Have you ever awakened from sleep laughing?

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

Some recently taken photos in the sunshine.

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

Planting Carrots!

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

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

How quickly the weather changes!

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

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

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

Everything thankfully seems ok at present.

Everything under control?

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

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

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

Do you think He sees these wee carrot seedlings too?

God bless

Matthew

Look to the Hills!

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

Whistler – Blackcomb – The Rockies, Canada

Walking on ‘Whistler

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

Climbing in Scotland and the Lake District of England

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

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

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

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

Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew



Time for Strawberries?

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

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

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

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

Separate the plants and soak overnight in water.

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

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

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

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

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

Other signs of life in the garden

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

Happy gardening!

Matthew

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

January, Jack Frost and Jabs!

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

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

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

And something to go with all these cups of tea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more help at: matthewmuriel@aol.com

God bless

Matthew

Bondage, Bond and a Bridge

When I was a wee boy of five years, I spent the best part of a year in an infectious diseases hospital in Glasgow, having contracted diphtheria, followed by scarlet fever and a mastoid. No visitors were allowed so I was separated from my siblings and parents even at Christmas and New Year.  This year, for the first time since, my wife and I were on our own at Christmas and New Year due to Covid-19 restrictions. But we did have a nice time, and spoke with family and friends by phone, and on ‘what’s app’ or ‘Zoom’. One of our grandsons with his wife and family even came and sung carols to us outside our front door with the gift of a freshly baked cake! And of course we did manage a few photographs at home and in the garden and when driving to a quiet spot in our local area!

Oh, and we watched a few films, which is a bit unusual for us, as we are not really much into that. Perhaps it was because we have had to buy a TV licence again! 🙂 Yes, we did watch, (feel free to laugh) ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai‘! The latter inspired the heading of this months blog ‘Bondage, Bond and a Bridge’.

Bondage. When I arrived in Thailand to work on an engineering contract back in the 80’s, I found myself within 10 days walking on the Burma (Death) Railroad. We had gone to Church on the Sunday I arrived, and I was told the following weekend there would be a church trip to the bridge on the river Kwai, and that we were invited. Walking on the railroad and visiting a commonwealth war memorial was a sobering experience, as anyone who has read anything of the history of that infamous railroad can imagine. Thousands upon thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers and Asian civilians lost their lives, due to starvation, disease and cruel bondage. There was a subdued atmosphere amongst our group as later that day we rode downstream in a number of motorboats to catch a view of the bridge and it’s surroundings.

Bridge on the River Kwai and Commonwealth War Graves

Some months later we visited the refugee camps along the Cambodian border, where we witnessed the devastation in human lives caused by Pol Pot and his regime. They murdered at least 2 million of their own people and sent countless thousands more scattering for refuge to Thailand and elsewhere. Children in bondage, what a blot on the human race! Stories here too gruesome to tell or contemplate!

Cambodian refugees on the Thailand border – consider the disturbed look on some of those children’s faces.

BOND: Fortunately we were also able to visit other beautiful places in Thailand during that year’s contract, which brought some relief from the busyness of our hectic lives at that time. So look no further than the island and area immortalised by a certain Mr Bond, James Bond! in his legendary film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Sailing among the mangroves and the amazing rock formations was certainly a fascinating experience, and visiting the village where they cultivated pearls, was financially perilous! Ever think that if only in real life we could find someone to save humanity from its madness and folly?

In and around ‘James Bond’ island

BRIDGE: The strange thing about the bridge on the River Kwai episode was that soldiers, on the same side in this deadly conflict, were working against each other. Some working to build a bridge and others working to destroy a bridge. There was good reason for that in this instance, but I’ll leave you to read the story for yourself. That fact however has been true in other international conflicts and disagreements, where selfish national interests take precedence over what might have been a better and more sensible outcome. And if we are honest we see that happening in almost every level of human society. Having your cake and eating it too, is now heralded as a great outcome in any negotiation!

