Tuesday 27 March 2012

More Photos of Fochabers

Some more photos from last Mothering Sunday's drive out to Fochabers.

The daffodils were out in the famous Fochaberians memorial garden,
some of the heathers were in bloom as well.

What a view! There are lots of lovely rivers in Scotland,
but this, the Spey River, is my favourite.

Hubby and I walked down along the river side...

Some of the smaller memorial stones in the garden.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.

There's a small burn (stream) that joins into the Spey at the bottom of the gardens.

We walked across the bridge you can see above. Here's the view further up.

There are walks through the woodland as well, but we turned back.
I took this photo of the gardens on the way back to the car.

A small Scot watched us passing by.
He was so perfectly posed I had to take a photo!

Friday 23 March 2012

Music for Friday

I haven't listened to India Arie in a long time. She's just such a wonderful musician and her lyrics are worth listening too as well.

Have a wonderful weekend and remember... it's the little things that really matter.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Set in Stone

What do New Orleans, Rhodesia and this very impressive stone building in Scotland have in common? Some things I never knew and someone I would NEVER have expected!

© Copyright Ann Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This gorgeous neo-Gothic building is a school in the Morayshire town of Fochabers; we pass on our way to Aberdeen. I love it because it looks like a place Harry Potter might have gone to school.La st time we were in Fochabers I thought, "I must look up more about that school" ... and what I found has led me on a most amazing (and very moving) journey through three continents and my childhood memories. I hope you enjoy this remarkable adventure as much as I have.

The school is the Milne Institute; it was built by a man named Alexander Milne who was born in Fochabers in 1742. He worked at Gordon Castle (on the edge of town) until he had a disagreement with the Duke of Gordon. It seems that the Duke wanted Alexander to tidy up his unruly red hair and Alexander, being a thrawn Scot, took such offense to this command that he quit his job... and sailed off to the Americas. Alexander made a fortune brick-making in New Orleans. When he died, he left instructions for lots of good works, including the "Milne Asylums" for orphaned boys and girls to be built in Milneburg, New Orleans... and the "Milne Institute"free school for all the children of his home town of Fochabers.

That might have been the end of this blog post, except in finding the story of Alexander Milne I stumbled onto a name I knew very well... Allan Wilson.

wikimedia.org Shangani memorial panel postcard

To most people that won't mean much, but to any Rhodesian it means a LOT. Allan Wilson's story was one I learnt about in school history, but I never knew he was born right on my "doorstep"  until I found him listed as a "famous Fochaberian" and read that he had been a student at the Milne's Institute school.

The Famous Fochaberians site says this:

Allan Wilson was educated at Milne's Institution, excelling in outdoor pursuits. In 1878 he emigrated to South Africa and joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, later being commissioned as a lieutenant in the Basuto Police. He was appointed Major in command during the Matabele Campaign in which he and many of his soldiers were killed.

He led his small band of soldiers across the Shangani River seeking to capture Lobenguela, the King of the Matabele. The King escaped them. On their retreat, Wilson and his men found the Shangani in flood … after a brave fight, they were all killed. Buried in the Matopo Hills near Cecil Rhodes' grave, Allan Wilson was long regarded as a national hero.

Reading that brought back so many memories, especially of childhood visits to the Shangani memorial, where Allan Wilson and his men now rest, in the absolutely stunning spot high high up on those giant granite Motopos hills that will always be home.

Some friends sent me photos of their own memories of the Wilson Memorial, to share. The first two are lovely family shots, courtesy of Bill Teague. He's the little guy pointing up in the bottom photo. :-)

This colour one if from my friend, Robb. It looks just as I remember it and gives a tiny glimpse of that glorious view that led Rhodes to demand that he be buried here.

And here's the song I can still sing -
the ballad to Allan Wilson and the Shangani Patrol.

I feel near tears writing this, as I did this past Mothering Sunday, when we took a drive out to another memorial site to Allan Wilson that I suspect very few Rhodesians know about. The people of Fochabers placed two standing stones in a memorial garden in 2002, to commemorate all the brave, remarkable people born in their town. So we went there to take a look...

