Posted by: christinelaennec | February 6, 2016

Staying calm

Thank you to everyone for your very kind and encouraging comments on my last post.  The Dafter really is a special person, and although I can’t take credit for that, I am extremely proud of her.

Predictably enough, the morning after her birthday party she woke with a stonking cold.  This got worse, and the past two weeks have been an anxious time.  I remember the days when coming down with a cold was an inconvenience.  But when your child’s health already hangs on such a slender thread, it is a major threat.  I will do another post updating you on where she is with her ME/CFS, but suffice to say we have all been working very hard to do everything we can to avoid yet another winter relapse, and to keep her from slipping behind at school.  Fingers still tightly crossed.

Winter trees

Winter trees

There have been other things on my mind as well – it seems to be a time of people being unwell and dying.  A man in the prime of his life is on a ventilator with pneumonia.  Yesterday was the funeral of Michael’s beloved professor; the lovely locum minister of our church, who fell ill six weeks after retiring in September, is not long for this world.  And my dear friend Roobeedoo has lost her First Love, after years of battling his cancer with him.  I have tried to support her as best I can from here.  I have been so focused on keeping my heart positive for all these things, that I haven’t been able to knit much.  (Gasp!)  Instead, I have found great solace in puzzling:

Tilly helping me with my puzzle, by the fire.

Tilly helping me with my puzzle, by the fire.

As I’ve written here before, I find doing jigsaw puzzles very healing.  Another worry has been sorting out what the Dafter will be able to do next year.  There are not very many options for courses at college if you are only able to concentrate for an hour and a half a day.  Michael and I have been meeting with people, and the Dafter has visited one college, which she found quite exhausting.  Doing a puzzle reminds me that things will work out.  It’s not possible to sort everything out all at once.  Certain pieces have to fit into place before other pieces will find their spot.  But if you just keep plugging away, the picture will emerge.

The other thing that Thomas Kinkade’s paintings remind me of is how different the pieces seem when they are isolated, compared to when they are in the right place.  I think I’m looking for a peachy-yellow piece, and in fact what I thought was more of a rose is exactly right.  Life is like that too:  we can’t see everything for what it is, all at once.

Finished puzzle of a painting by Thomas Kincaid.

Finished puzzle of a painting by Thomas Kinkade.

I have been so distracted that for the first time in 28 years, I clean forgot to honour our tradition of buying spring flowers for our wedding anniversary.  I just couldn’t believe it when Michael mentioned it to me!  I think partly this was because normally I am longing for some spring colour at this point in the winter, and I eagerly await the joy of picking out our flowers.  But this winter has been so mild that I’ve found the very early appearance of spring flowers in the garden somewhat disturbing.  “Go back! It’s not time yet!” I want to say to them.

Very early spring flowers.  4 February 2016, Glasgow.

Very early spring flowers. 2 February 2016, Glasgow.

But perhaps it’s partly that we now live in the tropical south rather than in Aberdeen.  I was reassured when a friend there told me he’d been out to have a close look at his garden, and there is certainly no sign whatsoever of anything coming up yet.  Glad to hear it!

This past Tuesday, the Dafter managed an hour of school, and then as the sun was out, she decided to come out into the garden for a bit, and paint her nails:

Outdoor manicure!

Outdoor manicure!

Soon she couldn’t feel her fingers, so went into the summerhouse, but she and Tilly and I had an enjoyable half-an-hour outside.

Birch-bark cherry tree in some winter sunlight.

Birch-bark cherry tree in some winter sunlight.

I had a grand time clipping back dying crocosmia and cleaning out leaves from the little pond.  Miss Tilly is very much a fair-weather-garden cat.  Some raindrops fell just as I snapped this photo of her venturing out from the porch – I caught her in mid-veer as she darted back under shelter!

Tilly thinks twice about enjoying the great outdoors.

Tilly thinks twice about enjoying the great outdoors.

She has had some very cosy and happy times inside, though:

Happy cat.

Happy cat.

