Friday, 26 December 2008


Wherever you may be, I wish you the happiest Christmas!

May the global economic slowdown have us all re-defining what's really important in our lives.

~~~~~ The Journey of the Magi by James Tissot 1894 ~~~~

There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries. ~W.J. Cameron

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens

May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through! ~Author Unknown

Peace to all who read this and thank you for continuing with me throughout this somewhat chaotic year.

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Seems like a lifetime since I last was here. So much has happened, not just in our lives, but all over the world...unimaginable events that affect us all.

Today America celebrates Thanksgiving, a timely exercise, and one we would all to well to practice. So, to all of my American friends and family I wish you a peaceful and happy day.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

What’s Really Important?

Yesterday, while reading Rhonda Jeans’ blog, I came across the quote below. Originally part of a post written some months back, it first appeared on another remarkable Blog. This young couple are facing tremendous challenges supported by an amazing family and it seems, a large slice of the blogging world. You can read the whole story and get updates here,

I’m always a sucker for writing that helps me slow down and stop and think. And again as we find ourselves at another threshold in our lives and while we assess options and explore possibilities, Rhonda reminds us to “mine everyday for the joy it holds”. Surely a small wisdom we should all remember … How I wish I had written the words below for they speak what has been in my heart since our family photographs were taken and lost in some dusty African shanty town (my missing moments). The few that remain are poor mementos of the freshly bathed, sweet smelling babies, soft-furred companions, sunlit rooms… moments that I treasured (but not enough), moments when the very busy-ness of our lives made me impatient and irritable. Moments when as a mother, as a wife, I should have stopped whatever I was doing, paid attention, worked out was really important. Things can change in a heartbeat…they often do, lives turned around…fragile, precious. And what is really important? And how do you tell? And so, I pass this on to you…because I was this mother too and that is one of my regrets…

"The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make... I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less" by Anna Quindle.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Goodbye Summer, So Long…

With the rain and the wind, it would seem autumn is truly here to stay…

Small (and big) birds gather at the feeders…along with Red Squirrels who perform all sorts of acrobatics while they hang on the peanut cages, munching away. Unfortunately, the squirrels very shy and run before we can take their photo even though we see them hanging there for up to half an hour... One day...

But inside the shop, flowers brighten things up…

Friends drop by for a chat…

Lots of ice cream waits for a warm weekend…

Splashes of colour all around…

The new coffee corner is working it’s magic…mmm, what an aroma.

My first granny squares ever…really good ways to use up some of the giant bag of yarn I thrifted back in July! These little things are addictive! I love being able to combine crazy colours but am only getting adventurous now after the first nineteen squares. Put-down, pick-up projects are useful with the rhythm of my days when painting or sewing would involve too much of everything – equipment, time, concentration. They stop me getting jittery and irritable because I’m not keeping busy. Even reading (which I love) doesn’t help because there’s nothing (tangible) to show for it at the end of the day. Many a book has been abandoned lately because the intricacies of plot or train of thought are taking too much time to keep track of…sigh…when did that happen? I still believe a wonderful book is as good as a holiday.

Time to put out the freshly baked scones and start the day. For the moment the sun is trying to peek out and the rain has stopped…

Have a wonderful weekend...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Turn, Turn…

The swallows left Sunday morning…swooping and diving around the house, filling the sky out over the water, their curious, melodious, trilling song filling the air as they bid us farewell. These summer residents have been such a part of each day, filling the sky with acrobatics breathtaking as they skim the water with millimetres to spare, dive, roll and swoop through the air. Now they start the long journey back to Africa, leaving us behind to face autumn and the cold Scottish winter.

And as if someone has pressed a button, the season has changed to autumn; nights have a nip in the air that wasn’t here a week ago. The swallows left on the 31st of August and by Monday the 1st the quality of the light had changed, somehow brighter and richer; even the trees are turning, changing their gowns to amber and gold.

Today the steady rhythm of the morning rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of hungry birds crowing the feeders. When a red squirrel “captured” the one peanut feeder, the small birds are forced to scratch around underneath him to catch the bits of nuts that fall. Everything is gathering, preparing for the coming winter, laying in supplies.
~ My take on the traditional scone - Our "bread- and-butter" ~
Normally, Fall brings a respite from summer heat; I don't think we had one day over 19 degrees Celsius - OK maybe one or two, but as M says "the sun always shines in Scotland - it's just covered by clouds". We hope to have the benefits of a mild autumn, perhaps even an Indian summer. With summer being such a non-event, some gloriously sunny fall days would be a wonderful gift, bringing visitors to enjoy the countryside and cream teas at the Jolly Otter!
Apologies for the spacing problems - Blogger won't let me fix it!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

It Comes and It Goes…

A weekend playing hide 'n seek with the sun meant a slower pace, very useful for recuperation but not so good for the coffers.

A bright spot was the arrival of some new Otter Ferry postcards specially made for us. Although the photographer had a grey and cloudy day, she managed to make this little spot look peaceful and atmospheric.

They have been well received by customers and the first batch has almost sold out – always a good sign.

The patient is taking it easy, needing occasional reminders to not take the stairs two at a time and only having to be dragged from the workshop once ;◦) Although this has not been our first experience of cardiac crisis (in 1994 M had an Angioplasty), we certainly hope and pray it will be the last. To this end, we have wound down the work a bit and adjusted diet and exercise once again and I was shocked to see how far away from the old guidelines we had strayed.

