Monday, April 30, 2007

Thinking Together

On Saturday we had our 'church conference' - when we spent a few hours together listening, discussing, praying and questioning what it means for us to be the church of Christ today. 'The War Department' and I juggled the kids between us and each got to the bits that we could. Stuart Blythe was our 'rent-a-theologian' for the day, whose talks stimulated and provoked our discussion. Stuart was an interesting choice as a speaker for this event, because although being a lecturer at the baptist college, he's hard to pigeon-hole, is always provocative, is an analyst of Scottish culture, is not afraid to stir up contention, and is a superb communicator. I think it would be fair to say that Stuart would rather be disagreed with by people he has made think, than blandly agreed with. And make us think he did.

I should add that his funniest characteristic is a little facial contortion he does slightly comically when he has said something funny or controversial - it's rather Kenneth Williams, actually!

In terms of what we got from it, I think that there are no obvious, immediate answers - rather Stuart has helped us instead to start asking more of the right questions. Instead of leaping straight to premature conclusions, I hope we have instead began a process of reflection about what we are about and therefore what we do.

PS: Stuart's blog has an interesting comment on Darfur today, read it here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Oh What A Day! Ben Starav, Glas Bheinn Mhor and Beinn nan Aighenan

I can't think how many times I have passed the little sign at the entrance to Glen Coe which points your attention leftwards for "Glen Etive". Several times I have looked at it and thought, "hmmm - I must go down there sometime, I've heard it's nice". Well now I have, and it's not merely 'nice' it absolutely fantastic!

I spent the most marvellous nine hours (yes very slow, I know) climbing Ben Starav, Glas Bheinn Mhor and Beinn nan Aighenan. The climb up the North ridge of Ben Starav (pictured above) is as punishing as it looks as you drive down the glen and see it entirely filling the view ahead. Worse still, going underfoot was ghastly, all bogs, rubble, squelching and stumbling to the final 100m when the mountain tries to block your way with an awkward boulder field. Starav feels like a mountain that does not want to be climbed. This is quite unlike, say, The Mamores whose soft welcoming grace beckons the walker onwards. Starav is a brute who throws out a challenge to any would-be ascender. However, the rewards for anyone willing to do battle with this mountain are simply adjective-busting! The views across vast areas of the Highlands are breathtaking, mountains, lochs and glens assaulting the senses from every side.

The trip to, Beinn nan Aighenan is a deviation off the main ridge but is a pleasant enough hour or so. I left my pack on the main ridge and collected it on my way back, giving my back a rest from the weight of the water required for such a hot day, a few thousand feet above the rivers. On top of this hill the sun was blazing, the temperatures climbing and the wind...... where was it? I cannot remember ever being on a summit in completely still air. It's incredibly quiet!

Bheinn Mhor made a pleasant finale to a grand day, a gentle sweeping curve to the summit after an intermediate top presented yet more views, especially back to Starav and the tortuous ascent of the morning. I continued along the ridge, dropping down to the col to find the stalkers path back to the car, a wet, soggy, bouldery horror of a track.

None of the usual suspects were available yesterday and so I did this one on my own. It's not that I don't appreciate the inane banter of the likes of 'Victor Meldrew', or 'His Flatulence Lord Justice Provan Mearns', but it was good to be out there on my own. Nine hours of blissful solitude, time to think, pray, prioritise, and reflect. To stand feeling microscopic before the vastness and glory of creation and to share the Psalmists understanding that all this is meant to point us towards a gracious and glorious God, I find not merely inexpressibly joyful, but renewing, and life-giving.

The hillwalking books vary in their optimism. The SMC book divides this into two day walks. McNeish, is usually in the middle and I followed his route. Butterfield is always the most optimistic as to what can be done in a day, and his book adds two more Munro's to this outing. The day was certainly good enough, the evening looked almost perfect for walking. My restriction wasn't just that I was knackered (that's today!) and that I was needed at home (the mobile phone message stated), but that I was out of water and couldn't walk on for another three hours without any. However, my appetite for Glen Etive has been thoroughly whetted and I can't wait to go back and try the adjacent hills.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What Are You Looking At?

