Packing box

A cardboard box with Packing Box written on it.  In front is the contents of the box.

Having moved house a few times now, and being the kind of organized fellow that I am, I’ve found that having a small cardboard box called the “Packing Box” filled with the following items makes for a much easier life.

Into my packing box I’ve thrown:

  • Tape gun and extra parcel tape — having used one of these extensively in a mill job in Selkirk I find this the quickest way to seal up packing cartons.
  • Gaffa tape — Q. What do The Force from Star Wars and Gaffa Tape have in common? A. They both hold the Universe together!
  • Big roll of labels — for adhering to the side of packing cartons and writing important information, like what’s in the box, to whom the box belongs, and which room it will eventually belong to.
  • Black permanent markers — for writing on labels, gaffa tape, boxes, and just about anything else.
  • Electric screwdriver (with various bits) — Much, much faster than a manual screwdriver.
  • Roll of rubbish bags — for the disposal of rubbish. Of which there is a lot.
  • Pliers — for the removal of hooks from walls*. (*Other uses are also available.)
  • Stanley Knife — for, amongst another things, re-opening cartons when you realise that you’ve accidentally packed the car keys.
  • Cable ties — for the tying up of power cables, SCART cables, and prisoners en route to jail.
  • Strong, lifting-gloves — for lifting heavy things and not ruining my nails.
  • A small box — I use an old Memorex box that I got blank CD-ROMs in, for holding the hooks and nails that I remove from the walls, or curtain hooks, or … whatever!

So there you go. That’s my Packing Box™.

Maundy Thursday

An almost empty dining room.  A few boxes and a painting lie up against a door.

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. It’s traditional that at the end of the evening Eucharist, during which we particularly remember the Last Supper and re-enact the washing of the disciples feet, to completely strip bare the sanctuary (the ‘pointy end’ by the altar). The stripping the altar takes place once the bread and wine have been taken to another chapel, symbolic of Jesus’s journey to the Garden on the Mount of Olives. The removal of all furnishings from the sanctuary leaves the place looking bare and empty, preparation for the blackness of Good Friday, and the emptiness of Holy Saturday. I find it a moving and sad service.

Well, last night, having stripped the sanctuary at St Ninian’s, Comely Bank I drove back home around 21:45 and we started doing much the same here. It finally began to sink in that we are moving.

I thought that I would find this move particularly difficult — and is has been on many different levels — but it occurred to me that there is something of a parallel with this period of Holy Week moving into Easter. The promise of New Life. Life will never be the same again.

In other news …

My study, wall to wall with boxes.

… now that’s not particularly conducive to any relaxing last minute work, now is it?!

It’s Boxing Day!

The scene in our guest bedroom this afternoon, having cleared out all the packing boxes from the room-space cupboard:

A room full of cardboard boxes.  Two black and white cats are exploring.

The wardrobe of adventure, part 1

A wardrobe, with a closed door.

Hey Smudge (that’s the cat!)! What’s this … an ordinary wardrobe? Haven’t you seen Narnia?! Through the back of special wardrobes there is always excitement and adventure …

The wardrobe of adventure, part 2

Open doored wardrobe, with Jane inside.  A cat investigates.

This wardrobe is no different. Look! It’s the lovely Jane.

Some goodbyes and some tears

Rain droplets on a window.

The last few days have seen quite a few moments of saying goodbye, and a few tears too.


I had my last regular meeting with my spiritual director on Thursday. He has accompanied me through a great deal in the last nine years or so (can it really be that long?) The meeting went well, I was excited about my news and what lies ahead; and rightly so. But when it came for me to say thank you, I just cried. Words alone can’t express how grateful I am to his journeying with me, through some at times very dark places. I am a better person for knowing him, and for the paths that we have trod.


Yesterday I met Mum off the bus, in the pouring rain. At least I would have, had she not got off at the wrong stop. We went to visit an old colleague of Mum’s from her days in India in the 1960s, Dr Winifred Bailey. She was dying. We went in, sat with her, told her our news and held her hand.

Winifred knew that we were there, and smiled, although we couldn’t make out anything that she could say; she was very weak. I had to go, but before I did Mum and I held her hand and prayed with her. As I left the tears were trickling down my cheeks.

Winifred died early this morning. I’m glad we went in. I’m glad we sat with her, and told her that we loved her.


Today Jane and I had to decide what to do with Triskal, one of our cats. It’s a long and complicated tale, involving neighbours who began to feed him … and kept feeding him until he was over 60% (and dangerously) overweight. They want us to bear the responsibilities (and the vet bills) for him but they want to keep him. The situation has made us feel more and more angry, and more and more sorry for Triskal, who clearly is fond of these people but he is getting more and more ill.

What to do? It appears that they don’t want to take him over officially until he is well, despite the fact that it appears that it was them who made him that way! We’ve decided that as we are moving, and we still pay the vet bills we are taking him back. Hopefully he will resettle once we’ve moved.

He’s part of the family. It has been a hard decision to make. There were tears. There will be more. This moving lark is a real wrench at times.

Two finds… an opera and a boot

It’s funny the things you find while you are sorting things out in preparation for a move. Today I’m tackling the cupboard in the dining room that primarily houses most of our guitars (we have eight). I affectionately call it my ‘Guitarsenal‘.

Flyer for a concert called Whaup of the Rede.

First, amongst some old guitar magazines I found this A5 flyer for a concert that I was part of back in 1993 — part of the Borders Festival — called “Whaup of the Rede“. As I recall, the first half of the concert was a concert of Borders music sung by local Borders musical legends such as Lorraine Kemp, John Mitchell, Elspeth Smellie, and er… me. If you look closely on the left-hand side of the flyer you’ll make out my name. I’m Gareth Saunders, by the way.

The second half was a short opera called Whaup of the Rede, based on the ballad by Will Ogilvie about the life of the Borders Reiver Scott of Harden. Music was by Chris Achenbach, who incidentally also wrote the song that I sang in the first half; Libretto (that’s the words) were by Lady Judy Steel.

The lead role, Wat of Harden, was played by big Bill McCue who was very entertaining during the rehearsals. Every now and then he would say things like, “Would you like to see ma willy?” in his deep, booming voice. We politely declined his kind offer each time. But it did make for very amusing rehearsals, gathered around the piano and table in Sir David Steel’s house at Aikwood Tower, near Selkirk.

I remember one evening being there as Sir David arrived back from Parliament in London. He pulled up in his Jaguar as we were loitering outside in the warm autumnal evening on a tea break. He was of course well known to many of those singing in the chorus, but I was still young and he was a bit of a celebrity in my eyes. I said hello, and laughed at the appropriate places. Thankfully big BM never offered to show his willy to the Rt Hon. Member of Parliament for Tweeddale that evening.

What I remember most about that whole experience however was the laughter. As a male chorus, we bonded well, we sang well (for the most part), and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Illustration of a soldier's boot, painted with the Union Flag, red, white and blue across it.

A couple of days ago I’d been emailing my friend Max Hargreave (aka Max MacAndrews) and had said that I had a print of one of his sixth year art exhibition pictures, but I couldn’t remember where. Well, today I found it.

It’s of a WWI soldier’s boot, overlaid with the Union Flag, and beneath it words from Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est:

“Men marched asleep. Many
had lost their boots.
But limped on, blood-shod. All
went lame; all blind…”

I always loved the simplicity and peacefullness of the illustration, constrasted with the harshness of the words.