of the Son of God
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

And at out Wednesday Prayer Fellowship we sang that well known hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’. Some veses go like this –

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze 

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

I hope you enjoy what remains of the summer

Matthew

‘Garden’ please come in!

I was given a new arrow shaped notice by some of the family that simply says ‘Garden‘. So all that pass by are being encouraged to have a look. So no pressure, but we’d best keep the bit nearest the gate looking tidy 🙂

This year I tried growing different varieties of fruit and vegetables in the greenhouse with varying amount of success. Cucumbers, and tomatoes, in spite of early misgivings, have all produced a very good crop, tomatoes in fact a bumper crop. The coloured peppers have been ok, but the fruit has been a bit on the small side. Potatoes and carrots grown in bags and bucket have been fun to grow and I think the results were amazing. Cropped 100 potatoes from the ten sown, and the carrots yielded 22 from the bucket and plant pot. (See the video below)

After a promising start and much care and attention my bags of strawberries produced an abundance of leaves and shoots but only a handful of small strawberries. So what did I do wrong? Perhaps they were fed too much with a strawberry fertiliser bought online? Help please. My two small gooseberry bushes produced their first fruit this year, but not enough to make jam. The rhubarb also produced its first decent crop this year enough for some rhubarb crumble on a couple of occasions. The apple tree is looking good, but too early yet to pick them.

In my last garden report I was able to show you some of the flowers that were enjoyed earlier in the year, so here are some pics of those that have appeared since.

Now here’s the wee video on Carrots – ‘From Seed to Freezer

Reflections

Today I spent time again in the garden and greenhouse. But yes, today has also been a day of deep reflection. As I sit here writing this blog infact, thoughts that I had earlier, have come flooding back, causing me to stop and ponder. After breakfast I was reading from a magazine a short report regarding life in the country of Northern Macedonia. I consider myself quite well versed in geography, but I knew little or nothing of this relatively new country in the Balklands, which was previously part of Yugoslavia. So that kept me busy for a while doing some research, looking at pictures of its people and countryside online and reading of the diversity of its people and its economic poverty. It is evidently amongst the poorest nations in the world, where people have suffered so much in my lifetime.

Then like everyone else we were confronted again on our tv screens by the chaotic scenes at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. The sense of fear and desperation was palpable in people’s voices and faces, as thousands make every effort to flee from the threat posed by the Taliban, after they so easily over-ran the country.

We have been recalling the promises made by Western Nations just a short 20 years ago, saying that we would never abandon the Afghan people. They must ring hollow in the ears of the Afghan people now.

We often say that the world now is a global village, but how helpless we feel in these situations to do anything which we feel would make a difference.

I was recounting that Jesus was in Israel at the time of the Roman occupation and oppression. There is the lovely story in Matthew’s account of his life, where it says ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ What an apt expression of people in Afghanistan and in so many parts of our world today, ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’

Last night our Church was praying especially for the situation in Afghanistan, and for all those ‘harrassed and helpless’, perhaps in the near future we can help be the answer to our own prayers. Meantine the message of Jesus’ love and compassion continues to be beamed around the world. His death and resurrection make fulness of life to all who will come to him a reality.

How blessed to have a garden, and to live in a country that has known peace for the last 75+ years.

I trust your garden has flourished in 2021.

Matthew

Matthew

I had a home in Africa!

So begins the famous Karen Blixen movie ‘Out of Africa’.

Yes, we too had a home in Africa, it was in Tearfund’s Guesthouse and office complex in Nairobi, Kenya. Very shortly our grandson and his wife and four of our great grandchildren are planning a move to Africa, so last Sunday we had a special service for them at Church. They are going to work for one of the UK’s children’s charities in East Africa. He and his family are following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps! Africa, ah! that brought memories flooding back!

There has been great deal of development in Africa in recent decades, and whilst the cities are in many ways similar to any city around the world, (except perhaps for the shanty areas on the outskirts) the challenges of working in rural Africa are still very real. There always seems to be another urgent task needing attention, and often the resources and expertise are not readily available. Nonetheless, as I’ve said in a previous blog, if you have ever had the privilege to live and work there, truly Africa does get ‘under your skin’.