I have posted quite a few photos of the hills that can be seen looking N. from Perth on here over the last year or so, without ever really knowing which hills were in the frame. However, with a few clues taken from the viewpoint on Kinnoull Hill, and some OS maps, I've figured out which hills are visible.

Ben Vrackie is behind Pitlochry, which I climbed with Boris, Birnam hill is above Dunkeld, which we have climbed many times, while Deuchary Hill was our most recent day out in the hills together. The three summits of Beinn a Ghlo, by Blair Atholl are a far more demanding walk, which I did with the church walking group about six years ago. Carn Liath (the most westerly of the three) has the ignominy of being the only Munro summit upon which I have vomited. I did this one on it's own about eight years ago, climbing up the steep-side from Glen Tilt through snow, hundreds of deer, ever-expanding views to an unceremonious conclusion.

(As ever click on the photo if you want to see it proplerly.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Axe Man Cometh

A very full log shed and an aching back!

Wang Dang Delta

On Saturday night, a few of us went up to the Birnam Institute to hear local blues band, "Wang Dang Delta". They put on a very good show, some good playing accross a variety of styles all delivered with good humour. It was also good to catch up with some old friends too, some of whom can be seen here.
Cick on the picture above to see the picture properly. Hang on a minute, isn't that John Inman on keyboards?

Friday, April 20, 2007

If Bernard Mathews Made Films...

We saw this DVD last night, which had come highly recommended to me. I would like to take this opportunity to "unrecommend" it to you, gentle reader.
It is an absolutely lamentable film which fails to convince on any level whatsoever.

The plot is thin, predictable, obvious and shallow. It is little more than a reworking of every rom-com cliche imaginable, simply with a new opening premise as to how the "characters" meet, fall in love, jump into bed, almost don't stay together, until at last... they do (the order varies, this film having the added shoddiness of the bed-scene coming before the characters are in love in any sense).

I say "characters" in quotes because the characterisation is some of the poorest I have seen. None of the 2D people that appeared on the screen seemed to have anything to their personalities beyond one single obvious all-defining characteristic. These characters were mere caricatures of humans, the depiction of whose tangled lives, failed to invoke any pathos at all - merely boredom. How many films will feature a dashing man (with no faults) a bad man (with no graces) and a dizzy woman torn between them? Oh please!

The direction was wooden too. I cannot think of a film in which you can almost hear the director shouting to the actors, "OK, walk into the house - look amazed, jump for joy, run into the hall, shriek with joy". Grrrrr. It bore all the hallmarks of a team of producers and actors who themselves were bored by what they were being asked to do - of whom Winslett was the worst offender.

Above all what this film lacked was any hint of charm. The rom-com genre is certainly an overworked seam, but what can make its offerings at least palatable is the kind of charm, whimsy or quirkiness that makes the viewer actually intersted in outcome of the story.

The film stole the "Love Actually" premise of being several stories running parallel and then combining together at the end. "Love Actually" was a very erratic film, some plot lines working, others not. Emma Thompson & Alan Rickman's sub-plot working in a way which Hugh Grant's PM didn't. "The Holiday", unlike Love Actually is at least consistent in this regard.
- It is uniformly unwatchable from start to finish.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No Such Thing As A Free Log?

Well actually there is - and here they are. I've been offered a few nice big chunks of wood for the fire; all I have to do is to collect them, split them and dry them out. Time to bring a trusty axe out of hibernation I think...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Someone Actually Reads This Drivel!

"Does anyone actually read your blog?". I have been asked this question many times and I have always replied, "Er...... dunno!"

