Once a Catholic, always a Catholic??

The only sound is the twang of a violin string being tuned. Otherwise it is a hushed silence and the silence even more muted by the ancient heavy tapestries adorning the wooden clad walls. Filtered subdued Scottish light makes it way through the ornate stained glass windows showing heraldic badges of Scottish Kings and Queens associated with Falkland Palace . I look up at the inlaid wooden ceiling making up the Royal coat or arms. I am at mass at the Chapel Royal which dates back to 1540. The place exudes mystery and intrigue.

But I am here for a different reason this morning – a personal one – I need to say goodbye somehow to my mom, herself a devout catholic. I am a fallen one who has not been inside a church to worship for many years. I feel a little hypocritical as I question the beliefs that I was indoctrinated with, but then why do I feel I can get close to mom by coming to a Sunday mass. The never ending conundrum? I know she is with dad, with my Nigel, who I talk to. Ironically the sermon today was about eternal life. “Whoever Eats My Flesh and Drinks My Blood Has Eternal Life – John 6:51-59”

As the small congregation filter into the chapel, all masked and sitting 2 meters apart, I feel a tap on my shoulder. There is a roster and they need my name and contact details – I am a stranger to this little village. I can walk into any Tesco’s and mingle with people going about their daily grocery shopping, but cannot sit quietly in a church without being tracked and traced. The only time I got close enough anyone is when I was tapped on my shoulder. The world has gone crazy.

The lay minister is setting up a small camera – they film the mass for those not able to attend. I know that mom attended mass given by the pope during lockdown and wonder if she ever logged onto this particular location.

The service starts and I automatically by rote know the words and procedures and find myself reciting the well worn prayers. I am grateful for the mask, as I find myself stopping mid sentence and my questioning non believing mind kicks in to what I am actually saying. But then why am I here if I don’t believe in something that is being said. Mom was the epitome of a good person and believed without any doubt and I am here today for her. Not to question. I think today is the first time in all the thousands of times I have attended a catholic mass that I actually listened to every single word being said.

My mom would have loved the service – not too much pomp and ceremony – simple and succinct. Her beliefs got her through life, through many a hardship and she never came up wanting. Mom who told me that she often went to mass on a Wednesday to pray for me, her “fallen” daughter. I did not fall Mom, I only stopped and questioned. But the indoctrination is there and still lingers in the back of my mind when I find myself automatically silently sending up a prayer asking for help.

I did not come out of this historic little chapel feeling lighter of spirit. I just know that it would have made mom happy knowing that she got me to go back to church at least for one more time.

Photo courtesy Falkland Palace twitter page

Clouds

I cannot remember when I last just took the time out to lie flat on my back and watch the clouds scudding across the sky, forming and reforming and letting my imagination follow the ever evolving shapes. I can remember the first time, during a PE class at school- must be way back in the early 70’s, when we were waiting for our turn to be included in the team to play netball. A few of my classmates and I lay back on the grass and just watched the clouds, each seeing different objects – time somehow stood still.

And I now find myself 50 odd years later feeling the same sense of timelessness, just taking time out from the world, flat on my back, on the soft green lawn of someone else’s garden in the middle of Scotland, watching the clouds, seeing birds surf the thermals (wow they can soar fast when they catch them). The shapes move, disappear and then miraculously reappear again. Nothing constant – a bit like life. The outside elements effecting their journey but in their own time just reforming. Time stands still.

So if you find yourself with a moment to spare I would highly recommend you check out of the days stresses and lie back and just watch the sky – that moment of flying with the birds makes you feel grounded and once again at one with the world.

The word cloud comes from the Old English word ‘clud’ meaning ‘rock mass, hill’. The word emerged sometime in the 1300s to describe the visible masses of evaporated water seen in the sky because these masses looked a lot like rock formations

Two sides to a coin

Currently there are lots of comments of how what we see on social media pages is not a true reflection of what peoples lives are actually like.

And a truer word cannot be said and I stand guilty as charged. It was a comment from a friend saying “Wow Cath, you are really living the life, I envy you”, that brought this fact home to me. None of my posts show the internal struggle I have with my own mind, my personal demons, the loneliness, the insecurity, the uncertainty. And covid doesn’t help. I just show the good, happy smiley emoji stuff and at times the good stuff is hard to find.

I started this blog 4 years ago almost as a sort of therapy, but have honestly found it really hard to mind the motivation lately to put pen to paper. I have even found myself googling symptoms of depression as at times I find myself in dark places. And then I dwell and worry and can feel myself spiraling downwards and can almost understand how my Nige couldn’t pull himself out of the abyss.

