Posted in Travel

I’LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND YOU TAKE THE LOW ROAD

Continuing the story of my trip to Scotland……

Our coach driver Eddie told us the origin of the famous song ‘Loch Lomond’ which was pretty sad.  It was written by a Jacobite highlander in the Invararey gaol at the time of the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fighting James II of England’s grandson. The Jacobites were part of the political movement that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite Rebellion was an important time in Scotland; this ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the final confrontation which was primarily a religious civil war.  These Jacobite highlanders were taken prisoner and were systematically being killed; ten hung per day. One son in each family was allowed to be spared. There were two brothers in the Invararey gaol, one brother said to the other, “you must go home to the family, and I will stay to be killed and buried. I am taking the high road and will be in Scotland before you.” His meaning was his soul would be in Scotland. This song is sung when a person gets very melancholy at the end of Hogmanay and reminisces over the past. Listening to the words of Loch Lomond will never be the same for me after hearing that story of familial sacrifice.

Industries

We passed the forestry region of Dumfries as we drove along the M74 towards Glasgow.  BLTR6Pine Trees The hillsides were clad in native Scots Pine, a tree that adapted to climate change over the previous centuries; it has a natural range confined to the Highlands, covering about 17,000 hectares, mainly growing on north-facing slopes. Forestry is a big industry in the area. Thirty five years after the trees are planted they are cut down and two more planted in their place. There is an enormous demand for trees worldwide and Scotland is the third largest producer of wood in Europe. Running under the A73 is the Longannet Coal Mine, now closed. This was the deepest coalmine in Scotland. – The mine shafts run for 9 miles in all directions, the area is now landscaped where it was built over and beautified by  roadside sculptures; the ghostly Andy Scott’s ‘Arria’ metal mermaid sculpture, overlooking the M80 motorway near Cumbernauld and the Clydesdale Horse, facing Glasgow with its backside towards Edinburgh on the M8.

Another major industry is whiskey, manufactured from the abundant supplies of barley and the pure, clear spring water from the peaty burns, an environment rich in the highest quality ingredients which have made this liquor magic and a top export. Each distillery has its own distinctive handcrafted characteristics with £8billion of whiskey sold per annum.

Scottish Terms

The boundary between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland is at the town of Comrie which sits on the Highland Boundary Fault where the tectonic plates butt against each other. To the north are the mountains which are called benns or tors, Ben Nevis is the highest at 4409 ft above sea level. A loch is a stretch of water, a glen is a narrow valley, and a strath is a wider valley.  A munro is a mountain over 3000 feet named after Sir Hugh Munro, (1856–1919) who listed all the mountains. ‘Bagging a munro’ is a mountain climber’s ambition, and each year people die trying to achieve this. There are 282 munros in Scotland.  Clans are tribes or children and Mac means ‘son of’.

Spikes of purple wild flowers poked through the white daisies and Queen Anne Lace as we bypassed Glasgow onto the Stirling Road, we skirted Bannock Burn where Robert theBLTR6 Callendar Bruce won the battle against the English 700 years ago.  We past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and turned off to Callendar.  This area was quite flat and was at one time under the ocean, where the Oceana Germanica or North Sea covered the area.

Sheep stood watching us showing off their newly clipped fat bellies as we past the lake near Monreith. The game of Curling was a very popular game similar to Ice Hockey which was played on this frozen lake, although health and safety do not approve of it these days as the ice has to reach a certain thickness before you are allowed to play.

Eddie asked us all to disembark and go to the loo at Aberfoyle to make sure we had empty bladders before we drove down the winding narrow road to the hotel at BLTR6Inversnaid HighwayInversnaid. This road is called the ‘Inversnaid Highway’ and wound its way alongside Loch Ardon on the one side and lovely stone houses lining the way on the other and inbetween were clumps of purple heather on the open hillsides. We drove along the valley floor on a very narrow road with few squeeze places for cars to pass each other.  It took an hour to drive the 15 miles as we had to stop at times to let other vehicles pass. At one stage Eddie tried to pass a wide bodied truck and it took several backwards and forwarding and holding of breaths to pass with a hairsbreadth between us.

