Ardchattan

Bird calls fill the air, a slight lingering smell of burnt wood, rises from the ashes of a recent fire.

Over all a cloud-filled sky masks the blue beyond.

Mountains and tree-lines reach from a horizon etched by the water of the loch,whose ripples drift into a seaweed-clad shore.

Sunlight breaks through in occasional bursts, parting and changing the shapes of clouds, then disappears again, unable to disturb the weight of the cloak beneath.

Driftwood, once the bearer of smaller branches, lies abandoned, broken from the tree, which once held its magnificence aloft.

Wild daisies scatter themselves among the grass, offering poached-egg surfaces for bees to land on.

A butterfly or two flits past on a journey of exploration that will last for the shortest of time.

Despite the tranquil beauty, sounds of man pervade.

Traffic on roads, across bridges, journeying alongside, emit their noise, once unnatural, but now a constant in such a setting. A train passes rat-tat-tatting and hooting, announcing its part to play in the scene of today.

A scene nonetheless of infinite beauty which needs to be witnessed more often to allow the spirit to be refreshed.

Senior moments rule ok

The plan was to go to Culross. En route to the bus station, I googled the bus times and connections and thought I had to get a bus to Dundee. First SENIOR moment of the day. Had I thought about it after looking at my National Trust guide I’d have realised that Dundee was nowhere near Culross, but I didn’t and found myself on the bus to Dundee BEFORE  I had a NORMAL moment. Geography has never been my strength!! Anyway, once on the bus, I again consulted google and thought that a visit to the new V and A museum in Dundee would be a good choice. No chance. Although the museum has been built, the official opening is not until mid September. I was now on plan C. Yes there were other museums, and of course I could always wander round the city itself and take a selfie with Desperate Dan. I settled myself to that idea and noticed that the bus was drawing into Stirling Bus Station. Plan D. I hurriedly unclipped my seatbelt and headed for the door. Now what could I do in Stirling? No need to google that. Stirling has been frequented on numerous occasions over the years. Despite the steep cobbled climb involved in reaching the Castle, I decided to make it my aim for the day.

In preparation for the assault, I needed firstly, a comfort stop, (as you do when you are in your senior years) then a bit of sustenance. I spotted a Debenhams, proceeded to its cafe and bought a scone and pot of tea. Debenham scones are the best in Glasgow, so I trusted that Stirling could match them. Indeed they did. AND they were cheaper than their Glasgow equivalents!! Now I was ready to meet my aim for the day and set off towards the castle. Wool was in my mind as it often is these days as I squirrel away my stocks for winter. McAree Brothers is a very well-known stockist of all things crafty. I sought it out on my upward journey only to find it was CLOSED…….not merely for the day…..but CLOSED for good. A great pity, for I could well have purchased a weight of wool to carry with me to the high point of Stirling. It was not to be.

I climbed on, stopping to take pictures of the amazing architecture around me. Cobbled streets, windows that have been peered through by generations of Scots, doors that have known the passing of Kings and Queens. History surrounded me and I could imagine the fitness needed for so many to have walked this path before me over the centuries. No mean feat!!!

The car park was full. People were thronging the main gateway. I bought my concession ticket and began my exploration. I have been to Stirling Castle before on a couple of occasions. The first time was with my Grandpa way back in the 1960s, and the most recent with a group of P7 youngsters from Seil, when we stayed in the Youth Hostel for a wonderful week during the 1990s. Needless to say it hadn’t changed. There was no King of Scotland resident to show off his wealth to Europe and beyond. It was however much more child friendly and has embraced the modern notion of interactivity. Some of these activities may well have been around in the 1990s, but I would have been more mindful of counting heads and checking that none of my pupils were attempting to abseil over the ramparts than taking great notice of the interactivity. I wandered from room to room, building to building and marvelled at the magnificence of the views from the ramparts.

