dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

Day Nine: Serious snow, and evening sunshine

On the road again – and by 5.30p.m. I had clocked up 330 miles – and I’m not out of Scotland yet!

It’s been an interesting and challenging drive. I left Wick in sunshine but by the time I reached Berriedale, it was clear that there had been significant snow, and it was still falling.

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Looking back towards Berriedale

And the snow continued all the way, varying from white-out to pretty fluffy showers.

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Temperature dipped to 1 degree Centigrade

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At least the sheep have warm fleeces!

Even the hills of Perthshire were topped with snow, but down in the sunshine the temperature managed a balmy 9 degrees – very briefly!

I was glad to arrive at Annandale Water in sunshine and had a relaxing walk around the lake before tea.

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The prettiest service station in the UK?

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The terrace will be brilliant in the summer

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Day Five: I love research!

I’ve had a wonderful day – and that’s just the weather! Yes, seriously, my sister and I have come back sunburnt after a great day exploring the very special places we knew as children, down the coast at Berriedale and on the Duke of Portland’s estate at Langwell.

Our grandfather was the last blacksmith there

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Smithy and blacksmith’s cottage, Berriedale

and our aunt married the son of the head gardener – yes, there is an amazing formal walled garden this far north, and the current gardeners have come from a famous National Trust property in the south of England to look after it.

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Winter beds, a blaze of colour in summer

As young children – aged up to about 5 and 6 – we ran free on the estate and in the gardens, and today we retraced our memories – and did some very useful research for Book 2 of The Mizpah Ring. Late in World War Two, Number 9 Company of the Canadian Forestry Corps were based at Langwell, tasked with cutting down the forest and supplying the war effort with essential wood. Some traces of their stay can still be discerned:

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Recreation hall

We had a lot of fun scouting out the various buildings and checking things out with people we encountered.then we went over the swing bridge

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You need to choose your company carefully on these things – not people who delight in bouncing!

to the beach:

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And then came home via Dunbeath’s Bay Owl Restaurant where we had a cup of tea with one of the finest views in Britain!

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Day Three: A Scottish Sunday

It’s Sunday so today’s activities are church and a walk with my sister and her friends. The weather is grey and not warm – unlike the glorious sunshine I left behind in Suffolk! But this does not deter us. We wrap up like Arctic explorers and set out for Keiss.

What surprises me is how much of the old World War Two tank traps are left lining the beach.

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Clearly the threat of invasion was taken very seriously, and as we walk along, I’m thinking about the effect of the war on local people – and this section in the new book. All useful research!

I love little harbours so we drove round to Keiss harbour

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and found some lovely splashy waves coming in round the harbour wall!

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And then it was time for tea! And home in good time for evening church.

 

 

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Day Two: North!

Another long’s day drive. I set off in sunshine from lovely Annandale Water at 8.30,

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Swan on Annandale Water

and hove to at my destination in Wick, Caithness, Scotland at nearly 5 o’clock. Whew!

And yes, I’d forgotten Scotland has a different climate from the south of England! There is still plenty of snow on the hill-tops so I was glad I’d decided at the last minute to pack a vest!

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A9 south of Inverness

Then once I’d got north of the tree-line, the cloud came down and it was a challenging drive with full-beam headlights all the rest of the way on switchback roads. But within moments of arrival I was comfortably ensconced at my sister’s with a mug of tea in hand.

Who said it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive?Nonsense!

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Day One: On the Road Again

It’s been a long day. I left home just after 9 a.m. and I arrived here at 5.30 ish. Yes, I had three stops (to rest the ancient arthritic knee!) but I have covered 346 miles. And I’m only half-way. This little island is bigger than it looks!

It’s a long haul to get out of East Anglia but once past King’s Lynn, there are fields of daffodils to alleviate the boredom of the flatness and heavy traffic – blocks of different yellows from vivid egg-yolk to creamy-white.

My sat-nav took me up the A1 – horrid from start to finish. I will not come home this way! I had to resort to McDonald’s for my first stop – still the coffee was hot and the loos clean! My second stop was a Little Chef at Markham Moor with delightful young staff.