We were all relieved to arrive at the hotel at Inversnaid and settle into our cosy rooms and enjoy a very welcome cup of tea.

To be continued Loch Lomond………

BLTR6 Inversnaid Hotel

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Posted in Travel

The Road to the Isles

THE ROAD TO THE ISLES

bltr5-heatherOur coach driver was a Glaswegian named Eddie who kept us entertained and informed throughout the trip to Scotland. How I loved the feel of the coach wheels turning under my feet and watching the fields with their cattle and sheep flashing by. I love that movement of going forward, of going somewhere, a new adventure, to see what is around the next corner, who will I meet, and what will I experience?  I must keep on going forward, forward, like Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘The Explorer’

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes         
  On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
  “Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

What lies behind those mountains?

bltr5scotlandSitting behind me were two women who never stopped talking the entire trip. I thought I was listening to teenage girls in a high school corridor gossiping about their friends instead of women in the sixties and seventies. It was next best to a soap opera.

Our first break was at Wetherby, Eddie said “You have all passed the first L&G bladder test!” After a three quarter hour break we headed off to the border.

The wheat was in the process of being harvested, with great bales of hay lying in the fields bltr5gretnagreenhandsdrying out for winter.  We drove through light rain, the windscreen wipers squeaking as
they scraped the raindrops off the glass. We passed Leeming where on a previous trip we had stopped. I felt sorry for Eddie as he negotiated roadworks with a lot of heavy vehicles blocking the way, but he made good progress and we felt quite safe with him.  We headed off on the road to Penrith and turned off at Richmond.  This was a lovely drive across the Yorkshire dales, where white sheep dotted the green hillsides. I imagined that Bach could have been inspired by a scene such as this to write his Cantata “Sheep may Safely Graze.” Ponds settled in the hollows and fields of oats and barley were ready to be harvested.  We passed Thorpe Farm with tree lined driveways and stone walls – sparse hedgerows bisected the hillsides. A shepherd was on his quad bike hustling the sheep, quite a far cry from the days of sheep dogs.  We passed ruined cottages with greenery draped over the vacant panes, looking decidedly neglected.

bltr5scotsbridgeThe overcast skies with sagging grey bellied clouds ready to burst at any moment, accentuated the bleakness of the dales, as they became more sparsely treed. We then headed into the Lake District. Eddie stopped to fill up the tank with diesel, it cost £365.78 to fill the coach; he had to fill it twice for duration of the trip.

Eddie told us a bit about Scotland as we headed across the border.  The Outer Hebrides (a Gallic word for a group of islands) are the furthest reaches of Scotland. Lewis is the largest and oldest landmass in this archipelago. The Romans called Scotland, Caledonia, Bretton or Britannia. The Pict tribes that lived there wore tattoos and spoke the Pictish language related to the Brittonic language of people living in the south both of which originated with the Celtish language. If the Roman scribes had not written these things down very little would be known about the early inhabitants of this region, they lived north of the rivers Clyde and Forth. Scotland was also known as Alba. The languages now spoken are Scots English, Polish, Urdu, Gallic, Welsh and Irish Gaelic, and on the west coast of Scotland and Edinburgh and Glasgow a Doric or Brettonic language is spoken.

BRIEF EARLY HISTORY

The Romans built the original border, Hadrian’s Wall, to try and keep the Picts out of England, they only spent forty six years in Scotland as they could not cope with the conditions or the Caledonians. They also built the Antonoine Wall between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, It was started in AD142 and was built with turf and wood with a ditch on the northern side. It ran for 63 km across Scotland and was 5 m wide and 3m high. After only eight years the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s wall.

br5scot-flag-large888In the 13th century, the famous warrior, Robert the Bruce, ( 1274-1329) was known as the head of this Kingdom and fought to maintain Scottish independence against English claims to the Scottish throne.  He was crowned King of Scots in 1306 at Scone. He defeated Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314, a great milestone in Scottish history. The Scottish flag is the St Andrews white diagonal cross on a blue background, it is also known as the Saltire, and forms part of the Union Flag.

