“Heading Back to Arran” Philadelphia Style

That thing where my son Chris was stopped at a football match in Philadelphia by a friend of his teammate who incidentally runs a Greek food van (the teammate, that is. Bear in mind that Chris is Arran born and raised.

This friend told Chris that he had just posted a song on You Tube he wrote after a visit to the island called “Heading Back to Arran” with a video of our beautiful mountains and glens.

It is true that no matter where you travel, there is always someone who has an Arran connection. Not always the friend of a Greek food van entrepreneur.

Here’s the link to the song and the beautiful video which is promoting Arran and expressing a longing to return.

I Reacquaint Myself with my Inner Weaver

 

The setting was Janie’s at Duchess Court, drinking cappuccinos with Simon Thorborn’s relocated pottery all too temptingly in the background ( I gave in and came home with a minivase for my collection). The purpose of the outing was to brainstorm with Rorie to work out the set-up for the Iron Age loom that sits in the Roundhouse by the Ranger Centre at Brodick Castle.

We talked loom weights for a while and found a suitable handspun warp in Rorie’s magical collection to hold the unspun Shetland fleece in shades of dark brown, white, grey and moorit (reddish brown). If all goes well the roundhouse will be enhanced by a handwoven woollen rug to help keep out winter drafts.

I am looking forward to visiting the Ranger Centre next week and meeting the loom face to face to see if today’s plan is a keeper or adjusting it confidently if not.

It took me back to learning how to weave in Stockholm at HV Skola, plotting and planning with new friends and coming to terms with how those magic machines actually worked and what beautiful objects you could produce with the stash of available materials.

For more information on Stone Weight Looms check out my website Lynn Gray Ross

To be continued once we’ve been to the Ranger Centre.

On Swimming Pools and Opera

The best of Brodick featured in my life yesterday.

First of all, I arranged MyBus to take me to the Auchrannie Spa so that I could go swimming by myself for the first time since I got ill six years ago. Definitely one step at a time as I combined walking in water with breaststroke. FANTASTIC feeling of achievement after half an hour of ‘swimming’ well rewarded with a cappucino upstairs in Cruise. That I can walk up those stairs is a miracle in itself these days.

In the evening I went to Brodick Hall for a treat which was four singers and a pianist on tour with Scottish Opera – wonderful music and no swimming necessary. We are so unbelievably lucky on Arran to have such first class performances at very reasonable cost and I shall look forward to the next time. Have to say, Mozart is still my favourite and the lovely duet from the Magic Flute “the man who feels love’s sweet emotion” sung in English by Pamina and the Bird Catcher Papageno made it all worthwhile.

Directed by Jim Manganello the singers were Adam Gilbert, Baritone, Emma Kerr, Mezzo-soprano, Elgan Llyr Thomas, Tenor and Roisin Walsh as the amazingly beautiful soprano. They were accompanied seamlessly on the piano by Jonathon Swinard.

The two together made a wonderfully ‘normal’ day for me with not much thought to what I cannot yet do in my recovery.

Tonight I am heading for the Screen Machine, our own articulated lorry which opens into a cinema. We are going to see “LaLa Land” and I shall enjoy the opportunity to hang out with Simon and appreciate that he is living nearby for the moment.

I feel blessed and grateful for my recovering health and opportunities we have on the island to keep up to date with film and concerts.

DAFFS & GRAPE HYACINTS1

Daffodils & Grape Hyacinths -Promise of Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration on Living Your Best Life

 

 

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Glen Cloy, Isle of Arran

A new series of podcasts from Girl Tries Life  called Kick Start Your Best Life offers inspiration and practical information on setting and reaching goals and living the best life you can live.

I’ve listened to the first three podcasts,

 1. WHAT THE HECK IS MY WHY?

2. PUMP UP YOUR JOY?

3.OUTLINE THE STEPS

Here is a summary of my thoughts and notes on these and I look forward to following some more.

Kick Start Your Best Life – Main Goals

1) Publish my third book “Transplanted” on ‘CreateSpace’ on Amazon

Why? Because the manuscript is completed and read by a team of professional writers and editors and friends with approval – I want to self publish because I have years of experience in writing and publishing and I can work with my ‘children’ as they have complementary skills in producing books, magazines and blogs. It will give me great pleasure to see the finished product and bring this project to a close.

Outline the steps

  • Complete Inserting Photos, Recipes & Song
  • Arrange production of the cover with my son
  • Register with ‘Create Space’
  • Follow their procedure
  • Set up Facebook page and update my website lynn@lynngrayross.co.uk & my blog “Pearls and Oysters”
  • Plan Marketing with my ‘kids’ & Amazon

 

2) Continue to recover from my liver transplant of 2 years ago at age 69

Why? To celebrate the new life the transplant has given me, to enjoy my family, my neighbours my lovely home and garden.

Outline the steps

  • Take medication and attend hospital checkups
  • Eat healthy
  • Continue T’ai Chi and exercise classes and go swimming again (find a ‘buddy’ who can go with me)
  • Get ‘out and about’ on MyBus and increase walking
  • Keep going to AA meetings & reading spiritual books

So simple and straightforward when you clear your head of debris and blocks.

