In which Ruth copes with living on an island for 5 days

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.





Puffin grass


View from Dun-I


Iona sea


Dun-I cairn


Iona beach


Abbotsford and beyond

My second last day at St Mark’s and we had our parish outing. (Yes, that could have been planned better ;-))

First stop was Abbotsford, house of Sir Walter Scott and no sooner were we off the bus and our charming guide hussled us inside and began the most excited tour I’ve ever had. So good was he, that other visitors began to join our group just to hear the tales of Scotland told most enthusiastically. We began in Scott’s library. I still reckon I’ve got more books – just not in such pretty bookcases. Scott was an avid historian and collector of objets. I too am known to collect the odd bit of religious tat but my collection paled into insignificance compared to Mary Queen of Scots’ crucifix and painting of her head after execution. Every home should have one. Rather too much weaponry though for my taste, although bizarrely there was a nice Orthodox crucifix tucked in beside them which looks very similar to one we have at St M’s.

As it was the open day there was a Craft tent and a display of archery. We left the boys to watch the bows and arrows and we did some serious browsing.  (Purple and pink lacy scarf, if you must know.) After lunch it was back on the bus and on to Melrose and Holy Trinity where Fr Maurice did us a nice Mass.  Strange stained glass window above the altar with the Diocese of Edinburgh coat of arms along with the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway’s.  Turns out they moved from one diocese to the other. Not entirely sure how…  Then we were treated to Borders hospitality in a most wonderful church hall (tea and rock buns) before meandering off round Melrose to look at the shops.

The Sale notice in Cobblers’ window saw us hotfooting it there but unfortunately the Radley bags were not included. Pity. But I did find a wee shop with Emma Bridgewater china with 25% off so a mug had to be bought.  Then off to the George & Abbotsford Hotel for high tea which we didn’t really do justice to, having eaten all day long.  Back on the bus and a lovely drive home with the sun setting behind the wind farm. How can anyone not love these beautiful creatures?

Now I have some serious work to do to prepare for tomorrow…

Abbotsford House

Parish Outing

We had glorious sunshine for our parish outing to Lindisfarne on Saturday. (Sorry there are no photos but the church camera decided not to play game.) Arrived just in time to get to the Parish Church and after a quick change into the most gorgeous chasuble (take note, I would love one) we had our Eucharist in the choir stalls with some visitors joining in. Then we all went our different ways to explore the island. As I’ve been before I just did a little gentle pottering round the shops and eateries, finding a few pressies for friends so that was good. Many went out to the castle and explored the abbey ruins.

Stopped off at Oxford Farm for tea on the way home and what a wonderful repast they laid on for us. Thoroughly recommended.

A great day, lots of fun, well organised (thanks J & A for all your hard work) and can I just say the reason I didn’t win the Bible Quiz on the bus was because I didn’t take part. Well, it wouldn’t have been fair, would it?

A Blessing when Leaving Lindisfarne

To the prayers of our Island Saints we commend you.
May God’s angels watch around you to protect you.
May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen you for all that lies ahead.
May Christ Jesus befriend you with his compassion and peace.

Lord, be a bright flame before us.
Be a guiding star above us.
Be a smooth path beneath us.
Be a kindly shepherd behind us.

And the blessing…