We arrived at Gretna Green, one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations. It bltr5gretnagreenbecame famous for its “runaway marriages”. In Scotland sixteen year olds were allowed to marry whereas in England the laws of the land required parental permission to marry under the age of twenty one. Marriages were officiated by the blacksmith over an anvil. Gretna Green was the first village over the Scottish border where the local blacksmith could perform the ceremony over his anvil. This is now a symbol of a Gretna Green wedding.  Today it is a poplar venue for second and third marriages.

Watch out for next month’s post for the continuation of this story……..

Posted in Creativity

Flights of Love

These few verses of poetry were written at different times, expressing my feelings as I navigated stormy seas in my life. Not particularly good poetry though.

FLIGHTS OF LOVE

The harbour lights were twinkling
like the twinkle in your eyes
The twinkle soon responded to
An answering spark in mine.
The sparkle of a new love soon turned into a flame
And so the fire smouldered until
We were passionately consumed.
and with the consummation
Will our love turn into ashes
Or will the glow remain?

My kiss inscribed on golden sands
On carpet of foam and crest of wave rides
To meet you on another shore
And our love waits as the time it bides
Until apart we will be no more.

Through the miles and space between us
Through the scorching Lowveld heat
Through the smoking city air
My thoughts wing their way to you
To the shelter of your heart they fly.

Cherished are the moments we have shared
The joys, the pains, the cares
To share with you my dearest
The heights of happiness, the depths of despair
Not for a moment could my heart desist.

©Dvd Tang 2017

Posted in History

Death has its Sting

The atmosphere felt oppressive as James and his young bride Marianne made their way to Paris. People walked the streets viewing one another with suspicion after Napoleon had established his hereditary Empire by installing members of his family into high positions across Europe. War had become such a part of daily life, people made the best of it they could; life was hard for the poor.  In Paris the bourgeoisie continued to live their privileged lives at a reduced scale.

James knocked at the door of Aunt Marie Francoise Scherer’s home. Marie opened the door and invited them in, she greeted Marianne affectionately.

“I am so glad to see you my dear, life has been hard since your Uncle Bartholomy Louis Joseph died in 1804. We had to move back to Paris and leave our lovely Chateaux in Commenchon, Chauny.” Aunt Marie turned to Marianne,

marianne-timeline-to-1820-001“It was a good idea of your father to let you come and stay here with Henriette and I while James is away on the ships of the line.”

“Yes, “said James “The British Fleet showed its superiority in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 but the ships need to be maintained. We have also regained control of the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch, so ships require a lot of work keep them in condition to do the long route to the East. It is quite likely I will be sent to maintain a merchantman so will be away for some time.”

“We really could not stay isolated in the countryside,” Aunt Marie continued, “Henriette will not find a good match out there in the country, she is at a marriageable age and I need to find her a husband”.

“It is difficult,” said James “as marriageable men are mostly at war, but you still need to get on with your lives.  Life in Britain is also difficult as there is no strong leadership in government after William Pitt, the Prime Minister died. How I wish this was all over and we could live in peace.”

“You are looking very weary my dear” said Aunt Marie to Marianne, “Henriette, do show you cousin up to the rooms where they will be staying.”

“Yes, I am actually starting to feel pretty dizzy and nauseous,” said Marianne to Henriette as they went upstairs, “I am really looking forward to a comfortable place to lay my head. James has been very kind to me, but being married is quite an adjustment, and it was a long journey to get here.”

“You must tell me what it is like to be married”, said Henriette blushing.  “Mother is busy

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Source Unknown

negotiating a match with one of my father’s friends and colleague, Claude Juste Alexandre Louis Legrand.”