Makeshift Church in Refugee Camp

We noticed that in the camp we visited on the Thai / Cambodia border there was a large church, open at the sides and back, which we were told was packed to capacity whenever a service was held, with people standing around outside. The message they were hearing was new to their ears and truly revolutionary. It’s the story of another bridge, one prepared by God Himself, that allows weary and worn sinners in a self destructive world to find peace and rest.

As I write, this new strain of Covid-19 is running rampant in Scotland and throughout the UK, with more than 1000 daily deaths and gloomy forecasts for the coming months, in spite of vaccination hopes. We are daily reminded of this virus’ impact around the world, and are being told we will defeat this virus together, so life can return to normal. But defeating Covid-19 will do nothing to help the reported 12 million children in danger from war, disease and famine in Yemen, or solve the countless wars, acts of terrorism and troubles and injustices perpetuated around the globe, which only get a brief mention at present. Today the USA, recognised as the world’s chief promoter of democracy was demonstrating how it should not be done, by a mob invading the White House! The Bible diagnoses humankind’s most serious problem and calls it sin. If we are honest we know we have all been infected.

So there is no Mr Bond who is going to save us, but Christmas is about a greater Saviour, who brings help from outside our world, coming to save us by becoming one of us. ‘Emmanuel’ God with us, Jesus the Saviour of the world. He provides the bridge for all who are seeking forgiveness, peace and rest. For our present and eternal safety and wellbeing we really need to step across. The last photo of a bridge spells it out so well. Take a look!

Jesus THE bridge!

Here’s the story of one young woman who crossed that bridge!

Wishing you all a very happy new year, and God’s peace, care and protection throughout 2021.

Matthew

2020 LOCKDOWN ESCAPES to the great outdoors!

It’s easy to look back on 2020 and think of all the restrictions that we lived under, but my photographic record seems to tell a different story. We did in fact enjoy some beautiful weather, and made many escapes to the great outdoors – either in the garden, the local vicinity or further afield. I’ve picked a photograph for each month as a review of the year, that tries to sum up our outdoor activities.

In early January we headed for Arrochar at the top of Loch Long

Arrochar is the ‘half way’ point in a popular drive from Glasgow, known as the ‘The Three Lochs’. Loch Lomond, Loch Long and the Gareloch. It’s a great place for a picnic, and we often stop here before travelling on to other destinations such as, Invergarry or Dunoon.

Irvine harbour area – February

Irvine is our nearest point to the sea, so hardly a month goes by without us being here, either for a walk on the beach or for a read in the car if the weather is inclement! In my ‘boyish imagination’I think looking at this photo, that I’m standing on the deck of a submarine as it heads out to sea from the clyde 🙂

In March, just before lockdown we visited Balquidder on a stormy sleety March day. This is the Churchyard where another popular Scottish folk hero is buried, Rob Roy MacGregor, known as the ‘Robin Hood’ of Scotland.

Stay Safe, stay local, so we did! This is the housing estate where we live

The weather in April was amazing for this time of year, so almost every day we walked around enjoying the budding trees and hedgerows. We now know more of our local area than ever before!

May – Apple Blossom in the garden, daffodils and tulips in decline, YES! summer is around the corner

The garden and greenhouse played a major part in our outdoor activities this year, and it was a real blessing to have them.

In June daytime in Scotland extends to 11pm and beyond, so it was nice to drive around the area close to home one summer evening. There I spotted this unusual cross on top of a Presbyterian Church, which seemed to me to still have the ‘crown of thorns’ hanging on the cross. With the moon in the background it was for me a very emotive scene, hence the photo and the text.

Girvan beach and ‘Ailsa Craig’ on a warm summer July evening!

In July restrictions were eased, so having already cancelled our holidays, we made most of the opportunity to make day trips here, there and everywhere!

August – A bumper harvest

With lots of sunshine and much care and attention the greenhouse produced a bumper harvest this year, and we are still enjoying the benefits of it yet, from the freezer!

