Posted by: christinelaennec | April 21, 2016

From Harris to North Uist, for the afternoon

The third and last day of my time on Harris dawned very promisingly indeed:

View of the North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay, April 2016.

View of the North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay, April 2016.

My plan for the day was to drive to the south end of Harris, and take the ferry across the Sound of Harris to meet up with some dear friends.

So I set off to the beautiful West Side.  Each time I’ve visited recently, this road has been further improved:

Driving across to the West Side of Harris. April 2016.

Driving across to the West Side of Harris. April 2016.

The tide in the estuary was out, and the sheep were grazing on the marshy islands.  I don’t know what plants grow there, as it is covered with the sea twice a day.  I know sea thrift blossoms in places like this in early summer:

Sheep grazing on the salt-water wetlands near Seilebost, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Sheep grazing on the salt-water wetlands near Seilebost, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

I have stopped at the below viewpoint many times in the past twenty years, but this time I understood it just a bit differently.  Do you see the sharp point of Sròn Scourt on the horizon?  I had never known that peak before my hike the previous day to the eagle observatory. As one reader commented, that peak features in many of Willie Fulton‘s paintings – including, I now realise, one that hangs in our dining room.

I really like knowing the names of hills I see on the horizon.  In fact, just before this trip I had invested in an Ordinance Survey map of Glasgow, to help me identify and understand what I am seeing off in the distance.  Curiously, the taxi driver who took me to the station as I began my journey told me the name of one such hill; later that day a lady I was sitting next to on the bus volunteered the name of one of the hills we passed.  Hmm!

That view again! Looking across to Luskentyre from Seilebost. April 2016.

That view again! Looking across to Luskentyre from Seilebost. April 2016.

As I say the tide was low.  The water was beautifully calm and I loved watching the colours change and shift before my eyes.  This is one of the great pleasures of the landscape of Harris.

Beautiful colours in the water. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

Beautiful colours in the water. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

I didn’t have time to go down onto Traigh Iar, one of my and our favourite beaches, but I enjoyed it from the lay-by above:

Traigh Iar, Nisabost, with Luskentyre in the distance. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Nisabost, with Luskentyre in the distance. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Soon I was in Leverburgh, waiting for the ferry.  I was lucky insofar as the ferry times were due to be disrupted the next day, because of tidal shifts.  The day I went across, the ferry was bang on time both ways.  It was a beautiful day!

MV Loch Portan coming towards Leverburgh. April 2016.

MV Loch Portain coming towards Leverburgh. April 2016.

I watched an oystercatcher busily pecking away on the stones near the slipway.  She didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered when the ferry approached and the ramp came right down next to where she was.   Waiting for the ferry with me was a man who was going home after an early trip across to Harris to do some work.  When he asked what my journey involved, and I mentioned my friends, naturally enough he knew them.

On board the Loch Portain, heading for Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

On board the Loch Portain, heading for Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

The crossing takes an hour.  I knitted and read very happily.

Nearing Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

Nearing Berneray, North Uist. April 2016.

It was incredibly calm, except when the birds on the water took flight at the approach of the ferry:

Seabirds put to flight by the approaching ferry.

Seabirds put to flight by the approaching ferry.

Is there any better sight than friends coming to meet you?

My friends walking to meet me off the boat.

My friends walking down to the pier to meet me off the boat.

The funniest thing was that, as I and the man walked up the ramp, both of us greeting my friends, there was a film crew filming!  We joked, There was no need to make such a fuss over our arrival!

My friends, who have appeared on several of my Isle of Harris blog posts over the years, whisked me off on a tour of the West side of North Uist.  We had a delicious lunch at the Claddach Kirkibost community centre.  This is in a former school, and contains a café, a shop, a library, and a nursery (among other things).  It was a lovely place:

Pretty stained-glass window in the Claddach Kirkibost cafe. April 2016.

Pretty stained-glass window in the Claddach Kirkibost cafe. April 2016.

As you see, there were fresh flowers at the tables, picked no doubt from the garden just outside.  The water was sparkling on that beautiful day:

A delicious lunch with a beautiful view. Claddach Kirkibost centre, North Uist, April 2015.

A delicious lunch with a beautiful view. Claddach Kirkibost centre, North Uist, April 2015.

It was wonderful to see my friends again, and have a catch-up.  They first hosted me in 1994, when I was learning Gaelic, and they taught me so much – not only a new language, but their compassionate and relaxed attitude towards life.  We have looked to them for guidance and example as we’ve raised our children.  In fact, they still give us huge support as we traverse these years of the Dafter’s illness.

On our drive from the ferry, I had seen many fields of black sheep.  My friends told me that they were Hebridean sheep, and that a man they knew had worked hard to keep the breed going.  Obviously his efforts were not in vain, because there were so many of them!  I was intrigued to see wool from the Hebridean sheep for sale in the shop at Claddach Kirkibost.  I didn’t actually buy any while we were there, because I needed to think out what I wanted and how I would use it.  However, once back in Glasgow, I was able to find a suitable project and order four skeins of wool from the woman who rears the sheep and spins the wool on Berneray:

Wool spun from sheep on Berneray, North Uist. "Storm Grey" aran, from the Birlinn Yarn Company.

Wool spun from sheep on Berneray, North Uist. “Storm Grey” aran, from the Birlinn Yarn Company.

I will certainly let you know what I eventually make with the wool.  It looks like Harris Tweed wool but is far softer.  I have knit with Harris Tweed wool (see Michael’s jumper here – he wears it a lot!) so I am very keen to see how this knits up.  I love the fact that this wool comes from such a special breed of sheep, whom I saw in the fields on my visit.

After lunch, my friends drove me to Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy.  There was a very poignant travelling exhibit of five chairs from Passchendaele and a huge book listing all the names of people in the British Isles who lost their lives in World War One – many of them in battles fought a hundred years ago this year.  The names are all printed on the left-hand page, and on the right-hand page people in the various communities the book visits are invited to write their memories and stories of the people listed.  There were photocopied photographs pasted in, and personal testimonies about those who lost their lives so long ago.

We walked out to where a large concrete fish was covered with glass and shells:

Mosaic fish at Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy, North Uist. April 2016.

Mosaic fish at Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy, North Uist. April 2016.