Yesterday I just sat and cried – it was one of those days. So have decided that as this is my “diary” to write about the good and the bad. If anyone reads it so be it – and if they don’t – so be it. My world is not all bright colours and at times it can be very grey. With social media my mantra has been – my life is an open book – I have nothing to hide. But that isn’t true as I hide the angst and turmoil that I have been going through. And when I get comments “Cath, you are so brave to do what you are doing”, if they only knew. At times I am so far out of my comfort zone and scared shitless and wish there was someone else who could make a decision for me.

I have however been blessed with a positive mind, and amazingly enough, just be putting this down to paper and “owning” it has lifted my mood today. I will continue posting all the happy stuff as just by looking for it, is good for the soul. Also thank you for indulging me as I share this with you.

So when scrolling through someone’s timeline, sometimes we just need to be able to read between the lines.

The Scream

Scream  – verb

to cry or say something loudly and usually on a high note, especially because of strong emotions such as fear, excitement, or anger

The wind is howling

Whistling furiously through all it came in contact with

Screaming

I join in

Open my mouth as wide as it can go

The scream leaving my body

Whipped away by the wind

There is no one for miles

Does the scream carry?

Take a deep breath

And scream again

Louder this time

All emotions swept away like dust in a sand storm

The gulls above

Also have their say and join in the chorus

But all sound is swallowed up

No one can hear

Take a deep breath

And scream again

Till no breath left

The placid sheep stand by

Not even raising their heads

Maybe they have heard it all before

Peacefully munching on the new spring sweet grass

Oblivious to the tearing emotions surrounding them

Frustrations

Wound up like a spring

But as the next breath is taken in

The spring uncoils

Tension disappears

Scream turns to a laugh

Laughing at myself

Standing screaming into the wind

So good for the soul

I turn

Thank the wind for its patience

And allowing me in.

Picture – Adobe stock

Is cynicism a side effect of ageing?

I have always considered myself a positive, glass half full type of person, and someone who can empathize, but have lately found myself getting more and more cynical.

Not sure if it is due to the fact that over the past 7 years of not really watching TV and now during this interminable lockdowns, with the more enforced indoor hours, the TV is on with the daily news reports which can only make one a tad jaded. These lockdowns definitely have a negative effect and it takes an almost physical effort to keep the positivity going. Even the desire to sit down and type a blog has become what seems like a chore. This I can understand and can analyse and realise it is not forever, but the cynical, negative thoughts are disturbing.

This first realization was seeing a charity appeal for the Donkey Sanctuary, maybe it was the tone of the narrator’s pseudo sad voice appealing “SMS to donate to help us work towards a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering, and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.” My first thought was “come on how many donkeys are out there that need an advert on prime time TV” and really doubted that the £2 donated actually got to the poor suffering creatures. Same mans voice for the starving children in Africa. Don’t get me wrong – I know there must be donkeys out there suffering and there are starving children in Africa, all who desperately need money, buy my cynical side kicked in about where the funds were actually going.

Ditto now with all the hero stories coming out with covid – the young mentally challenged 5 year old who decided he was going to run 2 miles everyday during lockdown to raise funds for the NHS – parents standing to the side prompting them in their 5 minutes of fame. Cynic brain – he didn’t decide to do this – his parents did and to me that is exploitation. Even typing this makes my cringe – and how can my brain function in such a negative soul destroying manner. Is this the side effect of ageing and not seeing the world through my rose tinted glasses – I preferred it when I did.

When and where along the road did I lose those glasses and my quest/new years resolution is to find them again. In my quest there are 2 pages that I need to read and follow more than the negativity and that is “The Good in People” and “The Good Things Guy”.

I have subsequently been on line and found the Donkey Sanctuary webpage – which is real and work hand in hand with the RSPCA and are doing amazing things.

A, B C … go

I find things continually popping into my head and I think “Oh –  I should blog about this”, but lately this virus seems to have taken root and control of my brain cells.  And I am so over it and bored with it all. So hopefully to banish it all to the deepest part of my mind (and sometimes I wonder how dark and deep that can go!), decided to put it all in alphabetical order with hopefully more positives than negatives about the cursed thing.  I am a little bored so this could be similar to reading the telephone directory. Would love to hear others lists.

