A late night phone call, Some adjustments to our diary, and 36 hours later we were on our way to visit friends on the most westerly island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides – TIREE! What a surprise, as we had been forced to cancel a planned holiday there a year or so ago due to the pandemic, but now we were on our way, the weather forecast was excellent and we were excited at the prospect!
The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the island leaves from Oban, which is a 2.5 – 3 hours drive from Glasgow, depending on the traffic. It is a lovely drive, and if you are planning a visit, allow yourselves more time for stops along the way.
The four hour ferry trip takes you through the sound between the Isle of Mull and Ardnamurchan on the Scottish mainland, and then into the Passage of Tiree. It is quite spectacular at any time, but particularly on a beautiful sunny day!
The sun was getting low in the sky as we made the last leg of our ferry journey to Tiree, and we were blessed to see some dolphins jumping alongside the ship as we travelled.
Tiree’s history is easily researched on line, but this fertile island is a joy to visit, and in the Springtime the lambs and calves are in the fields, flowers are starting to bloom and the birds are singing. The beaches are amongst the best to behold anywhere in the world, and they attract worldclass surfers, and also runners for special competitions and events, and many tourists! My great great grandfather John McKinnon was a boat builder in Balemartine, so this was amongst the places we first visited.
Too many photos to show, but here are some showing the variety and beauty of Tiree’ >
Time passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself, but we did manage a few last day activities, including a boat trip which you can see below. An evening walk on the beach at Balevullin, some star gazing, before getting to bed. Then an early rise to catch the ferry back to Oban. Farewell then to the quietness and serenity of Tiree.
Reflection: Living close to a motorway here in Glasgow, it was a pleasure to change the noise and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of Tiree. The sound of the sea, and of the birds and the joy of walking in a quiet and isolated beach was good for the soul. We never switched the television on once during our stay, and surprisingly the world seemed to carry on in it’s seemingly chaotic way without my daily watching of the news programmes. 🙂
I enjoyed popping into the Parish Church at Heylipol, its a beautiful building, and I thought of the countless number of people who have worshipped there down the centuries. It was also interesting to see that the texts above the pulpit are exactly the same as the texts we have above our pulpit in Glasgow – ‘God is Light‘ and ‘God is Love’. I wondered if some of the clansmen brought that idea to Glasgow during the migrations in the mid 19th century? Probably not, but the verses speak so powerfully of the God being worshipped. The God from whom nothing is hid, but a God who loves a broken humanity enough, to send us His Son as Saviour and Redeemer.
Oh, and here’s that boat trip, quite an excitment for a ‘land-lubber’ 🙂
If you like the blog you can subscribe to receive notifications of updates. Thanks if you have read thus far! Yes TIREE is definitely worth a visit!
We had been enjoying some lovely Sprng weather, and with a birthday coming up, we decided to take a short break, and at the same time make a visit to some family and friends in the North! The weather in Scotland however is very changeable, so it was not too surprising to read just before we left home that the weather forecasters had issued a yellow ‘snow and ice’ warning for the area we were visiting! However on the morning we set out from Glasgow the weather was still holding, so we made the most of our first day with a good number of stops on our 200 mile journey to Inverness.
There is a lovely stopping off point immediately past the Inverglas / Loch Sloy power Station, which has been operational since the late 1940’s, so we stopped there for morning coffee.
It’s a lovely drive going towards Glen Coe, and being early in the year the road was relatively quiet.
Buachaille Etive Mor seems to stand guard at the entrance to the glen and attracts those with differing climbing skills. Just choose the correct route! It’s always a treat to visit Glen Coe and recall our adventures there in the past, climbing Buachaille Etive Mor, walking the famous ‘Aonach Eagach’ ridge and exploring the village. The last stop on route was at the Commando Monument at Spean Bridge, before reaching our destination in Inverness.
After a cold blustery day, the weather had cleared again, and we decided to make a first and long overdue visit to Urquhart Castle. It was a cold and sunny day, and when we arrived the place was relatively quiet. We so enjoyed our visit there, walking in the grounds and exploring the visitors centre, the museum, and of course the cafe. They were also showing a film in the cinema. The only thing we didn’t see was ‘the Loch Ness monster‘ but maybe it was too cold for it to be out! 🙂 A visit here is highly recommended if you are in the area.