With a rich inheritance of people coming from a variety of cultures, tribes and languages, combined with many new sights and sounds, the first impact in coming from Europe is decidedly a “wow” factor. In the city people rise early and soon the bustling crowds are heading to their workplace, or school, college and university.

In the villages the children have often to walk long distances to school, and workers are heading to their ‘shambas’, or to one of the sugar, coffee or tea plantations. Of course the daily task of wood and water collection, and regular trips to market are still all a big part of everyday life for many rural people.

Tourism contributes a large part to the economy, certainly in East Africa, where the beauty of villages, savannahs, mountains, game parks and coral lined beaches, are a huge attraction, or were, prior to the current pandemic.

One could write a book (and many have) of the abundance and variety of animals, birds and insects, not to mention the trees, for example, the Acacia, the beautiful flowering Jacaranda, and the amazing Baobab trees, all of which seem to be forever imbedded in your mind.

Here are some memories from our 5 year stay and many subsequent visits to East Africa.

First – the people …

Animals …

Birds …

Places …

Reflections

So many people are asking, what do you think of your grandson and his wife moving to Africa with your four great grand children? Some express excitement saying, it will be a great adventure, others seem more apprehensive, will it be safe? Why give up your home and jobs here to face uncertainty there, even if it is just for a few years?

I remember when my wife and I left for Kenya, many such questions were similarly asked.

Yes for sure, it will be an adventure, a huge learning experience for them all, there will be fun and laughter with the children, along with trials and frustrations, and the need always to take care of the security issue. So what is the motivation?

Well my grandson was brought up in Africa, and went to school there, my grand-daughter-in-law became a Christian in Africa, visiting this same children’s centre as part of a work team, so there is an element of ‘Africa under your skin’!

The real motivation however comes from their Christian faith. Jesus invites his followers to come and ‘take up their cross and follow me’ and sends some of his children to the ends of the earth. When Christians ask the question ‘Lord what do you want me to do’ ? The answer to that question sometimes takes a while to become clear, but when it does, it is time to act. It’s amazing to see how the skills of my grandson and wife completely match the needs at the children’s centre at this very time. God’s timing is always right.

A home in Scotland, a home in Africa, and a home in heaven! Jesus said to his followers ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’. Now there is something to look forward to no matter your age or how many homes you’ve had down here! He also announced how to be sure of being there.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. I’ve never regretted coming to Jesus.

Video – A Home in Africa!

Hope you are all having a great summer now that restrictions are easing!

Matthew

Sunny Morayshire – the place to be!

We took the 200 mile drive from Glasgow to Elgin in Morayshire recently, and enjoyed a week of relaxation and of visiting places of interest along this lovely coastline in the North East of Scotland. We travelled from Glasgow to Perth, where we took the A9 road, which is a very scenic route, but was as usual busy, with many roadworks. We returned via Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth and then to Glasgow at the end of our holiday, completing a 400 mile plus circuit.

Elgin has a number of places of interest, and on our first day we visited the ruins of the 13th century Cathedral, and the ‘Biblical Garden’, which is just next to the cathedral. We had hoped for a tour of the cathedral, but were told on arrival that you have to prebook on line! The Biblical Garden was free to enter.

Work on building this cathedral started during the first half of the 13th Century, and the cathedral eventually became known as ‘the Lantern of the North‘. It was destroyed during the Protestant Reformation around 1560. Photographs were limited without access, which was a shame. The ‘Biblical Garden’ was lovely to wander around in the peace and quiet of the place.

Later that day we visited Duffus Castle. We had driven past it many times, it was great to have the opportunity to explore it on this visit. There was a mobile cafe next to the car park, where we enjoyed some ice cream and a cool drink, before starting our walk.

We never come to this area without visiting the nature reserve and bird sanctuary at Spey Bay. It was strange this year to see the river Spey with so little water, but we had just experienced an unusual long dry spell of weather. The millions of stones the river has deposited over the years is a sight to behold. Just once over the years were we fortunate enough to see an osprey catch a salmon here, but there is a monument which captures such an event.

No time to tell of all the other places we visited during the week. However here are some photographs which illustrate the beauty of this area.

The following is a 1.5 minute video I made of our day in Burghead, which we fell in love with this year. Just watch how busy the beach is!!

