Saturday, 6 December 2008

Remembering Simon

It's said that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy was shot. Likewise the death of princess Diana. For me, as long as I live, I will never ever forget hearing my father's voice saying ''Simon's died''

On 25th November I went to bed feeling happy with my lot. I had a good idea which direction my life was headed and I was thankful for so much including the recent news that my mother was again given the all clear from cancer. On Wednesday morning I answered the phone to my father knowing instantly that something wasn't right. Dad only has to say ''Hi Sarah'' and I know straight away whether the news is good or bad. This time the news was worse than bad. It was worse than I could possibly imagine. My brother had taken his own life on Monday 24th and been found the following day. I cannot even begin to describe the utter devastation and shock I felt. All I could say was ''oh daddy daddy daddy I'm so sorry I'm so sorry'' Apparently my sister said ''daddy'' too. Something we haven't called dad in years but something we both did when hearing the tragic news.

What followed from that phone call was without a doubt the most distressing and traumatic weeks of my entire life. I have never had to endure anything so awful and hope I never will have to again. Due to my brother living in Florida I had to get on a plane within hours and meet my parents and sister there with none of us really having a clue what we were going to find. Simon had taken his life just before Thanksgiving which meant due to holidays and the weekend there was little we could do for the first few days except sit around and wait.

We were met and given wonderful hospitality by Simon's close friends and work colleagues. It was comforting to us all to know that their love for Simon was equalled to ours and they were as shocked and grief stricken as we were. Knowing how highly Simon was thought of and how loved he was, was a tremendous comfort to myself and my family.

There were times when I don't know how I managed to put one foot in front of the other as I struggled to come to terms with the over whelming sadness that had engulfed me. For the loss of my brother, for my parents loss of a son, and most importantly for Simon's loss of bearings in life that drove him to do this. No one saw it coming and we have talked for hours and hours over to the whys and hows and the if onlys. Nothing, none of it will bring Simon back. A light has gone out in our lives that will never be re lit. However, I know due to Simon's faith which he shared with me and others, that a light has gone on in heaven. His pain and torment has ended when ours has only just begun. I seem to spend large amounts of time just looking at photos of him. Sometimes I feel alright and can speak freely about him when at others the slightest thing can trigger another tidal wave of sadness and grief which consumes me. All I want to do is talk about him. Say the same things over and over and over. Thank God for those friends who are there to listen.

One of my short term coping strategies is to get as much information about suicide as possible. I know I will never be given the answers I am looking for but for me, having some information helps. While on my search I found these poems and words which I think are beautiful.

He Only Took My Hand

Last night while I was trying to sleep my son's voice I did hear.

I opened my eyes and looked around but he did not appear.

He said, "You've got to listen. You've got to understand;

God didn't take me from you, He only took my hand.

When I cried out in pain that night, the instant that I died,

He reached down and took my hand, and pulled me to his side.

He pulled me up and saved me, from the misery and pain.

My body so badly wounded I could never be the same.

My search is finally over now, I've found happiness within.

All the answers to empty dreams, and all I might have been.

I love you all and miss you so... please don't keep asking why.

My body's gone forever, but my spirit will never die!

So live until we meet again, and please try to understand

God didn't take me from you, He only took my hand.

~Author Unknown


when I was born everyone in the room

was laughing and happy. I was crying.

when I died everyone in the room

was crying. I was the only one

laughing and happy.


John 14 v 2-3 There are many rooms in my Father's house. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? And if I am going away to prepare a place for you, I will come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you (Simon) may be where I am.


Revelation 21 v 1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and the sea was gone. I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, "See, the tabernacle of God is among humans! He will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won't be death anymore. There won't be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared


As I prayed and asked Jesus to tell Simon we love him and miss him, a friend who was with me asked me what the name Simon means. I looked it up there and then and it means ''listening''

Simon I know you are listening. Rest in peace my darling brother. Your loss is so great to so many people. You were and still are, very loved by very many. Thank you for being my brother.


If you have been touched by this post and would like to make a donation in memory of Simon please pass donations on to The Samaritans. Thank you.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Send forth your word Lord and let there be light.

