Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scotland - Day 1: Thursday May 14

Strathaven Castle - first built in the 13th century of wood by the Flemmings, then re-built in stone a century later.

My flight to Scotland, through Heathrow, London, UK, went very well, and it was wonderful to see my sister, Isabel, and brother-in-law, Norman, smiling happily at Glasgow Internation Airport as I arrived. It seemed as if it hadn't been 10 years since last we met. This has been declared Homecoming Year by Alex Salmond, the Scottish National leader of the Scottish Parliament, so I presume I am among lots of Scots 'getting the fibes'.

As we came out of the airport, we passed beside the place where the Muslim terrorists attempted to blow up the airpost. It now has heavy steel posts all along the side of the road, and the use of the road has been changed. We had a good laugh about the young man who ran in 'to sort out' the terrorists. This is such a Scottish attitude. No wonder Scottish mercenaries were so valued in the past. The Highlanders in particular, were such a wild people, they made great soldiers.

My first impressions of Scotland were that it is so green and pleasant. Isabel and Norman live in Strathaven, which used to be a little, market town, and now is a dormitory for Glasgow. It is 40 minutes down the freeway from Glasgow, surrounded by farmland, and is a pretty, little place of 7,000 people, steeped in ancient history. The Covenantors held their meetings up on the moors around Strathaven in the 1600s, and there are martyrs buried in the graveyard. It seems just like yesterday! The lambs are in the fields; although, yesterday, they weren't gambolling. They, and the horses and cattle were either lying down, or huddled against the wind and rain: a familiar stance 500 feet above sea-level in Scotland. As Isabel pointed out, the trees and bushes, and even the people, are all bent over as a natural factor of survival here.

On this my first day, Thursday, May 14, Norman drove us all around the West of Scotland, visiting Paisley where Isabel and I lived and went to Paisley Grammar School, during some of our formative years. It was so fascinating to see Greenlaw Avenue, just across Glasgow Road from the Grammar, with so few changes, apart from the cars that line both sides of the wide avenue. The houses look still the same as when we were girls, yet they are well over an hundred years old. Scots are canny, thrifty people, and like things to give value for money, and last for a long time. They build with stone, which it seems, goes on forever. Paisley Grammar School was founded by the monks of Paisley Abbey in 1576, and has been giving its pupils a wonderful grounding in education, and a love of learning, over all those centuries.

We ended up our delightful trip down memory lane with a visit to a huge nursery and its coffee shop. Afterwards, Isabel suggested we might like to take a short walk to look at the house of the previous owner of the lands on which the businesses stands. The sun was shining brightly, as the wind blew in from the north-east. If one turned one's back into the wind and leaned back, one still stood upright, held there by the wind. Isabel's comment, as our hair was standing on end in the wind, was that it was so wonderful to enjoy the sunshine, and the 'wee blow'.

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