And all too soon it was time to head back to the ferry.  I felt very sorry to say goodbye.  All during our visit we had talked about people whom I had known who had gone on, and the younger generation whom I knew when they were in P1 all those years ago and who now have their own families.  I had a huge sense of nostalgia – how precious each moment and season is – and at the same time, of continuity.  Underneath it all, love, community and family continues, albeit with problems, losses and occasional fractures.  While we waited for the ferry, a young man came up to embrace them – someone their son had gone to school with.  His own children were waiting in the car:  a living illustration of what we had been thinking and talking about!

On my way back the weather was very changeable.  Here you can see the rain, but also sun still shining in the distance:

Heading back to Harris.

Heading back to Harris.

After a picnic tea in my little hire car, I drove back up the West Side.  I couldn’t resist taking photos of this young calf and its mother:

A calf and its mother having a nuzzle. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

A calf and its mother having a nuzzle. Isle of Harris, April 2016.

More signs of continuity and change at the same time!

In my next post I will share my last evening on Harris – for this visit anyway.  Thank you for all your comments, for reading, and for coming along with me!

Posted by: christinelaennec | April 18, 2016

To the North Harris Eagle Observatory (with knitting)

On the Sunday afternoon, I left Huisinis and headed back along the road I’d travelled.  I always find it interesting how very different any route looks when going back in the other direction.

View heading to Glen Meavaig from Huisinis, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

View heading to Glen Meavaig from Huisinis, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

The rain, which had been a steady drizzle, strengthened a bit:

The road is probably more travelled by sheep than by cars!

The road is probably more travelled by sheep than by cars!

But I decided to press on to my objective:  the eagle observatory in Glen Meavaig (pron MEE-a-vayk).  There is a good car park on the road, and a very clear track leading up the Glen.  In fact the track continues north through the glen, east through the mountains, and ends near Bogha Glas, close to the Lewis/Harris border.  I was very glad only to be hiking the mile and a half in!

Beginning the walk up the Glen. April 2016.

Beginning the walk up the Glen. April 2016.

My map told me the name of the prominent peak to the right:  Sròn Scourt.  “Sròn” means nose, which sounds about right.  I doubted I would see any eagles, as the rain was thickening, and you couldn’t really see the heights where they live.

Mist rolling over the hills of North Harris.

Mist rolling over the hills of North Harris.

The peaks on the other side are called “Cathadail Grànnda”.  Grànnda means “ugly” – a bit harsh, don’t you think?  The track follows first on one side of the river (Abhainn Meavaig, the River Meavaig), and then crosses to the other side:

Crossing the river as I go further into the glen.

Crossing the river as I go further into the glen.

What really struck me on this walk was that on all sides there was water.  There were waterfalls tumbling off the hillsides, water gurgling in the bog, water trickling through streams.  The air was full of the various sounds of moving water.  I was very grateful for the well-constructed track, because if I had stepped off in any direction I would have been in serious trouble, up to my knees or more in water:

Water everywhere! Glen Meavaig, Isle of Harris, April 2016.

Water everywhere! Glen Meavaig, Isle of Harris, April 2016.

The sky darkened:

Getting closer, as the rain lowers.

Getting closer, as the rain lowers.

The holiday selfie:

Me!

Me!

And there, around a curve in track, it was!  I was very grateful for the wooden ramp (covered with chicken wire) that led you from the track into the little building.

The North Harris Eagle Observatory, Glen Meavaig, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

The North Harris Eagle Observatory, Glen Meavaig, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

I was even more glad I wasn’t trying to hike through to the other side, having read this sign.  I couldn’t imagine trying to ford a river, in such wet conditions, in the middle of nowhere!  Then again, there must be experienced outdoors people for whom it would be possible.

Notices inside the eagle observatory.

Notices inside the eagle observatory.

It is indeed a wonderful feeling, peering into the glen looking for eagles.  Golden eagles and sea eagles nest here, though I wouldn’t know the difference, or indeed if I was seeing a buzzard.  I think all birds of prey were happily tucked away somewhere equally dry while I was there.

Quite a view!

Quite a view!

I was very glad of a chance to take my wet coat and gear off for a while.  The hide isn’t heated, but I spread my things out anyway.

Drying out my knitwear.

Drying out my knitwear.

And I just sat there and knitted!

And making some more!

Making some more knitted accessories: the Orangery Shawl.

I was also very glad to find I had tucked a peanut and chocolate bar into my bag, because I was getting hungry!

I enjoyed a peaceful time just sitting, watching, listening, and knitting.  And after a while I was ready to go back.  The hike back down to the car took me less than 25 minutes, because it was downhill and also because I was going at a clip (though carefully, as to not sprain my ankle).  The rain was pretty heavy and I was very eager to get back to Tarbert for my dinner.

By 7:00 I was going up the steps of the Harris Hotel, which is so familiar that it feels like home.  I stayed there on my first solo jaunt two years ago.  I posted about the hotel here.  I love the garden:

The garden of the Harris Hotel, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

The garden of the Harris Hotel, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

It seems like such a feat to me, to make a garden out of the rocky landscape.  And I love seeing trees when I’m on the islands.  I love trees at any time, but they are precious commodities in that windswept coastal environment.

I had a delicious tea, including a lovely apple crumble.  If I hadn’t been driving, I would have treated myself to a wee dram, I think!  I’m not much of a drinker, but I had that pleasantly tired out feeling that you get after an afternoon of fresh air and some exertion.  I got more knitting done, and the waiter was very friendly and kind.

As darkness was really descending, I drove back to Scalpay and to a lovely warm bed.  My only regret was that I had eaten so much that the delicious home-made Victoria sponge that had appeared by my tea tray was just a cake too far.  It’s not often I say that!

In my next two posts, I’ll share my third and final day on Harris.  The weather was fab!

Thank you all for reading and I wish you an excellent start to the week.

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | April 16, 2016

Church, and a drive out to Huisinis

The second of my three days on Harris was rainy.  Not as rainy as it might have been – you can get soaked in a few minutes in a real downpour – but gently rainy most of the day.  However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself.  I decided to go to the Episcopal church, which is about 5 miles out of Tarbert.  From the road, you see the sign but wonder where it could be:

The road to the Episcopal church, on the way from Tarbert to the West Side of Harris.

The road to the Episcopal church, on the way from Tarbert to the West Side of Harris.

At the top of the drive, there is the most unusual sight of a grove of trees, surrounding a small wooden building:

The entrance of the Episcopal church on the Isle of Harris.

The entrance of the Episcopal church on the Isle of Harris.

