Apr 082011

Hebridean PrincessFor the last five years, every time there has been ‘holiday’ break, I’ve never really had the opportunity to take advantage of it. Quite apart from the lack of funds, it seemed that every Christmas and Easter break was spent either revising for exams or doing stuff for placements. It has been a long time since we’ve just had the luxury of saying, “Fancy going away for a few days?” In fact, so long that we had forgotten what to do with the opportunity.

However, I needed to take a break from work, it happened to be during the school holidays, and so we thought we’d go for it. Nothing fancy, just a few days away with nowhere we needed to be and nothing we needed to do. A few days of easy touring around the West Highlands fitted the bill perfectly. Except it didn’t quite pan out that way.

The original plan was for three of us to go away and then there was the sudden realisation that a concert had already been booked for a night right in the middle. Problem easily solved – just two of us will go and then all get together afterwards. That all went to plan and Inverness was the agreed (and already booked) rendezvous. But it also meant that the planned sight-seeing didn’t work out and to see everything we ended up retracing our steps, adding to the driving mileage, but ensuring everything got fitted in (I’m sure I said something earlier about not having specific commitments… hmmm!).

It did actually work out for the best. Our third day was a washout – seriously heavy rain. But, as we were mainly driving, it wasn’t too big a deal. The forecast for our last day was much better and so it turned out to be. So now we got to see all the things we couldn’t because of the rain. And they were worth waiting for – very spectacular scenery in the main. All-in-all I ended up doing 800 miles of driving, 350 on the last day alone. But it was great just getting away.

So, here’s where we ended up going:

Falkirk – Erbusaig (we stayed 2 nights in the Tingle Creek Hotel – very nice) – Skye (as ‘around’ it as possible, including a trip to Dunvegan Castle) – Plockton – Lochcarron – Applecross – Torridon – Kinlochewe – Inverness (overnight – then return journey) – Kinlochewe – Torridon – Applecross – Lochcarron – Kyle of Lochalsh – Armadale – (ferry) – Mallaig – Glenfinnan – Oban – Crianlarich – Callander – Falkirk

Photos are here.

Jul 022009

I’m back home for a couple of days. I graduate tomorrow (Friday) and I’m not looking forward to being kilted and gowned if the weather is as hot and humid as it is today. I still hold to the vain hope that despite all the ‘hospitality’ in Brussels I can still get my kilt on without ‘sooking in’ too much. If you read reports in the Scottish news of someone being clobbered by a flying belt buckle, that’ll have been my fault.

It’s also great to see the family again – Skype just isn’t quite the same. Plus, the girls have even offered to make the dinner tonight. Result!

Mar 162009

One of my favourite blogs, Internetmonk, recently posted a video which was a pretty good parody of too many Christian youth programmes. One of the commenters made a good point about youth ministry and family ministry. He asked the question, “How can we expect parents to teach their children when adults are largely ignorant of the gospel?” His suggestion is a move, not necessarily away from youth work but to a more inclusive ‘programme’ for a whole family.

This is a hugely challenging area and one for which there are no easy answers, but I wonder if there is another issue lurking here – that of children/youth teachers. Sunday schools, for example, are usually more than willing to welcome anyone who will give them time to help on a Sunday morning. But is getting a willing volunteer becoming more important that getting the right person? Surely teaching children the correct foundations is crucially important for their future development as Christians? So why do ministers have to be degree-qualified and fully trained before teaching adults yet the only qualification for teaching children is willingness? Furthermore, those who do volunteer are often giving up their time in the Sunday service. So where are they getting their ‘feeding’ and teaching from? My home congregation has two services on a Sunday and there is an expectation on those who teach in the Sunday school and Bible class to be there. But we are fairly unusual in having two services.

I’m not sure that a move to all-age worship all the time is entirely appropriate or desirable, but I do think there are underlying issues which need to be dealt with in order to provide a more holistic approach to nurturing the family of God. Bible study groups and house groups are useful places for such nurture. But who organises those?

Oct 172008

We (the family) popped down to the Scottish Parliament today to view the SQA’s art exhibition. We had a particular interest because Alison’s Higher Art expressive piece had been chosen for inclusion.

I tried to get some piccies of it but I had trouble with the reflections from the windows. Anyway, here’s a wee taster of it (full size-ish ones on picasa).

IMG_2106.JPG IMG_2107.JPG

The other works were all excellent as well, with some particularly stunning pieces. Certainly as good as many I’ve seen that are considered ‘good’ art.


