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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 Fifteen: Sunday afternoon walk in Caithness

Yes, it rained. On and off. But the sun also shone, beautifully. So my sister, her friends and I were able to have an excellent walk at Dunbeath, south of Wick.

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I remember Dunbeath as the place with the amazing hairpin bends on the way to my grandparents in Berriedale. Now a wonderful swoop of modern road cuts across the old road. Today my sister and I first took a look at the restored watermill by the wonderful peat-brown river at the start of Dunbeath Strath.

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Then we parked by the harbour and met up with her friends.

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With Tipsy the dog, we walked along the shore towards beautiful Dunbeath Castle.

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And then the batteries in my camera gave up so no more pics! But we walked all the way along to the huge rock to the right underneath the castle,and then all the way back and up the hill, over the bridge and back to the cars parked at the harbour. And then we went for tea. Of course.

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Day Three: Third stop, Dundee

Delighted to meet Stephanie Heald of Muddy Pearl Publishing this morning in Edinburgh. What an inspiring story she has to tell of apparent roadblocks and amazing breakthroughs! Muddy Pearl is a small Christian publishing company with a wonderful vision for serving the church. Ten books already published and well worth a look at. I came away with a copy of Emily Ackerman’s Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy – a book about how to fight back against chronic illness. It looks wonderful so far.

Then I got on the road and here I am in Dundee. Well, not exactly. I’m actually in Tayport, the delightful small town/large village on the south side of the River Tay from Dundee.

I’ll be based here till Friday when I head up north on the longest leg of my journey. But for now my focus is on Dundee. Jock Troup, the famous twentieth-century evangelist, who features in my novel, When the Boats Come Home, spent some time here. I’ve got three speaking engagements in two days and am really looking forward to them.

But for now, tea in the garden


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Comfort of a special kind!

There was a pop-song way back in the 60s about circles. I feel a bit trapped into a never-ending circle at the moment.

Today is Day 2 of the new regime and off I went, a little later as agreed, for a cup of tea at the care home with my husband. When I got there I discovered I was too late for tea which had already been served. A rather larger group than on Wednesday swivelled beady eyes on me – a few in armchairs round the edge of the conservatory, and a closed circle of ladies round a table. No staff members in sight.

My instinctive response was that of a rabbit in the headlights: freeze! But I forced myself to walk over to where my husband was ensconced at his table in the corner with pile of books and big mug of coffee. He has set it up as a table for one so there is nowhere for me to sit.

And the silence. If I lower my voice to speak privately to him, he can’t hear me. And I can’t bear to shout – in public, as it were. Especially to this unsmiling, unwelcoming audience who watch my every move.

Let me admit honestly I can’t bear it. And I couldn’t bear it, so we went up to his room on the pretext of checking some things. But conversation of any kind was not possible today.

Except he was surprised we hadn’t gone out yesterday as usual for our outing. He couldn’t remember why he’d said he didn’t want to. Maybe the cost of the lunch. Or the hassle for me.

So I think perhaps we’re back to Thursday outings, but shorter, with the focus on lunch. We shall see.

And as I fled, I could feel the grip of the circular treadmill. So I went down to the pier and bought myself an ice cream with a chocolate flake.

Southwold pier - and in the left-hand corner you can see another customer w

Southwold pier – and in the left-hand corner you can see another customer with ice-cream

Comfort-eating, I know. And yes, very comforting!

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Memory fixes

Day One of the new regime.

I duly presented myself at 3 p.m. to find my husband and three other residents in the large, warm but airy conservatory. One lady  was asleep. The other had taken herself to the far side from the others and was sitting in solitary splendour. She had also taken it upon herself to close the door to the outside world to the loudly expressed annoyance of the other male resident. There appears to be a bit of a running battle there!

‘Three o’clock?’ came the response to my arrival. ‘More like four o’clock before the tea arrives.’

So we waited.

My husband began a story about the Swiss owners of a Scotch whisky firm who engaged his services in recruitment many years ago. This was followed by a mangled version of a rather good story about a Doberman. My husband had been interviewing senior candidates in the lounge of a West Country hotel which had been set apart for his purposes. However, it is difficult to communicate that to a dog who is used to having the run of the house. This animal stood so tall and the interviewee’s chair was so low that when the dog appeared, its eyes were on a level with the candidate… whose reactions were interesting! Those who withstood this experience turned out to be the better candidates for the job and so ‘The Doberman Test’ was born, and found its way into print.

Not a Doberman - just a very nice dog!

Not a Doberman – just a very nice dog!

I had brought my laptop with me, having returned it en route to laptop hospital for some final tweaking – which involved the neat and painless removal of the too-small memory and the insertion of a much larger one.

As I listened to my husband trying to tell his story, I wished it were possible for human memories to be fixed so easily!



Down with niggles

I thought I welcomed change. But as Bella the talking cat comes into my study complaining that as far as she’s concerned it is now supper time and  she wants fed NOW! – I realise that, like Bella, I’ve been going around complaining in my head.

I moved house almost exactly five weeks ago and I have to confess I’m not yet feeling at all settled where I am. I still can’t find things – like the research notes for the novel – despite having properly unpacked lots of boxes and checked all the others. (I’m going to have to restart that process. Groan.)

This week I’m going to try out a new routine with my husband. He has declared that he’s not really that keen on going out on Thursdays and would prefer that I visited him more frequently at the care home, so I’m planning to go in for tea two or three afternoons a week. I think this will enable me to monitor his care and his condition more effectively. Tea, however, is served at 3 p.m., inconveniently early. I hear the complaint and dislike myself for even mentioning it!

