Wedding preparations

Wedding rings beside a lily.

Tomorrow, in Selkirk, I will have the privilege of conducting the wedding service for a couple of friends: Kenny Fyfe and Chris Goble; I was at Selkirk High School with Kenny from 1983-1989. For some of that time Kenny appointed himself as my “Manager”, but that’s a whole other ballpark of worms (to mix my metaphors).

I’ve just finished my preparations for the rehearsal this evening and service tomorrow afternoon. I have my liturgy (order of service) printed out and marked up, my homily written and printed. This will be the first Christian service that I’ve conducted since Provincial Youth Camp at Glenalmond in early August, and the first wedding I’ve helmed since July 2005, and I’m really looking forward to it.

If it is your discipline, please pray for Kenny and Chris as they begin a new chapter in their lives together, for their friends and family as they travel to Selkirk for the celebrations, and for me that my cold clears up enough to allow me to conduct the service comfortably (and audibly). At the moment I sound as though Barry White has joined the Bob Harris / Leonard Cohen teaching faculty and I’m top (or bottom) of the class.

Spot is now on holiday, being looked after by the vet, his brother Smudge is being looked after by neighbours, and Triskal has adopted a nice old man, and has decided to live there permanently.

Overnight in Selkirk, and a tale about Kirkbank Cottage

Kirkbank Cottage, Selkirk

On Friday evening, the BBQ at work having been cancelled due to the inclement Scottish summer weather, Jane and I drove down to my hometown of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders for a flying, overnight visit.

I’d not seen Mum since my final service at the end of April, which was strange because when I was living in Edinburgh it was quite easy to pop down to see her for an evening (45 miles door-to-door) and she frequently met me in Edinburgh for lunch as it is free for Mum to get the bus from the Borders up to Edinburgh. Mum still hasn’t seen our current house here in Cellardyke; she has seen the holiday cottage.

The photo above is of Kirkbank Cottage, where I grew up. We moved into that house when I was all of a few months old, and Mum (and, until 1998, Dad) and the family have been there ever since. It occurred to me for the first time this visit that the cottage’s name now only makes sense historically. Kirkbank Cottage is a cottage situated on a banking (hillside) by the kirk (church). But there is no kirk there now: it was demolished last year. It is very weird stepping out of the front door now. Where once there was a huge monolith of a sturdy, Church of Scotland building for worship, there is now sky.

Tales of the Unexpected…

Sign reads Kirkbank Cottage

Here’s a little tale about Kirkbank Cottage (built in 1871, and extended in 1982), that I’ve been meaning to blog about for ages.

At the start my fourth year at St Andrews (so, September 1992) I needed a passport photograph for a form at my halls of residence. I had a deadline of two weeks to get it done, and one one particular day during those 14 days I decided that that was the day. I knew where there was a passport photograph machine, and off I headed after breakfast; a quick detour on my way to college.

When I got to the passport photo booth there were a couple of women in the queue in front of me: a middle-aged woman wearing a bright red coat, and an older woman, whom I presumed to be the red coated lady’s mother. I joined the queue and waited for them to finish.

“Would you like me to look after your bag?” the woman in red asked me, as I stepped towards the booth.

Hmmm, I thought, what if she wants to steal it? “Okay,” I said handing it over to her, my confidence in humanity obviously overruling any scepticism that I might have had about kleptomaniac women wearing bright red overcoats. And sure enough when I stepped out of the booth my bag and two women were still standing there. I’m sure my photographs, however, came out with me looking down nervously to my left.

I stepped out of the photo booth and we all waited for our photographs to develop.

“Are you a student here?” the woman in red asked me.
“Yes,” I said. Because I was.
“What are you studying?” she asked.
“Theology,” said I.
“Theology? Do you know Dr Lovegrove?”

When I said that I did, the woman in red told me that he was a neighbour of hers. What a small world. Little did I know that it was just about to get smaller. There was a pause in the conversation.

The younger woman spoke again. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Selkirk,” said I. For it was true.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, “I used to live in Selkirk. About 25 years ago.”
“Twenty-five years,” I said, “I wasn’t even thought of then.”

The stranger chuckled, and there was another pause.

“Where about in Selkirk did you live,” I asked her, this time taking the initiative.
“Kirkbank Cottage, 35 Forest Road,” she replied.

I froze.

“That’s my house!” I exclaimed.
“Are Keith and Rosalie Saunders your parents?” she asked me.
“Then you must have been the little baby that moved in when we moved out,” she said.

It turns out then that this lady — this stranger in a bright red coat, standing in front of me at a photo booth on a random day in St Andrews — sold her house to my parents in 1972.

I would never have met her had I not moved back into halls of residence for my fourth year; had I not needed a passport photograph; had I not decided to get my photograph taken that day, at that time; and had I not got talking to her while we were waiting.

Isn’t life great when you’re paying attention! That has to have been my most Twilight Zone moment to date.


View of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield.
The Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, Edinburgh. Where I had my leaving service on Sunday.

The last few days have been very special and enjoyable.


On Sunday Jane and I woke up in Selkirk (which is fine because that’s also where we fell asleep) and drove my Mum up to Edinburgh, to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, to attend my leaving service. Somehow it just didn’t feel like I was leaving. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because I felt like I was simply surrounded by friends and family; perhaps because we’d already moved to Cellardyke. I’m not sure.