Queues were inevitable within the main buildings, particularly the bed chambers of both Kings and Queens. The tapestries, recently made in the style of what was once there were magnificent. In and out up and down…..this is NOT a place for anyone with mobility issues to venture through. I had been through most of what was on offer and ended my visit with a quick look into the gift shop, as you do!A few pounds later, I left and began to retrace my steps down to the town centre. The sun was shining. I found my way back to Debenhams for a quick sandwich and began to write down my impressions of my visit.

Stirling is full of history and has a terrific visitor attraction in its castle. The views around the area from the castle ramparts are breathtaking. Scottish history is well represented within the castle buildings and would take more than a few hours to do justice to it. Much credit must go to those who present and manage such a superb attraction. My overall feeling was that as a Scot I know too little about my country’s history and have to discover more!

Homeward bound, I was in conversation with an Irish Scot who was a great fan of Demis Roussos. She talked for the duration of our journey about her love of his music, sadness about never having seen him in a live concert, and her journey to see his grave in Athens this year to pay her respects. I didn’t get a word in…..not one!

 

 

 

Links from the past woven into the present.

Yesterday was another National Trust for Scotland day, as I ventured to Kilbarchan to visit The Weaver’s Cottage. It is a gem of a place, no real distance from the city, and yet as you walk into the cobbled close via a huge solid wooden door, you are transported in time through centuries to see and feel the lifestyle that prevailed. Steps worn by constant footfall are carved deeply. Windows, small and even smaller, with ledges that offered views into an established garden, must have been  fascinating places for youngsters to hide or dream. Beds sunk into walls, short and beautifully clothed in handmade cloth and lace look inviting, but must have made sleeping in a seated rather than lying position the advisable choice. Furniture befitting the time, wooden, carved, with horse-hair filling defines the room which was usually the place to eat sleep and commune.

Below stairs the weaving room was the hub of family activity. Everyone had a job to do in producing material of the highest quality on a loom that was rarely idle.

Material produced was sold far and wide and of the most excellent quality. Two families worked from this particular cottage but in its day 800 handlooms were resident in Kilbarchan, and many hands made much in a textile industry that was renowned throughout the world. Changed days, sadly.

The artefacts contained within the cottage have been gathered over the years to give an excellent insight into 19th century living. All credit must go to the National Trust for Scotland in maintaining this treasure from the past and to the volunteers who are there to offer a wealth of information about the cottage and its history.

Well done to all for providing such a fantastic memorial to past generations of weavers.

 

Weaving is in my genes

After my visit, I was inspired to revisit my own weaving heritage through my four times great grandmother Mary Tannahill’s family.

Originally from Kilmarnock, some of the family moved to Paisley and became part of the world renowned weaving industry in the town. One famous son, Robert Tannahill, my 4x great grandmother’s nephew, made quite a name for himself as a poet and song writer. He was a contemporary of Robert Burns and has a lengthy publication list, which I will now begin to investigate. He was known as the weaver poet and sadly died at an early age, such is the way for many an artist of note. Below is an extract from a letter written by Robert’s brother to American relatives. I have read it before but now note the direct link I have to the ancestors named in it. My interest in reopening my family history files has been kindled!

