Friday, July 12, 2013

Of minnows, flounders and me

I've decided I'm a simple soul, really. The picture above - and that's my footprint on the right - represents a perfect end to a perfect week and we've hardly spent a penny on all this perfection. I climbed a hill (Beinn Donich) on Monday, walked the Crinan Canal on Wednesday, and finished off with what must be the seal-setter on the proper Scottish holiday experience: I swam in the sea and it was warm. There were shoals of minnows, tiny flounders, and the odd crab. Oh, and some of these wee clear jellyfish with the purple bits that we used to throw at each other. It's an odd sensation to hit one when you're swimming. I wished my grandchildren could have been there, because they would have loved it, but I had fun doing my own thing.

When I say we didn't spend much, I'm glossing over two sizeable drives, one to Lochgilphead and one to the beach which is the gem of Argyll's Hidden Shore (yes, it's a tourist description) - but we began and ended each day in our own house and bought no tickets and only modest food. But this afternoon I was ecstatic, to get a swim at the time of year when the childhood holidays demanded and with Arran, my favourite place in the world, on the horizon. Better still, we had to walk a mile to reach the beach - just as I did in my car-less childhood.

Is it what you do in childhood that in the end demands you return to these experiences? When I was a small child we spent 8 weeks in Arran every summer, in the same cottage, doing the same things. On days such as today, we went to the beach and went into the sea. Other days we climbed hills or walked the glens. We came home in the evening to boiled eggs, floury muffins with strawberry jam - this last memory is so powerful that today I found myself thinking of a boiled egg despite having had one for lunch. We would never eat what I've just cooked and eaten (baked salmon of some splendour, strawberries ditto, a nice crisp white wine), though I suspect I'd miss the step up in culinary standards these days.

But I rabbit on, and I'm tired and sun-sated. I've showered away the salt (it doesn't half prickle under your shirt, especially on a bit of sunburn) and shaken the sand out of my sandals. I feel as if I might still be ten years old. I believe the weather is going to be different tomorrow, and I shall be off to Rothesay for work, not pleasure. But I don't care.

Tonight is good, and I know it. Hurrah.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Vernacular - a poem from a sermon. Sort of.

The opening two lines of this poem appeared unbidden in my mind as I was listening to the sermon in Holy Trinity last Sunday. Hugh, this is for you!


Abraham, Abraham - gonnae no?
Gonnae no dae that?
Is that how you might hear the God
these days, the moment that you’re poised 
to do whatever horrid thing seems suddenly 
a pressing need - the familiar
cadence of a homely voice? No
thundering winds, no wildfire roar
but unmistakably addressing you
with some urgency - no chance of
misunderstanding that.
You drop the knife right there, son,
and your boy lives.
How was it in the dark of night
when the Temple slept and the voice 
whispered through the echoing space
where the lamps flickered 
and the boy woke and heard
his name - Hey, Sam, Sam, 
gonnae waken up? 
And Elijah under his solitary bush?
Son, ye cannae sleep - Elijah 
eat your tea and get your strength and
get tae where ye’re gaun.
Are we bereft because we listen 
for the voice in perfect prose
preferably with a touch of
sixteen hundreds charm
and then we miss the total
urgency of what we need 
to hear, to heed, to know?
And so the cosmic words go on
in Babel tones among the crowd:
Écoute-moi - escucha -
 hören - ascoltare! The voice persists, 
the voice of  friend, of stranger
in a bar, a chance 
meeting by the way. So, all of yous
gonnae listen the noo?

©C.M.M. 06/13