Monday, December 30, 2013

Lang may yer lum reek...

Christmas is over and the big celebration of Hogmanay is upon us.  Hopefully you all enjoyed the Christmas holiday.  We had a wonderful visit to our son Steve and his family in Lakenheath, England.  He is stationed at the Lakenheath Air Base.  We received permission to travel down on Monday and we came home on Saturday.  Now for the festivities of Hogmanay.
Christmas in Edinburgh is very festive...there are a number of wee shops set up along Princes Street (the main street in town).  Rides are set up and an ice rink is built near the main park.
This is the rink which is surrounded with wee shops selling food and other gift items. 
This is looking back toward the ice rink and one of the main rides near the park.

 Boxing Day is celebrated in Scotland.  It has traditionally been the day following Christmas Day.  The servants or poorly paid help who were required to work on Christmas Day would be given the day after Christmas off to visit their families.  The employers would present them with a Christmas box…hence -  Boxing Day.    

There are many other descriptions of how Boxing Day began.  During the age of exploration when great sailing ships were setting off to discover new land, a Christmas box – or small container – was placed on each ship while it was still in port.  It was put there by the priest and crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe return would drop money into the box.  It was sealed for the entire voyage.  If the ship came safely home, the box was handed over to the priest in exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks for the successful voyage.  The Priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas when he would open it and share the contents of the box with the poor the day after Christmas.

The “alms box” was placed in every Church on Christmas Day, into which worshipers would place a gift for the poor and needy of the parish.  These boxes were always opened the day after Christmas and the contents shared with the poor…hence, Boxing Day.

We were at the bus stop and I took this picture looking back over the city.  (taken at 3:50 p.m.) The Edinburgh Castle is in the far back left side and the rides and shops are on the right.  The center of the picture is the glass roof of Waverly Train Station - the main train station in town.  The buildings in the center distance are the Scottish Art museums.

Now, you are probably asking about the title of this post...
"Lang may your lum reek" is a Scottish phrase and it is a salutation wishing long life and prosperity.  Literally, it means "Long may your chimney smoke" and many add "...with other folk's coal".

The "other folk's coal" is a reference to a Scottish New Year's Eve tradition as part of Hogmanay in which visitors bring a piece of coal to a house when they visit on New Year's Day.  This is to bring good luck and prosperity during the coming year.  This is especially important for "first footin'".  The tradition is that the first visitor of the new year should be tall, dark, and handsome and bring a gift...or at least a piece of coal.  This will bring prosperity for the new year.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Chrisitmas message

Tonight we attended the missionary concert at the Edinburgh Chapel.  It was very good.  The concert was called "Putting Christ Back Into Christmas".  It was about an hour + of Christmas hymns, videos about the birth of Jesus, and a very strong spirit of what Christmas is all about...the love for our fellowmen.  I have not been able to send out our Christmas message to everyone, so I thought I would include it here.  Merry Christmas to everyone.  We miss you all...

We are excited to spend Christmas with our oldest son and his family who are living in England.  Steve is a doctor in the Air Force and is stationed at Lakenheath, England.  We are leaving for England on Monday and will be back to Scotland on Saturday (just in time for the Hogmanay celebrations - more to come on that later)

Our Christmas message...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What e’er thou art…

They have built a new “monument” of sorts at the Mission Home in Edinburgh for the stone that had a major impact on the life of David O. McKay.  David was a young missionary in Scotland in 1898 and he later became the 9th prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He often told the story of when he was a young missionary serving in Stirling, Scotland.  He was homesick and had become discouraged and one day he and his companion had visited the nearby Stirling Castle.  As they returned to town a curious stone sculpture with a carved inscription over a doorway caught his attention.  He went over to read the inscription: “WHAT E’ER THOU ART, ACT WELL THY PART”.

This is the new monument built in the front garden of the Mission Home.
 This statement had a profound impact on President McKay and the effort he was making in his missionary labours.  This message struck him so forcefully that he vowed to devote himself completely to his missionary efforts and to always do his best in whatever responsibility he had.  These words became an inspiration for the rest of his life.


When the old building was being torn down, President McKay made arrangements to acquire the stone.  For years it was in the garden behind the Mission Home in Renfrew, Scotland.  That is where I first saw it when I was here as a young missionary.  Later, when the old Mission Home in Renfrew was sold, the Church moved the stone to the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.  A replica of the stone is now in the garden of the Mission Home in Edinburgh.  They have erected this monument to hold the replica stone.

This is the plaque above the stone.
The original stone was designed by an architect named John Allen. Along with the inscription he included a design known as 'a magic square', or could this be the first Sudoku game?  Each shape within the square represents a numerical value, and when you add the numbers in any direction – across, down, or diagonally – it will always equal 18.