Inside, the church is small but very appealing.  The wooden building and the trees surrounding the church (and the rain!) reminded me so much of Oregon.  They were delighted to have a visitor, and welcomed me warmly.  I enjoyed the service very much, especially as we all came to stand in a circle to receive Communion.  After the service, trays with tea, coffee and biscuits were brought in, and the folks I sat next to were very kind to me.  People clock my American accent pretty quickly, but then are often surprised, if they ask, to find out that I’ve been going to Harris nearly every year for 20 years now.

Inside the Episcopal Church, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Inside the Episcopal Church, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

After church I drove back into Tarbert, and went to the Hotel Hebrides for a welcome coffee.  (Hotels are the only commercial establishments that are usually open on Sundays on Harris.  You can read my thoughts about keeping the Sabbath on Harris here, if you’re interested.)

There I changed from my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes into my Sunday-go-climb-up-a-hill clothes.  I’d decided to drive out to a very remote village, Huisinis.  (Pronounced:  HOO-shin-nish.)

I hadn’t been there since we went with Our Son the summer of 1996, just after he came to us.  I remembered the road as being rather terrifying, but it didn’t seem too bad at all this time.  I concluded that in the intervening two decades, I must have become much more used to driving on Harris.  From the main road to Stornoway, it’s a mere 14 miles to Huisinis.  But it takes an hour.  Perhaps you can see why:

Driving to Huisinis:  West Loch Tarbert.  April 2016.

Driving to Huisinis: West Loch Tarbert. April 2016.

From the road to Huisini: I believe that is Taransay.  April 2016.

From the road to Huisinis. April 2016.

I am the interloper!

I am the interloper!

From the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

From the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

The cleft in the hills ahead is Glen Miavaig, where the eagle observatory is - which I will post about next time.  On the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

The cleft in the hills ahead is Glen Meavaig, where the eagle observatory is – which I will post about next time. On the road to Huisinis, April 2016.

Then you come to a surprising thing:

The road to Huisinis takes you through a gate.

The road to Huisinis takes you through a gate.

To your left is a very impressive waterfall, and once through the gate, to your right is another surprising sight:

Private gardens, Amhuinnsuidhe, Isle of Harris.

Private gardens, Amhuinnsuidhe, Isle of Harris.

I can only imagine the labour that must have been involved to create the gardens from the rocky moonscape of this part of Harris!  You follow the road around a bend, and see:

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

The road takes you right bang in front of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.  (Pronounced:  AH-vin-SOO-yah.  ‘Amhuinn’ means river and ‘suidhe’ means sitting / site / situation.)  This is the headquarters of the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate, which I believe owns most of the land that the road passes through.  Fishing and shooting parties stay at the hotel, but apparently you don’t have to be a fisher or a hunter to do so (check out their website here).

Past the castle, you go through another large gate, and pass terraced houses where the estate workers live.

Amhuinnsuidhe estate cottages - and shop!

Amhuinnsuidhe estate cottages – and shop!

Driving carefully along, I was very intrigued to find a sign saying “Shop Open” – a glaring exception to Sunday closing.  The shop is called The Stables, for obvious reasons:

Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

The place seemed very quiet, and then I saw this sign:

Sign at the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

Sign at the Amhuinnsuidhe Estate shop, April 2016.

There was another sign stating:  “In the case of an emergency, or if you wish to purchase our own label whisky…”  I wondered how often those two events coincided!  The cooling cabinet was full of salmon and venison from the Estate.

This is the view of the castle from near the shop:

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, April 2016.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, April 2016.

I drove along some more:

The road to Huisinis, continued...

The road to Huisinis, continued…

Until I turned a corner and was looking down into the village of Huisinis:

Huisinis village, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Huisinis village, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

As you see, it is a very small hamlet!  Behind the narrow point of land that you see above with a beach on one side, there is the Isle of Scarp.  I decided to walk across to the pier where the boat to Scarp used to leave.

The road through the machair, Huisinis, Isle of Harris.

The road through the machair, Huisinis, Isle of Harris.

If you have ever wondered what “machair” is, this is a good cross-section to show you:  very sandy soil, which supports grass and in the summertime a profusion of wildflowers.  And, all year round, a good number of rabbits!  The machair (pron. MA-char – ‘ch’ as in ‘loch’)  is a very precious environment, and there are signs up asking people not to drive on it or damage it.

Sheep, machair, sea, hills.

Sheep, machair, sea, hills.

The pier behind Huisinis, with the Isle of Scarp beyond.

The pier behind Huisinis, with the Isle of Scarp beyond.

After a short walk, you reach the pier where in former times the boat would sail to the Isle of Scarp.  Scarp was inhabited until the 1970s.  Apparently in the 1940s there was a population of 100, but within a few decades there were too few people to sustain a community there.  Scarp is famous for attempts to deliver mail there via rocket – there’s a film called “The Rocket Post” about it.

"Steer me"

“Steer me”

Houses on Scarp, empty now.

Houses on Scarp, empty now.

After admiring the crystal clear water at the pier, I walked back across to the beach in front of the village.  I remembered Our Son kicking his football – despite our warnings – into the sea, and how it was quickly carried away.  He was enraged!

Huisinish beach, April 2016.

Huisinish beach, April 2016.

On this day, the drizzle was steady and there was only me, and later on a man and his collie.  The collie dropped a tennis ball in front of me and stared fixedly at it – the man nodded that I could throw it for him.

Huisinis beach, April 2016.

Huisinis beach, April 2016.

I found some shells:

Shells, Huisinis beach, Isle of Harris.  April 2016.

Shells, Huisinis beach, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

By then it was about 3:30 or so and I said goodbye to Huisinis until another time, and set off for another adventure.  But I will tell you about that in my next post!

Posted by: christinelaennec | April 13, 2016

A beautiful evening on the Isle of Scalpay, Harris

The first of my three days on Harris dawned bright and beautiful:

The North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay. April 2016.

The North Harbour, Isle of Scalpay. View from my room at the Two Harbours Guest House.  April 2016.  The houses in the distance are the village of Kyles Scalpay, on the Harris mainland.

(If you would like to see my hand-made map of Scalpay and vicinity, you will find it here.)

After breakfast, I just knitted and read.  It was such a strange and delicious sensation to know that I wouldn’t have to jump up at any moment.  I felt as if I had never actually knitted or read before!