Now however, my brother-in-law Simon who has a degree and a job in all things I.T. and nerdy, has shown me a free tool from Google that can answer that question. "Google Analytics" not only tells you if anyone has read your ramblings but puts the results into happy little graphs for you to enjoy too. It's easy to download and use, just register and cut-and-paste some code into your site/blog and away you go.
Much to my surprise the graphs show that some people actually read this drivel!

Postcards from Ulster: #5 "1-2-3-4"

Visiting the wife's family has many good things to offer, alongside their entertaining company. In the last year they have also procured a drum kit. Yes - a real drum kit - not a toy one or a stripped-down kids one, but a full size and really noisy drum kit. How better to wake up one's dozing parents than with a drum solo, the kids ask? It's a good job they live in a detached house, a few hundred metres from from any other building.

After being impressed with our niece's excellent drumming and how easy she made it look I picked up the sticks. If a 6 year old can manage it, surely I can too, I wrongly assumed.

I was let down by my inability to complete the seemingly simple task of repeatedly counting to four, without ever spilling over into five. It's rare to find something which is so enjoyable, despite my complete ineptitude. It would be great fun to have a kit, but I certain that my family and next-door neighbours are more than grateful that I haven't.
1-2-3-4-5 (d'oh!)

Postcards from Ulster: #4 "Derry/Londonderry/ The Walled City"

We went for a trip to Derry for the day (or Londonderry if you prefer). The highlight of the day alongside the train ride there and back, was a walk around the city walls, which are completely intact and still circle the city centre. Today the name of the city causes such contention that the entrance to the city is welcomes you to the neutral "Walled City". One of the original plantation cities, Derry required a wall to protect the incomers (who called it Londonderry) from the others who didn't. The great gates and iron fences all over the city walls are testimony to the fact that it has served military purposes until fairly recently. It's very good walk round too, with some historical info on signs and plenty of old cannon's for the kids to clamber on too.

Two contrasting views of the city from its old city walls.

Inside the walls there has been an incredible amount of development, the place is jammed packed full of new shopping centres, all shoe-horned into the central area. The town planners must have been away on holiday when much of this was passed! In one almost unbelievable piece of building control, a department store has been allowed to build in garish yellow stone - directly on top of the historic city wall!

On the other hand outside the walls the city looks like this, less big business and much has it has done for decades.
Spot the Celtic fan's house! A view from the fortifications on the city walls into the Bogside area.

We think it's all over. But they don't.

Postcards from Ulster: #3 "Coast"

One of our favourite TV programmes is "Coast", the series in which they have toured around the coastline of the British Isles investigating the landscape, and history of our coastline. One of the best in the series was the the one in which they travelled the coastline of Northen Ireland from Derry to Antrim. Our relations have all kindly opted to live within a couple of miles of this fantastic coastline in order to give us unlimited access to it when holidaying over there with them - which is very thoughtful of them. The beaches are huge, and if you are willing to walk beyond the the crowd by the car park, not too busy. Many of them are backed by dramatic cliffs with waterfalls tumbling over them, some have acres of dunes behind them, while others like Castlerock are adjacent to a rocky foreshore full of opportunities for scrambling. Boris and Norris particularly liked being taken along some of these scrambly routes by their uncle and cousin - although restricting Norris to climbing up only things which he could climb down was a continious challenge!

The other way to see this coastline is by train. We all took a ride from Coleraine to Derry and back and it's a fantastic run. The train goes North from Coleraine following the river Bann, and then turns westwards following the sea, it dives through tunnels, emerges under great cliffs, skims through dunes, and under mountains and provides a completely different view of the land from that from the nearby the main road.

Northern Ireland railways has bought some fancy new trains too. Here's one of their old trains still used on the Portrush branch, reflected in the window of a new one, bound for L'Derry.