The stone on the left has Alexander Milne's name first (and a William Marshall, which is the same as my grandfather's name! Would be nice to think we could be related.)

...and the stone on the right has Allan Wilson's name at the top.

We took photos, shed a few tears, and stood in awe that we'd come a full circle in such a story; so wonderfully complex, this journey of lives and deaths...

Another stone memorial, another stunning view...

It's a long walk up to that burial site on the Motopos hills. As a child I remember hating the walk in the searing African sun, but once you were up there... oh what a view! I'd turn in a circle and feel like an eagle, flying free.Flying free...did Allan Wilson's spirit fly free and return to his own home on the River Spey?

Eagles fly here too...

Saturday 17 March 2012

Mothering Sunday

Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday and although it is used as a Mother's Day in the UK it's roots are actually quite different.

Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent and traditionally it was a day when anyone working away from home, like domestic servants, was allowed time off to return home to celebrate Lent at their home church - their mother church.

It was quite common for domestic servants and apprentices to start working from the age of 10. So those returning home for Mothering Sunday were often children; children who were probably even more happy to have the day off to go see their actual mothers. So it became traditional to take little gifts home, like bunches of spring flowers, for their mothers.

And so Mothering Sunday became a day to go visit your mum and take her flowers. ;-)

The traditional food for Mothering Sunday is Simnel cake.

A fruit cake with a layer of marzipan baked inside it as well as a topping of marzipan. Years back it would also have been decorated with candied violets.* You can find how to make candied violets here.

*Note - violets and rose petals are edible and can be candied, but not all flowers are. Most bulb plants are poisonous, so do check before trying to candy any pretty flower!

Music for St Patrick's Day

Best Blessings

and music from my favourites - the Chieftans
with the equally wonderful Corrs.


Monday 12 March 2012

Sounds of Music

Music... as you have NEVER heard it before. Enjoy! :-)

The View through a Window

I want to write about a boy named Sean, because he's been on my mind all weekend. Sean was the kind of boy you don't notice - quiet, polite and really shy. In all the years from adolescent to teenager to finishing high school I don't think I ever heard him say a full sentence.

I don't know why he's been in my thoughts as I really didn't know him in all the years I knew him. He was just one of the kids that hung out in our group when we were teenagers. At holiday gatherings, at the beach, at birthday parties... Sean was always there. He would ask me to dance at parties and the local disco, but he never stayed long enough to talk. He'd dance and be gone... He kind of faded into the background a lot, he was good at disappearing into the crowd.

In all my teenage years I never thought much of him. I didn't dislike him, I just didn't know him at all. Then one night that changed, when I saw him through a window.

It was Sean's 16th birthday party. He'd invited all of us over for a barbecue and I remember because it was cold and I wasn't in the mood, but my mom said I should go anyway, it might be fun. And she was right (as mom's are!) - it was fun. There were chairs and a barbecue out on the lawn and music set up from the garage. I remember standing on the lawn... or dancing? I might have been dancing. I was looking at the kitchen window; Sean's mom was there with his older sister. That was a surprise - I'd never known he had an older sister. She was very pretty and very "grown up", but thinking now I suspect she was probably about 19.

I watched those two women in the window as they washed dishes and sorted out the birthday cake candles. At one spot, one moment caught in time so bright in that window light, they both stopped... and looked out into the night. They looked out at Sean and the love on their faces was so bright it was stunning.

How could it be that these two women were looking at the Sean like two adoring spotlights when he was always invisible to everyone else? And I realised that although Sean might seem invisible to many, to a few he was the entire world.

That was pretty much the last time I saw Sean. A few more parties and dances and then it was my final exams and when High School was over we both moved on our separate ways. I never thought about him until one day, years later, I bumped into a mutual friend and we started talking about our teen years and he said, "Did you hear about Sean?"

Sean was called up to the army after high school. That was the way it worked in South Africa back then. A "Russian Roulette" system of picking young men at random for duty, regardless of whether they wanted it, or were suited to it.

How did a quiet polite boy fare as a soldier? I have no idea and neither did his old school friend. All he could tell was that Sean came out the army changed... broken... and one day he walked out of his parents' home and was never seen again.

