Monday, 13 July 2015

Le treize et le quatorze

In my mind just now, I'm sitting at the table in La Huttière.  The red table cloth I've known for over 25 years on the table in front of me, the dresser I've known for just as long behind me, with the glasses and other dishes in it that I've used to share drinks and meals with friends and family for nearly three decades inside it.  Dad's sitting opposite me with his Sudoku, Mum's sitting on the sofa made by Philippe, with a good book to keep her company.  The boys are in bed in the bedrooms through the glass door behind me.  Ealasaid is playing on the swings outside,  trying to convince us that she doesn't need to be in bed yet.  Colin's either asleep on the sofa beside Mum, pretending to read, or he's asleep in the boys' room, pretending not to be.  The crickets are still calling outside and now and again we can hear fire crackers and/ or fireworks being set off, as a prelude to the official ones which will be set off tonight in some villages or tomorrow night in others.  I can smell all the aromas of the place I know so well.  I can see all the sights.  And my heart is breaking that I'm not there in person, with my family around me…and my French 'family' close by too.  I know everything happens for a reason, and I know it's God's will that we're not there at this time this year…but I would so love to be able to go to lay flowers on Roger's grave at the cimitière in Fougeres sur Bièvre tomorrow, as we always do.  I know he'll understand, but still…it hurts not to be there for our old friend, and not to be able to visit Gilberte to reminisce about old times.  No Jean-Paul popping round with home grown tomatoes or Francis coming round with the children to say hello, or Daniel appearing for aperitifs.  But still, what wonderful memories…and hopefully many more to come.  À la famille Samin, et les MacLéans… Bonne fête à tous pour demain! xx

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Lismore Show, 2015

It's barely 9 o' clock at night and I'm sitting here needing matchsticks to prop my eyes open.  I know I won't be the only one… half of the island will probably be in exactly the same boat.  Today saw the first Lismore Show since around the time of the Second World War.  A huge amount of work and effort had gone in beforehand to make the day the great success it was.  The show was the brainchild of Neil Carmichael, but I think it's safe to say his whole family was involved, including his Gran, Cathie Carmichael, who would be presenting the prizes later in the day. 

Many a household on the island has been a hive of activity for the past few days, culminating in a frenzy of baking activity yesterday and even first thing this morning.  Children's classes were popular, with lots of baking and handicraft entries, from 2 year olds and upwards.  Adult baking classes were also hotly contested, along with handicrafts, flowers, photography and art. 


Our own day started with transporting our exhibits to the hall… no mean feat, given that we had 27 entries between us and a rather bumpy road to drive along.  All went well though, with everything arriving safely. 

When we returned to the hall in the afternoon, we were delighted to discover that Ealasaid, Alasdair, Ruairidh and myself had all managed to win some prizes, with Ealasaid being particularly successful.  A further surprise came later in the day, when Ealasaid was announced as the overall winner of two trophies, one for junior handicrafts and one for junior baking.  What made this even better was that both trophies had been donated by our family – one in memory of my grandmother, Flora MacLean (MacGillivray) of Achuaran and the other by the Achinduin branch of the family.  Lovely to see the senior baking prize going to Kiki MacColl, of Achinduin…we really do like to keep things in the family!! 

Now it's time to wind down, eat lots and lots and lots…and even more lots…of baking, clear away a million paint brushes and other craft stuff…and sleep!  It was all well worth the effort though, especially for the children, who are delighted beyond belief with their prizes – rosettes are just the best things ever, according to Alasdair and Ruairidh!  Roll on the next Lismore show…hope it's not 70 odd years till then. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

New year, new start...well, good intentions, anyway!