Postcards from Ulster #2 "Glenveagh"

The North of Ireland has some fantastic scenery. We took a day trip across to Co. Donegal and up to Glenveagh National Park. It's very much like parts of the eastern Scottish Highlands, great open spaces, high flat-topped mountains, long deep lochs - all spaced out around the contrasting angles typical of fluvio-glacial geomorphology. A couple of hours walk into the park (for a one-year old that is) there is a large castle, with a walk up to a magnificent viewpoint. Glenveagh Castle looks ancient but turned out to have been faked by the Victorians who built it as a hunting lodge. I'm happy to report that the coffee was real though.

We have visited Donegal before and didn't see anything like the scenery we did here - I can't believe that despite the number of times we have been over there we've never see Glenveagh before. We'll definitely be going back - although next time I hope it will be with walking boots and on a more serious expedition!

Postcards from Ulster: #1 "Oooo Jimmy!"

We're just back from a fine week spent with the wife's family in Northern Ireland. On Easter Monday we went down to the seaside town of Portstewart where the kids drove go-karts and sailed inflatable boats around the pond, before heading for Morelli's famous ice cream shop on the seafront.

There was a bit of a queue for tables, however we spotted a family about to leave and stood close by to bag the table as soon as they left. It was only once they had stood up that the wife realised that she was standing in front of actor James Nesbitt. Realising that her normal persona of a mid-thirties professional woman was entirely inappropriate for the moment, she cleverly adopted one from a 15-year old schoolgirl and blurted out, "ooo - you're Jimmy Nesbitt!" Indeed he was. Of course we thanked them for vacating their sets for us, you're very nice people, and all that.
"You're Jimmy Nesbitt!"

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Idiots

There is egg-on-face at Somerfields supermarkets and their ad-agency Brando over an embarrassing error in an Easter press release which contained the following gaff:
“ Brits will on average be enjoying over 3.5 eggs each over the Easter weekend alone. But over a quarter don’t know why handing them out symbolises the birth of Jesus. . . .”
Full story is on The Timesonline here.
Happy Christmas everyone!


"Crashing Tooth" the Tyrannosaurus Rex
by Boris

Elsie Cowpat!

Just had a phone call from Percy Cowpat in Chile to tell us that they've just had a little daughter, all arrived safely and well, a couple of weeks early. We're delighted for them - and can't wait to see her when they are next in Scotland.
It's rather inconsiderate of them to have their children so far away that we can't visit them though.

Have the next one back in Edinburgh please.

Good Friday Meditation

Dr Stumpy Greenisland sent me his Good Friday Mediatation,
which is published here with his permission.

Looking God in the Eye

Steve sat down opposite me in the cafe and opened up like a book. He wasn’t a chap who I knew all that well, and apart from anything else I hadn’t seen him in maybe twelve years. I’d asked him how his wife was – you know how you do. But his wife was dead; she died 10 years ago. Cancer. By the time the diagnosis was given it was too late. It was already through her body like a wildfire and in six months she was dead. He watched her age twenty years in two months, and by the end all that was left was an exhausted corpse. Now all he has are old pictures, and the colour, he says with a blackened laugh, is beginning to fade on them. But the memory of her death is as vivid as ever; I could see the tears well up in his eyes. In my naivety it hadn’t occurred to me that a death could leave a wound that might never heal – or that might split open again, fleshy and red, at a moments notice. I felt like I fumbled my way through the cup of coffee – tried to listen and not say anything stupid- and then he had to go; pick his daughter up from a music lesson.

I wandered into a bookshop and, as is my wont, browsed the theology section, and a huge anger rose up inside me – all these books – but none of them could explain why Steve’s wife had to die is so much pain, and why Steve was left trying to hold the bits of his life together like shards of broken pottery. And how many other people there must be out there carrying sorrow around like a lead weight for years and most people don’t even notice. Why Lord? What is the point?

However, unlike Job, I live after the incarnation. No answer can be made small enough to fit in my tiny mind – but God in Christ has fitted Himself into His creation as a man. I get no answer to my question on suffering, but in Jesus I see the God who suffers with us and for us.

