Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Well that was fun

Yesterday's jolly at the church hit the spot on so many levels I can't decide where to begin.

First the sun shone - a good omen, especially as the ever-present midges prefer damp weather and the church looks so pretty on a sunny day. The service was two hours long but for me it didn't seem so because I felt engaged all the way through. This was partly because I had to sit right at the front with the choir and so felt part of the proceedings and partly because I had three things to do - which I suppose was rather excessive, but there are so few folk to spread the jobs around.

It was so nice to see so many people from St Ninian's, which was my church when I lived in Glasgow (we've all got older and greyer and people kept telling me I look like my mother, which is a compliment I think because she was a great character) and I really enjoyed being surrounded by so many friends from all over.

But the very best thing about yesterday was the fellowship within our own congregation. For once church politics were forgotten, grouches laid aside and everyone pulled together to put on a splendid occasion. There was real warmth from the people who welcomed the new rector into our church. Everyone had taken part in some way to make the day happen and I felt we all shared a sense of possession, if that's the right word, of the whole. Our lovely bishop, with his warmth and sincerity and exuberance, made it feel like a family occasion which combined dignity with a pleasing degree of comfortable informality which is something I love about this diocese.

And speaking of informality - while I'm all for children in church, I do think a two hour service is a bit much for a baby and the one who attended yesterday was vociferous in its protest. Sometimes it was difficult even for me at the very front to hear above the racket. When you have children you have to make certain sacrifices in your life - sleep, for example - but it really is rather bad manners to inflict a bawling baby on a trapped audience who can't escape. I'd have thought a little walk in the Bishop's Glen to distract it or help it to sleep would have been better for all concerned. Just my opinion, of course, as a Grumpy Old Woman, but when the bishop, who in another life is an opera singer, has to raise his voice to be heard, what chance do the rest of us have?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Finally . . .

. . . managed to solve the insurance problem by changing my underwriter. I spoke to a much more intelligent and creative person on the help-line and hopefully all is now well and my friend can drive. *Phew* Life can get so complicated!

We're all gearing up here for the institution of our new rector on Tuesday *waves to KB*. My computer table is covered with notes reminding me of all the things I have to remember to ask people. Whatever did we do before the advent of the Yellow Sticky? We're expecting arout 100 folk, which will severely test the seating capacity at Holy T, not to mention the car-parking. I just hope they don't arrive too early, because our other problem has echoes of Clochemerle. The general opinion has been, up to now, that if the back of the graveyard and the trees have been good enough since c.1840, why would we want to spend good money on plumbing?

Anyway, my prediction is that when we all reconvene at the Catholic church's splendidly appointed hall for the bunfight after the service, there will be a dirty dive for the loos!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ranty ranty rant!

Oh I so hate bureaucracy! Grr! Gnash!

All I want to do is help out a couple of friends who are over from America by lending them my car for a few weeks. It's an ancient little thing and if I wanted rid of it I'd probably have to pay someone to take it away, but it runs just fine. My friends aren't planning to drive the length and breadth of the country, just around and about where they're staying.

First it didn't pass its MOT, but that had to be sorted anyway and now it is. Last week I phoned my insurance company to ask if it would be possible to have my friend put on the insurance temporarily. I mentioned that he was American and visiting and held a current US driver's license which has always been okay for a hire car and they said, sure, no problem, just phone us with the details when you're ready. Today I phoned with the details and all I got was a 'no'. This despite my friend's impeccable credentials, current clean US license etc etc. Apparently if you don't have a UK license, you can't be insured - even third party, fire and theft which is the minimum standard.

It's enough to make you want to hit someone (the smug b****** on the end of the phone would be a good start).


Saturday, June 17, 2006


Things are looking up again on the home front. Mum-in-law has decided not to go back to her house, even when it's repaired, but look for somewhere near us and we may have found her a cottage. It's in the grounds of a 'hotel for the elderly', as these places are euphemistically called round here, but is entirely self contained. She would have as much independence as she wanted, but if the need arose, there would be back-up in the form of medical attention or meals or whatever from the main house. It sounds ideal, so fingers crossed.

We've rescued quite a lot of stuff from the fire - mostly china and glassware and a few pots and pans that can be cleaned up and papers and photos that were tucked away in drawers - smoke-damaged but definitely worth saving.

The boat is proving a splendid distraction. Yesterday saw Himself and me up early to catch a very low spring tide. We met at our village pier - he with the boat, I with a ladder on top of the car. We then proceeded to provide entertainment for the patrons of the pier café and several passers by as Himself climbed a lamp-post (a special pier lamp-post that has a signal light on top - I don't know what it's called) with the aid of the ladder, while I hauled in Fidelio's mast so that he could reach the very top and replace the wind-direction thingy. We only discovered this was broken after we'd enlisted the help of the crane at the marina to raise the mast and we've been trying to figure out how to get at the top of it without actually shimmying up. However, after this slick manoeuvre we proved ourselves complete amateurs by leaving a fender tied to the stepladder. When we realised it wasn't there and returned to the pier to pick it up, we came in a mite too fast and hit the pier with a mighty crunch (okay I hit it, being the driver). Luckily no damage ensued apart from a tiny dent in the pulpit which I wouldn't even have noticed was there had it not been pointed out to me *g*. They should issue boats with bumpers!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Up in Smoke

My mum-in-law's house went on fire on Wednesday night and within half an hour she lost everything - except the most precious thing of all, herself. She showed remarkable presence of mind for an old lady and dialled 999 as soon as she saw the smoke and then got herself out of the house. With two fire engines, police, ambulance, the gas and electricity boards and most of the neighbours in attendance, she then watched her whole life go up in flames.

Fortunately my husband's cousin stays round the corner and was able to take her in and look after her, and let us know what had happened. We were just on our way to bed when we got the phonecall - that heart-plummeting moment when the phone goes late at night - you just know it's bad news. Our first instinct was to drop everything and go to her, but living with ferries has its disadvantages and we soon realised it wasn't an option at that time of night and neither was driving up the peninsula since the car had about 5ml of diesel in the tank, so we had to stay put until first thing next morning.

How do you tell an old lady of 86 that she has nothing left but the clothes she stands up in? It just doesn't seem to have sunk in and I must say it's pretty hard for the family to take on board as well. At least Rob abd I knew what to expect having been through this before when our son's flat went up several Christmases ago. But it's hard to be prepared for the awful blackness and the smell, not to mention the contents of the house being in a sorry heap in the back garden.

The fire seems to have been started by the electricity meter (which mysteriously disappeared after Scottish Power came to disconnect the supply). The meter cupboard at the front door held coats and a couple of Hoovers. All that's left of them is a puddle of melted plastic. The forensic fire investigator is busy doing a reconstruction job to back up his assertion that the meter was to blame. That's pretty scary, considering all the fail-safe devices that are supposed to be in place there.

So we took her out and bought her some toiletries and some new clothes to be going on with, but at the age of 86, she has to start all over again. The insurance assessor has written everything off - the smoke damage was incredible - but we've managed to rescue her jewellery, her silver tea-set and her jelly pan (her most prized possession) and twenty pounds of assorted jams and marmalade might be salvagable although I think they're probably a little over-cooked.

I hope that if I live to be that age, I'm as sanguine and composed as Mum. I know it's only stuff, and I know she still hasn't grasped all the facts and implications, but wow - she's one tough old bird!