One theory as to why the magic square was included with the phrase What E're Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part is that if any of the shapes are rearranged or their values were changed, then the square will cease to be magic as it won't equal 18 in every direction. So in life, as we have different roles and responsibilities, if we don't do our part or give 100% then it will affect the outcome, be it family, church, or work, the whole organization will not function as intended, or in other words What E're Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part – and the “Whole” will function perfectly.


Traveling Christmas Choir of young missionaries...

The Scotland/Ireland Mission has formed a missionary choir.  They have gathered together about 30 missionaries from all over Scotland and have arranged for this travelling choir to go throughout the mission presenting a Christmas Concert.  They will be performing in malls and some churches throughout Scotland.  There is an amazing pool of talent among these young people.

They all came to Edinburgh on Monday to practice at the Stake Centre.  Monday is Preparation Day for the missionaries and is the time they can email to friends and family.  They came to practice but all wanted to be able to write their emails.  We were asked if we could set up the computers in our Employment Centre for them to use.  We had the 5 computers from the Family History/Employment Centre, one laptop from the Employment Centre we have in our flat, plus my personal laptop and our iPad.  They rotated turns to allow everyone a chance to get in their emailing between practice sessions.

This is our Employment Centre with the eight computers set up for the missionaries to do the weekly emailing.  For many, this was the most important part of the day. 
Monday evening they all went to the Mission Home which is next door to the Stake Centre for a dinner.  The senior missionaries who are in the Edinburgh area were also invited.  Carolyn made a big floral arrangement for the table and we had a feast – Chinese take-out food – for about 35 people. 
Carolyn has been having withdrawal symptoms because of not being able to make her normal Christmas floral arrangements.  She was very happy to put this one together for the dinner table.  She gave many of the trees around the mission home a "wee trim" to find enough greenery for the decoration. 

The table is set awaiting the feast to begin.  One of the Senior missionaries who works in the Mission Office, Sister Price, was leaving to go home on Wednesday so the dinner was also a goodbye dinner for her.  The place mats all had different pictures of her and her activities with others during her stay in Scotland.

President & Sister Brown and other missionaries

We ordered Chinese food from a nearby restaurant - what a feast we had.
After dinner we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols and Church hymns.

After the singing the missionaries went back to the Stake Centre for one last rehersal before their “tour” began.  Tuesday they were singing in Dundee and then up to Aberdeen.  They will be back to Glasgow and the areas south and then a final concert Saturday night in Edinburgh.  We watched the final practice and it will be a wonderful concert.  The concert was named "Putting Christ back in Christmas".  The concert was singing with two short videos about the life of Christ.  In addition to the Choir there are solos, duets, trios, and quartets singing.  They use the piano, organ, a violin, and a harp in the presentation.  Very talented young people!!


Merry Christmas to all!!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Am I really that old...

This has been a week of lots of driving.  I have added a map to see if you can follow our travels.  Monday we drove to Motherwell, Hamilton, and East Kilbride to do missionary flat inspections.   This is about 45 miles round trip.  Wednesday we drove to Paisley and Dumbarton for flat inspections...about 65 miles round trip.  Saturday we drove to Beith for a workshop and then back home via Falkirk to be at the baptism of a fellow we have been helping with finding employment.  Today we drove to Ayr for a special meeting (almost two hours one-way).  Lots of driving - about 600 miles since December 1st - and the weather has not been great...rainy most days, plus we are doing a lot of the driving in the dark with the late sunrise and early sun set.  

Today was a very interesting day.  If I stopped to think about the event, it made me feel really old, but when I just sat back and took a deep breath, I enjoyed the day and things were OK.  What was the event you ask…?

Well, it all started a few months ago.  We had decided to reach out to the Bishops in the Paisley Stake to see how we might be able to help them with employment issues in their Wards.  I was looking up the email address of the Bishop in the Ayr Ward.  When I was here as a young missionary – many years ago – the first area I worked in was Ayr and I lived in a little village outside town called Drongan.  I noticed that the current Bishop of the Ayr Ward lived in Drongan and also he had a counselor with the last name of Bloy.  When I lived in Ayr, I knew a Walter Bloy so I thought this might be his son.

Through my contact with the Bishop I learned that Walter had immigrated to Australia many years ago and his counselor was actually Walter’s brother.  I shared with the Bishop that I had lived in Drongan as a young missionary and worked in the Ayr Branch for about 5 months.  He told me that they were having a celebration on December 8th for the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Ayr Chapel.  He asked when I was in Ayr as a young missionary and I told him that I was there for the dedication service in 1963.  He invited us to attend the celebration service.  We have been planning to attend since that call.