Thanks to Victoria Smith.

 

 

 

‘Arran Dawn’ and Whistlebinkies

As part of the “Learning New Tricks” programme at Glen Estate we had a concert this afternoon by ‘Arran Dawn’ aka Heather MacLeod on harp and Stuart Farrar on recorders and small pipes. We also had some amazing baking by Ann Dandy who used to be housekeeper to Lady Jean on Arran. Her millionaire’s shortbread was the baking equivalent of Arran Dawn’s music. Magical.

We got to talking about Mick Broderick who was a weel kent (well known) figure in Scottish folk music along with his wife Irene. They lived in Whiting Bay so we were privileged to hear them play and sing on many occasion.

Mick played and sang with the band Whistlebinkies who toured the world representing Scottish folk music. On one occasion Mick asked me if I would knit him a Blue Bunnit to wear on tour to China. When they came back, he told me he had much trouble keeping the Bunnit on his head because people kept trying to steal it for a souvenir. He asked me to make a few more to have available with their CD’s so he could hang on to his own. On one of their album covers is Mick proudly wearing his Bunnit.

Layers of memory happened in those few minutes this afternoon. The present moment with Stuart and Heather’s wonderful music, memories of the wonderful folk scene on the island with musicians like Mick.

This has inspired me to add the history sheet and the 1980 pattern for the Blue Bunnit on to my website http://www.lynngrayross.co.uk. If you check in a few days it should be there when I gather the information fragments and bring them all together. Watch this space.

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Mick Broderick donning the Blue Bunnit before a concert

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“Whistlebinkies” with Mick Broderick and his Blue Bunnit from Silverbirch Spinning and Weaving Workshop

 

Trump

I can’t not post about Trump. He already has removed all mention of climate change from the White House website on the grounds that it doesn’t exist. OK – because I moved back to Scotland after spending my teenage years in California I didn’t have to face the dilemma of who I would vote for, though I could have registered as an American citizen to state my opinion.

I can’t make any blanket statements about how America is going to be great again – I always thought America was great even if I wanted to live in Scotland more. There are many examples of immigrants to America who succeeded beyond belief, like Andrew Carnegie and John Muir, and there has always been latent hostility towards women and their wonderful bodies who bear the children in that society and are not really treated with the respect that they deserve.

I’m so very proud to be Scottish and I was proud to be an American immigrant, but I can’t accept that being of Scottish heritage would justify anything but consideration for people and their right to education, health care or a safe clean environment.

I’m also very proud of my oldest son who marched in D.C. yesterday and represented all the women in our family who couldn’t be there, proud of all the women who made their presence known and questioned the basic assumptions of this new government. I’m writing today to state my opinion because I couldn’t be there yesterday. And I do wish Mr. Trump success because he is the elected president, and as the saying goes, “I wouldn’t want him to crash the airship we’re all riding in.”

In my case, I believe in a Higher Power and that the future of our world does not rest with one individual and that Mr. Trump will realise that it’s not ultimately in his hands.

 

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Love & support in action in Denver yesterday

Silverbirch Magic

As part of the Rewild Challenge (www.http://learn.wearewildness.com/p/rewildyourlife)I spent half an hour outside today in the sparkling sunshine. It was cold, but not so cold that I couldn’t sit outside in the garden for a while and soak up that glorious weather.

The task for the day was to breathe with the trees and realise that mutual dependence where we give carbon dioxide to them and they give oxygen to us. My exchange with the trees in my garden was magical – they are so beautiful; they have an energy that makes it easy to understand why they are one of the most important trees in the Celtic tree alphabet. I used their leaves carefully to make the most beautiful yellow dye for wool; the smell from the dyepot filled the workshop with the most amazing heady scent.

Today is Day 21 of the Rewild Challenge which has taken me outside every day for half an hour regardless of the weather – some days longer than that. It is the second time I’ve done the 30-day programme, the last time a couple of years ago in October.

It hasn’t been so easy this time to be as physical as before, but reading the activities and the philosophy behind the challenge, I realise that the very reason  I left Stockholm and moved to Arran 40 years ago was so that I could rewild my whole life on an everyday basis, climbing the mountains on Arran, sometimes with a baby in the carrier; growing vegetables and herbs for healing; making yoghurt and soft cheese; catching mackerel – or at least sitting in the boat and trying to catch mackerel while everyone else filled their lines; living without a car and cycling everywhere, learning to sail and most of all by setting up my spinning and weaving workshop – very appropriately called Silverbirch and learning what was possible to achieve in the rural economy and what was too idealistic.

I am more physically limited now than previously, but my spirit is still wild. More to the point my children have an appreciation of the importance of carrying on these ideas. My youngest son is planning to set up a forest garden – my spirit will be with him all the way.

 

Mince Pies, Dark Winter Skies, and Spindle Spun Wool.