“Oh” said Marianne, “He must be quite a bit older than you if he is your father’s friend”

“He is 33 years older than me” Henriette said, “but he wanted someone who knows the full implications of men at war, but he also wants the comfort of a home when he comes back from battle.” Claude Juste Legrand was a hardened general who had risen to lieutenant colonel during the Revolution and fought in many battles.

Marie Francoise was glad for the extra pair of hands and she and the two girls sat and chatted over the forthcoming marriage making plans as they sat sewing. It was now pretty obvious that Marianne was with child and the girls excitedly looked forward to the coming events.

“Marianne, do you know what to expect when you have a baby?” Aunt Marie asked as the time drew near for the confinement.

“I have been with my mother when she gave birth to my brothers,” Marianne said, “but I am still afraid, my mother was very weak after the birth of Charles?”

The midwife, Aunt Marie and Henriette were on hand to welcome little Sarah Fish into the world, Marianne bore the pain bravely and was delighted with her little daughter. James Smith had managed to take time off between ships to check on Marianne and see his little daughter and to attend the wedding.

It was a joyous family occasion as Claude Juste Legrand and Henriette took their marriage vows. They were feted in various Paris homes as the General recounted his war stories about the 1809 campaign under Marshall Andre Massena where they had fought tenaciously against the Austrians in the notable battle of Aspern-Essling. The battle ended when both sets of troops were too exhausted to fight anymore and the French retreated.

All too soon Napoleon called up his troops and soon Claude Legrand was on his way to Russia and James was back to his ship, he was going to the East this time on a merchantman. The women reconciled themselves to keeping the home fires burning and a resemblance of some sort of social life while their men were away.

The family in Paris were kept busy looking after little Sarah and keeping up with their Parisian circle. Henriette waited anxiously for news from the Russian front, Claude was with Marshal Oudinot’s II Corps. She watched out daily for a message or a letter as she had heard the Russian’s had retreated to Moscow leaving a scorched-earth policy behind, burning towns and villages as they retreated so the French could not live off the land. It was a bitterly cold and freezing winter and the news was not good – many soldiers had died of starvation.

Aunt Marie came through to the drawing room, her face white and drawn, she had a newspaper in her hand.

“What is it Mother?” said Henriette.

“The bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic wars took place at Borodino, seventy miles west of Moscow on September the 7th. The French army made contact with the Russian Cossacks, there were heavy losses of officers and 70 000 casualties.  Napoleon marched to Moscow, only to find it evacuated and on fire – no decisive victory there.  The Russians continued to retreat – they would not fight.  Napoleon’s troops are exhausted, suffering from hypothermia, starving and there is no fodder for the horses. “

Henriette put her head in her hands and cried, she had only had a few weeks with Claude before he went off to battle.

claude-legrand-wikipedia
Picture from Wikipedia

“Oh no! Is there any news of Claude?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Marie going to her daughter and putting her arms around her. “You know how it was with your father, we never knew, it is only when you get a messenger at the door you really need to worry.”

It was not a week or two later when there was a knock at the door of the Scherer home in Paris. “Mademoiselle, I am sorry to bring bad tidings, but General Legrand has been badly wounded, but he is alive, please can you prepare a room for him.” Henriette wept, she pulled herself together and said,

“Certainly, please bring him home and I shall take care of him.  What happened?”

The messenger replied,   “By the time we arrived at the Berezina River in November only 27,000 able soldiers were still standing. The Russian soldiers continued to harass us with short encounters.  Clause Juste Legrand arrived at the river with the French II corps to take the bridge, but the Russians had destroyed it. Napoleon realising our vulnerability, with great difficulty and minimum equipment got our troops to distract the Russians whilst we built a bridge.  Musket balls tore through Claude’s flesh and he fell into the freezing water and we had to drag him ashore and make our escape.  Napoleon has fled back to Paris to raise more troops and secure his position”.

