Monday, January 9, 2012

A Few Things About 2011 -- Part 2

So, there was a whole other half of 2011 that I suppose I should share with you.  There were a lot of funerals, of course.  That goes without saying -- but if I don't mention it and chuckle about it, I will never survive it all.

On top of Schiehallion 
The first shot in Durness (recreated for posterity)
In the second half of the year, I:
  • Bagged my first munro -- Schiehallion.  Now, for those of you uninitiated in these things, a munro is any Scottish peak over an elevation of 3,000 feet.  My friend Muriel and I had tried it earlier in the year, but were deterred by snow about half-way up.  The second attempt was successful, however, and we viewed an awesome vista from the top.
  • Went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  What a sight!  It is an incredible show celebrating the Armed Forces of Great Britain around the world and their history.  Pageantry, music (you haven't heard anything until you have heard bagpipes with a Brazilian flavor to them), sentiment, fireworks -- if ever you have the opportunity, this alone is worth a trip to Scotland.  Unless you also want to taste a deep-fried Mars Bar...
  • Began learning the game of golf.  Yes, I who am generally not an athlete am learning how to hit a tiny ball with a metal stick with the hope of making it go the way I want it to go.  If you don't mind the somewhat blue language, take a look at Robin Williams' description of the origins of golf -- too accurate for words.
  • Went with a group of new friends to Durness, which is way up in the northwest of the country.  I actually hit my first golf ball on a course (as opposed to a driving range) and got some pictures of a barren, beautiful area of the land.  I had not thought before coming to this place that any landscape without trees could be considered beautiful, but there is a hauntingly lovely quality here that rather defies description.
  • Did more funerals.
  • Visited the Isle of Arran on an absolutely perfect, sunny day -- which is unusual in Scotland.
  • Walked on the "sacred ground" of St. Andrews Old Course.  Who knew that you could do that on a Sunday afternoon?  Because it is a publicly owned course, they close it for golf on Sundays and anyone who wants to have a picnic or a walk there can do it.  
  • Baptized babies!
  • Saw Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham in concert -- more than worth the price of admission.  They were celebrating their 25th anniversary of making music together, which means that they know each other well enough to know all the good stuff.
  • Welcomed my cousins Jerry and Mary Hilton for a visit just after Christmas.  We couldn't remember how long it had been since we had seen each other, so had a wonderful week of getting reacquainted.  
  • Decided it is time to sell my house in Georgia.  I hope this is more successful than it has been in the past.  Even if the day comes when I move back to America, I want to live in a ranch-style house so that my short-legged dogs don't have to worry about steps.  Yes, I will buy a house based on my dogs....
And that brings us to the new year of 2012.  Now you know.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Few Things About 2011 -- Part 1

It seems a good time to say a few things more about 2011.  It was a fairly eventful year.

A few of those things.....

  • The enormous snow finally melted.  I don't remember when it did, because it took a while.  While it tried to go away, I went to Georgia and Missouri and brought back the warm clothes I had left behind, which was good, because it snowed while I was there.  They make me happy....
  • And on the way to the airport home, I fell and hurt my ankle, damaging a tendon that is in -between my foot and ankle bones.  It isn't an easy place to injure, but I did it.
  • I turned 50.  Still trying to figure out how I am supposed to act and look at this prestigious age.
  • I passed my UK driving test and am now a fully licensed driver.  They do not make it easy, by the way.
  • The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met in May and I was a commissioner.  Some difficult decisions were made.  I was glad I could be part of it.
  • My cousin Jo Hilton and her husband Scott came to visit!!
  • In June, I participated in the Edinburgh Moonwalk, a 26.2 mile overnight walk to benefit breast cancer research.  I made it!!!  The picture at the top of the blog was taken while I was out on a training walk.  And....I raised just over £1,000 ($1,500) for the night. The picture you see is on the night of the Moonwalk.  We all wore our bras.
  • I visited Dumfries and Galloway for a break, taking Asher and Anna along, going to Whithorn (the home of St. Ninian) and Wigtown (Scotland's Book Town).
That gets us through June.  It was a busy first half of the year.  I will check my calendar now and see what I can tell you about in the second half!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back Again

Yes, yes, yes.  I know.  I know.  I have been reminded several times of late that I have not posted for a while.  Well, okay -- it has been a year and two days.  That is a bit long between posts, so one of my resolutions for this year is to post at least once a month.  How does that sound?

This year has started off in a rather lovely manner.  My cousins Jerry and Mary Hilton are spending a few days with me (Jerry's dad and mine were first cousins).  They are experiencing a Scottish winter so that when they go home to Wimberley, Texas, they will appreciate the heat there even more.  After worship yesterday, we took a driving tour of the Winchburgh, Kingscavil and Abercorn areas of West Lothian before winding our way down to the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh.  Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that these are the places I served during my year of familiarization.

Today we ventured in a northerly direction, to Stirling.  The castle awaited our presence in the wind and rain (and nearly snow).    It was my first chance to see the refurbished palace area and wow!  It is marvelous -- a definite must-see if you want to get a sense of royal living in the 17th Century.

2011 ended with a quiet night for us all.  We had thought about going into Edinburgh for the Hogmanay festivities, but decided that we were old enough to know better than to stand out in cold rain.  Yeah -- that's what we will call it -- old enough to know better.

So what is it like in Armadale now?  We have managed to avoid the depth of snow that we had at the end of 2010.  A couple of flurries have come in, but they have disappeared.  I had ten baptisms, three weddings, and more than 50 funerals (I think it was 56, but I haven't done the final count).  The balance is still a bit off there, but it is life in Armadale Parish.  The most difficult funeral I have had was a 21 year old woman who had a six-week-old baby.  There are no answers to the painful questions that arise from this kind of situation, no words to say that can adequately plumb or assuage the depths of the pain.  One can only walk alongside and offer a hand or a shoulder.  

What does this year bring?  Who knows?  Whatever it is, the adventure will continue.  My brother and sister-in-law will visit in the summertime and I am already excited about that.  In between now and then, I am sure that I will continue to "match'em, hatch'em, and dispatch'em," as I have heard it said through many years.  We will hope for a heavier concentration of the first two.....