Extract from a letter from Matthew Tannahill to his relatives in  America

Paisley, 19th, May 1824

Our Grandfather’s family consisted of six children, (4 sons and 2 daughters). Marion the oldest, next James, Thomas, Mary, Robert, and John the youngest. At what age our Grandfather died I know not, but this I know that when he died, John was a sucking child. At what age our Grandmother died, I am not sure, but this I know, that when James and Thomas were about 19 and 17 years of age, they came to Paisley and about two years after that their mother died.
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I think I remember our Aunt Marion, but that it long, long since she left this world. She was married to a man whose name was Lemond. Of their family there are two daughters alive, – Mary and Betty. Betty lives in Kilmarnock, is a widow with children. Mary lives in Kilmarnock, – her husband’s name is John Dickie. They have no children.
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I well remember our Aunt Mary. She was a kind, amiable woman. Her Husband’s name was John Aitken. He was an extensive shoemaker in Kilmarnock. He frequently made contracts with the government to supply part of the army with shoes. He made a deal of money. He died about 20 years ago. At his death our Aunt went to Ayr to live with one of her children. She died about 10 years ago. Of their children there are in life four, – three sons and one daughter. James, John, Hugh, and Jane.
John has been one of the magistrates of the town of Ayr for twenty years. One of his daughters is married to the son of a brother magistrate and he is also a magistrate. It is said that the whole town is governed by the three. John followed the trade of his father. He married a woman with considerable fortune. He became very rich. But some years ago he entered into extensive speculations in the importing of wheat from America. Our ports have been so long shut and he has such a quantity of grain bonded, that he could not bring it to market. The consequence was that last year he stopped payment. He got a settlement with his creditors. It is said that if our ports were open for foreign grain (and at present it seems not far from it) so he could bring it to market, he would be as rich as ever.
Hugh also lives in Ayr: is a leather merchant. I am informed that he is worth money. He had three children. He lost by his brother John’s failure £4000, or John was owing him that sum when he stopped payment.
James lives in Glasgow; is a shoemaker. He is married and has children. He kept a shoe-shop in Glasgow for a number of years. I have been informed that he has been rather unfortunate in business.
Jean is married to a Mr. Todd in Ayr. He is a merchant. They have children
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Aunt Mary Aitken nee Tannahill was my four times great grandmother.

Hugh (Hew)Aitken was my three times great grandfather and a full cousin of Matthew ( writer of the above extract ) and Robert(poet)Tannahill

Over the sea to Skye

Travelling to an island invariably means waiting in a queue on a departure pier, chatting to fellow travellers and trusting that for any reason, however obscure, the ferry will not be delayed or cancelled.Many many times I’ve been there, when stormy weather has denied sailing, or a technical fault has made the journey seemingly impossible. On other occasions the crossing has been embarked upon only to have the final landing denied as a turnabout is exercised and the vessel returns to its point of origin, and we are disembarked to await another day or week or worse before making another attempt. Such are the joys of island living. Been there, done that, got the tea-shirt.

This week, I visited an island and avoided the queues and delays and possible technical difficulties. I crossed over the sea to Skye via its bridge and made my second visit to this remarkable island.The bridge covers the short distance between island and mainland and within minutes Skye was under wheels and we were heading north to our destination, Beaton’s Croft House at Bournesketaig.It did take a couple of hours to reach this north west corner of Skye, but there was such varied terrain en route, that the time passed quickly with more than a dozen camera shot stops. The sun was shining, our home for the week a picture postcard delight, and not a midge was in sight!Hairpin bends, single track roads and much ado about passingFor the most part roads on Skye are pretty good. There certainly are miles and miles of them. We travelled many of each format during our short stay. We frequented the single track variety most often as our home for the week was in such a northerly location. Single track they may have been but rarely was a single vehicle seen on any journey out and about. They appeared in their droves. Cars, vans, more cars, motor bikes by the quad, and a single quad too, even a lawnmower appeared to pass( Straight Story Style) us by. And then there were the camper vans, dozens of them in all shapes and sizes, wending their way to night-time stopping places after daytime visiting places. And of course it wouldn’t be an island without sheep, and lambs escaping their mothers, and an odd cow and calf or mini herd, and a rabbit or fifty darting off white tailtip bobbing. Not a traffic light ordered their or our movement, except the inevitable ones where road works were in operation. Surprisingly, there appeared to be few bumps or near misses. Words might well have been of a blue hue here and there, but generally people stopped and waited, offered courteous waves of thanks, and allowed free passage to residents recognised by their speed and obvious understanding of every inch of well-kent roadway.