Somewhere in the depths of an old photo album from many moons ago is a picture of me next to this lighthouse pictured. Taken at Old Hunstanton. This one was taken in August days before I moved up to Orkney. The one in the photo album shows me sitting in a pushchair and mum standing behind in a head scarf and rain coat. (ah those were the days when fashion graciously stepped aside to make room for warmth and comfort)
I wonder if that is when my love of lighthouses began? I have always enjoyed looking at pictures of lighthouses and watched with envy, programmes where people have converted lighthouses to live in.

This weekend I attended a lighthouses of prayer day. A group of almost 40 of us weathered the storms to make it to a coastal tearoom with spectacular views with a lighthouse to complete the landscape, and looked at ways we could impact our local communities by praying, caring and sharing. It was an interesting and encouraging day and I was genuinely uplifted to see how many people wanted to build up their communities by looking out for one another and looking for ways we could love,serve and help those people around us. There is a good community spirit in Orkney but we can always do more. Orkney is a very safe and friendly environment to raise children but people have the same stresses and strains wherever you go and we all need each other at the more difficult times. Just as a lighthouse warned the passing boats of the dangers of rocks, we as human lighthouses can be there to brighten up someones day or steer a misguided soul to safety. As conversations took place over the weekend we realised very much that sometimes we are the lighthouses. Strong and able to help light the way and sometimes we are the person in the boat feeling tossed around on a stormy sea. (I've paraphrased the conversations here but the idea's the same) I know I have been so grateful for the abundance of human lighthouses who have helped and selflessly served me over the years and hope to conintue the good work in other people lives.

We each took home a miniature lighthouse to remind us. I am lucky enough that in the distance from my lounge window I can see a lighthouse. I can't however see a little girl in a pushchair. Apparently she's all grown up now.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

There's nothing better than.....

A solitary walk on the beach in November. Which is exactly what I enjoyed this afternoon. I've always loved being by the sea and this afternoon I drove to one of my favourite beaches here in Orkney and had a lovely time. The dog ran around like a loony as is his want and I walked along the isolated beach taking in the lovely air and sound of the waves. I'm always fascinated by the abundance of shells too. I see one and think it looks nice and pick it up then walk along and see another one and another and another. Then I can't decide which ones to pick up and which ones to leave and there are just so many of them! Why do I take such delight in picking up shells? I have no idea but it's probably to do with simple childhood pleasures of being by the seaside on holiday where I could spend hours playing on the beach. I finally decided on three extra special shells to bring back with me and left the remaining millions where they were. The one pictured was collected by Elliot a few weeks ago. He's clearly a chip off the old block.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Oh dear, I'm going to be so late!

Church starts a little later in Orkney. 11.15am which is considerably later than what I grew used to back in Cambs where we started at 10.30am for service and if I was singing then I was (supposed) to be there for 9.30am. I'm told the later starts up here was traditionally to enable farmers to get their milking done before church and presumably before modern milking equipment. 11.15 seemed to me so humanly late for a Sunday morning that I never imagined I would be like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (pictured) But sure enough we make the time fit the job (or is it the job fit the time?) and still now I find myself rushing at the last minute to get the kids ready, screaming at them 'wash face, clean teeth, get your shoes on we're going to be late' followed by us tearing down the road (within the speed limit of course!), parking, flying up the steps and into church and trying to look composed knowing that once again we have broken the speed of sound as we politely wish others a good morning. The same goes for Elliot's school which starts at 9.30am. 'No problem' I said. I was used to getting him to school as early as 8 previously so I could go on to work and that included a ten minute drive. Surely now school started so late here and was on the doorstep, I would have time to bake, wash the kitchen floor or do the ironing before even needing to wake dear son. Not so. The words are pretty much the same 'wash face, clean teeth etc.... Then I send him on his way offering up a silent prayer of thanks for the speedy scooter which gets him there just before the bell. The only day left for it not to be an issue is Saturdays when I'm guaranteed never late for my lie in. My dad is a stickler for time and has never been or ever will be late for anything ever. I guess I take after my mum!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Life in the snow lane.