I do so like this time of year when friends get in touch or back in touch with shared memories. This was especially true the other day when Sally Hands got in touch with me by a bit of detective work as the Contact Page on my website is not working, hopefully soon to be resolved. It was really good to hear from her – I used to go through to Edinburgh regularly and teach spinning workshops at her studio. We lost touch but I am so glad to have her back in my life, especially when with my influence she began to weave and spin and now works with a drop spindle to produce wool for weaving

She reminded me of how we met. I was visiting my lovely accountant Dorothea Vaughan who by the way was married to Magnus Pyke, well known food scientist and broadcaster. As per usual Dorothea took me to lunch at the Laigh which at that time was a lovely whole food cafe in Edinburgh,. Two women were sitting opposite us having a great conversation about handspinning. They were wondering how to go about buying a fleece and learning how to spin. I leaned across the table and said “Excuse me, but I believe I can help you to find a fleece and I can arrange spinning lessons for you.”

The rest is history.

You can read more about Sally’s textile work on her website Slow and Kind:Weaving, Knitting, Hand Spinning

Spindle Spun Natural Dyed wool by Sally Hands

Spindle Spun Natural Dyed wool by Sally Hands

On Being Just a Little Bit Swedish

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Margereta, Monica och jag (me) – today

 

I’ve just had the most marvelous two day visit with a friend from university days in Sweden. We hadn’t seen each other in 35 years. She came with her friend Margareta. Arran was at its most splendid, perfect summer weather, mountains looking like spiritual beings, a chance to eat and drink at my  favourite restaurant and cafes and the sea sparkling in the sunshine. My friends swam briefly in the sea at the newly reclaimed Brodick Beach. I watched.

Shortly after they arrived, my brain did its not so familiar switch to Swedish and I relished remembering words  I didn’t think I knew any more.  Apart from the chance to speak the language again, their visit also brought back memories of living in Stockholm four years and then the move to Linkøping to move away from city living.

Stockholm certainly had its good points. My favourite places, visited not too long ago, being Waldemarsudde and Blå Porten cafe which just happened to be next door in Djurgården to Handarbetets Vanner the traditional handicraft school where I learned to weave.

Apart from learning the textile crafts that eventually led to setting up my studio on Arran, I realised that in my soul there will always be a person who is just a little bit Swedish. I learned to be methodical and academic in my thinking and in my approach to learning the crafts, I learned to be proud of being Scottish and to update traditional textile skills to reflect the past but take their place in present day living. I learned to respect my body and my femininity and not feel ashamed to swim in the sea with no swimsuit (Why can I still not do that on Brodick beach, swim that is, let alone without a suit).

I learned to be a good parent, without giving up my own ambitions and to raise my daughter to respect her own being – even after we came back to Scotland.

There were frustrating times and very sad times during the five years I lived there and in the end I didn’t want to stay because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being a foreigner, with my daughter becoming ever more Swedish. But on the whole, I’m so glad I agreed to go there in the end and will always honour that young woman in me who had a chance to grow and develop in ways that would otherwise not have been possible.

FAMILY13

June 1975

Memories

 

grey seal portrait - shutterstock

Today a surprise visit from friends Norman and Althea brought back memories of the time they used live in Whiting Bay and the astonishing fact that it is 20 years since they left and moved back to Morayshire. We’ve kept in touch and thankfully exchanged visits when I was able to visit Findhorn a few times and a wonderful trip to Pluscarden Abbey, still a working monastery. Plus the bonus of driving up to Lochranza, catching the Claonaig ferry and then driving via Oban up the Great Glen, stopping off at Fort Augustus to watch the boats manouevering the locks on the Caledonian Canal and arriving to a welcome at Roseisle where our friends live now.

Today was about reliving those times and choosing our favourite Whiting Bay memory. When our kids Jenny, Kirsty and Simon were pupils at Whiting Bay School, Althea and I were both at work and child minding was an issue. Many thanks are due to Kate at the Coffee Pot, just where the school bus stopped. The kids arrived there fifteen minutes before their harassed parents and were served carrot cake while they waited for their Mums, who were then served carrot cake and cappuchinos and an afterschool tradition was born.

The Coffee Pot is still in the same place,  and though all the rest of us have moved away from that neighbourhood, those times live on in our memories, especially Kate’s Carrot Cake.

Daughter and family are in Copenhagen this week, bringing another layer of memory for me as Copenhagen was the stopover place in the years I was travelling between Stockholm and Kilmarnock. Some of my best friends were Danish and I remember especially the day I left Sweden after finishing my oral exams for my Masters (I passed), going down on the train on my way to teach English in summer school in St. Helier in the Channel Islands. My friends met me off the train with tickets to hear Wilhelm Kempf playing Beethoven in the summer night at Tivoli Gardens, followed by a trip to a jazz cafe and dancing until the wee small hours. Great!

I’m so grateful for memories and the friends who shared them, especially when we can get together now, reminisce and create new ones – like eating crab rolls at the Wineport and seeing grey seals on the rocks on the way to Sannox Beach.

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