Alongside worries and sad things, of course there have been many good things happening.  For one, the Dafter now seems to be getting better, and for that I am hugely grateful.  This past week one of my dearest friends from Aberdeen was down in Glasgow and we had a lovely catch-up together.  Choir and church have been a joy.  And look at the beautiful gift that Michael gave me for our anniversary:

Beautiful anniversary gift from Michael.

Beautiful anniversary gift from Michael, next to crocuses in a bowl.

When running an errand in an unfamiliar part of town, he’d stumbled on a car boot sale, and found this lovely Caithness glass vase for me.  I think one can never have enough small vases.  It’s so satisfying to bring just a single bloom inside from the garden.

And soon we enter the season of Lent.  As Easter is early this year, Shrove Tuesday is this coming week.  I’m looking forwards to buckwheat pancakes (galettes) for main course, and crêpes for dessert!  The Dafter’s IBS is beginning to settle down with help from the FODMAP diet which she began in August.  Last night she said to me, “Good news!  I can eat cream crackers with Nutella!”  That really is excellent news.  So maybe a wheat-flour pancake with Nutella will be possible.  We’ll see!

Thank you for your friendship, and for reading.  I wish you all a very good weekend!


Posted by: christinelaennec | January 26, 2016

A special birthday

Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments on my last post.  I have answered questions about Tilly and the rats below your comments.

I mentioned that we had a special birthday to celebrate:  the Dafter turned 18!  As she kept saying, “What the heck?! 18?!”  My own philosophy is not to pay attention to numbers, because I don’t think they are particularly meaningful, but 18 in Britain means that one is legal;y adult.  The Dafter can now go buy herself a drink in a bar, she can vote in all elections (and indeed stand for election as a Member of Parliament), she can place a bet, and buy fireworks!  The only things you have to be 21 to do in Britain are (according to Mumsnet):  adopt a child, drive a bus, or supervise a learner driver.

She had a very clear idea of how she wanted to celebrate.  She wanted to host a charity fundraiser!

The Dafter at her birthday party.

The Dafter at her birthday party.  She found her beautiful dress at a charity shop for £5!

It was absolutely fantastic.  It took place in the afternoon, in the church hall.  There was live music:

Musicians setting up.

Musicians setting up.

There was a collaborative art table, that was very popular, and also a bake sale, print sale and raffle:

A friend helps us with the bake sale / photo print sale / raffle stall.

A friend helps us with the bake sale / photo print sale / raffle stall.

I don’t have photos of the event itself because I was pretty busy.  Over forty of Isabel’s friends came, and it was such a happy time.  The hall was full of laughter and music, and plenty of food.  At one point we had birthday cake, and the Dafter blew out all her 18 candles in one go.  She was in good form, on her feet for several hours, and just so happy.  Two friends from schooldays in Aberdeen were there, but otherwise all the guests are friends she has made in the past year and a half, since she was well enough to get out of bed and rejoin the world on a part-time basis.

The party raised over £140 for charity (about $210), divided between Action for ME, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), and the homeless charity Shelter.  The guests were able to vote for which charity they wanted the funds to go to, so the money raised will be divided accordingly.  I was so impressed by these lovely young people, so talented and clever, and so generous.  That is a lot of money for teenagers to raise!  She was so appreciative of the work that Michael and I (and our friends) put into the day to make it happen.  It was a pleasure.

The Dafter has felt very cherished and loved, and she enjoyed opening far more presents than she had ever anticipated.  One special one is a beautiful watercolour that Michael and I commissioned from Jill of Land of the Big Sky:

A special gift!

A special gift!

The Dafter was bowled over by Jill’s clever portrait of Caspian and Artemis.  She commented, “It’s THEM, in a painting.”  Thank you, Jill, for your wonderful work.

And now it is back to school (after study leave), and back to routine for a while, all being well.  I wish you all a very good week!

Posted by: christinelaennec | January 22, 2016

January goings-on

We’re a month past the solstice now, and “the days are starting to stretch” a bit, as they say here.  The mornings are still very dark but it is now still a bit light at 4:15.  When there’s sun, the shadows are wonderfully long:

Long shadows! 14 January 2016, Glasgow.