A – apathetic attitude and acceptance

B – benefits of making people slow down life a little and enjoy the simpler things in life

C – conspiracy theories abound

D – depression

E – empty roads, towns and beaches

F – friends re-connecting and furlough (thank god for furlough)

G – gratitude

H – health, it is only when we lose our health is threatened that we truly appreciate it

I – ignorance of people believing everything they read on social media

J – jubilation when the first lock down ended

K – kindness of people

L – likeminded people are the best to follow on twitter otherwise it is a rabbit hole of anger

M – mental illness which unfortunately has been more prevalent with the forced isolation

N – nowhere to hide, no chance of running away from it all and nature taking a breath

O – outdoors, being forced to meet outdoors is not necessarily a bad thing, get some much needed fresh air

P – politicians, would hate to be in their shoes as they are damned if that do and damned if they don’t

Q – questions, lots of them

R – respect for all the essential workers

S – sadness for all the loved ones that have passed on during this time

T – tears of which there have been many all across the globe and of course Trump

U – understanding

V – vaccine, a little sceptical but keeping my mind open

W – weight, and we all know about that

X – eXhaustion of the never-ending bombardment on all news fronts

Y – year 2020 is a bit of a write off

Z – zoom – say no more

Nature taking a breath

Make the most of every day.

It is sad that sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us realise that each day is a privilege.

Three recent events that have touched my life have once again brought this to the fore. A time when we are all wrapped up in what we can and what we cannot due and I find myself being quite introspective. I decided to ride this craziness out and not travel home to see family for Christmas. The days are short and the nights long and dark and the sun seldom manages to break through the clouds, and when it does it is watery and not very effective in creating any heat. But maybe it is the novelty of it that I am loving, as this is the first time in the 60 years of my life, that I have not been in the southern hemisphere for Christmas.

But there are days that the dark heaviness weighs you down. The body’s bio rhythms are always a little out of kilter. And the mind turns inward. When you wake at 8am and it is still pitch black outside, with the wind howling and the rain lashing, it takes a lot of willpower to get up, lace on some running shoes and start the day, although knowing that once out there it is well worth it.

Almost seven years ago, life as I knew it, took an about turn and I found myself sinking into a bit of an abyss and it took the sudden death of a friend to snap me out of my “Oh woe is me” attitude. That was the day I signed up for my first adventure of planting trees for Greenpeace and then went off to Costa Rica to teach art.

Last week an old friend passed away after falling into a diabetic coma – she had survived cancer and the death of her spouse. Another friend has just been discharged from hospital after 3 weeks after contracting this dreaded virus – his words “Be careful out there – take it seriously”, and then this morning I heard of the death of a young friend (38) who I worked with at Morgan Bay, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.

All this somehow puts things in perspective – so what if you aren’t allowed to go to the beach right now, or if there will be no all fall down New Years Eve parties this year, or if we are required to wear a mask, or holiday plans need to be put on hold. We are alive and well. Another dear friend sent me a link to a clip about the cartoonist Charlie Mackesy, whose message at the end of the day is “Don’t give up, the storm ends”. Make the most of each and every single day, regardless of what it is – just doing what you want to do at that specific moment instead of focusing on how unfair the world is perceived to be.

“Don’t give up, the storm ends” – Charlie Mackesy

A good day to go to the beach…

“Today is a good day to visit the beach” I am told when discussing plans for the day with some local guests.

I stop in my tracks and take a surreptitious look outside and try to remove the incredulous look from my face when turning back to them. Outside the loch is being churned by the wind, clouds are scudding across sky, with occasional glimpses of a watery blue trying hard to make itself seen. I am wearing thick thermal socks, boots and a warm woolen scarf, as maximum temperatures today will be in the single figures. I reply with a sage nod of my head “Ah yes it’s not raining”.

Coming from South Africa, this is a totally alien concept. To spend the day at the beach requires a cooler box filled with ice cold refreshments, sun umbrellas, beach towels, sunglasses, a good book and copious amounts of sunscreen. Where at the end of the day, the skin is feeling the tingle of maybe a touch too much sun and the prickle of sea salt, beach sand in your hair and the permanent scent of coconut oil. Mission accomplished.

In Scotland – a trip to the beach takes on a whole new meaning. It does not entail lazing on the smooth sand (or small pebbles depending on where you go – South African landscaping shops could have a field day here with a seemingly never ending supply of stones for flower beds), it requires a good set of boots, all weather gear and the desire to get out there and experience the elements. To go to the beach is to go to feel the cold north wind on your face, to smell the sea spray, to find shells and unusual pieces of drift wood, to walk. It is a totally different mind set. There are the odd days that allow for the removal of shoes to feel the sand under the soles of your feet and a dip in the icy waters, but they are a rarity

Today it is predicted to be 4 degrees, and a slight breeze so I’m off to the beach! A good day to go to the beach.

Conquering fear!

