Tag Archives: Scotland

The First Day of Winter?

This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year.  I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!

Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.

At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.

This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.

I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.

I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.

Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.

As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!

As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.

Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.

I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.

This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.

Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.

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Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

Surviving Winter ~A Beautiful Wintertime Diary (continued)…

Visit a Christmas market – in mid-November? Well, why not 🙂

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Some small Christmas markets and stalls have popped up early in my city; I went for a wander down to see them this afternoon, it was fairly busy, a bit cold, buy boy did the food smell good – I didn’t buy anything, just browsing, but still it is quite special to take in the atmosphere.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Winter Survival Guide (37) ~ Go on an Adventure…?

For me, most years I’ll stay at home during this time of year after I finish up at work for the year. I’ll visit family and friends as many of us do. Sometimes I’ll take a couple of days to go on a ‘mini adventure’ to maybe see some friends in the same country, or perhaps take a mini break to somewhere in mainland Europe. This year I have a six day trip (including all of the travel time) to somewhere in Europe….I’ll leave that as a surprise so that you can enjoy my ‘photo diary’ and travel adventures later on.

I didn’t get a summer holiday this year because certain plans fell through, however it left me with 9 days annual leave to use up before the end of the year, and it wasn’t looking likely that I’d get the chance to go somewhere sunny (maybe next year I’ll get some sunshine – it is in short supply here in Scotland ! 😉 ), so instead I’m off for a wee festive adventure to somewhere equally cold, I presume….I’ll blog about that towards the middle of December after I’ve returned.

Some people, however, like to leave the Christmas postcard scenes behind and jet off to sunnier climes. I know a woman who has family in Australia and she will go and visit them there. My boss and his wife this year are going to Hong Kong and Thailand later in November, to be back in time for Christmas. I can’t quite afford to do that at the moment, but even just going somewhere not too far, whether to visit friends and family in a neighbouring town or city, to take a weekend away in a hotel, to go on a city break or a theatre break, to take a few days abroad but not too far away, or to head off further afield – it can be nice to have a bit of an adventure before settling in for the cosier ‘at home’ days as the year draws to a close.

Or maybe you are a full time traveller? What will you be doing? Do you have any winter adventures planned, and what will they look like?

For those of you who stay closer to home, do you like the idea of a few days off to go on a mini adventure before doing all the ‘homely’ stuff, or does the thought of planning and organising that add to your stress?

Although I didn’t get much of a break this summer, other than going for a couple of long weekend trips to visit friends and family, it is kind of nice to have a Christmas adventure planned, as I just love this season.

I have always wondered whether Christmas in New York would be as lovely as it seems on the movies, and I think I might just add that to my ‘bucket list’ of adventures to go on in the future. What about those of you who live there or who have experienced Christmas in New York as a holiday? Would you recommend it, and if so what would be your highlights? It does make me think of ‘Home Alone’ which is one of those great Christmas holiday films full of nostalgia and fun.

I hope whatever adventures you go on, or whether you stay closer to home, that you get the rest, refreshing and new perspective that you need this year. x

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Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Winter Survival Guide (36) ~ Visit A Christmas Market.

It’s mid-November, and already the Christmas markets have gone up in my city. There are food stalls representing a variety of countries, chocolate stalls, crafts, clothes and woodwork for sale. You can hear uplifting and fun music, and feel the warmth from the freshly cooked food, and smell delicious sweet treats like chocolate covered churros, waffles and crepes.

No doubt it will get a lot busier as we near Christmas, so why not visit a Christmas market a little earlier and beat the crowds (although where there is yummy smelling food and desserts, the crowds will be there anyway, but hopefully a little less busy).

Even if you do go when it’s busiest, still there is something really nostalgic, cosy and festive about including a visit to some Christmas markets into your diary.

Try to remember those on the fringes of society as you walk past, enjoying the atmosphere with your friends. Maybe you could buy a homeless person a hot drink or something warm to eat and give it to them as you pass by, I am sure it will be a welcome offering.

Do you have Christmas markets near where you live, or do you have to travel to a nearby town or city to visit them? Have you ever gone abroad to visit some Christmas markets? If so, which are your favourites and recommendations? Do you enjoy including a visit to a Christmas market to your holiday festivities, or do you prefer to avoid them altogether?

I have some exciting adventures planned that may involve Christmas markets, but not any of them nearby, so keep a look out for my posts on that later on in December! 🙂 x

These are some pictures from Christmas markets I visited in 2016 in Scotland:

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Winter Survival Guide (3) ~ Walk While there is Light.