When I told people of my plans to move to Orkney the first thing 90% of the people said was ''ooh it's cold up there'' followed by a series of jokes about horizontal rain and the need for knitted hats and waterproof trousers. I would then proceed to tell them that ''actually because we are surrounded by the sea we rarely go below freezing and you hardly ever have to scrape the ice off your car''

Skip forward to Tuesday and imagine my disgust at having to stand outside in the freezing cold and snow while I scraped the dang ice of the windscreen. I wasn't bothered about having to do it. I was more bothered about the string of emails I would undoubtedly get from 'friends' reminding me how they were right all along. ggrrr as well as bbrrrr.

I was armed and ready to defend myself by saying how incredibly rare it was to snow before about February and even the Orcadians were saying it was cold when behold, music to my ears, apparently the villages back where I came from had 2 inches!

I'm pleased to say thngs have much improved since then and we've had some lovely sunshine, though admittedly it's been a bit nippy. Anyway being as we all suffered a little the other day can we go back to zero on the 'how many times have you had to scrape your car this year?'

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Soap box rant

Apparently there have been a string of complaints about a picture of Davina McCall made up like a zombie on the front cover of a TV listing that comes with a news paper. The bulk of the complaints are because the paper is easily accessible to children and the picture simply too upsetting. I have to agree and think the complaints are very valid. It seems bizarre sometimes how we have the watershed for TV programmes but broadcasters can say anything they like on the tea time news! It's (sadly) very common to hear about people being raped, stabbed, sexually assaulted, prostitution, murder, drug addiction etc all while eating the chicken nuggets. I realise we live in a world where sadly there is too much of this going on and children can't be shielded and protected from every minor thing. It just seems to me to be a strange loophole that 'news talk' doesn't seem to apply to the watershed. The same goes for TV magazines and the like. The adverts through these publications can be really quite explicit and anyone can see them while flicking through to see when Blue Peter is going to be on. I recently signed a petition to stop such adverts being published in tv magazines. Whether the petition will have any effect remains to be seen.

I'm happy for you to add your comments and agree or disagree with my posts. All comments however will be moderated before being posted. (in case my son reads it ;p)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The art of juggling.

Last Sunday I heard a really inspiring sermon on the book of Ruth. For those of you who don't know it, it's a story in the Old Testament about a young widowed woman and her mother in law and how God restored their life after a series of terrible events. In their case famine and the death of their husbands. After their trials God restored them and gave Ruth a second husband and son and Naomi, her mother-in-law a grandson.

I'm not a widow, but I am a single parent and one thing God reminded me through this sermon was how He hasn't forgotten me and He knows what a sometimes almost impossible job being a single parent is. I often desribe it as having to be both good cop and bad cop. Or differently put I have to dish out the discipline followed by the comfort on a regular basis. This is not a pity party. I'm just saying it the way it is. Single parenting is without a doubt one of the hardest jobs there can be if you want to do it right and to the best of your ability. Sometimes I feel like I have all these balls in the air and I don't know which one to throw, which ones to catch and which ones to drop on the ground. One time I was bemoaning how hard it was to God and He reminded me that He was a single parent too! and he has a lot more balls to keep up in the air than I do. (and thankfully He doesn't drop any) I don't have any plans to go and lie at peoples feet. (read the book) or to go picking up stray barley in some strangers field. However I know and have learned enough to know that even though the book was written well over 2000 years ago the message is much the same. God has a plan for me, and it's a good one. My job is to hang tough, be obedient and do whatever He tells me. Happy juggling peeps.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Homesickness, hobbies and winter coats.

After two and a half months here now I experienced my first pang of homesickness this week. Thankfully it hasn't been all consuming or indeed enough to make me consume large amounts of chocolate while crying into my coffee. (Don't even drink coffee) but to be fair it's been enough to make me dig deep and know that in all things 'this too shall pass'

