After the Perfect Storm!

Invariably it takes time before the true damage and destruction that a storm has caused becomes obvious to us! With our 24 hour media coverage of news from around the world continually hitting our TV screens, yesterday’s, and the day before yesterday’s news, can quickly be forgotten.

At the end of November last year (26th-27th), ‘Storm Arwen’ swept across Scotland and parts of the UK with gusts reaching up to 100mph. It was headline news at the time, three people were reported killed, 9000 were left without power, roads were blocked and property damaged. However if you are like me you will probably have long forgotten all about it by now. However a few weeks ago we made our annual trip to the Trossachs for our drive around the ‘Three Lochs Forest Drive’ on the dirt road that passes loch Reoidhte, Drunkie and Achray, then that old news came alive again!

On approaching the gate to the forest drive, we were stopped by the park warden, who asked if we were regular visitors to the park, and when we replied in the affirmative, she went on to explain with some emotion, that areas of the forest had been devastated by Storm Arwen, so now we had been warned! Many of the fallen trees had since been removed, but nonetheless we were completely astounded by the extent of the damage!

Trunks of trees snapped like match-sticks.

It was a sad sight to behold, but thankfully many areas of the forest escaped unscathed, and were just as beautiful as ever.

The initial report suggested that up to 4,000 hectares of trees were destroyed, but that figure has now been doubled, which equates to about 16 million trees! It certainly changed the landscape, and the forests will take some time to rejuvenate themselves. I’ll leave you with one more photograph of one of our favourite picnic spots!

Our former favourite picnic spot!

Reflection: It has been said, that after disaster strikes there comes a time when we stop asking the ‘why’ question, and start asking the ‘what now’ question. And already it appears that foresters are thinking on how in the aftermath of the storm they can turn this situation around for the long term good of the landscape and wildlife. Tree diversity, dead trees left in place for insects and wildlife, fire gaps perhaps are some of the ideas. It takes time to work through these things, so the changes envisaged are unlikly to be seen in my lifetime, but they could in the end be for the better.

We are all aware of the many storms of a different kind that are sweeping across not just Scotland, but the world in these uncertain times. Ukraine, Tigray in Ethiopia being just representative of the many armed conflicts. Worldwide political storms, industrial storms, economic storms, energy storms, health service and the care sector storms ….. Watching TV and our news bulletins can be a very depressing exercise these days, and an increasing number of people are choosing not to bother, especially among the young, where TV is being abandoned and news is collected by means of social media.

One storm or crisis that the UK had to deal with recently was the sudden death of our much loved monarch and head of state Queen Elizabeth II. Yet it was a storm with a difference! There was much sadness expressed throughout the Kingdom, but so much love and respect was also shown by millions of citizens for this queen and her family, for she had reigned for 70 years! One housewife commented, ‘The Queen, she was lovely, everyone’s Granny’!’

One thing that came over loud and clear during the period of mourning and at the Church services was this woman’s Christian faith and devotion to God and her Saviour Jesus Christ, throughout her entire reign. Catherine Butcher’s book ‘Our Faithful Queen’ well illustrates this point. One episode in her life she records followed on from her 2011 Christmas address to the nations, when she said “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love”. Just a few short months later this picture showed that she was one who ‘practiced what she preached‘! This handshake between the Queen and ex IRA Commander Martin McGuinness played an important part in calming the storm that was tearing apart communities in Northern Ireland, and helped in the Irish peace process.

The Queen meets Martin McGuinness

So who do you and I need to forgive? not just in words but in some tangible action? It is such a life changing thing to do, not only for others, but for our own peace of mind and wellbeing. In the prayer Jesus taught us, these words are so significant ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’. If you have ever come to Jesus and asked for forgiveness for your sins, remember His forgiveness and peace are only possible because of His action, when he the sinless Son of God shed his blood for you. If you haven’t yet come, I would encourage you to do so. Then the storm that troubles your mind can pass, and who knows what God will do in our lives in whatever time we have ahead!

Wishing you every blessing as we enter the Autumn Season

Matthew

Colours Galore – Garden Joys and Surprises

Every Spring and early Summer I look forward with anticipation to see the outcome of all the things that have been planted in the garden and greenhouse. My earlier blog at the start of June showed photographs of Spring flowers and the early growth of vegetables in the greenhouse. So how did they all turn out? Well as always the results were mixed, but we keep persevering. Lately I have grown the large begonias, and they are lovely, but they unfortunately keep bowing their heads so they are hard to see and appreciate. Next year, all being well, I think I will give the dhalia’s a try. πŸ™‚

Let’s start with summer flowers.