Living out here we should have slowed down a lot, but like workaholics everywhere, we dived right in concentrating on opening the shop, setting up the carpentry workshop, trying to manage Internet sales, all spare time spent finding interesting stock. Since last Friday when time stood still, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about quality of life; old wisdoms that previous generations lived by; the worsening economy, the lack of time, the erasure of basic survival skills (like being able to cook wholesome food) and above all, the lack of joy in our daily lives. Some of the new links lead to web pages written by women who have found a quieter, more considered way of life and found great satisfaction along with it. And I suppose this means that I’m still on a journey, albeit a detour on the way as the destination shifts and changes. A destination glimpsed now and again…the oasis through the sandstorm…

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all.

~Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Homecoming Heroes (ermmm, Heroines?)

Fortunately the empty spaces here didn’t stay that way for long before M was back; realising that anxiety about being so far away was causing his patient much distress, M’s cardiologist sent him home for rest and recovery (and a bit of Olympic fever).

The wonders of modern medicine are such that some clots and blockages can be busted from the outside in and the injections that left such impressive bruises on M’s abdomen, were the weapons of this battle. The blockage, leaving its permanent mark on his ECG from Friday onwards, was gone by Saturday night and he was ready to come home! This doesn’t mean that the war is won; tests and specialists appointments are going to become part of our lives for the foreseeable future not to mention a concentrated re-commitment to diet and exercise.

Getting the man home from the hospital presented a new set of problems neatly solved by a dear friend and neighbour. Having spent most of Saturday helping a very spaced-out me (after four hours restless sleep) to manage the shop and do some dreary chores, she was quick to spot that I was in no condition to drive and volunteered to get me back over the water to take some of M’s things to him. When I got the call that he was being discharged, a stop at a supermarket was arranged so that I could get essential supplies.

And as if that wasn’t enough, this good Samaritan arrived to pick me up, bearing a freshly baked quiche for our supper!

A neighbour, a friend, a very special person…Thank you from us both.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

~ Winston Churchill

Sunday, 17 August 2008

In A Heartbeat…

It was a beautiful morning…enough clouds for coolness and the promise of lots sunshine later. Warm and slightly humid with a gentle breeze, just enough to keep the midges at bay, perfect!

Community Ladies coffee morning, only a few ladies, summer has the community working hard and we only catch up now and again, but we could sit outside!

Five young men having breakfast on the beach, kayaks drawn up on the sand, plates of scones and banana loaf, lattes and cappuccinos fill the table.

A reporter from the local paper looking for a story, catching M and I as we bustle past with coffee and pots of tea, some quick pictures, then we’re off again.

Customers in and out, quick sales - a book here, some wine glasses there – good weather means good business.

A lovely busy morning…

As we wave goodbye to the last departing guest and settle into the lull over lunchtime, M says he’s just going to sit down for a few minutes. The man has been going all morning, we both have but he has done double duty so that I could grab a quick cup with the ladies before they left. I’m making us a lunch snack when I hear him on the phone and something makes me stop what I’m doing and go through to the office…my husband is sitting there, his normal healthy colour now a grey shade of putty and he’s wet, sweat sticking to his brow and dark patches on his shirt!

He’s already called the doctor and taken the spray kept for such emergencies. I race to close the shop – no time to bring in chairs and tables, plants and tools, just the signs and lock the door…. a “gone to the doctor” sign for afternoon customers hurriedly taped to the glass. Into the car and we’re off – in this remote part of Scotland, it can take an ambulance two hours to reach you, better to get to the surgery half an hour away and wait for the paramedics there!

The pain is getting worse, he can’t talk, just concentrating on every bend of this road we now know so well, thirty minutes might as well be three hundred minutes, who knew the road was so long, but we make it. At the surgery, oxygen mask on, drugs are given, needles put in, and ECG read, the ambulance comes, more drugs and finally the pain is down enough to move him – the paramedics strap him in, I climb in beside him and we’re off on the long, winding, single track road to the nearest town to what our paramedics call a cottage hospital. When did this road get so long, so bumpy? The paramedic is great, making sure M’s stable and quietly (calmly) chatting to us both about everyday things all the while keeping an eagle eye on the machines monitoring blood pressure and heart rate, but the oxygen and the drugs are doing the work and the pain is manageable now. Into Emergency at the hospital but they won’t keep him; another ambulance is summoned and we’re off to the ferry across the Clyde to the big hospital. Four hours after the first phone call, my precious husband is finally admitted to the intensive cardiac care unit…

Hours later I’m in a taxi racing to catch the last ferry back. M is in a small ward with professionals at beck and call, resting and mercifully stable. Three hours later, (12.35am) when I finally get home and call the ward, he’s sleeping…

Lives are changed; turned around, lost in a heartbeat…I’m so grateful mine remains much the same. Oh, there will be changes to be sure…but nothing we can’t handle because we’ll be changing together…

So much to be grateful for...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


Summer 2008…in this northern hemisphere, a season of contrasts, brilliant sunshine, sparkling water, people everywhere. Days so busy we work ‘til we’re dropping – bake, clean, serve, smile – rinse, repeat. Amazing how this tiny patch of Scotland attracts visitors from all over, American, Canadian, Dutch, French, German, South African…and of course the Scots themselves, all out and about, sharing in this special summer magic. Never too hot in the glorious sun, a breeze off the sparkling water and so they come in cars and boats, on motorcycles and bicycles, on foot, mostly on holiday, mostly happy!

But these sunny days are special, above all rare, leaving us greedy for more; for every day of sunshine, a little rain must fall and fall it does. Precipitation here is a creative concept – how many ways does water have to fall? Come to the Highlands to find out. There are the heavy, straight-down downpours of a summer storm, the gossamer drizzle of low-lying clouds, the gentle, steady rain that settles in for days and many combinations in between. The quieter pace of wet weather has a profound impact on the amount of traffic we see in our little shop where six friendly folk can have cappuccinos in cosy comfort but seven is a crowd.

On those wonderful days – dry enough to put the tables and chairs outside – the parade of interesting boats up and down the loch adds to the already spectacular scenery. The photos show some of the local traffic, keeping M and his camera busy in the last month or two.

This is The Waverly, a regular sight in the summertime. Last year I wrote a little bit about the history of the Clyde Steamers and their long tradition. You can read that story here.