Click on photo to start video

Reflection

It’s so good to get out of the city for a few days. We have enjoyed many holidays here over the years, and revisiting brought back many memories of the fun and laughter we had in the past with family and friends, as we swam in the sea, picnicked, climbed, walked and cycled. This year at Finechty we heard someone calling us from the beach, and were hugely surprised to meet Sarah and her husband and young son, (the great grand-daughter of my late brother), who were following in the family tradition with a holiday at Sandend.

We also had a ‘catch-up’ dinner with my ‘sister in law’ and ‘niece in law’ at ‘The Galley” in Whitehills. They both had lost their husbands in recent years, but it was encouraging to see how they were both moving on with their lives having their faith and trust firmly set on the promises of God.

People Make Glasgow is the marketing brand of our city, but I think that is true in all of life’s situations, and was certainly true of our holiday. The joy of interacting with others, family and friends for sure, but also people from all different ethnic backgrounds and cultures.

Heaven is going to be an exciting place, not only will JESUS be there, but the Apostle John describes in his book one scene that says:

And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Revelation 5.9

It’s good to book your holiday well in advance, but I think infinitely more important to ensure your place is secure in that heavenly land, especially in this day of pandemic. And the cost? FREE to us, because we have nothing to offer in payment, it’s a gift from God! But we need to accept it. How do I do that? Read the book of Romans chapter 10 verse 9 and then speak to God in prayer, confessing your need for forgiveness and acknowledging Jesus as your Saviour and Redeemer, and committing your life to Him.

Have a great holiday

Matthew

Early Summer in the Garden and Greenhouse

It was a very cold Spring here in Scotland, but in early May the weather started warming up at last. Here is an update on the garden and greenhouse –

Blooming June – the Garden

Daffodils were a bit of a disappointment this year as a spell of frost and snow arrived just as the flowers were about to open, but amazingly some did survive, and the tulips coming on a bit later more than compensated as they seemed to go and on!

It’s nice to see the rhododendrons and clematis in flower again, without too much effort from me, and also the shrubs and bushes bursting into life, not to mention the apple tree and lilac, which shout out to you ‘summer has come’! I’m afraid I haven’t done too much this year in the way of planting ‘annuals’, but I have however planted from seed some french marigolds, sunflowers, tom thumbs, coleus and cornflower, and some begonia corms.

The greenhouse is doing fairly well, and this year I’m trying to grow quite a few different fruits and vegetables. Cucumber ‘F1 Socrates’ is proving to be fantastic, the cucumbers are smaller in size but delicious in taste and are cropping very well. Tomatoes are Tigerella, Shirley F1 and Ferline F1. The latter is one I’m trying for the first time, it seems to be struggling a bit, but it may come away yet. There is a variety of peppers, three bags of potatoes, one bucket of carrots (Autumn King 2) and two bags of strawberries, and lots of ‘tom-thumb’ lettuce. So between cutting the grass and keeping everything in trim its enough to keep me busy. Here are some photographs of progress so far.

Reflections

With the wonders of camera, computer and the www, I have been able to show you the best of my garden and greenhouse. What I haven’t shown you are the plants some slugs have eaten, the parts of paths that need weeding, or my Spring plant pots that have yet to be emptied and cleaned. In a small garden it is difficult to find a spot to hide them away 🙂 I guess if you are a gardiner you are in much the same boat!

Got me thinking, ‘social media’ is a bit like that, we (including me) tend to emphasise the positives and try and bypass the negatives. The ‘about me’ section on Facebook usually paints a glowing picture of the person we would like others to believe that we are, and seldom do you find folks telling you how they have messed up! But of course we all do at times.

I’m reading a book this month entitled ‘Gentle and Lowly‘ by Dane Ortlund, concerning Jesus Christ he says, ‘in the four gospels accounts given to us in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John there are 89 chapters of text, but there is only one place where Jesus describes his heart. (The heart in biblical terms is the centre of who we are, what defines and directs us) So what will this man Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God say? He says, ‘I am gentle and lowly in heart’. Ortlund goes on to say ‘The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger, but open arms’!

You can read the full words of Jesus in Matthew 11 v 28-30. Jesus said – “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Now there is an open invitation, but folks are so loathe to come.

