Bringing Traditional Knitting into the 21st Century

As part of the Tuesday Technnology class at Glen Estate, Brodick, I asked Duan Bruce, the very patient tutor to help me think through the Arran Knitting Company website (, bringing the Lynn Gray Ross traditional patterns up to date and linking them to a new Etsy page where they are now available for sale. The patterns cost £5.99, payable by credit card or Paypal.

I realised when I was doing this exercise of linking up our website and the  Etsy Arran Knitting Company page that there must be quite a lot of people out there who are interested in online knitting patterns, especially Scottish traditional ones like the Blue Bunnit and its variations for Handspun and “Scotland meets Uruguay” a Blue Bunnit pattern for Uruguayan alpaca yarn..

We’ve tried to make the patterns easy to access and the only technical skill is to press the ‘Purchase’ button which brings you a pattern ready to print out and enjoy knitting.

I hope I’ve communicated the pleasure I get from combining the traditional skills of knitting and following patterns with the 21st century technology equipment like my laptop. I am by no means skilled with the technical procedures and still have to ask my kids and of course Duan how to do simple things.. I’m reminded of the cartoon of the two women sitting at a table with a complicated cable pattern on the blackboard behind them. One of them is saying to the other “I never will get the hang of these computer programmes.”

You can find the patterns on







Tennis & Me


It’s that day in the year again – the Wimbledon Men’s Final.  The match hasn’t started yet, but the whole atmosphere is reminding me that I’ve been very lucky to have tennis in my life since I played with my friend Jeanna in the Bella Vista High School Girls’ Tennis Tournament and won.

I have great memories of playing with my kids from the time they sat in their prams next to the courts in Evanston, Illinois on the shores of Lake Michigan, and in Whiting Bay after I moved to the Isle of Arran  – those courts are gone now to make way for houses, but it was magic playing by the sea with the roses climbing up the perimeter fence.

I played with kids and friends right up until the time when I succumbed to liver disease in 2010, and although I was no champion, I remember the summer I was head teacher at an English school in St. Helier, playing and beating the German students and ending up as coach.

The only time I didn’t play was when I spent those five years in Sweden. There were no public courts and I couldn’t afford the exorbitant private fees.

The legacy of all of this is that I have great memories of days of fun and occasional amazing returns and quality time spent with my kids. And it makes it so exciting to watch the final once again, knowing the rules and feeling the effort that it takes and the joy of winning great points and most of all winning the match.

I’ll be cheering for both of them as they make the supreme effort and thank God that it is a tennis match on a sunny afternoon at Wimbledon, and not a war of nations.





72 and cared for

The first visitor on my 72nd birthday just happened to be a young policeman who responded to a call from our “through the night “care alarm because I’d pressed my personal button because I got stuck in my rocking chair and could not lift myself out without risk of falling. He stayed with me until the paramedics arrived to make sure I wasn’t hurt (I wasn’t hurt, just stuck).

Over the course of the day there were 15 people in my flat for one reason or other bringing cards,  flowers and enough olives as well as the person who comes in once a week to leave my place tidy and clean and the Co-op grocery delivery service.

‘Cherished’ is the word that comes to mind.

For some reason the Care service phoned my daughter in Galway, who couldn’t really do much immediately. Yes, she is my next of kin, but not really available at 4 AM. The protocol is that the police welfare are on call when no one else is available and I am very grateful to that young policeman for coming to my aid.

The other two people on my keyholder list just happened not to be available on Wednesday night which made me reliant on care services and thankful that there is a system.  I had a busy birthday and good memories but I was mindful that at 72 I want to be active  and as self-sufficent as possible, at the same time accepting that I am more reliant on other people then I used to be and I certainly won’t be using the rocking chair on my own any time soon.