The beach at Dornoch, Scotland

September saw us having a short autumn break in the Scottish Highlands at Inverness. We have many memories of beaches, castles, battlefields and memorials. One of our finest memories was walking on the beach at Dornoch on a glorious sunny day.

The redecorated lesser church hall

October we were back at church with social distancing, no singing and a maximum of fifty persons. It was great to be there again, for although zoom has been an alternative and a blessing, nothing beats meeting together with fellow Christians to worship and praise God, in the quietness the church building provides.

Glasgao Necropolis – Glasgow Cathedral in the background

November we visited the famous Glasgow Necropolis for the first time, to view the grandoise tombstones of the past, and to enjoy amazing views over old Glasgow, and also Glasgow’s ancient Cathedral

December and the first signs of ice on the local pond!

Yes, winter is here, lockdown is back to level four, and on a few mornings this last week we have been scraping the ice from the car windows. But the central heating is on, and we have every comfort, and the good news is that a vaccine has been developed for Covid 19. So we are thankful for everything we have enjoyed in 2020 and look forward with faith and hope to 2021.

Matthew

Ny-Alesund – The World’s Most Northerly Permanent Settlement at almost 79 degrees North!

One of the most fascinating places we have ever visited was the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago. Sitting almost halfway beween the north of Norway and the North Pole, it’s a land of the midnight sun and the polar night. Svalbard they say, is home to more polar bears than people!  There are countless glaciers and dramatic mountains and fjords to be wondered at, and even in mid summer the remains of winter’s icebergs can still be seen. It’s also home to the white fox and reindeer and the rock ptarmigan, the only landbound bird that stays for winter.

When we put our clocks back on the last weekend of October, I thought of the shortening days and dark nights ahead, and then remembered Svalbard and its residents. That same weekend for them was the start of the polar night! This means that they will not see the sun again until 8 March 2021.

When we visited there a few years ago our first port of call in Svalbard was Ny-Alesund on the island of Spitsbergen, which is home to a number of international arctic research stations. Most are active throughout the summer months, but some 30+ researchers remain throughout the year. It was a rainy day when we arrived, but somehow that just added to the feeling of wilderness, isolation and the sheer ruggedness of the place, and indeed caused us to consider the tenacity of the people who live and work there, summer and winter! Here are a few photographs .

We then sailed further north to the Magdalena Fjord, where once there was a British whaling station, but now it is completely abandoned, just the graves of some seamen are there, who died in this cold unforgiving place.

After Magdalena we moved south to Longyearbyen, a small mining town and the largest populated settlement in Svalbard with over 2000 residents. It is also the administrative centre for the Norwegian Government. Here you will find hotels and tourist organisations offering a variety of adventure holidays, and also a very interesting museum. Fortunately the weather had inproved when we arrived, and again the scenery was spectacular. This however, was the wrong time of year for seeing the ‘northern lights’ for which this place is famous!

What is it like to live through a polar night winter in this cold dark place? Christiane Ritter’s book entitled ‘A Woman in the Polar Night’ would make a great read during ‘lockdown’, you’ll be caused to consider how well off we are! Here’s Muriel reading an excerpt!

REFLECTIONS: Winter for us has always invoked memories of cosy nights around the fireside with family and friends, laughter, games and story telling, and the sharing of good food and drink. We also associate it with streets lined with ‘fairy lights’, brightly decorated shops and town squares, not to mention Christmas markets, Christmas trees and shopping! At Church we think of choir practices for the coming carol services and youth events, and of children’s Christmas parties. The women folk are always busy with sewing, knitting, and craft making activities for the ‘sales of work’ in support of missionaries and charities. The Church community cafe is in full swing bringing in local friends including the walking and photography clubs. And quietly and consistently the Bible is being taught at Sunday services, and in house groups, strengthening Christians in their faith, and also sharing the good news about Jesus with those who are searching for answers to life’s big questions.