We did get to meet our friends and family as we headed east along the Moray coast, but that’s another story, which I’ll keep perhaps for next time!
Reflection: Urquhart Castle has a history going back to the mid 13th century, and was last inhabited by the ‘Grant Clan’ until around the mid 17th century. It has a long and noble history, and was fought over by clans and opposing armies before and during the wars of independence. The current ruin is but a shadow of the proud buildings and battlements that once stood here.
I guess many folks over the centuries have sought refuge in this once impressive castle, but alas the stronghold was eventually destroyed and it was interesting to see the type of machine used at that time to smash down the walls! A massive sling that hurled huge cannon balls over a distance of hundreds of yards. It reminded me how as a child my family, after hearing the wail of the sirens, sought refuge, not in a castle, but in an air raid shelter behind our block of flats in Glasgow. We were escaping the bombs falling from the sky during WWII ! Today in Ukraine there are reports of thousands of people fleeing to a theatre, and to a steel plant, and many tunnels to escape the horrors of war.
Well we are not in a war situation for now, but it got me thinking about where or to whom, do you and I run when things go horribly wrong, as they do for us all at times? Where do I hide in a relationship crisis, a grief crisis, an unemployment crisis, a health crisis, a pandemic, or the energy crisis, ….. and when it justs seems difficult to get out of bed in the morning’?
For me, I find my hope and shelter in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Solomon, reputedly the wisest man ever to have lived, apart from Christ Himself, said ‘The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.‘ Do you remember the hymn we once sang in Church?
‘Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand, the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land; a home within a wilderness, a rest upon the way, from the burning of the nootide heat, and the burden of the day’. We sang a version of that in Church recently as we approached the Easter Weekend.
This week we have been enjoying the beautiful Spring weather, with an outing to Glendaruel, and some days in the garden!
GLENDARUEL HERE WE COME!
There was a cloudless blue sky, as we set off last Saturday on a day trip, but not knowing exactly where we were heading. A bit like a mystery tour really! Direction and destination were chosen as we drove along, Clyde Coast or the Lochs?, the beach or the hills? but in some ways our destination was dictated by the time available before dark, and traffic conditions. On reaching Loch Lomond-side we heard there was an accident ahead, so we turned left to Arrochar and the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’. Roadworks and congestion there, so now a left turn down ‘Hells Glen’, and at last the road was almost empty. Then on to Strachur, right for Colintraive until we came to the little village of Glendaruel.
You have to watch out for the sign as the village is now just off the main road. There are very few houses in the village, but there is an hotel, and a beautiful little church and churchyard on the banks of the river. And much to our suprise there is a canal longboat to be seen sitting on the hotel grounds.
Kilmodan Church in its present setting has a history going back to around 1610, but a church in the area is recorded as early as 1250-1299. The latest Church building was restored in 1983.
The ‘Ratho Princess’ looked a bit like a minature ‘Noah’s Ark’ miles from the sea, but it added more interest to our walk around the village. We also recalled memories of our first visit to Glendaruel, it was a Sunday School teachers outing on Easter Monday 1956! When we arrived back home from our day trip on Saturday, we found the photos to confirm that! From the above photos you will see that the lady hasn’t changed a bit!! It was a great day out, and we travelled home via the Dunoon / Gourock ferry, arriving just before dark. Well worth a visit.
The garden is looking well as everything bursts into life now that we are into Spring. So this week the grass was given its first cut and the edges strimmed, which helped to highlight the beauty of the flowers that have already appeared. Here are some of the flowers that I photographed as I looked around. Can you name them?
The greenhouse is well behind schedule this year due to a number of factors, but the plan is to get the seeds sown within the next couple of weeks, so watch this space as they say!
When I wakened the other morning to another cloudless blue sky and the birds singing in our hedge, the words of this song which we once sang at school and church came back to mind.
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies; Father unto You we raise this our sacrifice of praise. For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light; Father, unto YOU we raise this our sacrifice of praise
The news these days is grim on many fronts, but may your soul find rest in God alone! Psalm 62.5-8
May you enjoy the Springtime as you have opportunity!
Egypt the land on the Nile with it’s most ancient recorded history, goes back for six millennium. In the world at large it is commonly known as the land of the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Pharaohs, and who has not heard of the famous boy King Tutankhamen! It’s also the land of Temples and Museums with ancient artefacts, the land of desert (96% of Egypt), and borders the beautiful Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the amazing Aswan High Dam, and so we could go on ….. !
