Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dumfries and Galloway

A few weeks ago, when Matthew was on leave from the forces, he and I escaped down to Dumfries and Galloway for a couple of days. For a long time back when we get the chance, we like to go somewhere interesting for a day or two. We have no timetable to go by and we like to 'play it by ear'. That's a nice way of saying that we do what we want!

We drove down on a Thursday afternoon via Girvan and then the satnav led us through the Galloway forest. It's a lovely road if you like hiking. Just keep your eyes on it or you'll very quickly end up in a ditch! Single track for much of it with virtually no other traffic, no mobile signal and lots of trees. It's a most bizarre experience: miles of driving through an empty forested landscape and then, suddenly to come upon a house with cars in the middle of nowhere! How do these people live? Where's the nearest Tesco? Do they have a phone that works and where do they get their water? I could think of a couple of people who wouldn't mind living this way, but, it looks pretty hard to me.
Anyway, we arrived in Newton Stewart and stopped for a bite to eat and then made our way to Wigtown where we stayed in one of the nicest guesthouses I think I've ever been in. It's called Brora Lodge and is owned by a very nice couple who never seem to wear shoes, at least that was my impression. I've stayed in a lot of places - some clean and some quite dirty. But, this place was immaculate. When I commented to them (I've forgotten their names), they said that they furnished it as if they were going to be the guests - it's how they would have liked it. I thoroughly recommend it if you're in the area.
On the Friday, we worked our way south from Wigtown towards Whithorn, stopping of at Garlieston, at least I did. Matthew slept in the car - still catching up on his sleep from his training. I like these old villages. Whereas, the main cities in Scotland, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh and urban towns and villages have 'developed' for modern usage, these old villages have remained as they are, with little change, for hundreds of years. When you look at them, you can just imagine them bustling with activity in the days when there were hundreds of fishing boats in Scotland. Catches coming ashore to be sorted, baskets of fish and horses and carts to take them to the fish fish markets. Other trades and businesses would thrive in support of the fishing industry and the little towns would not be lying almost silent, sadly, as today. I stopped and looked out across the bay towards the pier listening to the Curlew with it's so evocative cry.

From there, we continued along the country roads to the Isle of Whithorn and then Whithorn its self. If my memory serves me correctly, Garlieston was the only stop we made when it wasn't belting down with rain. By the time we covered the extra few miles south, the rain was on again - this time with no respite.

Whithorn is a town of incredible significance to the Christian in Scotland. This was the place that St Ninian came to and built a small chapel called 'Candida Casa' which means 'White House'. It became a centre of pilgrimage for centuries, but gave the man a centre to work from in the preaching of the gospel in Scotland a century before St Columba came to Iona. St Ninian must have been a man of real fire! Stained glass windows portray him as the meek saint with mitre and staff - but, this man was responsible for the conversion of the lowland Picts of Scotland - he must have been filled with the pentecostal fire told of in the New Testament. In those days (397A.D.), when travel was so difficult he even reached the eastern coast of Scotland, and his own disciples reached as far as Shetland! Read a brief account of his life here. He was responsible for building the first abbey in the British Isles and two of his pupils at Whithorn were responsible for the teaching of Columba and the baptising of St Patrick! A spiritual giant indeed - and sadly, virtually unknown. I must say that Whithorn is one of my favourite places in Scotland. The Abbey is gone now, except the crypt and a small part of the original Church, but the buildings in the main street of Whithorn are built from the same grey stones of the abbey, apparently some with original carvings evident! It was too wet for me to get the camera out in Whithorn, but you can read a little more about it here - and also, discover a little of the amazing collection of Christian carved stones of antiquity, of which there is an amazing collection in Whithorn, just behind the main street.
After Whithorn, we had planned to travel up the west road back to Wigtown, but gave up because of the heavy rain, driving back to the guest house to drink tea and lie on our beds and read books. Oh, the joy of being a couple of blokes on holiday!

New floor

I'm assured that some of you are interested in houses. You know, the sort of things that people get done to their homes, etc. etc.. Yep, I know guys, probably better to skip this bit and read the next section. For those of you still reading, we had a new floor put down in the hall, yesterday. The reason for this is that we live in an area where there is a lot of muck and dirt about and it's all to easy to walk this in to the house. The other reason is we wanted to do it! It's an oak floor with a lacquered finish and it looks great - see the photo (remember to click to see the full size pic).
The feature which I like best, is the recessed door mat (you can see this in the picture). The new floor stops short of the door by about two-thirds of a metre and the door mat was cut to size to drop into this recess. The benefit of this is that it's a good thick mat, it doesn't move when you step on it or obstruct the door, and also that it encourages everyone to wipe their feet as they enter. I saw this in a show home (don't ask me how I ended up in a show home!) and thought it a great idea. It took a little phoning around to locate a carpet shop that stocked it and then it was simple to tell them the exact size and get them to cut it for me (Susie would like me to point out that I did none of this except go and pick the thing up!...but, it was my idea!!). Easy. Next time you pop out to visit you can wipe your own feet on it and test it yourself!

Rainy August!

Well, it's been wet! The BBC tells us that it's been the wettest August since (I think) records began, but, it's also been the warmest. I think most of us missed that aspect of August because it was raining and it felt cold. But, we're only the people getting wet, not the scientists telling us what we are really feeling.

Well, I've been lazy despite resolutions to pay more attention to this blog. Sorry, if you've been checking back looking for updates.

So, what's been happening? Well, as far as MS goes, it's still there! My walking is slightly worse and my balance along with that. Especially, when I'm tired. Also, I've had terrible trouble with the pain in my head, which is quite debilitating. I was at the docs the other day and since I'm on the maximum daily doze of pregabalin (I mention this in a previous post so won't bore you with repetition), so, he increased the fentanyl patch strength (a synthetic morphine type drug absorbed through the skin), which I've only just started and won't know the true effects until I get back to work. It does seem to be helping, although I've had a few instances of pain, but, it's true test is when I'm in a day-to-day work situation that I'll know the true picture. However, it has made me feel a bit nauseous and lethargic. My driving seems to be OK, which is a big concern. Talking of driving, a dear friend from school days gave me a 'mobility scooter' which had belonged to her mother. I don't need this yet and I hope it's a long time before I do, but, it was a generous gift and I really appreciate that. It folds down and is in the boot of my car. We all had a shot of it round the house - it's actually quite good fun! I just got an email from her a few days ago to tell me that her mum had passed away in her sleep last weekend, which I was so sorry to hear about. When I was at school, her mother fed me on occasions when it would have taken too long to get home and back for whatever event was on in the evening. I have happy memories of her and my sincere sympathies go to the family. Bless you all.