A Day of Waiting

This might have been considered a wasted day, when you consider that we wanted to catch a train leaving Ragusa for Scicli at 14:20 and bought tickets, only to find that we would not be able to return the same day, so we had to settle for only half the distance, to Modica, and a train that did not leave until 15:50.

So we sat in a caffe for an hour or so, then sat in the car and wrote postcards. The train took us to Modica, which we had already visited on Sunday. We sat in the same caffe discussing what to do in the three hours till the return train. We decided we could go back sooner if we bought bus tickets. I took a twenty minute stroll up the thoroughfare and found that tickets could be had from the Tabacci by the caffe where the kind shop keeper assured me that the bus left at 18:00 from the adjacent stop. The timetable attached to the stop seemed to confirm this. There was time for me to have another succo arancia (squeezed orange juice) while Mike took a stroll.

The time came for the bus to arrive so we stood by the stop watching out for it. We waited twenty minutes, I returned to the Tabacci to ask if the bus was often this late, I am not sure he understood my inquiry. After waiting a further ten minutes we decided to go back to plan A and take the train which was due to leave at 19.27.

We found another caffe nearer the station and had a panini each and coffee. We were able to make this drag out until the time to get to the station. The train was ready to board, but no loo open in the station, so Mike found a deserted corner outside. We climbed aboard, and were at last on our return journey.

This might have been a wasted day if it had not been for the fact that the main point of the train journeys was to experience the incredible descent of 224 metres by a spiral route and many convoluted contours and 13 tunnels through shoulders of hills into new valleys. We had descended from Ragusa to Modica in about 30 minutes, a distance by road of 21Km. The return journey took only a little longer.

It might have been a wasted day if it had not been for the kindness of the Tabacci shopkeeper who was prepared to sell me the tickets for €5.35 when they cost €5.40 (I was able to return with the extra money before we left), if it had not been for the kindness of the second caffe owner who had visited Scotland on holiday and chatted in a friendly way, if it had not been for the magical sight and sound of the swifts circling like boy-racers in the sky above us on the way up hill to the station. And it might have been wasted if it had not been that we caught a glimpse of the old town of Ragusa from the train just as the sun was setting, which made a picture!

As we dropped off to sleep that evening we remembered our time waiting for the bus that never came. As we had waited a car drove up and parked, tail out in the traffic, and nosing in across the pedestrian crossing into the bus stop area. We watched as his passenger got out, a middle aged woman, and went to the shops. We shared our indignation at the encroachment on the pedestrian access, and our sense of superiority over the Italian careless driving. After about ten minutes three police of various descriptions arrived, each even more covered in braid than the previous one. Now he’s for it! We agreed in glee, as the police advanced on the driver opening his door. The man stood up. We half expected handcuffs for him and a tow-truck for the car. To our amazement the senior policeman embraced the driver on both cheeks, then the three just moved away. His passenger returned and he drove off. We giggled again as we fell asleep, amazed at our inability to read not only bus time-tables, but also local situations.

LCC 30/04/2014

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Finding stillness

“Before we begin our worship let us find stillness in a moment of silence” said the Minister.

We are in the 11th century Abbey on the Island of Inchcolm in the Forth. We have rushed from the ferry to the shelter of this large vaulted hall in the historic remnant of pre-reformation Scotland. We have come from our three churches this Sunday to celebrate communion ecumenically. The clergy bringing the communion vessels, and the fair linen cloth to set up the altar, the scratch choir collect music from the conductor, and the people pick up chairs and unfold them unto rows.

As I sit in the following silence I listen.

A baby is crying. This baby is crying all the grief of the world. The families caught up in civil war in Syria, are crying that cry. My friend whose mother is dying in a nearby hospital is crying that cry. And my own personal griefs too, I am crying that cry.

I hear the voices of children as they explore the spiral stairs and chimneys, the cellars and lookouts of the complex building; joyful, excited voices, full of curiosity and discovery. In them I hear all the striving of the world, the research of scientists, the adventuring of explorers, the endeavours of pioneers. In them I hear all the joy and fun of people relaxing and refreshing their spirits. I relax and prepare for refreshment and renewal.

I hear the late-comers shifting their chairs with a screech. I remember all those involved in organising our society, our politicians and administrators. I remember those affected by the changes in society, the screech of discomfort, the awkward adjustments. And I bring myself to this worship, my own adjustments as I grow older.

The sounds and the silence I offer to you, O God.