At this time of the year, the days are growing shorter and darkness sets in a lot earlier. It can be oh so tempting to spend most of our days inside, however, our bodies still need whatever sunlight we can get and while the days are still light, and reasonably temperate, my encouragement is to make the most of that by stepping outside whenever we can. It’s early November, and here although we have rainy and windy days, they are also interspersed with days like today where it is calm, still, and reasonably bright, albeit a little cold.

The ‘Brits’ are probably well known for talking about the weather a lot, but it’s probably because  things are so changeable over here. We can’t be guaranteed sun in the summer, and when it comes, we all get very excited about it. In Scotland, like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, these can often occur in one day!

At the moment, we are blessed with some crisp, cold, sometimes even bright autumnal days. I need to remind myself to make the most of these, to not spend an entire Saturday indoors, but to go for a walk while I still can, to wander down to the park and to enjoy the wildlife. It is beautiful, and so good for us to take in a bit of nature and breathe in some fresh air. Bearing in mind the winter seasons here often bring with them wilder weather, lashing rain and wind, and even snow, I really ought to enjoy as much ‘outside time’, even if that means a simple short walk, while I can.

It is good not only for the body, but also for those of us who have to work at our mental health, whether that may be depression, anxiety or some other condition, it is good also for the mind. So let’s make the most of the brighter and more temperate days while we can….for we know that they are very likely set to change very soon!

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Winter Survival Guide (2) ~ Where in the World are you from?

One of the most fascinating things about blogging on Word Press, is the amazing insight into the variety of countries that you, my lovely readers, represent. I’m sometimes amazed at the countries and flags that pop up to show me where people are viewing my blog from. It makes me really excited, and I welcome you all. If you want to introduce yourself or post a comment on which country you are from and what November and December is like for you where you are, then that would be splendid! 🙂

That being said, and knowing that some of you live in places where the sun is still shining at this time of the year, I’ll let you in on a little ‘secret’. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m writing from not-so-sunny Scotland! Your colder temperatures would probably be what we consider to be ‘summer’ weather 🙂

And so, some of the things I write about on ‘surviving winter’ may seem a little odd depending on where you are from, but that’s part of the adventure of learning more about life in different parts of the world.

My advice from this post is a short and simple one to begin with, now that the introductions have taken place, and that is to wrap up, stay warm, and cosy.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Outlander Film Location Tour

Living in Scotland, I had the opportunity last week to go on a one day guided tour of some of the most iconic film locations featured in the television series, ‘Outlander’. If you haven’t heard of Outlander, where have you been? 😉

Hopefully some of you are fans, and will enjoy coming along with me on this journey as I take you through a series of posts of the places I visited and of the fascinating facts I learned and interesting people I met along the way.

The tour was by a Scottish company named ‘Discover Scotland’, and the key highlights included:

A visit to Doune Castle, which featured as Castle Leoch in Outlander.

A photo stop at Midhope Castle (Lallybroch).

A visit to Blackness Castle.

A few hours spent in Falkland and Culross, which featured Geillis Duncan’s House, the town square where Jamie was flogged, and where a little boy had his ear nailed to a wooden post, Claire’s herb gardens, and some other iconic scenes which you can see as we go along 🙂

I hope that you are ready to step back in time with me to visit these places, and to share your experiences of any similar travels that you have been on. More to follow soon …stay tuned, Outlander fans!! 🙂

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Unsung Heroes & Lessons from a Snow Storm…

There is someone you know or have heard of, who you know deserves a medal. A medal that they will never receive. They go above and beyond the call of duty, beyond the work that they are paid for, or perhaps for no pay at all, quietly, with regularity, motivated perhaps by deep values of compassion, faith, personal integrity or a love and concern for other people. These unsung heroes and heroines work diligently behind the scenes, receiving little praise, and yet they are the ones that remind the vulnerable that they are cared for, keep people safe, and come to the rescue in times of need. Perhaps this person will never receive a medal, but is there some way that you can encourage them and let them know how wonderful you think they are? 

For as their many little and more significant acts of kindness touch the lives of others, so too your own acts of kindness and gratitude to them may make a huge difference for them to know that they are noticed and appreciated. 

I wonder if there is someone on your mind right now? And are you thinking of a gesture, or maybe a few prompts could help to inspire you to find your own personal way to say that ‘thank you’ that they might otherwise not receive? Perhaps this could come by way of a card, a personal letter, a box of chocolates, a visit, a message, a telephone call, an anonymous note, a gathering of appreciative friends or colleagues, or simply a kind and gentle word of gratitude. These all make a difference. 