The SQA very kindly sent me a high-quality image of Ali’s painting (also available on my Picasa album):


(Now all we have to do is keep pushing for the original to be returned)

Sep 192008

Our last pussy cat had to be taken to the vet this morning. He was over 18 years old and was in failing health. In the last few days he had all but given up on life, not eating and barely drinking so it was time to let him have his rest.

Many memories though.


Aug 272008

I’ve had to duck out of doing pulpit supply at Lanark Greyfriars a week on Sunday. But it’s for a very good reason. My older daughter, along with some others from the youth fellowship, will be joining the church that day and I’d really like to be there. (It just so happens I’m on duty that Sunday as well, so I don’t have to impose on someone else to do it.)

It’s all been a bit low-key. There are membership classes running in a week or so but the minister is going to be doing material he’s already covered with the youth fellowship, so he’s decided that it’s appropriate for the group to join the church now. The group are also regulars at both Sunday services, playing or singing with the worship group in the evenings. I suppose that, in itself, is a testimony to the importance of encouraging people to get involved.

Now, I wonder if we can get my daughter into a dress for the day rather than her usual jeans? Because, of course, it matters what we wear to church, doesn’t it 😉

Jul 012008

It’s amazing how succinct a teenager’s texts can be when there are far more interesting things to concentrate on. In response to my text, “How was the flight? How is Nairobi?” the following reply was given:

“It’s cl! Small”

Pretty much sums up a laid back attitude I suppose. Barring one other, equally brief, text along the lines of “we’re fine”, that’s been it for communications from darkest Africa.

On a more serious note, I bumped into another parent today and their child is not just so ‘cl’ about it all. Being the foreigner and in particular a very obvious white in a sea of black foreigner is pretty intimidating. Not understanding the language and just the general ‘strangeness’ of everything added to the extreme tiredness from the journey is all compounding a sense of being very homesick. We both agreed that when they finally get to their proper destination and are made welcome in the school they are visiting, things will be very different and the homesickness will quickly disappear. Still, there’s a serious lesson to be learnt from this and our welcome to ‘a stranger’ can be far more powerful than we might realise.

I think some prayers for the group (and parents) wouldn’t go amiss and so if anyone who’s reading is so inclined, that would be appreciated.

As for my two girls, so long as everything is ‘cl’ and ‘fine’, that’ll do me.

Jun 282008

Not me, but both daughters. Only problem is that they have to be at Glasgow airport before 4am tomorrow, so it’s a case of grabbing a few hours rest and heading off very early and putting up with the inevitable overnight roadworks.

And where are they off to? Malawi, via Amsterdam and Nairobi, for a 2 week visit to a school that Falkirk High School has links with. You can keep tabs on it all on their website. There’s a group of 12 pupils and 4 teachers going for what, I suspect, will be an eye-opening, life-changing adventure. I’m a little jealous – I’d love to be going but that’s maybe a trip for the future.

The school they are visiting, an all-girls secondary, was established on a mission station by the schoolteacher wife of the missionary. She, Mamie Martin, just happens to be the grandmother of one of the teachers who is going. The school has a very Christian ethos with many meetings often opening with prayers. The group will be expected to attend church on Sunday as well. Not a problem for my two and a few others but it may be interesting to see how the others in the group react to an African church.

Anyway, this is just me killing time. I really should go and do another ‘kit inspection’ and grab some rest.

Mar 242008


We (the girls and I) were out walking today with a group of people from the church. Nothing strenuous – just a wee wander near Airthrey Castle which sits in the grounds of Stirling Uni. After a tasty lunch at Corrielli’s Cafe in Stirling, we decided to go up the Wallace Monument.

Some photos can be found on my Picasa web albums.

Jan 252008

I’ve got a whirlwind of social activities this weekend (well, two!).

Today (Friday) I’m off to a Burns Supper. It’s not usually my ‘thing’. I like Burns’ poetry well enough but it’s not my usual choice of bedtime reading. But, this Burns Supper is a bit special. My dad has been a lifelong Burns fan and, last year, was invited to be the president of the Hamilton Burns Club. He’s more than a little chuffed and also rather nervous. He presides over tonight’s ‘do’ and also delivers the Immortal Memory. Looking back over the list of past presidents is a little like a who’s who. There’s a fair smattering of authors, high-flying businessmen, former moderators of the CofS and politicians, including George Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO. It’s a bit of a role reversal though. Generally it’s a parent proudly going to watch a son or daughter rather than the other way around.

And on Saturday night we’re all off to a ceilidh to celebrate the ruby wedding anniversary of some friends from church. Looking forward to that as well and I’m glad that Sunday morning at KHR is just ‘sit and observe’.