Dear Friends and Neighbours
At the end of January, my husband Colin and I went on holiday for a fortnight. We went to the far North West of Scotland and I like to describe it as our ‘character building’ holiday. My husband may describe it in other terms – but whatever words we use – it was a stunningly beautiful and exciting holiday in one of the remotest places of the United Kingdom.
The first part of the holiday was spent in the inaccessible countryside of snowy Dumfriesshire where we got snowed in and spent time attempting to walk in this beautiful location. Then we travelled a another 295 miles further north to a cottage on the banks of Loch Grigadale.
Now for those who don’t sleep very well and are still awake long after midnight in the long dark watches of the night and happen to hear the Met Office Shipping Forecast refer to ‘Ardnamurchan Point’ – well, Loch Grigadale is very close to Ardnamurchan Point – which is the most westerly point of mainland Great Britain; a remote and isolated place.
So here are some things I learned from our Ardnamurchan holiday:
Our nearest human neighbours were some six miles away in Kilchoan.
The frost was so thick it was hard to keep the car on the road.
Walking in a violent storm force 11, Storm Georgina, is a really good aerobic workout.
The nearest dentist is approximately 40 miles away mostly on single track road.
The nurse comes to Kilchoan once a week…but only if weather permits.
The night sky was a stunning sight to behold and I saw my first shooting star.
Most of the time I wore seven layers of clothing, and that’s before I even went outside!
The single-track roads are a series of potholes joined together with a little bit tarmac.
No mobile telephone signal.
It was a wonderful, exciting and beautiful holiday – definitely character building! The people were lovely and it taught me just how hardy and resourceful these Gaelic souls are. Their life is really one of ‘living on the edge’. Not just physically on the very edge of the United Kingdom – but really on the edge, which isn’t easy out on the margins of human habitation in some of Britain’s remotest places. After all you couldn’t just pop down the supermarket for some bread or milk or paracetamol. The nearest fresh vegetables were either 48 miles in Fort William or otherwise a thirty five minute ferry ride across to the Co-op on the Isle of Mull.
For me though, the peace and solitude and raw beauty were all that I could have wished for. On my return back in Broadstone, I went to visit an elderly lady that I know. She was interested to hear about my adventure and loved to hear my news ~ she commented that this would be the worst sort of holiday she could imagine. You see, she didn’t have to travel 600 miles to experience solitude or isolation – she could get that right here in Broadstone.
She recounted that she hadn’t spoken to anyone for three days. Her meals were always lonely. She explained she now eats dinner in her living room rather than at the kitchen table ‘at least I have the company of the television’. Her night times are long and dreary and sleep often eludes her – she hates night times. She couldn’t remember the last time she went out and she thanked God for her radio and television.
It struck me forcibly that you don’t have to travel far to discover people ‘living on the edge.’ Many of them are right in our midst and are our neighbours. We hear a lot about loneliness and social isolation nowadays. Social isolation occurs when an individual has very few or no social relationships. It is becoming an increasing problem not just in our country but around the world. It is extremely debilitating and impacts on our physical, mental and spiritual health. It is hugely prevalent among elderly folk but also increasingly among younger people too.
As we approach Easter we remember God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ and how often he walked alongside those people who were on the margins of society and were ignored as unimportant. These included the physically sick, those with mental illness, the tax collectors and many others. Perhaps at this time of year we too should do our very best to walk alongside those who are lonely in our own community.
This month’s Pivot focuses on ‘loving our neighbour and caring for others’. Is there someone you know of who really needs a little company? If so, why not call round or telephone for a chat once a week or so? Not only will it help the person concerned but it will also make you feel a whole lot better too.
Have a blessed and joy filled Easter.
HELP FIGHT SOCIAL ISOLATION ~ START WITH ‘HELLO’!