So I’m thinking, what two words would you or I use to truly define ourselves on social media? Mmmm, let me get back to you on that …..

Happy gardening!

Matthew

REDWOODS, RHODODENDRONS and more!

We have continued our ‘holiday’ day trips around the West of Scotland, and are thankful that so many beautiful places are within easy driving distance from Glasgow. The weather has also heated up now, with plenty of sunny summer days.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has a number of ‘outposts’ around Scotland, the nearest to us being in Dunoon, so we made a trip there to visit the Benmore Botanic Garden, which is a magnificent mountainside garden just a few miles out of town. It has a spectacular avenue of Redwood trees, and a rhododendron collection said to be one of the finest in the world.

There were fifty ‘Redwoods’ in this avenue but one was blown down in a fierce storm in recent years. In contrast it was lovely for us to walk here in the quietness on a warm sunny day and to take in the majestic beauty of the place.

Here are some more photos of parts of the garden which takes in fifty hectares.

There is a section of the garden set aside for rest and contemplation, and it too was situated in the middle of some magnificent trees including redwoods.

We next made our way to the ‘Dolphin fountain’ and pond, and admired the wide range of plants and flowers.

The afternoon passed all too quickly, and soon it was time to head back to the entrance, over the little wooden bridge. Then, on our drive back towards the ferry, we drove through Ardentinny and found a few beautiful spots along the way for our proverbial picnic!

Reflections – A visit to a garden is so good for our souls, and for peace of mind. It’s amazing how many words have been written about the beauties of God’s creation. Here are a few selected verses from Psalm 104 speaking about the ‘garden of life’.

Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD!

I hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did, and that you too are able to get out to explore the beauties of God’s creation wherever you are.

Matthew

A Favourite haunt …..

THE ISLE OF CUMBRAE – looking back over to Largs

Millions have had their double dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and here in Scotland we were all looking forward to another easing of restrictions, which would allow the meeting of family and friends indoors, and permit staying overnight in accommodation throughout Scotland. However after months of waiting it was announced last week that Glasgow and Morayshire would remain at level three on the Covid restrictions ladder due to a rise in Covid cases in these areas. So hugs and visits from family and friends are again on ‘hold’!

BUT, we are still allowed to travel around Scotland, and for that we are very grateful. This week we checked the forecast and then headed for a favourite haunt – the Isle of Cumbrae on the southern end of the Firth of Clyde. First a 50 minute drive to the town of Largs before boarding the ferry for Cumbrae. (£20.50 for two passengers and a car – return) Visit at the weekends and the ferries are very busy as the island is popular for hikers and cyclists, but mid-week, and all is peace and tranquility.

The Island is about 2.5 miles long and 1.25 miles wide, and a walk or drive around the perimeter taking account of bays and promontories is appoximately 11 miles. We were able to drive at walking pace viewing the abundance of animals, birds and flowers. The most famous beach is on the west side of the island at Fintry Bay where there is a cafe and restaurant.

The only town on the island is Millport, which was once a famous stopping off point for the Clyde ferries in the middle of the last century when the Clyde Coast was a popular holiday destination for people living in Glasgow and the Central belt of Scotland. It is a lovely litle town nestling around Kames Bay. As you approach it you have some spectacular views of other islands in the firth, Little Cumbrae,, Bute and Arran, and on a clear day you can see Ailsa Craig and even the Coast of Ireland.

On the return journey we like to take the narrow road that runs down the middle of the island, and stop at the viewpoint, this is the island’s highest point at 417 ft above sea level, where a large boulder called “The Glaid Stone”is situated. No time today to visit one of Scotland’s smallest Cathedrals – The Cathedral of the Isles’ but we did pass one of the entrances.

Then it was back to the ferry and a sail to Largs on the mainland, before a drive home in time for supper. A perfect day out!

Reflection

We had a beautiful day out, enjoying the wonders of God’s creation and as I reflected on Psalm 145 in my last blog, sometimes the whole ambience of a place, speaks of the glory and majesty of God and causes you to quietly praise him in your heart.