Long shadows! 14 January 2016, Glasgow.

Last weekend we had a lovely snowfall.  In the photo below, you see the statue of the Duke of Wellington (and in the background on the left, another horserider statue in George Square).  It’s a Glasgow tradition that the Duke of Wellington wears a traffic cone on his head.  A few years ago, the city council debated whether putting a traffic cone on the Duke should be made a punishable offence.  There was a public outcry, to the effect that putting the traffic cone on the Duke is a public service, not an offence, because the sight is so unmistakeably Glaswegian. The measure was dropped. I have never seen the statue without it, although perhaps there are brief periods of time in the middle of the night when the police climb up and take it off?

Snow falling, Glasgow city centre, 16 January 2016.

Snow falling, Glasgow city centre, 16 January 2016.

The statue is in front of the Gallery of Modern Art.  At the moment it is displaying flashing neon signs about Scotland and Scottishness.  Some of them say We [heart] Walter Scott, We [heart] Robert Burns, We [heart] Parsimony…

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, 16 January 2016.

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, 16 January 2016.

Here is the other horserider statue – I didn’t go investigate to see who he is.  No doubt he is jealous of the Duke of Wellington and wishes someone would put a traffic cone on his head:

George Square, Glasgow, 16 January 2016.

George Square, Glasgow, 16 January 2016.  The City Chambers are at the back of the square.

Our garden was very pretty in the snow:

Hellebore in the back garden, 17 January 2016.

Hellebore in the back garden, 17 January 2016.

There was enough to make a snowman!

The Dafter and her snowman, 17 January 2016.

The Dafter and her snowman, 17 January 2016.

Inside, we are cosy and warm.  I have so much enjoyed playing with the rats and getting to know them.  It’s hard for me to get good photos, but in this one, you can perhaps see that Caspian is very relaxed, his eyes are half shut:

The lovely wee rats. January, 2016.

The lovely wee rats. January, 2016.

Tilly loved the snow and clamoured to go out in it.  She pounced on it, and enjoyed wading through it (it came up to her belly).  But she was spooked by the snowman.  Mostly, though, she has been inside:

Tilly finds a warm spot!

Tilly finds a warm spot!

My Oregon cardigan is progressing, slowly.  Here is the ribbing.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the beautiful colours but it’s the best I can do in Scottish winter light:

Bottom ribbing of the Oregon cardigan. MId-January 2016.

Bottom ribbing of the Oregon cardigan. MId-January 2016.

And for those of you who are curious about steeking, here’s a close-up of the central steek.  You can see that all colour changes begin and end at the steek.  Once the steek is cut, I will pick up stitches to make the button bands, trim all the ends away, and fold the steek stitches back to the inside of the cardigan.  The four-stitch wide section is where I will pick up stitches to make the button bands,leaving only two stitches visible on the right side, to match the other two-stitch wide vertical bands of ribbing.

Front steek of the Oregon cardigan.

Front steek of the Oregon cardigan.

That’s the plan, anyway!

I wish you all a good weekend.  Here we have a birthday to celebrate – much excitement!

Posted by: christinelaennec | January 16, 2016

Clearing a major hurdle

I have some excellent news:  the Dafter managed to take her Higher Art prelim!  Because of her illness (which began in August 2011, at the start of S2, the second year of six years of high school in Scotland), she has never before been well enough to sit an exam.  She and I have been working very, very hard over the past month or so to keep her on an even keel.  The past two Januaries have seen her health take a very sharp dive, and we were determined to avoid this happening again.  So we have been taking a number of measures, which I will write about separately.  She has battled various bugs and minor health problems, and kept on going.

During the holidays and over the past ten days, she was able to do some revising, slowly and steadily.  This kind of work has not been possible for her until now, but since the summer her concentration has been slowly improving.

