Serious shopping…

Today Emily and I had to go into Glasgow to pick up her new glasses. She has been given these to help her with reading- remarkably, the particular colour of blue they are tinted with seem to increase her reading speed by around 50%. Previously she had somehow coped with words swimming around in her vision- particularly at the ends of lines, making it almost impossible to find her way through dense blocks of text without huge effort. How she managed so well up till now is a mystery to all of us.

Anyway, this also meant that my pointedly deferred shopping expedition sort of came back to haunt me. Emily needed a new dress for her birthday meal with friends at the weekend so we went out into the crowds of Buchannan street- in the middle of all the Christmas madness.

I survived.

But I am not less appalled by it all.

If anything could sum it all up for me it is this-

I read this poster in the toilets in St Enochs Square shopping centre. (OK- Emily noticed the same thing and this poster was in the ladies loo. She took this photograph. Obviously.)

Whilst I was reading the poster, two young lads came in. They hovered a little- it was crowded, and they were encumbered by sleeping bags and rucksacks. It was obvious by that they were rough sleepers, in for a clean up and a bit of warmth.

The contrast with this poster seemed great at first- then less so. The edges of this credit driven culture we have created can be seen in both the poster and these rough sleeping young men. It suddenly seemed to me all about disconnection.

Disconnection from one another- from community and place. Disconnection from the means of production, and from the land that sustains us. Disconnection from the spirit of man, and from the Spirit of the Living God.

What madness is it that makes us still think that we can keep making money from plastic cards and using it to buy ever more stuff? What crazyness drives us to feed our addiction for more credit even by desperate measures like this-  trying to screw more money out of banks who have already brought us all to the edge of the abyss by lending too much of the stuff?

As if the best we can now hope for was this last loophole through which we might get a little more free money.

Last week in Dunoon, one of the ‘hole in the wall’ cash machines went wrong, and started paying out double the money that people requested. Pretty soon, the word got out and a queue formed down the street. The bank, in panic, asked the police to come, just to turn people away.

Not a good advert for the people of our town, even if we might regard the banks as fair game given their impact on the economy. But perhaps none of us are that different- who could ever turn down some free money?

Fiddle flash mob, Kelvingrove…

Emily spent a day doing some fiddle workshops in Glasgow yesterday- and they decided to invade Kelvingrove gallery/museum in a kind of flashmob event.

Michaela had just enough power on the battery of her camera to record this- but we managed to miss getting Emily in frame at all!

I love simple creative flashmobs- the pleasure that they give to people. I suppose there has to be a limit to them or it will all go a bit mad. The staff in Kelvingrove certainly thought so- they only managed a couple of tunes inside.

Back to school…

Up here in Scotland, the school holidays are over.

Emily starts her ‘highers’, and William is now in his last year of primary school. Emily is a prefect this year- complete with blazer of office-

I often hear parents longing for the end of school holidays- not me. I love the gentle pace of the long summer days- which like our children’s childhood, still pass by so quickly.

Summer is now on its last legs- staggering onwards to autumn. It has been lovely though…

Holiday photos…

We are back after a lovely few days in St Andrews- the sun shone and it was great to spend time together and to visit somewhere new.


Beach cricket (ours and watching a beach fixture played on Elie Beach.)

All those lovely little villages.

Sailing with Em and Will.

Slow days of sunshine and easy laughter.

Too much good food.

Fiddling with sheds…

What a lovely weekend.

Yesterday I spent a long day in the garden with my boy William installing a shed in the garden. It was kind of his birthday present- he was desperate for a tree house, but none of our trees are ideal, and I was rather fearful that one of his friends would end up in hospital as a result. So the compromise was a small shed, installed in a corner of garden all his own…

Of course, this involved a load of work- ripping out enough ivy for a hundred Christmases, building a level platform (our garden is rather like the north face of the Eiger, minus the snow) and then the usual hammering and screwing and cursing that accompany any shed erection. (And if you read any rudeness into that last sentence- then it is YOUR mind, not mine!)

Here he is, with freshly installed (purple!) wall to wall carpet. If you should call round you are sure to be invited in- please remember to leave shoes outside…

Today, by way of contrast, I took my lovely daughter Emily to a wedding over the water, where she had been booked to play fiddle (with me as accompanist on guitar.) I was so proud of her, and we had a lovely day out together. The wedding was the daughter of Simon and Helen, our friends from Dunoon, so it was great too to see them all so happy.