“The cross”, says Martin Luther, “is the measure of all things”. It gives us the measure of God’s love, the measure of God’s humility, and the measure of our fallen-ness. God’s enthronement here on earth is naked and bloodied, nailed to a cross. Probably not high and lifted up as much religious art has pictured him, but rather with legs bent, and feet nailed a few inches from the ground. You could have gone up and looked him in the eye, or spat in his face. Christian – behold your God.

God – the maker of stars, the giver of life, the Judge of all time and space became one of us, was treated as a fool and died as a nobody. And this he did for two reasons. Firstly, and pre-eminently, he died to save us from our sin. In the cross, God’s justice and mercy meet as he takes the punishment that the morality built into his creation, and the sheer holiness that is his character, demands.

But there is also another reason, and that is to identify with us, so that we might know that our God is the God who suffers in, and for, and with his creation. So that when Steve meets the Lord, as his wife has done already, and speaks with him as a man to a man, he will know that God understands the sorrow of his life, not because he is omnipotent and all knowing, but because he made himself nothing, was made in human likeness, humbled himself, and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. He suffered like us.

I sometimes wonder whether if, even in heaven, we’ll ever be able to understand why certain things happened to us, or to those we love. Will all our questions be answered? My guess is that they won’t, because we are merely immortal, not infinite. But God will wipe the tears from Steve’s eyes, and from his wife’s, and there will be peace.
Dr Stumpy Greenisland.

Film Notes: Amazing Grace

We're just back from the cinema, having been to see the much vaunted film, "Amazing Grace" about William Wilberforce's campaign in parliament to abolish the Atlantic slave trade.

In many ways this is an excellent film, but one not without its weaknesses too.

On the negative side, the film pays but a single sentence's recognition to the slaves own fight for freedom, and the inclusion of one black ex-slave in the central cast. This could all too easily make the freedom to which they were entitled, to appear to have been a benevolent gift from 'worthy' white politicians - and is an error of selectivity which Wilberforce's direct social-spiritual heirs, like TearFund, are careful not to make today.

This criticism however does not negate the value of the film. Wilberforce is a subject well worthy of film treatment in his own right. History remains a potent force for both understanding and shaping our world and as such we have a need both to disavow our colonial heritage as we have to celebrate our heroes, people who saw through the errors in the value-systems of their age. The omission of the slaves' story is problematic - but the telling of the Wilberforce story remains stirring for people like us, born into comfort, inhabiting a world of need.

The film might also be justifiably accused of soft-peddling the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional horror of slavery. On the other hand, such soft-peddling enabled the film to be rated a PG - with the most grotesque elements being referred to rather than depicted. It also avoided the danger of using this most sensitive piece of history as a gratuitous piece of entertainment or audience manipulation. The PG certificate and materials produced for schools and churches will greatly increase the potential for good coming from it.

One thing the film certainly soft-peddles is Wilberforce's conversion and life based upon his Christian faith. Historians have make Wilberforce's 'evangelical conversion' as the central organising thought of his lifetime's devotion to a host of social reforms of which abolition was but one. The film gave the impression that the abolitionists had a view of human rights - but this is quite misleading. The 18th and 19th century evangelicals instead had a doctrine of human dignity - based on the notion that all are 'created in the image of God'. This key belief - which led to not just abolitionism, but also the parliamentary campaigns against child labour, limited factory working hours, and free education (associated with figures such as Lord Shaftesbury), and also the charitable responses to the Victorian city, such as hospitals, hospices, orphanages and mental hospitals. If the next film needing to be made is on the slaves own story, the story of the Clapham Sect should also be told.

Strangely the film conversely overplays the spiritual-conversion-leading-to-abolitionism of John Newton. The film portrays the old hymn writer as being haunted by the memories of slaves he once transported and an ardent abolitionist. The truth however is far more complicated. It seems more likely that the immediate effect of Newton's conversion was that he stopped raping, beating and mistreating slaves and sought to increase their comfort, then abandoned the trade and only became a strident abolitionist later in life. Newton's social awakening was a slow one it seems. We are all people of our time. An interesting discussion was started in my church a few months ago when Jim asked us to imagine what future generations will consider to be our most glaring sins - which we are perhaps oblivious to.