The day brought memories of days gone by when 50 years ago at the ‘Glasgow Fair’ Millport was full of families gathered for their summer holidays. Deck chairs on the beach, paddling and swimming – no matter the weather, volley ball, and donkey rides, ice cream cones and picnics. Also folks from the ‘Children’s Seaside Mission’ organising games and singing, and Bible stories by means of puppets and a ‘flannel graph board’. Many of my family and friends were there helping with crowds of children and parents gathering around. These were happy days. I’m now trying to remember why we all spend a fortune heading for the beaches of continental Europe and beyond 🙂 How life moves on!

In contrast to this picture of peace and quiet, this week our church has been fundraising for the poor and marginalised in India during the horrors of the Covid-19 crisis. We have been thinking of the sadness, madness and terror of the conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East and praying for a cessation of hostilities. The plight of the estimated ten million + children in Yemen, the ongoing slaughter in Afghanistan, Burkino Faso, Nigeria, Sudan, and on and on, and on and on!

China this week joins the USA in successfully landing and controlling a Mars rover on the surface of planet Mars, how amazing is that? WOW! Unfortunately we have not yet learned how to eliminate hunger, or give clean water to the thirsty, and provide shelter and healthcare to countless millions! But we applaud all those who are trying from all around the world.

Here is some poetry to finish:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward them for what they have done.

God bless, Matthew

Free, but to do what?

So where should we go after months of restrictions, which saw everyone in Scotland being compelled to stay at home, and if you did need to travel, it was restricted to your own home area? That was the pleasant decision we had to make in the last ten days, as permission was granted to travel freely again around Scotland.

We decided, let’s head for the hills and sea, in the Bute and Argyll region, just a comfortable afternoon’s drive from Glasgow. The Rosneath Peninsula, which is just south of Garelochead, was our chosen destination on a beautiful sunny day. The Rosneath peninsula separates the Gareloch from Loch Long, two sea lochs on the Firth of Clyde. Our journey took us over the Erskine bridge and on to Loch Lomond, before we turned off, onto the ‘new’ road to Garelochead. I am always amazed at how beautiful, and invariably quiet this road is.

Arriving at the village of Cove we enjoyed a scene of peace and tranquility on the edge of the loch, and soon we were enjoying our picnic lunch.

We next moved a few miles south to Kilcreggan, and like Cove, it is another village dating back to the Victorian era. In fact the pier at Kilcreggan is said to be the last original ‘Victorian’ pier on the Firth of Clyde.

Later we drove home via Glen Fruin.

A week later, on another sunny day we had an afternoon drive to the Ayrshire coast on the southside of the Firth of Clyde.

Shhh! we are sitting quietly at Croy Bay

On route we stopped for lunch at Dunure and found a parking place by the harbour, before viewing the castle. Later we stopped at the ‘Electric Brae’, and yes, the car did run up the hill when we stopped and put the gear into neutral!

Croy Bay is beautiful, and was a favourite haunt for us when the children were small. In those days the beach was busy, but how many people do you see there today?

Then we had a short visit to Maidens, frequented in earlier days by two famous Roberts. King Robert the Bruce, and the Scottish bard Rabbie (Robert) Burns! Time then for a drive along the coast and back to Glasgow!

Reflection:

Free to Worship! It is so good to be back in Church again! Our house groups however are still meeting on Zoom.

Our Study Book

Our Church house group is using this study guide to look at six of King David’s psalms written some 3000 years ago (recorded in the Bible). The Psalms comprise five books of poetry, and were read and sung by ancient Hebrew worshippers. They are still read and sung today, and have been throughout the ages. The title of the study guide certainly got me thinking, “WORSHIPPING THE GOD OF ALL, IN ALL OF LIFE“! We started off by reading psalm 145, and when we were out and about picnicking these last two weeks we found that worshipping the ‘God of All’ was an almost spontaneous reaction to the beauty of his creation, seen all around us.

Psalm 145:1-3

I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.

At the start of the Psalm, David is praising God personally ‘for the power of his awesome works‘, which he says speak of ‘his glorious splendour‘, something that even the youngest child can appreciate and understand. By the end of the psalm he is calling every creature to praise his holy name for ever and ever. But is this great and powerful God good you may ask? David, who himself lived an imperfect life, and suffered through many sorrows, trials and dangers goes on to describe this God whom he has come to trust.