So as I write this the wind is howling round the house and the rain is pouring down. Thankfully I'm not a sun worshiper so it doesn't really bother me. In fact I feel quite cosy. ( A friend has been teasing me about my need for a decent windproof/rainproof jacket with a hood since I arrived here. I'm beginning to think she may be right. ;o) ) Thankfully I've plenty to amuse myself with during the winter evenings. I've always been quite happy in my own company and enjoy reading so that will continue. I also love playing online scrabble with friends. I have one friend who wins 2/3 of the games we play but I enjoy trying to keep up! My faith in God is a constant source of comfort to me. I don't know where I would be without Him. And sometimes it's nice to just put on a DVD. I'm making new friends all the time and other opportunities begin to open up. I'm settling into church and am looking forward to a games evening and ceilidh Saturday evening. So all in all there is plenty to keep me away from the ironing. No complaints there!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Colours in the sky

Rainbows seem to be a common and welcome sight in Orkney. I feel like I've seen more here in the last 9 weeks than I've seen in the rest of my life! Often double rainbows and complete arcs. No half measures here. I've tried photographing them but it doesn't do the beauty of them justice. Clever people will be able to tell me the reasons why to do with rain/sun/positioning etc. I am happy ust to enjoy them and be reminded of God's promises. The first rainbow was when God promised Noah He would never again flood the earth. Living in Orkney it mightn't be a bad thing to be remind of that!
Other colours in the sky I am yet to experience here are the Northern Lights. (I've looked them up on youtube) Which can be seen from here when conditons are right. I've signd up to an Aurora watch so I'll get an Email warning me when chances are likely. I shall then rush out with the video cam and I promise, once I get over the excitement, you'll be the first to know.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Saturday night at the movies.....

Saturday nights is X factor night in our family. Yes I hear the collective groan as you all wonder at how such a thinking woman could enjoy such trash. However I do. So deal with it and don't give me a hard time. I never vote mind you. I'm not willing to part with cash for my enjoyment. I am however, willing to part with cash to watch the new James Bond movie out on 31st October. I'm a huge Daniel Craig fan and loved him in Casino Royale. There is a down side to living here though. (I've found one at last!!) and that is the films can take a little longer to work their way up here. I guess it gives me more time to find a viewing companion and Mama Mia was a constant sell out so when Quantum of Solace does arrive I shall have to get in quick. It's a small price to pay I suppose. I've become to used to arriving and choosing from 12 (?) screens as opposed to one as well as walking half a mile to get from the door to the screen. At least while waiting for the film to arrive in Orkney I can tune into X Factor. I might as well now I'm out the X Factor closet.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

You won't believe this but....

The postman/lady just opens the front door and pops the letters and parcels on the mat.

People really do leave their babies asleep outside the shops while they go in.

Insurance companies grade areas from 1-59 in order of safety/low crime. Orkney came out as a 2!

Libraries don't charge for overdue books (I've already managed to test this out quite by accident)

The only traffic lights I have seen in Orkney have been temporary ones.

In the last 8 weeks I have never had to drive round and round looking for a parking space nor have I had to sit waiting in traffic at any time.

Parking costs 50p for 2 hours. (yeah go tell that to the Lion Yard!)

The air is so clear it feels like I hardly have to breath.

I really should work for the tourist board! :o)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Slow, slow, get-off-my-toe

Tuesdays nights I love. Every Tuesday at the community centre I have two and a half hours away from the children to learn ceilidh dancing. (pronounced 'kay-lee') ceilidhs are a common event in Orkney so I thought I might as well learn what I'm doing. So far I've managed to pick up the dances fairly well and it doesn't arf keep yer fit! In England the ceilidhs I've been to, the band walks you through the dances first. Not so up here you just have to jump right in. So for the sake of the mens' toes should I be lucky enough to get a dance I'm learning to twinkle, in advance. (If you don't know what a twinkle is, it's back, back, forward, forward, back. Unless of course you're the man then you have to do it in reverse) Are you keeping up? Jolly good. The beauty of it is I have great fun, bust some lard and all for only £1. That covers the cost of the room and the rest goes to charity so all in all it's a bargain of a night! you thankfully get a wee break in the middle to prevent collapse and are never without a dance partner. Just remember to take a fan for cooling off. Anyone for the Spanish Jive?