~~~ Absolute tranquility at the end of a summer day... ~~~

Monday, 28 April 2008

Hmmm, Is There a Problem Here?

When we first hoped for a little shop, it seemed like just a dream. M and I were working in the south of England and our jobs, while rewarding, didn’t satisfy the need to craft something for our future with our own hands. That was nearly three years ago and the road to now has been a bumpy ride at times. Along the way, the focus shifted a lot and as we defined our strengths and weaknesses, there has been constant adjustment of our goals.

The ill-defined destination of the journey is still revealing itself…we have not yet arrived but like an explorer in a new world, I am finding challenges to overcome constantly!

How grand and high-minded that all sounds! In a nutshell, my bad habits of a lifetime are coming home to roost and many of them have to do with…

Time management…Oh my, how much time can I waste! …It’s criminal, knowing intellectually that there is no more than what I have been given (however long that is) and each passing day means less of it. And yet, I fritter it away! If procrastination were an Olympic event, I’d have double gold at least.

Why is it so hard to stop? Is it some sort of addictive behaviour? Surely, having identified the problem, I could just re-adjust a little and correct myself – make a list and follow it – or something? Usually, procrastination applies to the unpleasant chores waiting; washing the windows, finishing the laundry, clearing up the shed, keeping up with the filing, doing the taxes. But, guess what? Keep putting stuff off and it snowballs, and I find myself at eleven pm, in a howling gale and driving rain (because I was watching a fascinating show about composting), with a dying flashlight (put off buying batteries), in my summer dressing gown (the winter one is in the wash) looking for a box (last seen at the bottom, back, furthest corner, amongst the spider webs), holding the missing sales receipts from eight months ago (that should have been filed already), that I need for the tax return that I have until midnight to file online (before we are fined), in the shed that should have been sorted over the Christmas break – four months ago! I think you get the picture…

This happened, I’m still here…does anyone know of a twelve-step program…somewhere…?