He describes him as having ‘abundant goodness’, ‘righteous’, ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’, ‘good to all’, ”faithful’, ‘trustworthy’ ‘upholds all who fall’, ‘lifts up all who are bowed down’, ‘is near to all who call on him’ and ‘watches over all who love him’. This is the Jesus that I seek to follow! He also reminds his readers, that the God we worship is a God of justice and judgement and that ‘all the wicked he will destroy’.

Throughout the psalm the word ‘all’ is used over and over again. Yes, God wants to be part of all our everyday lives, not just on a Sunday, if we will just let him. Like David, I am so glad that he has walked beside me every day of my life, since that day I learned to trust him, even picking me up when I have fallen down, and have been bowed down!

Isaac Watts hymn of 1719 beautifully summarises psalm 145. Take a read!

Wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances may you find strength to lift your heart to God, perhaps for solace, perhaps in great need, or perhaps with a heart full of praise!

Matthew

Have you ever awakened from sleep laughing?

Well, there are certainly lots of things we can smile about, now that we are well into Springtime. Lovely to see the lambs in the fields, the flourish on the trees, and the flowers in the garden and the beauitiful countryside, not to mention the singing and tweeting of the birds as they busily build their nests.

Some recently taken photos in the sunshine.

I often smile to myself too in the greenhouse, as I plant seeds and seedlings, wondering how they manage to survive and produce for us such amazing fruit, vegetables and flowers. This year I’m trying something new, following the instructions of a professional gardener on You Tube. I’m trying to grow carrots in a bucket. To give the seeds a flying start I have sown them (as instructed) on a piece of kitchen roll in a sealed dish, before planting them in the bucket. Sounds crazy, but take a look and I’ll let you know whether it works, or not.

Planting Carrots!

I think my wife thought I’d lost the plot on this project, especially when she caught me drilling drainage holes in the new bucket! 🙂

Talking about waking up laughing, yes I did the other morning this week. But when I was wakened it didn’t seem really a laughing matter! As gardeners know the weather is so important at this time of year when you have the greenhouse full of plants. Yesterday’s weather was an example. In the morning the temperature in the greenhouse was 83 deg. In the afternoon we decided to go a walk and just got home before the hail and snow storm. Last night in Glasgow the temperature was 3 deg below freezing.

How quickly the weather changes!

So earlier this week I was in the greenhouse at 10pm checking the heater etc. it took a bit of time, so when I came in my wife asked, ‘what were you doing?’ To which I replied ‘I was puting up draught screens to protect the plants not in propagators. ‘Draught screens‘ she says? ‘It’s a long time since I’ve heard of that!

So during the night, guess what I dreamed? You got it, – draught screens! When I was a child living in the early 40’s, we lived in a new 3 bedroom flat in Glasgow. The only means of heating was a coal fire in the ‘living room’ so at night in the winter when the fire had gone out, the temperature would at times plummet below zero, so it was not unusual to wake up with a sheet of ice on the inside of the windows. No double glazing in these days, so there was always a cold draught through the window fittings. To protect us as children from the cold, my dad would come into our bedroom and put up ‘draught screens’ (usually extra sheets or blankets) strung on various contraptions around our bed. 😦 This was not something we welcomed!

So in my dream there were the draught screens, and reminders of having your chest rubbed with ‘Vick’ and a hot salt sock strung around your neck if you had a cold or a sore throat! Ha!Ha!Ha! (these were the days before the NHS) I awoke with my body shaking laughing! Then I thought, hold on, I hope these draught screens in the greenhouse worked!

Everything thankfully seems ok at present.

Everything under control?

Reflections: As I look back now I am so grateful for good, loving and caring parents who did everything to look after us as kids, especially during the war years. Mum was up at 6am to prepare dad’s ‘piece’ (sandwiches) as he left for work at 6.30 am. She would then light the fire, and come through to get us up for school, and if it was a frosty morning, she would carry us to the fire saying ‘Jack Frost’s been out’. Then in our short trousers and ‘tackity boots’ we would head out with coat and jacket, scarves and gloves. Then in the 50’s when TB infections were running at around 50,000 cases per year in the UK, my teenage sister contracted the disease at a badly ventilated comptometer operator’s office. At that time there was no known cure except fresh air and good food so most young people were sent to sanitoriums in the country. My sister looked set for a move there, but Dad said ‘we can provide fresh air and good food here’, so one room was allocated to my sister, whose bed was propped up to allow her to see out of the window. No draught screens now! Every window in the house was opened summer and winter, and within a year my sister had made a full recovery. We were all so thankful to so many friends in the Church who prayed, and to those who brought eggs and dairy produce from their own rations to help suplement her diet and recovery, and to the gracious hand of God.