Yours truly standing in front of the Ayr Chapel

About three weeks ago the Bishop called and asked if I was able to attend the celebration and if so, would I be willing to be one of the speakers at the meeting.  He thought it would be meaningful to have someone on the program who had attended the dedication.  Soooo, today we went to Ayr for the special Sacrament Meeting and celebration.  It was really an honor for me to be there and also to be one of the speakers.  There was one other member of the Ward who was also at the dedication service who spoke on today's program.  The Provost of South Ayrshire (like the Mayor) also attended the meeting and spoke.  It was a good day to reminisce about memories from the past.

Front cover of today's program.

Inside of program.  On the left is the program from the dedication in 1963.  On the right is today's program.  The building was dedicated by Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  After the dedication service Elder Peterson interviewed all the missionaries who were in attendance.  It was interesting that Walter Bloy said the closing prayer at the dedication service and his brother conducted today's meeting.

What a flood of memories have been coming into my mind today as I have thought back on events that took place 50 years ago.  I didn’t think I was old enough to have participated in a dedication of a building that took place 50 years ago, but I guess I am…



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Odds & Ends...

I just wanted to catch up on odds and ends.  The weather has been turning colder but the last few days have been really nice.  A couple of weeks ago we left for church about 9:30 a.m. and found that overnight the raindrops had frozen on the car top and windows. There have been a few mornings that we needed an ice scraper to clear the windscreen of ice. 

The time of the sun setting still is amazing to me.  Not only are the days getting shorter but the sun does not arch very high in the sky.  It is December 1 and today’s sunrise was at 8:19 a.m. and sunset was at 3:44 p.m.  To show the contrast I took the following picture in June at about 10:00 p.m. 

You can still see the sun shining on some of the clouds behind the grey clouds.  This next picture was taken on Thursday at 4:00 p.m.  The sky was a golden orange at 3:30 as we left the church building.  On the drive home we were amazed at the sight.  I took this picture behind our flat


Thanksgiving is an American holiday which the Scots don't celebrate.  This year  we made our own Thanksgiving celebration.  We decided to have some of the young missionaries come to our flat for a “Thanksgiving Dinner” on Thanksgiving Day.  We made believe we had a turkey and substituted it for a couple of chickens cooked at the deli rotisserie next door.  We had all the trimmings including turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, yams, green beans, rolls, and the traditional pumpkin pie.  I think they enjoyed the dinner…

 Since there is no Thanksgiving holiday here, all of the decorations in the stores changed to Christmas decorations on November 1st…right after Halloween.  (Wait a minute…that is the same thing that happens in the States even with Thanksgiving.)  Christmas shopping has begun here big time.  All of the stores are very crowded and everything is geared to the Christmas shopper.  We were in a large department store on Tuesday and one would have thought it was “Black Friday”.

We (the senior missionaries) decided that we would have our own Thanksgiving dinner.  Since Thanksgiving day here was a “normal” work day with scheduled meetings, we had our dinner yesterday, Saturday, November 30th.  Most of the senior missionaries in Scotland were able to attend the dinner.  Our task became where to find a whole turkey.  In all the butcher shops you can find sliced turkey or a turkey breast but not a whole turkey.  We finally found a few frozen whole turkeys at a grocery store.  They came in “medium, large, extra large, and XX Large” sizes.  We had 23 people coming to dinner so we bought the XX large turkey.  The weight was 10.3 kg – or about 22 pounds.  The cost was £30 or about $48…for a turkey!! 

We had the dinner at the mission home which is a large old home in Edinburgh that was probably built in the late 1800s.  It has been remodeled and a mission office has been added to the back.  The rooms are very large with very high ceilings.  You can see from the decorations that it was a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday dinner.  :)

We cooked the turkey at the mission home and had a ton of food...Here President Brown, our Mission President, is carving the turkey.  Following dinner we gathered in the front room and sang Christmas carols.


 The detail in the ceiling of this old house is amazing. 
This does not do justice to the beauty of the room, but his is a corner of the ceiling.

The big thing I am thankful for this year is…I passed my written driving test!  I have been studying for the last few months for the theory test (written test) for the drivers license.  The UK recognizes my AZ drivers license for one year.  Since we will be here for 18 months I need to get a UK drivers license.  I had to pay £50 for a Provisional License (a learners license) and then £31 for the privilege of taking the written test.  (That is about $130 and I still can’t drive without my US license)  The positive part of this is that since I do have a valid US license I dinnae (that is Scottish for “don’t”)  need to have the “scarlet letter” on the car.  One can drive in the UK with a Provisional if they are accompanied by a UK licensed driver but they must display a large red “L” on the front and back of the car to show the world that they are learning to drive.

Many of the senior missionaries don’t worry about getting their drivers license.  If they are assigned to work in Scotland, they will be transferred to the Republic of Ireland when the one year is up.  The clock is then reset.  If they are in the Republic, they will be transferred to Scotland after the year to reset the clock.  Since we are assigned to Edinburgh and need to stay here the full 18 months, we don’t have the option of being transferred to the Republic…so I need to get my license.