Henriette, Aunt Marie and Marianne took turns nursing Claude. He was battle weary and in dreadful pain from the injuries he had sustained and the frostbite to his extremities, he slowly recovered under the women’s tender care. The General was amused by little Sarah and eventually was able to get up and about again.  Claude was promoted to senator on 5th April 1813, Pair de France on June 1814 and Chevalier de Saint-Louis on June 27 1814. These days in Paris were the best Henriette was to know as Claude’s health slowly deteriorated.

Claude came through one morning with the newspaper, “Napoleon has abdicated and been sent to Elba. Louis XVIII has returned to Paris. Although the Peace of Paris has been signed, Britain is still at war with the American colonies and it seems there will never be peace in the world and Wellington is approaching Paris.” Claude sighed; he was still in pain and was thoroughly sick of war and the uncertainty of daily living.  It was a stressful time for the family and the inhabitants of Paris.

Marianne found herself pregnant once again, this time she had had little time to take care of herself as she was busy looking after Sarah and helping to nurse Claude. She did not know where James was, it was months since she had last seen him. Claude took to his bed, his wounds were festering again. Henriette and Aunt Marie felt the strain of tending to the needs of the dying Claude who expired his last breathe on 8th January 1815. The peace in Paris did not last long, Napoleon returned in March 1815.  Louis XVIII fled Paris and Napoleon started his Hundred Days expansion into Europe.

As Marianne’s confinement drew near she became edgy and anxious.

“Where are you James? I really need you now,” she cried as the birth pangs started.  “I feel so alone here, I want my mother,” she sobbed and struggled as the midwife stood over her. This confinement was not as easy as when Sarah was born, and she was stressed out.  The midwife’s face was grave as she delivered the tiny Rebecca.

“You will have to be careful with this one, she is underweight and not a good colour” The midwife said as she laid the child in Marianne’s arms. Aunt Marie and Henriette dressed in black were also sombre as Aunt Marie announced,

“Wellington and the Allied armies’ are gathering to march on Paris. How I wish this war over and we had a man around, what will become of us?”

On the 18th June 1815 the decisive Battle of Waterloo was fought and Napoleon was exiled to St Helena.  The Treaty of Ghent had been signed signalling the end of the American war.

James returned to the house in

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Courtesy of the Post Office

Paris to find a sad and grieving family, Marianne was ill and was not able to feed the ailing Rebecca. James greeted Sarah who hardly recognised him and held his new baby daughter as she slowly faded and died in his arms.

“We can’t intrude any longer on your hospitality and Marianne wants to go home to see her mother and introduce little Sarah to her parents” James said to the grieving Marie and Henriette.

So it was a sad parting as the cousins embraced and bid Aunt Marie a final farewell, they had all aged, youth was left behind as they set off once more for England’s shore. The family had lost so much through these wars, first General Scherer and the lovely chateaux; Claude had died leaving them with the house in Paris but not much else. James and Marianne had lost a daughter; it was now a time for new beginnings.

Posted in History

White on White

WHITE ON WHITE

“White on white lace on satin”, I hummed along with Danny Williams dreaming of my wedding day as I put the finishing touches to the nightdress I was making for my trousseaux. The song came to an end and the broadcast was interrupted. “We have a message from the Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith” the announcer said. I stopped what I was doing to listen. The speech ended.

“We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a rôle of world-wide significance.

We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birthright. And, even if we were to surrender, does anyone believe that Rhodesia would be the last target of the Communists in the Afro-Asian block?

We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity; and in the spirit of this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless you all.”

The date was 11th November 1965 and my wedding was just over a month away in January. Unbelief and uncertainty about the future numbed my mind, what would happen now?

My father a top government official came home that evening and said,

blog4fh-white-on-white2-001
Deryn with bridesmaids Pam Thompson and Beulah Smith

“I am going to have to work on a lot of projects to stabilise the communications systems so the country can carry on its business, as the rest of the world has turned its back on us and we are in for a difficult time.”

