Oh, I'm bored and missing that lovely Scottish island in the middle of nowhere.
A group of us from Richmond went up to Iona at the end of June for a week's programme led by community leader Kathy Galloway and artist Joyce Gunn Cairns, and to enjoy the Abbey. This has been my first visit since leaving at the end of 2006 and there is a world of difference in being a volunteer or being a guest. I quite enjoyed staying in one of the rooms I cleaned so many times, but generally it was really odd. Kind of knowing about the behind-of-scenes work but not being able to access it!
Iona is still gorgeous and amazing - even in the less than completely sunny weather that we had... I loved walking around so much familiar territory and seeing it all again. The special quality of that place really seeps into you and, again, it was a wrentch to leave. It was fun being up there with a group and there were plenty of interesting people to get to know over the course of the week.
We had a Deaf group with us and I think everybody learnt quite a few signs e.g. please/thank you, tea, coffee and milk, and the signs for Otter, Puffin, and Seal. Everyone gets assigned to one of these three groups for a meal and their task (I was an Otter) and these were repeated every meal so watching the signs via the interpreters made learning them almost inevitable. It was exciting having signers around and it definately rekindled my desire to carry on with learning more British Sign Language. One of the women from that group is an ordained minister and she and Kathy co-celebrated the last service in Iona Abbey, which is a communion service, and it was really beautiful. Hannah preached (with a voice over) and it is quite something to see a sermon!
On a trip to Staffa island we saw puffins! They are remarkable birds and always are so much smaller than I remember them to be, and a lot cuter too. The puffins like the humans around as we scare the gulls away and come out to pose for the cameras. I was also lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of a corncrake on Iona. They are loud birds and keep up an fairly constant croaking but it is rare to see them. Even the RSPB website say they are "secretive"... When I was a volunteer on the island we had a weekly A4 publication called the Corncrake Crier so it was really fun to see one.
The programme we were on was called Dancing in Fire: exploring feminine images of God and people brought a lot to it and made it very interesting. It was so nice to meet interesting, opiniated people and do something completely out of the daily routine!
I miss being there.