A flask of tea and some sweeties

 

Easter Monday. The words have been in the back of my mind all day like a reminder

Ben Lomond Winter Sunset - across the loch from the south

that wasn’t quite working. What did they mean? Or to be more exact what did they used to mean? I pushed it to the back of my mind and got on with a pretty busy and productive day (I love days at home) but still it eluded me.

I’ve just lain down on our bed for a few minutes of doing nothing and it all came flooding back.

For a few years between 1978 and 1983 Easter Monday was a tradition held by my mum and I. Normally dad would be working (he was a bread baker and had to get the stocks ready for the hungry hordes the following day, already deprived of three days of bread shopping!).

Back than I couldn’t drive so Mum and I would book a day trip – a bus run – for Easter Monday. Our favourite destination was Oban, a coastal town further north on the West Coast of Scotland.

Leaving Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow between 8 and 9am the bus would take the road north and west that remains to this day one of my favourite road trips.

Heading out of Glasgow and along the northern banks of the Clyde we’d pass through the affluent west end then Coatbridge and Dumbarton before veering north just past Ballantines Distillery with it’s security geese in the grounds. A curious coincidence is that this is the favourite whisky of my husband who I only met a few years ago!

As we came close to Loch Lomond the countryside became much more lush. That was one of the things I loved about Glasgow – within half an hour you could be up at Loch Lomond and be in an entirely different world to the great city. Lomondside, if you’ve never been there, should be on your bucket list. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful areas in the world. There is more remote eastern side that’s much harder to access, and then the easily accessible western side with its stops like the Village of Luss for sheer picturesque beauty, Cameron House hotel, Duck Bay Marina and towards the top of the loch the fantastic and ancient Drovers Inn at Inverarnan where all the male bar staff wear kilts ;o).

By this time we’d be well and truly in the Highlands and I’d marvel at the mountains -ancient monoliths, often still capped with snow at that time of year – and then the bus would turn west and take the high Rest and Be Thankful pass  before going through the pretty town of Inverary and heading north again, then west and landing in Oban about three or four hours after departure.

There would be time enough there for lunch and a wander along the harbour before returning to the bus and setting off homewards.

One thing about Oban was that it would always rain. Even if it wasn’t raining anywhere else, you could come over the top of the hill and descend into the town only for raindrops to greet you. I remember heading off there for a weekend with a bunch of pals. We were dressed for summer as there had been a heatwave in Glasgow and there hadn’t been rain for about six weeks – unheard of! Nevertheless, the bus got to the top of the hill, started to go down towards the town and on came the rain! I can confidently predict that Oban sells more umbrellas than any other town in the UK – I know we always had to buy one.

My mum loved the country versions of the city chain stores and the tourist souvenir stores. We always had to take a tacky present back for dad and the obligatory stick of rock that had ‘Oban’ written through it. There was some bloke who was an artist who had a shop that sold all sorts as well as his art. The shop always had stuff about ‘the bridge over the Atlantic‘, which was actually a bridge to the island of Seil, if my memory serves me right, which wasn’t that far off the mainland, and not as exciting as it seemed. The shop would always have some right ‘heedrum hodrum’ tourist Scottish music playing too.  The town had also gained some fame in the early 80s as well as it became known that Princess Diana’s mother lived close by and so all the royal paraphenelia also started to infiltrate the shops.

After a lunch of fish and chips we’d be quite happy to get back on the bus, tired from all the fresh air (as we told ourselves) and head back home. It wasn’t the most exciting time on earth, but I’m glad we had that time together, me and mum.

These days I live on the other side of the world. My mum passed away in 1995. My son is practically grown and we celebrate Easter Australian style with my Aussie husband and my family.  I’m a million miles away in time and distance from the Easter Monday bus runs. And then a nudging in the back of my mind makes me sit down and Google our routes and sends memories back to me of how I learned to love the Highlands. Just me and my wee mammy sitting on the bus with a flask of tea and some sweeties for the trip. Good times.

Happy Easter!

The Martian Parenting Style

An interesting train of thought was sparked by Rebecca Dettman’s blog (http://rebeccadettman.com) on how we teach our kids about spirituality.

It’s a good question, because outside of organised religion we don’t have that formal framework as parents, so we’re thrown back on our own experiences, thoughts and the things we’ve come to know that are authentic.

When I had my son, I hadn’t a clue about raising children. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want him to grow up as I had – so my mum actually did me a favour in the way she brought me up, in showing me what I didn’t want to do.

As I’m a person who loves a certain amount of structure in which to play, I needed a framework, so I coined my philosophy ‘The Martian Parenting Style’.

