Thursday, September 28, 2006

News from Iona

There are one and a half Marias on this island from Finland and we both work in the housekeeping team in the Abbey. It gets confusing... It's fun to be able to speak some Finnish here (even if the other Maria's first language is Swedish) and she even knows the woman who used to be the pastor in my church in Turku. Incidently there are two Nellekes from The Netherlands working in the shop. Do you think they are doing this on purpose? :)

Last Sunday at the leaving party for two volunteers we had a sing-along to Sound of Music and Moulin Rouge which was a laugh. It soon carried on to singing songs that people could remember, or not, and ended up with watching a film. The rhythm on this island flows steadily between guests coming and leaving and new volunteers arriving and old ones leaving all on their separate days which does give a certain structure to the week. However, I think we are reaching the point when this will be the set of volunteers to see the season out and we won't have to say goodbye to anyonw until the very end. Saying goodbye all the time is hard work so I'll be glad of that. I can't imagine how people manage during the main part of the season when everyone is in transit!

This place seems to attract a lot of people who are in transition. Between countries or jobs or time of life or whatever reason (I'm including myself in this!). So there are a lot of people in my situation who don't know what they'll carry on to do which is quite comforting:) It also makes for interesting conversations. It's amasing how much of this is true for the guests too. Obviously there are those who come here twice a year, but many more are inbetween stuff too and taking time out.

Yesterday was my day off and I had hoped to go on a boat trip, either with the guests to Staffa to see Fingal's cave or on Freya on a sailing trip around the island with some of the staff. Sadly it was too windy. So plan B was going down to Columba Bay where Columba and his monks are said to have landed at when they came over on their coracle from Ireland. It was a long walk but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wild and windy and had no paths and was very boggy and had a lack of other people... The south end of Iona is so different to this north end - so untamed and has a real wilderness feel about it. I made it without breaking ankles etc which is just as well. Apparently if and when that happens you get airlifted out on a helicopter. Now that bit sounds fun, but having to break an ankle first is quite a high price to pay...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Week 1

As Dr Seuss said: "It's wide open there in the wide open air." The space here is fantastic - all the various 'spaces'! And the starts are so close to me at night. On my first evening here I went for a walk and saw a full rainbow on my left and a beautiful sunset on my right. Isn't that such a lovely way to start?

I work in the Abbey in the housekeeping team and have got stuck in straight away. It was a great way of getting to know the Abbery and to feel a real part of this community. I've been cleaning, teaching guests their tasks, pouring teas, and generally trying to be helpful as possible. Everyone here works really hard but you do it all while singing shanty songs or in hysterics over conversations about choosing a saint for convents or laughing with the pirate chefs in the kitchen. We eat meals with the guests, wash the dishes alongside them, and worship with them in the Abbey, but they do have their own programme going on too.

I've been trying out loads of new things from attempting to build a go-cart with the warden's three girls to singing in the staff choir (we sang songs in six parts!), and went along to the Write Club. I've also been to a ceildh, a swim in the freezing sea, a pirate party, driving around Mull with some friends from Swansea, a little concert by one of the residents, seen cute highland cattle, made a cattle, had a stunning cream tea in the Argyll Hotel, and tried to remember people's names... No wonder I could do with a nap!

There are two services that frame each day. The liturgigal nature of the proceeding are an unfamiliar territory for me - but so far so good. I was asked to do the reading for the Sunday service which was slightly terrifying but I was also grateful for the chance to participate. The music has been mostly unfamiliar but very beautiful. The sacristan had to remove Lily, the local friendly black cat, from the morning service today. The other cat I've met is Tiger who is usually catching a ride on somebody's shoulders as they walk along. There's so much going on I hardly know where to begin...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Is it really five years?

What a change we've lived through, and are still living through. I still remember vividly hearing the news early in the morning on the west coast of the US about the towers, although not quite getting the magnitude of what had happened or what it meant for the next few days waiting to see what rolled forth... Along with all the flags that showed up overnight, "In God we trust" was also one of the more popular slogans that I saw around. I wish we/they did... Five years on we might have been in a different world than we are today.

On a different note: I head off to Glasgow tomorrow and to Iona the day after. Last time I was in Scotland I did not understand the locals at all, which I'm slightly concerned about. Although if I remember correctly we still played pool and got hugged at random moment - so perhaps I'll be alright afterall! Anyway... I won't be spending hours at a computer (this is advanced warning) but I shall still endeavor to post something on here to let you know how I'm doing and what Iona is like. Till later! xx

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ever feel like this?

I fought the war, I fought the war
but the war won't stop for the love of God
I fought the war

but the war won.

lyrics from Metric: Monster Hospital (MSTKRFT remix is the one I've heard)

Monday, September 04, 2006

All roads lead to the library...

I went out for a walk today and ended up in the library. Thankfully I know myself quite well and had slipped my library card into my pocket before setting out and so I wandered home with four books. I'm so pleased my library card still works even if I haven't lived here for five years and I've even had to relinquish my benefits and tell social security I no longer live in Finland. I'm extremely grateful the library is not in the habit of bounding after wayward Finns demanding they return little bits of plastic...

Two of the books I borrowed were bird books. As I have keen bird-watchers as friends I was given strict instructions to report back on the birds I've seen. However, as my skills are roughly on the level of distinguishing between a big bird and a little bird I needed to do something drastic to see if I can identify anything! So far I've identified pied wagtails and a goshawk. The last excursion into the wood I took I ended up with a multitude of horrible little spiders in my hair (even writing about it is making me writhe again) so that has put a slight dampener on my enthusiasm... But nonetheless I'm hoping to go forth and boldly identify birds without ending up with too many birds which are only seen in Lapland or rare ones on the brink of extinction!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some pictures from Finland

This is a picture of one of the ferries we drive onto on our way to Korpoo.

And this is a view of Korpoo. Plenty of trees which ever way you look...

And then the yellow house we now live in.