One beautiful year ago, my little girl was born. I still think of her as a baby, but look how she’s grown. Crawling, standing but not walking; saying mama and dad but not really talking. Laughing when she’s not crying; happy most of the time she’s awake. Good at sleeping. Very much a part of our family with her own expressions and her own voice. Today we celebrated with family and it was fun to have everyone here for a feast. I remember the relief I felt after when my other two turned one and I started to get a little more sleep and feel a little less exhausted and more of myself again. The peonies and poppies in our garden are blooming, just as they were this time a year ago when our little girl was born.
One of our favourite things to do, rain or shine (yes, I mean it) is to go charging down the sand dunes at Lunan Bay. We spent today there in the glorious east coast sunshine. As well as charging down sand dunes, we dug for treasure, paddled in the sea, flew a kite and ate sandy sandwiches. Exhausted by the pleasures of the beach, we finished with coffee, cake and ice-creams at the glorious little cafe, the Lunan Bay Diner. Walking back to the car park, we spotted this. I wonder if this is Banksy’s most northerly work? (Is it genuine?) This weekend is Angus Open Studios and after passing a few of the signs on our way, we pulled up at Red Castle Pottery on our way home. It was a lovely surprise to find that K could get her hands dirty. With R’s help, she made a little tortoise out of a lump of clay which Maralyn Reed-Wood will fire and post. Thank you, Maralyn.
For Easter weekend this year, we drove down to the Borders to stay with old friends and participate in their Easter morning sunrise hill climb and open air service. I spent ten years of my life in the that part of Scotland, from eight to eighteen – formative years indeed. The road over the Lammermuirs from Edinburgh is so familiar to me, I still know every twist and turn and exactly the right speed I need to go to get up each hill without changing gear. It was strange to see our old house in that landscape of low hills and sheep, only the trees we planted grown so high to mark the passing years. It stands across a field from the church, to which my parents devoted many years of their lives and where we buried them, side by side but almost twenty years apart.
I have been contemplating how and what to order as a memorial to mark Dad’s grave and suitably remember his life. I love the look of hand carved lettering on stone and love wandering through old graveyards and reading the inscriptions. Searching the web, I found this beautiful example. Funnily enough the inscription would have suited my father perfectly. It reads:
Whose greatest desire was that all should understand, that Christ abolished death and brought life and immorality to light through the gospel, and whose highest privilege was to be able to say and of this gospel I was appointed a teacher.
I think that is a paraphrase of 1Timothy 1:11. I know that Dad, characterised by faith and humility, would have liked this. I am still pondering what we can do and in the meantime, filling a pinterest board with grave stones I like (Gruesome? Not at all). Its going to take a while, but I’ll update you when we finally come to a decision.
I write this blog because nothing gives me more satisfaction than putting together some words and matching them up with some pictures and saving them somewhere to look at again. I write about the happy times because there are many of them and they’re good to be remembered. I write about our family because, although parenthood is tough going at times, I wouldn’t swap this life for anything in the world. The days are short and the years go by too fast.
And thats about it. I write to capture the fleeting moments. I write to remind myself of all the good things that have come to me by the grace of God. I write as the least I can do to create a family memory bank. And I write because I get so much satisfaction by matching my words to some pictures. I write because I love it.
So does it matter that this is a public space? Well, yes, I think it does. Its good to take what we create (whether that’s writing or painting, sewing, photos or music) and share it. In some ways that’s the fulfillment of what we do. Also I know some dear friends stay closer to our family by visiting this space every now and again and that matters to me.
So thank you for coming. See you again soon.
“The Railway Children” by E. Nesbitt is one of those books that out lasts my childhood and still captures my heart and imagination. Its a children’s book whose depth of feeling and emotion only adults can truly appreciate (Laura Ingalls Wilder books fall into this category too.) I’m sure the book is one of the reasons I do love the opportunity to take a steam train trip, (although I’d always say we’re doing it for the children.) We took a steam train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town last February and we took a short trip on a train from Aviemore two years ago. And last weekend we took a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. It was a great day out. One of the best bits was playing hide and seek in the engine shed when we arrived at the station, scrambling up onto the foot plates of the great, greasy iron locomotives or squeezing in behind a wheel taller than a five year old boy. It was magical too, standing on the footbridge as the locomotive got up steam and slowly whooshed underneath us, swallowing us up in a cloud of steam and smoke.
Readers must think we have done nothing but enjoy lovely days away with friends in the last few weeks. After a few years where holidays have been few and far between, I don’t take these precious days for granted. As I’ve already said, I think I am also getting better at understanding and planning for family holidays and so enjoying them more. Last weekend we had three days in a converted barn just outside of Kendal, catching up with Cath (literally my oldest friend – I can remember playing with her before we went to school), her husband Phil and their beautiful one-year old, Sammy who we were meeting for the first time.
Ah, good friends: more precious than silver, worth more than gold. The weekend was full of simple pleasures like an adventure playground (essential for our kids); coffee (essential for me); a boat trip; walks; milkshakes; and throwing stones into a river.
This was the highlight of our recent holiday to Skye: a day when our planning, the weather and the scenery came together in perfect harmony. Our plan was a walk to the lighthouse at the Point of Sleat, about three miles. We expected this to take the morning. Thankfully, we packed enough sandwiches and snacks to last day. Just before we reached the lighthouse, the path came out onto the most perfect sandy cove you can imagine. The sun came out and we stayed all day. It was better, far better than even the best remembered days of my childhood holidays.The children played and played in the sand and the sea, requiring no entertainment from us. Ross found an old rope and spend a long time unravelling it. At the end of the day, Daniel and I walked back along the ridge. What joy to scramble hand in hand with my son, up the rocks and through the heather. I think this is the first time he experienced the pleasure of walking and climbing: I will look back on it as the day he discovered a love for Scottish mountains.Ah, April on the West coast of Scotland: so fair, so fair.
Hurrah – school is out and we are packing for a week’s holiday on the Isle of Skye. We are going to stay in a house where my family enjoyed an annual holiday from when I was nine until I turned fifteen. I have very happy memories of hot summer days spent there, swimming at the little beach, finding our own cave, painting watercolour pictures of the sea and the mountains and watching the sunset behind the Cuillins. Not much else happened on those holidays and by the time I was fifteen I think I needed more company and more activity. Memories of the perfections and imperfections of family holidays make me very determined to work hard this week at enjoying time together. I regularly wrote a holiday diary as a child and recently found one from when I was thirteen and staying in this same house. The entry above is typical and makes me smile and laugh a little at my thirteen year old self. I have bought notebooks for D and K and hope I can inspire them to create their own journals for this week.
Funny to think of all we were going through nine years ago today: the preparations, the service, the gathering of wonderful, wonderful people, the celebrations. Our wedding day was really special in so many ways but it also had some stresses running in the background. I am so full of gratitude for the last nine years and looking back I can see so much more of the promise and fulfilment that the day signified. If I had known how these years would unfold, I would have been even happier to be marrying the man who took my hand that day.
Its only in Britain that we would have a primetime TV slot dedicated to sheep farming. I’m glad we do: there was certainly something wonderful about our own visit to a live lambing shed this morning. The little lambs are very pretty, clean and sweet. The mothers are not pretty but their care for their new offspring is beautiful and fierce. D was delighted to tell us he saw two being born. The smell of sheep and straw in the shed was rich and warm. The talk is of births and mothering and care. What a great place to be.