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Discoveries with grandchildren

Playing in the garden, or going on a trip, my grandchildren point out discoveries that I would not have seen. Sitting on the top of a bus I engage my 10 year old grand-son in a conversation about technological developments, in iPads and smart phones. Soon I find I am almost out of my depth, speaking a modern language and struggling for words and phrases like “platform”, “3G”, and “search engine”.

There is certainly a potent mix when grandparents and their youngsters spend time together. For this reason I am offering a quiet day trip on board NB Jessica for any grandparents who wishes to join me and spend time reflecting on their experience both as grand children and with their grandchildren. In particular we will dwell on the spiritual influence that is passed on

from generation to generation


The first trip will be on Tuesday 4th September starting from Ratho. Places are limited, but contact me if you are interested.

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Stay together

We were just a small group setting out for the monthly walk after church at St Columba’s. There had been times when we had been a large group with some haring away up the hill to be first to the top, and others struggling to catch their breath and willing their legs to go faster. So next day, when I downloaded my copy of The Message, the modern translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, and chose a verse at random to read, I thought it had been written especially for the hill walking group.

Ephesians 4:4 read –
“You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.”

How refreshingly new. It was as if I had never seen those words before. Yet when I returned to the more familiar NRSV I found this verse:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,”

I had read, and heard it read, many times before. Somehow the translation that used an illustration from everyday life (the walk along a road) brought out more meaning than the abstract notions of ‘spirit’ and the ‘hope of you calling’.

So whether we need the tangible illustrations of going for a walk together, or the abstract notions of calling, body, and spirit, the message is the same :- to stay together, to help the slowest to reach the top of the hill along with the fastest. That to me what being a Christian community is all about.

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Half Term

The first trip of the year on N.B. Jessica yesterday was surprisingly short in distance. I had misunderstood the warning of another boater and set off towards Lin’s Mill with two grand children and one of their friends (13, 9 and 9) on board. We had gone less than half a mile from the basin at Ratho when we came across the first fallen tree. “This is easy”, I thought as we squeezed past the out-stretched branches. But I had not seen the next tree, it reached right across to the tow-path, leaving no room to squeeze by. We tied the bow rope to the tree and I prepared lunch. I have no idea what the many passers by thought. Our windows were too steemed up as we tucked in to our pasta. We had grandiose ideas of cutting through the branches, but it was quite unrealistic. With only an hour and a half before I was due to return the children to their parents I called a halt to the experiments with the bow-saw and we backed out. I had hoped that as the canal seemed quite wide there I might have been able to turn the 14.5 metre boat. But no! So I had to try to get her going in reverse all the way back to the basin. The children were willing but unskilled at towing her with three ropes, and in the end I found it easier to do the work entirely with the reverse gear to get backward propulsion, and forward gear to correct the direction. I takes tremendous skill to control a boat in that way, which is why many narrowboats have bow-thrusters to help stear. In the end we tied her up short of the basin (and the car) alongside The Seagull Trust dry dock. I was extremely grateful for the help this morning from Seagull Trust (http://www.seagulltrust.org.uk/ratho ) volunteers. Bob left his work on the cleaning of the hull of one of their boats, and assisted me in checking out the weed hatch before I returned to our home mooring. See the picture below:
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Trying to say thank you

I have sometimes thought that the worst thing about being an atheist would be not having anyone to say thank you to for all the joy of a sunny day, of fun with the grandchildren, of managing to use a power drill for the first time.
Today I glimpsed that frustration. For weeks I had been sending the BBC feed-back on their new web-page design. I commended them on the option of getting local weather forecasts when you put in your location. But the programme information remained BBC London. My comments showed a gradually declining estimation of the value of the site, plus an increasing move towards Scottish nationalism. Finally, this morning, I find that I am now given the BBC1 Scotland schedule! So after so much complaining I need to tell them how well they have done.
But that feedback form has disappeared. So I try ‘contact the BBC’. No, they do not really want anything but complaints. They offer FAQs. None suggest how to say thank you. So I type in:
How do I say thank you?
Answer: Sorry, we could not find entries that matched your search. You may want to broaden your search…
All the same: Thank you, God, for the BBC!
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Soup to warm the heart

I just loved the courgette, pea and pesto soup that I tasted at the 15th birthday celebration at Maggie’s Edinburgh yesterday. It was made by nuritionist Kellie Anderson and the recipe is on her site http://foodtoglow.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/courgette-pea-and-pesto-soup/#comment-948 I can’t wait until next summer to be able to make some for us to enjoy it again. I am so grateful to her for sharing the secret on line. It will also be a great winter warmer to have on the boat.

I plan to have Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Edinburgh as my Charity of the year in 2012 on board Jessica. http://www.maggiescentres.org/centres/edinburgh/introduction.html

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