Yule and the Birth of Christ

In a few more minutes it will be dark and the pearly winter clouds will disappear into another long night. My blue fairy lights dispel any sense of darkness and gloom. My fractured body is healing at last and I may well make it out of the house and on to MyBus to go exploring again after long weeks of being housebound. The new door out to the garden is so timely and there is satisfaction in walking out on the specially level tarmac path to complete at least four lengths to the central garden and back. I’ve just gone through a painful phase where my body has been protesting big style at being cajoled into moving again after weeks of immobility.  Today I managed to reduce my painkillers back to “just’ paracetemol and stop worry about the effect the stronger tablets were having on my addictive personality.

Focusing on health, nutrition and exercise is not a bad thing, leaving no time for depression or despair and concentrating on what the future has to offer.

Of course, the very immediate future offers the celebration and promise of the birth of Christ and the knowledge that there is unconditional love and support as I try to come to terms with the things that vex me and tempt me to dwell on the negative and pull me down away from that gift of Love and Hope that is mine for the asking.

Now I have the pleasure of waiting for Simon to arrive with organic veg,  Christmas clementines  and his thoughts on how our food should be grown and what is possible on our wonderful island. This year there is no salmon in our house as the stocks of wild salmon are low and the farmed salmon is contaminated with sea lice and in turn endangers the Marine Protection Area in Lamlash. It’s the least I can do.


My Dad

Mum & Dad - 3At this time of year, Remembrance Day, I always think of my Dad. That young man who was sent off to the army, giving up his studies of the classics with thoughts of becoming a minister.

His experiences included an overland journey to India and several years of service there, away from home and family and my mother, waiting for him so they could start a family of their own. I was born nine months after they married when he returned home, the first of the “post war baby boomers”.

The only time he talked about his experiences was to tell us about being on board a ship on the Mediterranean for three days en route to Egypt, unable to go out on deck and under constant threat of bombardment. He held his Bible close to him, reading passages to keep his mind occupied.

His life changed immeasurably when he returned, and he never did resume his studies and 11 years later made the decision to emigrate the family to California to start a new life, never really to settle there either.

So many lives disrupted by these horrible conflicts, many much worse than my father’s.

But I think of him especially, handsome in his uniform, grateful that he came home and married my mother and my life began.


This lovely photo of Glen Ashdale Falls by Nick Milloutou is exactly what I think of when I think of ‘exuberance’. Unrestricted beauty and joy. I see it in the 4 year olds when they visit us from nursery and hear it in my granddaughter’s voice when she tells me about her soccer practice. All very ordinary things in life causing a lift in spirits and a feeling of ‘glad to be alive’.

I am celebrating that feeling in spades today as tomorrow is the third anniversary of my liver transplant operation. Three years of everydays with something to be grateful for and a sense of exuberance and excitement about what might be possible.

The other day I tripped myself up by being sad and angry about the things I couldn’t do as I wait for my hip to heal. I decided to take some action and find someone who could come and help me with the things I want to do, but physically can’t. I placed a wee ad in the Arran Community Forum and found Shona who is setting up a business to provide exactly this service to her customers. Already my kitchen cupboards and drawers are well and truly in order and a very big box of ‘stuff’  has gone to ARCAS for recycling and a donation to the Arran cancer charity. All my CD’s are in order and I so look forward to her next visit when we tackle another room. She is also going to help me set up the garden now that the new paths are completed. So glad I didn’t let myself dwell on the negatives.


Glen Ashdale Falls 2017




Honouring my Inner Child

My living room is twice as sunny with the new door (photos soon). Today is one of those absolutely perfect autumn days, coincidentally the birthday of my youngest son.

I’m still giggling after a coffee hour this morning with four members of the Brodick Nursery (age 4) who are joining us for the next six Fridays in a sort of intergenerational session based on the recent Channel 4 programme. The chat round the table was relaxed as we all decorated funky figures which were then folded into cress planters and now stand proudly on the window sill. Watch this space! Full marks to Ann, Bobbi & Lorraine for bringing the children round on this stunning day and we all agreed we look forward to next week. I may ask for some help with a tabletop Duplo next week as it was a tad impossible for me to crawl around the floor.