Geographically the land devides into two main areas, The Northern Nile Delta and Southern Upper Egypt which follows the Nile from ancient Memphis all the way to the Aswan High dam and beyond!
During my working life we once had a flight stopover in Cairo, and took the opportunity to have a brief tour of the city and also a visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, which could only be described as spectacular! After retirement we followed a documentary series on TV about ancient Egypt, which inspired us to make another visit to this ancient nation. So in the month of March we joined a Christian Tour Group for a visit to Upper Egypt, by following the Nile from Luxor to Aswan.
Recently in my reading and conversation the subject of Egypt was brought again to the ‘fore of my thinking, so it was back to the archives for all these notes and photographs! Of necessity the decription of the journey will be brief, but every picture tells a story, so I’m sure you will catch the wonder of it.
After leaving Luxor in our ‘river boat’ we passed through the locks at Esna, and made our first stop at Edfu to visit the Temple to the god Horus. It was built sometime between 237 and 57 BC and is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. The ‘Hawks of Horus’ guard the gate, and the walls are covered with various reliefs depicting religious and mythological events.
Sailing on the Nile is a very relaxing way to spend a holiday, especially with good company and conversation, and with some excellent guides. We certainly caught a glimpse into Egypt’s ancient past as we explored some extraordinary sites all along the river bank.
Soon we moved on to Aswan where we enjoyed a trip to the market, a sail on a felucca, plus a visit to the dam and botanic garden, whilst staying in the Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel.
On the return journey to Luxor by coach we caught some great views of the Nile from a shore persective and of rural life, before visiting the famous temple of Luxor, (1400 BC) which is not dedicated to any god, but was perhaps the place many of the Pharoahs were crowned. Also Karnak, which goes back even further in time to 2000-1700 BC, during which period it has been estimated that approximateely 30 Pharaohs contriubuted to its building.
On our penultimate day we were at ‘the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatchepsut, the Colossi of Memnon and an Alabaster workshop.
Reflection: Much has been written about ancient Egypt and its thirty one Dynasties spanning four millenium BC, and its millenia since, so a one week tour is barely scratching the surface. However as you look back you can see that Egypt in many ways typifies the rise and fall of empires and nations, sometimes for good and at other times for bad. Even in our own lifetime, we have witnessed the demise of the once mighty British Empire, the end of colonialism, the collapse of the mighty USSR, the destruction of the Third Reich and its vision of a thousand year reign, and Japanese Imperialism, to mention but a few. Now there are new kids on the block, all with visions of power and greatness, and many vying to be the new ‘top dog’. Recently Ken McCallum of MI5 is reported to have said that the UK is in a struggle to protect its way of life, as China and Russia are waging an all-encompassing contest for international supremacy! And while I write this, Russia is in the process of invading Ukraine. So the world’s power shifts between nations continues unabated, but it seems the heart of man is singularly unchanged, as they vie for position of ultimate power and authority, internationally, nationally and often we have seen it in our own working lives and in our hearts.
Our Christian Group were very much interested to learn where and when the Bible characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph fitted into all this history, and also to reflect on the fact that Jesus and his parents were in the early years of Jesus’ life refugees in this land. Matthew in his Gospel recalls the words of Hosea the phophet who approximately 750 years before Jesus’ birth said, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.‘ Another fascinating study is to compare the similarities between the life of Joseph and his stay in Egypt as recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and the life of Jesus, God’s beloved son.
Abraham came to Egypt because of famine early in the 2nd millennium and during Egypt’s 12th dynasty. (See Genisis 12) It was to this Abraham that God made a promise of land and nationhood, and that through his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. These promises of God we see fulfilled in our world today. Jesus of the seed of Abraham, came to our world to the sound of angels singing ‘Peace on earth, goodwill towards men‘, and died to the shouts of the mob ringing in His ears ‘WE WILL NOT HAVE THIS MAN TO REIGN OVER US’! So there we go again.