I took my friend Catriona out to lunch.  I did take a photo of her but on condition that it would NOT appear on the internet.  Catriona is soon going to be 81, and doesn’t have a computer, but she is well aware, through her children and grandchildren, of Facebook and the like.  After lunch, she invited me in for a cup of tea and the usual spread of cakes, which I didn’t need much arm-twisting to help eat!  Then I drove us into Tarbert where I shopped for presents to take home.  It was such a lovely day!  We walked along by the harbour, and were greeted by beautiful daffodils:

Daffodils in Tarbert, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

Daffodils in Tarbert, Isle of Harris. April 2016.

You can see how the trees lean at a bit of an angle, from the prevailing wind.

I was introduced to almost everyone we encountered, and heard quite a bit of Gaelic, which is always nice.  People tend to switch quickly into English in the presence of a stranger, and perhaps they didn’t realise that I could understand them very well.

I brought Catriona back home, and after a snacky tea (my lunch plus cakes-and-tea more than sufficed for two meals), I went for an evening walk.  I took the road to Aird na Cille.  Aren’t these trees so brave?  See how they cling stubbornly to whatever earth they have found to grow in, amongst the boulders:

Trees clinging to the rock, on the road to Aird na Cille, Isle of Scalpay.

Trees clinging to the rocky hillside.  On the road to Aird na Cille, Isle of Scalpay.

And can you see the very handsome conifers that someone has grown in their garden:

Looking back at the South Harbour and the Village, Isle of Scalpay. April 2016.

Looking back at the South Harbour and the Village, Isle of Scalpay. April 2016.

Trees do not have an easy time of it out on the islands, and many of the conifers are rust-coloured in places, due to the salt spray they endure during the winter storms.

It was a beautiful evening, and I could see the shadowy cliffs of Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, off in the distance:

The Isle of Skye, beyond the Minch.

The Isle of Skye, beyond the Minch.

It was unusually calm, and the water was like a mirror:

Stillness: reflections in the water.

Stillness: reflections in the water.

I watched the evening ferry from Uig, Isle of Skye, coming into Tarbert.  So many times I have been on that ferry, watching Scalpay go by.  But this evening it was the other way around.

The evening ferry coming past Scalpay, headed for Tarbert.

The evening ferry coming past Scalpay, headed for Tarbert.

It was about 8 pm, and the colours in the sky were becoming very beautiful indeed.  You can easily see where Tarbert lies, looking as I was from the east:  it’s the place where the land dips down almost to the sea.  Tarbert is on an ithsmus, a very narrow neck of land.  (The name ‘Tarbert’ means ithsmus, and there are a few places with this name in Scotland.)

Sunset behind Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

Sunset behind Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

As I came back to the guest house, everything seemed to be settling down for the night, including this thoughtful-looking sheep:

Ruminating sheep.

Ruminating sheep.

It had been such a beautiful, relaxing day with time to rest and please myself, and time to visit with a dear friend.  And I still had two more days to go!

To be continued…

Posted by: christinelaennec | April 10, 2016

Over land and sea to the Isle of Scalpay, Harris

Hello everyone!  I’m back from a wonderful five-day break.  For the third year in a row, I went to the Isle of Harris by myself.  I was really needing respite from my caring role, and although life has been rather hectic since my return, it did me such a lot of good.  I have a lot of photos to show you!

I took the train from Glasgow to Inverness, which was about four hours, with having to take a roundabout route due to the current closure of the Queen Street Tunnel.  I didn’t mind at all, and was happy to  read and knit.  Almost all the following photos are taken through windows, for which I apologise.  But perhaps this will give you a flavour of my journey:

On the train between Perth and Inverness.  April 2016.

On the train between Perth and Inverness. April 2016.  I believe this is the River Tummel.

Pitlochry, I think, from the train.

Pitlochry, from the train.

Coming through the mountains.

Coming through the mountains.

I was very taken by the colours of the countryside in early spring.  Below you can see the red hue of the birch trees, and the yellowish hue of the trees closer in.  I don’t know what kind of tree they are.  You can also see how flooded the fields were.  I saw evidence of flooding everywhere I went, including on the Hebrides.  My friends told me there was water standing in places where there had never been standing water before.

The Scottish countryside, April 2016.

The Scottish countryside, April 2016.

From Inverness I took the bus to Ullapool.  There is a brand-new ferry terminal there now, which has a beautiful view out across Loch Broom and towards the hills.  You can just see the snow on top of them.  The name of the red boat is “Willing Lad”:

View from the new ferry terminal at Ullapool, April 2016.

View from the new ferry terminal at Ullapool, April 2016.

Looking back to Ullapool from the ferry terminal.

Looking back to Ullapool from the ferry terminal.

The weather had been very stormy, and I was anticipating a rough crossing.  But I was very lucky – the crew told me that it was the smoothest crossing they’d had all day.  You can see here that the chains underneath the chairs hadn’t been clipped in – a good sign!

Smooth crossing!

Smooth crossing!

The ferry takes two and a half hours to cross the Minch.  We were docking in Stornoway by 8 pm, and the kind man who runs the hire car place was waiting for me.  After a change of shoes, and a few bites of chocolate, I drove down through Lewis, across the Clisham mountain pass, and down into Harris.  I was grateful that, although it was raining, the clouds weren’t as low as they sometimes are in the mountains.  There were quite a few sheep on the road, which I was prepared for.  To my surprise, I also had to come to a screeching halt for a mallard, who looked at me quizzically as he waddled to the other side of the main road.  I arrived at the B&B in Scalpay before 10 pm.

My room at the B&B in Scalpay.

My room at the Two Harbours Guest House in Scalpay.

Having travelled more than twelve hours, I was very happy to be given cake and a cup of tea, and I slept very well that night.  The next morning dawned bright and sunny, as you see above.

But I will tell you about that next time!

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend.

Posted by: christinelaennec | March 30, 2016

Spring is here

Thank you to everyone who’s left encouraging comments on my last two posts.  I’m glad the grey-haired brigade is gathering in number!  Just after I posted about the Dafter’s health improvements she entered a “two-steps back” phase, and the last couple of weeks have been an uphill battle.  However, she seems to have gotten back to about where she was when I wrote on the 17th.  Recovery is an up-and-down process.

Springtime comes to the back garden. Glasgow, end of March 2016.

Springtime comes to the back garden. Glasgow, end of March 2016.

Spring is definitely here, and it is gladdening all our hearts.  As you can see we have had some sunshine!  Also hailstones, and everything in between.  Our clocks Sprang Forwards this past Sunday, so now it is light until after 7 pm, which is very uplifting.