Monday, 6 October 2008

A Trip to Westray

Not long after our arrival in Orkney we were invited on a day trip to Westray with friends. This started with a 1hr 20 min boat crossing. Now I know to Orcadians reading this, that is nothing special maybe, but to the rest of the folk reading, mainly friends and family from south, the thought of going to church on a boat is a complete novelty. And so it was for me. So far living in Orkney has been a bit likea dream with so many new experiences and ways. I can still hardly believe I'm here. Everything is such a novelty. Not least the Westray 'airport' (photographed) No terminal 5 trauma for Westray. They have it all in hand with a hut, a couple of trained saftey folk to check things before their Sunday dinner and a turn around of less than ten minutes. Westray to Papa Westray boasts the worlds shortest scheduled flight of two to three minutes! No time for inflight shopping and drinks then. I've yet to experience a flight in the 'wee' plane but managed to capture a picture. (Anton I hope you appreciate the name on the side. Click on the picture for a closer look ;p )

Great hospitality followed by a visit to the lighthouse, castle as well as some serious haggis hunting and the return boat trip home lead to a very full and enjoyable day. But we never did find that haggis......

Seas, scenes and seals

I've always loved the sea and to live near enough to enjoy it daily has been a lifetime ambition of mine. I can now see the sea from my living room and it's a daily joy to look out of the window with a cup of tea and take in the view. The scenery in Orkney is spectacular and one I hope never to take for granted. There's a real mix of sandy beaches and rugged coastlines which I've enjoyed exploring. Recently we were driving home from church and Elliot said ''is that a seal?'' My first thought was that it would be a rock and a rather hopeful imaginative young boy. However sure enough there was a seal sitting on the rocks just hangin' out as seals do! A few days later he saw one while at school. He is right by the water at school so a seal would make a lovely distraction. All I ever got was the lawnmower in the summer.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

''Whit like the day then?'' learning the lingo.

I was in a shop recently and overheard two men talking. For all I knew they could have been planning to rob a bank (unlikely however) as I didn't have the faintest idea of what either one was saying to the other. The Orcadian accent is one like I have never heard before I and love listening to it. However with my somewhat BBC english accent, replying can often sound odd. On my second day here I went into a shop and a woman said ''whit like the day then'' A typical Orcadian greeting which has been said to me before and I never really knew how to reply. I just smiled and said ''oh I'm fine thank you'' then rushed home and asked my Orcadian friend what I'm supposed to say! Some say ''deid right'' while others say ''no bad ta, yoursel?'' neither of which sounds right coming from my mouth. I was recently at a friends house (hoose) and I was looking at a picture book with her little boy of 18 months. I pointed to and said ''look there's a cow'' his mum said ''he won't know what a cow is, it's a coo'' I apologised and said I was such a townie to which I was again corrected and told ''no yer a toonie'' So my how now brown cow has to become hoo noo broon coo. Elliot seems to be getting the hang of it. I recently asked him if he wanted potatoes and he said ''no mummy, it's tatties'' as well as correcting me when I said something was small and he again said ''no mummy, it's peedie'' I love all the words I just sound like a plonker saying them. Or is that numpty? One thing I did manage to say without even thinking about it as I went out of the post office was cheerio! (bye for now folks)

Saturday, 4 October 2008

7 Weeks already?!!

I can't believe I've already been here 7 weeks. How time has flown. Driving up took 14 hours followed by a ferry crossing. My darling friend Julia kindly came along and listened to my talking non stop talking then covered the late shift while I slept. The only down side was that we drove through the Scottish highlands in the dark and didn't get to take in the beauty of it. However that aside we had a great journey up. Elliot was a little gem and slept a lot of the way. The dog was an absolute superstar and behaved brilliantly. Julia and I chatted and laughed all the way and managed to consume several packets of sweets provided by kindly folk before we left. What a journey to remember. (If you're wondering where Katie was in all this she was flying up later as she was booked for Soul Survivour.)

We arrived at the ferry port and had a few hours to sleep before our boat sailed. I slept well but poor Julia manged the grand total of 20 minutes. To top it off she was freeeeeezing and still never lost her sense of humour. I shall always be grateful to her.

The ferry crossing was a dream. No one was sick, no one felt sick and we reached my promised land before we knew it. Even the flags were put out for our arrival thanks to a good friend and local. What a welcome! I couldn't have asked for a better journey up and will always remember what a great start to my time here was. Thank you Julia! X