God had different ideas, He raised Him from the dead, exalted Him to His right hand and appointed Him to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is in fact the God-man with His hand on the tiller. And the Bible says that there is a day of judgment coming, and guess what? the judge has already been appointed – “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17.30,31
It seems good to me to make peace with God now a priority while the offer is still on the table. That peace I’ve found through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5.1. It’s a peace open to all who come in repentence and faith.
I hope you enjoyed the trip and are prepared for that final one we all must take!
Ever go for a walk in the countryside or in a new area, and say to yourself ‘I’ll just go a wee bit further and see what’s around the next corner’? I’m sure we all have at times, and often it leads to the next corner and the next corner!
That of course is not so easy in our walk through life, and on reflection I am so glad that God has kept that hidden from us, for it means life’s pleasant surprises would lose something of their ‘wow’ and ‘joy’ factor, and conversely, we are prevented from worrying about those difficult chapters in life before their time, with which we all have to deal with at some point in life.
It was common at church when I was young for the leader of the service to say D.V. (‘Deo Volente’ – Latin, meaning God willing) after making the announcements for the following week, simply because none of us can be sure what a day holds, never mind another week, and of course Christians are looking for the return of Jesus Christ just as He promised, and ‘at such an hour as you think not’!
On 25 January every year here in Scotland we celebrate the poetic works of Robert Burns our National Bard, you’ll be familiar with his work – The song ‘Old Lang Syne’ and the poem ‘To a Mouse’ being amongst his most popular works. The latter of these two contains the line ‘‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft aglee!’! How true! And the unexpected did happen for us just at the end of December last year. My wife tripped on the stairs with two hands full of shopping and fell, breaking her humerus bone on her right arm. That certainly was unexpected and put all our New Year plans on hold, and sent ‘yours truly’ into the kitchen to become chief cook and bottle washer!
We did however manage our own form of a ‘Burns Supper’ with the traditional meal of ‘tatties, neeps and haggis’ (potatoes, turnip and haggis) at home. Not quite cooked as we would normally but as a ready made meal from ‘Sainsbury’s Supermarket’. Family and friends have rallied round and we have been blessed by the kindness of so many since the accident.
Life at home in January 2022 😦
We have also managed a few short drives in the car, which has been great, and also a few wee walks on the beach or at the local park.
The new man in the kitchen has managed to introduce the growing of our own herbs (especially for the stir fry) and potted up some Spring flowers for his ‘better half’, as a surprise to bring a smile and some cheer. I’m glad to say she is slowly recovering. The greenhouse will just need to wait for a while this year, and all being well I can get started at the end of February.
REFLECTION:I As I consider this topic I find the words of this Christian song by Ira F Stanphil a great help:
I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said, and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Refrain: – Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.
Once again we have been impressed with the service received from our National Health Service for which we are most grateful. Especially for the team of doctors and nurses and their care, compassion and competence. Visiting hospital always shows you that there are countless numbers of people worse off than yourself.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Matthew
Another year of travel restrictions due to Covid has resulted in us spending almost all of the year at home, so most of the photographs this year have been taken locally or on ‘day trips’ from Glasgow. However as we look back on 2021 it’s amazing to remember all the interesting places we visited, some for the very first time, and the joy and peace we had in doing that. So here’s a picture or two per month!
Reflection: This year started with some optimism as vaccines were being rolled out, and the slogan ‘we will beat this together’ sounded more plausible, but then along came the variants!
Thankfully the latest Omicron variant is reported to be less severe than those that have gone before, so we pray that this downward trend will continue in 2022. A visit to Glasgow city centre just before Christmas told its own story. Gone was the sound of laughter and the bustling Christmas market in George Square. No ‘big wheel’, ‘flying chairs’, ‘helter skelter’or ice rink, fun and joviality had given way to just a few families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless.
But hold on a minute, is ‘families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless‘ more in keeping with the Christmas story, than a ‘lets eat and drink and be merry‘ lifestyle, especially in the current circumstances? The British Prime Minister caused outrage recently when it was disclosed that last winter some government departments were partying while people were self isolating and others mourning the loss of family and friends to Covid 19.
This Christmas I was caused to stop and think again about the reason for Christmas, which this new carol, so beautfully sung, challenges us to do. Take a minute to listen!
I hope you enjoy the photographs, and like me are challenged by the new carol.
Hope to see you again in the New Year. Every blessing to you and yours.
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!’
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.
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,
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 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‘
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.
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 …
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!
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.