Island Heritage is in safe hands

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Our cottage on Skye is a piece of island heritage. It was bought by the National Trust for Scotland a decade or so ago and has been renovated to provide a permanent reminder of what an original croft house would have looked like, despite the fact that centuries ago, whitewash would not have been applied to the outer walls. The croft house has walls three feet thick, doors to duck under and a thatched roof lovingly restored by a Uist man who has developed his skill to perfection. He actually came to repair part of the rear thatching while we were there, and gave us a small insight into what his job entailed. The end result would keep the cottage and its occupants warm and dry for years to come.

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We left the thatcher to his craft and headed for The Island Heritage Museum at Kilmuir, a mere 5 minute drive away. It was misty and murky and rain encouraged us to don our jackets. The museum is made up of a group of renovated croft houses similar to the one we were staying in, but fitted with artefacts and archives to please every one with a historical bent. There was much to see, much to ponder over, but unfortunately the weather dampened our spirits to remain for any length of time on this visit. It will be a place to visit again ……and again. Much credit must go to the island and its people for maintaining this remnant of past life in the present and continuing to develop its impressive impact for the future.

Memories Memories Memories

Before I leave the museum and move on to the remaining adventures on this trip to Skye, I’d like to share a couple of memories inspired by the local ‘shop’ that was exhibited in one of the croft buildings.

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On the top right corner of the above picture there are some National Dried Milk tins. I remember these very well from my childhood days in Tighnabruaich where we spent our long summer holidays with my grandparents, uncles aunts and cousins. My cousins were much younger than my brother and I, so were still being fed dried milk mixed with water. George and I waited with great anticipation for the tins to empty. When we had four, we set about using a screw driver to punch holes near the top, thread strong string through to a fairly long length then tie the ends. The lids were put back on and we each had a very fine pair of stilts to play on! I’m sure we fell off regularly but it was fun and a great recycling process to engage in.IMG_0589IMG_0590

Given that we were brought up in Bearsden and Milngavie was a close neighbourhood, I remember well our Garvies lemonade, cream soda, irn bru and limeade. We used to call them ‘ginger’, a very Glasgow definition of anything out of a bottle. I remember too that in those days we returned the bottles to the shop for recycling  and got threepence for the trouble, enough to buy some sweets! No plastic waste in those days!

A Fine Dining Experience at The Three Chimneys

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Given our location in the very north west tip of the island, we had quite a journey to make to enjoy our dining experience of the holiday ( a delightful present from my mum) in The Three Chimneys Restaurant. We love masterchef in all its formats, and were thrilled to be served such fine cuisine in the glorious setting of this exclusive restaurant. We went for lunch, had three courses and enjoyed the experience immensely. Here we were faced with the best produce from local sources made for us by Scott Davies, a truly gifted head chef who will no doubt follow his predecessor and open his own fine dining restaurant with his very own michelin star.

It was expensive, but worth every penny, although I do have to say I felt it was a bit much to charge £5 for a bottle of sparkling water!!

In conclusion…….

Our trip to Skye was most successful. We will return to see another magnificent view over land and sea, investigate Portree, Dunvegan and Broadford, walk part of the way up ‘The Cuillin’ or maybe just view them from below with a good camera and a lot of oohing and ahhing . We might join the camper van brigade and spend nights in different locations around the length and breadth of the island. We might even take a trip on a ferry to nearby Raasay or joy of joy, make a trip to The Outer Hebrides or even St Kilda. There is much more to do and see on this magnificent island, so we shall return to do just that…..more.

No more words……just a final few pictures to whet the appetite.

When sleep is elusive

The clock ticks the seconds past

Leaving behind the day that was

Awakening the day to come

In measured moments.

Time never stops, waits around, stands still

Much as we’d like it to.

Time is the place we have to live in,

make our journey in,

spend our talents in.

It is ours briefly and then we leave it behind.

We pass into

another time,

another place,

another space….. if we believe…..

if not……we are out of time,

no more,

at the end.

The End of Time

Will it ever be?

Extremes

Today in Melbourne the mercury is set to rise to 40 degrees. I guess my brother will have to chill in his air-conditioned office and apartment between cycles to and from. I trust the pavements and cycle paths remain melt-free!