“What about the wedding?” my mother and I chorused.

“You will just have to carry on without me, I am sorry, I will help if I can, but I am going to be very busy right now,” he replied.

My mother had to carry the burden of the wedding arrangements, all of which kept changing as people found they could not offer the services or products they had promised, due to sanctions. My father was often away on business trips to undisclosed destinations, sometimes only coming home to sleep.

The wedding day arrived and instead of being driven from my parents’ home in the countryside to the church in a white Jaguar as originally planned, we all had to go into town to the bridesmaid’s house to get dressed and her father drove us to the church in his Morris. A few guests cancelled as they did not have enough petrol, as this commodity was now rationed with coupons, but most made it to the church and the reception. This was held in the Highlands Presbyterian Church hall, the foundation classroom for the new Borrowdale School I had attended as a child. Family and friends had pulled out all stops to make sure

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Deryn with her father, Robert Cherer Smith

we had everything we needed so we forgot about the problems and my father was able to walk me down the aisle.  ‘I’ve been dreaming of this day and how proud I’d be, when she came walking down the aisle and held out her hand to me,’ my dream wedding had materialised at last and we enjoyed the day.

 

We rode off into the sunset for our honeymoon on a 150cc Honda motorbike, heading for a cottage in the Inyanga Mountains. At times when the road was too steep I would have to get off the pillion and walk up the hill as the engine could not cope, but at least we had enough petrol to get us the 300 miles to our destination.

On our return to Salisbury we were confronted with the news that our marriage may not be valid as the British government was not recognising any marriages conducted by ‘illegal’ officials. We did not allow this to worry us and learned to live with the sanctions and shortages. People stood together and there was a real sense of community in solving problems resulting from sanctions. We had two beautiful children, again we had difficulty trying to register them as British citizens as Rhodesia was not recognised and they had to be registered as Rhodesians. We often joked with them that they were illegal. They are now grown up and immigrated to counties around the world and are now citizens of their adopted countries.

Who would believe that politicians’ decisions could have such an impact on your family life and your dream wedding?

© Deryn van der Tang 2015

Posted in Travel

DOING THINGS FINNISH STYLE

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF DOING THINGS FINNISH STYLE

I was visiting my son’s new in-laws getting to know the family who lived in the small town of Rantesalmi in Karelia, Eastern Finland in May 2008. Sirkka (Phillip’s mother-in-law had previously visited me in South Africa to learn our culture, now it was my turn to experience theirs.

The day started with a breakfast of oats porridge with berries, rye bread and cheese/ham bl4trfinland2-001with cucumber and tomato and a cup of coffee after which we set off for the summer cottage. This cottage is built on the edge of Lake Haarpaselkä in a lovely forest setting with birch trees and various pine or fir trees growing right down to the side of the lake. Upstairs the wooden cabin had space for two single beds and two sets of double beds under the eaves.  Downstairs the living room was equipped with sleeper couch, a sink, a gas and wood stove.  The entrance hall led into the anteroom of the sauna where buckets of water from the lake were stored.  There was no running water at that time, but the cottage has since been renovated and now has a kitchen with running water.  Through the anteroom was the sauna which consisted of wooden seating racks and a wood fired stove, with stones on top and a water cylinder to the side. (This is used for hot water purposes in the household as well).  The sauna has also been replaced with the upgrade to the cabin and is now in a separate building about thirty meters away.  There was a front porch running along the length of the house with steps leading into the garden.
The outhouse some 10 meters away from the main cabin consisted of a bio-toilet and storerooms.  There was no running water in the toilet either and it had a container at the back filled with ‘forest floor’ material and a scoop, so after using the toilet you just put a scoop of the biodegradable material on the top and eventually it turns into compost.

blg4trfinland1-001The other structure near to the cabin was a wigwam-like building which was the outdoor cooking area used in bad weather. It had a fireplace in the middle of the floor with a chimney that went up through the middle of the structure to let out the smoke.  There was seating around the perimeter of the fire and a table at the side for working on. There was an open hearth (braai) area near the lake for better weather. This too has been replaced with a more modern but similar structure.