However this year, many in Europe are fearful as we approach winter, because of the increasing threat of Covid-19. Some of us have family and friends who have been infected with this disease, and indeed others are still grieving the loss of loved ones. We are all doing our best to cope with another partial or full scale lockdown, with the restrictions and mental anguish and economic hardship that they entail.

I have wondered, how I would cope living for months in a land of permanent gloom and darkness with not a chink of sunlight to cheer the day. I guess that people will sometimes ask in their hearts ‘will the sun ever rise again?’ It’s the same with this pandemic, people are asking ‘will things ever get back to normal again?’ Well, people do persevere and live through the polar night, and celebrate the day when above the horizon the sun dares to raise its head and shine again. We too need to look foward with hope to a day when we will celebrate together as this pandemic is at least neutralised. But the fact is we can be joyful and at peace in our current circumstances, perhaps that’s the hard lesson we need to learn from this pandemic. Life can be enjoyed at a less frenetic and different level. Jesus offered to the people of His day ‘Life in all its fullness‘and that offer is still open. How about reading a good book, telling the kids a story, going for a run or walk, gardening indoors or out, starting a hobby, baking or cooking etc. etc. Jesus brings daily hope and joy into our lives if we come to Him and seek His forgiveness and help. I find singing or listening to some of my favourite Christian songs in the morning, and then reading the Bible sets me off for the day, for as the Psalmist says ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path‘. Of course speaking to God in prayer is also a must! That is truly an anchor for the soul!

For those feeling uncertain and concerned about dark days ahead, I like the poem quoted by King George VI on Christmas Day 1939 at the start of the last world war. It reads, “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.'” How true! When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:32

If you are reading this, and feel that you are living through a period of gloom and darkness, then please seek professional help now, (SAMARITANS Telephone 116 123, or The National Christian Lifeline telephone 0300 111 0101) there is light and life and hope to be found.

Let’s all keep looking up, like those in Svalbard, we may not see the sun yet, but it is still there, and Jesus the Light of the World is still there, inviting us to come to Him.

Matthew

 

New Direction and a History Lesson!

For those who follow this blog, you will know of our regular travels around Scotland’s many beauty spots. When we leave our home here our preference would normally be to travel North, or West or sometimes East. Recently we took the notion to try a new direction and go South, and we were so impressed by our first trip that we followed it up with a second, just a few weeks later.

We started by heading for the small town of Strathaven and then took the B743 signposted for Muirkirk. We had been out this road once or twice before, but just as far as the Dungavel Holding Centre for Refugees, people who have been refused permission to remain, and were awaiting repatriation.

It’s a beautiful winding country road and we pulled over for a coffee and stretch of legs at a parking spot overlooking the forest and river. There Muriel spotted a ‘Wayside Pulpit’ with the words ‘Be Strong in the Lord‘, these ‘pulpits’ were very common in Scotland at one time, but rarely seen now-a-days. We continued on to the lovely little town of Muirkirk set amongts the rolling hills of the Borders. There we turned left onto the A70 and headed for the heritage village of Glenbuck, a place we had never visited before. It was once famous for its Iron Ore Mill and Coal Mine, but is now remembered especially as the birth place of a certain ‘Mr Bill Shankly’, dear to the hearts of all Liverpool football supporters!

The Village dates back to the Bronze age, and between 1786 – 1813 was a source of iron, coal and limestone. It reached its peak in 1900 with the opening of new mines, and then the population reached 1700 persons and the village thrived and bustled with all kinds of sports activities. It also had a Co-operative store, a school, village hall and church.

THE SHANKLY’S – The story of the ‘Glenbuck Cherry Pickers’ football team, and the Shankly family and their huge impact on the world of football is now legendary. That such a small village should be home to men of this fame is in itself quite extraordinary. I’ll let you enlarge the above photos so that you can read the story for yourself. It was good to meet a few Liverpool supporters during our visit.