I hate feeling like a Moaning Minnie but I seem to have let a scratchy gaggle of niggles get to me. Quite unreasonable when we’ve had a run of beautiful days and the trees are leafing up, the birds are nesting and singing, and the flowers are blooming.

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I took this picture while having coffee at a friend’s house this morning. She has amazing green fingers and her garden is a joy to behold.

Funny how niggles can steal our joy if we let them. Definitely time to fight back!

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Bank Holiday Sunday in the company of angels!

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in England. A three-day holiday. A friend commented ‘Bank Holidays just aren’t such fun when you’re retired. Every day is a holiday.’ My feeling is that Bank Holidays aren’t such fun when you’re on your own. I can do one day completely solo, and two days at a pinch, but three is pushing my tolerance of solitude!

So I was delighted to be invited to join an outing yesterday afternoon. Our minister’s wife Pat has her sister Joan visiting, and she included a friend and myself in a delightful expotishun to St Mary’s Church, Huntingfield.

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On the outside this church is a quintessential English church in a classic English churchyard full of fresh-cut-grass smells and birdsong. But inside it is a paradise of angels!

Rector’s wife and talented artist Mildred Holland took eight months in 1859 to paint the chancel ceiling and over the next three years the nave, with the most glorious hosts of angels, plus flowers and lavish decoration to turn the roof of the church into a blaze of wonder.

This is an old pic and not very good, sorry. Do look on the St Mary's Huntingfield website

This is an old pic and not very good, sorry. Do look on the St Mary’s Huntingfield website

We put our (Val’s!) pound coin in the box and the ceiling lights came on so we could gaze in awe – and take photographs! If you’re visiting, do take time to admire the carved pew ends, including the wonderfully tactile greyhounds on the choir stalls.

And of course, after that we had to have tea! What a glorious way to spend an afternoon – in the company of angels?



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Lovely Sunday

With that irrepressibly British mix of optimism and pragmatism, I set out for church this morning in the spring cream linen jacket clutching my umbrella, just in case. In the event, the rain held off and the optimistic first outing of the season for the lighter jacket was vindicated.

My lighter clothes have languished in the wardrobe but hope springs that they’ll see the light of day soon. And some long awaited sunshine.

I’d thought a walk would be pleasant this afternoon – one of the few things deemed suitable for a Sunday in my youth by my strict father. My friends and I used to set out – such nice girls – for our Sunday walk… But somehow boys were always involved. One friend seemed to have a built-in radar for where the nicest boys would be hanging out so we could simply amble by, apparently uninterested and unconcerned. One walk discovered our current hero playing his guitar (gospel songs, of course) perched on a bollard at the harbour.

Castletown, Caithness

Castletown, Caithness

Today, I had part of a book left to read on my Kindle: the latest Ruth Galloway by Elly Griffiths. And if course once I got stuck in, it had to be finished. Next in the queue is the latest Mirabelle Bevan by Sara Sheridan, and the breeze has got up and the sky has grey patches and I must save some energy for my second service today, mustn’t I?! So I think it’s time for a cup of tea and that new book, backed by a wonderful soundtrack of Rachmaninov on Classic FM.

Lovely Sunday!

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Relying on the Reliable

A while back, there was a popular book called God of Surprises by Gerald Hughes. You need to know He ain’t out of surprises yet!

Today was packing day. A two-man team from the removals firm arrived early and got stuck in, and by 2.30 pretty much everything was in strapped-up boxes. But they were gentle and pleasant, and careful to make sure they left what I would need for tonight and tomorrow morning. And when something got packed by mistake, were gracious and sorted it out for me with neither comment nor complaint.

As for my other two ministering angels – one brought KitKats to go with the pots of tea she plied us with, and sandwiches for lunch. The other arrived bearing her best vacuum cleaner and magic defeat-any-grime cleaner and set to with verve.

And when they had all gone and I felt washed up on the shore, a surprise visit from a friend having a day out in the area. Perfectly timed to lift my spirits.

How good is the God we adore! His mercies are never-ending, and new every morning. Which is just as well since I’m relying on Him for tomorrow morning’s move too!

As my Mum said when she thought she was dying and declared she wasn’t worried about it: the good Lord hasn’t let me down so far and I’m sure He won’t let me down now!

Me too, Mum.

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Welcome, 2013!

Let’s cry welcome to 2013! We cross from 2012 into 2013 – where will this year take us?

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Happy new year to everyone who pops in to visit the blog. According to the custom of where I come from, I thank you for first-footing me. (I wonder who will be first?!)

My birth-family is a pretty teetotal lot so although I’ll offer you a tiny dram of fine single-malt Scotch whisky (Highland Park, the Orkney whisky, or a nice west coast Laphroaig) – or a small ladylike sherry – or a nice robust glass of Shiraz or Rioja, I’m also offering a good cup of tea, and there on the table graced by its lace-edged white tablecoth, you’ll find shortbread and Christmas cake, cheddar (or a good orange Dunlop) and oatcakes, and some of my Mum’s amazing black bun which was only made for Hogmanay and New Year.

Tuck in. You are welcome.

And the fire blazes cheerily and the bapipe and accordion music plays cheerfully and the dark days and nights matter not a jot because hearts are warm and so are tummies!

And we ask God’s blessings on you and yours for a year of health and happiness, of lots of good things to say thank you to Him for.

Goodbye 2012. Some of us are glad to move on. Welcome, New Year, filled to the brim with glorious possibilities. Let’s get in there and enjoy!


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