It was nice to have all five (including me) members of the team involved in the service, and to have the honour of preaching and presiding. That was very special to me. I enjoyed preaching my sermon, and from the feedback I got from people afterwards they enjoyed it too.

At the end of the service there were a couple of presentations, and then a wine and nibbles reception in the hall. I felt blessed and touched by people’s generosity. Jane and I have still to decide on what to spend the money that we received, but it will likely include a new digital camera.

Mum, Jane and her parents ended our celebrations with a meal at Tusitala. The meal was delicious, but sadly the service slower than we’ve ever experienced there before.


Jane’s Mum, her sister Pauline, husband Paul and daughter Skye visited us on Bank Holiday Monday (May Day), which was lovely. Even though they filled our tiny house it didn’t feel overcrowded. It was lovely to hear people’s voices throughout the house, upstairs and down.

Meanwhile, I was in my study still working on the SEC website documentation. I managed to get the main document (all 100 pages of glorious monochromatic A4) finished late in the evening, and get the PDF file bookmarked and linked appropriately.


And today I began my new job at the University of St Andrews. I had a really enjoyable first day.

I arrived early. My ID card didn’t arrive at all. I spent much of the day installing software on my PC (IBM 3.2MHz, dual 17″ (1280 x 1024 px) monitor, keyboard, mouse, and everything™!) and trying to remember people’s names.

It was a little odd being back in St Andrews, but odd in a nice way. My previous experience of starting a new job involves wandering around lost for the first month trying to find my way around, trying to locate particular shops, etc. It feels odd that I don’t have to think twice about where certain streets or shops are. Although they’ve moved Boots since I was studying here. How dare they!

Thanks for the prayers and supportive text messages dear friends: very much appreciated. Anyway, it’s off to bed early for me tonight.

Mum is back home

Postcard showing various scenes of Selkirk, from the rugby club to a statue of Fletcher, and the famous giant hamster clinging to the side of a shop

Mum is home now. In Selkirk, in case you hadn’t guessed. I got a text this morning from Jenni (sister) to say that Mum had been turfed out of her ward into another as they needed her bed. She was then picked up by her cousin and driven home.

Now, what Mum really needs is to rest. And not do any pastoral courses, or prayer days. Which is not to say that pastoral courses are a bad thing, or prayer days for that matter. But not yet. Not three days after a major operation. (I really hope Mum’s reading this!) But Mum was adamant that she’d see how she felt in the morning.

One reason that Mum really wants to go on the pastoral course is that she’s been told that if she doesn’t attend all the meetings then she’ll not get her certificate. Which makes me cross on two grounds.

First, how pastorally sensitive is that?! Mum is recovering from a major operation. It can take the best part of a week for the anaesthetic to leave her system, so I’ve been told. The last thing she needs is to feel pressured to attend a course just so that she can get her certificate at the end.

Which leads me to my second point: it annoys me that so often the Church (pick a denomination) fails to acknowledge the experience that someone has before they offer themselves for any kind of recognised Christian ministry (the dreaded ‘M-word’ that was banned at theological college). As though only things done or learned in the Church are valid, and that forty years of nursing, or social work, or insert list here doesn’t count. It’s only recently that the Scottish Episcopal Church has started to acknowledge someone’s previous career in the Red Book (the annual SEC directory). It’s a good start, but it seems to me that there’s a long way to go yet. I wish that the Churches’ structures wouldn’t disempower people quite as easily as they can.

So, tomorrow is going to be fun as I try to convince Mum to rest. I was going to go down to Selkirk today, but instead I went to bed, I was so exhausted. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Where have I heard that before?

Borders Scrap Store

Photograph of Selkirk Scrap Store.  A large warehouse room filled with rolls of material and shelves of scraps.

Yesterday my sister Jenni and I visited the Borders Scrap Store. Jenni needed something to make a tree trunk, and came away with a 4-5 ft cardboard tube. I got a huge roll of self-adhesive 8″ x 6″ white stickers — something Jane and I had been looking for to prepare for our move, so that we can cover over any markings on packing boxes from our last move in 2003. Jenni also picked up a few other bits and pieces, including a mohair stole, a huge pack of postcards (maybe around 200) and some CDs. We got the lot for £5.00. What an absolute bargain!

The Borders Scrap Store collects, stores and re-distributes waste materials from industry to improve the range and quality of creative materials available for Art and Craft.

It’s a great idea and saves these materials from unnecessarily being dumped in landfill sites. The Scrap Store charges an annual membership fee and then there’s a charge per bag of scrap, or “sensible donations” for other items, like the travelling rugs on offer yesterday.

I’m not sure the name of the chap who served us, but he was so enthusiastic and friendly (and was a cricket fan, so we had a good chat about the current England v India test series). It was the kind of customer service that would definitely encourage me to go back again and again, and maybe even write a blog post about the Scrap Store to try to promote it.

There are two Borders Scrap Stores just now:

Shepherd’s Mill, Selkirk (behind Atelier Fabrics on Station Road).
(01750) 725961

  • Tuesday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
  • Thursday 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
  • First Saturday of the month (term time only) 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Fisherrow Community Centre, Musselburgh.
(0131) 665 8232

  • Monday 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Wednesday 9:30 am – 1:30 pm

Well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The only thing that I think could be vastly improved is their website. I’m sorely tempted to offer to redesign it for them, for free. As long as I can recycle some of their existing code and images!