One lovely moment the film dealt with very nicely though was a dialogue between Wilberforce and Hannah More in which the newly-converted politician is wrestling with the choice of "using his lovely voice to praise God or to make a difference in the world" ie pursue a political career or a spiritual vocation. More tells him that he must do both. This is a wonderful scene because in three lines of dialogue it exemplifies the holistic nature of Christian faith, serving all aspects of our humanity; it sets up the possibility of a dualism in which the different strands of the Christian life are pitted against one another - and then demolishes it. The early evangelicals like Wilberforce did not recognise this dualism - a belief which so characterised later fundamentalism; and so here the film has a crucial message for today's church.

The film benefits from some notable performances. Albert Finney's John Newton is rather eccentric, but yet strangely compelling, Benedict Cumerbatch is brilliant as Pitt the Younger (one of the most compelling pieces of on-screen ageing I have seen), Michael Gambon portrays Fox delightfully, almost as a parliamentary Gandalf! Ciaran Hinds as the 'baddie' is also excellent.

The 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade is something in our history that we should note carefully. One tragic fact is that there are now millions more slaves in the world than there were two centuries ago. If agriculture was the driving industry in this trade then, today it seems to be the sex-industry and drugs. Slave ships may no longer sail the Atlantic- but every day vulnerable people are trafficked into this country to be exploited.

The extent to which those of us who are white and British can share responsibility for the sins of our forebears, and should repent of them to the descendents of the original victims; can be debated almost endlessly. There is no doubt that many descendants of slaves feel the weight of the oppression of theirs, most acutely. What we should do though is to ensure that the stories of abolitionists, both white and black are told to inspire us to continue to work together against the evil of slavery. This is a good film, albeit a flawed one - but certainly one which demands a response.

Some relevant links:
The book, "Slave Testimony: 2 Centuries of Letters, Speeches and Interviews", edited by John Blassingame focuses on the African-American experience of slavery and is useful reading.
Stop the Traffik : a coalition of many charities working to eradicate the slave trade today.
TearFund: A Christian charity and one of the StopTheTraffik partners helping many young victims of sex slavery to escape violent pimps and people traffickers and to gain skills and employment. - the official film website.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

5 Minutes of Fame

(Click on the image above to enlarge it and make it legible). Here's my little Grandma - appearing in the Staines Informer, enjoying her very well deserved five minutes of fame. We were a little surprised to read in the paper that she is now 97! If that's true - we haven't visited her for nine years!

In the background is a picture of my old school. Since I left it has had three or four different names, and various re-launches. It can only mean it is now actually worse than when I went there.


In honour of the school holidays and the visit of the Grandparental Support Unit (London Branch), we took Boris, Norris and Doris for a day out to Arbroath today.

The train ride from Perth to Dundee is always a delight in sunny weather - and we enjoyed skimming through the fields of the Carse of Gowrie with fine views of the Braes of the carse to our left and the sunshine sparking on the Tay to our right. The boys were excited to see the Kinnoull Hill tower, which we climbed to on Sunday - from the train at its base. I'd never been on the train beyond Dundee station and enjoyed the ride along the coast to Arbroath. The children seemed delighted with all they could see, while my Dad eyed up challenging golf links' as we progressed up the coast.