And so it was that yesterday I drove her to school, and although she was nervous, she was well-prepared and collected.  I went home and did the most distracting thing I know, which is to work on my family tree online.  I filled in details of a great-grandmother’s account of leaving Switzerland for America in 1882, and while I kept an eye on my phone, sending silent affirmations that the Dafter would not have a crash, I also was aware of how precious life is, including our tests and trials.

And two hours later the Dafter phoned for a lift home, and was quite stunned, but okay!

Tired but happy, after her exam.  15 January 2016.

Tired but happy, after her exam. 15 January 2016.

She said that after half an hour her concentration went, “and then I was just in robot mode”.  She doesn’t know how she did in terms of what they are looking for or what mark she will get.  But that is far less important than the fact that, never having sat an exam in her life before, she went in, read questions and answered them for over an hour, and didn’t panic or stop.  I really could not be more proud of her.

The “real” exam in May is twice the length, and I’m not sure how well she will be able to manage that.  We shall speak to the school about what can be done to help her get through.  The May exam is set and marked by the national Scottish Qualifications Authority, and is out of the school’s hands, but we shall see.

I observed her closely after we got home.  She was very tired, but wasn’t in a state of collapse.  And after resting in bed for a while, what did she do?  Paint!

While written work is still very challenging for her, her art work is – if I do say so myself – very accomplished and beautiful.  She’s allowing me to share with you the painting she did for me for Christmas:

Painting of Harris sunset by the Dafter.  My Christmas present!

Painting of Harris sunset by the Dafter. My Christmas present!

I have put many, many things off in the last six weeks or so and now I feel I can somewhat gather up the strings of my life again.  The word “relief” doesn’t quite cover how I feel now!  Just profoundly, profoundly, grateful.

I wish you all a good weekend!

Posted by: christinelaennec | January 7, 2016

Happy 2016!

Hello again!  Life is moving along at a clip here.  We saw in the New Year with two friends of the Dafter’s, so it was in fact a party!

The Dafter in the last few hours of 2015.

The Dafter in the last few hours of 2015.  Doesn’t she look fantastic?  The makeup is 90s grunge, she told me.  She rested up very well the day before and all afternoon to have the strength for celebrating.

We all gathered around the tv to watch the countdown to midnight and the fireworks in Edinburgh.  As is our tradition, we opened the front and back windows of the house to let the old year out and the new year in.  (It’s really supposed to be doors, but Tilly wasn’t easily locateable just at that moment in time.)

Edinburgh fireworks on the tv, just after the bells.  1 January 2016.

Edinburgh fireworks on the tv, just after the bells. 1 January 2016.

We clinked our glasses of fizzy fruit juice, and all kissed each other, and then Michael made a small fireworks display for us in the back garden!  On New Year’s Day, the Dafter decorated Michael’s trifle.  Every year he makes a New Year’s trifle.  Due to her having so many digestive problems, this year we had a dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian trifle.  It was delicious!

Delicious New Year's trifle, made by Michael and decorated by the Dafter.

Delicious New Year’s trifle, made by Michael and decorated by the Dafter.

We put Christmas away on Monday and Tuesday, and wrote our Christmas Wishes as we do every year, to stick inside the boxes.  And Wednesday it was back to school!  The Dafter was so happy to see her friends again.  She managed to go for three and a half hours, which is really good going.

This morning Michael left very early to travel to England.  The West Coast rail line has been out of action since floods knocked out a bridge near Carlisle, so he had a long bus journey.  But these minor hardships are nothing compared to those faced by people whose homes have been ravaged.  We have been watching clips of familiar places on Deeside such as Ballater, Tarland and Aboyne through our fingers, hardly daring to peek at the raging waters going past.  Aberdeen airport has been closed this evening because part of the landing strip has collapsed.

The reason for his trip was, sadly, to attend the funeral of his young cousin who died at Christmastime, leaving his teenage son behind.  As dreadful as the flooding is, it is no comparison to the devastation of a family who has lost a young father, son and brother.  I was very glad that Michael was able to go today.  As he was picking out which tie to wear last night (he opted for a navy blue Harris tweed tartan), he said, “I feel as if I’m going home”.  “You are,” I said, “because you’re going to your family”.