I wonder if 2015 will see me actually remembering that I have a blog.  It all started with great intentions, but, well, that's about as far as it got.
2014 was a challenging year for us as a family.  Dad had to learn to cope with his newly diagnosed diabetes, we lost Colin's Mum really quite suddenly, Ealasaid hasn't had the easiest time in school, then Mum was diagnosed with osteoporosis...bit of a shock, but perhaps better than what we were all imagining.  She's still in incredible pain, but at least she knows what she's dealing with now.  On top of that, we don't even want to talk about the quote Dad's received for the dental work he needs!!
However...we have so, so much to be grateful for inspire of the difficulties.  We had a lovely family Christmas...everyone was together, everyone enjoyed at least a measure of good health, three generations of the family had a wonderful time surrounded by gifts galore and, more importantly, love.  When I think of what so many other people I know and love are going through, I realise I have so much to be grateful for.  Like our friends who lost Great Grandpa just a few days before Christmas...or my old school friend coming home from Canada to visit her parents, knowing that her Mum will be oblivious, as she's suffering from advanced Alzheimer's ... Impossible to comprehend what they must be feeling.
We (well, Mum, Dad and myself...Colin was on babysitting duty!) started off Christmas by attending the Watchnight service here in Lismore...our first time here, believe it or not, after all these years.  It was lovely...the church was lit by candlelight, the air was filled with the sound of much loved carols (though Dad had a serious complaint - no Silent Night!!), followed by the sound of he bells ringing at midnight.  It was a special, family occasion...and another reminder of what a difficult time this can be for some island family lost their son on Christmas Day 2014 in the most difficult of circumstances.  How appropriate that we were asked to wish each other a thoughtful Christmas, as well as the other, perhaps more usual, wishes.

Christmas morning brought the usual chaos, fun, love, laughter...and did I mention chaos?!  It was so good to see Ealasaid's entry on her calendar for the 25th December...she'd marked it in as God's day.  So despite the chaos, etc, it was good to know that Jesus was still at the heart of our celebrations, even in the eyes of  a little child who might have been expected to have eyes only for the gifts she would receive.  That said, she was just a teensy wee bit excited, delighted, ecstatic, etc, etc to get her much longed for tablet...along with one or two other presents.  The boys didn't do too badly tablet-type things among their gifts the extent that whenever they get a present from friends of family now, Alasdair yells 'more, more!', while searching for Santa's sack behind the poor person who has just been kind enough to give him a present!
Christmas dinner was also a lovely, family affair.  Everyone was there, everyone enjoyed their food (salmon steaks, in case anyone's wondering, along with one or two other bits and pieces!) and we had connections with other family members not present.  We sat at my Gran's table, on her chairs, ate with cutlery given as a wedding present by Mary, served some of the food on plates which came from Aunt Violet, while surrounded by decorations which have been in my Mum's family since her Granny  was alive.  And yes, the dogs did indeed receive their Christmas gifts too...the chews which were meant to last for ages are, of course, ancient history.  Just imagine...Oscar (their MacLean predecessor) had a squeaky Christmas cracker he got when he was not much more than a pup and that he had (the remains of, at least) till the day he died, aged 14...that pair...squeaky toy??  Nae chance!! For the record, the fish got a wee extra bit of Christmas dinner too...they never get over fed, honest!
A few days later, and I realise just how much I have to be thankful for.  Glancing through Facebook, I see a post from an old childhood friend saying how hard Christmas Day was and how heartbroken she's feeling, despite having got her Dad home for Christmas.  That's when I realise they only just managed it, as he died a few days later.  I just can't imagine what that family is going through...and to be honest, I don't want to.  Roddy was always this larger than life character, so full of fun...such an integral part of life growing up in Coll each summer.  For so many reasons, mainly health related, we haven't managed to get out to Coll for way too long, so we lost the closeness we once shared with the family, but oh, the memories... One positive is that Colin is now more determined than ever to find out what he's been this space for Coll developments - he's mentally measuring up the house as I type, with a view to getting out there as soon as possible.  I can't express what it'll mean to me to be back home...the best place in the world.
New Year was lovely too.  Didn't start the best, with Colin attending his Great Uncle John's funeral on Hogmanay, but we had the unexpected bonus of everyone being together in Lismore for New Year.  Ruairidh was the only one who missed the Bells...even Alasdair got up to party...and Ealasaid wasn't in bed till after 2am!
So, after all year, new start?  What are my intentions?  No resolutions as such, just a renewed determination to make the most of every moment with my loved ones, to be so much more organised so that I have a better chance of doing so.  Didn't manage to send a single Christmas card this year, so a good start could be writing a real, live letter to some of my closest friends (yes, Rhoda, you are top of that list).  Might even remember to write a blog post or two.  Not much to it?!

Bliadhna mhath ùr dhuibh uile. xx