Once at Arbroath we had a look around the old station. It is today a rather sad and forlorn place - a simple platform surrounded by the decaying remains of a goods network and engine shed. Then we walked down, through the town to the harbour area. If the station had seen better days, so sadly had the area of the town around the station. Many of the shops were boarded up and it seemed that the decay apparent in other Angus towns such as Montrose had hit Arbroath hard as well. The harbour was in much better shape though. Despite the difficulties the fishing industry faces through over-exploitation of the seas and quotas imposed, the harbour was fairly busy. We saw plenty of commercial and leisure boats in and around the harbour, as well as a busy boat yard repairing everything from tiny lobster pot fishing vessels to canal boats. We managed a quick peek at the lifeboat in it's shed too.

The best thing about the harbour through was the smell! In many of the lanes around the harbour, tiny traditional smokeries still operate, producing genuine Arbroath smokies as they always have. I had expected smokie production to be in the usual vast shed, but was charmed instead by some small shacks with smoke and fish-smells pouring out from under their roofs. We found a small pub by the harbour, backing onto a smokerie - selling freshly smoked fresh fish. we had to try some - and it was absolutely stunning! The enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that they had a good fresh kids menu - which Boris, Norris and Doris tucked into with equal relish. Walking out of the pub and through the harbour area, it was lovely to breathe in deeply and smell not just the sea - but to realise that with all the little smokeries now working flat out, the whole of this part of the town reeked with its wonderful odours! Strange to think that once whole cities smelled of their principal trades.
From the harbour we walked up to Arbroath Abbey, a wonderful ruin and national symbol of Scotland. Historic Scotland have built an excellent and child friendly museum there which details the turbulent history of the Abbey. After a little history lesson for them all (they do like the gory bits a little too much!) the Abbey grounds proved to be a fantastic playground.

All that was left was then the scenic train ride home for some tea. A brilliant day!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Heroic Feet

Here is a photo of a genuine pair of heroic feet. They belong to little 'Doris' who has just marched from Branklyn gardens to the summit of Kinnoull Hill - virtually unaided. All attempts to carry her, piggy-back her or put her in the Mac-Pack were vocally and voluminously rejected- and on she marched. This is either that she is determined to achieve anything that elder brothers 'Boris' and 'Norris' can manage - or that her teething-associated nappy rash made sitting in the pack a miserable experience. Nevertheless this afternoon was a giant leap for a one-year-old, the ascent being about 200m. Naturally my thoughts are jumping ahead a few years to the thought that with such good progress being made so young, she might soon be pleading with me to take her hillwalking!

Hill itself remains delightful, the huge views, lovely woods, areas of quiet, spectacular cliffs and peaceful glades - we love it and seem to end up, up there somewhere every week. Kinnoull Hill is a few square miles of public land close to the centre of Perth, given to the town by a landlord back in the 1920s. The folly on top of the cliffs above the Friarton Bridge is a well-known landmark. Family opinion though remains divided about the new paths laid through the woods on all sides of the hill. Some of us welcomed the fact that it made the hill more accessible and easy to use for many people; others thought that something of the almost wild feeling of the place had been sadly lost and Perth's little wilderness domesticated somewhat. At first I was appalled at the paths and thought them an eyesore. However, on top of the hill we met some friends with a very young baby in a pushchair that would never have coped with the old tracks. The tracks generally avoid the dangerous edges so Boris and Norris can enjoy a little more freedom too. What finally sold the paths to me though was the fact that the good surface enabled little Doris to achieve her giant leap with her heroic feet.


Psycho Pete & Mrs Psycho getting married, 31.03.07. The term 'psycho' does not imply that she has married the proverbial axe-murderer. Apparently its a term bestowed upon him by the young people in the church in recognition of his rather dubious footballing talents which include perfect execution of the crunching late tackle.

I had the privilege of being asked to speak in the service, a joy which was somewhat tarnished when the bride's mother keeled over during my bit. Was it something I said?

A good meal and party followed, and it was just excellent to be able to share in a really special day with some great folks. Someone cunningly got a waiter to hand the groom a small box inscribed with the words, "Old Gits Honeymoon Viagra Gift Box" during desert. I know the identity of the culprit but am sworn to secrecy. Allegedly the box actually contained Easter eggs.