In the meantime, I have finally begun a project that has been waiting in my cupboard for two years now:  the Oregon cardigan (Autumn colourway) by Alice Starmore.  I bought the kit with birthday money that my mother and father had given me and I’d saved up.  It’s taken me a long time to swatch and prepare to knit – because I cannot match the gauge, I will have to make some adjustments.  But I’m finally on my way, knitting the edging at the bottom.  And I have my faithful helper:

From left to right:  A big bag full of wool, knitting in progress, Tilly disturbed mid-wash, swatches, colour card, instructions.  All for the Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore. 7 January 2016.

From left to right: A big bag full of wool, knitting in progress, Tilly disturbed mid-wash, swatches, home-made colour card, instructions. All for the Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore. 7 January 2016.

This is my sixth Alice Starmore sweater.  I’ve made two cabled sweaters, two colourwork jackets, and one colourwork pullover.  The wool she sells for her kits is spun and dyed on the Isle of Lewis, and the colours really are gorgeous.

I have some other knitting to show you from before Christmas, but that can be for another post!  I hope you are all having a very good start to the New Year.

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 31, 2015

Happy Hogmanay!

In Scotland, many people wish each other, “Happy New Year, when it comes” in the last days of the calendar year.  I was once told that adding “when it comes” is very important because it’s considered bad luck to wish someone a Happy New Year before the new year has actually arrived.

A road around the edge of Mugdock Country Park in Milngavie, near Glasgow. 31 December 2015.

A road around the edge of Mugdock Country Park in Milngavie, near Glasgow. 31 December 2015.

So I wish you a Happy Hogmanay, which is today, and I hope that 2016 brings you many blessings.  Thank you so much for your comments and your friendship.  I hope the next turn in the road brings us all good things!

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

‘Give me a light so that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied,

‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”

These lines are from a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins, which was made famous when King George VI quoted it in his 1939 Christmas address to the British Empire.  My neighbour Mary Morrison often quoted them to me.

Bliadhna Mhath Ur, ‘nuair a thig i!


Posted by: christinelaennec | December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for your lovely comments on my last blog post.  One way or another I have not had a spare minute in the past few weeks to spend in blogland.  Sometimes you just have to follow the advice on the angel card that I drew below:

Advice from the angels:  "Surrender"!

Advice from the angels: “Surrender”!

There’s just been enough time in every day to look after the Dafter, keep the household going, look after myself (shoulder is better but ongoing; I’ve also had some emergency dental work!) and get Christmas organised.  I was able to make my pfeffernusse:

Making pfeffernusse

Making pfeffernusse

And we have a beautiful Christmas tree:

Christmas tree 2015

Christmas tree 2015

All the cards have now been sent or delivered, and also the gifts and parcels.  I sang in a Nine Lessons and Carols service, which I loved, and attended another ethereal concert of a cappella Christmas music in an arching cathedral.

The weather has been very mild indeed, and wet.  We had 11 inches of rain in November and it has continued very wet in December, although I am hugely thankful we have only had minor floods where we live.  Other people in the UK (and Oregon, I hear) are having a miserable time of it.  One of my hellebores is in full bloom, and is a very cheerful sight:


Hellebore, the “Christmas rose”

We did have one morning of frost (only the third so far this autumn) and the Graham Thomas roses were very pretty:

Roses at Christmastime

Roses at Christmastime

Michael has been working extremely hard, travelling, teaching, trying to secure grants, and burning the midnight oil on a book translation.  Every day has been a struggle for the Dafter; however, she has finished the term with only a bit of work to be done over break.  I have worked hard to try to help her with managing school (part-time) and to keep her on an even keel.  We have hired a light box, and that seems to help her a bit at this time of year.  Also I have been taking her for what we call a “rest-drive” nearly every day.  She has discovered that she is able to close her eyes and deeply rest as we go along.  The movement of the car is calming, as is listening to music.  Until fairly recently, no amount of rest or sleep helped the deep exhaustion of ME/CFS to lift – but now a half-hour rest makes the exhaustion “plateau” (her word) so that she has a better chance of finishing the day without a collapse (though there’s never a guarantee).