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Otter Ferry Comeback Kid?

Scotland-Otter-Ferry-Jolly-Otter-Shop~ The first day open ... third of March and all snowed up ~

I can’t believe it’s been so long! When I last posted, I knew that entries would be scarce; few and far between, but I never realised it would take so long to get back. This is really like starting over and going through my links in the sidebar, I see there’s a lot of “housekeeping” to be done

Otter-Ferry-Inside-Shop -1~~Major cleanup work done -just painting & decorating to go.~~

Woodendollars, the bricks and mortar store is open! Has been open for a month but it’s been a slow start. With weather, tax season and other events (both planned and unplanned), the estimated couple of weeks has turned into nearly two months?

Otter-Ferry-Inside-Shop -2

~~~~~~~~~~ Almost there - Still too empty! ~~~~~~~~~~

For the friends and family who justifiably think we’ve dropped out completely and for those of you who may still wander by, I’m going to chronicle the process with some pictures ‘cause you know they’re worth a thousand words.

Otter-Ferry-Inside-Shop -3~~~~~~~~~~~ Starting to look like something? ~~~~~~~~~~

I’ll hopefully get this place cleaned up a bit, organise the categories better and fix all the links too. Wow, it’s good to be back!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

First You Catch Your Elephant…(A Guest Post)

Our second eldest son, who works in the wildlife conservation industry in Africa, wrote this entry. Last year was an event filled one for J, who contracted Malaria and Anthrax in the space of a few months! Today, he celebrates his birthday and I thought I’d post this account where he gives us a brief insight into the wildlife business as one of the guys “on the spot” complete with photos. Happy Birthday J!

... Welcome to this post. Please go to to see all our new articles on wildlife as they appear. We are also publishing all our African Folktales in their full version in e-books for readers, PDFs, etc. as well as in hard copies. 

Keep a look out for these wonderful little stories for children and adults alike at Collect for yourself a set of twelve, in the format of your choice, as and when they are availible…

Friday, 15 February 2008

A Short Valentine Story...

Every family, everywhere has at least one story of great romance. From the most humble to the most splendid, these are the memories that fuel our imaginations, inspire us and reassure us. In the harsh and unforgiving modern world, these stories shine out to remind us of the power of love.

Last year, at this time I wrote about the meeting that changed my life forever, when M and I first met, here and here. But long before that meeting could happen, maybe half a century earlier, another story was being played out…

They met at a wedding, both had sisters who were bridesmaids, and they had travelled from the small farming communities of Paarl and Willowmore to be there. The place: A society wedding in the diamond boomtown of Kimberly, Cape Province in the Union of South Africa. The time: sometime in those halcyon days between the end of Second Boer War and the outbreak of World War I.

Willowmore and Paarl were at opposite ends of the Cape Province and had it not been for the wedding, these young people may never have met. Her father was a wine farmer in Paarl and his family had a department store in Willowmore and the two towns were several hundred miles apart. That early meeting blossomed into love and they became engaged, not realising that events taking place in far-off Europe would soon force them apart.

The outbreak of WWI in Europe meant young men all over the British Empire were enlisting; he joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) in England and served as a fighter pilot until the end of the war. Years later when the war ended and he returned to South Africa, she was waiting for him and they were married.

My mother’s parents were not unusual; many young girls waited for years for their beloved to return from the war and many never came back. It’s a condition as old as the human race but no less poignant in the repetition…

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Snow and Other Diversions...

Winter arrived on the weekend after all the mildly cold and somewhat gentle seasonal weather that we have been having; for a Scottish winter it has been positively bland! The ominous warnings began on the thirtieth, my birthday, when neighbours dropping in asked if we were ready for the weekend and hadn’t we heard there was SNOW on the way. Having not heard anything and thinking that perhaps this was a bit of over-enthusiasm for some real winter weather, we didn’t pay too much attention. The first warning that perhaps we should have listened a bit better, was the sound of heavy winds growling 'round the house Thursday night!

Friday I tried to get a quick post written in between other work as I waited for the telephone engineer, the tree felling guy, the landlord and M to sort out our broken telephone/Internet connection. Well, we all know where I got with that! I'm still trying to catch up with my list of "To do's" and here it is Tuesday already and this is my first post for February…pictures of snow. It didn’t stick around for long; rain later in the day ensured that the hills were back to normal by nightfall.