A volunteer candlestick primrose in the front garden. March, 2016.

A volunteer candlestick primrose in the front garden. March, 2016.

Easter has come and gone, very early this year.  I was privileged to take part in two services during Holy Week, including singing in an ecumenical Maundy Thursday service.  I also had the chance to walk a prayer labyrinth, which was a very special and moving experience.

Stained glass angel.

Stained glass angel.

The innocence of the Dafter’s two rats continues to delight all of us.  As the Dafter has recently been too poorly to play with them as much as she would like, Michael and I have had a bit more grandparental time with them:

Caspian, one of the two young rats. March 2016.

Caspian, one of the two young rats, having a treat during playtime. March 2016.

Caspian likes to climb inside the Dafter’s sleeve, which she enjoys.  His brother Artemis isn’t so keen on tunnels as his brother, but has discovered that there is often a tissue tucked up inside my left sleeve, and he will come to me to look for it.  We can have fun by repeating his discovery a few times using the same tissue!

The wild animal kingdom has also been very busy lately, with lots of bees in the garden.  I’m not knowledgeable enough to know if this is a queen bumblebee or not, but it was absolutely covered with pollen:

A bee in the crocuses. My back garden, end of March, 2016.

A bee in the crocuses. My back garden, end of March, 2016.

Most of my time and energy has been spent helping the Dafter contend with feeling worse than normal, with school and schoolwork – 6th year of high school is uncharted territory for us – and generally supporting her physically and emotionally through life’s challenges.  It is a very stressful time, with her friends leaving school and going off in different directions.  And of course she wants to do as well as she can in her two Highers.  There seems to be a great deal of mystery about deadlines and even school schedules.  Part of this is that both the Highers the Dafter is doing are recently revised, so the teachers themselves aren’t quite sure what the demands of the new curriculum are.  And we don’t even know when her last day of classes is, and when her study leave begins.  The school apparently keeps it a secret so that the kids can’t plan pranks.  “What, like putting a sheep in the 6th year common room like at my daughter’s school?” a friend said.  Yeah, things like that!

I do regularly rest, and sometimes even nap.  Recently Tilly did something very uncharacteristic:  she curled up next to me and had a bit of a snooze herself.

A special cuddle from Tilly. March 2016.

A special cuddle from Tilly. March 2016.

I had a special day two weekends ago:  I was able to go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival where I met up with Roobeedoo.  That was a great treat and it was really good to see her doing so well.  She blogged about it here.  I came home on one of the very last trains to go through the Queen Street Tunnel before they closed it for repairs until August.

I had finished the shawl I made from the beautiful gradient yarn that she gave me for Christmas, and I was pleased to be able to show her:

Raspberry and Apple shawl, finished. March 2016.

Raspberry and Apple shawl, finished. March 2016.

The yarn is the Wool Kitchen’s Urban Hints silk/wool blend; the pattern is Charlotte Walford’s Wild Poppies shawl.  Full details are here on Ravelry.

And my Oregon cardigan is coming along.  I took a photo of it this morning.  The darker wool is a beautiful greeny/brown mix called “Selkie” and the gold wool is called “Golden Plover”.  All the names of the colours have a connection to the Outer Hebrides, where the wool is made.

The Oregon cardigan, 30 March 2016.

The Oregon cardigan, by Alice Starmore, kit from Virtual Yarns. 30 March 2016.

And speaking of which, I am soon going to be heading to the Isle of Harris on my third solo trip for some respite. (You can read about last year’s trip beginning here.) As of this coming weekend, the Dafter’s school is on Spring Break, however, she will need to keep working on her portfolios and indeed will be attending sessions of the Easter School they provide.  But I hope she will also have a chance to relax and have some fun with her friends.  I’m sure she and her Dad will do some special father-daughter things together in my absence, as well.

Happy springtime, everyone!

Posted by: christinelaennec | March 18, 2016

The Spring Chop

Today I got my spring chop.  Here is me yesterday:

16 March 2016.

16 March 2016.

And here is me this evening:

17 March 2016, wearing my specs.

17 March 2016, wearing my specs and under the kitchen lights.

It’s a nice feeling to have the weight and the warmth of longer hair taken off, at this time of year.

As I’ve gotten older, my hair has gotten wavier.  I take after my mother in this respect, though my hair isn’t as curly as hers.  I remember meeting her at the airport when she was about 70 and saying, “You got a perm!”  She was (understandably) very miffed at this suggestion, as her tight curls were completely natural.  I don’t think anyone will be fooled into thinking I’ve had anything done to my hair, but that is just fine with me.  Five years ago, I wrote a post about how I enjoy my grey hair.  In Scotland (more in Aberdeen than in Glasgow) it’s unusual for women not to dye their hair.  So this is my little form of rebellion.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted by: christinelaennec | March 14, 2016

Dafter update: ME/CFS progress

I thought I would write a post about how the Dafter is doing these days with her ME/CFS.  Over four years ago (six months after she fell ill) she was diagnosed with the condition and the paediatrician said that in her experience, it was usually four to five years for a full recovery.  Clearly the Dafter will not be completely well in a few more months, but she is making steady progress.  As I wrote here, the experience of having a frozen shoulder has helped me feel even more confident that, no matter how long it takes, she will make a full recovery.  (My shoulder is almost completely fine now!)

Early March - hazel trees with catkins.

Early March – hazel trees with catkins.  Last year Mary in TN asked me what these trees were, and I didn’t know, but Jo Woolf of The Hazel Tree enlightened me!

Physical strength and mobility

The Dafter is slowly gaining strength.  She still sometimes uses the wheelchair, and uses cuff crutches and a walking stick, but she can now walk about a mile a day most days, in total and with rests.  So for example, I drop her off at school and she is able to walk across the car park, to her locker, and up to her classroom, to another room for lunch, and eventually back to where I am waiting in the car.  Once she forgot her art portfolio in the classroom, and so I went back for it, because she didn’t have the strength to make that journey again.

Activities

She is managing to study two subjects at school, and goes four days a week for about three hours.  She is often able to do two activities in a single day, for example she can now go to school and then go to an appointment, or go to school and then also do some homework later on.  She can’t do that for too many days in a row, though.  She still needs to rest in bed for many hours a day.  But she manages to get out of the house almost every day of the week now.

She still needs a lot of help with everyday things such as getting dressed, taking a shower, tidying her room.  We make all her meals and I keep her calendar and deal with appointments and prescriptions.  But she will manage these things in time.