The invisible boy finally managed to disappear completely.

I'm still haunted by his sister's smiling face in that window; his mother holding his birthday cake. Sean might have seemed invisible to many, but to his family he was the entire world. I don't know if Sean was ever found. I do know that of the young men in our group who went into the army many found ways to disappear. Another friend's brother took drugs to disappear after leaving the army. He had a nervous breakdown and ended up, sleeping under his bed in terror, at a local mental institution.

It's because of invisible boys, like Sean, that I blog for Peace, because every person who goes off to war is changed forever by what they experience.

Too many good people disappear through wars, one way or another.

Think about that...

Saturday 10 March 2012

Be a Rainbow!

I was watching TV last night and this show had a man bouncing off the walls with anger because he felt he'd been picked on (in a public place) due to race issues. Had he? I don't know, because he was so loud and aggressive the only person who was coming across as scary and offensive was him!

He got me thinking about Political Correctness. 'PC' is an idea I really do not like. It might have been based on good intentions, but over time it seems top have become another way for people to hate each other. Far too often the stories I'm seeing in the media are about people using PC to vocalise their hate of differences under the mask of wanting everything to be "correct."

I don't agree with picking on people due to race, gender, religion or any other reason, but sometimes it seems as if we've gone so far in trying to please everyone that we're not pleasing anyone anymore. And... just like that screaming mad man on TV last night, it has made some people more aggressive and more offensive than those they point fingers at.

Years back my dad's cousin was reprimanded at his new job for being offensive. Apparently the women in the office had formally complained and he was told if he ever did it again he'd be in BIG trouble. What did he do? He said, "Good morning ladies" on entering the office in the morning.


When did being female become offensive? I like being female. I'd find a man saying, "Good morning sluts" offensive, or "Good morning girlies", but "ladies"? A word denoting gender respect? This is an improvement in society? Scary....

Well, I'm sorry to be offensively non-PC, but I really like being a WOMAN and I do not want any man saying "Good morning non-gender carbon based being" to me! Although even that might become offensive. We could find some offended by implying carbon was more relevant than water in our biological make-up.

When PC runs rampant over common sense the message becomes one of extreme intolerance. It's no longer good enough to be yourself - you have to hide everything you are, from gender and race to religious belief... in case it offends others. Doesn't this go against everything the word tolerance is about? Tolerance, understanding, a sense of humour... Love - these are the things that make the world a better place, not this mind-control PC monster that finds everything offensive.

I'm tired of having 'PC' drain the life out of Life. It's turning the world into this boring place where we have to hide everything about ourselves that makes us interesting and unique. Who we are should be something we are happy about, not ashamed of. What kind of message is that for our world's children?

When will they realise that it is being a rainbow that makes the world beautiful - all the wonderful colours in the sky, the earth and the people and animals on it. PC is so afraid of white finding black offensive that it wants to drain us all to grey... well I'm not buying into that!

I'm part of a rainbow world, not a monochrome dystopia. I don't want to have to hide my gender, religion or heritage out of fear I might offend others.

I'm going to be a rainbow!

Thursday 8 March 2012

Still Here... Kind of!

Yes, I'm still here, but life is a bit hectic at the moment. Nothing bad, just busy and my hands slow me down so much!

Hopefully I'll have something decent to post in the next few days. I have ideas, but either no time or no fingers!

Thursday 1 March 2012

Rabbit Rabbit and cat, frog, elephant...

The first of the month and I'm adding some very special "rabbit rabbit" first day of the month good luck greeting, for this first day of Spring. :-)

A friend of mine has an etsy shop. She makes and sells all kinds of jewelry including the most adorable earrings. Those white rabbits above are her work and I'm sharing some of my other favourites below. ;-) I'm putting the link to each item with the photos, so you can click on them to get the details. Each item has a meaning and a story. ;-)

Frog Prince earrings

Maneki Neko necklace

...and the cutest Makeni Neko earrings.

"pink mouse" Chinese Astrology earrings

and a pink (Rose Quartz) elephant!

Chinese Rooster earrings

The Maneki Nekos are my all time favourites... for the moment! I can't wait to see what she makes next.