So where, you might be wondering, does the connection with snow storms come in? Well, as I write I am somewhat ‘snowed in’ and like many others in my city, and all across the UK, I am off work due to the ‘snow day’, and the red and amber weather warnings to only travel if absolutely essential. All train services here are cancelled until further notice, buses are mostly cancelled and although I walked to and from work the day before yesterday, it took over 45 minutes each way, and the conditions are considered unsafe. That and the pain in my legs and advice from the Government, Met Office and other sources to stay indoors, has resulted in me taking a couple of annual leave days, like many others, until the storm passes. 

However, walking 45 minutes to work in the snow, given that I am fairly young and able bodied is hardly a commendable feat although it may be appreciable. What is commendable are the many doctors, nurses, care workers and others who have put their care and duties towards others before their own. The snow and storms and icy blasts have brought tragedy in the UK in the past couple of days. Over a dozen people have died from the very young to the elderly due to getting caught in the bad weather. A young child of 7 died, and a man in his late 60s drowned after trying to rescue his dog from a frozen lake. An elderly woman in her late 70s was found by a passer by, frozen to death, lying near a stationary vehicle ~ it was thought that she had been confused and wandering about outside before she died. There have been road traffic accidents, and perhaps a whole host of other situations that have as yet not come to light, or to the attention of the mainstream media. Today, it was reported in the news that a Scottish care worker who was known and respected in her profession for over 15 years was found dead in the snow as she had been walking to fulfil the duties of caring for her clients in their homes. A homeless man was found frozen to death in his tent. However, in the bleakness of this unusual ‘Spring’, there has been beauty also.

Not only the sublime beauty of nature’s splendour, but also in the kindness of strangers and friends and the resourcefulness and creativity of individuals. Drivers were stuck in their vehicles on motorways, some for over 12 to 15 hours, and strangers gathered supplies of hot drinks, food, snacks and even warm milk to feed a baby and walked through the snow to bring some practical comfort and words of kindness to those who were having to spend the night on the roads. Churches and event halls opened their doors to provide emergency shelter for homeless people. Charity workers went out into the streets to let homeless people know how and where they could get help. Neighbours with 4 x 4s drove doctors and nurses to their place of work. Medical health professionals chose to sleep overnight in hospitals to ensure that there was cover, and to relieve their colleagues, and provide patient care. Children helped their parents bring food to those who were vulnerable. Neighbours checked in on elderly people who were alone in order to make sure that they were ok. Trade unions spoke up for those who were being forced to work in inclement conditions including delivery drivers and riders (as many fast food deliveries in cities are now done by people on bicycles carrying the boxed food on their backs as they ride), who are putting themselves at risk at the demands of their employers. People have been finding ingenious ideas to get around or make the most of the snow by snowboarding down streets, skiing into work or simply having an icy blast with snowball fights and sledging. Photographers have captured some of nature’s beauty to inspire others. Neighbours have helped parents with childcare arrangements and family and friends and communities have ‘pitched in’ to help one another. Rail workers, council employees, gritters and others work through the cold days and nights to clear roads, railway tracks and to get systems up and running again for the rest of us. 

We so often hear the news of terrible events, tragedies, evil, abuse, injustice and violence. However, every so often something seems to bring out the best in people and those smaller yet no less significant stories come to the fore. And yet, day in and day out, and through the night many quiet and unsung heroes and heroines including children go about their tasks with love and care and commitment in expectation of no reward. Perhaps their reward is a higher purpose and one that shines forth in times like this where they can clearly be seen to be doing it for more than just money or human applause. Perhaps you are one of those people. Perhaps you feel that you are not, and wonder if you are making any difference in anyone’s life. 

Well, let me encourage you right now, that you are so significant, and your life so powerful, and each act of kindness however small is of so much importance. Maybe you are not saving lives, but perhaps a word of encouragement could result in a life saved for someone. Maybe you are not able to do the more ‘hands on’ frontline work, but perhaps you can encourage someone who is or help in some small way. Perhaps the greatest ways you can help are by prayer, small acts of kindness each day, and even through your own blog as you put something encouraging into the world for others to read and think  about and share. 

We all need these unsung heroes, but unsung heroes need encouragers too. And maybe, just maybe, an encourager is what you are called on to be today. 

Much love. xx

January 2018 in Review

Welcome to February. 🙂

What can I say? We made it! I think you deserve a ‘pat on the back’ for making it through the somewhat tricky month of January. I find that January can be laden with so much expectation, being a brand new chapter to a brand new year…and also, at least in my part of the world, quite a cold, dark and wintry month. I smile as I see the days already begin to lighten, with the feeling that spring is not too far away if it is not quite ‘just around the corner’. 