After settling in and looking around we had coffee/tea on the front porch served with delicious Karjalanpiirakka, a rye pastry filled with baked rice porridge, which is a traditional Karelian snack.  Such a beautiful environment enticed to do some exploring and sketching.

We ate a cold lunch of smoked bream and salad as well as a baked potato, onion, cheese bl4trfinland5-001and asparagus dish which was cooked in foil over the coals in the wigwam.  Later we went into the wigwam whilst the coals were still hot to cook pancakes on the open fire. The pan is on the end of a long handle and the pancakes are made individually by each person.  We then ate them with homemade raspberry jam.  Delicious!

MY INITIATION INTO THE SAUNA..

After the meal we rested and I did some drawing and painting in Sirkka and Osmo’s visitor’s book. Later, Osmo cut some vaasti (leafy birch twigs) for the sauna.  He then had his sauna after which we ate rye bread, salads, cheese/ham and a cup of tea before Osmo went home.  After he had gone home it was Sirkka’s and my turn to sauna.  The water had been carried up from the lake and the fires lit.  First we had to strip in the anteroom and take a plastic sheet to sit on.  We entered the sauna room and sat on the top wooden rack.  The procedure was to wet ourselves all over with cold water. Sirkka just went and jumped in the lake, I wasn’t that brave so used water in a basin that was there for that purpose.  Sirkka then threw water on the hot stones which sent a wave of steam through the room.  She held the vaasti over the stones and again threw water over them.  This had the effect of wilting the leaves and sending a up a lovely aroma of green tree into the closed room.  We then sat and slapped ourselves all over with the vaasti (not hard) which was quite nice001 as it was reasonably soft and stimulated the circulation.  After a few more scoops of water onto the rocks the room was VERY hot and Sirkka said it was now time to jump into the lake.  I went down to the lake, but it was very cold, so I only went in ankle deep. I have since got braver and enjoy swimming in the cold water!  We went back to the sauna where we steamed some more.  She went back to the lake a few more times, but said I should get washed and dressed as I was not yet used to this!

bl4tr-finland6-001After enjoying the sauna and getting dressed we then lit the outside braai fire and had a glass of wine (it was Sirkka’s birthday) and toasted sausages over the fire.  We sat and watched the sun setting over the lake with its rays turning the lake to gold – it was magnificent.  God sent a special birthday gift, a rainbow appeared and was reflected in the lake, this was really a remarkable occurrence and we commented on the fact that it was God’s promise to us.  The sun set around 11.00pm (but the sky was still light as it does not move far off the horizon at this time of the year.  We went to bed and I was woken at 4.30 am with the sun shining brightly in my window, ready for another day of learning Finnish culture.

Posted in Creativity

Millenium Poem

I thought it might be appropriate at the beginning of this year to re-visit a poem I wrote on the eve of the turn of the century when I reflected on what had gone before and what was to come and the meaning of life. The Millenium was seen in by a wonderful family gathering at ‘Spier’ Wine Farm in the Western Cape, South Africa, when family from all over the world gathered together to celebrate this momentous event. Some family members have passed on since that day and some have been born and so the cycle of life continues.

MILLENIUM POEM

The years have come, the years have gone
Love has blossomed, withered and died
Love re-born, the spirit new inside,
Youth and passion have burnt out
But the flame of faith burns on
Eternal hope, eternal love, part of the whole
Meaning of existence imprinted on my soul.

Life is a journey to be lived
Not for self, but to be a light
For travellers in the way at night
Youth and passion rule today
My spark of faith to light their flame
That through the years will guide their soul
To eternal love and hope made whole.

©Deryn van der Tang
31st December 1999
Revised 5th January 2017