The Christmas lights on Union Street in Aberdeen, December 2015.

The Christmas lights on Union Street in Aberdeen, December 2015.

I had not had any time off in five weeks, but last week I went up to Aberdeen and it was delightful to see the city again, and to reconnect with old friends.  I was able to have lunch with Roobeedoo – if you read her blog you will know what a journey she is on, and it was really a minor miracle that we were able to meet up.

Christmas fairy

Christmas fairy

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!  Today, actually, as it is now nearly 12:30 am.  Goodness me.  Such a magical time.  Now we have three creatures in the house who – so the legend says – can speak at midnight.  (The rats have continued to be a delight – they and Tilly have not yet met, and the idea is to make sure they don’t!  But I know both parties will have smelled the other and be aware to some extent of their existence.)

We are going to be hosting another exchange student, as we did at Thanksgiving, and we’re all looking forwards to it.  I hope she will not find us too strange!  She’s travelling up from England tomorrow, and spending three nights, so will be with us for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  The Dafter is excited about having company.  Last year she spent the afternoon of Christmas Day volunteering at a dinner for people who had nowhere else to go.  This year her physical strength won’t allow her to do that, and she wanted strongly to be able to share Christmas with others outside the family.

I will wish you a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate the holiday, by linking to one of the pieces our choir sang, Philip Stopford’s A Christmas Blessing.  The words are taken from the Irish Book of Common Prayer:

Thank you so much for reading, and for your good wishes, which give us all such a boost.  I hope to be able to see you in blogland over the break.  Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh uile!

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 2, 2015


“Latchy” is a great Aberdonian word meaning “late,” as in not on time.  I feel I have been a wee bittie latchy with my blogging lately!  I can’t wait to have some time to read other people’s blogs.  What have I been up to?

Well, first and foremost, I have been looking after the Dafter, who caught a nasty virus towards the beginning of November.  After several weeks off school, and back to the days of helping her around the house, running up and down the stairs with trays, and generally focussing very hard on Not Worrying, I am pleased to tell you that even with her ME/CFS, she is now quite a bit better and back at school part-time.

I went to Schoenstatt on my retreat, which was excellent.  It was a very rainy weekend, but beautiful nonetheless:

View of the Campie Fells from the Schoenstatt grounds.  Mid-November 2015.

View of the Campie Fells from the Schoenstatt grounds. Mid-November 2015.

The retreat I attended was not a particularly religious one, though some of us were interested in religion, prayer and so on.  I met some very interesting women and learned a lot about nutrition and juicing, as well as other things.  Mostly I appreciated having 24 hours just to rest and focus on myself.

The shrine at Schoenstatt, Campsie Glen, mid-November 2015.

The shrine at Schoenstatt, Campsie Glen, mid-November 2015.

The folks at Schoenstatt did truly make everyone feel welcome, “of all faiths and none”.  I would like to go back there.

There is a new aspect of our lives that has taken time away from blogging.  Since she fell ill over four years ago, the Dafter has longed for a pet of her very own.  We have been mulling it over all this time, and at the end of September, we got her two baby rats.  I had a pet rat when I was a girl, and she was loving and intelligent.  These two baby rats have taken about an hour a day of care and interaction, and the Dafter has only missed one day when she was absolutely too unwell to get out of bed.  I love being on hand to help.  The rat in the photo below was, when he first arrived, terrified of everything and everyone.  Now he has really developed an outgoing personality:

Caspian giving me a cuddle, in his manner.

Caspian giving me a cuddle, in his manner.