A visit to St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen, November 2012.

A visit to St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, November 2012.  At this stage, the Dafter could only leave the house in the wheelchair, and only two or three times a week.

Concentration

There has been a definite improvement in concentration.  She still finds reading and writing very taxing, but she has managed to do the written work involved in Art and Photography.  She began to be able to watch films last June.  This is still quite a demanding thing for her brain – getting to grips with a new set of characters, a new situation and a new setting is challenging.  Audiobooks remain too difficult, and although she has upon occasion re-read a few books she enjoyed some years ago, it would be very hard work indeed for her to read a novel.

Collapses

She does still have what we call collapses.  She doesn’t faint, but she loses all the strength in her body, and the ability to speak for a time.  Whereas she used to have several collapses a day, lasting half an hour or more, now she has them every couple of weeks, and usually lasting only about 15 minutes or so.  She also has a lot more warning of when she’s in danger of collapsing, so she no longer ends up on the floor.

Resting:  changes

For over a year and a half now she has been able to rest while doing something restful (as opposed to lying in bed suffering extreme boredom).  Some people have recommended mindfulness and meditation, but the Dafter has found these practises make her extremely anxious.  I think this is probably because she spent over two years nearly paralysed, mentally and physically, and so sitting still and observing her thoughts brings back terrible memories of being trapped and helpless.

However, this past autumn we discovered that she had become able to close her eyes and deeply relax while being driven in the car.  Since November, I have taken her on what we call “rest-drives” almost daily.  She says that although she never feels rested, the fatigue plateaus after a rest-drive, instead of continuing to increase as the day goes on.  This is a great discovery!  Her psychologist has pointed out that the brain does respond to movement, which is why we rock babies.

Temperature fluctuations

One of the strange symptoms of ME/CFS is sudden fluctuations in temperature.  These have calmed down considerably in the past few months:  the Dafter no longer has hot flushes, or becomes icy cold from one minute to the next.  It makes deciding what to wear quite a bit easier!

Stained glass window, St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen. November 2012.

Stained glass window, St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen. November 2012.  According to the Cathedral Guide, this window depicts the victory of good over evil.

Pain levels

The Dafter is still in some degree of pain, most of the time, but she is quite used to it by now.  Her legs are often the worst, and we give her leg and foot massages almost daily.  However, the pain is much less than it used to be.  Two years ago, I joined a choir for the first time, and I found it agonising to leave to go to rehearsal every other week, because so often the Dafter was lying on the sofa crying with pain.  She and Michael made me go, saying there was nothing I could do to help by being there, which was true.  Those days are mercifully behind us!  Interestingly, she says that she often can’t tell whether she is experiencing fatigue or pain – the two are very close.  She still has headaches many days, but I notice she will mention them more often to me, which signifies that they are not always present anymore.

Sensitivities

Her light and noise sensitivities are far better.  We used to have to be ever so careful not to clatter cutlery or pots, because these sudden sharp sounds would make the Dafter jump and cry.  Similarly, her fairy lights were of great use because almost any light was too much for her to bear.  Now she can be out at a busy coffee shop, or even go to a concert.  There are still times when she is so exhausted that she needs absolute quiet and low light, but it isn’t the norm.

Her skin is less sensitive than it was.  For the first couple of years, she could hardly bear tights or jeans against her legs, and she lived in yoga trousers (which she found very depressing).  That problem only happens occasionally now, and she is able to put creams and lotions on her skin again.

Her digestive system is very sensitive still, and she was diagnosed with IBS last summer.  But that is very slowly improving, with the help of the FODMAP diet.

Grasses, summer 2015.

Grasses, summer 2015.

Mornings

Getting up and out of the house is still hard work, but with our help, the Dafter can be ready to leave in about an hour and 45 minutes.  (Mornings require a certain persistent technique.  Michael has begun to master it as well.  As he said, “I just have to think of it in the same terms as cooking something.  You can’t let her go more than about 7 minutes, or you have to start all over again.”)  A year ago, she couldn’t do anything before about 1 pm, even with me starting to rouse her at 10:00.  Now one day a week she has school at 9 am, which she manages more often than not.  On non-school mornings, she now often wakes naturally by 11 am, which is very good.  I think by nature she is an early riser (like her Dad), and that the double whammy of teenage hormones and ME is beginning to wear off a bit.

Bedtimes

Bedtimes continue to be an anxious time – I think because she spent two and a half years almost completely bedbound.  But she is working on this, with our help, and it is very slowly improving.

'Kansas' Peony, June 2015.

‘Kansas’ Peony, June 2015.

Skin tone

Although the Dafter still has very dark circles under her eyes, her skin is much less pale than in previous years.  I have heard from other parents of children with ME about the sudden pallor that descends.  It’s so nice to see the Dafter with some colour in her face and even, after a sunny lunchtime outside this afternoon, a few freckles!

Getting through the winter

This past November, the three of us began dreading the darkest days of winter, as it hadn’t escaped our attention that the two previous Januaries, the Dafter had suffered a significant relapse.  We were determined to do everything we could to prevent this happening again.  We rented and ultimately bought a light box, which the Dafter feel has definitely helped.  It’s important to use it for the allocated time, at the correct distance, and definitely before noon.  So this has required planning, and on the Dafter’s part, sacrificing long lie-ins.  But she’s persevered, and it really seems to have helped.  Soon we can put it away until September.  I also upped her Vitamin C intake, gradually.  She takes various supplements – I won’t list them all here! – but I feel Vitamin C is very helpful.  We also invested in a humidifier, to help her nagging sinus problems.  I never thought I would need a humidifier in Glasgow!  But it made a difference.

Low Dose Naltrexone

The Dafter has been taking this drug (not to be confused with Naltrexone) since last summer, very slowly building up to the maximum dose.  In the UK you can only obtain it through a private clinic; in the US and other countries it is widely used for a number of conditions, including ME/CFS and MS.  We believe that it helps her symptoms.  She experimented by reducing the dosage slowly over a period of weeks, and discovered that her brain fog, fatigue and pain all increased.  When she built up the dosage again, they improved again.  You can find out more on the website of the LDN Research Trust.

January 2016.

January 2016.