A fear I have had since I was a child is a fear of the dark. And I often wonder how did this fear manifest itself. As children, back in the 60’s we were not exposed to horror movies or ghost stories, yet I can remember turning the light off before going to bed and trying to run and do a long jump onto the bed, for the fear of the bogeyman lying in wait in the darkness beneath the bed. Is this fear inbred, a sub-conscious feeling of the unknown that you cannot see?

And as I have grown up it is more the fear of things the go bump in the night, the possibility of an intruder rather than the unknown or the supernatural or the bogeyman.

Now living in Scotland where the mystery abounds, lying in my dark room I have no fear and logically can explain outside noises to the deer grazing, to sheep ambling passed my doorway.

But ……. my morning runs have turned into an exercise of pure will and determination. With the days getting shorter and shorter, I now start and end in the pitch dark and when I say pitch dark I mean pitch pitch dark!!! The short little road out the village is fine as it has a few street lights, but then the turn either left or right at the top of the road is like stepping into an abyss. It is like peering into a black hole especially on a starless night.

I have my little head light and luminous light up arm bands to ensure my visibility for the one in a million vehicle that might come around a corner. I have learnt to identify deer eyes that light up off to the side of the road, but got the fright of my life when I saw yellow orbs – about 20 of them seemingly hovering directly in front of me – unmoving. It was a flock of sheep just standing in the middle of the road. Not sure who got more of a fright, them or me. Here I curse my over active imagination of vikings and celtic ancestors watching me and in my mind I am talking to all by loved ones who might be out there also watching over me. A soft sound to the right which I catch above the sound of my own breath, finds me sprinting down the road.

Last week I think I might have broken my own speed record, I must have been about 1km into my run, my logic trying to dampen my gut feeling when all I can see is a small 1 m hallow of light in each direction I might look, with total darkness everywhere else, when I here the sound of a human singing. It is 6am, nearly winter and there is nothing but wild highlands around me. I stop in my tracks and then the voice starts to howl. I stop dead in my tracks. Turn my light off to see if I can see any other light – nothing – and the howl comes again, coming from the black wooded area below me. Then he starts to sing again – it echo’s around, it is eerie, it is terrifying. I turn tail, put my light back on and ran like I haven’t for many a year.

Serving guests at breakfast a few hours later, my heart rate is now back to normal, when we get an unusual walk in guest, single dreadlocked young man, with no luggage. just a small backpack, asking for breakfast for one. On seating him, I enquire “Good morning, would you like tea or coffee with your breakfast, and you weren’t by any chance in the local woods singing this morning?” His reply – “Yes he was!” So there is a logical explanation to everything.

So I am still going out in the dark (when the weather allows) but still with a lot of trepidation and my loved ones must be getting tired of my mental conversations with them, asking to keep any possible presence that may be out there intent on mischief, at bay.

The fear is still very real!

It’s just a frog in my throat….!

The curtain tweakers of the world are having a field day, but saying that I am equally guilty.  If I hear someone coughing I immediately turn to look where it is coming from.

Since the hotel reopened in July, the response had been unprecedented with a record amount of people coming through the doors, all in search of some relief from this mind numbing uncertainty.  The first wave of guests were people just so grateful to experience some semblance of normality, albeit service in muffled tones with the mandatory ruling of mask wearing, no background music to ensure no one needs to talk louder than necessary as “they” say this will spread the invisible enemy.  Visitors are now getting a little more demanding, or maybe it is just that we are all getting exhausted by the seemingly never ending flow of customers, the never ending cleaning, the never ending hand sanitising  – but a good problem to have after 5 months of closure in the bigger scheme of things.

It is becoming a dog eat dog world out there. The media, politicians and “they” are putting the fear of eternal damnation on us.   Yesterday I was the brunt of a rolling of the eyes and attitude (from a South African nogal !) when trying to explain to some guests that even though they might all be travelling together in a large group, they would have to be seated on separate tables as the guidelines here in Scotland are no groups bigger than 6 and then only from 2 households. There are the nay-sayers and anti-maskers out there, and who knows maybe they have a point – is it just the flu?  But with the real threat of this new second wave threatening the hospitality industry once again – if you listen to the news, I personally would rather err on the side of caution.  I would rather be rushed off my feet and falling dead into bed each night, than be put back into a lockdown. And if that means wearing a claustrophobic mask (you can get some really funky ones) then so be it.

The thanks and appreciation being given by 99% of our patrons is heart-warming and it feels good to be able to give people a little hope that it is not all doom and gloom out there, though the fear out there is very real, but it is just a frog in my throat, I am not carrying the plague.