The basic precept of this was that I would treat my son as if he’d dropped on to the earth from a different planet, and my job was to teach him the rules of the game of life on earth.

This neatly removed the need for the wars between good and evil that I’d had drummed into my catholic childhood, and also the concept of unnecessary guilt.

I taught him that while some things aren’t necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ they are more or less appropriate in certain situations. One example was swearing – I taught him that swear words are simply that – only words – and that they only have the power you give them yourself. In saying that, they’re not always welcome in the wrong context or situation so one has to be aware of that.

I taught him what I believe about metaphysics, the notion of God, we did guided meditations and visualisations together and then as he grew older and became less inclined to talk about such things, that was the time for me to step back and let him formulate his own philosophy from his own experience and beliefs.

To me this seems so much healthier than blindly accepting someone else’s teachings. By all means accept teachings from those older and wiser who’ve gone before us if they resonate, but do it only after questioning it with an open heart and mind.

Educate our children in ethics, morals and spirituality (if that is part of your experience). Do it early and consistently, and then trust them. Teach them about the stuff they won’t learn at school; relationships, family, rights and responsibilities by demonstrating your values every day, for the rest of your life. It’s the utmost in accountability and be prepared to make mistakes – we all do – but the rewards are supreme.

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It’s been a busy week, with stage managing Mother and Son at the Holden Street Theatres, and my first professional after dinner speaking gig for the National History Teachers’ conference at the National Wine Centre, and fitting in work around all that too.

A busy week, but a good week. I was reminded once again of the value of good friends –  not only friends who you love to spend time with, but friends of the heart who encourage you, promote your self-confidence and tell you that “you can do it.”

Friends like these are gold – I really believe they’re sent like signposts to help you on your way.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few friends like that in my life and this week one of them – the wonderful Kehau – shone like a beacon. We’ve been friends for a long time but this week it’s been like our connection has shone even brighter. So, between Kehau pointing the way and my fabulous hubby Steven supporting me and ever so gently encouraging and pushing me from the other side I’ve taken a couple of steps this week to propel the story forward. Reasonably soon I’ll be boring the ears off you about what it is, but for now I’m letting it brew and settle. More on this anon.

Have a great week!

M :o)

 

Sending Love Across the Ages

Can love be sent across the ages?
Can strength and healing be sent back in time?
Something has happened this week that’s made me desperately want this to be possible.

Having just dipped my toes into the whole genealogy thing, looking at my family mainly from their time in the late 1800s in Donegal, their move to Glasgow and subsequent generations, has been a revelation.

By what seems sheer chance I’ve been put in contact with a cousin I never new I had (hi John!) – a grandson of my grandfather’s sister.

It seems the genealogy bug had also hit John and he’s amassed an amazing amount of information, but one episode stands out and is particularly heartbreaking.

My grandfather Thomas was the eldest in the family. By the time he married my grandma in 1917 his youngest siblings were still young. His mother had died and soon afterwards his father died leaving Bridget (11) and young John (10) as orphans – that’s them in the photograph below with my great grandmother Margaret Gallen, Sarah and Mary at the back, and in the front row, Bridget and John.

From what we can see of the documents my grandparents applied for some relief to the responsible body, saying they were happy to have the children with them but they would need some help as their total earnings were little more than two pounds a week – not much to house, clothe and feed five people, as a baby had appeared by then.

It seems the request for relief was refused and the children were taken and sent to the poor house.

Not much is known after that bar a few notes on the official documents that John found (and wisely advised my sister and I not to read them at work).

On Bridget there isn’t much. Some papers later say that she bore a male child in 1929 at Stobhill Hospital. There is a record that he was baptised but no name and no birth certificate found as yet, and certainly no marriage certificate – she was still listed as McGinty, our family name.

On John, when he was admitted he was diagnosed as being ‘mentally defective’ and ‘feebleminded’. This poor wee boy who’d lost his parents and now was taken away from the rest of his family – even his sister. Of what happened to them later, John seemed to catch TB and was discharged from hospital back to the guardianship of the state as a ‘mentally deficient’ in 1925 and he died in 1940 at the age of 32 of ‘acute pleurisy and myocardial insufficiency’. We don’t know as yet what became of Bridget.

The thing is. I knew I had photos of John and Bridget and this weekend I searched them out as they were pics of them as adults. I’d looked at them before with interest but now, knowing their story, well, quite a few tears were shed. There were photos of them as adults, but I also discovered some of them as children too and I just wanted to grab them and take care of them myself, but all I could do was a bit of useless weeping.

So, if by some miracle of deity or science there is a way of sending love and comfort to two little children over the distance and time back to 1917 at 61 Oran Street, Maryhill, Glasgow, then please do that.