The fruit and vegetable side of the garden has proved quite productive, in spite of my earlier misgivings about my tomato plants. Four types of tomato were grown and they all produced a good crop. I also tried a new cucumber seed for smaller fruit and they were better than my expectation both in numbers and taste. Peppers were not so good as I had insufficient space in the greenhouse, so put them outside where they didn’t receive the care they deserved and were damaged by slugs and bugs! Those in the greenhouse did much better πŸ™‚ We did get a bowl of gooseberries from two small bushes, which were stewed and sweetened and consumed with our morning cereal. Rhubarb was fertilised this year and gave us two crops for crumbles and pies.

Here are some of the results.

Other bushes and plants also brought some real colour and charm. This is the year of the hydrangeas I think, as they have been superb.

Look at me, dressed to impress!

Last year, this little Acer tree looked as if it was almost gone, but I decided to give it another chance and surprisingly it burst into life! It certainly needs repotted, but I am just awaiting the right time to do so! Everything and everybody needs another chance!

Finally, my willow tree at the bottom of the garden is not looking good this year. I saw the resident grey squirrel hanging upside down from one of its branches in early summer and I thought, is it chewing the tree bark? A neighbour commented that her apple tree was also looking poorly, so on checking on line I learned that squirrels eat the bark from trees and also use strips to build their dreys! So sure enough the bare patches on both tree barks seem like conclusive evidence! It’s the squirrel!

Reflection: Now we look forward to the Autumn colours, and the Spring flower planting, if all goes well. I’ll finish with the words of F E Pettingell 1899

Through the changing seasons, of the changing year, with its light and shadow with its hope and fear. Through each glad fulfilment, and each sad defeat, we have safely journeyed, and again we meet. Through this changing year, by His guiding providence we assemble here.

Well many of you I have not yet met in person, but thank you for reading / following my blog, and by God’s grace and mercy, and through your faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to Him, we shall meet one day!

Enjoy what remains of Summer – Matthew!

Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

Most of us are creatures of habit, so we go on from day to day and week to week going through the same routines, whether it be at home or in our place of work. Seldom do we stop to consider, is there a habit, a diet, a shopping practice, a workout routine, or something else that I need to change? Would a better way of doing things enable me to achieve my goals, assuming that we have set some! With soaring prices for energy and food and with recession coming on, it is perhaps a good time to ask that question!

In industry they might say we need a ‘paradigm shift in thinking’! During my former engineering days I remember being part of a committee looking in detail at machinery we manufactured and its function, to see if we could manufacture it more efficiently or replace it all together by changing the system for which it was designed. But any ideas we had pale into insignificance when compared to the countless examples of ‘people ‘thinking outside the box’ in the fields of science, healthcare, space exploration, art and engineering, and almosy every other field of expertise that you could mention!

One example of ‘thinking outside the box, unique to Scotland and indeed the world, is the ‘Falkirk Wheel’, which we recently visited with friends from the Argentine!

The Falkiirk Wheel that links the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal’ (which sits 35 Metres above) allows vessels to sail through the sky thanks to an amazing piece of engineering and art! The energy to turn the wheel is said to be the equivalent of that used to boil just eight kettles of water!

We visited in summer, so the wheel was busy as many boats were passing through the canal. It’s a great place for a day out as there are loads of things to do with shops, museum, restaurant and toilets etc. You can try Archery, Mini Golf, Boating for kids or even a Canal Boat Ride that will take you up to the Union canal and back! We also took the advice on the notice above, and visited the Kelpies to feed the horses!

Admission is free to the Falkirk Wheel site and also the Kelpies, but if you travel by car there is a parking charge of Β£4.00.

Reflections: Thinking ‘outside the box’ can be a challenging experience in every area of life, not just in the making of things! Puting your new thinking into practice can often be life changing, and have implications for relationships and careers, and change our goals and path through life. I have recently read Prof. Neil Thomas’ book, ‘Taking Leave of Darwin‘ – A Longtime Agnostic discovers the Case for Design. In his prologue he speaks of being struck by the thought, that if a group of tenured academics and other responsible scientists could no longer support the claims of Darwinism on which the worldview of much of the West rests, then he must investigate the subject for himself. His detailed investigation which he spells out in the book is fascinating, bringing him to a conclusion which the title of his book well summarises – ‘Taking leave of Darwin‘. It’s certainly worth a read, but how will Neil Thomas’ book go down with his fellow peers and academics?