But once I turned off the A1 at Scotch Corner onto the A66, the first opportunity to stop was at the wonderful Mainsgill Farm – an  amazing farm-shop emporium with more cake than I have ever seen in one place, and a roomy cafe/restaurant with friendly cheerful staff.

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entrance

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tea and scone!

The drive along the A66 was spectacular – rank upon rank of craggy hills darkening into blue in the distance. And the fields close to the road were lush soft green velvet with mummy sheep and lots of little lambs. Real aaah! factor!

And at last, as I was tiring, into Scotland and the last twenty or so miles to Annandale Water service station and the Day’s Inn hotel where I’d booked myself in for the night. Delightful friendly lady manager welcomed me and sorted out breakfast for tomorrow. Then she gave me two keys: one for my door – the other for my balcony! And yes, I have a little blacony overlooking Annandale Water itself – and it is lovely!

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view from my room

So now I can relax and watch tv and have a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s 340 miles drive!

 

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Day Fourteen: Caithness: Visiting the ancestors

The sun came out today! And it was so warm I took my jacket off!

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Proof positive!

My sister is a family history enthusiast so this afternoon we went out for a drive to some special places. First we went to Thrumster where my maternal grandmother lived for around the last ten years of her life. We visited her there regularly and both have happy memories of the place. From there we went to Sarclet. The name derives from Norse words for a bad wet slope and there is a very bad slippery path down to the harbour.

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Next we went to Ulbster and climbed over a gate to walk through the ruins of Ulbster Mains and down to the Ulbster Burial Ground and the Sinclair Mausoleum.

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Ulbster burial ground

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Sinclair Mausoleum

The mausoleum was built in 1700. Broad stone steps lead up to the first-floor main room with its wonderful roof interior.

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There’s a trapdoor which gives onto a D-shaped vaulted burial chamber underneath. (We got into the first-floor bit but not the vault!)

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Trapdoor?

Walking back up past the ruined mill, the old mill-race is filled with flag irises, bordered in frothy cow parsley.

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Last we took ourselves to Thrumster cemetery where my sister showed me the gravestone of my great-great-grandparents Donald and Helen Miller.

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And tonight? Ah, serious stuff: a pudding tasting – for charity!

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A lesson in waiting

I am not naturally a patient person. I find waiting and patience hard! Of late, however, there’s been rather a lot of waiting in my life and a great need for patience.

I talk to God about it of course. And He comes up with great texts to reassure me and strengthen me:

  • ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him’ Lamentations 3:25
  • ‘God is faithful’ 1 Corinthians 1:9
  • ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen,’ Hebrews 11:1

and many more.

But still I champ at the bit.

Then yesterday amongst the slender stems and leaves of the irises in the pond, a lesson in patience:

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I’m not at all sure exactly which type of dragonfly this is going to become but whichever, they lay their eggs in neat incisions  in waterplants. Aggressively predatory aquatic nymphs hatch out and eat whatever they can catch – insects, tadpoles, even tiny fish. For emperor dragonflies, after around two years, the nymph crawls up out of the water for a final moult. Their larval casing splits down the back and the adult hauls itself free – but before it emerges fully from the now transparent case, it rests to allow its legs to harden in the air. Then it pulls itself fully free but still hangs onto the old case while its wings expand and unfold.

Every moment, every rest period, every second of waiting is essential for the final development of the adult.

Earlier, there was a four-spotted chaser or libellula resting in the sun.

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These creatures have followed the timing, the rhythm of rest and activity set out for them by their Creator – and the end result is wonderful! It’s a lesson I needed!

‘I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.’ Micah 7:7

 

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Charity begins…

This morning I had to go to Southwold for the quarterly holding-back of the tides of life – i.e. having my hair recoloured. And yes, my roots were pristine white  in what Ann, my hairdresser, described as a halo round the top of my head. Seemingly all the rest remains my natural brunette. (For those of my friends who thought from my ditzy behaviour that I’m naturally a blonde, sorry! I just enjoy playing blonde sometimes.)