We then enjoyed a beautiful evening drive along the A70 until we joined the M74 for our return to Glasgow.

There is another memorial stone at Glenbuck commemorating another hero of an earlier time. You probably have never heard of him but here is the memorial plaque to John Brown Richard Cameron

This man from Glenbuck was among countless others, both men and women, who in the late 1600’s were part of ‘the Covenanters’ who fought for freedom of religion in Scotland, rejecting all interference from the King and Government in relation to belief, proclamation and practice. A freedom still enjoyed today, but one many consider to be under threat, in our growing secular society.

SECOND TRIP TO MUIRKIRK – On our next visit to Muirkirk we visited the cemetery and the ‘Heritage Lay-by’ for some more interesting facts about this Scottish village and its history. You can read the boards below by enlarging the photos.

We made our way home driving west on the A70 in glorious sunshine passing through the village of Sorn and the town of Galston, on almost empty country roads. It’s amazing what you learn when you get out and about! 🙂

ON REFLECTION I was thinking not so much about our change of direction, but of the dramatic change of direction enforced on all the refugees and asylum seekers who have passed through ‘Dungavel Holding Centre’ that we saw from the road, of their shattered hopes and dreams of happiness and prosperity. But who knows what that dramatic change would teach them or where it will take them. Who would have thought that the Shankly boys from the wee village of Glenbuck would find that their change of direction into football, would bring them fame and fortune? Lots of people have found that the Covid 19 pandemic has brought a dramatic change of direction into their lives. The question so many troubled and anxious people are asking today is ‘where do I/we go from here‘?

I personally have found that life has many challenges and disappointments, that have forced me to change direction. But I love the story Jesus told which rings true down through the generations. It’s about the man who leaves his Father’s home with his inheritance and big ideas of fun, fame and fortune. After sometime he hits the skids, his friends desert him, and he finds himself ‘in a field feeding the pigs’. When he comes to his senses, he decides to go back home, apolgise to his dad and ask if he could employ him just as a servant. So what does he find? A Father pointing a finger and yelling? No, a Father running to meet him with arms outstretched – and while the son splutters out his confession, the father is planning a celebration! So if you gave up on God thinking ‘I’ll manage fine on my own thankyou’ Just remember that your Heavenly Father is waiting for you to come to your senses and come home! You can read the full story in the Bible – Luke 15:11-32

It is possible to know God personally, I can testify to that. He offers forgiveness for sin, because of what His Son, Jesus, has done for us on the cross, He brings peace in life’s storms and promises never to leave us, and to take us safely to our heavenly home! That is such good news, that’s why it’s called the Gospel! All we have to do is come to our senses and make up our mind to come home. It is possible as the wayside pulpit said ‘To be strong in the Lord’.

God bless – Matthew

Staycation, Staycation!

Summer was ending and we had decided not to bother with a holiday away this year, but when we spotted a break in the weather coming up, we changed our minds. After trying a few places we managed to find accommodation at Inverness, so headed there for a short 5 night break.

It’s a 3 .5 hours drive from Glasgow on the A9, but since we were in no hurry we enjoyed a days drive, visiting and stopping at a number of places along the way.

We had not been in this area for a number of years so visited again the ‘Black Isle’ where we once acted as leaders at a Christian Youth Centre camp for a 100+ teenagers at Fortrose / Rosemarkie. Here you can visit the remains of an ancient Cathedral dating back to the 1200s. We enjoyed a walk around the ground. This area was, and perhaps still is, a stronghold for the MacKenzie clan.

We then drove to Cromarty and Nigg bay, home to many redundant North Sea oil rigs, before joining the A9 and crossing the Cromarty Firth for a drive to the beautiful village of Dornoch. and a walk and picnic on one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches.