Here of course, we’ve just exited a week of freezing temperatures accompanied by heavy snowfalls, which disrupted movement and left most pensioners hibernating indoors. The scene outside, where car after car slithered back and forth in attempts to make it from side road to main, did not encourage us to venture out. We watched as the young, dressed appropriately in shorts and trainers, pushed their cars beyond the slithery bits onto surer icy bits, then eventually found hard ground to move them into the mainstream where once again the slushy surface sought to whirl them into a path they didn’t want to take!

Today the forecast is better, roads are clear courtesy of much gritting of lorries, and we are encouraged to venture forth for some much needed shopping and a wee trip to Largs to see how mum is faring. The snow has released its grip on the car, there is good daylight with a promise of a little sunlight, so we will be off when the warmth of duvets permits a foot to test the natural air conditioning, and another to follow in a quick trip from the coolness of the bedroom to the warmth of the bathroom where a shower can be followed by quick dressing and a descent to the warmest room below for breakfast. Afterwards we too seek the outdoors where melting is in evidence!

Now where did I stash those decorations?

1st December 2017

When I was teaching, I used to love December. Children make Christmas. Their enthusiasm and excitement is ever present as the days count down towards the big day. In my classes we always had our room decorated for the first day of December and followed through the month with projects, crafty, musical and fun. Stained glass windows, the themed Christmas friezes, snowflakes hanging from ceilings and over doorways. Parties for each and every class with ice cream and jelly, games to let off steam, and crazy music to dance around chairs. The arrival of’Santa’ with the inevitable speculation of just who was behind that white beard and red hood. There was always a real buzz in the school, an electric current of anticipation flowed through the days and smiles and laughter were in abundance. The highlight for me personally was often our trip to the church, where the infant singing of ‘Away in a Manger’ always misted my eyes. Special times. Always.

No news is good news

Over the last three weeks, given that my attentions have been elsewhere, I haven’t watched a news broadcast on TV. I haven’t missed it, not one bit. All news is fed in so many ways, through Facebook and twitter, and that has kept me up to date to an extent.

The horror of terrorist attacks appalls me, as they do most people, but I am preferring to not be up close and personal to all the media hype that follows these days. Perhaps this is not the norm, but as I move through the autumn and into the winter of my life, norm is not what I seek or wish for. I can do without the endless media circus which surrounds our lives. Perhaps it’s time for me to move into hermit mode!

So tonight, despite having many many projects on-going outside and in, I am going to put on a nice film, pour myself a gin and chill.

Generations apart

Marshall has been with us over the last week and a bit, and what a tonic he is especially if he serves gin with it!! He has struck up a friendship with our neighbour Hamish who is more of a comic than a tonic, but nevertheless, the pair have got on like a house on fire. Despite being a couple of generations apart, they speak the same language, particularly as far as music goes. Both are avid Country and Western buffs, and speak knowledgeably about many of the great stars of latter years. It’s fascinating to listen to them discuss singers and their lifestyles and music world. It just goes to show that musical eras, and those legends who sang in them do not fade over time, rather they are promoted with huge enthusiasm into today’s world ensuring that their legacy will never die.

Courtesy of Marshall and his developing skill in the area of cocktail shaking, we’ve had a couple of very pleasant afternoons on our deck, sampling one new concoction after another. Ham and Mo have joined us, and a lot of chatter and laughter has spilled out into the summer sunshine. No-one spilled a drop, except me. A little of my delicious Brandy Alexander managed to trickle down the side of my cocktail glass, and I was advised to lick it up by my dear neighbour Mo!!!

Sadly our master shaker has returned to Carlisle for a while. He does actually have a job to do, so we wish him well with his 10 hour shifts and look forward to a swift return when a few days leave present an opportunity to jump on the train to Glasgow!

Cheers Marshall! We’ll miss you!!!IMG_0350