But most of all Mum and Dad introduced us to our heavenly Father, and His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. That I think, is the best gift any parent can pass on. Now I look back with grateful thanks to God my Father who has kept and sustained us for more than 80 years through all life’s joys and sorrows, trials and triumphs.

Jesus speaks of God seeing the sparrow when it falls, and that ‘the hairs of our head are numbered’, so He sees you and me too. That can be a comforting or scary thought depending on, if we know Him as Saviour and friend, or are just known by Him. Not sure? let me know if I can help.

Do you think He sees these wee carrot seedlings too?

God bless

Matthew

Look to the Hills!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Whistler – Blackcomb – The Rockies, Canada

Walking on ‘Whistler

It has been a great pleasure throughout life to walk in the mountains at home and abroad. The above pictures were taken on our 50th wedding anniversary when we had a special visit to Canada and Alaska. And yes, we used the chair lifts, which took us onto the 7200 feet summit. The notice which said ‘Matthew’s Traverse’ could be a description of my life as I look back. Sometimes on the flat, sometimes a rocky climb and at other times an easier downhill walk.

Climbing in Scotland and the Lake District of England

When it comes to hill walking and climbing in Scotland, then you are spoiled for choice, and the English Lake District is just across the border if you want a change of scenery. Above are some pictures taken over the years.

What is it about hill walking and climbing that attracts so many thousands of enthusiasts around the world every year, every month, week and day? Certainly the joy of being in the fresh air, the challenge of the climb, and of the weather!, with the wind, sun and the rain in your face! The sound of a mountain burn or waterfall, the smell of the heather, flowers and moss, and the sense of achievement. For me it also provides a sense of perspective, as I consider the vastness and beauty of God’s amazing creation displayed here on planet earth. I so relate to the song quoted above (Psalm 121) sang by pilgrims three thousand years ago as they made their way up to the mountain of the Lord, to worship and honour their creator and redeemer. The very next psalm says ‘Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the LORD—to praise the name of the LORD’.

Well, if climbing hills has been part of my life since boyhood, so has this psalm. My father would gather us six children around him with my mother, and read this psalm to us and pray during the ‘air raids’ of the last world war, and also in times of family crisis. You might say it has become part of my ‘DNA”! So if you are fearful, in trouble or in despair I recommend a read of this psalm before you go to bed.

I’ve also had the priviledge of walking on top of the mountains the pilgrims are singing about. You might not think of Jerusalem as being on top of a mountain, but in fact it sits at over 2500 feet above sea level! The first time we were there the sleet and snow were blowing down across the hills.

Jerusalem

And as we approach Easter I’m reminded that Jesus the Lord, not only walked here, but died here, and arose from the dead on this mountain. A close friend of mine died just a few weeks ago, he was a lovely solo singer. I always remember him singing this hymn with such pathos about these historic events. It goes like this:

Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn
Walked Christ my Saviour, weary and worn
Facing for sinners, death on the cross
That He might save them from endless loss

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading
Blind and unheeding, dying for me
.

How good to know this Saviour and friend. Jesus is still inviting all of us to come to Him.

Finally, writing this wants me to look out my boots in anticipation of the end of lockdown, after that all I need is a little more puff’ 🙂

Matthew



Time for Strawberries?

Well they are not quite ready yet! The ‘bare rooted Karona’ strawberry plants only arrived this weekend! So thoughts of strawberries and ice cream, strawberries with morning cereal and evening salad, and strawberry jam, will just need to wait a wee while, so stop licking your lips! 🙂

I’ve grown strawberries a few times in the past either from seed, or from plants bought at the garden centre. This year looking on line I came across a nursery selling ‘bare rooted’ plants so thought ‘that sounds interesting’ but what like are they and how do you plant them?

The plants arrive by post – two bundles with elastic bands!