Another well known writer and agnostic David Foster Wallace, somewhat ‘rocked the boat’ by his speech in the US to the graduating class of Kenyon College in 2005 when he said, ‘You get to choose what you worship. Because here’s something that’s weird but true: in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god … to worship .. is that pretty much anything else you choose to worship will eat you alive.‘ He goes on then to speak of money, your body and beauty and sexual allure …power and intellect … ‘They are the kind of worship you just gradually slip into day after day … without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.’ (Emphasis added) His message was received with a loud round of applause. David Foster Wallace did not disclose who or what he worshipped, tho’ one might guess. And one must wonder if he had slipped into a worship he was warning others to avoid? Very sadly just three years later this talented young man committed suicide at the age of 46. It does raise the question, what god are you and I worshipping?

I think for many the day comes when we start wondering if life is passing us by, and we still have not found our true role, or meaning in life, or faced up to the fact of our mortality. Is it time for me to think outside the box? The story of Antartic Explorer – Ernest Shackleton’s advert for crew members perhaps illustrates the point.

MEN WANTED for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success. Ernest Shackleton

Five thousand men are reputed to have responded even although the terms were far from attractive, and the possibility of achieving the goals of the expedition were in doubt, with your life itself being in question. People desperate to find meaning in life?

Personally as most of my readers will know, I am a worshipper of the great Triune `God of the Bible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You may think that sounds like something for the weak, the old and the unsophisticated, and YES you are right, for God calls everyone – rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old, healthy and sick, everyone to come and follow Him. The terms Jesus the Son of God laid down for His followers is set out in these words of his –  Then he said to them all: β€œWhoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? The early disciples were in their day accused of turning the world upside down. God still calls such men and women today! Every morning I read a Christian Mission magazine and am constantly amazed at what God is doing through ordinary people all around the world – amazing!

In a day when many people are looking for meaning and authenticity, Jesus offers the forgiveness of all our sins, relief from a guilty conscience, a new life in all its fulness, guidance and direction by his Spirit and through his Word. We can know an inner joy and peace, and a personal relationship with him, which will ultimately take us home to heaven – No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. How is that possible you may ask? Because the Son of God loved each of us, and gave himself for us. At the cross the great exchange took place, your sin placed on Christ, and if you come and confess that sin and give your life to Him, His righteousness becomes ours, so that exchange becomes a reality in a new life.

In the search for meaning and purpose we as Christians have found and believe that this is only possible when we find our rest in God.

Thinking of stepping ‘outside the box’?

Best wishes – Matthew

                                                            

The Pass of Brander, St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle

On my last blog I was writing about our day trip from Oban to the Isle of Staffa and our visit to Fingal’s Cave, but we extended our holiday by choosing on our third day to visit three very interesting stopping off places on our drive back to Glasgow.

The first stop, was at the Pass of Brander where in August 1308 Sir James Douglas and King Robert the Bruce led a successful attack on the MacDougalls, It has been said, this was the final battle of Bruce’s campaign in the North, during what is called ‘the ‘Wars of Independence’. The visit reminded me of my primary school days when ‘the Black Douglas’ and ‘King Robert the Bruce’ were our folk heroes as children. Many mock battles were enacted in the school playground with imaginary swords at our play times, after being told of their many exploits during our history lessons!

Stop two, was at Saint Conan’s Kirk, which is beautifully situated on the edge of Loch Awe, and here too there is an interesting history to consider. The Kirk is not far from the Brander battlefield referred to above. In fact inside you will find an effigy tomb of King Robert the Bruce, and one of his bones is also said to be buried here. The original Church was built in 1886 by Walter Douglas Campbell, who was one of nine children. He trained as an architect, and when his mother found the journey to the local parish church too tiring, he decided to build this church for her. By 1907 he started his Church extension to ambitious plans he had drawn up. Unfortunately he did not live to see its completion, but the Church was dedicated anew in 1930. You can read the full story on-line. Highly recommended for a visit if you are touring in the area.

Our last stop, was to visit Kilchurn Castle. A Castle we have photographed on many occasions, but never found the time to visit, but this time we did! The Castle was built in the mid 15th Century and became the home of the powerful Campbell Clan of Glen Orchy, who extended it and made it their stronghold for 150 years. It contains the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland. Lots more info on line!