His brother Artemis is an albino, and the Dafter noticed about a month ago that he was somehow different.  Indeed he is noticeably impaired:  he can’t really jump far if at all, can’t see or smell well.  He lets his brother come back and forth to the food call, and occasionally and slowly ventures out for his – preferring to raid his brother’s stash inside the cage.  But he is sweet and loving, and much more relaxed about almost everything.  It’s been fascinating watching them develop, and the experience has given the Dafter a great deal.

This past weekend, we had our Thanksgiving meal.  We were joined by our dear friend T, and by Our Son, as well as by an American exchange student who was a delight.

Some of our family at Thanksgiving 2015.

Some of our family at Thanksgiving 2015.

She didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t the typical Scottish family.  There was lots of talk about accents, vocabulary, politics, different regions of Scotland and so on, and she said she had learned a lot!  The Dafter managed to socialise for the best part of six hours, though had to go and rest.  Her concentration is better but she was flagging from time to time.  A happy time was had by all, though.

The Dafter and Our Son.

The Dafter and Our Son, Thanksgiving 2015.

On the Sunday, we took our guest up to Loch Lomond.  The weather was drenching, with sleet falling. But it cleared enough to see the snow on the hills.  Mostly we stayed inside and had hot chocolates and coffees!

Looking at the snow-covered Arrochar hills from the village of Luss on Loch Lomond.  End of November 2015.

Looking at the snow-covered Arrochar hills from the village of Luss on Loch Lomond. End of November 2015.

I am “latchy” with my Katharine Stewart / garden posts.  Mostly it has been a race to get the bulbs in – one I haven’t yet won as there are a few yet left to plant.  The weather has been relentlessly rainy.  We’ve had 11 inches of rain in our back garden in the month of November alone.

Rain, rain, rain!  Wellies worn with "Willowherb" socks from Roobeedoo.

Rain, rain, rain! Wellies worn with “Willowherb” socks from Roobeedoo.

And now it is Advent and Christmas!  There are decorations to put up and cards to write, but we are pretty well organised, fingers crossed.

I hope this finds you all well, and that I will have a chance to visit your blogs soon.  Cheery bye the noo!

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 19, 2015

“Express Love Clearly”

Some time ago, I took a photo of a plaque on a park bench in Glasgow.  It said simply, “Express Love Clearly”.  I entitled the photo “good advice” and squirrelled it away for an occasion when it seemed right to share it on my blog. I was struck by how un-Scottish the sentiment seemed to be – the Scots are a reserved people, generally speaking.  And I felt strongly that this is the most important thing:  to express love clearly.

I wanted to share that photo with you today, but it seems to have disappeared entirely from my computer.  So instead, I’m using a photo of the Peace Rose in our old garden in Aberdeen:

Peace Rose

Peace Rose

Since the attacks in Paris last weekend, many people have been affirming that we must respond with love rather than hate.  I believe this is true, and I’ve told the Dafter that this is one thing I do find encouraging.  Generally, though, this has been a hard time.

In my own little life, it’s been just a year now since my Dad died, and I have been missing him.  One lovely man I know has been given a year to live; a cousin of Michael’s is fighting for his life at 45 and with a young son; and I’ll be travelling back to Aberdeen tomorrow for the funeral of a friend not much older than me.  I saw her in July and she seemed in the pink, as usual the epitome of the phrase “full of life”.  I don’t know if she had an inkling that she might not be long for this world.  When I asked her how she was, there was a fractional hesitation before “Fine! Yeah, fine.”  I chalked this up to the kinds of niggling health worries that people have, and we caught up on everything else.

She asked me about the children; she sent them Christmas presents and cards every year, even though they were ages 22 and 16 last Christmas, and I’d told her she really didn’t need to.  When I told her how well Our Son was doing, she – who had witnessed our years of struggle to get him proper care – said to me, “You did well there, Christine.”  I protested that it was really only by the grace of God we had managed as well as we did, and she gently insisted, “No – you did well.”  Did she know, at some level, that this would be the last time we’d see each other?  In any case, it was characteristically generous of her.

