You know I’m a city girl. You know I’m not terribly keen on the country unless I’m inside a luxury coach (with toilet, of course) or seeing it through a window from the warmth of a nice interior somewhere. For a day or two. At the most. But somehow Iona is different. I have even managed 7 days there before and only started to twitch at the end. I love going to Iona and the journey is all part of the pilgrimage, from the roads round lochs, stopping at the Green Wellie Shop at Tyndrum, to the one-way system in Oban. I’m familiar with Iona. I know how it breathes. I know where the shops are and where you go for peace. I know where the best stones are to be found. And I know that the view over the Sound to Mull changes every 5 minutes or so. I know the water is so clear and so blue/green that you could be in the Mediterranean. I know where the sheltered beaches are and what the sound of the Corncrake is like. (Bloody irritating.) I love St Columba’s chapel in Bishop’s House like an old familiar church. I like meeting people as they pass by and sit beside you in church. I love Iona.
So that is why I am always happy to take my little flock to Iona. Because I know that mostly they are country people or love the outdoors and will love it even more than I do. And I’ve never been wrong. This past 5 days was no different. I took a group of 18, mostly from my little flock, some of whom hadn’t been before, and they loved it. We laughed a lot. There are many in-jokes which will frustrate those who didn’t go in the days to come, no doubt. (Tippi Hedron impersonation anyone?)
Anything to irritate? Yes. The fact that 17 adults seemed incapable of remembering any times given to them. “Ruth, what time’s supper again?” “Ruth, what time is the Eucharist?” “Ruth, when do we meet again?” “Ruth, when’s the ferry?” (even when I hadn’t booked their ferry!) Over and over and over again. It was like herding cats or dealing with very small and unsure children. Next time I will do a timetable and stick it to their foreheads. However, I don’t think it will stop the uncertainty about time. And of course, we lost some of them on the way but we gathered them in eventually (after I went another few shades greyer).
I paddled, went to Staffa again but this time it was so calm we even sailed right in to Fingal’s cave, saw porpoises and seals basking in the sunshine, got sunburned, went to the Abbey on the Feast of St Columba, went up the North End in a golf buggy, painted stones, over-ate at a barbecue, ate Hogget and laughed like nothing on earth.
Every morning I did a little talk on all things Celtic: St C himself; Spirituality; Prayer etc and borrowed heavily from Ian Bradley’s books. I did quote him even in my sermon on Sunday so much so that when we went up to the Abbey just an hour or so later and heard Ian Bradley himself preaching it was almost as if he’d read my sermon. Or rather that I’d borrowed liberally from his book! One of my little flock even brought him back to Bishop’s House to meet me after the Island Pilgrimage. (I was shopping!) He was very charming, as was his wife. And didn’t mind me borrowing from his books at all.
And now we are home once more. I would like to go back again quite soon.