It was a rather cloudy day for our visit, but the surrounding hills and landscape, and its situation at the end of Loch Awe always gives this castle that special flavour of the dramatic! Our walk from the car park, which takes you under the railway bridge and on to the grazing land, also proved to be a bit dramatic as well! As we walked along we noticed there were some highland cattle grazing in the long grass, and to our surprise they seemed to take an interest in us, whilst others had been ignored! So it was slightly ‘off putting’ when first a large brown cow with large horns came straight towards us! I hurriedly pulled some grass and offered it as a peace gesture, but after a look and a sniff she turned away in disappointment. She was follwed by an even larger black cow, who also snubbed my peace gesture! Later we saw the farmer arriving with bags of cattle feed, so me thinks we were perhaps involved in ‘a case of mistaken identity’! πŸ™‚

Soon after we made our way over the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’ and home via the the banks of Loch Lomond.

Reflection: It’s such a joy to get out of town for a few days and to enjoy the summer holidays, sunshine and fresh air. We are truly blessed here in the West of Scotland as so many places of quietness and beauty are within easy reach of the city. Our evening readings these days are in the Psalms, and thus one reflected our mood as we returned to Glasgow.

It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Ps. 92:1-5

All in such contrast to the gloom and sadness of our news bulletins, so of course we do need to come down from our ‘mountain top experiences’ just as Jesus did, to face the challenges of every day life. There is much need all around us. Lord help us to play our part!

Here is the Fingal’s Cave video if you missed it!

Matthew

Fingal’s Cave – Isle of Staffa

At last, a long held dream came true for us this year as we made the trip to Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa!

It had long been talked about, and indeed planned for last year, but everything had to be cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. This little island just half a mile long and quarter of a mile wide lies off the west coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides near to the Isle of Mull. It is famous for its hexagonal rock columns, dramatic caves and cliffs and also by the many nesting ‘Puffin’ seabirds who colonise the cliff edges with their nesting burrows. Many famous people have visited the island over the years including Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth and composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was inspired to produce his ‘Hebrides Overture’as a result of his visit. Another large cave next to ‘Fingals’ is called ‘Mackinnon’s Cave’ said to be named after ‘Abbot Mackinnon’ of Iona. Well, this past week the McKinnon’s were back! πŸ™‚

Ours was a day trip from Oban, sailing at 12.30pm by the Calmac ferry to Craignure on the Isle of Mull (45 minutes), where we joined a ‘Turus Mara’ mini bus group for travel across Mull to ‘Ulva ferry’ (40 minutes) before boarding the ‘Turus Mara’ boat that took us to Staffa. (40 mins)

The weather was perfect, which was a real blessing, and the boat trip to Staffa we found to be beautiful and exhilarating!

The view approaching Staffa can only be described as dramatic as you catch your first view of the sheer cliffs and rock columns. The massive size of the caves come into perspective when you spot people walking along the cliff edged shoreline path. Going ashore is not for the faint-hearted as you are immediately faced with a ladder type climb if you are going to spot the puffins, or a 10 minute walk if you are going to visit the cave! This walk takes you on a narrow path with a steep drop at places on the seaward side, and just a single handrail to assist. I was glad my wife opted to stay on board the boat to enjoy the views from the sea.

It seems each visiting group is allowed appoximately one hour ashore, so it wasn’t possible in the time allotted to wander across the top of the island to view the puffins and then visit the cave, unless you were young, fit and sure footed. But I did manage onto the top to catch the vista, before walking to the cave. However my daughter Jennifer was on Staffa with her husband recently and she kindly gave me licence to show two of her puffin shots, plus that handrail! The time passed so quickly and soon it was time to go!

Reflections: On our regular day trips around Scotland I always ask my wife ‘Where would you like to go today’? Invariably she says, ‘Oh please yourself, but somewhere near the sea’! Reminds me of the John Masefield poem we memorised as kids in primary school.

‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;”

Another great sea poem I love is found in Psalm 107:

Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper;the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

That one reminds us of the story in the Gospels of Jesus the Son of God calming the storm! Mark 4:35-41 So whatever circumstance we find ourselves in today, it’s good to ‘put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water, put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea’, as Elvis Presley used to sing.

I wish you calm sailings, but before things get rough, remember there is a hand held out to save! Matthew 11:28-30

Matthew

The Burrell Collection & Pollok Park – Glasgow – Scotland

The Burrell Collection Museum reopened in Glasgow on the 29 March 2022, having been closed for refurbishment since 23 October 2016. Admission is free and there is a very nice cafe and retaurant along two sides of the building, and also other ‘cafe’ like facilities for teas and coffees. The refubishment cost, is said to be around a cool Β£68,250,000.00, almost half of which was pledged by Glasgow City Council. So after waiting for the crowds to die down we decided to make our first visit at the end of May, and it proved to be a very interesting afternoon.