Other news from Glen Estate was the very welcome news that the Lottery has awarded the Tenants’ Association a grant of £10,000 towards “Learning and Laughter at Glen Estate” a year-long programme for pleasure and learning new skills which are designed to combat Alzheimers and break isolation in older people in the community. Sometimes it is really worth slogging through the application process and finding the right words to explain what you want to do.

All this makes being housebound fairly bearable though I am looking forward to next week when I have a go at walking with a stick. (the practice went OK) and finally get out to walk my new garden path and plan which pots are going where. Thanks to Gavin for making this possible. Even the thought of it lifts my spirits.



Permission to Underwhelm

Of course, being me, I would bring home a tummy bug from the hospital to complicate recovery and give me something else to think about apart from leg exercises.

In the typical spirit of ‘why me’? I’ve been asking in my prayers for understanding of why I have to take a tummy bug on board along with everything else.

Of course, the answer has been staring me in the face waiting for me to catch on that it’s OK now and then to slow down completely and just be overwhelmed. That unexpected trip to hospital with a broken hip was not in the ‘recovery from liver transplant’ programme. More like ten hurpling steps backward and a regroup and  a recognition that I was overwhelmed by the whole experience on top of the transplant recovery.

I am asking for permission to be underwhelmed for a while and just live my daily life celebrating the ordinary and gradually healing back to myself again. With the sun shining in my new door and the red chrysanthemums blowing in the breeze outside it’s not a big ask.

This year the Liver Transplant Unit in Edinburgh is celebrating 25 years in existence. They’re having a party which I won’t manage, but you can send a donation to their work to: Scottish Liver Transplant Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Old Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 4SA.

My life is testimony that it is money well spent.


Starting Again


My recent hip fracture in the midst of my recovery from my liver transplant has reminded me again that I’m not in charge and that I need to listen in prayer much more than I speak.  It’s working.

I was baptized in the Church of Scotland at 2 months old and ever since Christianity has been a focus of how I chose to live my life. I’ve had my times of doubt and skepticism, especially with two failed marriages, when I thought I’d followed the ‘rules’ and struggles with alcoholism which destroyed my liver.

God’s hand has always been guiding me and supporting me and now at the age of 71 with a liver transplant, I once again find myself full of gratitude and excitement as another chapter in my life unfolds.

I have just discovered Two-Way Prayer recently thanks to my friend Phil who came back into my life four years ago through a school reunion. We hadn’t communicated for 50 years and after a few emails realized that our spiritual paths had followed the same basic journey although we had not been in touch.

Phil introduced me to the concept of Two-Way Prayer and the power of listening for an answer in the midst of daily chaos. I am new at the practice but find each day that it makes my life worthwhile and has become an important part of my daily prayers & meditations.

I live on Arran, an island in the southwest of Scotland where we are fortunate enough to have 4 AA meetings every week and this welcome discovery of Two-Way prayer and contact with friends in Texas is something to be very grateful for. And I am.

On Lemon & Ginger Tea, Chair Yoga and T’ai Chi

 Woodside Farm

A new venture on Arran is providing a wonderful weekly delivery service of organic veg and fruit which are inspiring new recipes with delicious produce. Today’s experiment with fresh ginger was

Ginger, Lemon & Star Anise Tea

Generous slices of lemon and fresh ginger

1 star anise

Honey to sweeten



Place ingredients in a lovely tea cup or mug or double the amount of ingredients and place in your favourite teapot. Pour enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for at least half an hour. Fill up with more boiling water and add honey to taste.



A visit this week to Crosshouse hospital to the eye clinic was mildly worrying because the optician had found a wee spot on my left eye — always a concern for a diabetic like me. The outcome was amazing. Not only had the wee spot healed itself, but the scan of my eyes was clear and I don’t have to go back for a year.

Add to that three mornings a week of exercise – Falls Prevention on Tuesday, Chair Yoga and T’ai Chi on the other two mornings and all either here at Glen Estate or the Sports Pavilion round the corner and MyBus to pick us up and take us round there. Still can’t walk as much as I’d like to, but my body is very grateful for the attention and I feel like a healthy person with a couple of conditions instead of the invalid I was for nearly four years before my transplant.

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