Our hotel was very near to the Culloden battlefield so on another morning we visited there. Here the Jacobite uprising of 1745 was finally crushed on the 16 April 1746. It is a very emotive place to visit. Many of my ancestors from the clans Cameron, McLachlan and McKinnon fought and died in this bloody and ferocious battle, which brought to an end not only the Jacobite cause, but also saw the beginning of the end of the clan system. Retribution was fierce, even the wearing of the kilt was banned, and it seems inevitable that the Highland clearances were to follow. Thankfully this was the last battle to take place on the UK mainland.

We also managed a forage along the Moray Coast visiting many places where we had spent holidays in the past. Here is a selection of some of them.

We travelled home on the single track road from Daviot to Whitebridge and then on to Fort Agustus, before reaching Fort William. The last leg took us through Glen Coe, down past Loch Lomond and then to Glasgow. There were many photo opportunities along the way.

There were certainly more people around at the main tourist attractions, especially for this time of year, due to folks having a ‘staycation’ this year , but you could not say the place was busy!

REFLECTION: It was great to be away even just for a few days, and switch off (literally) from the continual bombardment of bad news, and the potential bad news diet, fed to us daily by the media. It’s true however, that there is lots of bad news around! Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis, education crisis, health service crisis, business crisis, refugee crisis, racism incidents, wars and rumours of wars, ‘super powers’ vying for supremacy, arms build up, environment crisis ……….. Do you ever feel like saying, ‘stop the bus, I want to get off‘? Sadly even our trip around the beauties of Scotland, with its memories of Culloden, and its many war memorials and broken down cottages from ‘the clearances’ etc. reminds us that the ‘falleness of humankind’ is an ongoing problem. Even although most people would relate to the Psalmist who said ‘Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.’ Psalm 120:6-7.

But isn’t it true that within our hearts we long for the day when the world and it’s people will at last be at peace and their will be justice and equity.

As a Christian I believe that day is coming. The prophet Isaiah envisages such a day after the return of Jesus Christ. He says:

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.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. Isaiah 2:1-5

‘Let us walk in the Light of the Lord‘, now if only we could all learn to do that!

Stay safe, save lives, and God bless.

Matthew

Green Grows the Garden – but how green?

Summer is almost over for another year and the garden is starting to show the signs. The heather is out and the apples are ripening on the apple trees, just in time for the apple and bramble jelly, and the flowers are just past their best.

This year we spent more time in the garden due to the virus pandemic, and as always we derived much pleasure in watching everything grow and flourish. The weather was mostly dry and sunny from mid March to mid June, but then reverted to a typical Scottish mix of rain, followed by sunshine and showers, and at times blustery winds.

Here are some of the flowers and plants that we grew this summer.

This seemed to be ‘the year of the Gerainiums’ as they have been flowereing profusely in pots throughout the summer. My ‘Cosmos’ were rightly called ‘Sensation’ as they grew over five feet tall and were like bushes. Still the bees loved them. A new plant for me was Gaillardia, and they seemed to take forever to flower! Some are very beautiful, some quite dramatic and others seemed a bit odd! Ive got mixed feelings about them, so they are on the ‘maybe ‘ list for next year!

The greenhouse was also in full production as floweres were mostly grown from seed, along with three types of tomato (Shirley F1, Tigerella and Sweet Success) and four or five types of peppers. (Golden Bell, Antohi Romanian, Frigitello, Red Cherry and Hungarian Hot Wax)

All the plants produced well, and we have been eating the fruit from the beginning of June, now the small cherry tomato plant is the last one which is still cropping, well named – ‘Sweet Success’.

It was good to have some visits from our grand-children and great grand-children as the lockdown was eased, they are always keen to help ‘GG’ in his garden 🙂

I hope my fellow gardeners have been encouraged in their gardens, its been good to see photographs from other friends and bloggers.

This year our visits to National Trust gardens and properties have been curtailed, but we may manage to squeeze in a vist even yet!

Matthew

PS: Talking about ‘brambles’ we got these today from ‘God’s Wild Garden’ free of charge, and just across the fence!