Now, back home, well fed, watching the light fade over the Clyde, I am a man blessed. And for a melancholic, it does not get much better than that.

I blinked…

I blinked

And the weekend

Went by

These days-

Like feathered things


Facing fear…

Michaela is away for the weekend to meet an old school friend in the Lake District. The kids and I needed an little adventure of our own and so I somewhat reluctantly agreed to a trip to an amusement park.

I am not a fan of these places. They are very expensive, and I usually feel rather depressed by the tacky pre-packaged fear-tainment- each step we take carefully ‘monetized’ (forgive the Americanism.)

They are all about noise,  smelly fast food and rust-streaked mass manipulation and they offer a quick adrenaline buzz which is over in a flash of neon and a wave of nausea.

It is a far cry from the trips into empty wild places that I love so much- and try to inculcate into my children’s souls.

But to be honest, like most parents I am happiest when I have made my kids happy.

It was touch and go for a while. We arrived in a burst of excited chatter from the kids, and paid out the best part of £70 for tickets then walked around the park as the rides opened deciding what seemed possible and what we would avoid at all costs.

We all had such different thresholds. Emily would go on most things, me on a few- Will became increasingly quiet, and I knew that his world was getting smaller.

And so in this rather dreadful modern excuse for living fuller and more present lives, we all began a kind of journey.

Emily went on almost every ride- daring herself towards the extreme. There was also a reptile house, and she overcame her fear of spiders and held a Tarantula.

I too was banged and crashed around on roller coasters, and soaked on log flumes and water chutes.

But the greatest journey was made by William.

William is at his happiest when with his friends in the forest with a stick and a head full of pokemania. He is comfortable with what is known and understood and has little interest in what lies beyond this. So standing before a huge Ferris wheel, or a plunging water slide, or even a roller coaster aimed at little kids-he was transfixed with fear, and no amount of persuasion or encouragement would force him forward.

Emily was great, and took him on some little rides. He had a go on trampolines and crazy golf. But he was not happy. When I pushed him a little too hard, he wept into my shoulder.

So began a long conversation about how life was full of things that will shrink us down into ever smaller boxes- and how the only way to deal with fear was to face it  and take some small steps into the danger zone. And how we often find that when we do the the fear itself retreats and new things become possible.

And there in that artificial and rather unpleasant space, that is just what happened to Will. After a gulp he decided to go for the big scary Ferris wheel. He was visibly shaking- holding every muscle rigid, but still he climbed into the cage…

And the old magic happened. As we are exposed to fear, our autonomic nervous systems fire into fight or flight mode- thoughts become hyper focused and instinctive, blood flows to muscles, breathing becomes shallow and quick. We become totally pre-occupied with making the fear go away- and making the symptoms of the fear go away too. But for most of the time (particularly when the risk is measured or even unreasonable) if we stay in the moment- face up to the fear but act anyway- then we find that over a few minutes (around 5-20 mins)  the fear tails away, and the most primitive part of ourselves recalibrates to view this action as ‘safe’.

In this way, like the ripples made by a stone on still water, we expand.

Alternatively, if we avoid the fear then not only does this unlearning fail to happen, but actually we are likely to entrench the autonomic response still further. In some cases, the fear then encroaches on other areas of life like a kind of psychological gangrene.

Fear of falling then may extend to ladders, to tall buildings, to airplanes, to staircases.

In some cases, mixed with the right amount of vulnerability and damaging childhood experience, these fears make us a prisoner in our own bodies. They stop us coming out of our protective huddles- sometimes they stop people leaving their front doors.

It is kind of easy to visualise the fears of childhood- but so much more difficult to understand and unlock the fears that hold us as adults. I am reminded of that point where Jesus sends out his followers in twos to declare the New Kingdom in acts of healing and deliverance- and when some demons prove to be beyond them, he says that some only are over come by prayer and fasting. It is almost as if he is saying- there are no magical answers to this kind of freedom- it requires work.

Yesterday Williams faced up to his fear- and stood on top of his own mountain. And I was so proud of him.

May we stand on ours.

Because it is for FREEDOM that we are set free.