Last night I went to Liturgical Choir practice and as usual it helped me to affirm my own beliefs that the light will, in the end, conquer the darkness.  The Dafter’s illness has already taught me much about not taking life for granted.  These recent events, close to me and far away, are a reminder that I need to treasure every day, and everyone in my life.

I don’t know why that photo has mysteriously disappeared.  But its words have been in my heart for some time:  “Express Love Clearly”.  Excellent advice in hard times and in good.

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 11, 2015

Schoenstatt Retreat and Pilgimage Centre, Campsie Glen

I want to show you a very special place that I’ve discovered:  Schoenstatt Retreat and Pilgrimage Centre, near Glasgow.  A friend of mine took me to this lovely place in the summer, and I went back later with Gay during her visit.  Schoenstatt is in the tiny village of Campsie Glen, in the Campsie Fells to the north of Glasgow.  The bus takes an hour, and lets you off here, by the Campsie Glen tearoom:

Campsie Glen

Campsie Glen, June 2015.

From the tearoom it’s a short walk.  We stopped to talk to a man who told us that this house was once the schoolhouse for the children of Campsie Glen.  We could only see about a dozen houses, but perhaps there are more, or once were more.

The old schoolhouse and its back garden, Campsie Glen.

The old schoolhouse and its back garden, Campsie Glen.  June 2015.

He told us that the children would come into the school through the brown side porch, that the privy was the white shed on the side, and that they could play in the garden.  The school-teacher lived upstairs and the schoolrooms were downstairs.

You walk over a bridge, with a beautiful brook below…

Walking over a bridge crossing a wee burn, Campsie Glen.

Walking over a bridge crossing a wee burn, Campsie Glen, June 2015.

… to these gates:

Gates to the woodland walk, Schoenstatt.

Gates to the woodland walk, Schoenstatt.  June 2015.

A short stroll later, you find yourself here:

Schoenstatt Retreat Centre, from the field behind the chapel.

Schoenstatt Retreat and Pilgrimage Centre, from the field behind the chapel.  June 2015.

The setting is so beautiful, it’s hard to believe that you’re just an hour away from a major city:

Schoenstatt with the Campsie Fells behind.

Schoenstatt with the Campsie Fells behind.  June 2015.

The little chapel made me really feel I’d been transported to the Tyrolean Alps:

Chapel, Schoenstatt.

Chapel, Schoenstatt, June 2015.

Schoenstatt is run by the Sisters of St. Mary.  The friend who took me there told me that this German order came to Glasgow early in the 20th century to minister to German sea-farers.   Over the years there were fewer German sea-farers, and in 1990 the sisters bought this property outside the city to establish their retreat centre.

Tess, the Schoenstatt dog, during another visit.

Tess, the Schoenstatt dog, greeting me and Gay in July 2015.  She was very friendly, but I suppose as she was out unsupervised, with visitors meandering about, they have to put a muzzle harness on her.

I was very interested by the fact that Schoenstatt welcomes people of all faiths or none.  They run a number of different kinds of retreats, and are booked up months in advance as a conference venue.

Chapel, on a later visit.

Schoenstatt Chapel, July 2015.

It is a very peaceful spot indeed.

The retreat centre, Schoenstatt.

The retreat centre, Schoenstatt.  June 2015.

I don’t know if the main building (with the tower and conical roof) is very old, or modern but built in a traditionally Scottish style.

I took Gay to Schoenstatt during her visit, and like me she felt blessed by the peace there:

Gay next to the stone mosaic in front of the chapel, Schoenstatt.

Gay next to the stone mosaic in front of the chapel, Schoenstatt.  July 2015.

Gay is a talented mosaicist, whose front door is beautifully adorned with glass pebbles, so she appreciated the work that went into the Schoenstatt mosaic.

I am hoping to go on a short retreat to Schoenstatt this winter.  If I manage it, I’ll be curious to see what the woodland walks and the beautiful meadows are like in a different season.  Perhaps it will seem like a different place; perhaps the background of the Campsies will be more prominent with the leaves off the trees.  I’m pretty sure that the peacefulness will be the same, though.

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