Anyway, Southwold was cold. No surprise there. But at least it was dry. And after the chop and chat and colour session I went for a browse round the charity shops. Now I have two theories about charity shops:

1) the posher the town, the better the quality of the clothes in the charity shops.

2) the posher the town, the poorer the quantity of clothes in the charity shops.

I came home with four books (yes, I know: do I really need any more books, and when will I ever get round to reading them considering I’ve a full flush of library books to finish?) and one chunky sweater, hand-knitted and possibly quite new.

The first charity shop – Sue Ryder – was well-stocked but I came away with only two books. The second one was middling – and I got the sweater there. The third – furthest along the street – was very poorly stocked with clothes and again, I only bought books.

I wonder do people get tired lugging their bags of cast-offs along the street, dumping them thankfully at the nearest shop from the parking space they have miraculously been able to find. (For those of you who don’t know, Southwold’s that kind of town.)

How do you choose which charity shop to take things to ? They’re all supporting good causes. I suppose you could do it on a rota system: this shop this time, the second one the next time and so on. But I reckon you’d forget. Or I would.

Does having more than one charity shop in a town divide the take? Or is competition good and increases the total market?

I like charity shops.

I like being able to find quirky interesting books, books I didn’t get round to reading when they came out but I’ve since heard were good so now I want to read them. When I was losing weight, I loved being able to purchase in-between-size clothes that I knew would be too big in a couple of months. And I love off-loading my mistakes on charity shops – whether it’s bedlinen that looked lovely but rucks up and is uncomfortable, clothes that really don’t flatter (I won’t boast here about trousers that have become too baggy!!), presents that just aren’t me… It feels good to clear the space at home and make a charitable donation that basically costs nothing. My Scottish soul loves that!

So with a small glow of satisfaction, I’m going to declare the weekend starts soon (I’ve got a synopsis to run through one more time to see if I can squeeze it into one page) then it’s kettle on, new sweater on and settle down with one of the books.

Then it can rain or snow or whatever! Have a good weekend. And here’s a cheerful pic of a robin that was singing its little heart out when I went past today. Yes, it’s still January and grey and miserable but tomorrow’s February and spring is on its way!

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And here’s another one of Southwold in the summer. Yes, we will get back to the beach in the sun this year!!!

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Hope that never dies

Hi there. It’s been a while – last year, when everything was rather miserable and foggy – my life and the weather, both! Today’s still grey but I’m glad to report the fog seems to have lifted on my life. And looking back over the past couple of months, I’m amazed at the changes – and how delicately God has woven in perfect timing and paths that crossed and good things.

My husband, John, is now very happily settled in a specialist dementia-care home. We’d been to see it when he was well enough to agree it was the right next place, but also to decide that the time for a move had not yet come. When a room became available, it was time for a move – and John was enthusiastic about it. He loves the new place – and so do I. I am welcome there and treated with kindness. John is receiving the care he needs, from cheerful compassionate people. And my visits are enjoyable and therefore more frequent.

And yes, I know about honeymoon periods!  But I’m counting my blessings and thanking my heavenly Father for His goodness.

It may be a grey day out there, but where God is there is hope that never dies, so here’s a hopeful picture to brighten today!

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Trusting, despite the fog

We’ve had fog. Damp, dreich, grey.

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It matched my mood, where I feel I am in my life, unable to see the way ahead clearly. Like the cat peering through the murk.

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Yet there is something soothing about walking round the garden in the fog. There is beauty here, and I am reminded that so long as we are walking with God, all is well, as Julian of Norwich tells us. All things are well and all things will be well.

And in my perambulation of this December garden, I come across a sudden brightness. Yellow leaves and glistening drops of water. But more powerfully, this little bush is covered in sharp pointy alive buds! Buds that point the way to spring.

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Buds that assure of spring and reassure that what I’m going through now is not everything. There is hope and a future, because God says there is. He has planned it (Jeremiah 29:11). All I have to do — all we have to do — is trust.

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