Anxiety

Anxiety (and depression) are considered to be common symptoms of ME/CFS.  There are a variety of theories about which causes which, the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and so forth.  Whatever the explanation(s) may be, it is certainly true that for the Dafter, anxiety has been a frequent companion of the fatigue.  Of course, when you have been confined to your bed for several years while everyone else is growing up, going back out into the world is understandably terrifying.  When she started back at school, just three afternoons a week a year and a half ago, it was extremely daunting for her.  Since then, although many ordinary situations have been new to her (taking a train, going out with friends, buying something in a shop on her own, using a cash machine), she has battled through her anxiety.  She still gets a bit anxious before school, or before a new situation, but she is far more confident.

Isolation / social life

The isolation of ME/CFS is, in my opinion, the most devastating aspect of the experience.  In my view, you can take all the symptoms I have listed above, and together they do not affect a person as much as the loneliness that so often accompanies illness.  Early on, we were told, “pacing is everything”.  I agree that pacing physical and mental activities is very important for recovering from ME/CFS.  But in my experience, joyful experiences with other people are one of the most healing things there can be.  Of course, it depends on how introverted a person is.  The Dafter is an extrovert.

I have come to understand that contact with other people is the most single important thing for the Dafter’s survival.  During the years she was bedridden, she often went many weeks without seeing anyone her own age.  Five weeks, then a visit; seven weeks, then another visit; then another four weeks, and so on.  I thank God that she is now well enough to go to school part-time, where she has made friends and has had a chance to learn some of the (admittedly sometimes crazy) goings-on of teenagers in groups.

For a long time, the Dafter thought that the reason no-one wanted to come see her was that she was unloveable.  Now she has had a chance to have a positive mirror held up before her, by her peers.  Of course it isn’t always plain sailing, and high school kids can be nasty, online and In Real Life.  But the Dafter now has a social life.  She has the chance to go to parties!  Of course she must plan well in advance, and allow for a couple of days to recover.  But as far as I can see, the benefits of an evening of normal teenage fun give her energy that no amount of careful resting in bed could.  She mostly sees her friends at school, but they keep in touch over the internet as well, and I hope that once school is finished, they will be able to keep up their friendships.  I do think that, at this point, she knows that whatever she goes on to do next year and in the future, she will find friends, because she is a good friend to others.

Mother-daughter selfie, 14 March 2016.

Mother-daughter selfie, 14 March 2016.

The Dafter is able to get along with people of all ages.  She loves Glasgow, which is a lively city, where people to chat to you in the street and on the bus.  So although she still needs my and our help with almost every aspect of her daily life, she is definitely on her way.

And just in case I may have misrepresented our family life, I will leave you with another one of the photos the Dafter took of us this afternoon:

Goofing off!

Goofing off!

Thank you to the many readers who, over these past years, have left encouraging comments here.  Our family has hugely appreciated them!  And so on we go…

Posted by: christinelaennec | March 6, 2016

Mothering Sunday and coming into spring

Hello again!  I don’t know where the time has flown.  Today is Mothering Sunday:  look at all the lovely treats I was given by Michael and the Dafter!

Mother's Day flowers and gifts.  6 March 2016.

Mother’s Day flowers and gifts. 6 March 2016.

Before church this morning a few of us were talking about how Mother’s Day can be painful for some people.  For many years I thought I would never have the privilege of being a mother, and it was a sad day for me.  The Dafter has a friend whose mother died just over a year ago, so today will be a hard one for her.  Then someone in our conversation pointed out that it is in fact “Mothering Sunday” – and you don’t have to be a mother in order to be mothering.  So very true.

I’ve written briefly about the traditions of Mothering Sunday, in case you’re interested.

What have I been doing the past three weeks?  Mostly looking after the Dafter, and not because she has been any worse, but because she has been doing pretty well.  She still needs a great deal of support with leading her life, and I will write a separate post to update you.  I’ve also been quite busy with my singing, and being the music librarian, which is a wee job I love.

The weather has been particularly lovely in recent weeks.  We’ve had lots of frosty, sunny days, and I have gone on as many walks as I’ve been able to:

Frost melting

Frost melting, late February 2016.

One evening, the Dafter was able to go to a concert at The Hydro, a huge auditorium in Glasgow.  She was with a friend and had her crutches, but we didn’t want to be too far away.  So we had dinner at a hotel across the river.  We tried, and failed, to remember the last time we’d had a meal out together!  It was freezing cold, but the river was like a mirror.  There is a certain beauty to Glasgow.  You may be able to see the Finnieston crane in the photo – it’s one of a few that remain as a testament to the days when the river was a hive of shipbuilding activity:

The River Clyde at night, February 2016.

The River Clyde at night, February 2016.  The Hydro is on the left, lit up in blue at the moment I took the photo.  The colours tend to change subtly.  The bridge lit in purple is nicknamed “The Squinty Bridge” because it crosses the river at an angle.

I have been making progress on my two knitting projects.  Here is the bottom of the Oregon cardigan:

Oregon cardigan, late Feb 2016.

Oregon cardigan, late Feb 2016.

The moment I moved it away, Tilly lay down to sunbathe:

Tilly in a spot of sun.  Late February 2016.

Tilly in a spot of sun. Late February 2016.

The shawl I’m making with gradient yarn is coming along as well.  It’s good fun to watch the raspberry colour slowly begin to dominate as the yarn runs through my fingers:

Apple and raspberry shawl.

Apple and raspberry shawl. 

I feel so glad that winter will soon be behind us.  Somehow this past winter has been very tiring to get through.  Last weekend was the Service of Thanksgiving for our lovely locum minister who fell unwell just two weeks after retiring (for the fifth time) at age 75, and died just a few months later.  The church was literally packed to the rafters.  Every possible seat was taken, except I noticed there was a Sikh gentleman who stood at the back throughout – I think by choice, though.  There were over 600 people there, and the force of all of us singing “Immortal, invisible, God only wise” was tremendous, like being hit by a wave.

The fact that several people we know have died recently is hard.  But, as a friend wrote to me, it’s a “reminder to treasure all that is good in life”.  Lately, with sunny days, and the Dafter having some normal teenage experiences, and me not being quite so isolated as when she was so severely ill, that has been pretty easy to do.

Life has a strange way of communicating with us.  On Monday afternoon, I spent quite some time consoling the Dafter.  She was understandably in tears because one of her friends is having a weekend-long party for her 18th, but the girl’s parents have banned the Dafter from coming, saying they can’t take responsibility for her health problems.  Such is life when you are a chronically ill teenager.  However, later that day the Dafter learned that a friend of a friend has just been diagnosed with ME/CFS.  The Dafter said to me, “Earlier today I was so upset because my illness means I’m left out of things.  But now I feel so much better because, although I would never wish ME on anyone, maybe my experiences can help someone else.”