Not quite ‘love at first sight’! Is this the right time of year with snow around and temperatures below freezing? and what’s the procedure? Thankfully with the wonders of the internet I found the answers to these questions, time will tell if they are the right answers!

Separate the plants and soak overnight in water.

I had already ordered a couple of strawberry bags as strawberries featured in this year’s ‘garden plan’ so it was good I had these ready in stock. Here are some pics of the planting.

Watering and fertilising tubes, the felt keeps the tube from clogging while planting! The top of a lemonade bottle makes the perfect filter funnel for watering tube!

So working from the bottom of the bag and filling with compost as you go the plants were put in place making sure the crowns of each plant were above the compost. So now its time to call in the ‘boss’ 🙂

Greenhouse is currently unheated, apart from a 80 watt tube heater.

I only scored 9.5 out of 10 for missing one of the planting holes 🙂 So will these strawberry dreams become a reality? Watch this space, but I have every confidence in the Creator.

Other signs of life in the garden

So time to look out the gardening gloves and the spade and trowel, Spring is on its way!

Happy gardening!

Matthew

PS: After one month the strawberries are all showing signs of life!

January, Jack Frost and Jabs!

The cold wintry weather continued throughout January with many frosty and snowy days, and some occasional blue skies! Days ideal for a local walk! Here’s a wee slideshow.

In January we normally take delivery of the previous years photo book, but this year we instead bought a ‘Decade of our photos’ book from Facebook, and it was interesting to see just how much of our normal life acivities were curtailed by lockdown in 2020.

We also try to keep some sense of normality during this continued lockdown by dressing differently for Church on a Sunday, even although it is just a zoom service on line. And even on 25 January when we celebrated ‘Burns Night’ my wife put on her kilt and served ‘Haggis, neeps and tatties’. 🙂

And something to go with all these cups of tea!

Ofcourse the big event in January this year was the roll out of the Covid 19 vaccine across the UK. We were pleased to be invited to go to our local medical centre to receive ours towards the end of the month. Appointments were 10 minutes apart, and you were told to appear exactly on time! The service was very impressive, as after answering various questions and receiving the first dose of the vaccine, we were given an appointment card giving us the date and time for the booster injection.

We both reacted to the vaccine by having ‘flu’ like symptoms the following day, but were fine within the next 24 hrs with help from some paracetemol. The vaccine we received was the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, and we were warned that 1 in 10 have a reaction to it. Since then the German government has announced they are not giving it to the over 65’s! In the UK two doses are said by the MHRA to be 62% efficient, which is quite a drop from the 90% efficiency initially reported by the Oxford team. However we are still in lockdown at present and there is unlikely to be any change to that for at least the next few weeks.

We are very grateful to everyone involved in fighting this pandemic by working around the clock to produce vaccines and treatments, and those in our National Health Service in particular who have given 110% to help save countless lives.

Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard finishes one of his most popular poems with these famous words, they speak about a mouse whose little nest is disturbed by the ploughman:

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
Bu
t O
ch! I backward cast my e’e,
          On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
          I guess an’ fear!

It seems no time ago that our politicians here in the UK were boasting confidently of all the happiness and prosperity that was coming our way when we left the European Union. Now we are in a pandemic, over 100,000 deaths due to Covid, grief and sorrow around the nation, unemployment soaring, the country trillions of £’s in debt, and a strained relationship with our former European partners! Mmmm! How apt, the words of Burns ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley.” And many many are saying again with Burns, An’ forward tho’ I canna see, I guess an’ fear!

Solomon, the wise man of old, warned us about boasting, he said, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” It’s good then to keep our horizontal relationships with family, friends and colleagues on a loving and even keel! How awful to be separated by death when we are in ‘conflict mode’.

More importantly however is our vertical relationship with God! If you or I are suddenly called into His presence will we meet him as Saviour and friend, or as our judge? That is a big question! Here’s a prayer similar to one I prayed many years ago, it changed my status and my life!

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for all the wrong things in my life. Thankyou for dying on the cross to pay for my forgiveness. I’m putting my trust in you as my Saviour. I surrender my life to you as my Lord and ask you to help me live a life that pleases you. Amen

more help at: matthewmuriel@aol.com

God bless

Matthew