The mug at the bus stop…

morning drive, minus 3.5

As I was driving back from Lochgilphead the other day, I passed a bus stop.

It was not like an ordinary bus stop, as it was on a stretch of road with no visible signs of occupation for miles around.

Standing on the ground next to the bus stop was a red mug.


The mug stuck in my mind somehow. So much so that it formed part of some writing I was doing elsewhere- some fiction. Here is an extract;

The bus was virtually empty. Tourists in these parts mostly travelled in cars or big white land barge camper vans. The only people who used the heavily subsidised service were school kids (the early morning and mid-afternoon service buses were ordeals best avoided) and a hardened group of locals whose incomes had no headroom for petrol money.

Despite their shared poverty, Millie often felt like a suburban Leylandii amongst pine trees; they had grown where they were planted; whereas she grew up in a plastic pot- artificial but surprisingly robust, despite the rough treatment.

The bus turned a corner and dropped a couple of gears for a steep hill, before lurching forward almost from a stand still past another empty bus stop. There was no visible sign of habitation for miles around and Millie wondered if anyone ever used it, but then noticed a bright red mug placed on the kerb next to the stop sign.

She found herself captivated by the mug in the middle of the wilderness. Who had left it there? Would they ever return? Which kitchen was it filled in? She found herself imaging all sorts of fantastical explanations involving two lovers thrown apart or last cups of tea before emigration to the Americas before settling on the mundane likelihood of a house hidden in some hollow of ground and a slightly eccentric morning routine.

The cup seemed to capture something about the contradictory nature of life in the Highlands; at once both expansive and claustrophobic. A tiny red dot in the middle of wilderness, swallowed up by towering trees and the sweep of the implacable mountains.

Millie smiled to herself at a sudden certainty that one of the other people on the bus would know exactly whose mug it was. She suspected that some would disapprove of the impropriety of such domestic revelation and that the red cup might yet be used as evidence of weakness of character.

Easter- the story in the garden…

I wrote this piece for our Aoradh Easter gathering… He is alive!

It was still dark when Mary left the house.

Not that she had been sleeping. The house was full of fear since Jesus had been taken. Fear of the soldiers coming by torchlight and beating on their doors. Fear that they too would face a long lingering death on a cross.

But there was something worse than fear- worse even than death. When they killed Jesus, everything that Mary had hoped for- everything she had believed in- had fallen apart.

All she had left was a dead body.

To prepare for the grave.

She would have gone sooner- but yesterday had been a religious festival, and the pew police would have been out in force to prevent anything that looked like work. Particularly this kind of work, for this kind of man.

So she carefully closed the door behind her, and gathered her cloak against the morning chill and walked softly through the empty streets towards the edge of town.

As the sky lightened to the east, she came to a small hilly area, full of cool early morning shadows, and grand old trees. It was the garden of a rich man- where he had prepared a tomb for his family.

He had been one of those ‘secret’ supporters of Jesus- Mary felt anger burn in her- another powerful religious type who had a reputation to maintain. Where was he during the terrible mock trial…and the beating…and the humiliation….and the long walk toGolgotha? Still- he had supplied the tomb which was not without risk, and had also paid for some expensive perfume and spices with which to prepare the body. Guilt money she thought, bitterly.

It was already getting lighter as she walked under the trees, the dew on the grass soaking the hem of her skirt. It suddenly occurred to her that the tomb would be closed. The stone would have been rolled across the entrance and her journey would have been in vain. A sudden anxiety quickened her steps.

A rocky outcrop lay ahead, still laced with morning mist. She was almost there.

As she reached the tomb, shafts of low sunlight were beginning to filter through the trees, making it hard to see clearly.

The tomb was open.

Someone had moved the stone.

Mary’s pace slowed almost to a stop. She walked as if through water. And she had forgotten to breathe.

Standing in the entrance to the tomb, her eyes had to adjust to the darkness. She finally took a shaky gasp of air, and steeled herself for the task ahead.
Steeled herself for another glimpse of that broken body.

But the stone cut slab lay empty.

Empty apart from the winding sheets.

At first, she could not take it in. What was this? What did it mean?

Then it hit her like a new bereavement. It was not enough that they should just kill him, they also needed to erase his memory from the people. The last thing they needed was a shrine to give a focal point for more of his kind of revolutionary activity.

They had taken the body.

They had taken her Lord.


Later, when she told the story (and there were always people who wanted to hear it) she would always struggle to remember what happened next.

She knew that she had started running- retracing her steps through the garden, and back into the town. The streets were coming alive, and she must have looked like a mad woman, running crying over the cobbles and hammering on the door.

She knew too that Simon and John set off to the tomb to see for themselves, because she followed behind.

She remembered walking the garden, hardly able to see the ground in front of her because of her tears.

In the middle of it all, she found herself back at the tomb- but she was no longer alone. Two men, dressed in white stood with her. She was past caring who they were, or where they had come from but remembered the surprise in their voices when they asked her “Woman, why are you crying?”

A strange question to ask anyone in a tomb.

Then she stood in the morning light again, not knowing what to do, where to go, who to speak to. Feeling desperate, alone and hopeless.

Suddenly, came another voice- “Who is it you are looking for?”

She mumbled something about the taking of a body, and taking him for a gardener, began to ask if he knew anything about what had happened, when another word stopped her in mid sentence.

“Mary” he said.

Spoken softly and gently- with a tinge of humour, and a dripping with of love.

It was a word on which her whole life pivoted.

He was alive.

And now, so was she.