The Dafter said to me, “When she asked me how long I’d been ill for [over four and a half years], my heart just broke.  But it won’t do any good to hide the truth from her.” I recently met up with the mother, who is exhausted and in shock, but strikes me as being a particularly wise and insightful person.  My main advice to her was to know that her daughter is going to make a full recovery, and also to accept that the timescale is unknowable.  That is both helpful and difficult:  you’d like someone to tell you when it will be over, and yet it’s comforting to think that it might only be six months or a year, especially when you read about people who have suffered for decades.

Yet one more reminder to treasure all that is good in life.  Happy Mothering Sunday to all of you!

Posted by: christinelaennec | February 15, 2016

Northwards to see a friend

This past Saturday, I travelled up to Aberdeenshire to visit a good friend who has been through a lot.  Some of you may read Roobeedoo‘s blog; if so you will know that she wrote very honestly about the last days of her husband’s life.  He died on the last day of January.  I had been trying to be supportive from afar (mostly nagging her to eat), sad that I couldn’t be more practical help.  But the Dafter was thankfully better, and so Saturday morning found me on a train slipping North through the Scottish countryside.

Snowy Scotland: between Stirling and Perth, 13 February 2016.

Snowy Scotland: between Stirling and Perth, 13 February 2016.

There was snow on the ground almost the minute we emerged from the Queen Street tunnel, speeding through the East side of Glasgow.  The weather became rather dramatic on the higher elevations between Stirling and Perth.

Wintry!

Wintry!

I was sitting next to a couple of football fans who were worried that the game they were going to further North would be cancelled, but I told them that this stretch is often snowy whereas on the other side of Perth it might well be very different weather.  And on this occasion I was right:

A stately home by the North Sea. North of Arbroath, I think. 13 February 2016.

A stately home by the North Sea. North of Arbroath, I think. 13 February 2016.

There was snow on the hills in the distance, but not at lower levels:

The Angus Hills, covered with snow. 13 February, 2016.

The Angus Hills, covered with snow. 13 February, 2016.

The golf course at Stonehaven, which as you can see is right on the edge of the North Sea, was very busy.  I noticed that bobble hats are this season’s golfing attire – the wind must have been pretty strong.  But I expect they are used to that.

Golfers at Stonehaven Golf course. 13 February, 2016.

Golfers at Stonehaven Golf course. 13 February, 2016.

As always, I hugely enjoyed reading and knitting and watching the familiar countryside sail past.

Horse in a field next to the North Sea. Between Stonehaven and Aberdeen, 13 February 2016.

Horse in a field next to the North Sea. Between Stonehaven and Aberdeen, 13 February 2016.

Soon, there was the lighthouse as the train came into Aberdeen:

Coming into Aberdeen: Balnagask Lighthouse. 13 February, 2016.

Coming into Aberdeen: Balnagask Lighthouse. 13 February, 2016.

I had a short time between trains, and then there was Roobeedoo, smiling at me just like always.  She had made soup for me.  Her house was full of flowers and cards, and sunlight:

Chez Roobeedoo

Chez Roobeedoo

The view from her windows includes a landmark that will be familiar to anyone who knows that part of the country, the hill called Bennachie.  You can see the “Mither Tap,” its main summit, from her house.  In fact, there are several peaks to Bennachie.  The Mither Tap has an Iron Age fort at the top, and many’s the time I have climbed up to it, although not in recent years.  Bennachie was very important to Roobeedoo’s husband, and his ashes are in a spot he chose, with a view of it:

Feb13_10

View of Bennachie from Chez Roobeedoo. Aberdeenshire, 13 February 2016.

We had a really good visit.  There was plenty of time to talk, eat, talk, knit, talk, look at photos.  We enjoyed our usual show-and-tell, and on this visit she had handspun yarn to show me!  Amazing.  At one point she was worried as she thought it had been over two weeks since she’d seen the lawyer, and I had to go through the dates with her to convince her that it had been just over a week.  “It seems SO much longer!” she said, marvelling.  Yes indeed…  some would explain it as the difference between chronos (clock time) and kairos, the elastic time of very intense events.  The timescale of the soul.

We did keep an eye on chronos, and all too soon the train was due and we were saying goodbye.  It was just like so many times before, but completely different now.  However, I was reassured by seeing her, because I could tell that she is going to be okay.

Back I went to Aberdeen, past familiar and much-loved landmarks:

Coming back into Aberdeen: Union Terrace Gardens seen from the train.

Coming back into Aberdeen: Union Terrace Gardens seen from the train.

Another friend had been in touch and met me for a 20-minute coffee, which was a lovely surprise.  And then I was on the train to Glasgow.  The sunset cast beautiful shades onto the clouds:

Sunset colours over the North Sea, leaving Aberdeen. 13 February 2016.

Sunset colours over the North Sea, leaving Aberdeen. 13 February 2016, 4:40 pm.

The coastline there always delights me:

The beautiful coastline south of Aberdeen. 13 February, 2016.

The beautiful coastline south of Aberdeen. 13 February, 2016.

And the sight of snow falling on the water was much more beautiful than my camera was able to capture, through the window:

Snow showers over the North Sea. 13 February 2016.

Snow showers over the North Sea. 13 February 2016.

Most of the return trip was in darkness, and I got plenty of knitting done (in the company of a ship’s engineer full of stories).  Here is what I was working on, a shawl made from a gradient yarn that Roobeedoo gave me for Christmas:

Starting my "Raspberry and apple" shawl. Pattern is Wild Poppies by Charlotte Walford; yarn is Urban Hints by the Wool Kitchen.

Starting my “Raspberry and apple” shawl. Pattern is Wild Poppies by Charlotte Walford; yarn is Urban Hints by the Wool Kitchen.

By the time I was back home, the flecks of pink had begun to appear on the apple green.  And for those of you who have been interested in my Oregon cardigan, here it is at the moment:

The Oregon cardigan: slow emergence of the pattern at the bottom.

The Oregon cardigan: slow emergence of the pattern at the bottom.

It doesn’t look like much does it?!  Nevermind.  Knitting for me is the ultimate kairos experience – no worrying about how the process fits into clock time, just relaxing and making something, stitch by stitch.

I wish you all a very good week!  Thanks for reading.

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