The Museum’s architecture, design and its location within the park I find very pleasing to the eye. This sense of beauty and design continues inside, and I particularly enjoy the gallery that runs full-length alongside the woodland at the rear of the building. The changing woodland scenery which is viewed through the glass windows that reach from roof to floor level, combine God’s artistry with that gifted to man.

The refurbishment has brought many changes, with new areas being opened up to the public, and even items in storage, some of which circulate in the viewing galleries, can be viewed if you book an appointment. Some of the new displays are spectacularly combined with the use of modern technology. These photographs show but a few of the thousands of items on display, and the history of this amazing collection can easily be researched on line. It will take a few visits to truly appreciate the wide range and variety of art on display.

Pollok Park is also home to Pollok House a National Trust for Scotland property, once the home of Sir John Stirling Maxwell and family. The house and garden are just a short walk from the ‘Burrell’, so if you are planning a day in Glasgow this park has everything you could wish for in terms of interest both indoors and out!

Pollok House and surroundings

Reflections: The field on which the Burrel museum was built has been a playground for me with my siblings (see below), and also for my children and grandchildren and great grand children throughout life. The ‘Children and Youth’ departments of our church have also used it for countless numbers of games of ‘football’ and ’rounders’ on many summer nights. The children’s smiling faces, shouts and hoots of laughter you will still hear if you close your eyes for a minute! πŸ™‚ The Burrell Collection now attracts a much more diverse and perhaps ‘upmarket’ group of visitors, but it’s good the local young folks and families still have a place to picnic and play! In fact Glaswegians are spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which park to visit.

One thing I notice as I visit parks and gardens, is the number of folks often sitting on their own, seemingly just reflecting on life and its events. My own garden, and especially my seat in the greenhouse πŸ™‚ I really enjoy for the quietness it provides. which gives opportunity for prayer and reflection in this noisy and increasingly chaotic world. As I write this I was reminded of the Elvis Presley and Jim Reeves song made known world-wide many years ago, (You can still hear them sing it on ‘You Tube’) but here it is sung by Michele Lane, who for me, sings it so beautifully.

I enjoyed listening to it again so hope you enjoy it too!

Pollok House Gardens

Have a great summer wherever you are

Matthew

Catch the Joy of Summer!

Yes, here in Glasgow situated in the world’s northern hemisphere the daylight hours are extending, and today we enjoyed sunshine from its 4.40am rising until its 9.50 pm setting! What a special gift is that! The garden is slowly coming into bloom and everything is looking beautiful!

The garden tonight at 8.30pm

It is amazing to watch the budding trees and Spring flowers give way to Summer bloom, and to see and hear the excitement of the birds as the they prepare their nests and get ready for the new chicks to arrive. We have blackbirds nesting in our hedge every year and their song in the evening is enough to cheer the saddest heart.

Springtime

Early Summer

The greenhouse is now catching up, with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and courgettes all coming on, and with three bags of potatoes planted and a bucket full of carrots. My two hanging baskets are now out, but the flowers for them were bought from the nursery. My tomatoes are causing me some concern as they look a bit ‘spindly’ but hopefully they will come on ok.

The greenhouse

Talking about potatoes, tonight we enjoyed some fresh buttered Ayrshire potatoes with beans, coleslaw and ‘corned beef’ for dinner. It reminded me of my mother’s love for Ayrshire potatoes when I was a small boy, and that wasn’t yesterday! πŸ™‚

Tatties and corned beef!

And of course, this summer in the UK and Commonwealth we are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th Jubilee, and events are being held all over the country. This week at our church we had a service and afternoon tea for senior citizens and it was a special and joyous occasion. Most of the folks there remembered her coronation all these years ago! We recalled her faithfulness and servant heart through all the ups and downs of life, and remembered her faith in God, which in her own words has sustained her, and enabled her to fulfil the vows given at her coronation! Across the political divide I think it is true to say that the vast majority of citizens in the UK are delighted to honour this lady for her commitment, grace and loyalty sometimes amid adversity.

Wherever you are, and in whatever season I hope you are well. Here is a new song we are singing in church these days, it is beautifully sung and the words I find encouraging and inspiring too, for all of life’s circumstances.

Matthew

The Isle of Tiree – positioned on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean!

Leaving a tranquil Tiree

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.

Oban – Gateway to the Isles

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. πŸ™‚

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’ πŸ™‚

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!

God bless, Matthew

Heading North!

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! πŸ™‚ 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!

Loch Ness and the ruins of Urquhart Castle

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.

Greetings and best wishes from Glasgow, Scotland.

Home and Away!

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

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!

Reflection:

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!

Matthew