But it was magical for the moment; imagine a whole landscape dusted softly with a thick cloud of icing sugar! And the stillness, so still…the only sounds, the rhythmic lapping of the tide on the sand and the far-off calls of the Eider Ducks…

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Winter Warmer...Healthy Oatmeal Soda Bread

Not getting very far this month ... being workshop assistant has it's drawbacks! The patient is improving slowly although it seems like a case of one step forward and two steps back sometimes! I've never had to live with a case of broken ribs before and it's been quite an eye opener! Silly things like coughing or sneezing cause incredible pain and common movements, such as bending to pick up something or reaching over the head, have to be done very carefully.

Keeping us extra healthy is a big priority right now so I'm making lots of nourishing soups and this bread. It's quick and easy and wonderful with a bowl of steamy goodness...and a nice glass of red wine.

Healthy Oat Soda Bread

Butter and flour a 2 lb (900 gram) loaf pan – makes one large loaf

2 C wholemeal flour
1 C self-raising flour
1 C breakfast oats (not instant)
½ C wheat germ
½ C all bran cereal
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps sea salt
1-heaped teaspoon raw sugar
1 large egg
2 ½ C buttermilk I never have this (mix whole milk with 1 Tblsp vinegar–let stand 10 minutes)

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Beat the egg and the buttermilk together and add. Mix together with a fork or spoon until most lumps are incorporated and you are left with a slightly sloppy dough. Spoon this in to your prepared pan and give it all a good shake to level. Bake at 190 C or 375 F for 50 minutes to an hour depending on your oven. Turn out and let cool on a cake rack. This doesn’t get very cool at our house…just barely warm and fresh out of the oven; it makes the most wonderful base for a lunch of cheese and pickles, or a rustic pate, or just serve it with butter to accompany a big pot of fragrant country soup. Very yummy...

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Bruises and Breaks: A Cracking Start to The New Year at Otter Ferry

We have been so focused lately that we spent almost all of the holiday season working, with the exception of Christmas Day, doing something towards our several ongoing projects everyday (even New Years Eve). Because our application to re-open the Post Office branch here at Otter Ferry has been approved, one of the big jobs is clearing the storage room that will become M’s main workshop. He is also working on some commission pieces and needed open space to use the big saw safely. As it was, the saw was the least of our worries, we never got that far…as M was packing things outside the door to move, his safety boot became caught in the door frame (which was loose) and he fell head first into the room, landing with his chest straight down onto the broken handle of a trolley waiting to be taken out the door. Because of the angle of the fall and the fact that the trolley was on the lower level, all his weight was at the point of impact, squarely on the broken handle end.

The trolley is standing to the right of the door - broken handle closest to the door

Two, possibly three, broken ribs and some impressive bruising later, we are counting ourselves fortunate that it wasn’t worse. M had an array of tools in the pockets of his jacket that could have caused some nasty wounds…that screwdriver alone, for one!

Why do we store dangerous things? That old broken trolley is vintage as well as useful (M’s a sucker for a fine piece of old iron) and the original broken handles had to be left on to copy for new ones. To be fair, most of the stuff is furniture waiting to be restored with some smaller items that are stock for the shop/post office. Wood, for the most part is stacked outside but we do have several sheets of plywood that must stay very dry – still storage of any type is always at a premium and it’s the odd bits…the garden hose, bags of cement, the steam cleaner, fertiliser, etc. that clutter up the space. There are no other potential culprits, unless you count tripping over some inanimate object so I suppose this falls (Arghhhhh! unintentional pun) under the category of freak accident.

Nevertheless work continues, albeit slowly, here at Woodendollars and the best bit for me…as new workshop assistant, I’m finally being allowed within three feet of the power tools!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Our Second Scottish New Year…

A soft and gentle start to this New Year…wisps of mist enveloping hillsides in gossamer arms. The lone heron, on sentinel duty this morning, could admire his perfect reflection in the satin-smooth surface of the loch. And all was still…nothing disturbed the quietness, the peace of this first morning of the first day of 2008.

~~~~ A hundred years ago ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Arrival of the New Year ~~~~

“ We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room-by-room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
~ Ellen Goodman

For all my family and friends and for all of you who may read this, I wish you health and peace and plenty of potential! Happy New Year!


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