How has the start of the year been for you? I love the start of a brand new month. It is like a mini ‘new beginning’ in and of itself. A couple of years ago, I think, I began ‘theming’ my months. I find that having a theme as well as monthly ‘goals’ and plans helps me to live better rather than merely drifting along. A common theme to all my months, and hopefully each of my days is ‘Faith’, and in particular, my relationship with God.

However, in addition to this core value, running through my entire life, my more ‘down to earth’ themes this January have been cosiness and music. 

Cosiness

Cosiness because I find Christmas such a cosy time of the year, and I feel a certain sadness in so quickly packing up the Christmas tree and getting back into the rush and hurry of work. I’m the kind of person who is a bit of a magpie as it were ~ I love shiny things, I love cosiness, and I have gentle fairy lights up in various parts of my home all year round. I delayed taking down my Christmas decorations until midway through January, and it helped ease me into the transition of the seasons, or our human demarcations of them. 

So I kept in mind the saying on a mug I was gifted with in December, ”Tis the Season to be Cosy’, and I made the most of hot drinks, cosy blankets, fairy lights, comforting food, time inside, making time to ‘breathe’ and relax and slow the pace a little amid the necessity to pick up the pace by getting back to work, commuting, braving the cold weather and getting back into the post holiday routines. 

I found myself learning that I wasn’t the only one with this mind and heart-set, and was intrigued to learn more about the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ ~ if you haven’t heard of it, you might find it fascinating to look up ~ if you are a person who likes your ‘cosy corners’ in life that is 🙂 

However, cosiness didn’t only involve staying wrapped up indoors. It also involved making the most of the weekend ‘Snow Days’ when I got wrapped up warm, and braved the chill to take photographs and slow down and see the beauty of the wintry season. It is never far from my mind how fortunate I am to have a home when so many are homeless in the cold season in particular, and I kept in mind and in prayer the harsh realities of those for whom the beauty of snow as some see it only exacerbates their misery. It was definitely a time for both creativity and humble reflection and gratitude. 

Making time for reflection and cosiness also came to the fore in establishing more of a ‘morning routine’ ~ as Gretchin Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ says, some people are born larks and others are born owls, and being an owl I am definitely by nature *not* a morning person, however, I have made progress in this area and have enjoyed having quiet times of prayer, reflection, and time with God, reading His word in the mornings, while drinking a hot cup of tea and cosied up in soft blankets…not something I have always maintained consistently, but the times I have managed it have been quite calming and special before the busy work day begins, and helps set the perspective, heart and tone of the day.11.jpg

Music

In my little part of the world, which just now is Scotland, there is an annual festival held in the City of Glasgow called “Celtic Connections”  (https://www.celticconnections.com/Pages/default.aspx) ~ perhaps you have heard of it? ~ musicians from all over the world show their interest in being involved in this unique and inspiring event. This year Celtic Connections celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and runs (yes, it is ongoing, with two days left!) from 18th January to 4th February, and showcases both ‘new’ and established musicians of high calibre and unique style, in numerous venues from Concert Halls to cosy café / bars and pubs. There are various events throughout the day, from concerts and gigs to workshops, some ticketed and others free such as the well loved ‘Danny Kyle’s Open Stage’ giving new and upcoming artists the chance to share their talent. I have had the pleasure of going to three of the free Open Stage events, for the first time ever (I first dipped my toe in the waters of Celtic Connections only last year!), as well as going along to a ticketed evening event to watch and listen to the likes of Eddi Reader, Phil Cunningham and Siobhan Miller to name but a few ~ if you haven’t heard of them…well, you really should have!! 😉 🙂 

I went to all but one of the events on my own, but even when I went alone I saw and got chatting to one or two people who I knew from different contexts (church and work!), and made new acquaintances for the evening with fellow music lovers. 

Suffice to say, Celtic Connections has helped in many ways to get me through those dreaded ‘January / Winter blues’ ~ and the sense of community, even among strangers, really added to that sense of cosiness and belonging in the way that live music uniquely creates. 

The talent I have seen and heard has been so vastly unique and varied, and deeply sincere. However, as sad as I am to see Celtic Connections come to an end for this year, I am excited to embark upon a new “Theme” for February …..as a ‘sneak preview’ if I can call it a preview with the month having commenced, the focus is shifting towards all things home and lifestyle ~ a good old clear out and purge of the messiness that has built up in my home, establishing new systems of organisation, in a way coming full circle so that eventually it will be organised, well maintained and a beautiful haven wherein I can enjoy the things that make for a happy life like creativity, friendship, cosiness and music! 😉 

More on February’s theme to follow, so keep a look out for that my friends. xx

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