Windy March 21 March 2008

We’ve almost been blown away this month, most recently this Good Friday morning.

The local churches have a tradition of meeting on the summit of Arthur’s Seat under the cross. We joined them as the winds whipped around and snow threatened. They are a hardy lot, these Scots.

We were blown away in the Highlands too by magnificent scenery (figuratively but completely) and by the winds (literally and almost). In fact, when we went to collect the car at Kyle of Lochalsh we’d hired for our long weekend break, we sat in the car park being rocked and buffeted by gale-force winds and with what seemed like the rinse cycle of a washing machine being thrown at us. We decided to abandon our sightseeing plans for the day and started back to our cosy old schoolhouse B&B at Dornie with our tails between our legs. Then, lo and behold, the wind dropped and the sun shone—for a while. We set off with renewed enthusiasm, and soon perfected the art of dashing out to take photos and then back to the warmth of the car. We also perfected the art of handbrake starts on the shores of lochs, the edges of cliffs and while giving way to trucks on near-vertical one-track roads. There were many “shut eye views” (to use an Alves expression). On the “Photos” link above you will find pictures of sheep, cats and birds (Chris couldn’t help herself) but also good ones of wind, sea and Skye.

Geoff scurrying for shelter at Plockton, where Hamish Macbeth was filmed

So Geoff could take full advantage of his bus pass, we took the bus to Dornie via Glasgow and Loch Lomond and returned via the Glen Shiel (through freshly fallen snow) and Loch Ness. He certainly got his money’s worth.

The cliff where Chris got sick of handbrake starts when a truck appeared behind these sheep

Back in Edinburgh, we have settled into a rough pattern of working in the mornings and walking in the afternoons. Chris continues to write and is pleased with her progress. The Montréal conference is taking shape too. Geoff continues his apprenticeship as an online travel agent and has secured a Eurail Pass and accommodation in all sorts of places you’ll hear about in due course. One of our afternoon walks led us to Holyrood Palace, where we saw Mary Queen of Scots’ bedchamber.

We break our daily pattern for the occasional day trip and house guest. One day we caught the (yes, free for Geoff) bus to the Kingdom of Fife. We enjoyed lunch at the little fishing village of Pittenweem, which was virtually deserted, but we gather this peace is broken when the tourist season arrives. We hailed the bus and continued on to St Andrews where we spotted Kittiwakes at the castle. (Also new on the bird list this month is the Twite, spotted during yet another windy walk, this time around Musselburgh.) As for house guests, we thoroughly enjoyed a weekend visit from Ian Groves, a friend from Hong Kong days, now doing his masters in York in preparation for returning to teach with Amity in China. Geoff has already added Inner Mongolia to his wish list for future travel ...

A grave moment at Holyrood Abbey

When we weren’t being distracted by the beautiful ceiling of the Playfair Library Hall, we were stimulated by the Gifford Lectures on friendship, which you can listen to on line, if you want. Did you know that friendship is a rare and difficult subject to depict in art? (Right now, we are being distracted by snow. It’s one of those days—wind, rain, shine, hail and now snow.) Chris also went to a seminar by Michael Ward on the way C.S. Lewis’s Narnia chronicles are based on the seven heavens. His theory made BBC 4’s “Thought for the Day” and the sales of his book, Planet Narnia, consequently rocketed.

The Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the university put on a lunch for Chris to talk about her work with some people of like mind. New College seminars, potluck dinners and chapel services have also provided chances to get to know people more, as have our going along to two neighbourhood churches and their ecumenical services and Lenten studies. In supermarkets and buses and on our walks we now quite often bump into people we know.

We enjoyed a university production of The Mikado, set in a modern Tokyo station, complete with schoolgirls madly texting on their mobile phones. We rode home on the bus with one of the French horn players, who, having spent the night in the orchestra pit, had little idea of the comedy taking place above her head.

So, Scotland continues to blow us away.

Across the road from our B&B at Dornie

We hope you have a very happy and hopeful Easter.

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